Monday, August 11, 2014

Negrenses urged to be part of ‘Bayanihan’ to further promote peace, development

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): Negrenses urged to be part of ‘Bayanihan’ to further promote peace, development

The head of the Philippine Army in Western Visayas has urged Negrenses to get involved in “Bayanihan” to further promote peace and development in Negros Occidental.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, said the success of the government’s peace and security effort is dependent on the participation and support of the public.

Baladad, who was among the special guests during the 28th founding anniversary of the 303rd Infantry Brigade based in Murcia, Negros Occidental over the weekend, encouraged the 303rd IB to be more relevant to the needs of peace and development in the province.

The Army official said insurgency is multifaceted and the presence of non-government organizations and religious groups is needed to address the economic and socials issues.

He said the presence of political leaders will provide the directions and leadership for winning peace and contribute in solving the political problems in Negros Occidental.

During the 303rd IB’s anniversary rites, the Army’s stakeholders or Bayanihan” partners were recognized for their participation in the quest for peace in the province.

The Bayanihan partners, including different mayors in Negros Occidental, religious groups, provincial government employees, non-government organization, and the Negros Press Club, received plaques of recognition and “brown eagle” tokens given by Baladad along with Col. Jon Aying, commander of 303rd Brigade, and Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr.

Aying said the Philippine Army is working together with the stakeholders to address the insurgency problem in Negros Occidental and to achieve a level of normalization or highly stable Negros Island by 2016.

For his part, Marañon said the Negros First Program will work towards poverty alleviation and upliftment of the less privileged Negrenses.

Army foils NPA attempt to infiltrate Davao Oriental anew

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): Army foils NPA attempt to infiltrate Davao Oriental anew

Military troops in Davao Oriental thwarted attempts by the New People’s Army (NPA) to re-influence Davao Oriental, which has been declared by the government as development-ready in April 2013.

The troops from the Army’s 28th infantry Battalion met the armed group with two clashes, one in the morning of August 5 and another at noon of August 7, at Sitio Cabuntongan, Barangay Tagbinunga, Mati City, Davao Oriental. The operation in Tagbinunga led to the capture of an NPA member and the surrender of another.

Lt. Ernest Carolina, spokesperson of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said in a press statement that the government troops conducted patrols in the area in response to the complaints of the barangay folks regarding the recent recurrence of the extortion and harassment, forcing village folks to provide them food.

Carolina disclosed that three days before the first clash, the same group burned two units of bulldozers and two units of backhoe owned by Monarch Heavy Equipment at Sitio Sawidan of same barangay to force the owner to give in to their extortion demands.

While the engaged troops were searching the encounter site after the brief second firefight, a certain Felipe Nacion alias Jack, appeared and surrendered to them with his AK 47 rifle admitting that he is a member of Team Baking, Squad 2, GF 18, SMRC. Nacion was left behind by his comrades during their withdrawal.

Further clearing of the area resulted to the recovery of 3 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), 20 backpacks containing personal effects, medical and dental paraphernalia, and assorted ordnance items left behind by the withdrawing bandits.

Subsequently at around 7:00 p.m. of the same day, information was received of another NPA member with a gunshot wound surfaced at Sitio Calatagan, Barangay Calapagan, Lupon, and requested the residents to inform the military that he wanted to surrender. A team from 28IB was sent to the area to fetch the person, who was later identified to be a ranking leader (name withheld) of the NPA’s “PBC 3” group.

He was then evacuated to Hqs 701st Brigade and given initial treatment by its medical team. He was later brought to Davao Oriental Provincial Hospital for medical evaluation and further treatment.

Meanwhile, pursuing government troops with K9 Team tracked 3 IEDs, and 17 backpacks containing assorted NPA belongings.

In coordination with the provincial government under Gov. Corazon N. Malanyaon and the Mati City government under Mayor Carlo Luis Rabat and the Provincial Police Office led by PSSUPT Jose Carumba, pulong-pulong/dialogues were held at Barangays Tagbinonga and Taguibo by Army troops led by LTC Benjamin Daniel Tianco, Commander of 28IB, to inform the people of the situation and assured them of the relentless effort of the government to ensure their safety.

Likewise, foodstuffs and relief goods were distributed to offset the disturbance of their productive livelihood activities.

The military operation has resulted to the recovery of one AK 47 Rifle with three magazines and ammunition, seven improvised explosive devices, three Rifle Grenades, assorted magazines and ammunition, 50 meters detonating wire, an electronic tester, 37 backpacks containing personal effects, assorted medical and dental paraphernalia and medicines, army and PNP uniforms, and subversive documents.

(Update/changing dateline) Army’s Peace and Development Team attacked, one dead

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): (Update/changing dateline) Army’s Peace and Development Team attacked, one dead

A Peace and Development Team (PDT) of Bravo Company, 60IB conducting Peace and Development Outreach Program (PDOP) in the village of Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte, was attacked Monday by an undetermined number of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, leaving one soldier dead.

The Eastern Mindanao Command reported that at around 5:40 a.m. on Monday (August 11), the NPA fired at the temporary patrol base of a detachment of “B” Company, 60IB situated at the vicinity of Sitio Kapatagan, Bgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

Capt. Jose Gamos said that based on the accounts, the NPA positioned themselves at a nearby school and church during the attack making it difficult for the government troops to retaliate. The attack left one soldier killed, whose name is withheld as of this posting.

According to Gamos, the government troops’ presence at Sito Kapatagan was requested by the tribal leaders of the area, as recently reiterated by IP leader Datu Arturo Davao and Kapalong Municipal Administrator Gaspar Balingao. The tribal leaders wished the area to be secured from armed insurgents who continuously posted a threat and intimidated the tribal folks.

He said the soldiers are currently in the phase of gathering vital data on the needs of the people in order to fast track the delivery of effective government projects.

Gamos surmised that the CPP- NPA probably sees the potential development in the area as a hindrance to the advancement of their political agenda and thus made efforts to disrupt the Peace and Development Outreach Program.

The casualty was immediately evacuated to Eastern Mindanao Headquarters, Panacan, this city. The area was immediately secured while government forces conduct hot pursuit operations. No civilian casualties were reported.

