Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sayyafs attack plantation guards

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Aug 14): Sayyafs attack plantation guards

A STONE breaker was killed by a stray bullet while two security personnel of a rubber plantation were unscathed following an attack perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf bandits in Sumisip town, Basilan.

The Basilan Police Provincial Office (BPPO) said the incident happened around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday at a bridge in the village of Manggal, Sumisip, Basilan.

The police identified the fatality as Romeo Pucong, a resident of Sumagdang village, Isabela City, the capital of Basilan province.

Unscathed were Pilman Masirul and Hajim Barillo, both security personnel of the Manggal Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Development Cooperative (Marbedco).

Police investigation showed that Masirul and Barillo were providing security to Marbedco workers when they were fired upon by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits.

The bandits missed their targets and instead hit Pucong, who was crushing stone nearby, the police said.

Pucong was rushed to a hospital in Isabela City but he died before reaching the facility, the police added.

Pinoy soldiers are poor shots, – AFP chief

From the Manila Times (Aug 14): Pinoy soldiers are poor shots, – AFP chief

FILIPINO soldiers are poor marksmen, needing at least 5,000 bullets to kill one enemy, according to the highest ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Catalino Pio Catapang on Thursday disclosed the sad truth after ceremonial distribution to soldiers of their new Remington M4 service rifles in Camp Aguinaldo, the military’s main headquarters in Quezon City.

“… there was a time when I was the G3 [operations and plans] of the 8th [Infantry] Division, we needed 5,000 rounds to kill one NPA [rebel]. Those were the days that we consumed a lot of bullets,” Catapang said, referring to the communist New People’s Army.

He explained that they arrived at the number by consolidating all encounters and then all the enemy casualties, and it came out that “you have to fire 5,000 rounds jut to kill one NPA [rebel].” Catapang said they did the computation between 1998 and 2000.

But with the new M4 rifles, the AFP chief expects the soldiers to improve their shooting competence to 1:500, or they will be needing only 500 bullets to kill one enemy.

Compared to the Vietnam-era M16 and M16 A-1 assault rifles, Catapang also explained that the M4 is a much better version and could be fired continuously.

“It can fire continuously but I don’t recommend [that the soldiers] fire it continuously, What I wanted, as I have said in my campaign [slogan], Kawal Disiplinado, Bawal Abosado, Dapat Asintado [Soldier Disciplined, No Abusive Soldier, He Must be a Sharpshooter],” he said.

Catapang also disclosed that President Benigno Aquino 3rd has personally test-fired the M4 and was very impressed by its performance.

The President, he said, advised him and other top AFP officials to take good care of the new rifles and ensure that the firearms are well-maintained.

Catapang pointed out that the acquisition of new rifles is consistent with the AFP’s drive at becoming a mission-capable armed forces, recalling that AFP last procured rifles in 1987. The procurement began in 1974.

“Since then, there was no major acquisition of rifles. The only addition [to the AFP rifle stock] came from the United States Excess Defense Articles Program [and the rifles were] acquired during the late 1990s,” he said.

“This Philippine Army-Philippine Marines Assault Rifles Acquisition Project is indeed very timely, considering the gravity of our troops’ responsibility. There is a need to match their skills with weaponries that suit the situation in the field, where government enemies are using modern armaments. Our armed forces must have advance weaponries too in order to address the enemies of the state,” Catapang added.

The Department of National Defense has purchased a total of 50, 629 M4 rifles from the US-based Remington Co. at a contract price of P1.9 billion.
Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said the acquisition was part of the government’s Joint Philippine Army-Philippine Marine Corps Assault Rifles Acquisition Project.

He added that the approved budget for the contract was about P3.3 billion, thus generating a total savings for the government estimated at P1.2 billion, which the AFP will use for the procurement of additional rifles.

According to Zagala, the 5.56mm M4 rifle was made a priority to supplement and replace early models of M-16 and M-16A1 rifles, most of which date back to the Vietnam War and are in poor condition and need refurbishing or replacement.

Tesda allots P335M for Moro scholars

From the Manila Times (Aug 14): Tesda allots P335M for Moro scholars

THE Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) has set aside P335 million worth of scholarship vouchers to allow Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters to avail of free training in various technical and vocational (tech-voc) courses.

Tesda Director General Joel Villanueva said the funding, allocated for the education of 11,000 MILF fighters and their family members as part of the Bangsamoro normalization program, was drawn from the agency’s 2015 budget.

“From that budget [P335 million], P202 million will cover the school-based training inclusive of training fee, assessment fee, tool kits, training allowance, while the remaining amount was allocated for the community-based training,” Villanueva told reporters during a lunch meeting on Wednesday.

He noted that the free training could provide returning MILF fighters opportunities to land jobs or start a small business.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) has already identified the regional allocation [for this project]. This would be training for the training of [MILF] combatants for civilian life. The recipients of the said project will also be identified by the OPAPP and MILF leaders,” the Tesda chief said.

When asked why they allotted funds even if there is yet no Bangsamoro law, Villanueva explained that this was part of the government’s continuing commitment to the peace process.

“The normalization track should continue with or without the Bangsamoro law. This is an affirmative action on basic services in the Bangsamoro areas, especially in skills development,” he said.

“This is a way of empowering the Bangsamoro [people] to be productive members of the community and to the country,” Villanueva added.

This year, Tesda enrolled at least 1, 000 Bangsamoro fighters in various tech-voc courses.

China continues building ‘fixed aircraft carrier’ inside PH territory

From AngMalaya (Aug 14): China continues building ‘fixed aircraft carrier’ inside PH territory

Amid Philippine government’s call for construction freeze within the disputed territories in South China Sea including West Philippine Sea, China openly rejected the proposal.

