Saturday, July 26, 2014

Army reviews P350-M combat boots deal

From the Philippine Star (Jul 26): Army reviews P350-M combat boots deal

The Army has ordered a review of its contract to purchase combat boots after the boots were found to be unsuitable for combat operations.

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri ordered the review of the P350-million contract following complaints of the elite Scout Ranger troops of the footwear’s flawed design.

Some 5,000 pairs have been delivered.

Iriberri ordered a stop to further delivery of Kubar combat boots and called for a review of the contract with supplier FilBoots.

Under the contract, FilBoots will supply the Army with 79,066 pairs of combat boots at P4,500 per pair.

The firm initially delivered some 5,000 pairs shortly after Iriberri assumed command of the Army, at a cost of more than P22 million out of the P350-million contract.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said field tests are still being conducted to further determine what should be done to improve the gear after the Army Scout Rangers complained of its flawed design.

Detoyato admitted to the possibility of scrapping the multimillion-peso contract with FilBoots but stressed the issue will be dependent on the official outcome of the field tests.

“We are still collating the findings of the tests and the outcome will determine whether we should recommend changes or rebid the contract,” Detoyato said.

The boots, some officials said, are copies of the gear used by US servicemen in the Middle East, according to sources.

“It’s only good for garrison duties on dry areas like deserts but not in muddy places of Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon, unlike those being used by the ground troops at present,” Detoyato said.

CPP: Step-up tactical offensives and mass struggles against the rotten, puppet and brutal Aquino regime

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 25): Step-up tactical offensives and mass struggles against the rotten, puppet and brutal Aquino regime

Communist Party of the Philippines
On Monday, the Filipino people will again be subjected to a whole slew of lies and illusions to be churned out by Benigno Aquino III and his machinery of specialists in manipulating the media and public opinion.

Amid worsening crisis conditions, Aquino’s slated fifth state of the nation address is bound to fail in stopping the forward march of the Filipino people and their determination to put an end to his rotten, puppet and brutal rule.

The crisis of the ruling political system continues to worsen as widespread graft and corruption under the Aquino regime is exposed. Behind Aquino’s endless talk of clean government, he has arrogated the right to divert billions upon billions of pesos of public funds for political patronage in favor of his partymates, political supporters and big business cronies.

Aquino’s vain defense of his pork barrel Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) further isolates his regime from the toiling masses as well as from the middle class sectors who have been disillusioned with his façade of righteousness. To the broad masses of workers and peasants, Aquino’s claims that anomalous fund diversions committed under DAP have benefited the people are empty and baseless.

After four years under the Aquino regime, socio-economic conditions have deteriorated. Ordinary Filipinos continue to suffer daily from widespread unemployment, low wages, landlessness and landgrabbing and rising prices of food and basic commodities and services.

It is clear that Aquino’s claims of “inclusive growth” are one big lie. To the Filipino people, so-called “economic growth” is a meaningless pile of statistics that elates only the big foreign banks and portfolio capitalists whose financial investments are guaranteed quick profits. Aquino has made foreign finance capitalists from China and the US ever happier with the recent signing of the all-out bank liberalization law.

The state of Philippine national sovereignty is at its lowest in over two decades with Aquino’s acquiescence to every imposition of the US military in exchange for US support and military financing. The high point of Aquino’s all-out puppetry to the US imperialists was the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which paved the way for the reestablishment of US military bases around the country. Behind his anti-China rhetoric, Aquino continues to accommodate and allow big comprador capitalists from China and the US to dominate the Philippine economy.

Aquino’s peace rhetoric is a big fakery. Military brutality and abuses continue unabated as Aquino has ordered the AFP to step up its Oplan Bayanihan war of suppression in order to protect and advance the interests of foreign mining companies and big agri-corporations. The state’s armed forces continue to commit extrajudicial killings, massacres, abductions, illegal arrests, harassments and physical abuses. They subject people to hamletting by occupying their homes and preventing people from carrying out production and commerce through food and economic blockades.

Through words and deeds, the Aquino regime has worked hard to put an end to peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). It has refused to heed the clamor for a resumption of NDFP-GPH peace negotiations in order to address the outstanding problems at the root of the civil war. After making a big show of signing agreements with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Aquino is reneging on his promises by mangling the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in order to make it conform to the GPH constitution.

To the Filipino people, it has become starkly clear that the Aquino regime is no different from the past regimes. They are ever determined to put an end to Aquino’s rule and advance their national and democratic struggles.

There is a swelling protest movement against the Aquino regime in school campuses, urban poor communities, factories, market places, offices and other places. Majority of the Filipino are dissatisfied with Aquino and are increasingly vocal and active in their demand against his continued rule.

Progressive members of the Philippine congress have filed several impeachment cases against Aquino reflecting the people’s demand for Aquino’s ouster. While majority of the members of congress are pork barrel recipients and beholden to Aquino, they could not ignore how the demand for Aquino’s impeachment is fast gaining ground among the broad masses of workers, peasants, youth, women and middle class sectors. The demand for Aquino’s impeachment can swell into a mass movement involving tens of thousands of people marching in the streets.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) supports the Filipino people in their effort to intensify their struggles to oust Benigno Aquino III from power and put an end to his regime of bureaucratic corruption, militarism and human rights abuses and foreign military presence and intervention.

The CPP supports the call for the establishment of a democratic council comprised of morally righteous leaders and representatives of the democratic sectors.

In the face of the Filipino people’s heightening struggle for the ouster of Aquino, the CPP orders the New People’s Army (NPA) to step up tactical offensives across the country. The NPA must continue to seize and maintain the initiative and launch increasingly frequent tactical offensives. Work to completely defeat the Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan. There should be no letup in launching tactical offensives against Aquino’s armed forces in order to weaken it and provide the democratic mass movement further momentum in ousting the Aquino regime.

The NPA must take advantage of the worsening socio-economic crisis and isolation of the Aquino regime by aggressively recruiting new Red fighters and arming them with weapons seized from the enemy. The Filipino people need the NPA to grow severalfold in order to bring the people’s war to a new and higher level. Their struggle to oust the Aquino regime will serve as a dress rehearsal for the overthrow of the entire semicolonial and semifeudal system.

CPP/NPA: NPA ambushes 68th IB troops in Quezon, Bukidnon

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 25): NPA ambushes 68th IB troops in Quezon, Bukidnon

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Julito Tiro Command)
A unit of the New People’s Army under the South-Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command met Benigno Aquino’s coming State of the Nation Address this Monday with a successful ambush against troops of the 68th IB -10th ID in Brgy. Cawayan, Quezon, Bukidnon last July 24, 2014, around 2:10 PM. The reactionary troops suffered more than 12 casualties, nine of which were killed and two wounded. The Red fighters also seized two firearms and other military equipment.

An NPA platoon ambushed 68th IB troops returning from combat operations which involved many other columns at the time. These 26 soldiers came from the neighboring municipality of San Fernando. The Red fighters employed a command-detonated explosive before firing started. The entire firefight lasted for almost 40 minutes.

The NPA operating unit seized an M16 rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, two back packs and other military equipment yet to be accounted. Meanwhile, the guerilla unit safely withdrew without any casualty.

