Saturday, August 16, 2014

Video: Allegiance from the Philippines to the caliph [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement]

Possible BIFM fighters pledge allegiance to ISIS: Video: Allegiance from the Philippines to the caliph [Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement]

IS threat ‘growing’ in SE Asia

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 17): IS threat ‘growing’ in SE Asia

Support for the Islamic State, formerly known as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), apparently is growing in Southeast Asia following reports of hardline Muslim guerrillas in the Philippines pledging allegiance to the extremist jihadists who now control large swathes of Iraq and Syria and the killing of one militant of the IS and the arrest of seven alleged terrorists arrested in Indonesia.

In Bali, police arrested six men and shot one of them in a raid on a rented house in Banyumas regency, Central Java last Friday, according to the Jakarta Post.

Earlier reports had said six suspected terrorists had been arrested in East Java, with weapons and explosives confiscated from them.

The Indonesian government has recognized IS as a terrorist organization and banned its propaganda in the state. But according to local police, at least 60 extremists from Indonesia took part in the fighting in Syria on the side of IS. Their return to homeland increases the terrorist threat in Indonesia.

In Manila, clips have been been uploaded in recent weeks on the video sharing site YouTube showing both the Mindanao-based Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf rebels pledging support to the IS.

“We have an alliance with the Islamic State and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama told Agence France Presse by telephone last Friday, referring to the brutal jihadist group’s leader.

He confirmed that a YouTube video uploaded last Wednesday, showing a purported BIFF leader flanked by armed men reading a statement of support for the IS, had come from his group.

BIFF split in 2008 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Misry, however, said his group had no plans to impose the radical IS brand of Islam in the Southeast Asian nation.

Beheadings, mass executions and the taking of child brides have marked the IS campaign across large parts of Iraq and Syria.

He stressed said his group had not sent any of its fighters to help the IS, nor was it recruiting people to join the IS.

“But if they need our help, why not?” he added.

A purported Abu Sayyaf video has also been uploaded on YouTube showing one of the group’s most senior leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, mentioning al-Baghdadi as he read out a statement that pledged allegiance to the IS.

He was filmed linking arms with more than a dozen men, some with faces swathed in fabric, as they stood at a forest clearing to pray and listen to his statement.

The IS is a Sunni group that has been fighting in Syria and launched an offensive in Iraq in June. The group has taken over large parts of the country, with a goal of seizing Baghdad. The group has also announced the establishment of a caliphate on the Iraq-Syria border.

But the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution yesterday aimed at weakening Islamists in Iraq and Syria with measures to choke off funding and the flow of foreign fighters.

It represents the most wide-ranging response yet by the top UN body to the jihadists who now control large swaths of territory in both countries and have been accused of atrocities.

The British-drafted measure also placed six Islamist leaders — from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nations — on the al-Qaeda sanctions list, which provides for a travel ban and assets freeze.

The six include senior al-Qaeda leaders who have provided financing to the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, the spokesman for the IS.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant noted that the 15-member council had shown “strong unity” in adopting the resolution to address the IS and Al-Nusra threat.

“We have watched with horror their brutal actions — attempts to wipe out entire communities on the basis of their religion or belief, indiscriminate killing, illegal and savage executions, deliberate targeting of civilians and appalling levels of sexual violence, especially against women and children,” he said.

The resolution was endorsed by all 15 members of the council, including Russia, whose backing for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad partly stems from concerns that his downfall could lead to Islamists ruling Damascus.

The resolution demands that IS fighters in Iraq and Syria, rebels from the al-Nusra Front in Syria and other al-Qaeda-linked groups “disarm and disband with immediate effect.”

It “calls on all member states to take national measures to suppress the flow of foreign terrorist fighters” to the extremist groups and threatens to slap sanctions on those involved in recruitment.

The measure also warns governments and entities that trade with the jihadists, who now control oil fields and other potentially cash-generating infrastructure, “could constitute financial support” that may lead to sanctions.

The crisis in Iraq has prompted the United States to launch air strikes and air-drop food and water to help tens of thousands of civilians fleeing the militants’ advance in fear for their lives.

France has agreed to send weapons to shore up Kurdish forces fighting the Islamists and Pope Francis has urged the UN to do everything it can to stop attacks against Christian and other religious minorities who have taken flight.

“Stories that have emerged from ISIL’s bloody wake are the stuff of nightmares,” US Ambassador Samantha Power told the council.

“This is the new front of the terrorist threat, and one with a devastating human cost.”

Describing the jihadists as a threat to international peace and security, the council has placed the resolution under chapter VII of the UN charter, which means the measures could be enforced by military force or economic sanctions.

But Russian deputy ambassador Petr Iliichev stressed that the resolution “cannot be seen as approval of military action.”

In the resolution, the council accuses the jihadists of a series of atrocities and warns that they may constitute crimes against humanity.

The council has previously adopted statements condemning the IS offensive but the resolution makes the first attempt at a broader response, two months after IS fighters seized control of the main northern city of Mosul.

“This group needs to be defeated,” said Iraqi Ambassador Mohamed Ali al-Hakim, who stressed the need for all countries to follow up on the resolution.

Syria’s Ambassador Bashar Jaafari welcomed the measure, saying the regime in Damascus had repeatedly warned of the Islamist threat and asserting that the Assad government was a “necessary partner in the fight against terrorism.”