“China opposed it immediately. They should study it before they reject it. If they reject it without studying it, then it looks like China does not recognize that the developments in the South China Sea are creating problems for everyone,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said after attending the regional Ministers’ Meeting over the weekend.

According to del Rosario, China is like saying “What tensions? What problem? There is no problem.” The Philippine top diplomat said problems can’t be solved if it is not recognized.

Planned airstrip at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in West Philippine Sea. Internet Photo
Planned airstrip at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in West Philippine Sea. Internet Photo

Instead of listening to international community’s call to freeze construction, China is busy building its ‘fixed aircraft carrier’ inside Philippine exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

According to Filipino fishermen operating in West Philippine Sea, China is creating concrete sea barriers in Mabini reef. They also attested that there is an increased Chinese coast guard presence in the territory.

“The artificial island at Fiery Cross Reef will be an unreplaceable military base with great strategic significance due to its location and size. Such a base will realize the value of the South China Sea for China and ensure China’s status in South East Asia,” a Chinese news provider said.

“It can threaten all our vital economic installations and this is the most awesome, our vital military installations including what would be the installations we can make available at the EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement),” Former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez told ANC.

Philippine Coast Guard’s ten 40-meter vessels to improve maritime law enforcement

From AngMalaya (Aug 14): Philippine Coast Guard’s ten 40-meter vessels to improve maritime law enforcement

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) shortlisted four Japanese firms qualified to join the bidding for 10 40-meter multi-role response vessels (MRRV). These are Japan Marine United Co., Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Nigata Shipbuilding and Repair Inc., and Sumidagawa Shipyard Co. Inc.

Japan International Cooperation Agency under Special Terms for Economic Partnership (STEP) through Official Development Assistance granted the loan. With this, Philippine government will be able to procure 10 MRRVs.

“This initiative combines enhancing the Philippine capability on search and rescue responsibilities with disaster response and maritime safety. Since the Philippines is an archipelago, maritime safety is critical to the country’s socioeconomic development,” Jica Chief Representative in the Philippines Takahiro Sasaki said last December 2013.

These coast guard patrol vessels, when delivered, will be deployed in Manila, Tacloban, Zamboanga, Puerto Princesa, La Union, Iloilo, San Fernando (La Union), Davao, Legaspi and Cagayan de Oro.

Pre-bid meeting will be conducted on August 26. The project is under Philippine Coast Guard’s P8 billion maritime safety capability improvement project.

“The project aims to improve the capabilities of the PCG to quickly and appropriately respond to coastal maritime incidents, such as search-and-rescue missions, maritime law enforcement activities by providing MRRVs to the PCG,” DOTC said.

These multi-role response vessels are expected to be delivered next year (three) until 2016 (seven).

Chinese Coast Guard harassed Kalayaan officials visiting BRP Sierra Madre

From AngMalaya (Aug 14): Chinese Coast Guard harassed Kalayaan officials visiting BRP Sierra Madre

In a special report from ABS-CBN News website, Officials from the Kalayaan Municipal Office were harassed by the Chinese Coast Guard. This incident occurred August 1 when they visited BRP Sierra Madre in Ayungin Shoal to bring supplies to troops deployed on the said ship.

Officials of the Kalayaan Municipal Office also went to Ayungin Shoal to prepare the upcoming visit of Kalayaan Mayor.

The said China Coast Guard vessel is CCG vessel 3111 a 70-meter surveillance ship.

The municipal officials were forced to pass by shallow waters where the large vessel of Chinese Coast Guard is unable to follow. Kalayaan executive assistant Joey Vincent Rabanal said that freedom of innocent passage is being deprived by the Chinese government.

He added that fishermen in the territory are also feeling some threat due more aggressive behavior of Chinese Coast Guard that started after the arrest of 11 Chinese fishermen last May.

Lone informant to get P2M reward for Palparan capture

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 14): Lone informant to get P2M reward for Palparan capture

A “singleton”—the military’s term for a single, newly recruited informant—will receive the P2-million reward for providing information that led to the capture of fugitive Jovito Palparan in Manila on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Inquirer on Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), corrected reports that the reward was P5 million and that it would go to the Naval Intelligence and to Security Group (NISF), the military unit that collaborated with the National Bureau of Investigation for the capture of the retired Philippine Army major general.

Año said the informant had yet to receive the reward, as a process had to be followed for the turnover of the bounty from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Agents to be promoted

“No, the reward will not go to NISF agents involved in the mission because the intelligence unit is not authorized to receive rewards. There will be no monetary incentive because that’s our job,” Año said.

But the NISF agents involved in the mission will be promoted one rank higher and will get medals for their good job, he said.

Palparan’s ATM tracks

Año said the informant was recruited specifically for the Palparan mission because of his close association with the retired general.

“In intelligence gathering for high-value targets, we recruit people who have access to the targets,” Año said.

“So for this particular case of Palparan, the NISF recruited this informant for this mission only because the informant has access to Palparan,” he said.

Año said the informant alerted the NISF to a series of withdrawals by Palparan from different automated teller machines from a bank account that did not belong to him. The last withdrawal was at 3:30 a.m. Monday in Sta. Mesa district.

The Isafp chief refused to identify the owner of the account, saying the DOJ would deal with the account holder.

He said that the NISF tracked Palparan through the locations of his ATM withdrawals until the transactions led the agents to a house near an ATM on Old Sta. Mesa Street.

“It was the first time for this new informer for this kind of mission and he hit it,” Año said.

