Friday, August 1, 2014

Security tight in NCotabato amid NPA threats

From the Philippine Star (Aug 1): Security tight in NCotabato amid NPA threats

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines - Authorities on Friday tightened security in four North Cotabato towns due to persistent threats of massive attacks by communist rebels.

Senior Supt. Danny Peralta, provincial police director, said barangay leaders and policemen in the neighboring President Roxas, Magpet, Antipas and Makilala towns are now on high alert, helping monitor the areas from where rebels can launch attacks.

Peralta said they have been receiving reports from villagers on plans by the New People’s Army (NPA) to attack the police offices in the four towns to retaliate for the group’s heavy losses in recent encounters with government forces in different parts of Mindanao.

The NPA had suffered casualties in a bungled attempt to take over last May 20 the police station of President Roxas.

Members of the municipal police had apparently prepared for the attack, after having been warned by villagers, enabling them to effectively fend off the NPAs, forcing their hasty retreat carrying five slain companions.

More than a dozen NPAs were also reported wounded in the brief encounter with members of the President Roxas municipal police.

The central office of the Department of Interior and Local Government awarded the policemen in President Roxas with special citations for gallantry a week later.

Peralta said soldiers belonging to the Army’s 57th Infantry Battalion are now helping the local police guard the four towns against possible NPA attacks.

Lt. Col. Noli Vinluan, commander of the 57th IB, said what is bothersome for them is the wanton roadside bombings by the NPA’s Guerilla Front 53, targeting not just police and Army vehicles, but public transportations as well.

“These bombings are serious transgressions of the International Humanitarian Law governing the conduct of warfare,” Vinluan said.

Vinluan said they have intensified their security patrols in hinterlands around President Roxas, Magpet, Antipas and Makilala, to prevent NPAs from getting close.

Arrest of Al-Khobar leader to weaken the group, says police

From the Philippine Star (Aug 1): Arrest of Al-Khobar leader to weaken the group, says police

The arrest of a senior leader of the Al-Khobar extortion gang on Thursday in Isulan, Sultan Kudarat will substantially weaken the group, the military said.

Said Giad, who has a P175,000 bounty on his head, was nabbed by policemen and barangay officials in Sampao District in Isulan, capital town of Sultan Kudarat.

Local officials said Giad, also known as “Maestro,” is wanted for large-scale extortion activities and a string of kidnappings involving members of wealthy Chinese clans in Central Mindanao.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said followers of Giad will now feel there is no safe place for them in Central Mindanao’s adjoining North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

The Al-Khobar had bombed, in one attack after another in the past six years, dozens of establishments and buses whose owners refused to shell out “protection money” on a monthly basis.

“This arrest of Giad will surely cause demoralization in the ranks of the Al-Khobar and weaken the group,” Hermoso said.

Giad was an accomplice in criminal activities of Tahir Alonto, founder of the Pentagon kidnapping syndicate, who was killed in a military airstrike at the border of Maguindanao’s S.K. Pendatun and Datu Paglas towns about five years ago.

Hermoso said the 6th ID has tightened security in Central Mindanao to forestall possible retaliations for Giad’s arrest in Isulan on Thursday.

Foreigners kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf held in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): Foreigners kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf held in Sulu

The military is verifying a tip provided by a former Abu Sayyaf captive that kidnapped foreigners are being kept in the mountains of Sulu.

Ground forces  are checking the information  provided by Remegio Lingayan, said Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuella, spokesperson for the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

“The military is working on whatever valid information is provided or gathered on the ground for the safe recovery of the hostages,” she said.

She could not say whether the troops have  sighted any of the hostages.

Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero earlier confirmed reports  that two Germans kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf were sighted in Sulu. He did not give details except to say there are ongoing operations to rescue them.

Lingayan, 50, a construction foreman kidnapped on June 5, was freed  on July 24 after payment of so-called “board and lodging” to his Abu Sayyaf captors in Indanan town.

When presented to reporters in this city, Lingayan said he was with Stefan Viktor Okonek, 74, and Henrite Dielen, 42, who were seized in April from their yacht in Rio Tubattaha off Palawan.

He said he also saw Dutchman Elwold Horn and Swiss Lorenzo Vinceguerre and Filipino-Chinese mother and daughter Dina Lim and Yahong Lim Tan.

“We were separated from five others and I went with the German couple,” Lingayan said.

He said he  they were moved around by the Abu Sayyaf to elude pursuing government forces.

Coffee project up in Bukidnon military camp

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 1): Coffee project up in Bukidnon military camp

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), together with partner agencies, recently planted an initial 5,000 Robusta coffee seedlings at the 200-hectare Coffee Plantation Pilot Project, also known as CP3, at Camp Kibaritan, Bukidnon.

The activity, in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Nestle Philippines, and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), is in line with the thrust of the Department of National Defense (DND) to generate funds to support the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The DND Integrated Business Plan (IBP) Project is being implemented utilizing Military Reservations. Major Christian Uy, 4ID spokesman, said the vision of the DND-IBP Project is for the DND/AFP to be a self-reliant and self-sustaining bureau.

Uy said the goal is to optimize the utilization of the potential areas covered by Military Reservations in the conduct of multiple farm production.

Target of the project is Agro-industry production, like coffee, Bali palm oil, and other crops.

Uy said the 200-hectare land area for CP3 is just the first phase of the overall plan of the DND in its military reservation area in Camp Kibaritan, and is inside the 4ID area of responsibility.

Uy said this project will be implemented by a domestic corporation, which is the Kibaritan Military Reservation Producers Cooperative (KMRPC).

Govt troops clash with NPA rebels: 2 dead

From the Manila Times (Aug 1): Govt troops clash with NPA rebels: 2 dead

GOVERNMENT troops clashed with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Negros Occidental and Capiz, leaving two dead and two wounded from both camps.

The latest encounter took place early morning on Friday in the hinterland village of Dian-ay in Escalante City, Negros Occidental where one rebel was killed, while another rebel and a soldier were injured.

Commanding officer Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova of the 62nd Infantry Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division, said his men were on their way to check the reported presence of lawless elements in the said village when they were fired upon by more or less 10 armed men who are believed to be members of the Northern Negros Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros, one of the operating units of the NPA in the province.

“Our troops resorted to fire back and firefight ensued for 10 minutes. The NPA rebels withdraw in disarray leaving behind one of their dead comrades,” said Cordova.