Police, military debunk charges of torture vs. 2 UP grads

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Police, military debunk charges of torture vs. 2 UP grads

Ranking police and military officials have maintained that the arrest of the two University of the Philippines (UP) graduates in Barangay TL Padilla, Carranglan town Saturday was lawful and conducted in order.

In a press briefing at the provincial police headquarters here Monday, Nueva Ecija police director Sr. Supt. Crizaldo Nieves and Philippine Army 703rd Brigade commander Col. Felimon Santos said the arrest of Gerald Salonga,23, and Guiller Cadano,23, were result of the lawful service of the arrest warrant against a certain Ely Taray alias Omeng who supposedly hides on the house where the the two were found allegedly with firearms and explosives.

The operation to arrest Taray was undertaken by composite team from the Philippine Army, Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Team--Nueva Ecija (CIDT-NE).

Taray, however, managed to elude arrest.

Nieves also dismissed reports that Dacano was tortured and forced to admit that he was a member of the communist-led New People's Army (NPA).

"They have undergone medical check-up immediately after their arrest," Nieves said, saying Salonga and Dacano were brought to Eduardo L. Joson Memorial Hospital, a hospital run by the provincial government of Nueva Ecija, in Barangay Bitas here.

"You may see their medical check up record. We observe the process precisely to see to it that the rights of the suspects are never violated," the police officer said.

Santos clarified that the Philippine Army merely assisted police operatives in serving the warrant.

Capt. Mark Ruelos, information officer of the Philippine Army's 7th Infantry Division, described the operation as "legitimate" conducted jointly by the PNP and the 7ID "to ensure that the warrant of arrest of Ely Taray alias Omeng will be served."

"The 7ID strictly adheres to the rules of law, human rights and international humanitarian law," Ruelos said.

In detention, Salonga and Dacano maintained they were in the place as volunteers to organize farmers and protect them from the perils of being misplaced in a road project.

Salonga said they have referred their cases to lawyers.

Joint AFP, NBI teams arrest fugitive Major Gen. Palparan

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 12): Joint AFP, NBI teams arrest fugitive Major Gen. Palparan

Operatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arrested fugitive Major Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is wanted for the disappearance of two UP coeds and a string of human rights violation cases, during operations in Manila Tuesday morning.

The arrest took place around 3: 30 a.m. in a house located at Teresa and Old Sta. Mesa sts. in Manila, AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

Palparan went into hiding after a Bulacan Regional Trial Court judge issued a warrant arrest for him, Lt. Col. Felipe Anotado Jr., Staff Sgt. Edgardo Osorio and Master Sgt. Rizal Hilario in 2011 for the disappearance of UP students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan on June 26, 2006.

Anotado and Osorio voluntarily surrendered. Hilario remain at- large.

He added that AFP units were aided by the NBI's Anti-Organized Crime Division.

Palparan was immediately brought to the NBI headquarters in Taft Avenue, Manila for questioning.

The AFP participation in the arrest of the fugitive major general was borne out by the instructions of President Benigno S. Aquino III to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last December 12, ordering the military intelligence units to track and pursue leads that will led to the successful arrest of Palparan and other high profile fugitives.

"All of our intelligence units (Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other intelligence gathering units of the military) were told to help in tracking down and arresting high profile fugitives so that they will brought to the bars of justice," Zagala said.

These intelligence units form part of Task Force "Runway", which is spearheaded by the NBI, he added.

Zagala said that they managed to track down Palparan in Sta. Mesa, Manila through their intelligence build-up.

He added that the Palparan did not resist arrest although he appeared hesitant at first to go with NBI operatives.

No firearms or weapons were confiscated from the retired major general.

Zagala said that they are now looking into the possibilities that some people have sheltered Palparan during his long flight from the law.

"I think those are one of the areas (of) concern, we believe that there are some people who are helping him, as evidence by our tracking. There are some in Zambales, Cagayan De Oro and Leyte who have harbored him," the AFP public affairs office chief stressed.

He added that the successful arrest of Palparan shows that the AFP is not hiding him as claimed by some militant groups.

"The mere fact that we created a task force of all intelligence units led by Major Gen. Eduardo Ano, and that it only shows the professionalism of the AFP that there is no truth to that, we are professional unit, we are professional organization as attested by our intelligence units who did not cover for him despite the fact that he (Palparan) was a former intelligence operative," Zagala pointed out.

He also assures friends and relatives of Palparan that the latter's rights will be protected aside from giving him security to ensure that no harm will fall to him during his trial and detention.

2 arrested UP grads forced to admit Red ties, says group

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 12): 2 arrested UP grads forced to admit Red ties, says group

Suspects not harmed, says AFP

Two University of the Philippines (UP) graduates who were arrested by government troops on Saturday were forced to admit that they were communist rebels during an intense interrogation, a human rights watchdog said.

Sr. Cecil Ruiz, Karapatan chair in Central Luzon, told the Inquirer on Monday that Gerald Salonga and Guiller Cadano were blindfolded when a team of soldiers and policemen took them from a house in Barangay R.T. Padilla in Carranglan town, Nueva Ecija province.

“Much of their ordeal was psychological torture [rather] than physical torture. They were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives when they were just watching television in a house,” said Ruiz, who met Salonga and Cadano at the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) office in Cabanatuan City on Sunday.

The two are not New People’s Army (NPA) members but organizers of the party-list groups Kabataan and Anakbayan, she said.

Military and police officials on Monday denied Ruiz’s claims, saying Salonga and Cadano were treated well and examined by a doctor at Eduardo L. Joson Memorial Hospital in Cabanatuan.

Citing a report from Nueva Ecija police, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Central Luzon police director, said Salonga and Cadano were not harmed and forced to admit that they were rebels.

“In fact, the suspects’ families were present on Sunday before they were presented to the provincial prosecutor for inquest proceedings. They underwent medical examination and the doctor’s findings showed that they were clear. So what Karapatan is saying is speculation,” Petrasanta said.

Senior Supt. Crizaldo Nieves, Nueva Ecija police director, said hospital records would show that Salonga and Cadano were in good physical condition.