Task Force Runway

Año is the commander of Task Force Runway, a composite team of agents from the military and the NBI formed last year by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on orders from President Aquino to capture Palparan, who went into hiding after being ordered arrested by a court in Malolos town, Bulacan province, in December 2011 over the 2006 abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Aquino ‘special mission’

Año said no other military task force was formed to track down other high-profile fugitives such as former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, both wanted for the
Jan. 24, 2011, murder of environmentalist and broadcaster Gerardo Ortega, and former Dinagat Rep. Ruben Ecleo, who is wanted for the 2002 murder of his wife, Alona, and running from a 31-year jail term for graft handed down by the Sandiganbayan in 2006.

Año said the Isafp considered the arrest of these fugitives “secondary missions” for military intelligence units, such as the NISF, Army Intelligence and Security Group and Air Force Intelligence Group, because they were not threats to national security.

The Isafp provides support to the Philippine National Police in the search for these fugitives, Año said.

He acknowledged that Palparan was not considered a national security threat, but said the Isafp gave priority to Palparan’s case because it was a “special mission” from the President.

DVIDS: NOLES participants conduct non-lethal weapons shoot

From DVIDS (Aug 13): NOLES participants conduct non-lethal weapons shoot

Complete Delete NOLES participants conduct non-lethal weapons shoot

A service member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (left) fires an M500 Mossberg shotgun with a grenade cup attachment while U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Blake Johnson coaches his shot placement at Fort Bonifacio, Philippines on Aug. 11, 2014 during the Non-Lethal Weapons Executive Seminar field training exercise. The effective use of non-lethal weapons can be extremely valuable during rescue missions, for force protection in civil disturbances, while controlling rioting and prisoners of war, for checkpoint or convoy operations, HA/DR operations, or in situations in which civilians are used to mask a military attack. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Alexandra Gwinn)
Service members from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) along with Police Officers with the Philippine National Police (PNP), fired non-lethal munitions, Aug. 11, during Non-lethal Weapons Executive Seminar (NOLES) 2014.

This year marks the 13th iteration of this event, which is held annually by U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific, and consists of a field-training exercise and a leadership seminar with participants from 20 nations. This marks the first time the AFP are hosting NOLES. The exercise promotes awareness and effective use of non-lethal weapons (NLW) to maintain order in low-intensity conflicts or civil unrest.

A week in to the training, non-lethal weapons instructors from 3rd Law Enforcement Battalion, III Marine Expeditionary Force, worked with the AFP and PNP NOLES participants on the handling of NLW munitions and the weapon systems.

For the ‘Range Day’ PNP and AFP participants fired two different weapons, the M203 grenade launcher and the M500 shotgun, as well as non-lethal stinger ball grenades.

“These specific kind of weapons are designed to use in a situation where you want to disperse a crowd or a group of individuals without having to use lethal means,” said 1st Lt. Daniel J. Matthews, a non-lethal weapons instructor and officer-in-charge of training during the NOLES field training exercise (FTX).

The M203s shot the stinger ball grenades, while the M500 were shooting rounds with a beanbag in them. “They (Filipinos) have been very cooperative, they have been picking up the training very quickly so it’s been a good week,” Matthews said.

As the executive seminar draws near, the Marines from 3rd LEB plan to begin practicing for the final demonstration on August 14, in front of senior leadership from 20 countries in the Pacific, and the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines, The Honorable Philip S. Goldberg.

During the demo the participants of NOLES will demonstrate everything they learned throughout the exercise, including Taser techniques, Mechanical Advantage Control Holds (MACH), Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Spray.

“It’s been a really good experience for the Filipinos and the U.S. Marines, we’ve learned a lot from them as they have learned from us,” said Matthews. “I definitely think that an exercise like this would be very [good] with our counterparts.”

CPP/NPA: 26th IB suffers two casualties in San Luis, Agusan del Sur

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 10): 26th IB suffers two casualties in San Luis, Agusan del Sur

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

A harassment team of the New People’s Army under the Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-regional Command attacked operating troops of the 26th IB-PA and Bagani Force in Km. 50, Brgy. Binicalan, San Luis, Agusandel Sur, in August 9, 2014, around 4:30 PM. Two were killed and several others were wounded among the reactionary forces while the NPA attacking unit suffered no casualties.

The said troops were then carelessly and noisily resting, confident that their massive operations have scared away the NPA units in the area. They were completely unaware that harassment teams were also sent by the NPA, who were more familiar with the terrain and enjoy the deep and wide support from the people in the area. When the Red fighters shot the huddled enemy troops, two were killed while an undetermined number were wounded. The NPA harassment team swiftly withdrew after the incident.

This 26th IB platoon was only one of six columns now launching combat operations in mountainous areas of San Luis, Talacogon and La Paz, Agusandel Sur. They seek to drive the NPA away to ensure the relentless operations of existing companies and plantations in these municipalities. The mercenary AFP now steps up its operations against the revolutionary movementto protect the economic interests of the plundering foreign capitalists. Just last August 9, the NPA encountered other troops of the 26th IB and SCAA guarding Provident Tree Farm Incorporated in Zelovia, Talacogon.

Meanwhile, another unit of the NPA launched a harassment operation against reactionary troops in SitioAfga, Brgy. Olave, Buenavista, Agusandel Norte on the same day. We will publicize the complete details as soon as we receive the combat report from the NPA operating unit.

CPP: Confront Aquino chacha, second term with intense resistance—CPP

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 14): Confront Aquino chacha, second term with intense resistance—CPP

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today called on the Filipino people to confront “with intense resistance” moves to amend the 1987 constitution in order to set the stage for a second term or a term extension for Aquino and other perfidious measures that serve the interests of foreign big capitalists and the ruling clique. In an interview aired last night, Benigno Aquino III outrightly endorsed charter change (chacha) and said he “has to listen” to proposals for him to seek another term in office.