The wounded NPA was identified as a certain Romly Palotes, who was brought to the hospital.

The identity of the slain rebel was, however, withheld, pending notification of next of kin.

Also injured during the encounter was 1Lt. John Rey Espinosa, who sustained a slight head injury and is now in stable condition.

Recovered in the scene of encounter is one Cal .45 pistol with five live ammunition.

Cordova said blood stains were seen along the NPA’s withdrawal routes, indicating more casualties on the rebel group’s side.

On Thursday, elements of the 61st Infantry Battalion (61IB) also engaged the rebels at Brgy. Roosevelt in Tapaz, Capiz.

Lt. Col. Victor Llapitan, commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion, said his troops were conducting peace and development activities when they were attacked by members of Tugalbong Platoon, Central Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Panay.

“We engaged the NPA bandits which resulted to the death of one of our soldiers. Our troops are there to help the local government unit (LGU) in assisting the people to resolve the issues in their community and to further improve their lives,” said Llapitan.

The slain soldier was identified as Private First Class Lowel John Bravo, 31, of Brgy Aguisan, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental.

Chinese spy ship in RIMPAC is a good news, they just proved something

From AngMalaya (Aug 1): Chinese spy ship in RIMPAC is a good news, they just proved something

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Commander, U.S. Pacific Command confirmed that a Dongdiao-class auxiliary general intelligence ship is “currently in the economic zone of the United States off of Hawaii, monitoring the activities of RIMPAC.”

Locklear said, “The good news about this is that it’s a recognition, I think, or an acceptance by the Chinese of what we’ve been saying to them for some time, is that military operations and survey operations in another country’s EEZs, where you have national – your own national security interest, are within international law and are acceptable. And this is a fundamental right that nations have.”

“And so we have reiterated that to all the nations that are in RIMPAC, as well as the Chinese, that this is within the law and it’s their right to do it, and as long as they do it in a non-intrusive in a way that doesn’t interfere, that it’s – that it’s OK by the law.”

However, Locklear said it is just ironic that this is the first time China joined that said biggest naval drill in the world and they sent an uninvited ship.

“It is a little odd that you’d come for the first time to an exercise where I quite have observed and quite believe that this is an opportunity and the Chinese recognize it’s an opportunity for them to interact on a broad scale with 22 nations, some of them that they have disagreements with in other areas. And it’s an opportunity to build trust and confidence, and that’s happening.”

“The introduction of the AGI kind of made it look a little odd, but it hasn’t stopped the exercise and it hasn’t created any difficulties in the exercise. And I guess on the other good side, it gives the Chinese the opportunity to see how their own ships are doing, so which I understand is pretty good.”

Two US C-130T aircraft will be procured by PH via foreign military sale

From AngMalaya (Aug 1): Two US C-130T aircraft will be procured by PH via foreign military sale

“The Government of the Philippines has requested a possible sale from Department of Defense stock of two (2) C-130T Aircraft, and 10 T56-16 engines (8 installed and 2 spares),” says in US Defense Security Cooperation Agency letter to US Congress.

The US State Department already approved the said procurement for an estimated cost of $61 million.

Included in the said procurement are logistical sustainment and support for a period of three years, modification equipment and labor costs, spare and repair parts, support equipment, publications and technical documentation, aircraft ferry support, personnel training and training equipment, U.S. Government and contractor logistics and technical support services, and other related elements of logistics and program support.

US Defense Security Cooperation Agency said that the sale will “contribute to U.S. security and foreign policy goals by building the Philippines’ maritime domain security capacity and deepening our overall strategic partnership with the Philippines.”

US DSCA assure the US Congress that the sale will not result to adverse impact on U.S. defense and will not alter the basic military balance in the Asia-Pacific.

With additional two C-130T, Philippines’ readiness and response for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief will be bolstered and will eventually reduce potential level of U.S. assistance needed for humanitarian assistance and disaster response purposes.

MILF: Editorial -- Easier to proceed

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Aug 1): Easier to proceed

It is better for the government and the MILF to continue the path of peace, which they have already invested so much, rather than go back to where they started, which is not only practical but also laden with dangers and uncertainties.
The difficulty they faced in coming up with an “agreed version” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can only be temporary. If they persevere and remain committed to solve the Bangsamoro Question, no obstacle, God willing! can stop their way. “If there is a will,” said an old adage, “there is a way.”

It is true that they have not beaten the most desirable time to submit the BBL, which is  immediately after the State-of-the Nation Address (SONA) of President Benigno Aquino III last July 28. But this is no reason to give up --- rather, there are more to proceed.

As a problem-solving exercise, however, the current discussion does not need finger-pointing. But it is not good either to just ignore the cause of the delay. Like the GPH’s 3-for-1 formula, which the MILF outright rejected, as an extraneous effort, the conservative or restrictive interpretation of the Constitution adopted by the Review Team of the Office of the President (OP) and the resort to the use of “concepts, words and terms” that are clearly alien to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, explained much of the difficulty. While we do not question intention, but the truth is that we do not know the wisdom either.

But after the President made known his inner thoughts during the meeting in Malacañang Palace involving the OP, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), Department of Justice (DOJ), the Solicitor General Office, GPH Peace Panel, the Executive Secretary, and members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal was not present) last July 23 and in his SONA last July 28, one can safely say that he (President) is still fully committed to make peace with the MILF as his legacy. His limited reference to the BBL is simply an economy of words appropriate to the true state of the current discussion of the BBL.

Of course, not everybody was happy about the President’s limited reference to the BBL and how it could become a reality. We understand their positions, because most are coming from other standpoints. But as partners in the peace-making, the MILF has to be very objective in assessing the situation in reference to the difficulty confronting the Parties. We cannot ask for more from the President re: BBL in his SONA.

The road ahead still offers some promises. One good determining factor is that both Parties have expressed willingness to travel the extra miles to be able to produce a mutually agreed version of the BBL. All what is needed is a little time more; and more importantly, both sides must be truthful and faithful to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes, which is the basis of the BBL.

MILF: Moro Youth Rally for Basic Law Passage

From the MILF Website (Aug 1): Moro Youth Rally for Basic Law Passage

Hundreds of Bangsamoro youth representing several organizations gathered July 28 at the Cotabato City plaza after the Eid’l Fit’r (Feast of the Breaking of Fast) prayer to urge President Benigno Aquino III for the immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Specifically, they wanted the BBL drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and not, as they claimed, the “OPAPP draft.”

