Saturday, August 2, 2014

Army corporal wounded in Zamboanga del Sur skirmish with armed men

From InterAksyon (Aug 2): Army corporal wounded in Zamboanga del Sur skirmish with armed men

A report from the field said Saturday that a Philippine Army corporal was wounded in a firefight with armed men at a remote village Zamboanga del Sur.

The Philippine National Police Operations Center at PNP General Headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City said the encounter took place at around 8:25am at Sitio Kamanse, Brgy. Tuburan, Tigbao, Zamboanga Del Sur.

The report said that elements of the Philippine Army's 14th Division Reconnaisance Company (DRC), led by a certain Lt. Gelapia, chanced upon two armed men suspected to be communist rebels belonging to the Western Mindanao Regional Party under Ka Nathan.

An exchange of gunfire ensued between the two sides lasting for about 10 minutes, resulting in one army trooper, identified initially as Cpl. Saklian, sustaining a gunshot wound.

The report said the suspected rebels quickly fled towards the hinterland while the soldier was brought to the nearest hospital medical treatment.

Troops of the 14th DRC together with the 2nd and 3rd Maneuvering Companies of the Regional Public Safety Company 9 conducted pursuit operations against the fleeing armed men.

Ex-university professor captured by military released on bail in Davao

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 2): Ex-university professor captured by military released on bail in Davao

DAVAO CITY (Mindanao Examiner / Aug. 2, 2014) – A Philippine court has ordered the release of a former university professor who was allegedly captured by the military during a firefight with communist rebels in Cateel town in the southern province of Davao Oriental.

Professor Kim Gargar, who was captured in October 2013 in the village of Aliwagwag, walked away from his prison cell in Davao Oriental’s Baganga town after a court allowed him to post bail.

Gargar, who was fetched by friends and relatives, also called on the Aquino government to free all political prisoners languishing in jails across the country.

There was no immediate statement from the military on Gargar’s release, but the Eastern Mindanao Command has previously claimed that the professor helped write propaganda books for communist leader Jose Maria Sison aimed at exploiting villagers in the countryside.

It said Gargar allegedly admitted to military interrogators that he joined the New People’s Army in 2012 and said he was wounded in a clash with members of the 67th Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela, who gave him first aid before bringing him to the Davao Oriental provincial hospital.

The Eastern Mindanao Command said Gargar was a former Physics professor at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City and also worked at the Don Mariano University in Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental province and in Polytechnic University and Mapua University, both in Manila. He was also doctorate scholar in University of Groningen in The Netherlands.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been fighting for a separate state in the country.

Professor Kim Gargar walks out of prison in Davao Oriental province. (Photos courtesy of Kilab Multimedia)

Sundalo sugatan sa labanan sa NPA

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 2): Sundalo sugatan sa labanan sa NPA (Soldier wounded in battle with NPA)

Isang sundalo ang sugatan matapos na makipagsagupaan ang grupo nito sa mga rebeldeng New People's Army sa bayan ng Tigbao sa Zamboanga del Sur.

Sinabi ni Insp. Dahlan Samuddin, ang regional police spokesman, na naganap ang labanan nitong Biyernes sa Barangay Tuburan na kung saan ay 20 mga rebelde sa pangunguna ni Ka Natan ang naka-engkuwentro ng mga sundalo sa ilalim ni Lt. Gelapia.

Hindi naman agad mabatid ang unang pangalan ng opisyal, ngunit kinumpirma naman ni Samuddin na sugatan ang isang tropa ni Gelapia na nakilalang si Corporal Sakilan.

Umabot ang labanan ng halos 10 minuto, ayon kay Samuddin. "Exchange of gun fire lasted for about ten minutes that resulted in one Wounded-in-Action on the government side identified as Corporal Sakilan. Wounded AFP personnel were immediately brought to nearest hospital for medical treatment," ani Samuddin.

Tuloy pa rin umano kahapon ang pagtugis sa mga rebelde ng 2nd at 3rd Maneuvering Companies ng Regional Public Safety Company 9 ng pulisya.

New group to probe 'friendly fire' death of six elite troopers

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): New group to probe 'friendly fire' death of six elite troopers

A bigger investigating body has been created to re-investigate the alleged “friendly fire” that killed six  members of the elite military’s special forces in Sulu last month, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang Jr. said Saturday.

Catapang disclosed their reinvestigation of the case during his visit Saturday at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) as part of his first visit to the troops on the ground after his appointment last month as AFP chief.

Catapang was referring to the incident last June 19 when at least six members of the elite special forces under the Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) were killed when they were allegedly hit by  a “friendly fire”  that  came from a 15mm Howitzer round supposedly fired as support for engaged troops against the Abu Sayyaf group in the mountains of Patikul town.

Reports on the ground disclosed that prior to the incident, members of JSOG were deployed to reinforce the Marine Force Recon who were waylaid by the Abu Sayyaf group while conducting rescue operation in the mountain of Patikul early morning of June 19.

In the initial attack a junior marine officer 1Lt. Roger Flores was killed and a number of his men were wounded prompting the ground troops to seek fire support.

The reports disclosed that fire support was called and rounds of 105mm howitzers hit the forward position of the JSOG team that killed the six elite troopers and wounded several others.

The Westmincom initially submitted  a report to the Board of Inquiry, but some sectors of the army were not satisfied with the report, according to an official.

“We have created a new committee (to investigate the incident) so that there will be no bias,” Catapang said.

The new committee is composed of Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, and  Philippine Navy and headed by a task force to avoid biases in the investigation, Catapang said.

“Of course (those involved in the incident will be answerable) if the report finds any offense,” Catapang said, adding that they will file corresponding charges if necessary.

'Rido' eyed as motive in Eid'l Fit'r ambush

From the Philippine Star (Aug 2): 'Rido' eyed as motive in Eid'l Fit'r ambush

Rido or clan conflict is emerging as the motive that triggered the bloody Eid'l Fit'r ambush in Talipao, Sulu that left 23 civilians killed and eight others critically wounded.

A police special task group is continuing to gather pieces of  evidence on the ground to determine the motive of the ambush last Monday that was blamed on the Abu Sayyaf group led by Iddang Susukan and Pisih Sibih.

“The way perpetrators killed their victims showed deep rage and it appears that it was not just mere ambush because the no one was spared including those innocent children,” a security official who refused to be named said.

The security official who is based in Sulu said their initial finding after looking at how the killing was perpetrated  is that  rido is the motive for the ambush.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Pio Catapang Jr. said security forces have been deployed to restore peace in the area.

Catapang made his assessment during his first visit as AFP chief at Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom).

Catapang said civilians should continue to help the authorities after reports indicated that the ambush could  have been staged in  retaliation of the Abu Sayyaf against the civilians for aiding the military in the operation against the militants.