The platoon of 68th IB was almost wiped out. The NPA field report confirmed that nine soldiers were killed in the actual firefight while the three others landed in the provincial hospital. Meanwhile, residents of the area saw the AFP loaded their casualties on a military truck that night.

The Red fighters first attacked another pursuing column of the 104th Division Reconnaissance Company-10th ID last July 23, around 11:30 AM in Brgy. Sta. Felomina, a neighboring barrio of Brgy. Cawayan.

Massive combat operations by the reactionary armed forces against the NPA still continue presently a week after the successful attack on an outgrower of Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in San Jose, Quezon.

These massive military operations are a preparation for Aquino’s coming SONA, with the aim of showcasing the alleged stability of his regime. But the people’s ire will not be doused after his involvement in the multi-billion Pork Barrel scam was exposed. At the same time, he will never be able to deny the advance of the Filipino people’s armed struggle against his inept and corrupt government.

CPP/NPA: NPA condemns AFP-PNP’s false accusations against civilians in Bukidnon

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 24): NPA condemns AFP-PNP’s false accusations against civilians in Bukidnon

Ariel Magbanwag (Inda)
NPA South Central Bukidnon Sub Regional Command
The New People’s Army of the South-Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command condemns the AFP and PNP of Bukidnon for filing trumped-up charges against five civilians, detaining two of them. This clearly is a desperate step on the part of the reactionary armed forces to cover their failure and shame after successful NPA offensives in the province.

July 22, 2014, the Police Public Safety Company arrested three youngsters in Sitio Maynaga, Brgy. Iba, Cabanglasan, following the NPA’s attack on Sumifru’s pineapple plantation in the area.

P/Insp. Joan Galvez, Information Officer of the Bukidnon Provincial Office admitted on air that they filed arson charges against Melvin Anggumao, 20 y/o, and Joefrrey Ganancia, 18 y/o, both residents of Maynaga, Brgy. Iba. Cellphones and a motorcycle were confiscated from them. The other one was released on account of being a minor.

According to reports, relatives, neighbors and barangay officials immediately went to the police station to vouch for the innocence of the arrested persons. They also sought help from municipal officials to revoke the false charges. The two youngsters, however, remain under police custody.

Meanwhile, Joven Yanggo, 31, Efren Yanggo, 29, and Ryan Daluniag were charged of murder in relation to the death of Mayor Mario Okinlay last July 2. Instead of conducting a thorough investigation, the Regional Task Group-Okinlay headed by CIDG regional director P/Sr. Superintendent Pedro Austria, merely relied on guesswork and randomly pointed their fingers at the first likely scapegoats. After only two days of investigation, they effortlessly filed charges against the three.

The AFP and PNP know that they have no genuine witnesses to prove their accusations. But they will not hesitate to make scapegoats out of civilians to fool the public into believing that they have not been idle in cases like this. In doing so, they are soiling their own image and alienating themselves all the more from the people.

CPP/NPA: 8th IB suffers two casualties in NPA harassment in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 24): 8th IB suffers two casualties in NPA harassment in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon

Lorena Mangahas
NPA Eastern Misamis Oriental - North Eastern Bukidnon Sub-regional Operations Command
One soldier was killed while another was wounded when 8th IB-PA troops were harassed by a unit of the New People’s Army under the Eastern Misamis Oriental-Northeastern Bukidnon Sub-regional Command. The attack was launched on July 23, 2014, at around 10 AM in Km. 30, Brgy. Calabugao, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon.

The Red fighters met the combat operation of an 8th IB platoon with a harassment operation in return for its fascist crimes against the people. The 4th ID spokesperson confirmed that one among them was killed, but denied that another was wounded, while citing their own soldiers’ blood as evidence that the NPA also suffered casualties, which is certainly not the case, as the Red fighters were able to safely withdrew after the attack.

The 8th IB is actively pursuing and chasing off NPA units in the area to pave the way for the entry of landgrabbing plantations, as well as large-scale mining interests that have been eyeing the barrios of Impasug-ong for some time. With local government support, the 8th IB also carries out relentless psywar operations in these barrios under the pretext of “Hatud Serbisyo.”

The NPA will continue to protect the lands, environment and the people. This is a task for the people’s army, in contrast to the AFP’s task which is to protect the interests of foreign and local ruling classes.

MILF: Japan IMT visits construction of Darapanan Youth and Children Center

From the MILF Website (Jul 25): Japan IMT visits construction of Darapanan Youth and Children Center

Takayuki Nakagawa, Head of the Japanese Contingent with the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team (IMT), visited the ongoing construction of the Darapanan Youth and Children Center (Darapanan YCC) at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao few days ago.
Nakagawa was joined by Rasid Ladiasan, Chief Secretariat of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), Toks Ebrahim, MILF CCCH Consultant and Administrative Chief of BIAF – MILF, Nomaire Mustapha, BTC – JICA Project Coordinator, and Sukarno Akmad, Chairman of the Kapagawida Development Services Association, Inc (KDSAI).

This visit was the first since the start of the construction last June 3, 2014. Visitation and ground monitoring of Official Development Assistance of Japan through the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) is one of the functions of the Japanese Contingent with the IMT.

Nakagawa hailed the unabated construction of the Darapanan YCC despite the observance of Fasting in Ramadhan by the skilled workers and project engineer, even as he said “this makes the assurance for the completion of the project as scheduled at the end of this year.”    

This Darapanan Youth and Children Center, which Nakagawa cited as one of the most important projects of Japan, is part of the eight projects under the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP) awarded by His Excellency Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe in an official ceremony in Manila last March 20, 2014.

The construction of the Center amounts to US$ 121,905 (approximately 5.4 million pesos), driven by the goal of developing the skills and knowledge of the youth with the progression of the GPH – MILF Peace Process capped by the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Various training equipment for technical / vocational skills development will also be provide the Center that envision to train more than 150 youth, including MILF youth / children and combatants, annually on technical / vocational know-how.

“The training will significantly help the youth in harnessing technical skills and become more productive and this will be very helpful for the Normalization Process of the GPH – MILF CAB,” Nakagawa pointed out.

Training Compendium is now being developed by KDSAI, the project proponent, with the assistance of the Association of Bangsamoro Advocates Inc (ABAI) that focuses on skills development cum livelihood viability, agri-fisheries among others in collaboration with TESDA – ARMM and community extension services of academic and government institutions.

Nakagawa, for his part, committed to help in seeking Japan assistance for the training courses that will offered by the Center starting early next year.

MILF: Bangsamoro Government would still be in place by 2016

From the MILF Website (Jul 26): Bangsamoro Government would still be in place by 2016

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Tuesday, July 22, that “Bangsamoro Government should still be in place before President Benigno Aquino III steps down in June 2016”, as quoted by Philippine Daily Inquirer.
This according to Chairman Iqbal will still happen despite no draft of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would be sent to congress as its opens on July 28 it joint session at the Batasang Pambansa.

“Our timeline is still the Bangsamoro government shall be delivered within the term of (President) Aquino. That is the commitment of the President and we see it as the best situation that would happen,” Iqbal told the Inquirer in an interview.

GPH and MILF peace panels are still threshing out major differences on the diluted BBL and come up with “agreed version” of the craft law. The legal team of the Office of the President practically left nothing in the original version of the draft law untouched by its comments and proposed revisions.