Calling themselves the Sulong Bangsamoro Movement, speakers took turn in venting their impatience and ire over what they perceived as dilution of the BTC-drafted BBL by the legal review team of the Office of the President.

Days before the rally, the group is believed responsible for the hanging of tarpaulins and streamers in major crossroads of Cotabato City urging for the immediate implementation of the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), among several appeals.

    A representative of the Young Advocates for Peace and Development Network (YAPDN) claimed that the OP legal team has no right to change the draft BBL because only the BTC has the mandate to do so.

Some speakers also singled out the OPAPP, or the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, as the “source of the problem”, referring to the delay of the submission of the basic law to Congress which resumed session July 28.

In its manifesto, the Sulong Bangsamoro Movement said that the “CSOs are deeply worried of the possible negative consequences if the major issues in the agreement are not resolved in due time and that the review will reduce significantly the substance of the agreement.”

The manifesto also stated that a “basic law that does not auger well in responding to the demand for self-government and the big challenges of reforms and development in the Bangsamoro will be a hindrance to peace.”

The rallyists asserted that the BTC has already carefully and meticulously framed the original draft, seeing to it that each provision religiously complies with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed just this March 27. 

Incidentally, Eid’l Fitr happened on the day President Aquino delivered his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

As it turned out, hopes and expectations were dampened when the President mentioned the BBL in few lines only in his 44-page SONA.

“Kung maisasabatas nga po ang Bangsamoro Basic Law bago matapos ang taon at maisasagawa ang kinakailangang plebesito, mabibigyan ng isa’t kalahating taon ang Bangsamoro Transition Authority para ipakita ang positibong pagbabago. Kung maaantala naman ito, natural pong iikli rin ang panahon para mapatunayan na tama nga ang landas ng kapayapaang tinatahak natin,” Aquino said of the timeline of the peace process which many fear is getting short.

The rallyists came from the barangays of Cotabato City, Iranon areas (Parang, Matanog, Barira & Buldon), Kapatagan (LDS), Maguindanao and South Cotabato towns and students of USM Kabacan.

Sulong Bangsamoro Movement is an advocacy organized by local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs) based in Central Mindanao. The member-organizations are YAPDN, DYAM (Development Youth Assembly in Mindanao), KBMMPD (Kutawato Bangsamoro Movement for Peace & Dev’t), MYROi (Moro Youth Religious Organization, Inc.), MWDECC (Moro Women Development & Cultural Center), MAPD (Mindanao Action for Peace & Dev’t), UNYPHIL (United Youth of the Philippines), Free Bangsamoro Advocates (FBA), Kabalikat Civicom-Bangsamoro, AFADMin (Action for the Advancement of Development in Mindanao), Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace  (BCJP), Muslim Youth Brotherhood (MYB)  and Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society (CBCS).

MILF: Thousands of Bangsamoro Professionals register on BTC-JICA Human Resource Mapping

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 1): Thousands of Bangsamoro Professionals register on BTC-JICA Human Resource Mapping

The Bangsamoro Professionals who are registered online and submitted their datasheet profile to the Human Resource Mapping Implementation Unit (HRMIU) for nearly two months of its operation had reached 1,186 since June 4.
Ms. Baisanie J. Macabuat, HRM Project Officer, said that as of July 30, the percentage of registered professionals both on the submitted datasheet and online, show that Maguindanao ranked 1 with 49%, Basilan ranked 2 with 11%, followed by North Cotabato with 6%, Lanao del Sur with 5%, Cotabato City and abroad with 4% each. See figures below:

“We know that the Bangsamoro professionals are hundreds of thousands. We believed that they are willing to participate in the human resource mapping. That is why we strongly encouraged them to submit their profile either online or on the datasheet being distributed by the service providers namely; BLMI, UNYPAD and MAPAD,” Dr Norodin Salam, CCDP-B Project Manager said.

Dr Salam added that the human resource mapping is inclusive. “The Moro professionals, IPs and Christians who are Bangsamoro by self-ascription are part of the mapping,” he said.

Mr. Tu Alid Alfonso, CCDP-B, HRD Project Coordinator is very optimistic that Bangsamoro professionals will support the program.

“I hope that with the information drive campaign conducted in the areas of Central, Northern, and Western Mindanao through the service providers and over the radio plugging through AM radio band which explain the purpose of the program, we could have a good turnout,” he said.

The registration period is until September 30, 2014.

Mr. Alfonso said that all collected profiles will be integrated into the database and shall be categorized according to professions. “The database will be analyzed by an IT expert on data analyses based on the specific category suggested by the HRM Task Force. HRM Task Force is composed of representatives from BTC, JICA, BDA, BLMI, UNYPAD and MAPAD,” Mr. Alfonso explained.

“The analyzed data will be submitted to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) by November 2014”, Mr. Alfonso also said.

The human resource mapping for Bangsamoro professionals is led by the BTC under the Socio-Economic Office. (CCDP-B News)

CPP/NPA: Notorious 60th IB Suffers Eight Casualties In NPA Ambush In Kapalong, Davao del Norte

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 30): Notorious 60th IB Suffers Eight Casualties In NPA Ambush In Kapalong, Davao del Norte

Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command
Two fascist troops were killed and six others were wounded when Red Fighters under the Comval-North Davao South Agusan Sub-regional Command ambushed a platoon of 60th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Sitio Kapatagan, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte at 6am on July 29, 2014.

The NPA also seized from them 1 m60 machine gun and 1 m16 cobra, 4 pieces military packs, 4 cellphones, 500 rounds of machine gun ammunitions and 300 k3 rifle bullets.

The NPA’s tactical offensive served as punishment against a notorious army unit responsible for various atrocities against the masses.

In its combat and intelligence operations in Kapalong, the 60th IB occupied village centers and dwelled in civilian houses, prohibited the masses from going to their farms, used children as guides for their patrol operations, harassed leaders of mass organizations and butchered members of underground organizations.

The fascist troops also issued stern warnings to residents that they would suffer the blows in the event of any NPA attack against the military.
Army units under the 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command have always employed ruthless methods by hurting unarmed masses as their easiest and spineless route to fight the revolutionary movement.

Failing to stymie NPA’s intensified tactical offensives and revolutionary struggle, units like the 60th IB attempt to win the battle by taking the most cowardly and desperate approach through sheer fascism.

They only gain the hatred of the masses as they suffer more and more casualties in the battlefield.