The United Nations is also backing Iraq’s prime minister-designate Haidar al-Abadi and his bid to form a broad-based government that officials hope will be able to confront the IS “terrorist army.”

What John Kerry meant in his statement on Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Aug 16): What John Kerry meant in his statement on Philippines

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pays attention to a speaker during the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's address to Hawaii's East-West Center think tank this week drew attention primarily for its focus on the need for a constructive relationship with China to ensure regional peace and stability. However, Kerry touched also on U.S. relationships with five other key players in the region — Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand — some of them locked in contentious disputes with Beijing. He also dwelt at length on the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a free trade pact the U.S. is negotiating with 11 other nations. Here's what Kerry had to say about those overlooked issues, along with some background explanation.

WHAT KERRY SAID: "It is a state-of-the-art, 21st century trade agreement, and it is consistent not just with our shared economic interests, but also with our shared values."

THE BACKSTORY: The free trade pact known as the TPP is a key component of President Barack Obama's efforts to boost American exports to the growing economies of Asia. It would also serve to assert U.S. influence in the region in the face of an ascendant China, which is not included in the negotiations. However, negotiations have been bogged down over differences with Japan and others on access to sectors such as automobiles and agricultural products. It also faces opposition from U.S. labor groups and lawmakers in Obama's own Democratic Party who argue it could leave U.S. workers vulnerable to competition from countries with lower labor costs.


WHAT KERRY SAID: "... the United States and Australia are today as close as nations can get. Our time-honored alliance has helped both of our countries to achieve important goals ..."

WHAT IT MEANS: The U.S. and Australia entered into a formal mutual defense treaty in 1952 at the height of the Korean War. China regards the alliance as part of a U.S. strategy of encirclement and containment and objected strongly to a 2011 agreement to bolster the U.S. military presence in Australia with 2,500 Marines who will rotate through a joint military training hub in the northern Australian city of Darwin, where about 1,100 are already based.

WHAT KERRY SAID: "I visited Indonesia in February, and I saw the promise of a democratic future. The world's third largest democracy sets a terrific example for the world. And the United States is deeply committed to our comprehensive partnership."

THE BACKSTORY: The U.S. has a complicated history with Indonesia reaching back to the Cold War, when Washington overlooked human rights abuses by the authoritarian regime of Suharto in exchange for his support as a bulwark against communist expansion in Southeast Asia. Relations improved with the election of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in 2004, and gained further momentum with the resumption of some U.S. military assistance to Indonesian special forces in 2010 after a 12-year break because of human rights concerns. Indonesia has also sought to mediate between China and other claimants in the South China Sea.

WHAT KERRY SAID: "And we support the Philippines' taking steps to resolve its maritime dispute with China peacefully."

WHAT IT MEANS: Ensuring the peaceful resolution of such disputes is of crucial importance to Washington because its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines could force it to get involved were armed conflict to erupt between Manila and Beijing. That treaty weathered the withdrawal in 1992 of U.S. troops from their last Philippine bases, although China's encroachment and the threat from Islamic radicals has seen the alliance grow closer in recent years. An Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement signed in April would allow the U.S. to station troops and operate out of the Philippines, short of establishing permanent bases. That's seen as a major confidence-building measure for the Philippines, whose bantam weight armed forces would be easily overwhelmed by China's might in any armed conflict.

Related: John Kerry recalls 'sham' Philippine election, people power

WHAT KERRY SAID: "It's now a dynamic country filled with economic opportunity. It's a market for our businesses and our investors ... And it's a partner in tackling regional economic and security challenges."

THE BACKSTORY: China too has been a major driver of the growing U.S.-Vietnam security relationship, underscored by the presence this week in Hanoi of U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to visit Vietnam since 1971. Chinese and Vietnamese ships sparred over the summer over Beijing's deployment of an oil rig in a disputed section of the South China Sea, after which the U.S. and Vietnam agreed to stepped-up military cooperation, focused on training and maritime security. The U.S. has also indicated it may partially lift a ban on weapons sales to its former enemy, possible as early as September.

WHAT KERRY SAID: "In Thailand, a close friend and ally, we are disturbed by the setback to democracy and hope it is a temporary bump in the road. ... We call on the Thai authorities to lift restrictions on political activity and speech, restore civilian rule and return quickly to democracy through free and fair elections."

WHAT IT MEANS: The May 22 coup toppled an elected government and parliament after months of sometimes violent political protests that have paralyzed the government and disrupted life in Bangkok. The U.S. voiced its displeasure and the junta promised to hold elections by October next year — but only after rewriting the constitution and purging state institutions of allies of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains hugely popular among the poor but reviled by Thailand's conservative elites. Thailand is among America's oldest allies in Asia, and Washington wants to keep it that way, especially since China has been courting more investments in the country in a bid to gain influence.

China wraps anti-Japan propaganda campaign

Posted to the Philippine Star (Aug 16): China wraps anti-Japan propaganda campaign

China on Saturday wrapped up its latest anti-Japanese propaganda campaign amid continuing sharp disputes with Tokyo over territorial claims and history.

State media published the last of 45 confessions of convicted Japanese World War II criminals, that of a military police commander accused of ordering dozens of executions.