The Office of the President’s comments rankled not a few members of the MILF negotiating panel and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, which drafted the law. Iqbal himself chaired the BTC.

The BTC signed a resolution elevating the review of the BBL draft to the peace panels.

The panels had workshops in Kuala Lumpur from July 8-11 and in Manila, which ended on Monday, July 21.

The source said it was not clear to the MILF panel when they would hold another special meeting with the government to finally complete the BBL draft.

Iqbal declined to comment on the allegedly abrupt ending of Monday’s meeting. Instead, he said, he was willing to work on the draft law, even if it would take both panel days, and even while all the Muslims involved in the special meeting were fasting during Ramadan, PDI further quoted him saying.

Iqbal, however, stressed the non-negotiables for the MILF at the special meetings to fine-tune the draft law.

“We registered our position in Kuala Lumpur: First,that all the issues that have been settled and signed documents will no longer be the subject of renegotiation… Second, all those languages that are settled in the signed documents will no longer be the subject of renegotiation,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal said that while both panels want to fast-track the completion of the agreed version of the draft BBL and submit it “immediately” after President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address, the MILF maintained that both panels would not “sacrifice the quality” of the draft law.

MILF: MILF hits government troops ceasefire violat(ions)

From the MILF Website (Jul 26): MILF hits government troops ceasefire violates

The MILF commanders hit government for blatant ceasefire violation as Philippine Army troops started uncoordinated massive movements at early morning in areas close to MILF forces in the towns of Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi, Maguindanao.
The MILF commanders reported that hundreds of Philippine Army troops clad in full battle gear backed with several tanks moved into Barangays Kitango, Tatapan, Kitapok, Maitem a Ig, and Pagatin.

However, the government and MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) were not aware or coordinated of these provocative uncoordinated massive deployment and movement of Philippine Army troops.

“This nature of uncoordinated movement can trigger untoward incident and worst fierce encounter between the government and MILF forces,” Rasid Ladiasan, Head of the MILF CCCH Secretariat, told Luwaran.Com when asked for comment.

“We do not want any tension or confrontational situation to grip in between MILF and government forces otherwise we are being remiss with our responsibility,” he said.

“Clearly any movement which are not normal administrative functions like the case that transpired early morning today in that areas constitute ceasefire violations when the CCCHs were not coordinated. The government forces know this very well but unfortunately they acted in contravention,” Ladiasan said.

He appealed to the government counterpart to enhance coordination especially at this time when the government and MILF are confronting major challenges on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) following the review and changes made by the government review team on the BBL as drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

“The MILF CCCH is going to file a strong protest on this incident as the proper way to address this situation,” he said.

New AFP Chief says country needs EDCA implementation urgently

From AngMalaya (Jul 26): New AFP Chief says country needs EDCA implementation urgently

“If [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement] is delayed, we might not be able to respond immediately if there are strong typhoons. We want to pre-position HADR [humanitarian assistance and disaster response] equipment, airplanes and boats. There will be a big effect if we do not [implement it],” said Armed Forces Chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang defending EDCA.

The military chief emphasized that the country needs it as soon sa possible. “It’s really urgent. It is really urgent. And it should be implemented as soon as possible.”

Catapang also said the Supreme Court, who recently declared DAP as unconstitutional, has the final say on EDCA’s constitutionality.

“This is a free country. You can talk. You can file cases and hopefully it will be decided upon by the Supreme Court. We’ll just await the Supreme Court decision.”

Before the week ends, another impeachment complaint was filed by militant groups against Aquino, this time, using EDCA. According to them EDCA violated the constitution and Aquino commits betrayal of public trust.

Gunmen abduct businessman's 9-year-old daughter

From the Philippine Star (Jul 26): Gunmen abduct businessman's 9-year-old daughter

Five unidentified gunmen abducted a businessman's 9-year old daughter late Friday in the island town of Olutanga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Police identified the victim as Princess Jewel Mariel Nique, a grade 3 pupil and daughter of a general merchandise operator who runs a snackhouse in Barangay Solar.

Two of the suspects pretended as customers before two other men came in with their M16 rifles concealed in a sack. They forcibly took the young victim about 6 p.m. before the presence of her horrified parents identified as Emban and Aming Nique.

The suspects dragged the victim toward another companion waiting on a speedboat, which then sped to the direction of Basilan.

Prior to the escape of the suspects, witnesses heard gun fire that was traced later as alarm shots fired by the victim's family.

Capt. Franco Suelto, spokesman of army's 1st Division, said troops have been alerted to the possible presence of the suspects for the rescue of the young victim.

Police said the kidnappers have not established contact to the victim’s family.

Sulu donates speed boat to PH Marines

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 25): Sulu donates speed boat to PH Marines

JOLO, Sulu—Governor Abdusakur Tan Jr. donated recently to the Second Marine Brigade a 600-horse power Malaysian-made speed boat to boost the partnership between the local government and the armed forces.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, brigade commanding general, received the 32-foot watercraft joined by Brig Gen. Orlando de Leon, deputy chief of the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command and other local executives.

Pinto also thanked Tan’s father, Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan Sr., for helping strengthen “maritime law enforcement operations (in) the Tausug-populated province and its various island municipalities”.

Along with De Leon, chief of Joint Task Force BASULTA (Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi), Pinto welcomed the donation in view of rampant illegal activities such as kidnapping, piracy and smuggling.

Local police and the marines are conducting operations amid renewed activities of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Ex-NPAs back Aquino vs impeachment

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 25): Ex-NPAs back Aquino vs impeachment

Partylist group declares House Visayan bloc support for Palace, DAP
A legislator representing a partylist group, composed mostly of former communist rebels, declared the support of the so-called Visayan bloc in the House of Representatives to President Aquino and against a move to impeach him.

Rep. Stephen Paduano, who used the alias Carapali Lualhati as a national commander for the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), said 34 congressmen from the Visayas would not support the impeachment complaints filed against Mr. Aquino for violating the Constitution through the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

RPA-ABB members joined politics when it formed the Abang Lingkod party-list group, which Paduano now represents in the House.


The group had entered into a peace deal with the government under former President Joseph Estrada, a pardoned plunder convict, and finalized the deal under the Aquino administration. The deal gave the group funding for projects.

“With only more than one year left for Aquino in office, his impeachment would not benefit the Filipino people,” said Paduano.

He said while the Supreme Court ruled several acts committed through DAP as unconstitutional, it acknowledged that there was good faith in the constitutional violations.

“The money did not go to the pockets of Aquino,” said Paduano. “It (DAP) was not abused,” he said.

Bacolod Rep. Evelio Leonardia, another Aquino supporter who belongs to the Visayan bloc, said the impeachment complaint would not go far because most congressmen believe in the honesty, integrity and competence of the President.


He said it is also premature to talk about impeachment when the high court has yet to rule on Malacañang’s motion for reconsideration.

On Monday, antipork groups filed an impeachment complaint against Mr. Aquino, seeking his removal from office for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust through DAP.

Two priests in Bacolod City expressed support for the impeachment complaint.

Msgr. Victorino Rivas, rector of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Shrine in Bacolod City, said he supports the impeachment proceeding if only to determine who is right or wrong.