Their dastardly and brutal act further exposes Oplan Bayanihan as a killing machine policy of a fascist regime led by a corrupt and lying imperialist puppet commander-in-chief.

As calls for the ouster of Benigno Aquino III from presidency snowball and gain ground, the NPA will continue to launch tactical offensives versus the enemy and advance the People’s War.

AFP probes 'killing' video

From Rappler (Aug 1): AFP probes 'killing' video

'This cannot be condoned. We are looking into everything,' says AFP spokesperson Major General Domingo Tutaan

Screenshot of video of alleged soldiers involved in summary execution
Screenshot of video of alleged soldiers involved in summary execution

Senior military generals were attending a command conference at the general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, when then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Emmanuel Bautista asked a few of them to watch a video.

On an iPad, the generals watched armed men in military uniform kick a man and step on his head before they fired their M16s at him. (READ: Caught on video: 'Soldiers' shoot man in cold blood)

They were shocked, according to one of the officers who watched the video with them. They said: "Ano yan? Bakit ganoon? Dapat parusahan ang mga iyan.” (What is that? Why did that happen? They should be punished.)

Rappler interviewed AFP spokesperson Major General Domingo Tutaan on Friday, August 1, about the video. He said Bautista saw the video on July 7 and immediately ordered an investigation to determine when it happened, where it happened, and if the men involved are indeed from the Philippine Army.

We were really astonished,” said Tutaan, who was also a former chief of the AFP Human Rights Office. He said human rights violations were clearly committed although he refused to confirm that the men responsible were government troops – pending the result of the investigation.

"Granting that he is an adversary, still he is a person. He is entitled to his rights as a human being and the dignity of a person. He is entitled to that. That is why when we saw that we were really bothered. We were really concerned about it. This cannot be condoned. We are looking into everything,” said Tutaan.

Western Mindanao Command

The AFP happened to be holding a command conference when an officer showed Bautista the video. He called senior officers during a break and they watched the video together at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club (AFPCOC) inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Among those who watched the video with General Bautista were then acting Army chief Major Romulo Cabantac, now AFP Human Rights Office chief Colonel Jose Antonio Motril, and the current commander of the military unit in question, the Army’s 601st Brigade chief Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilian.

"After viewing and discussing it, an investigation was initiated. It is now Colonel Motril who is initiating the investigation on this. Of course, the Philippine Army is also involved because it's the Army [that may be responsible]," Tutaan said.

A representative of the Communications, Electronics, and Informations Systems was also called to assist the Human Rights Office in the probe.

A month since the July 7 command conference, the investigation is unfinished. Bautista retired on July 18, 2014, and turned over command to new AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

Motril said they have narrowed down their probe to the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom). Motril confirmed that patches of the 6th Infantry Division were seen on the soldiers, although he said anyone can buy these patches.

“We haven’t officially received reports from lower AFP units on the video’s authenticity. We asked for investigation on the circumstances in the video from the Western Mindanao Command and the Army,” Motril said.

“If they are soldiers, they must be investigated, cases should be filed, and due punishment must be meted,” Motril added.

Tutaan gave an assurance Catapang has been monitoring the probe.

Old video?

The video apparently circulated among MILF members last month, prompting the group to conduct its own investigation. The MILF believes it’s a new video taken after the June 10 military operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Maguindanao.

But Tutaan said they believe the video is several years old. "We don't really know what place. We believe it was sometime in 2008 or 2009. Kasi matagal na iyan e. Lumabas na iyan before (It’s old. It came out before [in the Internet]),” said Tutaan.

Motril said they have yet to confirm that they are soldiers. “Video shows armed persons in various military and civilian attire, which the AFP does not sport,” he said. He said there are other details in the video that they are investigating.


But at least two officers who have seen the video told Rappler they believe the men in the video are soldiers. They also said it was probably taken in 2008 or 2009. Talk in military circles points to retaliatory action after an incident where soldiers were supposedly kidnapped and then beheaded.

A Google search shows several incidents of beheading of soldiers in Western Mindanao in 2008 and 2009.

One officer said the bandoliers – the pocketed belt for holding ammunition – are a supposed giveaway. Those were reportedly issued during the time of AFP chief General Hermogenes Esperon, who served from 2006 to 2008 under the Arroyo administration. New bandoliers were supposedly issued beginning 2008, although others still probably used the old ones until 2009.

But there is no excuse for the human rights violations, they acknowledged.

Tutaan said that if probers ultimately find out that soldiers were the ones who fired those shots, they would be accused of the following violations:

Violation of Republic Act 9851 or the International Humanitarian Law

Violation of AFP Rules of Engagement

Violation of the IPSP Bayanihan

Determining the year the video was taken is apparently crucial. If the video was taken in 2008 and the perpetrators are soldiers, Tutaan said they may not be liable under IHL law and the IPSP Bayanihan which were put in place in 2009.

But Tutaan said they are definitely violations of the AFP rules of engagement. “Regardless of date, rules of engagement can suffice,” he said.

“If you look at the video, they shot the man. Under the Revised Penal Code, that can be murder. But then again we do not want to hit anybody openly [until we’ve determined who are the people invovled],” he said.

Caught on video: 'Soldiers' shoot man in cold blood

From Rappler (Aug 1): Caught on video: 'Soldiers' shoot man in cold blood

EXCLUSIVE: The Philippine military is investigating the alleged involvement of its troops in the summary execution of an unidentified man

CAPTIVE. Series of screenshots show a man being kicked by men in military uniform then dragged to the center of the field
CAPTIVE. Series of screenshots show a man being kicked by men in military uniform then dragged to the center of the field

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - He's hogtied, his face kissing the ground. In a few seconds, about 18 armed men around him – all wearing military uniforms – take turns kicking him and stepping on his head as he lay helpless at the back of a 2-story house.

For 4 minutes and 8 seconds, the video rolls. It ends with alleged soldiers rapidly firing their M16s at the hapless man after they drag him into the field. At some point, we hear a man shout: "Hoy! Tama na! Tama na yan!" (That's enough! That's enough!). But another continues to fire his weapon, followed by the rest who empty their magazines in succession, killing the man.

109 SHOTS. Series of screenshots show men in uniform with high-powered firearms take turns shooting a man
109 SHOTS. Series of screenshots show men in uniform with high-powered firearms take turns shooting a man

At least 109 gunshots are heard throughout the 4 minutes and 8 seconds.