The military and police forces have stepped up security in the area to prevent any retaliation by surviving families of the victims as some of the perpetrators that joined the ambuscade have been identified by the survivors.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) chief, said military and police forces are stabilizing the security  to support the local police.

“This is a priority now on the ground to prevent any retaliation,” Guerrero said.

He said the 2nd Marine Brigade commander and the  provincial police are coordinating with the provincial peace and order council (PPOC) to ensure the villagers will not stage a retaliation and allow the authorities to render the justice.

Guerrero said the military is also supporting the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the proper investigation and filing of charges against the perpetrators of the Talipao ambush incident.

Kidnapped 5-year-old girl rescued

From the Manila Times (Aug 2): Kidnapped 5-year-old girl rescued

Members of the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group rescued a five-year-old girl from her captors in an entrapment operation on Friday in Lanao del Sur.

Chief Supt. Rueben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information chief, said the victim was rescued by the AKG Mindanao Field Unit and Iligan City Police office in an operation in Barangay Matampay, Marawi City.

Arrested were Joven Saripada, 22, and Jalal Roco, 19. Reports said the suspects abducted the girl on July 16 outside her home.

IN ESCALANTE: One slain, two injured in Army, rebel clash

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 2): IN ESCALANTE: One slain, two injured in Army, rebel clash

Armed clashes between Philippine Army troops and New People's Army rebels erupted anew yesterday in Escalante City, Negros Occidental, where a suspected NPA member was killed and two others, including an Army company commander, were injured.
The gunbattle between a section of the 62 nd Infantry Battalion soldiers, led by 1Lt. John Rey Espinosa, and 10 suspected NPA rebels at about 4:20 a.m. yesterday in Sitio Madrak, Brgy. Dian-ay, Escalante City, was the third recorded in Negros Occidental, in two weeks.
An alleged rebel and two Army soldiers were also killed in the Binalbagan and Himamaylan City hinterlands, earlier, military records show.
Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova, 62IB commanding officer, yesterday said his troops had responded to reports from civilians about the presence of suspected NPA rebels, reportedly engaged in extortion activities.
On their way, Cordova said, his troops were fired at by 10 armed rebels believed to be members of the Northern Negros Front, Komiteng Rehiyonal Negros. The gunbattle lasted for about 10 minutes, he said.
Cordova said his men recovered the body of a suspected rebel, while scouring the encounter site. A certain Romly Palotes, believed to be an NPA member injured in the encounter, was taken to a hospital in Sagay City by Army soldiers.
Espinosa, who had a head injury, was rushed to the Alfredo Marañon Sr. Memorial Hospital in Brgy. Bato, Sagay City, and later transferred to the Dr. Pablo O. Torre Memorial Hospital in Bacolod City.
Cordova said his troops also recovered a .45 caliber pistol with five live ammunition at the encounter site. At the same time, he said he believes more NPA rebels were injured as indicated by the bloodstains on their withdrawal routes.
In an interview with Aksyon Radyo, however, Palotes claimed that he and his two companions were fired at by alleged members of the Philippine Army, while they were on their way to fetch a “paltera (midwife).”
Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, 3 rd Infantry Division commander, in a statement, expressed his sympathy to the family and relatives of the NPA rebel killed in the gunbattle.
“It is very tragic that he has taken arms against the people of Negros when only through peace can development and social justice be achieved”, Baladad said.
He also said that more troops are now in the area conducting pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels. Members of the Philippine National Police Scene of the Crime Operatives have investigated the encounter site, he said.
Baladad added that 62IB troops are also in close communication with barangay officials of Dian-ay, to ensure the safety of the residents in the area.

DND clarifies long-range patrol aircraft specification to at least 8 possible bidders

From AngMalaya (Aug 2): DND clarifies long-range patrol aircraft specification to at least 8 possible bidders

“To ensure maximum capability, the Department of National Defense (DND) has informed prospective bidders for its P5.9-billion long range patrol aircraft (LRPA) project that advanced aerial surveillance cameras must be part of the designs they are submitting,” as reported by Philippine News Agency.

The Department of National Defense, in its supplemental bid bulletin, said that these sensors must be installed underneath the fuselage and must provide unrestricted 360 degree view in the horizontal plane and 165-degree view in the vertical plane (60-degree up and 105-degree down) for video surveillance and identification of targets.

“The turret shall be a retractable design to reduce aerodynamic drag when stowed or in operation. The EO/IR turret can be pointed by the search radar to a designated geo pointing system. A remote hand controller is installed for use at the sensor operator consoles. It should have ISO 9001:2008 certification,” DND’s supplemental bid bulletin added.

Bid opening and submission is scheduled on Aug. 11.

The possible bidders include Canadian firm Field Aviation Ltd., Elbit Systems Ltd., Elta Systems Ltd., EADS CASA Airbus, SAAB Defense and Security, Canada-based Bombardier Aerospace, PT Dirgantara Indonesia and American defense contractors Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon Company and L3 Mission Integration.

JAS 39 Gripen will meet Air Force’s multirole combat aircraft needs

From AngMalaya (Aug 2): JAS 39 Gripen will meet Air Force’s multirole combat aircraft needs

“And after the F/A-50s, we are hoping that we will soon acquire our first modern fighter aircraft,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in earlier report.

It is also known that coming 12 FA-50 Philippine version will act as the country’s trainer and main fighter jets for the meantime, until PAF pilots have gained enough experience in flying supersonic jets and enough budget to acquire more capable and sophisticated aircraft.

Before the week ends, IHS Jane reported that SAAB, manufacturer of JAS 39 Gripen fighter aircraft, is positioning to meet Philippines combat aircraft requirement.

Mikael Olsson, executive vice president, Saab Asia Pacific, told IHS Jane’s on 31 July that although the PAF has not yet formerly announced the MRCA programme, Saab is ready to meet the requirement with the Gripen aircraft and help the PAF maximise the benefits of operating the multirole fighter,” as reported by IHS Jane.

“Gripen represents the ultimate in operational efficiency capable of fulfilling a range of roles, either alone or as part of a wider defense network,” SAAB said.

MILF: Yes To Bangsamoro Government Movement meets MILF Chieftain

From the MILF Website (Aug 2): Yes To Bangsamoro Government Movement meets MILF Chieftain

At least 50 members of the Yes to Bangsamoro Government Movement (YBGM) met the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman AL-Haj Murad Ebrahim on Monday July 21, at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat Maguindanao.
The meeting aimed to presents the movement’s ultimate goal in a form of courtesy call to the leadership of MILF before its full blown operations.

Mr. Abdulnasser M. Ales, the YBGM Secretary General said that the movement aims to initiate actions and exert possible means to popularize massive support of people from all walks of life for the success and rightful implementation of the Bangsamoro government. A copy of the concept paper prepared by YBGM about its program and goals was provided by the team to the Chairman.