The CPP said Aquino’s interview last night saw him “openly endorsing authoritarianism” when he justified the proposal to amend the 1987 constitution in order to clip the powers of the Supreme Court to prevent it from curtailing the self-claimed powers to realign public funds according to his priorities. “This was an open statement of his ambition to bring back the Marcos-style rule where so-called democratic institutions served as mere facades to his dictatorship.”

“Aquino is, in fact, already largely exercising dictatorial powers in his use of pork barrel money, lump-sum funds and so-called savings to reward the political loyalties of senators, congressmen and local government officials, to ensure that crony businesses are granted government contracts and guaranteed profits and that the interests of foreign big capitalists and the US military are fully served.

“With the pork barrel and DAP, Aquino has practically reduced the Philippine Senate and House of Representatives to mere rubber stamps,” pointed out the CPP.

“Aquino is an indignant cacique intoxicated with power who is outraged that his prerogatives as the Pork Barrel King have been put to question by the Supreme Court,” said the CPP after Aquino confronted the Supreme Court over its decision against the DAP. “Like his tirades a month ago against the Supreme Court, Aquino is exhibiting his landlord intolerance against those who go against him. After having his taste of power, Aquino is becoming increasingly insatiable, seeking more powers under the false slogan of ‘matuwid na daan’,” said the CPP.

“Aquino’s endorsement of the chacha will pave the way for constitutional amendments to remove the few remaining restrictions against foreign control of the local economy and all-out foreign exploitation of Filipino labor and Philippine national patrimony,” added the CPP. “Aquino’s minions also seek to remove provisions that prohibit the establishment of foreign military bases and facilities.”

“Such constitutional amendments will practically trash Philippine national sovereignty and reduce the country into a wasteland for foreign plunder,” said the CPP.

“It is highly possible that Aquino’s minions will also seek to remove the provisions restricting the Philippine president to one six-year term or some other amendement that will allow him to extend his stay in office,” added the CPP. “Just like Marcos, Aquino claims he is ‘listening to the voice of his boss’ even if this is just a social-media campaign funded by Aquino, his sisters and their Yellow army of media manipulation specialists.”

“Despite maxxing out funding for such campaigns in response to Kris Aquino’s call for the so-called ‘silent majority’ to speak up, Aquino’s yellow army has only managed to attract a few thousand people on Facebook and Twitter, including the fake accounts generated by their paid hacks. They are having a hard time bringing this campaign out of the internet.”

“The truth is, among the peasants, workers, urban poor, students, ordinary employees and other marginalized sectors, there is no clamor for another Aquino term as they are confronted daily with rising prices, reduced income and increasingly intolerable socio-economic conditions under Aquino’s anti-people and pro-big business rule,” said the CPP.

“Without the possibility of a second or extended term, Aquino is faced with only two future possibilities: he will either be ousted or forced to resign from office; or confront a widespread clamor to hold him accountable and have him imprisoned for his anomalous diversion of billions of funds to favored politicians and businesses,” added the CPP.

“In the face of exposés of graft and the filing of impeachment charges against Aquino and possible criminal charges in the future, Aquino and his coterie of corrupt officials are utterly frightened of the possibility of ending up behind bars as the Filipino people demand accountability and punishment of the bureaucrat capitalists,” said the CPP.

“In endorsing chacha and opening the possibility of a second term, Aquino is stoking the fires of the people’s demand to oust him from power,” said the CPP. “In openly expressing his authoritarian ideas, Aquino is provoking broader resistance against his rule.

(Update) 4 civilians hurt in BIFF bombing attack on Army soldiers in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): (Update) 4 civilians hurt in BIFF bombing attack on Army soldiers in Maguindanao

Suspected Moro militants, targeting a military convoy with a roadside bomb in Maguindanao Wednesday afternoon, instead hurt four civilians, the military said today.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, regional Army spokesperson, said the roadside bombing at a highway in Barangay Sambolawan, Datu Salibo town came a day after Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) simultaneously attacked Army detachments in nearby villages of Magaslong, Sharif Saydona town and Buayan, Datu Piang town, also in Maguindanao.

Hermoso, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the bombers could have targeted a convoy of soldiers belonging to the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion but missed, hitting another vehicle tailing the Army at past 4 p.m.

He blamed the BIFF as behind the roadside bombing due to its “signature make” of the IED, a mortar with mobile phone as trigger mechanism.

The Army spokesperson, citing report from the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade, said it appeared the blasting mechanism of the IED which was fashioned from a 60 mm mortar malfunctioned.

On the bombers’ second try, the IED went off, hitting a civilian vehicle and wounded four individuals.

“The IED went off late so the convoy was spared. We are sad innocent civilians were hit,” Hermoso told reporters.Hermoso did not name the wounded civilians but they were rushed to the Maguindanao provincial hospital in nearby Shariff Aguak town.

On Tuesday night, four BIFF guerillas were reported killed after the military stationed in two detachments in Barangay Ganta, Shariff Saydona returned fire in response to BIFF attacks.

The BIFF, on several occasions, tried but failed to retake Barangay Ganta, a swampy village used to be the BIFF’s stronghold.

Jemaah Islamiyah bomb expert Basit Usman was cited in the village of Ganta but managed to escape with two other Indonesians during Army offensive in July, military officials here said.

His wife from Jolo, Sulu was captured but later released to government social welfare office.

Usman who carries a USD 5-million had been hiding in southern Philippines and in the company of BIFF rebels, a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front which sealed a peace deal with Manila.

The BIFF camp fell into government hands in July after air and ground assaults. The camp surrounded by running trenches and fox holes with a bomb making factory nearby, was also seized by government forces.