Posted on Facebook on June 20, 2014 by a certain Abu Maidan, the video has triggered an investigation by the Armed Forces of the Philippines into the alleged involvement of its men in the gruesome killing.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) told Rappler it is done with its own probe, claiming that the video captured an incident on June 10, 2014 when Army troops raided a suspected safe house of alleged top terrorist Abdul Basit Usman in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano town, Maguindanao. The man who was summarily executed, based on the video, was Muslimin Talib, the uncle of Usman's wife, according to MILF spokesman Von Al Haq.

Military officers, however, told Rappler that the video could have been taken years ago – in 2008 or 2009 – and that it was not the first time it was posted.

Former Armed Forces chief of staff retired General Emmanuel Bautista saw the video on July 7 and immediately ordered an investigation. The unfinished probe has yet to determine if the men who took part in the shooting are soldiers. (READ: AFP probes 'killing' video)

[Video report: Video triggers human rights investigation]

Operation vs terrorist

The June 10, 2014 incident that the MILF was referring to was a joint operation of the Army's 1st Mechanized Battalion and the 45th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Libutan, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that led to an encounter with Usman's followers and alleged members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan, commanding general of the Army's 6th infantry division which has overall supervision over these two battalions, told media on June 11 that the rebels fired rocket-propelled grenades at the soldiers. The troops however managed to fight back, killing two rebels in the gun battle that began at 5:40 am and ended at 7:30 am.

Pangilinan said Usman was wounded in the fight.

Later, soldiers managed to locate the alleged hideout and "bomb facility" of Usman and arrested 4 women, including his wife, the military added. The military submitted to headquarters photos of seized bomb paraphernalia, weapons and other rebel materials. The military, however, refused to say where they detained the 4.

This was a huge operation for the military, because Usman, known as a bomb maker and identified with the regional terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah, has been the subject of intense manhunt both by the Philippine and US governments. Usman was charged in court for the bombing of a mall in General Santos City in 2002, which killed 15 and injured at least 63. The US government put up a $1-million reward for any information leading to his capture.

Military, MILF investigations

The MILF, which interviewed barangay residents and its own troops based in the area after it saw the video, said Talib was executed in cold blood by soldiers during their raid of Usman's alleged safe house – as caught on the video.

The man who posted the video on Facebook claimed he is from the BIFF, which broke away from the MILF and is accused by the military of coddling Usman and other terrorists.

Rappler asked him via Facebook email where he got the video. "Sa sundalo lang din galing yan. Basta sundalo [ang] may kagagawan nyan. Isinikreto lang nila pero may nagbigay sa amin. Oo, sundalo ang nagbigay. Kakampi din namin." (The video came from a soldier. Soldiers were behind it [summary execution]. They secretly took a video, but they also gave it to us. A soldier gave it to us. He's our ally.) He did not say when the video was taken.

Military intelligence has been ordered to trace the source of the video, according to the same officer. When we asked some military commanders based in central Mindanao, however, they downplayed the video, describing it as BIFF propaganda.

The MILF, which has signed a peace agreement with the Aquino government, said it has submitted its initial findings to the joint Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities, a body composed of government officials and the MILF tasked to monitor ceasefire and human rights violations in the area.

“It was clearly an overkill. Regardless if he is a combatant or a civilian, he is still a human being,” Al-Haq said.

The MILF's involvement in the probe is crucial, since the victim shown in the video was reportedly associated with the rival BIFF, which has been critical of the MILF's decision to talk peace with the Aquino government. MILF troops, in fact, have in the past helped the military in running after its rogue members from the BIFF.

What happened

The video shows the armed men and their victim at the back of a house in a field. The sound of a truck engine is heard. Then we hear a voice, apparently from the man taking the video: “Pinatay na lang sana nila yan kesa pahirapan pa.” (They could just have killed him than made him suffer).

After the kicking and the shoving, a man in a blue shirt wearing a baseball cap and shorts approaches the hogtied victim. The man in blue later kicks the hogtied man in the face.

An M16 wielding man with a black bandana walks over, laughing. At this point, we hear the voice of the apparent video taker: “Nakikita niyo po ay isang kasapi ng (unintelligible)-LF na nahuli ng pwersang military." (What you're seeing now is a member of….who was arrested by the military.)

After a few seconds, an armed man unties the victim while another drags him by the leg. A third grabs the man – still conscious at this point - by his collar and drags him to a nearby field.

That's when the successive shooting begins.

Obstacles to peace

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said they would help seek justice for the victim most especially if the family asks for their assistance.

For several decades, the Philippine military has had to battle accusations of human right violations. After the fall of the Marcos dictatorship in 1986, the soldiers were made to undergo human rights training. Human rights has since become part of the military curriculum.

But problems persist in the battlefield, according to various human rights groups.

The peace agreement signed by the Aquino government and the MILF is meant to pave the way for lasting peace especially in MILF-controlled areas in central Mindanao, but this has not been easy given the presence of the BIFF, the recruitment by international terrorists of members, and the continued presence of factors that fuel rebellion – poverty and government abuses.

Philippines to join int'l call for 'determined action' to ease South China Sea tension

From InterAksyon (Aug 1): Philippines to join int'l call for 'determined action' to ease South China Sea tension

Reuters file photo

Acknowledging that tension with China has been strained and the "level of mistrust and dangers has heightened", the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that the Philippines is ready to submit a proposal during the Association of the Southeast Asian Nation meetings this August.

The tensions, said a DFA statement, "have strained relations among countries, increased levels of mistrust, and heightened the dangers of unintended conflict in the region.

"Therefore, in order to immediately do what is right in accordance with law, the international community must take determined actions to reduce tensions as we urgently work to resolve the dispute in the South China Sea."

In the forthcoming ASEAN meetings in Nay Pyi Taw in August, the Philippines will be discussing its proposal, the Triple Action Plan (TAP), as a "concrete framework to address the escalating tensions in the South China Sea."

The TAP was first informally announced by the Philippines in late June as tensions in the waters off Vietnam escalated due to the emplacement of the Chinese Oil Rig HD981.

The Philippines hopes that states with territorial claims in the South China Sea (or West Philippine Sea), other ASEAN countries, and the ASEAN Dialogue Partners will favorably consider this proposal "as it is comprehensive, constructive and brings together various initiatives that the Philippines and other countries have been advocating on the issue of the South China Sea for the past years."