“The impeachment should not really be to harass the President but to establish the truth about DAP, and so good faith in its implementation can be scrutinized,” Rivas said.

Respect for law

Fr. Felix Pasquin, rector of San Sebastian Cathedral, said he personally favors the move to impeach the President because the Constitution was violated.

The President is supposed to defend the Constitution, he said.

“The reproductive health controversy between the Church and the President is still fresh on our minds. If the President could not respect God’s law on the sacredness of life, can we expect him to respect the integrity of the separation of powers in a democratic government?” he said.

Palace defends Edca amid new impeachment case

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 24): Palace defends Edca amid new impeachment case

US and Philippine marines storm the beach to simulate a raid during the joint U.S.-Philippines military exercise dubbed Balikatan 2014 Friday, May 9, 2014 at the Naval Training Exercise Command, a former US naval base, and facing the South China Sea at San Antonio township, Zambales province northwest of Manila, Philippines. AP FILE PHOTO

Amid refusing to discuss the latest impeachment complaint filed against President Benigno Aquino III, Malacañang on Thursday insisted that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) would help the country address new security threats in the region.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement that while they are aware that the third complaint questioned the constitutionality of the Edca, they will “leave it to Congress, as an independent and co-equal branch of government, to assess and decide on its merits.”

“We maintain that the Edca is a response to the evolving security challenges in the Asia-Pacific Region on account of disputes among countries with maritime entitlements in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.

Coloma reiterated that the Edca is based on the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) “which for more than 60 years, has served as the main platform for the strategic defense partnership between the Philippines and the United States.”

The Executive has in the past claimed that the Edca did not require Senate ratification because it merely builds on the MDT.

However, the latest impeachment complaint endorsed by Gabriela Representative Emmi De Jesus alleged that the Edca is “another violation of the Constitution” and a betrayal of public trust.

The complaint, signed by 20 individuals led by Makabayan Coalition President Satur Ocampo, said the Edca violated the Constitutional prohibition on foreign military bases.

“The Edca is essentially a basing agreement. No amount of euphemism by President Aquino, his representatives and other officials will cure the constitutional violation caused by this agreement,” the prefatory statement said.

It said the agreement undermines Philippine sovereignty.
Other signatories of the complaint were:

1. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) Chairperson Maria Carolina P. Araullo
2. Atty. Evalyn G. Ursua
3. Samahan ng mga Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon (SELDA) Chairperson Amaryllis Hilao Enriquez
4. Teodoro A. Casiño
5. GABRIELA Vice-Chairperson Gertrudes R. Libang
6. Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) Executive Director Mary Joan Gua
7. Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns Secretary General Kharlo Felipe C. Manano
8. Prof. Phoebe Zoe Maria U.Sanchez
9. Lila Pilipina Lola’s Center, Inc.President/Executive Director Rechilda A. Extremadura
10. Lila Pilipina Co-President Virginia V. Villarama
11. Lila Pilipina Vice-President Narcisa A. Adriatico
12. Lila Pilipina Treasurer Felicidad B. De Los Reyes
13. Lila Pilipina Auditor Estelita B. Dy
14. Luningning V. Lituañas of Lila Pilipina
15. BAYAN– Central Luzon (BAYAN-CL) Chairperson Roman L. Polintan; Suara Bangsamoro President Amirah Ali Lidasan
16. Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment Convenor Clemente Guevarra Bautista, Jr
17. Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights Secretary-General Cristina Palabay
18. PISTON President George F. San Mateo
19. Alliance of Health Workers (AHW)President Jossel I. Ebesate

AFP chief Catapang tells of cheating death on ‘flying coffin’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 25): AFP chief Catapang tells of cheating death on ‘flying coffin’
gregorio catapang

New Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.: Life-and-death tale. FILE PHOTO
On a tour of the various commands, new Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. showed his lighter side when he regaled members of the military branch, known for being “all air and no force” and for its “flying coffins,” with his own life-and-death tale.

Addressing about 950 enlisted and civilian employees of the Philippine Air Force at Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Catapang first told them how proud he was of them.

He then told them about the time he was an officer in the 5th Infantry Division of the Northern Luzon Command when he hopped on a military helicopter to get to his base in Nueva Vizcaya.

“It happened on Dec. 6, 2005. I will never forget it. I even offer a Mass every Dec. 6,” he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.

They were up in the air when they were “overwhelmed by the clouds and the rotor went ‘pak.’ It sounded like the engine had just stopped,” he said.

Heavy mist and clouds surrounded them. “Parang nasa langit na kami (It was like being in heaven),” he said.

He said he got scared thinking their helicopter might collide with another chopper.

“Yung sa amin luma na, pagtinignan mo kita na ang bituka (Our chopper was old, its innards were showing),” he said, meaning its exposed tangled wiring.

He said the pilots suddenly flew the chopper on its side, forcing all the passengers to face upward.

“I told them let’s offer a minute of prayer,” he said.

The chopper then plummeted.

Catapang said it was able to land but not after emitting black smoke that scared all the people on board.

“And guess where we landed? At the Bagabag airport. The name of the airport so aptly described what we experienced,” he said.

He said the funny thing was, he later learned that one of the female pilots was named “Captain Mabalo,” which sounded like the word for “widow.”

Catapang said improvements at the PAF were underway. “We can’t defend the people and protect the state by just using our hands. We have new wars to face and there are global challenges,” he said.

In an interview, PAF Commanding General Jeffrey Delgado said new equipment were expected to come in next year.

He said that in January, the PAF could expect two of the eight new helicopters it had acquired from Italian firm AgustaWestland. The eight AW109 power attack helicopters cost P3.4 billion.

Early this year, the Department of National Defense signed P23.7 billion worth of contracts to acquire 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter jets from South Korea and eight Bell 412 helicopters from Canada.

PAMANA-ARMM MNLF beneficiaries participate in project planning

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 25): PAMANA-ARMM MNLF beneficiaries participate in project planning

Around 21 members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from seven barangays in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur participated in the formulation of  management plans for the implementation of livelihood programs under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program.

The participants also identified and listed down their counterpart activities as preparation for the delivery of their approved project items.

The two-day Orientation-Workshop on the Implementation of PAMANA- ARMM Livelihood Programs for the MNLF Communities held July 15 to 16, 2014 in Cotabato City was facilitated by the Office of the ARMM Regional Governor through the PAMANA Management Office (PMO).

The activity, conducted through a participatory process, was aimed at coming up with a project operation and management plan for each target MNLF community.

MNLF Commander Abukhair A. Amirol, one of the MNLF senior leaders, expressed his satisfaction on the activity. “The orientation-workshop is more than 100 percent successful because we became more aware on the program as we, the beneficiaries, are the one planning for the sustainability of our livelihood project,” he said.

Another objective of the activity was for the beneficiaries to acquire practical understanding on the different production technologies.

Hence, in coordination with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries-(DAF) in the region, the MNLF members learned the practical technologies on corn production, upland and lowland rice production, vegetables, perennial crops, and livestock.

Hadja Jalica D. Mangacop, High- Valued Crop Development (HVCD) Program Coordinator of DAF-ARMM thanked the PMO for involving them in the activity.

“I am very grateful to Engr. Dong K. Anayatin who personally visited my office and asked for resource persons. I am glad that we are involved here because we want to make this project more sustainable,” she said.