About 2,000 civilians have fled to nearby villages since Tuesday due to sporadic Army-BIFF skirmishes. The Maguindanao social welfare office workers are now attending to their needs.

Maguindanao security officials refute IAP report

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): Maguindanao security officials refute IAP report

Security officials here refuted Thursday claims by the International Alert Philippines (IAP) that Maguindanao province accounts for most of the recorded cases of violence in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the past two years.

Military officials assigned in Maguindanao were amazed at the IAP’s contention that political violence had cost 862 lives from 2011 to 2013.

Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said he found the claim as bothersome and appeared to be not well founded.

In its report, the IAP said political violence in the province during the period had caused the death of 862 persons, with 973 wounded, 58 missing or kidnapped.

It also said a total of 22,433 families in the province were displaced, as a result of violence in the area.

“I don’t know from where those statistics have come from. We had relatively peaceful local elections in 2010 and in 2013 and we have been seeing the influx of foreign investors putting up banana and oil palm plantations in Maguindanao since early 2011,” a visibly surprised Hermoso told reporters.

”We don’t deny there were evacuations as a result of harassment by Moro bandits and recurring floods in Maguindanao during that period, but not due to political violence," he said.

Hermoso admitted there were skirmishes involving Army and BIFF forces in Maguindanao but combined Army, rebel and civilian fatalities could not reach 862.

Maguindanao is the bastion of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a peace deal with Manila since 1997 which also resulted in zero Army-MILF clashes.

Hermoso said foreign investors would not come to Maguindanao if the area is unsafe.

The ARMM’s regional peace and order council, chaired by Gov. Mujiv Hataman, said it has no record of the figures the IAP had used.

"Amazing," was all Hataman could say about the IAP's report.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu was equally surprised with the report and urged IAP to rectify is global report.

Both Mangudadatu and Hataman were surprised the IAP report did not quote the sources of its statistics.

IAP is a member of the International Alert, a global peace-building organization operating in 25 countries in Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the South Caucasus, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East and North Africa.

More M-4 rifles to be acquired for the AFP --President Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): More M-4 rifles to be acquired for the AFP --President Aquino

Citing proper and efficient bidding procedures, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Thursday the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will soon be getting additional Remington M-4 automatic rifles for its ground units.

The President made the announcement during the ceremonial distribution of new weapons to soldiers at the AFP canopy area in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

”Dahil sa patas na bidding, nakuha natin ang mga bagong baril na ito sa di-hamak na mas murang halaga. Sabi po ng BAC (Bidding and Awards Committee), ang dapat sana’y Php 63,000 kada unit -— na di-hamak na ngang mas mura sa dinatnan nating presyo noong tayo’y nag-umpisang manungkulan —- nakuha na lamang natin sa Php 38,402.13, kada isa po ‘yan," the Chief Executive said.

"Kung susumahin: Sa approved budget na Php 3.19 billion, nabili natin ito sa presyong Php 1.94 billion. Ang savings natin, umabot sa Php 1.2 billion. Gamit ang bahagi ng dagdag-pondo na ito, nakapag-procure ang ating Department of National Defense ng dagdag pang 12,657 units ng assault rifles para sa Philippine Army, na nagkakahalaga ng Php 486.06 milyon,” the President added.

The procurement and distribution of modern equipment to the AFP is done to match the courage and valor of its personnel, President Aquino stressed.

Fund for the purchase of the M-4 rifles was sourced from the AFP Capability Upgrade Program.

An initial 27,300 M-4 units were shipped last July and the remaining 23, 329 units will be delivered by December.

Total M-4 orders for the AFP is placed at 50,629 units.

M-4 distribution a morale boost to frontline troops - AFP chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): M-4 distribution a morale boost to frontline troops - AFP chief
Morale of the units serving in the frontlines definitely got a much needed boost with the distribution of the first batch of Remington M-4 automatic rifle, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said Thursday.

Total M-4 orders for the AFP is placed at 50,629 units.

The initial batch of 27,300 M-4 automatic rifles were ceremonially distributed Thursday morning.

While the remaining 23,329 units will be delivered by December.

Catapang made this statement after noting that the rifling of the older M-16 have become so worn that it was impossible to shoot accurately.

Rifling refers to helical grooves in the barrel of a gun or firearm, which imparts a spin to a projectile around its long axis.

This spin serves to gyroscopically stabilize the projectile, improving its aerodynamic stability and accuracy.

He added that he detected this fault when he was issued an M-16 automatic rifle when he was appointed as brigade commander some years back.

"And when I test fired the weapon, the round I fired was way off from my intended target," the AFP chief said in Filipino.

And with the M-4 now getting to frontline use, Catapang said our soldiers will be more confident in engaging the enemy.

"And this advantage will put to good use as our soldiers are good marksmen," he pointed out.

The old M-16s have a 1-in-12 twist while the M-4s have a 1-in-7 twist making it more powerful, military sources earlier said.

This makes the M-4 is a very versatile weapon and very ideal for close-quarter battle as it fires a more heavy shell than the M-16 automatic rifle it is replacing, thus ensuring greater damage to target.

Maximum range of the M-16 is placed at around 300 meters while the M-4 is at 500 meters.

Catapang said that another advantage of the M-4 is that it can be fired continuously.

"But I don't recommend that they do that frequently (as it can shorten the life cycle of the barrel and its rifling)," he added.

The AFP chief attributes the worn rifling of the then M-16s in service for the atrocious rounds fired for confirmed enemy kill of the Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division against the New People's Army (NPA).

"I was G-3 (operations officer) of the 8th Infantry Division (between 1999 to 2000s) and at that time we needed to fire 5,000 rounds just to kill one NPA per encounter," he recounted.