“This endeavor is in line with the struggle of the Bangsamoro”, Chairman Murad replied.
“It is very timely now that what we really need at this stage of struggle is to gain the support of the masses,” he added. According to the chairman, there are number of organizations existing nowadays (The Youth organization, the Non-Government Organization, Civil Society Organization, and among others).

“If these organizations could be managed very well, be united and agreed among themselves to have common understanding and the same directions towards peace, then they are of big help to this struggle, but if otherwise, then, they might just cause great destruction,” he said.

Considering the ultimate goal of this movement it is directly fastened to this great challenge, thus it could be pacified In shaa Allah.

“It is impossible for you to converge as one organization but it is possible to unite your ideas and actions into one and same direction in accordance to the struggle of the Bangsamoro,” Chairman Murad further emphasized.

“Proper coordination is highly encouraged to all of you, make this Central Committee office as center of your coordination,” Chairman Murad added.

Moreover, chairman Al-haj Murad gave an updates on the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to the visiting team (YBGM).

He said that the draft BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was diluted by the President’s legal team. But we have nothing to worry about, because BBL is just to transfer the signed agreement into law. All major provisions in the BBL are just culled out from the signed agreement (FAB, 4 annexes, addendum and CAB).

“So what is signed is signed and that cannot be modified. Some of the supplies provisions of the BBL can be modified but not the major one,” he added.

“What Mr. President made on the BBL is just a comment, it is not a modified version, everyone has the right to comment, and it is only up to the author if he accepts the comment or not,” he pointed out.

The MILF Chairman provided more detailed updates before the participants but declined to elaborate more.

YBGM is a movement created in support to the establishment of the Bangsamoro government through advocacy and action to reach out to the people within and outside the Bangsamoro territory regardless of faith, beliefs, tribal, social and political affiliations.

CPP/NDF: 5-day local ceasefire ends today; NDFP-Mindanao thanks all for the safe release of the Alegria POWs

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 1): 5-day local ceasefire ends today; NDFP-Mindanao thanks all for the safe release of the Alegria POWs
Jorge Madlos (Ka Oris)
NDFP Mindanao Chapter
The 5-day ceasefire declared by the NDFP-NEMR, which began 12NN of July 27, covering six (6) towns of Agusan del Norte and three (3) of Surigao del Norte, ends today, August 01, at noontime. The said ceasefire has been called for to provide the safe and orderly release of the four PNP prisoners of war (POW) who have been under the custody of the NPA as a result of the successful raid on the Alegria police headquarters on July 10, 2014.

The NDFP-Mindanao expresses its sincerest gratitude to the members of the Third Party facilitators, headed by the Rev. Bishop Rhee Timbang, Fr. Ramada and other religious groups, who have been hard at work, magnanimous and patient to bridge and forge a workable agreement between the NDFP-Mindanao and the GPH with regard to the terms of the ceasefire and the actual release.

Thanks is likewise extended to the representatives of the Government of the Philippines (GPH), through the good office of the DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, including the AFP and the PNP for reciprocating and abiding by the 5-day local ceasefire, calling off all offensive and civil-military operations within the areas concerned.

The NDFP-Mindanao greatly appreciates the effort of the GPH, which, on the day of the release was represented by former DAR Secretary Hernani Braganza who represented the office of DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, RPOC Chairman and Butuan City Mayor Jun Amante, Agusan del Norte Governor Angel Amante, Surigao del Norte, League of Philippine Board Members President Myrna Romarate, Bacuag Mayor Shiela Mae Cebedo, Kitcharao Mayor Aristotle Montante and city councilors from Surigao City. Their presence has given much reassurance not only to the four POWs but to their families as well of their concern towards the safety and welfare of their men in the field.

After the NPA Custodial Force turned the 4 POWs over to the Third Party Facilitators, they were subsequently presented to the GPH officials led by DILG Sec. Mar Roxas, DND Sec. Voltaire Gazmin, OPAPP Sec. Teresita Deles, and PNP Chief Alan Purisima, who were waiting for the arrival of the four in Kitcharao town, Surigao del Norte.

We give our Red salute to the NPA custodial force and units who masterfully handled the rigors of holding prisoners of war by following protocol and international laws of war. Congratulations to the Red commanders and fighters who best expressed our call for the resumption of the peace talks between the NDFP and the GPH. The four prisoners of war were all from the PNP, namely PO3 Vic Calubag Concon, PO1 Rey O’niel Morales, PO1 Joen B. Zabala and PO1 Edito Roquino.

During their 19-day detention, the four POWs were treated humanely and with utmost respect. The NDFP decided not to proceed with the preliminary investigation and a possible trial before the People’s Revolutionary Court, and to have them released as a gesture of goodwill for the resumption of the peace talks. Their early release was also in answer to the request of their families and loved ones as endorsed by the Third Party Facilitators.

We pay homage and give our highest honour to comrades Richard “Ka Mark” Balbada and Ka Jomar Kalipis who heroically offered up their lives during the NPA operations in Alegria. We congratulate the Custodial Force for their revolutionary professionalism who, in spite of the death of two of our comrades, still consciously adhered to the respect of the basic rights of the POW and treated them in accordance with the CAR-HR-IHL and the International Laws of War with regard to the treatment of captives.

With the end of the 5-day ceasefire, we ask all concerned BHB units to stay on alert and maintain our battle-ready and offensive posture against the onslaught of a new wave of brutal military operations in order to defend the masses as well as all our revolutionary gains in the aspects of base building and agrarian reform in the countryside.

Opinion: Art of ransom negotiation

Opinion piece (One Man's Meat by Philip Golingai) in the Star Online (Aug 2): Art of ransom negotiation

Kidnapped victims  Gao Huayun (right) and Marcy Dayawan were released by Abu Sayyaf captors on May 30.

Kidnapped victims Gao Huayun (right) and Marcy Dayawan were released by Abu Sayyaf captors on May 30.

When dealing with kidnappers, don’t try to speed up the process, despite the psychological threats and ultimatums.

WHAT was the ransom paid for a Filipino construction worker abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Jolo island?

Going by news reports on Remigio Linggayan, who was released on July 27, the 50-year-old man’s freedom was bought for 500,000 peso (RM36,600). According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the family and his employer handed over the cash to the Abu Sayyaf captors.

Linggayan’s family raised 200,000 peso (RM14,600) and his employer paid 300,000 peso (RM22,000).
To raise the ransom, the Linggayans collected small peso bills and coins from friends and neighbours in their village in Zamboanga City.