The HVCD Program Coordinator also congratulated the PMO staff for the efficiency in conducting the workshop. “This is my first time to see young individuals in ARMM facilitating workshop like this. We need this kind of people”, she added.

DAF- ARMM PAMANA Focal Person Engr. Guiomla Satol also challenged the MNLF Beneficiaries. He emphasized that the entrepreneurial and management skills are essential flavours of successful and farm sustainable farming activity. “Farming is a business, which means it should be continuously cycling to provide income and employment, thus economic development of the community”, he explained.

Meanwhile, Engr. Dong K. Anayatin, Program Manager of the PAMANA Management Office who is also the Assistant Regional Secretary on Special Concerns, expressed his warm appreciations to the MNLF members for coming up with such great workshop outputs.

“I am amazed with what I have witnessed. You have done a very good output which is very essential for the development of your respective livelihood projects,” he said.

He further underscored that the success and failure of the projects are in the participants’ hands.

PAMANA in the ARMM is concentrated on providing development interventions and socio-economic packages to conflict-affected areas in the region. One of its components is PAMANA for MNLF Communities in support to the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MNLF ensuring security of the communities.

CPLA head seeks Aquino help

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Jul 25): CPLA head seeks Aquino help

CORDILLERA Peoples Liberation Army chairman Arsenio Humiding is asking President Benigno Aquino III to intervene in the issues surrounding the organization and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Humiding said the letter to the President was sent March 22 and was transmitted to the Palace after.

The chairman said the move is a last resort of sorts, with frustration on the implementation of the signed agreement for the transformation of the CPLA from an armed group to an economic force three years ago.

Humiding also asked for a dialog with the OPAPP to clear issues on the implantation of the agreement, which is moving slower than expected.

There are four components of the agreement between government and the CPLA: CPLA integration to the Armed Forces of the Philippines; community development projects, livelihood and “legacy documentation”.

All of which have been moving in a snail pace, as alleged by Humiding, brining unrest and confusion to the group.

Aquino signed with the CPLA an agreement for peace and issued Executive Order 49, enjoining government agencies to ensure the smooth implementation of the closure agreement between the CPLA and the Philippine government.

Humiding said the aim of the agreement was to transform the CPLA but with the component of the agreement far from being completed the organization is left with no closure.

"Papaano natin masasabing nag transform kung wala pang closure," he questioned.

Humiding said the letter to the President relayed the dismay with OPAPP and his hope that the agreement will still have meaning and true transformation.

The CPLA chair said he hopes to dialog with the President and the OPAPP to look at the status of the agreement and backtrack to original plans and see the present status today.

"We want an assessment and review of the Memorandum of Agreement," Humiding explained.

This he said will enable the group to move on.

The CPLA is awaiting response from the Palace and said in the meantime they are doing a private assessment and review to be conducted by the MOA signatories.

The results to which are yet to be disclosed as the process is ongoing.

Political prisoners mount anti-SONA fast

From InterAksyon (Jul 25): Political prisoners mount anti-SONA fast

Activists stage a protest in front of Camp Crame to demand the release of political prisoners (photo from Karapatan)

Political prisoners began a fast Friday that will last until Monday, when President Benigno Aquino III delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address, the human rights organization Karapatan said.

Joining the fast are detainees in Camp Crame, who include Benito Tiamzon, alleged chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, his wife Wilma Austria, and National Democratic Front consultants Eduardo Serrano and Renante Gamara; the National Bilibid Prison; and the Taguig City jail’s female dormitory at Camp Bagong Diwa, where Andrea Rosasl, daughter of the late rebel spokesman Gregorio “Ka Roger” Rosal, is incarcerated.

Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said the fast was meant to underscore the political prisoners’ “disgust” with the Aquino administration.

The Taguig detainees are also expected to stage a march inside the jail compound to protest “Aquino's misuse of public funds through the creation of DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program),” key provisions of which the Supreme Court has declared unconstitutional.

Ang patuloy na pagdepensa at pagtatanggol ng papet na rehimeng US-Aquino sa kasuklam-suklam na paglustay ng salapi mula sa kabang yaman ng bansa, dapat itong panagutin sa pamamagitan ng pagsasampa ng kasong kriminal, pagpapatalsik sa pwesto at paglalagay sa loob ng piitan," (The continued defense of the US-Aquino regime of the disgusting plunder of public coffers should be held to account through criminal prosecution, ouster and jail),” a statement from the Taguig detainees said.

Also on Friday, Karapatan and the Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto staged protest actions at Camp Crame and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to demand the release of political prisoners and the punishment of plunderers.

“The detention of activists and those perceived as ‘enemies of the state’ and their condition inside jails poses a stark contrast with how the BS Aquino treats the plunderers, especially the beneficiaries (and) defenders of the presidential pork. It is Aquino’s way of asserting his ‘ignorance’ in the said crime,” Palabay said in a statement.

At the OPAPP protest, Karapatan questioned the DAP funds given to the agency, P1.819 billion in 2011 and P248 million the next year, aside from its regular budget.

“Is the OPAPP deliberately evading public scrutiny by not including their proposed projects for proper allocation in the GAA? Did they find DAP as a way to evade scrutiny for the large amount of money that goes to OPAPP?” Palabay said.

She cited OPAPP’s acknowledgment that the 2012 funds were not included in the list of DAP-funded projects released by Malacanang.

At the same time, she said the huge outlay to the OPAPP, “supposedly spent for the peace initiatives of the government did not translate in concrete gains for the people. At best, only allies of the administration benefited from the DAP funds.”

Human rights activists stage a protest at the OPAPP (photo by Karapatan)

Palabay derided the government’s peace initiatives as “a business venture rather than a sincere effort to go into the root causes of the armed conflict and solve poverty, landlessness and joblessness.”

She also blasted the P264 million given to the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army and the P31 million to the Revolutionary Proletarian Army, former rebel groups that signed peace pacts with government but which the Karapatan official said had transformed into “paramilitary groups” accused of human rights abuses.

“The peace process should serve the interests of the majority of our people and just a few groups that sow terror,” she said. “Through DAP the money stolen from the people are used against them. With OPAPP, it becomes worse as paying lip service to the peace process only denies the people of a venue where their basic social and economic problems can be discussed and solved.”

DESPITE CLASH: Army to continue ‘Bayanihan’ drive

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 25): DESPITE CLASH: Army to continue ‘Bayanihan’ drive 

The military is returning to areas in the hinterlands of Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, they had left 20 years ago, when they were believed to have been converted into a production base of the New People’s Army.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said that denying this area from the NPA will have an impact on the logistical requirements of the “bandit group”.

Two members of the Army’s Bayanihan Team were killed recently in an encounter with about 30 NPA rebels in Sitio Madaha, Brgy. Buenavista, Himamaylan City, that is among the venues of the “Marching for Peace, Serving the Countryside” activity of the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit in the fifth district of Negros Occidental.

Aying said the two Bayanihan Team members had been dispatched to the barangay for community development activities. Instead, they were killed, he added.
Its shows that they are anti-people and anti-development, he also said, apparently referring to the NPA.
Despite the killing of the two Army soldiers and the injuries to another, Lt. Col. Ariel Reyes, 47th Infantry Battalion commander, said they will continue their community development activities in the insurgency-affected barangays of Himamaylan City.