The campaign was launched this summer in response to statements by Japanese politicians and public figures seen as minimizing Japan's brutal eight-year invasion and occupation of much of China in the 1930s and 1940s.

Those included comments by officials at public broadcaster NHK, one of whom denied the Nanking massacre — in which China claims 300,000 civilians and disarmed soldiers were killed — happened at all. Another downplayed the Imperial Army's use of sex slaves, an issue that has chilled Japan's relations with South Korea as well.

Prior to that, China had outraged by Japan's nationalization of East China Sea islands claimed by Beijing two years ago, as well as a visit in December by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to a Tokyo shrine honoring the war dead, including Class-A war criminals such as wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

Along with launching successive waves of anti-Japanese vitriol, China has frozen high-level diplomatic contacts and regularly sends patrol boats to challenge Japanese craft near the uninhabited islands called Diaoyu by China and Senkaku by Japan.

Muslims hopeful on final Bangsamoro law draft

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 16): Muslims hopeful on final Bangsamoro law draft

Jolo, Sulu – Muslims in the province of Sulu are lauding Malacañang for its efforts in breaking the disagreement between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels for coming up with a final draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) – saving a supposed collapse in the agreement forged between the two panels last March.

Representative Habib Tupay Loong (First District, Sulu) said that finding a solution to the discrepancies between the government and MILF negotiators in the BBL is a sincere sign that President Aquino would like to put to an end to the conflict in Mindanao.

“The Muslims in Mindanao, particularly in the province of Sulu, are now in joyous mood after learning that the government and the MILF have agreed for a final draft of the BBL, which underwent a rigid review of its contents in Davao City since early this month,” Loong, chairman of the House Committee on Muslim Affairs, said.

Earlier, MILF Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal accused the government, saying that about 70 percent of the nearly 100-page BBL draft was either deleted or revised by Palace lawyers who reviewed the document for about two months.

But Aquino’s intervention, according to Loong, prompted the government and MILF panels to sit down and thresh out vital issues to save the BBL.

He also said that Muslim nations are keeping a close watch on the development of the peace negotiations while preparing investment packages to be implemented in the Muslim region of the country.

He also said that most member-nations of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), including some nations in the United Kingdom, had signified their intentions of pouring investments to help the Moros in Mindanao uplift their living conditions.

Palace assures Bangsamoro poll in 2016

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 16): Palace assures Bangsamoro poll in 2016

Malacañang said yesterday the government remains committed in pursuing its target that an election in the Bangsamoro area will be held in 2016.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte made the assurance a day after the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed on several resolutions that will form part of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to be submitted to President Aquino.

The draft will be submitted to Aquino on Aug. 18, she said.

The Palace official however could not give a timetable on when the President would be able to review the draft so it could be submitted to Congress.

She, however, noted that “the President is very much aware of the urgency and the timetable that we are trying to follow.”

The BBL was scheduled to be submitted to Congress last May but the Palace review and other developments have delayed its submission.

Once the draft is approved by Congress, a plebiscite will be held and a transition authority will be created. An election in the Bangsamoro will be held in 2016 so that its people could choose their leaders.

Alcaraz off to Australia to join int’l naval exercise

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 16): Alcaraz off to Australia to join int’l naval exercise

The Philippine Navy (PN) is sending to Australia its most advanced warship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16), together with 180 sailors and Marines, to participate in the multinational exercise dubbed as “KAKADU 2014.”

A send-off ceremony is scheduled at Subic Bay today when Alcaraz, with the PN contingent on board, departs for the exercise which will be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 12 at the Northern Australia Exercise Area.

KAKADU, held every two years, is the largest international maritime exercise hosted by Royal Australian Navy (RAN). It is aimed at developing interoperability and cooperation among the participating navies.

Twelve countries will be participating in this year’s exercise. Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Pakistan and Australia will be sending Navy ships and aircraft, while Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vanuatu, South Korea, and India will be sending personnel as observers.

Capt. Albert A. Mogol, commander, Naval Task Force 80 (NTF80), said this is the second time the PN will be sending a vessel to participate in the exercise since it began in 1993. The first time that the PN sent a ship was in 1999. PN observers were also sent in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

Mogol also said that PN’s participation is expected to enhance its surface warfare capabilities and interoperability with regional navies.

Commies hurt 3 officers, burn equipment in fresh attacks

Posted to the Mindanao Gold Star Daily (Aug 16): Commies hurt 3 officers, burn equipment in fresh attacks

THREE policemen were wounded while three heavy equipment were destroyed in separate attacks staged early yesterday by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in remote villages in KoronadalCity and Tampakan town in South Cotabato.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said an estimated 20 to 30 heavily armed rebels aboard a commandeered utility van initially stormed a quarry site along the ToplandRiver in KoronadalCity at around 4 am and torched three heavy equipment owned by a local construction company.

She said the three heavy equipment, which were deployed in a quarry site in Purok Riverside in Barangay Topland, were totally destroyed.

The suspects attempted to burn two other equipment owned by a quarry operator but failed to inflict any significant damage, she said.

About 30 minutes later, Fuentes said, two suspected rebels aboard a motorcycle lobbed a grenade at a detachment of the South Cotabato Police Public Safety Company (PPSC) in Barangay Sta. Cruz in Tampakan, injuring three policemen.