Salonga, 24, and Cadano, 22, obtained degrees in psychology and business management, respectively, from the UP Diliman Extension Program in Pampanga at Clark Freeport.

The Army’s 7th Infantry Division, in a news release on Sunday, said Salonga and Cadano were companions of Ely Taray, also known as “Omeng,” who eluded arrest in Saturday’s operations. Taray is said to have standing warrants for attempted murder in 2006 and murder in 2008.

Interviewed on Sunday, Salonga and Cadano denied knowing Taray. They said they were in Carranglan to organize farmers who would be displaced by a road project that the government would undertake in cooperation with Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

“The expressway that would be built under the Dalton Pass Eastern Alignment Project threatens farmers there with displacement. Our investigation showed that the public-private partnership between the government and Jica is a threat to the farmers’ livelihood,” Cadano said.

The two, according to the 7th Infantry Division, are platoon guides of Platoon Nueva Ecija-Nueva Vizcaya-Eastern Pangasinan of the NPA operating in Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya, and in the eastern section of Pangasinan province.

The 7th Infantry Division said government troops recovered two 9-mm pistols, bullets, two hand grenades and antigovernment documents from Salonga and Cadano. The troops are members of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Brigade, the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the PPSC in Nueva Ecija.

Asked about the items recovered from them, Salonga said, “We have asked more knowledgeable people to handle this issue.

General Palparan, 'The Butcher,' arrested in Manila

From Rappler (Aug 12): General Palparan, 'The Butcher,' arrested in Manila

Retired Major General Jovito Palparan, one of the country's most wanted men, is arrested almost 3 years after he went into hiding

Retired Major General Jovito Palparan, infamously tagged as “berdugo” (butcher) by human rights activists, was arrested in Manila early Tuesday, August 12, almost 3 years after an arrest warrant was issued against him.

In an interview with GMA News, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, confirmed Palparan was arrested at around 3 am Tuesday in Sta Mesa Manila by a composite team of the National Bureau of Investigation Anti-Organized Crime Division and the Armed Forces' Naval Intelligence Group.

De Lima said authorities were able to locate the retired general on Monday, August 11.

The Aquino government raised a P2-million bounty for the capture of the retired general – hailed by military peers for his relentless campaign against communism and assailed by human rights groups for allegedly killing innocent civilians in the process.

He went into hiding in December 2011, when a Bulacan regional trial court issued a warrant of arrest against him in connection with two cases of kidnapping and serious detention for the 2006 disappearance of students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno.

In an interview with Rappler days before he went underground, Palparan talked about his arrest warrant: "I will consult with my lawyer. There may be legal remedies available for me. What they're doing is illegal."

We asked him then: Are you going to hide? He said: "Ang option na ganyan, minsan maiisip mo yan. Sarili mo yan. Ilalagay mo ba sarili mo sa alanganin? Ang daming threat sa akin." (That's an option. It's personal. Would I expose myself to trouble given the threats against me?)

As a courtesy to the former congressman, the Aquino government immediately requested for Palparan’s surrender. He refused, and announced he would challenge it.

It's been years of fruitless manhunt for the ex-general. In January 2012, authorities searched the Davao City home of Palparan's friend, former Bantay party list nominee Ramon Teodoro Garcia, on suspicion the fugitive was hiding in the area. They didn't find him.


Palparan gained notoriety in his key assignments in Mindoro, Samar and central Luzon, where he served as commanding general of the military's 7th infantry division between 2005 and 2006, the height of the Arroyo administration's massive counter-insurgency campaign that targetted the mass base of the communist New People's Army.

Under the government of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he was promoted twice in a short span of time, and even earned praise from Mrs Arroyo herself in her 2006 State of the Nation Address.

In the 2007 synchronized elections, Palparan's party list Bantay won a seat in Congress, making him a party-list representative.

Palparan and 3 other military personnel are charged with two counts of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in connection with the abduction of Cadapan and Empeño in 2006.

Kadapan, 27, and Empeno, 20, were abducted on June 26, 2006 from a farming community in Hagonoy, Bulacan.

At least two witnesses have testified that the two were tortured upon the orders of the general. (READ: The most wanted man in the country)

'Long overdue' arrest

Meanwhile, activist human rights group Karapatan welcomed what they called "the long overdue arrest" of Palparan.

"Palparan should be made fully accountable and be placed in jail for the disappearances of Empeño and Cadapan, and for all extrajudicial killings, torture, and disappearances he has committed," Karapatan secretary general Tinay Palabay told Rappler.

"No special treatment should be accorded to butchers like him in jail, there should be no more delays in delivering justice," Palabay said, stressing that the relatives of the human rights victims have suffered far too long.

Reports from the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and the now-defunct Melo Commission noted that a sizable rise in the numbers of murdered activists and alleged communists in each area Palparan was assigned.

Basilan Mayors welcome new Army commander

From the Zamboanga Today (Aug 11): Basilan Mayors welcome new Army commander

Lamitan City Mayor Rose Furigay yesterday called on the newly assumed commander of the 104th Infantry Brigade, First Tabak Division, Philippine Army Col. Rolando Joselito Bautista to exert extra efforts in providing security to the people of Basilan Province.

This was the clear message of Furigay during last week’s change of command from outgoing commander Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. who is moving out of the province.

The mayor thanked Galvez for the many accomplishments and contributions to peace during his stint as commander of the Army in the province, the reason why her administration made the outgoing general as Lamitan’s Adopted Son because of his sterling performance.

“We are going to miss you Gen. Galvez but we also welcome another servant to peace in the person of Col. Bautista. Hopefully you will keep up with the momentum especially in protecting the people of Basilan as a whole,” Furigay said.

The lady mayor said her administration will always support the military and other peace keeping force in the province.

Meanwhile, Isabela City Mayor Cherry Santos Akbar also similarly expressed support to Bautista in his fight against terrorists and criminals in the province.

Akbar hopes Bautista will even surpass the security measures of his predecessor.

Also present during the turn over of command were Lamitan Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay, councilors, military, police and barangay officials.