As an immediate approach, TAP calls for a moratorium on specific activities that tend to heighten tension in the South China Sea, and also for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea (DOC) and the expeditious conclusion of the Code of Conduct.

TAP also underscores the need for a settlement mechanism that will bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution anchored on international law.

Villagers restive as truce ends in Agusan Norte, Surigao Norte

From MindaNews (Aug 1): Villagers restive as truce ends in Agusan Norte, Surigao Norte

Villagers expressed fears a resurgence in armed hostilities between government forces and the New People’s Army (NPA) with the end of the five-day ceasefire in Surigao del Norte and portions of Agusan del Norte today.

The truce came as a precondition for the release Tuesday of four policemen who were held captive by the NPA since July 10.

PO3 Vic Calubag Concon, PO1 Rey O’niel Morales, PO1 Joen Zabala and PO1 Edito Roquino, all of Alegria, Surigao del Norte were seized by a blocking force of the NPA during the raid on the town’s police station on July 10.

The NPA declared a ceasefire for the towns of Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag, Placer, Tubod and Alegria of Surigao del Norte and Kitcharao, Jabonga and Santiago of Agusan del Norte from noon of July 27 until 12:00 noon of August 1.

The government responded by ordering a suspension of military and police operations for the same areas and period of time.

Datu Lando “Maribuhok” Anlagan, a Mamamwa chieftain in Zapanta Valley in Barangay Bangayan, Kitcharao said the end of the ceasefire means clashes would again erupt between government and rebel forces.

He said his fellow Lumads are fearful this would force them to evacuate again, adding they had been the constant victims of the conflict.

He recalled the skirmishes on 27 May 2011 which forced at least 150 of them, mostly women and children, to flee to Surigao City. The following year, they evacuated to Butuan City for the same reason.

“If there is no peace talks between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) these incidents would occur time and time again,” he said.

Anlagan said the farmers are afraid of being caught in a crossfire.

Meanwhile, a rebel who identified himself as Ka Kared told MindaNews on Tuesday that they had already prepared for a defensive stance after the ceasefire.

He said the NPA would not hesitate to defend its forces and mass supporters.

NDFP-Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos earlier said that after the release of their captives “all NPA units must move to a more secure location to prepare themselves and the masses in the area against another wave of brutal attacks by enemy forces.”

“We must sustain our revolutionary daringness and will to fight to frustrate the fascist military offensives of the enemy,” he said.

1st Lt. Magno Ausente, spokesperson of the 30th Infantry Battalion yesterday said skirmishes would only happen if there is rebel presence in a certain area.

Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Philippine Independent Church-Diocese of Surigao, who headed the third party facilitators said Friday the possibility of intensive military operations could result to more deaths and human rights violations, and “compromise basic social services of our people as government resources are used to finance the continuous waging of war”.

“The TPF calls upon the contending parties – the GRP and NDFP – to return to the negotiating table and resume their peace talks, giving all the hope to the Filipino People for a principled, just and negotiated resolution of the armed conflict and the basic social problems that created the situation. Resume the peace talks, end the armed conflict, resolve the basic problems affecting our people. Give the genuine and last peace a chance to prevail in our land,” he said.

Surigao del Norte Provincial Board Member Myrna M. Romarate, who is the ambassador of Women’s’ Federation for World Peace–Philippines urged the government to make a step forward for the resumption of peace talks.

“Peace is everyone’s concern and this could be resolved not by armed conflict but by simply putting all issues and concerns on the table,” she said.

Madlos earlier said the release of the four policemen was a goodwill gesture to promote the peace talks.

OPAPP funds questioned

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Jul 31): OPAPP funds questioned

A Filipino human rights group called Karapatan has questioned the allocated funds for the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process after it uncovered a huge amount of  money channeled from the controversial Disbursement Allocation Program of President Benigno Aquino.

The program was declared unconstitutional and illegal by the Supreme Court and Karapatan said the OPAPP under Secretary Teresita Deles received as much as 400% more from its approved budget included in the General Appropriations Act or GAA for 2011 and 2012.

It said a total of P2.294 to 2.542 billion went to OPAPP for 2011 and 2012. The amount covered the combined GAA 2011 and 2012 approved budget of P475 million, and the P1.819 billion and P248 million given through DAP in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Where's the money? 

Cristina Palabay, Karapatan’s Secretary General, said while OPAPP acknowledged the P248 million it received from DAP in 2012, but she noted the amount was not included in the Malacañang’s release of DAP-funded projects.

“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?” she asked.

“Whatever magics the OPAPP and DBM do, such huge amount of people’s money 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,” she added.

DBM refers to the Department of Budget and Management headed by Secretary Florencio Abad, who is behind the DAP.

“The government’s peace initiatives have become a business venture rather than a sincere effort to go into the root causes of the armed conflict and solve poverty, landlessness and joblessness. Presidential pork (barrel) oils OPAPP to put up every obstacle it can think of in the peace the process, especially with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, as it continues to ignore all previously signed agreements and commitment. The government continues to insist on the surrender of the members of the revolutionary movement as if this will end the armed conflict,” Palabay said.

PAMANA projects

She said even in the guise of livelihood projects through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or PAMANA, OPAPP could not boast of judicious use of billions of people’s money especially because it is allegedly being used to finance paramilitary groups like the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army or the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade.

She said both groups are involved in several cases of human rights violations in the Cordillera region and Negros provinces. The CPLA received P264 million supposedly for projects coursed through PAMANA while the RPA-ABB got P31 million.  

“The peace process should serve the interests of the majority of our people and just a few groups that sow terror. 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,” Palabay said.

Senator Nancy Binay also questioned – in a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing - why the Moro National Liberation Front, through the OPAPP, was given P1.8 billion in DAP funds. She said Abad failed to clarify issues related to DAP and OPAPP.

Peace projects

OPAPP Undersecretary Jose Lorena said their DAP funding allocation in 2011, which amounted to P1.8 billion as reflected in the DBM report, was used for different peace and development initiatives in conflict-affected and vulnerable communities across the country, and in support of several existing peace tables and not in support  of the MNLF peace process alone.

Of this amount, nearly P 704 million was used to fund 219 projects - such as community infrastructures, post-harvest facilities, local roads, and water systems, among others - in MNLF peace and development communities in 14 provinces and four cities, which were implemented by national agencies and local governments under the PAMANA program, he said.