“These attacks were clearly coordinated and the circumstances showed that they were the handiwork of the NPA,” the governor said in a radio interview.

Dads Bacalso, operations head of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office, said the suspects reportedly came to the area aboard two utility vans.

She said 10 of the suspects initially held at gunpoint the caretaker of a quarry site operated by the construction firm of Engr. Fernando Bascon and proceeded to pour gasoline and burn the three heavy equipment that comprised a grader, loader and crusher.

The caretaker said the suspects were clad in Army fatigues, “in full battle gear” and were speaking in Cebuano or Visayan dialect, she said.

Bacalso said the suspects then turned to two other loaders owned by quarry operator Engr. Edwin Bonilla and tried to burn them but reportedly ran out of gasoline.

She said the armed men then hastily left the area aboard the utility vans, one of which was later found abandoned in Purok Randal of Sitio Tabialong in nearby Barangay Cacub.

The area is located near the boundary of KoronadalCity and Columbio town in Sultan Kudarat.

Bacalso said they were assessing the damage caused by the attack but an aide of Engr. Bascon, who is an uncle of Koronadal City Mayor Peter Miguel, placed the value of the destroyed heavy equipment at around P8 million.

She said they were also verifying reports that the area’s quarry operators had received threats from an undisclosed armed group prior to the attack.

Meantime, Senior Insp. Joel Fuerte, deputy police chief of the Tampakan municipal police station, said pursuit operations are currently ongoing against the suspected NPA rebels who attacked the PPSC detachment in Barangay Sta. Cruz.

He said the operations are focused on the two motorcycle riding-in-tandem suspects who hurled the grenade.

Citing their initial investigation, the suspects used an improvised grenade in the attack that slightly injured three PPSC personnel assigned at the detachment.

“It was plain harassment and clearly meant to sow fear among local residents and those assigned at the detachment,” Fuerte added.

In the afternoon, rebels fired at a vehicle providing security to controversial mining firm Sagittarius Mines Inc. in Tampakan, South Cotabato.

Senior Insp. Sherwin Maglana, Tampakan police chief, said the vehicle of Catena Security Inc., an affiliate of England-based Group Four Securicor or G4S, was strafed by suspected NPA rebels in Barangay Danlag.

No one was hurt in the incident that occurred at around 2 pm, he added.
The vehicle, which had “four to eight persons,” was hit in the rear portion, Maglana said.

Tampakan town hosts the largest known undeveloped copper-gold resources in Southeast Asia pursued by SMI, which is backed by foreign firms Xstrata Plc and Indophil Resources NL.

Communist rebels have repeatedly warned before to attack the company if it will not stop pursuing the mining project.

On New Year’s Day 2008, the NPA rebels stormed and burned the basecamp of SMI in the village of Tablu in Tampakan, damaging facilities and equipment worth at least P12 million.

Last May, the communist rebels also attacked and burned the base camp of SMI in Barangay Kimlawis in Kiblawan, Davao del Sur.

The mining project also straddles the provinces of Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.

MILF: BTC pays courtesy call to Cotabato City Mayor Guiani

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 16): BTC pays courtesy call to Cotabato City Mayor Guiani

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) delegation headed by Co-Deputy Chair Akmad Sakkam was welcomed by City Mayor Japal Guiani, Jr. in a courtesy call paid by the former at the People’s Palace in this city on August 12.
The BTC was thankful for Mayor Guiani’s expression of support who said that “Cotabato City is very much willing to give assistance.”

“Everyone is for peace,” Guiani said.

Comm. Raissa Jajurie made a presentation on the BTC’s activities. She mentioned how the commission submitted a proposed draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on April 22, 2014 to the Office of the President (OP) for review. On June 21, 2014, the OP returned the proposed BBL draft containing comments and revisions which BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal described as “heavily diluted” version of the BBL. The BTC then issued a resolution on July 3, 2014 to elevate the issue to the MILF and GPH panels in order to come with a mutually agreed BBL draft which is expected to be achieved by August 18, 2014.

Mayor Guiani expressed hoped that the peace process keeps moving forward. As he said, “sana tuloy-tuloy na.”

Guiani also stressed the importance of peace in Mindanao.

“Peace is a very elusive dream. If that could be attained for a long lasting peace in Mindanao, everybody will live in harmony and the next generation will enjoy the fruits of these ongoing talks,” he said.

All of the BTC Commissioners were present except for Commissioner Peter Eisma who was in Zamboanga to attend a very important forum and Chairman Mohagher Iqbal who sent a letter to Mayor Guiani informing him that he could not make it to the courtesy call as he needs to be with his son who was diagnosed with dengue.

The BTC’s office is located in Cotabato City, one of the cities included in the proposed core territory of the Bangsamoro that will undergo a plebiscite in 2015.

Pamatong accused of forced MNLF recruitment

From ABS-CBN (Aug 16): Pamatong accused of forced MNLF recruitment

Residents of a barangay in Cagayan de Oro City were allegedly harassed by Ely Pamatong, who claims to be the lawyer of fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari.

Pamatong, who rose to infamy in 2004 after his supporters scattered steel spikes on EDSA following his derailed presidential bid, allegedly harassed residents to force them to join the MNLF.

Those who do not want to join were forced to leave the area, villagers said.