In a telephone interview with The Star, Linggayan, who was in his hometown of Zamboanga City that is about 20 minutes by plane from Jolo island, said abducted marine policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip was safe but kept under close guard by an Abu Sayyaf faction in the jungles of Indanan in Jolo island.

“He is unharmed. I heard some of the gunmen talking about another group holding a Malay policeman. They said he was all right,” he said.

Kons Zakiah, 26, was abducted when kidnap-for-ransom gunmen attacked Mabul Water Bungalows Resort in Pulau Mabul on July 12. His colleague Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was killed in the attack. Unlike Linggayan’s 500,000 peso ransom, the price for Kons Zakiah’s freedom might be premium.

“The kidnap-for-ransom groups now prefer to operate in Sabah instead of southern Philippines as you (Malaysia) pay well,” said a Filipino security forces official, grinning while we drank San Miguel and ate inihaw na pusit (grilled squid) in the famous Gerry’s Grill restaurant in Zamboanga City last month.

“You (Malaysia) also pay very quickly. Usually, we will advise the family of victims to drag the negotiations as the longer the process, the lower the ransom will be,” said the official, who is also a kidnap-and-ransom negotiator.

“We didn’t pay for the Taiwanese hostage. The Taiwanese government had its own deal with the kidnappers,” I said.

On Nov 15 last year, 58-year-old Taiwanese Chang An Wei was abducted at gunpoint after her 57-year-old husband Li Min Hsu was shot dead by Filipino gunmen in the exclusive island resort off Semporna town in Sabah. Chang was freed after 36 days in captivity in Jolo island. It is believed that US$2mil (RM6.4mil) was paid to secure her release.

“It is only for the Chinese tourist that the negotiation process for her release was fast,” I said, referring to Shanghai tourist Gao Huayun, 29, who was kidnapped together with Filipino resort worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, from Singamata Reef Resort on April 3. They were released by Abu Sayyaf captors on May 30.

“We even have a Malaysian hostage who died in captivity as the negotiation process was long. So it is not fair to say that we are quick in paying the kidnappers,” I said.

On Nov 14, 2012, cousins Tung Wee Jie and Wee Wei were abducted from their family-run bird’s nest farm in Lahad Datu.

Wee Jie, 26, managed to escape from his captors after being held for almost nine months in Jolo Island. Wee Wei, 34, died of illness while in captivity.

The story of Linggayan, who was in captivity for 53 days, gives a glimpse into the negotiation ordeal Kons Zakiah and his family may go through.

The Filipino was kidnapped together with his brother-in-law Joselito Gonzales, a construction worker, at gunpoint while doing pipe-laying work in Indanan, Jolo island, on June 5.

In a press conference held after his release, Linggayan said Gonzalez died when the Armed Forces of the Philippines shelled an Abu Sayyaf hideout where they were held on June 19.

“We scampered for safety and I got separated from him. He was hit in the belly during the explosion,” he said, as reported by the Philippines Daily Inquirer.

The Abu Sayyaf captors had initially asked for 20 million peso (RM1.4mil) ransom. Through negotiations, they reduced it to seven million peso (RM514,000), to three million peso (RM220,000) and to one million peso (RM73,300). The process was filled with threats.

On June 18, the Abu Sayyaf captors called Analiza Linggayan and gave her a 10-day ultimatum – pay three million peso, or they would behead her husband Remigio and Gonzalez before Ramadan.

When the ultimatum expired, the Abu Sayyaf captors did not behead Linggayan. On June 29, Analiza said the kidnappers called her family to inform her that they had cancelled his execution in observance of Ramadan.

On July 11, his family was given until 3pm to pay one million peso, or his captors would sell him to a notorious group called “Laki Laki” or “Laki 9”. The captors also told them that Gonzalez was not killed in a crossfire but they had beheaded him.

She said her husband had told her not to worry if she could not pay his ransom as he had already accepted his fate if he was killed by his captors.

In a press statement, Analiza begged Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, Vice-President Jejomar Binay and Zamboanga City mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar to help secure the release of her husband.

“The government is only interested to help wealthy individuals who are kidnapped,” she said.

“It is normal for the captors to issue threats during negotiations,” former Abu Sayyaf hostage Octavio A. Dinampo told me in an interview in his house in Indanan last month. “When they become frustrated with the negotiation process, they use psychological threats on the hostage.”

Dinampo, who was kidnapped together with well-known Filipino news anchor Ces Drillion and others on Jolo island on June 8, 2008, said the captors would show the hostage a bolo (machete) and say, “This bolo was used to behead 12 people. If your family or government doesn’t pay, your head will be the 13th”.

The psychological threats, he said, were made so that a frightened hostage would ask his family via satellite phone or hand phone to accelerate the negotiation process.

The last thing the hostage negotiator should do, according to the kidnap-and-ransom negotiator I interviewed in Zambaonga City, was to accelerate the negotiation process.

“Try to keep the ransom as low as possible,” he said. “If not, the kidnap-for-ransom groups will want to kidnap again in Sabah as the ransom is too lucrative.”

No need for loyalty check on soldiers – AFP chief of staff Catapang

From GMA News (Aug 2): No need for loyalty check on soldiers – AFP chief of staff Catapang

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang on Saturday said “loyalty checks” are not the purpose of his current field visits and that he sees no need for them as the troops are focused on their ongoing missions, including that of addressing the peace and order situation in Mindanao.
“The soldiers are all loyal to the republic, so there's no need for a loyalty check,” Catapang said during a press conference in Camp Navarro, Zamboanga City. 
Last Tuesday Senator Antonio Trillanes IV claimed some retired generals associated with former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are sowing seeds of destabilization. Catapang has belied this and said the AFP remains a professional organization.
Catapang said he directed AFP Western Mindanao Command Chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero to increase the military's presence in Talipao.
“We are moving in support of the law enforcement operations and then stabilizing the area with additional police and military forces especially in Talipao,” Guerrero said.
According to Guerrero, they received reports that the kin of those killed in an attack by suspected Abu Sayyaf members last week are plotting to exact revenge on the bandit group.
[Video news report]
At least 23 were killed after suspected Abu Sayyaf members ambushed a convoy in Talipao, Sulu which was headed for a Muslim feast marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan last Monday.
Guerrero said the AFP is supporting the local police of Sulu for the proper investigation and filing of charges against the suspects of the Talipao incident.

Opinion: One distinguished Philippine Australia Defense scholar rises to the top job; another retires

Opinion piece () posted to the Philippine Star (Aug 2): One distinguished Philippine Australia Defense scholar rises to the top job; another retires

I had the honour of attending the recent Change of Command and Retirement Ceremony for the outgoing Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, General Emmanuel T Bautista. I believe I was the first diplomat to call upon him when he assumed office and I can confidently speak for many of my fellow Ambassadors in congratulating him on a distinguished career, highlighted by his determined and unwavering leadership during the security and humanitarian events of the past 12 months. I was particularly pleased when he travelled to Australia to thank personally our Chief of Defence Force and the men and women of the Australian Defence Force who came to Leyte last November to assist in the multi-national Typhoon Yolanda relief effort.