Abu Sayyaf demands RM5mil for release of marine cop

From The Star Online (Aug 12): Abu Sayyaf demands RM5mil for release of marine cop

KOTA KINABALU: Abu Sayyaf gunmen are apparently asking for high ransom payments for the release of marine police constable Zakiah Aleip who was kidnapped from Mabul Island in Semporna on July 12.

It is learnt that the gunmen are demanding sums of up to RM5mil for the release of the 26-year-old policeman whose colleague Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was shot dead by Filipino gunmen who raided the police post at a resort in Mabul.

Speaking to reporters after witnessing the handing over duties by acting state CID chief Asst Comm Mohd Shariff Abdul Wahid to new Sabah CID chief Sr Asst Comm Salehhudin Abdul Rahman, Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman declined to disclose the amount involved.

He said negotiations to secure the freedom of Kons Zakiah might take a longer time, as the amount was “terlalu tinggi (too expensive)”.
Comm Jalaluddin said there were a total of 42 calls received by the wife and other policemen from either Kons Zakiah or the gunmen.

“The gunmen also gave him (Kons Zakiah) the chance to speak to his wife and family members, most of the time during the afternoon or evening,” he said.

“It is going to take time … the amount is too high,” Comm Jalaluddin said, adding that Kons Zakiah was unhurt though he was being moved about by the captors to evade arrest by the Philippines police.

On the call for assistance from the Government by Chin Pek Nyen, the wife of Chan Sai Chuin, 32, who was grabbed from his Kunak fish farm on June 16, Comm Jalaluddin said he had discussed Chan and Kons Zakiah’s cases with the Inspector-General of Police and other officers in Bukit Aman recently.

It is believed that the Abu Sayyaf group holding Chan is demanding RM3mil and the family is unable to raise the money.

On another matter, Comm Jalaluddin directed CID officers to speed up the clearing of backlog of cases where investigations might have been delayed due to officers retiring or being transferred.

“Some of the investigation papers are delayed up to three months, we have to clear it to meet our KPIs,” he said, adding that all officers must work diligently and update the complainants on the development of their respective cases.

“Reports against policemen should also be completed quickly as it is only then that the management and disciplinary unit can look at such cases,” he said.

Armed Forces builds new base in Zamboanga City

From the Manila Times (Aug 11): Armed Forces builds new base in Zamboanga City

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is building a new military outpost in Zamboanga City to serve as protective mantle against armed attacks, similar to what the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) did last year.

But contrary to the AFP’s claim, the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said that it is more likely that the camp, which it said is worth P3.2 billion, is set to host and provide security for United States (US) soldiers and military hardware .

“There is ample reason to believe that the planned AFP camp, which will also provide space for the police and the Coast Guard, is nothing but a new US military base, to be constructed in accordance with the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) where the US will be allowed to set up facilities in so-called ‘agreed locations’ within AFP cmps,” said the CPP.

AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala on Monday countered that the CPP does not know what they talking about.

“What the CPP is saying is inaccurate,” Zagala pointed out.

Zagala said what is to be built in the village of Rio Hondo in Zamboanga City is not really a camp but more of an outpost less than a hectare in size for the joint use of the AFP, Philippine National Police and Coast Guard.

He added that the city government of Zamboanga would shoulder the cost of the lot and the construction of the perimeter wall and other structures inside.

“We are occupying the property and the city of Zamboanga will purchase it to protect the city,” Zagala pointed out. “As of now we are waiting for the city to develop it.”

He likewise clarified that the P3.2 billion being referred to by the CPP was actually the total cost for the rehabilitation of conflict-affected villages of Zamboanga City.

Zagala said the planned outpost would serve as deterrent against any armed attacks in the city.

It will be recalled that in September last year, some 300 members of the MNLF-Misuari faction landed and occupied in the coastal village of Rio Honda that later spread to four adjacent coastal barangays.

It took the military and the police three weeks to quell the MNLF siege.

The AFP has an existing military base in Zamboanga City, the Camp General Basilio Navarro, which is also the home of the US Pacific Command’s 700-strong Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines.

US, Australia eye military agreements

From the Manila Times (Aug 11): US, Australia eye military agreements

Australia and the United States will sign a 25-year deal allowing 2,500 US Marines and air force personnel to train Down Under, Defense Minister David Johnston said on Monday, describing it as a “win-win situation.”

The agreement will be inked Tuesday when US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel meet with their Australian counterparts Julie Bishop and Johnston in Sydney.

Trouble spots abroad including Iraq and Ukraine will also be on the agenda for the Australia-US Ministerial Consultations (AUS–MIN), which focus on regional security and military cooperation.

But the centerpiece will be the agreement allowing the Marine rotational deployment in the northern city of Darwin, which was first announced by US President Barack Obama in 2011 as part of his “pivot” toward Asia.

“Approximately 2,500 US defense force personnel will come to primarily the Northern Territory to exercise on the vast, open Commonwealth [government] military exercise grounds that we have,” Johnston told a joint press conference with Hagel.

“They will interoperate with Australia. They will do things that they want to, exercise activities that are important to them. We’ll assist them,” he added.

Johnston said as many as 1,200 US Marines and air force personnel were already rotating into Darwin during the current dry season in Australia’s tropical north.

“These are the things that are benefiting Australia and the flipside of that coin is that we have just a lot of space that’s open for practice, exercises . . . so it’s a win-win situation for both of us,” he said.

Hagel said the deal emphasized Washington’s “rebalance” towards the Asia-Pacific, saying the United States was a Pacific power holding about 200 ships and more than 360,000 personnel in the region.

“We are not going anywhere,” Hagel said.

“Our partnerships are here, our treaty obligations are here and are important to us,” he said.

“It’s pretty clear that the US is committed to this part of the world but also this does not mean a retreat from any other part of the world. We have interests all over the world,” Hagel added.

More ways to cooperate

 Hagel said the talks on Tuesday, which analysts had said would likely pave the way for enhanced military cooperation between the allies, would give officials an opportunity to explore “better ways we can cooperate.”

“We will address a number of issues tomorrow. They will focus on maritime security, special forces, missile defense and Afghanistan,” he said.

He said the situation in Ukraine would also be on the agenda, as well as the threat from jihadist fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq, where Australia has offered to assist the US in humanitarian airdrops to those trapped by the violence.