They added that Pamatong was claiming that the 10,000 square-meter land is owned by a certain "Kumander Lahi."

Many of the residents, like Marino Rivera, said they have land titles to prove their ownership.

A dialogue was held between Pamatong and the residents of the compound on Thursday.

Pamatong denied the villagers' allegations and said the residents are welcome to stay in the compound.

BIFF now called 'terrorists,' admits ISIS ties

From the Philippine Star (Aug 16): BIFF now called 'terrorists,' admits ISIS ties

The Army's 6th Infantry Division will start referring  to Imam Ameril Ombra Kato and his men only as plain bandits and terrorists, not as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

"They have been making lives of non-combatants, the civilians, in areas where they operate so miserable. They don't have a clear revolutionary ideology so they are not revolutionaries as what they assert," said Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of 6th ID, which has jurisdiction over Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

Hermoso said Kato's gang of mostly wanted gunmen does not qualify as a revolutionary group for its continued use of civilians either as human shields when they engage in combat with government forces or as subjects for excessive taxation to sustain their needs.

Kato and a group of radical clerics, some wanted for criminal offenses, organized the BIFF in 2010, after he was booted out while senior commander from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front due to insubordination and irreconcilable differences with the MILF's central committee.

Hermoso said units of the 6th ID will continue to guard against attacks by bandits led by Kato and his two trusted lieutenants, clerics Tambako and Karialan, whose followers are suspected to have perpetrated more than 20 roadside bombings in Maguindanao since January.

The group's spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, an ethnic Maguindanaon, announced on Saturday that they have allied with the dreaded Independent State of Iraq and Syria or ISIS and supports the ambition of its leader, Abu Bak'r Al-Baghdadi, to establish an Islamic caliphate in the Middle East.

Kato's men are notorious for their ruthless enforcement of a Taliban-style justice system in areas where they have lairs.

Warfare is prohibited during the holy Islamic month of Ramadhan where physically-fit Muslims fast from dawn to dusk for one lunar cycle, or about 28-29 days, as a religious obligation.

"They launch attacks during the Islamic Ramadhan season, causing massive dislocation of civilians," Hermoso said.

Hermoso said soldiers pursuing bandits that repeatedly attacked this week the Army detachments in Maguindanao's Sharif Saidona and Datu Piang towns found shabu in sealed sachets and drug sniffing paraphernalia along their escape routes.

"That's an indication that they are hooked to illegal drugs too," Hermoso said.

10 Things to Know About the World’s Longest Communist Revolution

Opinion piece posted to the online pro-CPP publication, Bulatlat (Aug 15): 10 Things to Know About the World’s Longest Communist Revolution


1. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) was reestablished on December 26, 1968 in Alaminos, Pangasinan. Its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), was formed on March 29, 1969 in Capas, Tarlac. The revolutionary alliance, National Democratic Front (NDF), was founded on April 24, 1973. The CPP-NPA-NDF view armed revolution as the effective and ultimate solution to replace the existing system which they believe is already beyond redemption.

Since its inception, the CPP has been inspired by the teachings of communist leaders Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin and most especially Mao Zedong, because of the country’s similarities to the conditions in China before the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949. The early leaders of the NPA came from veteran members of the Huk army, which led the Filipino resistance against the invading Japanese force during World War II, peasants and the youth. The NDF laid out its 10-point program (later expanded into a 12-point program) as basis of unity in establishing a people’s democratic republic.

2. The Maoist military strategy of encircling the cities from the countryside was adopted by the CPP which was unprecedented because no archipelagic nation has ever done this. The NPA preserved its strength and thrived even under the harsh conditions during Martial Law. It waged a nationwide guerrilla war without the geographical advantage of Vietnam whose neighboring states were either communist or anti-American.

3. In the 1980s, most of the communist parties in Southeast Asia have been already defeated or disbanded but the CPP achieved remarkable military strength and political influence during this period. The Armed Forces of the Philippines has even claimed that the NPA reached its peak in 1986 when the number of its fighters was estimated to be about 25,000 across the country. The NPA has denied that it reached this size although a few years ago it made a declaration that it already surpassed its armed strength in the 1980s in terms of number of fighters with high powered rifles.

4. The reestablishment of the CPP was a legacy of the rectification movement initiated by young activists who summed up the bitter experience of the old Communist Party (Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas, 1930) which suffered significant political losses in the 1950s. Three decades later, the CPP would launch another rectification campaign to reaffirm its founding principles.

When the Soviet bloc disintegrated, the CPP was among the few communist parties in the world which continued to defend Marxism. It argued that revisionism, not socialism, which was discredited when Soviet Russia collapsed in the 1990s.

The CPP became the first Philippine political party to admit that it committed serious political errors in the 1980s. According to the CPP, these grave mistakes led to the substantial reduction of its mass base and mass support most especially in the provinces. It also apologized for the excesses and human rights violations perpetrated by some NPA units.

The rectification campaign lasted throughout the 1990s which the CPP credited for the resurgence of the local mass movement. The Philippine government will be the first to dispute this but what is certain is that the CPP has remained a major political force in the country; and after 45 years, it continues to lead the world’s longest Maoist revolution.