General Bautista’s successor, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, is no stranger to Australia either, as an alumnus of the Defence Strategic Studies Course in Canberra Class of 2006. In fact many current and former Service Chiefs, Unified Commanders and Senior Officers have studied in Australia under the Defence Cooperation Program. The program is available to all ranks from Army, Navy, Air Force, Department of National Defense and the Philippine Coast Guard. The youngest members are drawn from first-year Philippine Military Academy cadets that go on to attend a three-year degree course at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Many of the 800- plus former participants of the program belong to our Defence alumni organisation, the Philippine Australian Defence Scholars Association (PADSA).

I am very proud to have got to know many PADSA members but have perhaps had the most to do with Lieutenant General Roy Deveraturda, the current Commander of Western Command and former Commander of Central Command. He was responsible for the military support provided to the tragic sinking of the Thomas Aquino Ferry, relief efforts for the 7.2 magnitude Bohol earthquake and responding to the horrors inflicted by Typhoon Yolanda. His humility, courage and dedication to duty went far beyond that expected of the most valiant military officer.

General Roy, as I have come to know him, will leave military service in August after yet another eventful year, this time overseeing the security of the Western Philippines.

I know I speak for many in wishing General Deveraturda every success for a well-deserved retirement and General Catapang every success in his new role. Two outstanding alumni of whose association with Australia we are very proud.

It was support from such dedicated officers that allowed Australia’s broader assistance for post-typhoon rehabilitation and reconstruction to be efficiently received and put to work in the wake of Typhoon Yolanda. It is fitting, therefore, that nine months after Typhoon Yolanda struck, the HMAS Tobruk will return with its crew to the Philippines from August 6 to 9, Australian officers from the Tobruk will again engage with their Filipino colleagues during their visit as we continue the association between our Forces.

[Bill Tweddell is the Ambassador of Australia]

PMA affirms no hazing policy

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Aug 2): PMA affirms no hazing policy

The Philippine Military Academy (PMA) stressed the no hazing policy as it opens the annual entrance examinations.

PMA information chief Major Reynaldo B Balido Jr. said the strict implementation of the policy banning hazing in the academy ensures safety of incoming cadets.

Balido said those found violating the policy will be held liable and will be discharged from the military academy.

Balido said the PMA has not charged any cadet with the violation but stressed it will enforce academy rules if hazing incidence is proven to have occurred.

There will be 37 examination centers all over the country to administer the PMA entrance examinations aiming to welcome aspiring young men and women to join the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and eventually be a noble officer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

PMA is looking for applicants, with its mission to instruct, train and develop cadets so each graduate possess the character, the broad and basic military skills and the education essential to the pursuit of a progressive military career, the academy guarantees that the future officers will be coming from the brightest candidates who will be screened on August 3.

An estimated 16,000 applicants nationwide will head to the different examination centers.

Last year a select 1,450 passed the recent Philippine Military Academy Cadet Qualification Test.

The next phase of the application is the physical examination conducted at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center where qualified PMAEE passers will go through medical, psychological and physical examination to determine their fitness to undergo the four-year military training in the Academy.

After the series of examinations, the PMA Cadet Procurement Board will deliberate and select the most qualified candidates to compose PMA Class of 2018 who are expected to report to Philippine Military Academy on April 1, 2014 for the oath-taking ceremony and reception rites.

PHL to propose 3-pronged solution to WPS dispute

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): PHL to propose 3-pronged solution to WPS dispute  

The Philippines on Friday bared a three-pronged approach to address the tense territorial conflict in the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea).

Dubbed as the “Triple Action Plan,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it will be proposed by the Philippines next week when top diplomats from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United States, Japan, China and Australia gather in Myanmar’s capital of Nay Pyi Taw for the annual ASEAN ministerial meetings.

The DFA, in a statement on Friday, described the action plan as “a concrete framework to address the escalating tensions in the South China Sea.”It contains an immediate, intermediate and final approaches to address the provocative and destabilizing activities in the region without prejudice to existing territorial claims, the DFA statement said.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims to the resource-rich waters, which is also home to one of the world’s busiest sea-lanes.

“The Philippines joins countries of the region and the international community in calling for urgent action to reduce the rising level of tension in the South China Sea,” the statement said.

“These tensions 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,” it added.

As an immediate approach, the action plan calls for a moratorium on specific activities that escalate tension in the South China Sea.

For the intermediate approach, the proposal highlights the need and call for the full and effective implementation of a non-binding non-aggression pact signed by China and the ASEAN in 2002 on the South China Sea and the expeditious conclusion of a code of conduct. ASEAN groups the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

The accord, called Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC, discourages aggressive actions and bars construction of new structures in the contested region that could spark armed conflicts.

As a final approach, the DFA said the plan would underscore the need for a settlement mechanism "to bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution anchored on international law."

“The Philippines is pursuing such a resolution through arbitration and believes that the arbitration award will clarify the maritime entitlements for all parties, which will be the basis for the settlement of maritime disputes,” it said.

“The Philippines hopes that the claimant states, 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,” the DFA statement said.

Catapang wants 31 conflict-affected provinces ready for development by 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): Catapang wants 31 conflict-affected provinces ready for development by 2015

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered his brigade commanders to do everything they can to normalize and make development ready the remaining 31 provinces with some rebel presence.

“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 31 provinces by the first semester of 2015,” Catapang said.

The AFP chief said that this can be achieved through the conduct of intensified security operations.

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.

“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.

AFP probes video clip showing soldiers executing suspected MILF member

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): AFP probes video clip showing soldiers executing suspected MILF member

In wake of a video clip, making its round in the social media, showing alleged members of the Army executing a suspected member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) sometimes in 2010, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Saturday said that measures are now being undertaken to ensure the veracity of the video.

"We're having it (video) investigated to determine what unit was involved and its authenticity. And if the MILF knows some details about it, then they can give us the information," the AFP chief stressed.

Catapang said the AFP does not tolerate such actions which runs contrary to his "Kawal na Displinado" (Disciplined Soldier) concept.

"In that concept, abusive soldiers are not allowed nor tolerated in the AFP," he pointed out.

More AFP, police personnel deployed to stabilize Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): More AFP, police personnel deployed to stabilize Sulu

Additional military and police units were deployed in Talipao, Sulu to further stabilize the peace and order situation in the area.

This is in wake of the Abu Sayyaf Group Monday attack against civilians which resulted in the death of 23 people and wounding of at least eight more.

Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero said this is part of government efforts to prevent another possible outbreak of violence in wake of reports that relatives of the victims may conduct their attack against the perpetrators.

"That's part of the effort, the Brigade Commander and the Provincial Pirector have talked with the PPOC (Provincial Peace and Order Council) (and) the Governor, so that the expected relatialiation of the victims' relatives will not happen or will be prevented. This is a priority effort of the local government as well as the police and military," Guerrero concluded.

Solcom junks coup talks, says AFP focused on Constitutional mandate

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Solcom junks coup talks, says AFP focused on Constitutional mandate

Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) chief, on Friday junked talks of a coup d'état against the administration of President Benigno Aquino III.

In an interview during the Rescue Capabilities Demonstration this morning at the Port of Calapan grounds in this city, Ordoyo said the military is focused on its Constitution-mandated task.

He emphasized they have more pressing matters to attend to, with 16 million people to manage under the Command. He assured the AFP national headquarters that there is no need for a “loyalty check” with his men, confirming that they are presently in high morale.

Meanwhile, Ordoyo commended the capability demonstration conducted here, led by the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, together with the Office of the Civil Defense-Region 4B, Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Red Cross, Philippine Coast Guard, local government units, the Tamaraw Fire Volunteers and other non-government organizations.

“Disasters are here to stay, so we must be ready to cope and survive. Everything that we strive for, economically and personally will be wiped out in an instance should disaster strike, if we lack preparations for it,” Ordoyo said.

In the demonstration, the stakeholders showed their preparedness in the event of a disaster such as typhoon, hostage drama and rescuing passengers in a capsized ship.

They even used the rescue helicopter from PAF’s 505th Search and Rescue Group to extract passengers from a capsized ship which the PCG had a hard time rescuing.

For their part, Governor Alfonso “Boy” Umali Jr. and Calapan City Mayor Arnan Panaligan were one in saying the province is lucky enough to avoid calamitous incidents and they are praying very hard that even if their respective governments showed their capabilities in an emergency and disasters, it would not be an actual occurrence.

“We have seen our people’s preparedness, dedication, confidence and sense of professionalism, but still, we prefer not to apply it in actual situation. We’ve been lucky for the past several years, maybe because we always pray hard to spare us from disasters,” Mayor Panaligan stressed.

PMA entrance examination set August 3

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): PMA entrance examination set August 3

FORT RAMON MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija -- Aspiring soldiers from Nueva Ecija were called on to take entrance examination for Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at Araullo University testing center this Sunday, Aug. 3.

Capt. Mark Ruelos, public affairs officer of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division here, said the exam is open to all Filipino citizens aged 17 to 22 years, single, never been married, at least 5'0" in height, high school graduate and of good moral character.

Applicants, he said, should have no pending case in court as well as physically and mentally fit.

Interested parties, were advised to bring NSO birth certificate and two 2X2 ID pictures. The exam will start at 6 a.m., according to Ruelos.

Aside from Cabanatuan City, the other testing centers are in Metro Manila, Quezon City, Baguio City, Laoag City, Dagupan City, Bontoc Mountain Province, Tuguegarao, Bayombong (Nueva Viscaya), Tarlac City and City of San Fernando, Pampanga.

GPH-MILF peace panels meeting in Davao full of optimism

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 2): GPH-MILF peace panels meeting in Davao full of optimism

Optimism envelopes the third round of meetings between government and Moro rebel peace negotiators aimed at establishing a “meeting of the minds” in Davao City, panel leaders said.

”While there are disagreements, the meeting is important to establish meeting of the minds on issues that we deemed necessary to clarify,” chief government negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in an interview by DXMS Radyo Bida here Saturday. The ongoing meeting started Friday.

Both sides are trying to fix contentious issues that may put the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in jeopardy once it reaches the scrutiny of Philippine Congress.

”We ought to have a mutually accepted version of the draft BBL,” Ferrer said, adding that she remained hopeful the week-long review of the draft will produce good results.

The draft, crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) was submitted to Malacanang early May for review by the Palace legal team.

The MILF claimed after two months of review, the government came up with a diluted version.

Mohaqher Iqbal, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, said the diluted version alarms the MILF.

But Ferrer denied the draft was diluted, much less overhauled as some sectors have been claiming.

Ferrer said the draft BBL is still within the roadmap of peace by the Aquino administration.

Iqbal appealed to the stakeholders in Mindanao to remain patience as both panels are very much into the peace process.

”We are moving forward but I now the task ahead is very tough,” he said in the same radio interview.

Both Ferrer and Iqbal separately said that the Davao meeting will be the last before both panels bring the agreed draft version to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia to formalize and finalize the decision. Malaysia is serving as the third party facilitator.

The peace process with the MILF is President Aquino’s greatest feat in Mindanao his three predecessors failed to achieve. It aimed primarily to bring peace in southern Philippines, bring displaced families back home and bring government services to the Bangsamoro.

Most importantly the process aims to give the Bangsamoro people the right to self-determination.

Ferrer said both the GPH and the MILF are committed to continue the work until the draft BBL is finished.

She expressed apologies to Congress for the delay saying the government is making sure the draft will have smooth journey into the hands of the legislators until it become a law.

In a statement, Ferrer assured to come up with a draft acceptable to all.

“I guarantee that we will have a good draft BBL and we commit to work with Congress in any way the legislators see fit,” Ferrer said.

"We call on the public to keep the faith and to join our collective effort for peace and development in Mindanao," she said.

Once the draft law hurdles Congress, it will be subjected to plebiscite in areas to determine the political composition of the new political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Suspected MILF member shoots comrade dead in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 1): Suspected MILF member shoots comrade dead in Maguindanao

The military here said a suspected member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was shot dead by still unidentified armed men and raised the possibility of another clan war unfolding.

In a radio interview, Captain Calvin Macatangan, speaking for the military’s 602nd Infantry Brigade, said the death of Usman Pandapatan, an alleged member of the 108th base command of the MILF, could trigger “rido” or clan war or infighting involving his family and sympathizers in the Moro rebel front and those with the suspects who are reportedly members of 108th base command as well.

Macatangay said Pandapatan was shot with an Armalite rifle by two suspects in Barangay Damalasak, Pagalungan, Maguindanao at past 4 p.m. Wednesday. He died on the spot.

Macatangay identified the suspects based on witnesses’ accounts as Kagi Dagimam.

The Army spokesperson said since the men involved belonged to the same group, the military is expecting the MILF leadership to find peaceful solutions to the conflict to prevent possible escalation and displacement of civilians.