Lorena said: “We would be happy to discuss this further with Senator Binay to clarify any misconceptions regarding the DAP allocation to OPAPP peace and development initiatives as well as on the GPH-MNLF peace process.”

Aquino approved DAP

The OPAPP website has no entries on where its funds went or how its budget was spent, but President Benigno Aquino approved the DAP in 2011 on the recommendation of the Development Budget Coordination Committee and the Cabinet Clusters as a “stimulus package” by the government for the projects.

From 2011 to 2012, DAP funding reached P142.23 billion - P83.53 billion in 2011 and P58.70 billion in 2012 – and most of the funds went to healthcare, public works, housing and resettlement, agriculture, tourism, road infrastructure, school infrastructure, rehabilitation and extension of light rail transit systems, and electrification project in the villages.

Last year, some P15.13 billion in DAP funds were also released by Abad and these went to the police and redevelopment of the Roxas Boulevard in Manila and other rehabilitation projects in areas affected by typhoons.

Aquino said the DAP funds came from the savings of various government agencies and is legal, citing Article VI Section 25 (5) ng 1987 Constitution.  “…the President, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the heads of Constitutional Commissions may, by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.”

And Book VI Chapter 5 Section 39 of the 1987 Administrative Code: “Except as otherwise provided in the General Appropriations Act, any savings in the regular appropriations authorized in the General Appropriations Act for programs and projects of any department, office or agency, may, with the approval of the President, be used to cover a deficit in any other item of the regular appropriations….”

“If there is a singular legacy that I am leaving and sana, masanay ang kababayan natin na ito ang kaya ng gobyernong pinapatakbo nang matino,” Aquino said.

Various groups protest illegal use of government funds.

Army soldier shot dead inside disco bar in Zamboanga province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 1): Army soldier shot dead inside disco bar in Zamboanga province

An unidentified gunman shot dead a government soldier inside a disco bar in the southern Philippine province of Zamboanga del Norte, police said Friday.

Police said Corporal Medel Tabbada was shot at close range in the face and chest at around 3 in the morning inside the Freeway Disco Bar in the village of Laroche in Sindangan town.

It was unknown whether the 35-year old soldier was on a break or alone in the bar when the gunman attacked him. The assailant also took the soldier’s hand gun before escaping alone on a motorbike. It was not immediately known why Tabbada was carrying a weapon inside the bar which is strictly prohibited by the military.

Police said Tabbada, a native of Koronadal City in North Cotabato province, was the detachment commander of the army’s Special Forces in the village of Bucana in Sindangan town.

Tabbada’s body was handed over to his unit’s superior Lt. Syrill Fervez.

'Matikas' Class 83 leads Mindanao Armed Forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): 'Matikas' Class 83 leads Mindanao Armed Forces

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City -– The “Matikas” Class ’83 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) now heads the four major infantry divisions of the Philippine Army in Mindanao, a statement from the army’s 4th Infantry Division said on Thursday.

It said that Brig. General Gerry Barrientos, took the command as division commander of the Army’s 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division at Pulacan, Labangan, Zamboanga Del Sur on July 2, 2014.

The 6th Infantry (Kampilan) Division at Camp BGen Siongco, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao is now under BGen Edmundo Pangilinan, who was designated as division commander last May 26, 2014 and in-charge in the central part of Mindanao.

The Fourth Infantry (Diamond) Division based at Camp Evangelista, Patag, here is under the leadership of Maj. General Ricardo R. Visaya, who took the command on April 26, 2013.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo M. Año, another “Matikas” Class of 1983, was installed commander of the 10th Infantry (Agila) Division based at Camp Gen Yan Sr., Brgy. Tuburan, Mawab, Compostela Valley on July 25, 2014. The army’s 10th ID also covers the Southeastern Mindanao region.

Prior to his designation as the division commander of Army’s 10th ID, Año served as the chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).

In his statement, Visaya said, that “three of my classmates are now leading the other three divisions here in Mindanao which means easier, closer and faster coordination regarding military operations in the island that would be more effective in the conduct of Internal Security Operations.”

Since the implementation of the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” in 2010, the four army divisions in Mindanao have been winning the peace among conflict areas through the “Bayanihan” spirit, Visaya said.

Police arrest most wanted kidnapper in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Police arrest most wanted kidnapper in Sultan Kudarat

Joint police and military authorities arrested here Thursday dawn a senior member of the Pentagon kidnap gang and al-Khobar extortion group following a week-long surveillance, police said.

In a report, Chief Supt. Lester Camba, police regional director for SOCCSKSARGEN region, said Said Giad, who carries a P175,000 bounty for his arrest, was cornered by policemen, military and village officials in Barangay Sampao, Isulan, Sultan Kudarat.

Quoting reports from the Sultan Kudarat police provincial office, Camba said Giad, also known as “Commander Maestro,” was wanted for extortion activities against bus firms and kidnap for ransom operations in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and South Cotabato and in Cotabato City.

Police said Giad was linked to the 2007 abduction of five engineers working for the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) in North Cotabato. They were identified as Engineers Eric Nonan, Jeffrey Estember, Ferdinand Bergonia, Rudilyn Felix and Rodelo Pillen.

Camba said Giad was placed on surveillance by operatives of the Sultan Kudarat Provincial Police Office, Isulan Municipal Police Office, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) with the help of village officials.

Police record showed that Giad was a henchman of Tahir Alonto, founding chair of the Pentagon kidnap for ransom gang that gained notoriety in the late 1990s after victimizing Chinese nationals working for an irrigation dam in North Cotabato.

Alonto and his men were also linked to several bombing attacks against Weena Bus Company and Yellow Bus Company for failure to pay revolutionary tax.

Giad is now detained at Isulan police detention cell.

78 new officers join PA

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): 78 new officers join PA

In line with its human resources development efforts, the Philippine Army (PA) on Thursday formally inducted into service 78 graduates of the Officer Preparatory Course (OPC) Class 61-2013.

These individuals just concluded their six months training at the Officer Candidate School, Training and Doctrine Command, Philippine Army in Camp O'Donnell, Capas, Tarlac this July 31.

Out of the 78 graduates, 10 are female and 68 are male.

These new individuals are also graduates of courses ranging from BS Criminology and BS Information Technology.

2nd Lt. Rogie P. Munoz topped the OPC "Marasig" Class 61-2013, while 2nd Lt. James G. Santos and 2nd Lt. Maria Fe T. Capilitan, placed second and third in the class ranking, respectively.