5. The CPP benefited from the revival of progressive activism in the 1960s which came to be known as the national democratic movement. The ND movement was partly inspired by the “Second Propaganda Movement” advocated by Filipino statesman and nationalist intellectual Claro M Recto.

6. The revolutionary political program of the CPP is its major advantage over the dull, elitist and anti-people agenda of mainstream trapo parties. Land reform continues to be its centerpiece program in the countryside, thus the continuing support of poor farmers for the armed revolution. Then and now, its commitment to end inequality and oppression has attracted the support of many sectors and intellectuals. Women’s rights, gender equality, IP empowerment, environment protection, workers rights, socialized housing, free education, free healthcare – and many other advocacies we hear today have been articulated already by the cadres of the CPP-NPA-NDF in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

7. Through its nationwide network that can reach the remotest parts of the archipelago, the CPP has immensely contributed to the spread and development of the Filipino language. From the start, the CPP has consciously and creatively used the language of the masses in its publications, organizational documents, and community activities. It has also pushed for the preservation, enrichment and popularization of our cultural heritage, especially the protection of IP practices.

The political practices of the CPP also had a profound impact in the academe. Marxism and its related subject matters became proper academic disciplines after the CPP gained strength and influence in the 1970s. It also encouraged the mainstreaming of nationalist historiography and radical scholarship by challenging academics to merge theory and practice, revise the colonial orientation of Philippine education and make university researches relevant and responsive to the concrete needs of the Filipino people.

8. The peace talks between the NDF and successive Philippine governments started in 1986. Both parties signed several agreements including the landmark agreement known as the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law or CARHRIHL in 1998.

9. The CPP was outlawed which prevented it from participating in the elections or revealing the identities of its leading cadres and members. But even if membership in the CPP is no longer a crime today, it is still dangerous to express support for the CPP because of the continuing irrational red scare in the mainstream bureaucracy, especially in the armed forces.

The CPP has rejected the current reactionary electoral politics since it views the exercise as futile and a sham democratic ritual manipulated by the moneyed and warlord elite parties. It said that it respected the decision of some progressive and patriotic forces to join the reactionary elections but it remained firm in asserting that the principal form of struggle to achieve genuine change is still the protracted people’s war.

10. Joma Sison is the founding chairman of the CPP. In 1986, he was listed by the Bibliographical Dictionary of Marxism (London) as among the most important 200 Marxists since the 1848 Communist Manifesto. Sison sought asylum in the Netherlands after Cory Aquino cancelled his passport while he was in a lecture tour in Europe in 1988.

Last March, the Philippine army claimed that it arrested the top cadres of the CPP: Benito Tiamzon and Wilma Austria.

The people’s war is currently not yet strong enough to topple the ruling system but as long as the dominant system continues to be in tatters, the revolutionary upheaval promised by the CPP-NPA-NDF will remain a formidable alternative that gives hope to the masses, including this author.

Mong Palatino is a Filipino activist and former legislator. He is the chairman of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Metro Manila. Email:

Pullout of PH peacekeepers urged

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 16): Pullout of PH peacekeepers urged

The Department of National Defense (DND) has recommended to President Benigno Aquino III the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers stationed in Golan Heights and Liberia, due to the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa and the tense situation in the Middle East.

According to defense secretary Voltaire Gazmin, if Filipino peacekeepers are not securely protected from certain risks, stopping their deployment is another option.

“If they (peacekeepers) are not given the proper equipment and tools for their protection, perhaps we should not continue risking our soldiers like that,” he said.

Gazmin clarified that the DND’s recommendation to pull out Filipino forces does not cover Haiti.

“Not all troops will be pulled out. This was recommended only in areas where there are risks to health or security of our forces,” he said.

The DND came up with the recommendation after a recent military assessment on the situation of the deployed Filipino soldiers to the United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The country has military troops stationed in Liberia, Haiti and Golan Heights as part of the UN peacekeeping troops.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesperson Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala says there are 115 soldiers in Liberia, 332 in Golan Heights and 157 in Haiti.

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia has prompted the United Nations to restrict the movement of peacekeepers to prevent them from getting infected.

On the other hand, Golan Heights is being disputed by Israel and Syria.
Last year, 25 members of the 6th Philippine contingent were kidnapped, but eventually freed by Syrian rebels in two separate incidents.

In June, a peacekeeper belonging to the same contingent was injured when mortar rounds allegedly fired by Syrian rebels landed inside a UN logistics headquarters in Golan Heights.

New guard of West PH Sea: Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez

From Rappler (Aug 16): New guard of West PH Sea: Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez

The military recognizes Wescom's complicated balancing act of defending the country's claims without escalating the tension in the disputed waters

NEW WESCOM CHIEF: Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez. Wescom photo
  NEW WESCOM CHIEF: Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez. Wescom photo

A combative Navy Rear Admiral Alexander Lopez began his watch of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) this week as the country struggles to get the region’s support in curbing China’s aggressive buildup in disputed waters.

Undeterred by the shortage in the necessary capabilities, the new Western Command (Wescom) chief boasted of the troops’ commitment to guard the country’s claims.

Marahil, maliwanag pa sa sikat ng araw ang nagbabantang pagkamkam at pati na pagyurak ng ating yamang-dagat sa kanlurang bahagi ng ating bayan (The threat of occupation and even the desecration of our maritime resources in the western part of our country is as clear as sunshine),” Lopez said in his speech at the change of command ceremony at Wescom headquarters in Palawan on Wednesday, August 13.