PH to ASEAN: Curb 'specific' moves in South China Sea

From Rappler (Aug 1): PH to ASEAN: Curb 'specific' moves in South China Sea

Positioning itself as a regional 'leader,' the Philippines bares the details of the 'triple action plan' it will propose to ASEAN

BOOSTING TIES. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario talks to Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (not in photo) during a meeting at the Government Guest House in Hanoi, Vietnam, another claimant country in the South China Sea, on July 2, 2014. File photo by Luong Thai Linh/EPA
BOOSTING TIES. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario talks to Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (not in photo) during a meeting at the Government Guest House in Hanoi, Vietnam, another claimant country in the South China Sea, on July 2, 2014. File photo by Luong Thai Linh/EPA

The Philippines' proposed moratorium on tension in the South China Sea should cover “specific” activities, and serve as a “more concrete definition” of a 2002 statement to maintain peace in the disputed waters.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) explained this on Friday, August 1, in its first formal statement about the “triple action plan (TAP)” it will propose in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meetings in Myanmar this month.

The DFA said: “As an immediate approach, the TAP calls for a moratorium on specific activities that escalate tension in the South China Sea. This approach brings to fore the need for a more concrete definition of paragraph 5 of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea.”

Paragraph 5 of the DOC, a non-binding document signed in 2002, already says claimant states should “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

The Philippines, however, saw the need to define this paragraph more concretely as a way “to press the gas pedal” in resolving the sea disputes. It wants “to be a leader to speed things up,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose told reporters in June. (READ: Philippines to press 'gas pedal' vs sea tensions)

“The Philippines hopes that the claimant states, 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,” the DFA said Friday.

Short-term to long-term

In its statement, the Philippines defined the TAP “as a concrete framework to address the escalating tensions in the South China Sea.”

It first announced this proposal, though informally, in late June “as tensions in the waters off Vietnam heightened due to emplacement of the Chinese Oil Rig HD981.” (READ: PH eyes 'moratorium' on South China Sea tensions and Q and A: 'Brave, patriotic' Vietnam challenges China)

The TAP involves immediate, intermediate, and final approaches to resolve South China disputes.

The immediate approach is the moratorium – a proposal that China has slammed because the Philippines, in its view, is the one raising tensions in the disputed waters. (READ: China turns tables on PH over 'moratorium' on tensions)

The intermediate approach is to highlight “the need and call for the full and effective implementation of the DOC and the expeditious conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC),” a binding document to replace the DOC.

Del Rosario earlier said he doubts if China is willing to craft this COC because of the Asian giant's “expansion agenda.”

The final approach is to underscore “the need for a settlement mechanism to bring the disputes to a final and enduring resolution anchored on international law.”

The DFA said, “The Philippines is pursuing such a resolution through arbitration and believes that the Arbitration award will clarify the maritime entitlements for all parties, which will be the basis for the settlement of maritime disputes.”

The Philippines sees a ruling on this historic case by January 2016, said its lead counsel in the arbitration, Washington-based Paul Reichler.

115 soldiers deployed to Ebola-stricken Liberia

From Rappler (Aug 1): 115 soldiers deployed to Ebola-stricken Liberia

The AFP spokesman assures families of the Filipino soldiers that precautionary measures have been taken to protect them

UN PEACEKEEPERS: Hundreds of Filipino soldiers are deployed as United Nations peacekeepers every year. File photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
UN PEACEKEEPERS: Hundreds of Filipino soldiers are deployed as United Nations peacekeepers every year. File photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has deployed 115 soldiers to Liberia, one of 3 West African countries suffering from an Ebola outbreak, as United Nations (UN) peacekeepers.

Military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala assured the families of the soldiers that precautionary measures have been put in place to protect the safety of the troops. He said the military headquarters in Manila is closely monitoring the situation.
"We'd like to assure them that all health and safety precautions are being done and led by the UN to ensure they are safe and their health will not be compromised," Zagala said.

The troops were ordered to restrict their movements to their offices and barracks.

"There was a health advisory given to the troops deployed there. This health advisory details measures to be followed to all personnel stationed in affected areas such as Liberia," Zagala told reporters on Friday, August 1.
"All non-essential movements are restricted. All offices remain open but personnel should limit their movements from their accommodations to their offices," he added.
This means meetings with local communites are suspended. "Unless determined relevant to the chain of command, all off duty movements are to be ceased," said Zagala.
The Philippine contingent is led by Colonel Glicerio Peralta.
Troops are usually rotated every 10 months. Another rotation is scheduled in September or October.
"Our commitment to the UN mission in pursuit of global stability and security has not changed. Despite the emergence of the Ebola [outbreak], we will continue. Despite the danger, we will continue our commitment to the UN, of course with safety and precaution," said Zagala.
One Filipino soldier died in Libera last year because of malaria.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines is also sending peacekeepers to Golan Heights, Haiti, Afghanistan, Cote d' Ivoire, Darfur, Kashmir, Sudan, and Timor-Leste. (READ: How Pinoy soldiers befriended their Syrian soldiers and PH's first woman peacekeeping commander off to Haiti)

AFP to MILF: Share info on alleged soldiers' 'killing' video

From Rappler (Aug 2): AFP to MILF: Share info on alleged soldiers' 'killing' video

'If the MILF knows some details about it, they can give us information. If these allegations are true, we will look for these soldiers,' Philippine military chief tells reporters in Zamboanga City

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

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) should share to the military any information it might have on the video showing alleged soldiers brutally beating and killing a man.

"We are checking on that. If the MILF knows some details about it, they can give us information. If these [allegations] are true, we will look for them (soldiers)," Catapang told reporters in Zamboanga City on Saturday, August 2. The new military chief is doing the rounds of military camps.
Catapang said abuses will not be tolerated in the military. "My campaign is: "Kawal disiplinado. Bawal abusado. Dapat asintado (Soldiers are disciplined. Abuses are not tolerated. They should be sharpshooters)," he said.
The video circulated among MILF members in July likely because the voice in the video identified the victim as one of their members. The MILF investigated and concluded that the perpetrators are indeed soldiers but the victim is a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), an MILF splinter group.
The video was supposedly captured in June. The military, which is probing the matter, believes the video is several years old, however.
Former Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista ordered a probe into the video a few weeks before he retired and turned over command to Catapang on July 18.
"We're having it investigated. Of course, we have to identify where it happened, when it happened, and what unit is involved. Is this really an authentic video? These are the things we are looking into," Catapang said.
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 the Cessation of Hostilities, a body composed of government officials and MILF members tasked to monitor ceasefire and human rights violations in the area.
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 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro 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 of international terrorists, and the continued presence of factors that fuel rebellion – poverty and government abuses.

Detained physicist Kim Gargar released on bail

From InterAksyon (Aug 2): Detained physicist Kim Gargar released on bail

The detained phycisist Kim Gargar was fetched Friday by colleagues, family and friends from Baganga jail in Davao Oriental after posting bail, even as the Free Kim Gargar (FKG) Alliance reiterated its call to drop all alleged trumped-up and baseless charges against him.