And with the M-4, Catapang is hoping that the rounds fired needed to neutralize one target will be lowered to just 500 rounds.

And due to its smaller size than the M-16, the M-4 is more easier to carry in foliage and inside vehicles.

With this characteristics, the weapon is more easier to fire and reload during engagements.

It fires the .223 caliber, or 5.56 mm NATO round.

Catapang said that he was able to test fire the new M-4s Saturday together with President Benigno S. Aquino III and ranking officials of the Philippine Marines.

"The President fired one shot and it hit the (a small) target balloon, dead center," he added.

Range was just 25 meters, Catapang disclosed.

AFP to comply on whatever orders the court will give on Palparan case

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): AFP to comply on whatever orders the court will give on Palparan case

Aside from monitoring the status of retired Major Gen. Jovito Palparan's case at the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Thursday said that the military will comply with what ever order the court will give them.

"We will (just) follow (whatever) order the court will give," he added.

And regarding the retired major general's request for additional security regarding the threats against his life, the AFP chief said that Palparan has to inform them about it.

"He has to write us or inform us and then we will coordinate with the NBI or whatever government instrumentality, we cannot just come in as Gen. Palparan is now under the control of the courts," Catapang stressed.

The former official was arrested in a bakery in Teresa and Old Sta. Mesa, Manila Tuesday early morning, ending a three year flight from the law.

Palparan went into hiding after the Bulacan Regional Trial Court Branch 14 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 remains at large.

Palparan's last assignment at the Army was being commander of the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division. He retired from the service in Sept. 11, 2006.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz, 'Power' chopper to participate in Australia naval exercise

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): BRP Ramon Alcaraz, 'Power' chopper to participate in Australia naval exercise

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the country's most capable warship along with its embarked AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopter (PNH-431) will be participating in "Kakadu 2014," Navy public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo said on Thursday.

Send-off ceremonies will be on Riviera Wharf, Subic Bay Freeport, Olongapo City this coming Aug. 17.

"Kakadu 2014" is hosted biennially by the Royal Australian Navy and will be held Northern Australia Exercise Area this coming Aug. 25 to Sept. 12.

The naval exercise represents an opportunity to promote and enhance regional interoperability and cooperation among the participating navies.

The participating countries with navy ships/aircraft are Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Pakistan and Australia.

On the other hand, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vanuatu, South Korea and India will be sending personnel as observers.

P5.46-B boosts housing program for military, police

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): P5.46-B boosts housing program for military, police

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released P5.46 billion to the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the construction of 20,000 house-and-lot packages for the military, police, and other uniformed personnel in various regions of the country.

Sourced from the Budgetary Support to Government Corporations (BSGC) under the 2014 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the P5.46-billion release will benefit personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“From the very beginning, one of President Aquino's goals was to give uniformed personnel the opportunity to secure permanent housing. This latest release underscores the Administration's continuing commitment to provide safe, resilient, and quality homes to our men in uniform and their families,” DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad said.

“The fund release will go towards the construction of another 20,000 housing units this year, which will allow us to support more soldiers and police officers. Once the government has successfully built these houses, the total number of completed units will bump up to 66,852, ever since we started the housing program in 2011,” he added.

As of May 31, 2014, a total of 46,852 housing units have already been completed from the time the housing program was implemented in 2011. This is an accomplishment rate of 75 percent of the total target of 62,790 units set as of 2013.

Of the released P5.46 billion, Regions IV-A and III will get the biggest shares of P1.77 billion and P1.64 billion for 6,500 and 6,000 housing units, respectively.

AFP chief mulls cruise tours in PHL-owned features in Spratly Islands Group

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 14): AFP chief mulls cruise tours in PHL-owned features in Spratly Islands Group

In a bid to show to the world how beautiful and exotic the Philippine-owned features of the Spratly Islands Group, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Wednesday the military is planning to set up cruise tours which will sail around six of such islands.

"Hopefully, we will be able to put up a cruise ship going around the six islands," he said.

However, Catapang could only give the names of four Philippines-owned areas which the proposed cruise tours would cover and these are Patag, Lawak, Pagasa Islands and Ayungin Shoal.

Aside from the four features, the Philippines also occupies Parola, Likas, Kota, and Panata Islands and Rizal Reef.

As this developed, Catapang urged the Palawan provincial government to make their area more prosperous.

"I challenge them to make Palawan as the next most prosperous province, to showcase it. Palawan has a lot of potentials, especially if we can develop the islands that we now posses as tourism destination," he said.

Catapang said he expects investors to come in for the project.

"It can be a public-private partnership if we are able to develop the area," the AFP chief stressed.

270 CAFGUs up for deployment

From the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 14): 270 CAFGUs up for deployment

The Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade will soon deploy 270 Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit members in Negros Occidental, its commander, Col. Jon Aying, said yesterday.

The 270 CAFGU members graduated yesterday from the three-month basic military training in a ceremony held at Barangay La Granja, La Carlota City, with Mayor Juliet Marie Ferrer as guest of honor and speaker.
Aying said the 270 CAFGUs will be deployed in insurgency-affected areas of Negros.
More than 1,000 CAFGUs are now deployed in Negros Occidental, and are supervised by the 12th Infantry (Cadre) Battalion, military records show.

AFP wants cruise ship tours to Spratly Islands

From GMA News (Aug 14): AFP wants cruise ship tours to Spratly Islands

The military hopes to organize cruises to disputed isles in the West Philippine Sea in response to similar efforts by other claimant countries, the head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Thursday.

"Hopefully, we will be able to put up a cruise ship going around six islands," said AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. These would include Patag, Lawak and Pagasa Islands and Ayungin Shoal, all part of the Spratly Islands.