Lopez didn’t mention China in his speech – military officers hardly do because of a supposed Palace gag order – but the message is clear.

May kaliitan man ang ating Sandatahang Lakas kumpara sa ating mga kalapit-bansa, makakaasa naman po kayo na buo at matibay ang aming loob sa pagbabantay at pagpapaigting ng seguridad ng ating bayan (Our Armed Forces may be a small compared to our neighbors’ but you can expect our wholehearted and strong commitment to guard and intensify the security of our country),” Lopez added.

At the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Myanmar last week, the Philippines proposed a moratorium on provocative activities in the South China Sea. In a joint communiqué, the foreign ministers said they “remained seriously concerned over recent developments which had increased tensions in the South China Sea.”

China rejected the proposal, however, and said it "can build what it wants in the South China Sea." (READ: Philippines’ problem: China thinks there is no problem)

Careful balancing game

Wescom is in charge of Palawan and the West Philippine Sea, including Scarborough Shoal off the cost of Zambales province in Luzon following adjustments to the command's coverage last year.

The military recognizes it is a complicated balancing act of defending the country's claims without escalating the tension in the disputed waters.

"The future of Philippine sovereignty lies in the hand of this command. Indeed, of all the units in the Armed Forces, it is the Western Command that is entrusted to be in the frontline of protecting our country's sovereignty," said Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr.

It's a "gargantuan task," Catapang said. "It is not easy to guard our territories in the highly-disputed West Philippine Sea, we all know that the sea is a very fragile flashpoint. One wrong move and the situation can escalate into a crisis," he added.

Navy takes the helm

Malampaya gas field. Photo from Sembcorp Marine
Malampaya gas field. Photo from Sembcorp Marine

The post was not supposed to be for Lopez. His classmate in the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982, Air Force Major General Nicanor Vivar, was supposed to get Westcom. But last minute changes brought Lopez back to Palawan, where he was once deployed. Vivar was appointed to head the Cebu-based Central Command (Centcom), which is in charge of the Visayas.

It's a sort of a homecoming for the decorated soldier, who previously served as commander of Joint Task Force Malampaya. It is also one of Wescom's critical tasks to guard the gas field located off Palawan that supplies power plants that provide 40% of the electricity needs of Luzon.

(The Malampaya gas field is said to have 2.7-trillion cubic feet of reserves but only an estimated 1.2-trillion cubic feet has been used.)

Lopez would become commander of the Fleet-Marine Ready Force and then deputy chief of staff for Education and Training (J8) before his appointment as Wescom chief.

Lopez finished in 2000 a course on Naval Staff College at the Naval War College in Rhode Island, US. In 2001 he completed a Defense Resource Management Course in Australia, and earned his Master in Business Economics at the University of Asia and the Pacific.

Focus on Ulugan Bay

Catapang said it's time to put a Navy officer in Westcom.

"The work is here is more for the Navy – naval projection. We need to protect our national interest, including the Malampaya gas field. He came from here, after all. You don't have to train somebody else. The learning curve in the Armed Forces can be difficult if you're not familiar with the work. Admiral Lopez already knows what to do," Catapang said.

The naval station in Palawan's Ulugan Bay, a strategic body of water that faces the West Philippine Sea, is seeing a lot of developments because of the military's shift from internal security to territorial defense. (READ: State of PH Navy modernization: 'Golden Days will return')

OYSTER BAY: The small bay inside Ulugan Bay serves as the operational base for Philippine warships. Rappler photo

OYSTER BAY: The small bay inside Ulugan Bay serves as the operational base for Philippine warships. Rappler photo

Wescom's Naval Forces West (Navforwest) was relocated in 2013 to a barangay facing Ulugan Bay from another barangay facing Honda Bay on the eastern part of Palawan Island. It means, among others, quicker deployment to the West Philippine Sea.

The naval outpost in Oyster Bay, a bay on the mouth of Ulugan Bay, is also being developed to become the operational base of the country’s warships. It is one of the areas that the Philippines wants the US military to use under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. The first official meeting to discuss EDCA locations will be held in October. (READ: Construction begins in 'US base' Oyster Bay)

These developments created new problems, however. Residents around Ulugan Bay have expressed concern about their livelihood and the environment. (READ: Oyster bay fishermen worry about naval outpost)

Lopez vowed that the local government units and other stakeholders will be constantly consulted to come up with "pragmatic and sustainable approaches."

Wescom is also dealing with the communist insurgency although their numbers have supposedly diminished.

In the tradition of the Navy, Lopez wished his predecessor fair winds, clear skies, and flowing seas as he leaves the military service. And then he bowed down and ended his speech with a prayer. His watch begins.

TESDA sets P335M skills development budget to help reintegrate MILF fighters

From InterAksyon (Aug 16): TESDA sets P335M skills development budget to help reintegrate MILF fighters

Aiming to help transform the lives of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters through technical-vocational education, and jumpstart development in the Bangsamoro areas, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) has allotted P335 million from the agency's 2015 budget for school-based and community-based training.

Of the P335 million, Secretary Joel Villanueva, Tesda Director General, said, some P202 million will cover school-based training inclusive of training fee, assessment fee, tool kits, training allowance, while the remaining amount was allocated for the community-based training.