The group AGHAM (Advocates of Science and Technology for the People) on Saturday said in a prepared statement: "That the court granted Gargar's release on bail, in spite the non-bailable charge against him of illegal possession of explosive devices, is an indication of how baseless all the charges against him are."

Noel Jalmasco, a member of AGHAM and FKG, described the release as "only a partial relief."

Gargar, former a professor in the University of the Philippines and a PhD candidate at Groningen University in the Netherlands, was  arrested by the elements of the 67th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army on October 1, 2013 at Brgy. Aliwagwag, Cateel, Davao Oriental, while purportedly conducting a rehabilitation study on typhoon-Pablo devastated areas.

He was accused of being part of the armed group that the military encountered at a nearby village where he stayed during his field work.

Gargar was detained at Baganga jail and charged with illegal possession of explosives, several counts of attempted and frustrated murder and violation of the Comelec Gun Ban.

He was represented by lawyers from the Union of People's Lawyers in Mindanao in the trial and assisted by Karapatan Southern Mindanao Region.

"Illegal possesion of explosives is a non-bailable offense, but the court found the testimony of Gargar's  military accusers to be weak and incoherent. They accused him of having singlehandedly carried the 27 kg explosive devices, even though it took many of their men to carry the alleged weapons from the site to their headquarters,” said Jalmasco.

"We attribute this partial victory not only to the fact that the military's accounts and charges were false, but also to the tireless efforts of supportive family and friends from Mindanao, Metro Manila and even Europe," said Rog Amon of Center for Environmental Concerns Phils (CEC-Phils).

"We still have a long way to go in terms of having the charges dismissed, and still a lot of financial and material support to raise. We could now breathe more easily after having Kim physically freed because we are assured that he is in the hands of friends and family," said Amon.

GPH, MILF panels meet where GPH, MNLF reached breakthrough in 1996

From MindaNews (Aug 2): GPH, MILF panels meet where GPH, MNLF reached breakthrough in 1996

The venue of the 10-day meeting of the peace panels of the government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)
here was the venue of a crucial meeting between the peace panels of the government (then known by its initials GRP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in June 1996 that eventually led to the signing of the “Final Peace Agreement” on September 2 that year.

 The venue, Waterfront Insular Hotel, a seaside hotel along Lanang, was then named “Insular Hotel.”

The GPH and MILF peace panels are scheduled to stay here for ten days – August 1 to 10 — to work, behind closed doors, on the final text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that President Aquino was supposed to have submitted to Congress and certified “urgent” when he delivered his State of the Nation Address on July 28 (see main story).

Whether or not the GPH and MILF peace panels can produce within the ten-day period a breakthrough agreement in the form of a final draft Bangsamoro Basic Law will depend on how soon the panels can resolve the contentious issues.

Eighteen years ago, it was in this same hotel, where the government and MNLF peace panels met for the 8th GRP-MNLF Mixed Committee meeting on June 20 to 23, 1996.

In that meeting, also attended by members of the Ministerial Committee of the Six of the Organization of Islamic Conference (now Cooperation), the panels broke a long impasse and produced what became known as the “Davao Accord,” the breakthrough agreement where the parties decided to set up, as transitional implementing mechanisms and structures, the Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development (SPCPD) and the Consultative Assembly (CA).

These transitional bodies were supposed to have focused on intensive peace and development efforts in what would become a Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) covering the provinces and cities enumerated in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement to pave the way for what was envisioned to be an “expanded” area of autonomy.

The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 had listed 13 provinces and nine cities therein as the “areas of autonomy.” The 1976 agreement, however, ended up with two autonomous regions instead of one, prompting protests from the MNLF, claiming the government did not implement the peace agreement in letter and spirit.

The Tripoli Agreement was inked in Tripoli, Libya on December 23, 1976 while the Philippines was under a state of martial law. Then President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972. He was ousted by a “People Power” revolt in February 1986.

The restoration of democracy in 1986 gave new hope for the Moro liberation forces. Then President Corazon Aquino, mother of incumbent President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, even met with MNLF chair Nur Misuari in September that year to re-start the peace process but no peace agreement was reached.

The Ramos administration (1992 to 1998) revived the talks. Ramos had in fact met with Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi, which initially brokered the peace talks between the Philippine government and MNLF in the 1970s, during the Presidential ampaign period in 1992.

By the time the 1996 peace agreement was signed, the number of provinces in the “areas of autonomy” under the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 had risen to 14 after Sarangani was carved out of South Cotabato.

The SPCPD was to be headed by the MNLF with three deputies representing the Christians, Muslims and indigenous peoples while the CA, tasked to provide “adequate counsel” was to be composed of the governors and mayors of the “areas of autonomy.”

Contrary to perceptions, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was not a product of the peace agreement with the MNLF. It was set up in accordance with the 1987 Constitution, which provided for autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera.

In the November 1989 plebiscite, only four provinces in the “areas of autonomy” under the 1976 Tripoli Agreement voted for inclusion in the ARMM: Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao.

The 1996 peace pact was supposed to provide for an “expanded” area of autonomy. How to do that was the rationale behind the creation of the SPCPD and CA, hoping that by the time a plebiscite is held, the other provinces and cities listed in the “areas of autonomy” under the 1976 Tripoli Agreement would vote for inclusion in the “expanded” ARMM.

After the “Davao Accord” of June 23, 1996, the panels resumed their fourth and last formal talks in Jakarta that eventually led to the initialing of the “Final Peace Agreement” in Jakarta, Indonesia on August 30 and the formal signing of the peace agreement in Malacanang on September 2, 1996.

MNLF chair Nur Misuari was elected governor of the ARMM a week later, on September 9, after his rival candidates were asked by the Ramos administration to withdraw their candidacies. He assumed post on September 30, 1996, supposedly ending his three-year term by September 30, 1999.

Misuari would also serve as chair of the SPCPD and the CA.

The peace agreement provided for the passage of a law amending RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM, to allow for an expanded region. The amendatory law was supposed to have been passed within two years, as it was timed to have been amended before then President Ramos would bow out of office on June 30, 1998.

RA 9054, however, took so long and was passed on form the Ramos to Estrada administration, the ARMM elections in 1999 postponed several times and Misuari allowed to sit on holdover capacity each time the ARMM election was postponed.

The MNLF objected to the provisions of what would become RA 9054, claiming it was rendering the ARMM less autonomous than what RA 6734 provided.

In the 2001 plebiscite, only Basilan (except Isabela City) and Marawi City voted yes to inclusion in the “expanded” ARMM, making the four-province ARMM into a five-province, one city region. Lamitan town in Basilan would become the second city in the ARMM when it became a city in 2007.

The rest is history.