The tours might be a public-private partnership project, "if we are able to develop the area," he said.

"We'll be able to hopefully have a cruise because that is also being done by other countries. They have a tourism effort to go around the islands that they possess," Catapang added.

Catapang said that the Chinese might also turn the islands they are currently occupying into tourist destinations. "This is a win-win situation if that will happen," he added.

The AFP chief said he was briefed on Wednesday by the AFP Western Command (WesCom), which oversees military operations in the disputed region.

"I challenged them to make Palawan the next most prosperous province, to showcase it," he said. "Palawan has a lot of potential, especially if we can develop the island that we now possess as a tourism destination."

Catapang, who assumed the top military post on July 18, on Wednesday installed Rear Adm. Alexander Lopez as new WesCom commander.  Lopez replaced Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, who will retire on Sunday.

5-6 Chinese ships in area

Catapang also said that five to six Chinese ships are regularly seen in the disputed areas, particularly at Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef), Scarborough Shoal (Panatag Shoal), and Second Thomas Shoal (Ayungin Shoal).

"That's the usual.They are there in Ayungin Shoal, they are also here in Scarborough...And then they're also at Mischief Reef because that became their forward operating base," he said.

Mischief Reef and Panatag Shoal are controlled by China, with the Chinese building structures on the former. The Philippines has a presence on Ayungin Shoal.

Military report

The AFP has also submitted a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs about possible reclamation activities by the Chinese on some of the disputed islands.

"These are not that definite because these are just photo shots," Catapang said.

Catapang did not identify the islands on which the suspected activities are occurring, but recent news reports point to possible activity on five reefs, including Cuarteron Reef (Calderon Reef), Gaven Reef (Burgos Reef), and Johnson South Reef (Mabini Reef).

May visit Ayungin Shoal

Catapang also said he hopes to visit the troops on Ayungin Shoal.

"I want to, but it might become a sensitive issue. I don't want to unnecessarily make a visit that may not turn out well," he said.

Earlier this year, the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest against China for blocking Philippine vessels carrying supplies and personnel from going to the shoal.

Aquino: Filipinos no longer see soldiers as butchers

From Rappler (Aug 14): Aquino: Filipinos no longer see soldiers as butchers

The days of Jovito Palparan are over, says the President

NEW ASSAULT RIFLES: President Benigno Aquino III leads the ceremonial turnover of M4 assault rifles. Malacañang photo
NEW ASSAULT RIFLES: President Benigno Aquino III leads the ceremonial turnover of M4 assault rifles. Malacañang photo

President Benigno Aquino III said the military has changed since the time of retired Major General Jovito Palparan, who was the poster boy for the military's human rights abuses during the previous Arroyo administration.

"Masasabi na rin po natin ngayon: Kung dati, kinakatakutan ang inyong hanay bilang mga berdugo, ngayon, ginagalang at pinagkakatiwalaan kayo bilang mga tunay na kabalikat ng sambayanang Pilipino, (This we can say: If in the past people feared your ranks because of your reputation as butchers, you are are now respected and trusted as true partners of the people)," Aquino said in a speech before soldiers on Thursday, August 12.

He cited the military's role in responding to natural calamities.

The President was in Camp Aguinaldo for the ceremonial turnover of 50,000 brand new M4 Caliber 5.56mm assault rifles of the Army and the Marines.

In his speech, he vowed a fair trial for the detained Palparan, who was arrested August 12 after nearly 3 years in hiding. He faces charges of kidnapping and illegal detention for the disappearance of two UP student activists. (READ: People of the Philippines vs Jovito Palparan)

Palparan is praised by soldiers for his aggressive campaign against communist rebels, but human rights groups have blamed him for the spate of extrajudicial killings and disappearances in areas he was assigned. (WATCH: Fugitive General Palparan arrested in Manila)

Military chief's orders

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said he issued clear instructions to the troops to strictly adhere to human rights. (READ: New AFP chief tells troops: Ignore politics, no HR violations)

"My marching order during the International Humanitarian Law day is: "Defeat the enemies of the state without violating human rights or having collateral damage. Our campaign now is: Kawal disiplinado. Bawal abusado. Dapat asintado. (Soldiers should be disciplined, shoud not be abusive, and should be sharp shooters)," Catapang told reporters.

Catapang dismissed allegations that there are soldiers who are following Palparan's notorious style.

The military chief said they continue to monitor the status of Palparan becaues of his request for security. But he said the military can only do much for him because he is already retired.

"The appeal of General Palparan is for his safety. If he wants additional security, he has to write us or inform us and then we will coordinate with the National Bureau of Investigation or whatever government instrumentatility we need to coordinate with," said Catapang.

Remington's M4 rifles

The acquisition of the new M4 assault rifles from US gun manufacturer Remington is part of the modernization of the Philippine military.

The President himself joined military generals when they tried shooting the rifles over the weekend at the Marines headquarters in Taguig.

"One shot, he got it. Before he fired, the President asked how the sighting worked. I said dead center, so he fired and he hit the target," Catapang narrated.

Catapang said he hopes that the excitement of the troops with their new M4 rifles would translate to better accuracy.

The M4 rifles arrived from the US last month. Its transport from the Manila South Harbor to the military headquarters fueled coup rumors because of the convoy of military tanks and vehicles.

5 to 6 Chinese ships patrolling West PH Sea – military

From Rappler (Aug 14): 5 to 6 Chinese ships patrolling West PH Sea – military

This has become the 'regular' situation in the West Philippine Sea, says Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr

DAVID VS GOLIATH. File photo of a much smaller Philippine ship arrives at the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Photo by AFP
DAVID VS GOLIATH. File photo of a much smaller Philippine ship arrives at the disputed Ayungin Shoal. Photo by AFP

Up to 6 Chinese coast guard ships are currently patrolling the West Philippine Sea, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr told reporters on Thursday, August 13.