Gracing the graduation ceremonies was PA chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri.

In his speech, he stressed the importance of the new officers' commitment to serve.

"Much will be asked of you from this moment on: You are asked to put country above family. You are asked to always put others first. You are asked to serve with purpose and with passion. For all these demands and requirements, there is commitment and accomplishment like no other," Iriberri stressed.

He also told the graduates to “remember the overarching imperatives of the Army Transformation Roadmap and the IPSP Bayanihan, two fundamental anchors of the Philippine Army's operations."

These, he said, are the Army's strategic precepts that come alongside the tactical moves.

In guiding the new members of the Officer Corps, Iriberri also shared with them the three simple lessons he learned as Task Group Panther commander, which is to "stay strong, stay focused, and stay together."

After graduation, the new second lieutenants will report at Headquarters Philippine Army in Fort Andres Bonifacio, Metro Manila for their career orientation.

They will also undergo Scout Ranger Orientation Course (SROC) at Scout Ranger Training School, First Scout Ranger Regiment of the Philippine Army’s Special Operations Command prior deployment to their respective assignments.

PAMANA road project brings development to Kalinga

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): PAMANA road project brings development to Kalinga

Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac is lauding the construction of the Allaguia-Asibanglan road in this municipality, which connects two barangays to the major arterial road leading to Tabuk City, the capital of the province.

“The road to development is the road itself,” Baac said in his acceptance of the 1.54 kilometer road project implemented through the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Department of Interior and Local Government-Cordillera Administrative Region (DILG-CAR), channeled through the Provincial Local Government of Kalinga. The newly-concreted road connects the two barangays which used to be strongholds of the New Peoples' Army in the '70s and '80s.

PAMANA is the national government's program that extends development interventions to isolated, hard-to-reach and conflict-affected and vulnerable communities, ensuring that they are not left behind.

The governor related with the new road, communities now feel that "there is a government." He likewise predicts a rise in economic development with the newly-constructed road providing ease in the transport of commodities from the barangays to the provincial capital.

Peace and progress realizable

Farmer-resident of Barangay Allaguia Cresendo Ugyawi related that “peace, development and progress is slowly being felt in this barangay [with the road construction].”

"Before, we had to walk all the way to Bulanao (a barangay in Tabuk City) to deliver our produce," Ugyawi related. This was seconded by Emilio Banatao, village chief of Allaguia who said that the people in their village are forced to walk to Tabuk City as vehicles would not ply their route because of the impassibility of the road.

According to Ugyawi, this forced them to stockpile all their produce first, such as bananas and coffee beans, before travelling to Tabuk City to sell them. "There were even times when our stockpiled harvest would rot. This usually happened when it rained, as there was no means of transporting our produce to Tabuk and the road was not passable,” he added.

But that changed this year, sometime in May, when the connecting concrete road to Allaguia was finally done. Now, he says, he has found new reason to hope.

According to Ugyawi, now, they don’t need to stockpile their goods. "When we have harvested enough coffee or bananas, we could easily transport it to Bulanao, as there are now regular vehicles plying the route."

"This has increased our income and many of us are now encouraged to plant more, to produce more. This time, our sacrifices would not go to waste as we could easily market our products," he said.

Director Marilou Ibañez of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, which oversees the implementation of the PAMANA program, expressed her appreciation of how the road project is now benefitting the communities. “We hope to be able to sustain the development of more projects such as this,” she said.

Baac also added that more roads funded by the national government, such as the PAMANA program, are very much welcome, citing that currently, 33 percent of the roads in Kalinga have been concreted.

“We are progressing,” Baac said. The governor related that in 1995, Kalinga was the ninth poorest province in the country. “We now have graduated from Club 20 [list of 20 poorest provinces],” he said.

Brigade commanders urged to expedite security efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Brigade commanders urged to expedite security efforts

In a bid to hasten development in the remaining rebel infested provinces in the country, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has instructed all brigade commanders to intensify their security efforts to expedite development in the said localities.

He made this statement during the two-day Internal Security Operations Activities Stratification Workshop held at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

This ended July 31.

“I hope that after this workshop, when you start implementing your stratified list of specific activities, we can already expect the normalization and declaration as peaceful and ready for development the remaining thirty-one provinces by the 1st semester of 2015,” Catapang said.

“In order to sustain our gains, we need to revisit the strategic-tactical alignment in the implementation of the IPSP 'Bayanihan' for us to achieve its objectives,” he added.

The two-day workshop aims to identify gaps and realign activities and identify challenges in line with the AFP’s accomplishments in addressing insurgency.

The participants were tasked to identify priority activities in line with the strategic objectives mainly focused military operations, stakeholder engagements and "Bayanihan" team activities.

“We can effectively cascade the IPSP Bayanihan down the line by laying out specific, tangible and doable activities at each level. By coming up with a stratified list of activities, our units will gain more appreciation on their contribution to the success of the plan,” Catapang concluded.

1 killed, 2 hurt as military, rebels clash in Negros Occidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): 1 killed, 2 hurt as military, rebels clash in Negros Occidental

A New People's Army (NPA) fighter was killed while two others, one rebel and one soldier, was wounded following an encounter in Barangay Dian-ay, Escalante City, Negros Occidental Friday early morning.

The clash took place around 4:20 a.m.

The wounded trooper was from the 62nd Infantry Battalion.

Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova, unit commander, said that his men were on their way to check on the reported presence of NPA fighters in the area when fired upon by around 10 armed men believed to be members of the Northern Negros Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal-Negros (NNF, KR-N).

“Our troops (were forced) to fire back and (the) firefight (lasted) for ten minutes. The NPA rebels withdraw in disarray leaving behind one of their dead comrades," he added.

Wounded was one Romly Palotes. He was brought by 62nd Infantry Battalion personnel to a hospital for proper medication.

Identification of the slain NPA rebel is still being withheld prior notification of next of kin.

Hurt in the government side was 1st Lt. John Rey Espinosa who was slightly hit on his head.

He was immediately brought in a hospital in Bacolod City for proper medication and is now in stable condition.

Recovered in the scene of encounter is one .45 caliber pistol with five rounds.

Blood stains were seen along the rebels’ withdrawal routes believed to be those of several wounded NPA members.

“We have alerted our medical team in any time that those wounded NPA members would seek for medical assistance. We call on those rebels to lay down their arms peacefully, be given proper medication and we ensure them that their rights will be respected,” Cordova stressed.