"This funding is part of the Bangsamoro normalization program," Villanueva said, adding that an integral part of the normalization track anticipates the provision of tech-voc education for as many as 11,000 returning MILF rebels.

Villanueva said that the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) has articulated that this would be "for the training of [MILF] combatants who will be reintegrating ito civilian life. The recipients of the said project will be identified by the OPAPP and MILF leaders."

The move, he stressed to journalists, is one way of empowering the Bangsamoro people to be productive members of the community and the country.

Last year, at least 1,000 scholarship vouchers were made available to MILF rebel returnees or their dependents to give them access to skills training and jobs.

Sajahatra Bangsamoro, or Peace Bangsamoro, is the Aquino administration's socio-economic initiative to uplift the health, education and livelihood conditions of the MILF communities.

Tesda, together with the Department of Education and Commission on Higher Education, will play a key role in the initiative through the provision of education assistance to MILF members long deprived of government support.

Tesda will be partnering with public and private institutions for the training of the scholars.

In areas where there are no training providers, the Tesda Provincial Office will assist the scholars in looking for the nearest provider.

Another option is for the institution to conduct the training right in the area where the scholars are located.

PAF dispatches Huey II to help fight Baler forest fire

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): PAF dispatches Huey II to help fight Baler forest fire

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Saturday deployed another Huey II helicopter to help combat the ongoing forest fire in Sitio Diguisit, Barangay Zabali, Baler town, Aurora Friday.

The aircraft was from the Air Force's 505th Search-and-Rescue Group, PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya said.

He added that the Huey II, which was fitted with firefighting equipment, was deployed last Friday.

Canaya said that the aircraft and its crew immediately performed three sorties and dropped 58 "Bambi" drops in the affected areas.

Each "Bambi" bucket is equivalent to five drums of water.

Canaya said that their "Bambi" bucket operations are still ongoing as of Saturday morning under the supervision of the Tactical Operations Group 3 commander Lt. Col. Aristotle Gonzalez.

This is in coordination with Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and other government agencies in the area.

AFP acquiring equipment resistant to 'climate change'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): AFP acquiring equipment resistant to 'climate change'

With climate change now a growing concern worldwide, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang announced that the military is now acquiring equipment which can be deployed even in the most inclement and vilest weather conditions.

He added that this requirement was included in the ongoing acquisition of modern ships for the Navy and patrol aircraft for the Air Force.

"There is a need to acquire more robust aircraft and ships, capable of flying and sailing, even during the strongest of typhoons," Catapang pointed out.

And having these capabilities will along these military assets give the country a much needed boost in conducting humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in wake of calamities.

The AFP chief added that steps are also underway to ensure that all military camps and bases in the country more resistant to typhoon damage so that they play their role as the sallying point of military responders.

A look at the AFP's 'Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 16): A look at the AFP's 'Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile'

While known to the world as the home of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), not many people are aware that Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, which is located in Quezon City, has its museum dedicated to Filipino military culture, tradition, and history.

While not as grand, imposing or well filled with artistic relics and historical and beautiful portraits, the AFP's "Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile" makes more for its lack by having numerous displays of campaign medals, antiques and present day weaponry which showcase the Filipinos' willingness to fight, defend, and die, if necessary, for the Motherland.

And to show how colorful Philippine history is, curators of the "Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile" have divided the facility into different periods of our country's historical past and these are:

-The pre-colonial period;

-Spanish colonial period;

-American colonial period;

-And the Japanese occupation.

Besides these, portions dedicated to weaponry and warfare development in the 20th and 21st century are also presented.

Our tour of the "Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile" started on the discussion of the relics from the pre-colonial period.

Our tour guide (whom I had mistaken for his military bearing and demeanor) named Rhei, showed us the museum collection of our ancestors’ early weapons.

He first showed us two versions of the Filipino sword called "Kris".

The short version , which is curved and looks like frozen lightning is used for battles or combat, while the long one is used for religious and political ceremonies.

We then moved to the "Sibat" and "Kalasag" (spear and shield) display.

Rhei told us to look closer at the design and shape of the "Kalasag" which was somewhat three feet in dimension, oval in shape and curved on its center.

He said that the shield was designed like this to deflect the objects thrown against it.

The shield would distribute the force it received from the object hence protecting its holder much better.

During that part of the tour I noticed those little details that make the weapons so unique.

The handle of the "Kris" was very much detailed and seems like that the Filipino designer invested sweat, blood, and tears to perfect the sword.

While the design of the "Kalasag" also demonstrated that ancient Filipino warrior have some basic idea on how to deflect projectile weapons like arrows and sling shots (tirador) with their curved designs and patterns on the shield.

Aside from antique weapons from the pre-colonial period, "Bulwagang Heneral Arturo T. Enrile" also boast of an archive where letters of Apolinario Mabini to then Malolos Republic President Emilio Aguinaldo were stored.

Besides these items of historical interest, the museum also displays weapons, maps, relics, World War II peso bills and even a diorama of the combat highlights of the war against the Japanese invader.

Among the highlights of the modern warfare displays were the portraits of people who received the Medal of Valor, a medal awarded to the bravest of the bravest soldiers who sacrificed a lot just to protect and defend the country.