"There are about 5 to 6....It's the usual. They're in Ayungin Shoal. They're also in Scarborough Shoal. The latest that we saw – we submitted this report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) – is the ongoing reclamation," Catapang said in an interview after the ceremonial turnover of the brand new M4 assault rifles of the Army and the Marines.

This has become the "regular" situation in the West Philippine Sea, Catapang said. More ships were reported in the past.

Most of the Chinese ships were sighted in Scarborough Shoal located off the coast of Zambales in Luzon, and Mischief Reef off the coast of Palawan.

The Chinese Coast Guard has been occupying Scarborough Shoal since a standoff with the Philippine Navy in 2012, where the Philippines withdrew its ship. This has affected the livelihood of Filipino fishermen who are being driven away from the shoal, a fertile fishing ground.

Mischief Reef is also a Philippine-claimed outcrop that China occupied in 1995. It has since served as China's forward operating base. Mischief Reef is located near Ayungin Shoal, where the Philippines grounded a ship in response to the occupation of the reef.

The BRP Sierra Madre now serves as a unconventional naval detachment, which China wants to be towed away.

[Video report: Up to 6 Chinese ships patrolling West PH Sea]

The new Philippine military chief is not new to handling issues of territorial defense. A former chief of the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), Catapang used to be responsible for Scarborough Shoal before the disputed maritime territory was transferred to Palawan's Westcom.

"When I was still with Nolcom and General Rustico Guerrero was with Westcom, he used to ask me: 'Mistah, I'm looking for 5 or 6 ships that I always see in Mischief Reef. They're missing. It might be in your area?'"

He said he replied, "Mistah, the two are with me," which showed that "the ships are just shuttling back and forth."

The Philippines is seeking regional support for its Triple Action Plan proposal that includes a moratorium on provocative activities in the West Philippines Sea. China has rejected it, however.

Rear Admiral Lopez takes over Westcom amid China tensions

From InterAksyon (Aug 14): Rear Admiral Lopez takes over Westcom amid China tensions

Amid tensions with China, the Western Command, which has jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea, on Wednesday welcomed its new commander during a turnover of command at Camp Ricarte in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Former WPS commander Lt. Gen. Roy Deveraturda, who is retiring on Aug. 17, handed command responsibility to Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez, the current Deputy Chief of Staff for Education and Training (J8).

Besides the challenging task of maintaining security and defense of the Philippines’ sovereignty, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang expects Lopez to develop more capabilities for his unit.

“I think he (Lopez) can look into developing more capabilities, indigenous (to the Western Command) and then of course, he can also look into developing further our Ulugan Bay (facilities),” Catapang said in Filipino during the change-of-command ceremonies.

This is in line with efforts of the military to improve its minimum credible deterrent capability.

Aside from this, the AFP chief stated Lopez can also do more on the security of the Malampaya oil separation platform.

“These are the things one must do when appointed to the Western Command,” he disclosed.

Besides this, Catapang said that the AFP is continuously monitoring reports of presence of Chinese fishing vessels in the area and for forwarding it to the Department of Foreign Affairs, who will then make representations to China.

Lopez is a member of the Philippine Military Academy “Sandigan” Class of 1982, while Deveraturda was a product of the Armed Forces of the PhilippinesOfficer Candidate School.

Lopez was earlier reported to be a strong contender for the Central Command based in Cebu City following the promotion of his “mistah” (classmate), Vice Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. John Bonafos, who will remain concurrent Cencom commander until President Benigno Aquino III appoints a replacement.

Deveraturda served Westcom for over eight months while Lopez will be leading the command for more than a year before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Lopez had played a major role in the search-and-retrieval operations for then Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who died with two others when their plane crashed in Masbate waters two years ago.

Early this year, the Westcom commander has also been called WPS commander after the Department of Defense approved the AFP’s proposal to make the whole WPS territory under the jurisdiction of one commander.

Originally, the WPS territorial landscape was divided into two jurisdictional commands, the Northern Luzon Command which has jurisdiction over upper Luzon in the north and Westcom with lower Luzon in the south.

The Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which is part of Masinloc, Zambales is located in upper Luzon and the Kalayaan island Group in Palawan, which forms part of the disputed Spratly Islands, is in the south.

The whole maritime and territorial area is now under the sole command of the WPS commander.

With the aggressive actions of China using its military might to impose its claims on the WPS, Westcom has been transitioning into a territorial defense post with all the available air and naval -- mostly vintage -- assets of the AFP to conduct patrols in the disputed waters.

With an initial budget of P75 billon made available through the revised AFP Modernization Act, the country was able to purchase two former US Coast Guard Hamilton-class ships, which were renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, as well as a number of brand new transport and naval helicopters.

Philippine troops to get new M4 rifles

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 14): Philippine troops to get new M4 rifles

President Benigno Aquino during the ceremonial distribution of M4 rifles to soldiers. (Photo by Rey Baniquet)
President Benigno Aquino, assisted by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, led the ceremonial distribution Thursday of new M4 assault rifles to the Philippine Army and Marines at the  headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Quezon City.

Aquino said one of the major programs of the AFP Modernization is to upgrade the mission-essential capability requirements of the military in terms of firepower for ground troops.

Under the modernization program, the acquisition of 50,629 units of M4 assault rifles was prioritized to supplement and replace the early models of M-16 and M-16A1 assault rifles issued to troops.

He said the whole project will be delivered within the year and will be shipped in two batches