“This will not prevent or deter us from helping local government units and agencies in the delivery of basic services to the people, especially those in the hinterlands who need help most,” Reyes said.

He added that the Bayanihan Teams of the 47IB will remain in the area, not only to protect the people from lawless elements, but primarily to help them uplift their lives, in tandem with the provincial government of Negros Occidental.

Army seizes bombs in fresh clash with NPA

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 25): Army seizes bombs in fresh clash with NPA

TROOPS belonging to the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Division recovered several improvised explosive devices and detonating materials after an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) members Wednesday in a hinterland in Barangay Mandug in Davao City’s Buhangin District.

Captain Alberto Caber, Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) public information officer, said the soldiers under the command of the 72nd Infantry Battalion recovered improvised explosive devices (IED), blasting caps, detonating wires, and assorted ammunition for M60 machinegun at Sitio Fatima in Mandug.

The troops also recovered a flag of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and NPA, 15 backpacks, rain coat, combat boots, civilian shoes, gas stove, assorted medicines, subversive documents, and a sack of rice during their clearing operation in the area.

Caber said the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) under the 69th Infantry Battalion encountered at least 20 rebels while they were conducting security operations in Mandug. The firefight lasted for about 20 minutes, he added.

“According to the civilians, there were wounded rebels brought by their companions during their escape towards a hinterland in Bunawan District of Davao City. As to the government troops, no casualty on our side were reported,” Caber said.

Major General Ariel Bernardo, outgoing commander of the 10th Infantry Division, in a forum at Waterfront Insular Hotel on Wednesday, said residents have nothing to worry since the clash took place close to 10 kilometers away from suburban in Mandug.

“In fact, kaunti na nga lang yan sila (NPA rebels) dito. Nagkataon lang na nagkasalubong sila -– hindi talaga maiwasan na magkaroon ng engkwentro. Ang importante ay walang napahamak na sibilyan, at ang ating peace efforts sa area of responsibility namin ay tuloy-tuloy,” Bernardo said.

Eastmincom commander Lieutenant General Ricardo Rainier G. Cruz III, on the other hand, lauded the civilians in the area for their cooperation and coordination to the military about the NPA rebels who always extort goods or money from them.

“The CPP/NPA is continuously violating the human rights and the rule of law. If they’re really sincere about peace, why they continue manufacturing IEDs? Our security forces would not stop its operations against threat to peace and security such as these NPA bandits,” Cruz said.

Davao Police Regional Office (PRO) Chief Superintendent Wendy Garcia Rosario also said their unit will continue its efforts in addressing all forms of lawlessness in the region. He added that the police authorities here will always be on alert as several violent incidents have occurred lately in close proximity to urban areas.

“Part of the security measures implemented by the authorities here is to intensify monitoring on lawless armed group movement, to ensure a peaceful and secured city,” Rosario said, adding that the policemen and the military have already launched a pursuit operation against the rebels.

MILF scores alleged govt ceasefire violations

From GMA News (Jul 26): MILF scores alleged govt ceasefire violations

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front on Saturday accused the government of violating a ceasefire in parts of Mindanao by making "uncoordinated movements" in two towns in Maguindanao.

In a post on its website, the MILF accused the Army of making movements early morning in areas near MILF forces in Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi towns.

“This nature of uncoordinated movement can trigger untoward incident, and worst, fierce encounter between the government and MILF forces,” said Rasid Ladiasan, head of the MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Secretariat.

“Clearly any movement which are not normal administrative functions like the case that transpired early morning today in that areas constitute ceasefire violations when the CCCHs were not coordinated. The government forces know this very well but unfortunately they acted in contravention,” he added.

He said the MILF CCCH plans to "file a strong protest on this incident as the proper way to address this situation.”

But in a text message to GMA News Online, Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Philippine Army's 6th Infantry Division, expressed doubts over Ladiasan's statement. 

"I hope the statement of Mr. Ladiasan is sanctioned by the MILF CCCH. [Otherwise], it constitutes a violation of the ceasefire agreement if aired in public. [He is just] the head of the MILF CCCH Secretariat and not the chairman of the committee."

Also, he said that "any unilateral statement from either the Government of the Philippines or MILF, which is not sanctioned by their respective committee, is deemed violative of the provisions of the 1997 General Agreement on the Cessation of Hositilities, specifically on the Prohibited Provocative Act clause."

The MILF's accusation came two days before President Benigno Aquino III is to deliver his State of the Nation Address in Quezon City on July 28.

Citing reports from MILF commanders, Luwaran said "hundreds" of Philippine Army troops in full battle gear and backed with several tanks moved into Barangays Kitango, Tatapan, Kitapok, Maitem, and Pagatin.

It added the government and MILF CCCHs and the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) were not aware of the "provocative uncoordinated" massive deployment and movement.

“We do not want any tension or confrontational situation to grip in between MILF and government forces otherwise we are being remiss with our responsibility,” Ladiasan said.

He appealed to the government to enhance coordination especially at this time, when the government and MILF are confronting major challenges on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

'Forced acceptance'

Earlier, the MILF claimed the government is forcing it to accept a BBL with "limitations" so it will comply with the 1987 Constitution.

It said the submission of the proposed BBL to Congress is "slowed down by many intervening obstructions," with the review by the Office of the President taking 61 days.

"Obviously, the government peace panel line is to let the MILF accept a version of the BBL that may be constitutional but will not solve the Bangsamoro Question. On the other hand, the MILF overall objective is 'to end tyranny, restore dignity and secure a bright and prosperous future for all in the Bangsamoro Homeland. The current government proposals will not restore dignity to a people who suffered tyranny and will not secure a peaceful and prosperous future,'” it said.

But in Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the government has to make sure any law is constitutional.

"Sayang naman kung ma-challenge ito sa Supreme Court at sabihing unconstitutional dahil hindi natin na execute ang due diligence," she said on government-run dzRB radio.

No US troops in PH as SC reviews defense pact

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 25): No US troops in PH as SC reviews defense pact

Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia. Santos
No troops from the United States will be coming to the Philippines yet as the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is being questioned before the Supreme Court.

“Until we put it into force then we can not really see any [troop] movement. The lawyers will have to look at what can be done in the meantime,” Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia said in an interview with reporters Friday.

“We cannot proceed with the implementation of the agreement because it is being questioned and we don’t want to give the impression that we are not respecting the fact that there is a case filed. We’d like to be able to build up our military capacity and minimum credible defense posture as early as possible right? For our own self defense interests,” he said.

The EDCA was signed by the Philippines and US last April ahead of US President Barack Obama’s two-day visit in Manila. The agreement seeks to increase the amount of US troops that can come into the country on a rotational basis.

There have been at least three petitions asking the high tribunal to declare the EDCA as unconstitutional for violating the Philippine constitution’s provisions on national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

When asked whether the Supreme Court petitions will slow down the implementation of the EDCA, Cuisia said: “It has some impact but hopefully for not too long.”

“We hope to benefit from this agreement particularly the modernization of the AFP. We asked the US to help us but they can not move much until we resolve those issues. We hope that it will not take too long,” he said.