Bates Gill, chief executive of the US Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, said the talks would be an important next step in what appeared to be “a growing degree of access and presence for American assets both human and materiel on Australian territory.”

Missing German tourists in Palawan in Abu Sayyaf custody

From the Manila Times (Aug 11): Missing German tourists in Palawan in Abu Sayyaf custody

The two German tourists who went missing in the seas between Palawan and Sabah, Malaysia, last April are now captives of the Abu Sayyaf, a source from the intelligence community disclosed on Monday.

Stefan Victor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, were seized by the heavily armed bandits in the waters of Bataraza town, Palawan, on April 26.

The two had just come from an island-hopping trip in Mindanao and were on their way to Sabah from Palawan, the Manila-based intelligence officer said.

A photograph shared by the officer showed the Germans surrounded by a group of men with automatic weapons.

The officer said he did not know if there were negotiations for the release of the Germans. “I’m not privy if there were negotiations taking place… but what I know is that the Germans don’t trust us,” he said.

The source said the Abu Sayyaf were informed by their relatives in Palawan that the foreigners were on a yacht near one of the islands.

Military spokesman, Lt. Colonel Ramon Zagala, said earlier the Germans were taken by the group of Murphy Ambang Ladia alias Haji Gulam, a former member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Soldiers ambushed in Kapalong town

From the Sun Star-Davao (Aug 11): Soldiers ambushed in Kapalong town
THE New People’s Army (NPA) allegedly ambushed on Monday government troopers who were manning Barangay Gupitan in Kapalong town, Davao del Norte, the military said.

One soldier was killed in the attack.

Captain Ernest Carolina, spokesperson for the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division, in a text message, said the Peace and Development Team (PDT) of the Bravo Company under Army's 60th Infantry Battalion were manning the area when the rebels attacked them around 5:40 a.m.

He said the NPA rebels fired at the temporary patrol base of the troops at Sitio Kapatagan in Gupitan while the rebels reportedly positioned themselves at nearby schools and church, making it difficult for the troops to retaliate.

"The troops’ presence in Kapatagan was requested by the tribal leaders in the area as recently reiterated by Datu Arturo Davao and Kapalong Municipal Administrator Gaspar Balingao in a press conference last week," Carolina said.

Davao earlier said the rebels are still exploiting the indigenous people at Sitio Kapatagan. He also said that of the 37 communities under Gupitan, 11 were affected by the NPA rebels, adding that Gupitan has been suffering from several concerns that only the local government unit can address.

"The soldiers are still currently in the phase of gathering vital data on the needs of the people in order to fast track the influx of effective government projects. The NPA probably sees the potential development as a hindrance to their political agenda, thus they made effort to disrupt it," Carolina said.

The casualty was immediately evacuated to Eastern Mindanao Command Headquarters, Panacan, Davao City. The area is now secured as the enemy withdrew. No civilian casualties were reported. Government forces are in pursuit, Carolina added.

MILF: GPH-MILF workshops ended with no final version of BBL draft

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 11): GPH-MILF workshops ended with no final version of BBL draft

The peace panels of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended Sunday their 10-day workshops in Davao City on arriving at a mutually-agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but reached an agreement only on “substantial portions” of the BBL.
The workshops were attended by members of the International Contact Group (ICG), Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT), CSO’s, members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Pool of Independent Lawyers (PIL).

The panels “developed a shared understanding of the remaining challenges and unsettled issues, which they will bring back to their principals for further guidance," according to a joint statement released to the media and posted on Luwaran, BTC and OPAPP websites.

The panels wrapped up on Sunday a series of meetings spanning 10 days to discuss the impasse in the draft law. Discussions focused on addressing specific issues such as fiscal autonomy and administration of justice.

“The panels reiterated their commitment to finish an agreed draft BBL by August 18, 2014, in shaa Allah (if ALLAH’s will), in order to allow the Office of the President to submit the same to Congress as soon as possible,” the joint statement read.

Prior to the workshops in Davao City, the panels met last month in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and followed by another one in Manila but failed to reached a final version.

The BBL, once ratified shall be the enabling act for the proposed Bangsamoro Region in Mindanao. Based on the roadmap, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) shall replace the ARMM in July 2015 and the elected officials in the 2016 elections shall govern Bangsamoro under a ministerial form of government headed by a chief minister. (Posted by, August 10, 2014)

MILF: MNLF welcomes proposal to invite Misuari in congressional deliberations on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 11): MNLF welcomes proposal to invite Misuari in congressional deliberations on BBL

The Moro National Liberation Front has welcomed a proposal to invite MNLF chairman Nur Misuari as a resource person in the congressional deliberations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on condition that a Zamboanga Court will lift the warrant of arrest issued against Misuari, Philstar reported on August 8.
The proposal was made by Congressman Rodolfo Biazon on Muntinlupa. The proposed invitation includes Cleric Umbra Kato of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

“It’s a welcome move if Chairman Misuari is given a safe conduct pass to attend the hearings, the main concern is security,” Absalom Cerveza told The STAR in a telephone interview.

Biazon said the proposal aims to involve all stakeholders in Mindanao in the discussion on the draft law.

Biazon said inputs from the MNLF are important, as the rebel group is recognized by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as the representative of the Bangsamoro people.

Misuari has strongly opposed the comprehensive agreement signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). (Source: Philstar, August 8, 2014)

MILF: Solon warns Muslims of Manila’s double-speak

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 11): Solon warns Muslims of Manila’s double-speak

In a report by Mindanao Examiner on Aug. 7, 2014, it said that Congressman Carlos Zarate chided the Aquino government for committing something in its negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that in eventually it cannot deliver.
“Ang lumalabas ngayon mukhang pinaasa lang ng Malacañang ang mga kapatid nating Moro sa kasunduang nalagdaan na para lang may masabing mayroong legacy si Pangulong Aquino kahit na hindi naman nila kayang bigyan ng tunay na autonomiya ang Bangsamoro,” Zarate said.

Malacañang returned the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to the MILF on July 21 with many comments and revisions that practically nothing has been left unchanged in the original document that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission submitted April 22 to President Benigno Aquino.

MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher said in a statement that about 70% of the contents of the BTC BBL draft were deleted and/or diluted.

The MILF said the drafted law was practically mangled by the revisions proposed by Malacañang’s legal team. The comments and revisions supposedly veered away from the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) Annex on Power and Wealth-sharing, the former considered “the heart and soul” of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) signed last March 27 in Manila.

“While we await the final outcome of the long delayed review process, it would be well for the Moro people to be critical and continuously be wary of the government’s double-speak as it pushes for a measure that will not actually solve the historical wrongs committed against the Bangsamoro,” Zarate said.

“One-sidedly revising the agreed contents of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is an insincere and lopsided act by the Aquino government; it is not in accord with the quest for genuine peace in Mindanao. In the end, the Moro people’s continuing struggle for self-determination is what will truly facilitate genuine development and lasting peace in the Bangsamoro,” he added.’s-double-speak

CPP: Toiling masses do not clamor for Aquino’s term extension—CPP

Propaganda Statement Posted to the CPP Website (Aug 11): Toiling masses do not clamor for Aquino’s term extension—CPP

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) declared today that there is no clamor for an extension of Aquino’s term among the the toiling masses of peasants, workers, the urban poor of semi-proletariat and ordinary income-earners, as well as among the students and the youth.

“Amid rising prices of food and basic necessities, spiralling costs of transportation, health, education and other services and rapidly deteriorating living conditions in the rural areas and among the urban poor, the clamor of the downtrodden Filipino people is not for an extension of Aquino’s term but for an immediate genuine change in their everyday life and an improvement in their social conditions,” said the CPP.

Over the past few days, Aquino’s Yellow Army of expert manipulators of public opinion have been working double time to come up with media and publicity gimmicks to drumbeat for an extension of Aquino’s 6-year term beyond 2016. However, after several weeeks, the Aquinos yellow army can only boast of an online social account with very little support.

Malacañang’s propaganda office, however, has gone the lengths to project this small online group of Aquino’s supporters as his bosses whom he listens to, yet dismisses the much bigger number of people who marched in different parts of the country last July 28, pointed out the CPP.

“The yellow army’s propaganda machinery has been busy generating publicity gimmicks to project support for Aquino in the face of his increasing isolation from the broad masses of the Filipino people,” added the CPP. “The isolation and repudiation of Aquino is intensified as the people suffer from the ruling regime’s policies of privatization, liberalization, deregulation and denationalization.”

“The Filipino people are not clamoring for Aquino’s extension because they can no longer tolerate the deteriorating socio-economic conditions brought about by Aquino’s policies that serve only the interests of the big crony business groups such as the comprador mestizos and the taipans and their foreign partners,” added the CPP.

“They are not clamoring for an extension of the mendacity of the Aquino regime which endlessly portrays itself as a champion of clean government while engaging in graft and corruption and pork barrel politics to perpetuate its political and economic rule.”

“What the Filipino people clamor for is an end to the mendacity, corruption, puppetry and brutality of the Aquino regime,” said the CPP. “There is a groundswell of support for the impeachment cases filed against Aquino in the rural communities, as well as in factories, urban poor areas, schools, offices and church groups.”

Four impeachment cases have been filed against Aquino in congress over his Disbursement Acceleration Program which was declared unconstitutional last July and over the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the US military that will pave the way for the establishment of US military bases and facilities in the country.

CPP/NPA: 26th IB, Napatyan og Duha ka Sundalo sa San Luis, Agusan del Sur

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 10): 26th IB, Napatyan og Duha ka Sundalo sa San Luis, Agusan del Sur

Omar Ibarra
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

Giatake sa harassment team sa New People’s Army ilalom sa Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur (NPA WANAS) Sub-regional Command ang nag-operasyong tropa sa 26th Infantry Battalion-Philippine Army ug Bagani Force didto sa Km. 50, Brgy. Binicalan, San Luis, Agusan del Sur niadtong Agosto 9, 2014, mga bandang 4:30 sa hapon. Duha ang patay ug daghan ang samaron sa reaksyunaryong hukbo samtang walay kaswalidad sa miatakeng yunit sa NPA.

Niadtong tungura, kampante ug saba kaayo nga nagpahulay ang maong tropa sa pasistang kasundalohan, sa pagtuo nga naabog na sa ilang dinagku nga operasyon ang mga yunit sa NPA. Wala sila nagdahom nga nagbuhi usab og mga harassment teams ang NPA nga relatibong mas nasuheto sa tereyn ug nagtagamtam sa lalom ug lapad nga suporta sa katawhan sa erya. Gipaarakan gilayon sila sa mga Pulang manggugubat, ug diha-diha, duha ang nahagba-patay sa nagtapok-tapok nga tropa, ug hisamdan sab ang wala pa natino nga gidaghanon nila. Paspas nga nakaatras ang harassment team sa NPA human sa insidente.

Ang maong platun sa 26th IB usa lang sa unom ka mga kolum nga nagapahigayon karon og combat operation sa mga bukirong bahin sa lungsod sa SanLuis, Talacogon ug La Paz, Agusan del Sur. Tumong niini nga abugon ang tinuod nga sundalo sa mga kabus, ang NPA, aron kahatagan og dalan ang walay-pugong nga operasyon sa mga nagtunhay nga kompanya ug plantasyon sa maong mga lungsod. Ekonomikanhong interes lang sa mga mangawkaway nga langyawng kapitalista ang gipanalipdan sa mga binayrang AFP maong nagkakusog ang mga operasyon niini batok sa rebolusyonaryong kalihukan. Kahinumduman nga una nang na-engkwentro sa mga Pulang manggugubat ang laing tropa sa 26th IB ug SCAA niadtong Agosto 9 samtang gigwardyahan nila ang Provident Tree Farm Incorporated didto sa Zelovia, Talagocon.

Sa laing bahin, naa usab natigayon nga harassment operation sa NPA batok sa mga nag-operasyong tropa sa reaksyunaryong kasundalohan didto sa Brgy. Afga, Buenavista, Agusan del Norte sa susamang adlaw, Agosto 9. Magpagawas lang kami og kumpletong detalye kabahin niini kung makahatag na og combat report ang maong operating yunit sa NPA.