Rules-based approach to sea row

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 26): Rules-based approach to sea row

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) secretary Albert del Rosario AP FILE PHOTO

Amid the worsening row in the South China Sea, the Philippines has called on the European Union and members of the Association of South East Asian Nation (Asean) to support its efforts to promote a rules-based approach in the settlement of maritime disputes in the region.

In a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario spoke before foreign ministers at the 20th Asean-EU Ministerial Meeting in Brussels and said the submission by the Philippines of its claim to arbitration under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) is a manifestation of its commitment toward peaceful settlement of disputes in accordance with international law.

“Lady Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, echoed Secretary Del Rosario’s call and affirmed EU’s support for the right of claimants to seek resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including through legal dispute settlement mechanisms,” the DFA said.

No unilateral action

The DFA said Ashton had urged against unilateral attempts by any party to assert its claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force.

The foreign ministers present at the meeting endorsed the call of Ashton and enjoined parties to seriously implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea toward the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

China and the Philippines are caught in a territorial dispute over areas in the South China Sea which the former claims in its entirety including portions of the Philippines’ 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Tensions have escalated in the region after a standoff in April 2012 between Chinese and Philippine vessels in the Scarborough Shoal.

New tensions

In January, new tensions arose after China’s Hainan province began implementing a new fisheries regulation banning foreign ships from conducting fishing or survey activities in South China Sea without permission from Chinese regional authorities.

To settle the dispute, the Philippines filed a case before the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration against China and was supposed to submit its written arguments last March. But China refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings.

The 20th Asean-EU Ministerial Meeting last week drew the participation of foreign ministers from 10 Asean and 28 EU member states.

Meanwhile, the European Union has announced that Ashton would be in a Manila for a two-day visit next week to boost trade relations between the country and the 28 EU member states and discuss the escalating tensions in the South China Sea.

Ashton will be in town from July 28 to 29, EU ambassador to the Philippines Guy Ledoux said during his recent visit to the Inquirer.

He said this would the first time a top EU official will visit the country as the strong politico-economic union in Europe begins to take a keen interest in investing more in the country.

Here for Sona

The arrival of Ashton, also the vice president of the European Commission, will coincide with President Aquino’s scheduled fifth State of the Nation Address (Sona).

On July 29, Ashton will make a courtesy call on President Aquino and meet Foreign Secretary Del Rosario for an exchange of views on EU-Philippines relations.

“She intends to complete her visit to each country in the Asean,” Ledoux said in a recent meeting with Inquirer publisher Raul Pangalangan and chair Marixi R. Prieto.

Ashton earlier visited Thailand and Burma (Myanmar).

“The economy is booming here. We are very interested in the exports of the Philippines to Europe which last year rose by 20 percent,” Ledoux said.

One of the things she plans to discuss with Philippine officials is the new preferential trading scheme which would allow exports of the Philippines to Europe to have a lesser tariff.

European position

Ledoux said the scheme, which might take effect soon once approved by the European parliament, would benefit sectors exporting textiles and fish products like tuna.

The role and position of the European Union in the settlement of the disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will likewise be discussed in the meeting with Del Rosario.

While the European Union has never taken sides in the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China’s sweeping territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea, it expressed willingness to help in the settlement of the maritime dispute.

“But we are open to share our European experience on maritime issues,” he said, citing the example of the delineation of the Scotland and Norway’s maritime borders.

MILF still unhappy with status of draft law

From Rappler (Jul 26): MILF still unhappy with status of draft law

The government and MILF panels are set to meet again before Monday, the President's scheduled State of the Nation Address, to iron out differences

File photo

What's the status of the draft law creating a new political entity in Mindanao?

On Thursday, July 24, President Benigno Aquino III met with members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in a bid to bridge the gap between Malacañang's proposed revisions and the original version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which the commission drafted.

In the meeting, Aquino called on members of the BTC to approach the drafting of the proposed law "with an open mind," urging both sides to put themselves "in each other's shoes," a media release from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.

"I want to be able to push this (Bangsamoro Basic Law) with conviction," Aquino said.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has earlier accused Malacañang of diluting the draft that the BTC submitted for the President's review.

The drafting of the law is the second phase of the historic peace agreement signed 4 months ago by the Philippine government and the MILF, aimed at ending more than 4 decades of conflict in Muslim provinces in Mindanao. At stake is the future of a region torn by conflict but with so much potential for economic growth.

The heart of the agreement is the creation of an autonomous region – but this hinges on a law that Congress will pass and the results of a plebiscite that will come after.

In his 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA) last year, President Aquino expressed the hope that the new law would be passed by the end of 2014.

But current problems in the process have made this timetable appear difficult to achieve.

Iqbal absent

In the Thursday meeting were Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles, the government peace panel led by chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and select cabinet members.

A total of 12 out of the 14 current members of the BTC attended the meeting. One of the commissioners, Johaira Wahab, has already resigned from the post to assume her position in the Department of Foreign Affairs.

However, the commission's chairperson Mohagher Iqbal, who also serves as the chief negotiator of the MILF, was not present at the meeting with Aquino.

Iqbal told Rappler he had to attend an "important meeting" with the MILF central committee at Camp Darapanan regarding crucial decision points that had to be addressed regarding ongoing discussions on the BBL.

"It's not my choice but it was coincidental that the MILF also has a meeting. It was coincidental, a confluence of two situations. The consultation with the MILF leadership was very important, so, I was there," Iqbal said.

While both sides admit the chances are slim that a "mutually acceptable" draft law can be submitted to Congress right after Aquino's 2014 SONA on Monday, July 28 – the target deadline – neither side is turning away from the process.

The panels are set to meet again before the SONA to try to arrive at a compromise, OPAPP said.

Diluted draft?

The 15-member BTC, created through Executive Order 120, was tasked to create the initial draft of the proposed law that will serve as the basis for the Bangsamoro political entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The MILF nominated 8 of the BTC members, including the chairperson, while the government nominated the rest.

After the commission submitted its draft to the President, Iqbal accused Malacañang of "heavily" diluting it and in the process producing a proposed law that he said was worse than the law governing the ARMM.

Under the final peace agreement, both sides agreed to submit the BTC draft of the BBL to Malacañang for review before it is submitted to Congress and certified as urgent by the President.

The difficulties at the present stage of the process could be traced to an issue that has long hounded both sides.

Since it started negotiating for a political settlement with the government, the MILF has long believed that the Constitution needs to be amended to ensure genuine autonomy in Mindanao. The Aquino administration, meanwhile, believes the final peace agreement can be implemented within the "flexibilities" of the Constitution.

Flexibility and the Constitution

In an interview with Rappler on Friday, July 25, Iqbal said the government is too conservative in interpreting the Philippine Constitution in relation to the draft law. This, he said, was a departure from the statements made by the government panel throughout the negotiations that the signed agreements can be implemented within the "flexibilities" of the Constitution.

"I don't know what's on their mind but we did not see the flexibility promised to us," Iqbal said without elaborating.

The envisioned Bangsamoro political entity is designed to have greater political powers and wider fiscal autonomy than the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

It will have a parliamentary form of government with at least 50 members elected by the people. The elected members, will, in turn, elect a chief minister among themselves. The exact composition of the form of government is expected to be defined in the BBL.