Tiamzon couple’s pre-trial hearing deferred anew

From GMA News (Aug 11): Tiamzon couple’s pre-trial hearing deferred anew

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 81 on Monday deferred the pre-trial hearing of the communist couple Benito and Wilma Tiamzon for the cases of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
In his report on GMA radio DZBB's “Super Balita sa Tanghali”, reporter Allan Gatus said the pretrial proceedings was reset to August 21 at 8 a.m. following the pending resolution on the couple's motion for reconsideration (MR) on the court's earlier ruling junking the couple's motion to set aside arraignment and motion to dismiss the case.
The report said the MR was now submitted for resolution.
Benito and Wilma, chairman and secretary general of the Communist Party of the Philippines- New People's Army (CPP-NPA), respectively, were arrested last March in Cebu days before the NPA marked its 45th anniversary.
Aside from kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases, the Tiamzon couple are also facing cases of rebellion and crimes against humanity, including murder dating back to 1988.
It was the third time that the QC RTC deferred the pre-trial proceedings of the Tiamzon couple for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case.
The counsel of the Tiamzon couple had earlier argued that the kidnapping and serious illegal detention case should have been included in the rebellion case filed against them.

PH hits China over sea plan: 'We're humoring ourselves'

From Rappler (Aug 11): PH hits China over sea plan: 'We're humoring ourselves'

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says while China rejected the South China Sea plan, Manila's proposal got no objections from ASEAN

TOP DIPLOMAT. Philippine Secretary Albert del Rosario reads as he attends the meeting of the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone commission at Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on August 8, 2014. Myanmar is the host country of the 47th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers' Meeting and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA
TOP DIPLOMAT. Philippine Secretary Albert del Rosario reads as he attends the meeting of the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone commission at Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on August 8, 2014. Myanmar is the host country of the 47th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Foreign Ministers' Meeting and 21st ASEAN Regional Forum. Photo by Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

The Philippines criticized China on Monday, August 11, for rejecting Manila's plan to freeze provocative activities in the South China Sea even as its Southeast Asian neighbors, in a “unique” move, posed no objections.

In an interview with reporters, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario pointed out that the Philippines' Triple Action Plan (TAP) is centered on the Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) of Parties in the South China Sea, a 2002 statement that aims to prevent tension and ensure maritime security.

Both the Philippines and China signed the DOC. Both countries also use the DOC against each other.

Del Rosario explained: “The TAP, if you take a look at it, is DOC-centered. And the message that I wanted to deliver is, TAP is good because it's DOC. If you don't accept TAP, then you don't believe in DOC. So let's stop talking about DOC, right? We're just humoring ourselves, 'di ba (right)?”

Del Rosario presented the TAP to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Ministerial Meeting in Myanmar from Friday to Sunday, August 8 to August 10. The TAP calls for, among other things, a moratorium on actions that raise tensions in the disputed South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

'Unique' for ASEAN

While Del Rosario strongly pushed for the TAP, the ASEAN foreign ministers did not explicitly support it in their joint communiqué after their meeting. The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), however, said the ministers adopted “parts” of the TAP as “doable.”

“Everyone agreed that there was a problem, that we needed to come up with a solution to the problem,” Del Rosario said.

“And when we put the TAP on the table, there were no objections. This is unique for ASEAN that an initiative does not encounter objections. I think people in ASEAN understood that we need to do something. Some spoke out. Some spoke out loudly. I know that there were sectors that believed in quieting things down, but as I said, from some sectors, the reaction was muted,” he explained.

SEA ROW. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) shakes hands with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (right) during the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China Ministerial Meeting at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on August 9, 2014. Photo by Nyein  Chang Naing/EPA
SEA ROW. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) shakes hands with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario (right) during the the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-China Ministerial Meeting at the Myanmar International Convention Center in Naypyitaw, Myanmar on August 9, 2014. Photo by Nyein Chang Naing/EPA

On the “muted” voices, he noted there “is a difference between being quiet and being openly supportive.” He said, “I think if you're quiet, it's also a manifestation of support. You can support something quietly. You don't have to be vocal about it.”

“The fact that there were no objections, I take that to mean that ASEAN was fully supportive,” Del Rosario said.

The DFA earlier said at least 3 countries – Vietnam, Indonesia, and Brunei – support the TAP.

China: Philippines 'contradicts' TAP

China, for its part, rejected the TAP by saying it “can build what it wants” in the South China Sea, according to Reuters.

Quoted by the Wall Street Journal, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Philippines' behavior “contradicts” its own proposal.

Wang questioned the Philippines' historic case against China even as legal moves fall under the TAP's “final approach”

Wang said: “If the Philippines wish to pursue its 3-step plan, it should withdraw its push for international arbitration and return to the first step....They've already skipped straight to the third step. Their behavior already contradicts their own proposals.”

Wang was apparently referring to the moratorium as the first step, and arbitration as the third step.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose, on the other hand, clarified that the TAP shouldn't be understood in terms of “steps.” (READ: Philippines denies violating own South China Sea plan)

The immediate, intermediate, and final approaches under the TAP “could be held simultaneously, not necessarily consecutively,” Jose told reporters. “We didn't call it a step. We call it an approach.”

China the 'object' of TAP

Experts, however, believe the TAP will not work without China's consent.

China is the “object” of the TAP, maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal explained in an interview with Rappler. (READ: Philippines' 'triple action plan' without China?)

“But China has already said that it will not abide by a where else will that go? If you're talking about effectively stopping or preventing China from changing the status quo, clearly it's not going to work because of that statement,” Batongbacal said.

Despite Beijing's rejection, the Philippines asserts the TAP can help China itself.

“We believe that our framework proposal is positive, constructive, and comprehensive, and will be beneficial to everyone in the region, including China,” Jose earlier said.

The Philippines proposed the TAP after China allegedly started building artificial islands in the South China Sea. For the Philippines, this changes the status quo in the disputed waters – a violation of the DOC.

Maguindanao officials settle boundary row to avert more bloodshed

From InterAksyon (Aug 11): Maguindanao officials settle boundary row to avert more bloodshed

SOUTH UPI, Maguindanao -- Local officials here will convene the town peace and order council to settle peacefully an emerging land dispute involving farmers belonging to two tribes, officials said.

Mayor Abdullah Campong, who chairs the municipal peace and order council (MPOC), will meet with representatives from Teduday community and Maguindanaons today to settle their boundary dispute.

Representatives from Department of Agrarian Reform and Department of Environment and Natural Resources were invited, and police and military as well as tribal and Muslim religious leaders are expected to attend the meeting.

On Sunday, a shooting erupted in a remote village here triggered by a land dispute that left two persons dead and two wounded, police said.

Senior Inspector Ruel Villarin, chief of police of South Upi, Maguindanao, said the armed conflict involved Teduday indigenous people’s community and Maguindanaons in Sitio Bajar, Barangay Pandan, a farming community.

Villarin said the Tedudays were harvesting corn when a group of Maguindanaons tried to stop them.

”It was land dispute, both sides have a misunderstanding over farm lot boundaries,” Villarin said in a radio interview of the fighting that occurred at 7 a.m. Sunday.

He identified one of the fatalities as Celsu Buludan, 33, a Teduday, and one from the Maguindanaon side who triggered the attack. One from each side was also wounded.

Villarin said the slain Moro was carried by retreating armed men and was not identified.

To prevent further armed confrontation between the two groups, a team of Philippine Marines was deployed in the area, Villarin said.

3,000 'trees of peace' planted during World Indigenous People's Day in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Aug 11): 3,000 'trees of peace' planted during World Indigenous People's Day in Maguindanao

Soldiers join civilians in planting "peace trees" in Maguindanao, 9 August 2014. DENNIS ARCON

About 3,000 mahogany seedlings were planted in the mountains of Maguindanao Saturday on the occasion of World Indigenous People’s Day.

Carrying their high-powered firearms, soldiers and policemen went up the mountains not to wage war, but to plant trees.

Aside from the military and the police, Moro National Liberation Front chairman and three-term Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema also participated in the activity.

This is a sign of solidarity in the pursuit of peace, said Sema, calling the trees “trees of peace.”

The tree-planting project aims to help the environment and care for the Dimapatoy Watershed in Datu Odin Sinsuat, a water source of Cotabato City and nearby towns, said 6th Infantry Division Commanding General Edmund Pangilinan, who led the activity last Saturday.

This is also to show that the country’s security forces value the forests, which are normally devastated during armed conflicts, he said.

Other participants included the organizations that respond first during floods and other disasters in the city and in the province, including ARMM HEART.

Indigenous peoples, students, lawyers, and employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao also planted trees.

AFP renews human rights commitment despite unsolved enforced disappearances cases

From InterAksyon (Aug 11): AFP renews human rights commitment despite unsolved enforced disappearances cases

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday renewed its pledge of commitment to protect and defend human rights in the face of still unsolved and persisting reports of human rights violations committed by soldiers against perceived "enemies of the state".

Right after the Monday General Headquarters flag-raising ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, Secretary of National Defense Voltaire Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang led soldiers and civilian staff in reaffirming their commitment and adherence to the tenets of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

International humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, regulates the conduct of armed conflicts.

It is that branch of international law that aims to limit the impact of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not or no longer participating in hostilities, and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.

"We should execute our duties and responsibilities to protect our citizens caught in the midst of armed conflicts in the country, and guarantee total respect for their human rights as prescribed by IHL," Gazmin said.

The AFP is committed to ensure that its "operations and procedures are anchored on the imperative to protect the populace, especially those who are not parties to the conflict," Catapang, for his part, said.

But the case of activists Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, two students from the University of the Philippines (UP) abducted by soldiers 11 years ago, continues to hound the AFP.

The alleged mastermind in the twin abduction, retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, remained at large.

Likewise is the case of Jonas Burgos, a peasant organizer, who remained missing after soldiers abducted him in Quezon City seven years ago.

Many more families remain in anguish, hoping that their loved ones who were victims of state-perpetrated enforced disappearances will one day return.

In marking IHL month, the Department of National Defense (DND) is opening a photo exhibit at its office lobby on Tuesday, to be followed by a Fun Run on August 16 inside the camp and a Fun Bike circuit from Fort Bonifacio Global City to the AFP GHQ grandstand.

On August 31, the Philippine Red Cross Quezon City Chapter will mobilize around 30,000 National Capital Region-based students and AFP members for the Human IHL Formation at Camp Aguinaldo parade grounds, aimed at setting a new Guinness world record.

"This year's national celebration of IHL is hosted by the DND, in commemoration of the August 12, 1949 signing of the four Geneva Conventions," Catapang said.

Photo shows 2 abducted German tourists apparently in hands of ASG

From InterAksyon (Aug 11): Photo shows 2 abducted German tourists apparently in hands of ASG

Reports from the field tend to indicate that the two German tourists who went missing last April in the high seas between Palawan and Sabah are in the custody of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), a source from the intelligence community based in Manila disclosed on Monday.

The source shared a copy of a photograph going the rounds of the intelligence community showing the two Germans surrounded by a group of men armed with heavy automatic weapons, with two fighters sitting on the ground and the two Germans holding what appears to be a German Flag.

The two Germans were identified in previous media reports as Stefan Victor Okonek, 71 and Herike Diesen 55.

The ASG has gained notoriety with kidnap for ransom activities.

The two were taken by heavily-armed bandits while on their way to Sabah, Malaysia from Palawan in late April, the Manila based intelligence officer said.

The two Germans had just come from an island-hoping trip around the coast of Mindanao when abducted on April 26 in the waters off Bataraza town in the Southern tip of Palawan province.

"The ASG have been holding the Germans since they were taken last April from Palawan," the intelligence officer, who asked not to be named, said.

When asked if there are ongoing negotiations for the release of the two Germans, the source replied in the negative.

"I'm not privy to whether or not there were negotiations taking place... but what I know is that the Germans don't trust us," the intelligence source said.

The German tourists were abducted after the presence of their yacht was purportedly tipped off by relatives of the Abu Sayyaf fighters who were living in the area.