The draft Bangsamoro law will also detail how the block grants for the Bangsamoro will be computed. This is a mechanism that would enable the proposed government to get automatic appropriations without having the need to get the approval of Congress every year – a potentially contentious provision since the Constitution states that the power of the purse is exclusive to Congress.

Also potentially contentious is the issue on the legal definition of the term Bangsamoro, which, in the signed agreements, refers to both the place or territory, as well as the identity of the people.

It also remains to be seen how the BBL would detail the composition of the police force for the Bangsamoro, as well as its relationship with the national police force.

Iqbal refrained from qualifying the current state of negotiations as a deadlock. He said the process is just "on hold."

"It's still moving forward. It's just a simple halt in the journey," Iqbal said.

After the Kuala Lumpur "workshop" on July 7 to July 11 and the Manila meeting from July 18 to July 21, Iqbal said they managed to finish 30% of the issues but substantial issues still remained unresolved.

"But I can't estimate if this will not change because I observed that everything seems to be very tentative. We already finished the issues but then it can still be changed," Iqbal said. "But so far, out of our meetings from Kuala Lumpur to Manila, about 30% have been settled. The rest are subject to ongoing discussion but it's very tentative. We're not sure if there can still be changes."

BEYOND USE. The decommissioning of MILF firearms and troops depend on the completion of corresponding political commitments. File photo by Rappler

BEYOND USE. The decommissioning of MILF firearms and troops depend on the completion of corresponding political commitments. File photo by Rappler

Substantial issues

In a statement published on Luwaran, MILF's official website, on Friday, the MILF made clear its position on the issue:

The MILF said: "All those issues that are settled in the FAB [Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro] and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation" and "settled language in the FAB and its Annexes will not be subject for renegotiation."

It added: "In view of the wide disparity between the two positions of the two parties, finding an agreed version takes some time," the MILF said.

Iqbal said the BTC draft was "faithful to the letter and spirit" of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 2012 and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed in March 2014.

Before the FAB was signed, one of the last items that the panel had to resolve was on the matter of the police force. The MILF wanted a unique police force system in the Bangsamoro but the Constitution states that there should only be one police body.

In the last few hours of crucial talks over the deal on how revenues will be shared between the Bangsamoro government and the national government, the panels were still negotiating how the Bangsamoro could get a greater share in resources in relation to the regalian doctrine in the Constitution, which states that all public lands and natural resources belong to the State.

Asked whether there might have been different interpretations of the content of the final peace agreement, Iqbal said: "The devil is in the details. But I don't think the interpretations are divergent. I can not imagine that but it appears that this is what's happening."

"'Yung kalabaw hindi naman manganganak ng kabayo yan e, di ba?" Iqbal said. (A cow will not give birth to a horse, right?)

Iqbal maintains that the BTC version of the BBL can be implemented within the flexibilities of the Constitution.

"We (the BTC) assured ourselves that there is nothing unconstitutional there. Otherwise, we would have stricken it out. That's our view, that's our belief. That's why when we finished it, we signed it. We believe there is nothing unconstitutional there. It's just a matter of how do you flex, how do you stretch the Constitution. The BTC is officially saying there is nothing unconstitutional there.

4 layers of engagement

During the review, Iqbal said Malacañang was remiss in engaging the transition commission in the process.

There was supposed to have been 4 layers of engagement between the BTC and Malacañang, according to Iqbal.

The first layer would be through BTC committee chairs, the next one through other members, then lawyers and special personalities, and finally, the highest would be between the two principals - Aquino and MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

Iqbal said only the coordination between the principals happened. On June 24, Aquino sought a short meeting with Murad in Japan. At that time, a well-placed source said Aquino had yet to read the contents of the Basic Law.

When Iqbal received a copy of the Malacañang revisions of the draft basic law on June 23 in Japan - two days after it was turned over to the BTC office - it was the first time he had a glimpse of the revisions.

One month before the Malacañang revisions was finally turned over, Iqbal said Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr assured him that only 40% of the draft had been touched and none of those covered substantial parts.

"So, I said, if these are just peripheral issues, it would be easy. It turned out, the substantial parts were also touched," Iqbal said.

The situation could have been different had Malacañang engaged BTC sooner, according to Iqbal.

"Had the engagement with the BTC occurred while they were trying to make the review, at least lots of issues could have been resolved. But that did not happen," Iqbal said.

Iqbal refused to comment on what role OPAPP and the government peace panel played in the review process.

When Iqbal returned to the Philippines from a series of forums overseas after the BTC received a copy of the Malacañang revisions, the BTC passed a resolution elevating the issue to the panels. It was signed by all 14 current members of the commission, hence the meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

In the resolution, the BTC said:

"The BTC strongly agrees to elevate the matter or process to the panels for clarification, discussion and resolution of issues that may have been affected by the revisions in the proposed BBL in the higher intterest of finding a lasting peaceful solution to the conflict in Mindanao."

"The BTC stands firm in its position that the proposed BBL must be consistent with the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro."


For the government, it is more ideal to resolve possible unconstitutional provisions at this stage of the process before the proposed law is submitted to Congress.

After all, Congress would be free to introduce further changes in the measure.

Asked for his reaction, Iqbal said he would rather focus on the immediate challenge ahead.

"I do not want to comment on the actions of Congress. That's another matter. What I'm interested for is really the current engagement with the Office of the President and with the government peace panel," Iqbal said.

He added: Kapag tumatakbo ka at may hurdles, ang iniisip mo malagpasan yung unang hurdle. 'Yun ang focus, ang magtagumpay sa unang hurdle.

(If you are running and there are hurdles, you are focused on surpassing the first hurdle. That's your focus, to prevail on the first hurdle.)

REMEMBERING PEACE. Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak; Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process hold the documents following the signing of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the muslim rebel group inside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, the Philippines, March 27, 2014. Dennis Sabangan/ EPA

REMEMBERING PEACE. Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman; Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak; Philippine president Benigno Aquino III and Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process hold the documents following the signing of a final peace agreement between the Philippine government and the muslim rebel group inside the Malacanang presidential palace in Manila, the Philippines, March 27, 2014. Dennis Sabangan/ EPA

Limit potential challenges

Aquino told the BTC during their Thursday meeting: “Let’s approach this [drafting of the proposed BBL] with an open mind, see if everything is consistent with the CAB [Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro], and limit the potential challenges.”

Iqbal said the challenge to be open applies both ways.

"More on the government because they are the ones who really diluted the BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission. We are really practicing due dilligence. That's why even during fasting time, we met the government side in Kuala Lumpur and in Manila. And we are here and we are still fasting. The reasons for that is really we want to finish the process," Iqbal said.

In terms of the timeline, Iqbal said the MILF still hopes to install the Bangsamoro political entity by 2016 before Aquino steps down from office.

"Kailangang matapos (It has to be finished). There is no second option. Gagawin natin lahat ng pwedeng magawa (We will do what needs to be done). We want this process to be successful," Iqbal said.

Under the final peace agreement signed after close to two decades of negotiations, the MILF agreed to decommission their troops and firearms in specific timeframes in parallel with the completion of corresponding political commitments, including the passage of the BBL, the creation of a transitional body, and finally, the creation of the Bangsamoro government.