Monday, August 18, 2014

Troops find slain NPA member's body in Compostela

From the Philippine Star (Aug 18): Troops find slain NPA member's body in Compostela

The body of an unidentified New People’s Army (NPA) member was recovered in Maco, Compostela Valley a day after an encounter between government troops and the rebels.

1Lt. Vergel Lacambra, civil-military operations officer of the Army’s 66th battalion, said the cadaver was recovered last Saturday by local officials at Purok 5 in Barangay Gubatan.

“The cadaver was found by a civilian in the encounter site abandoned by the rebel group after the intense firefight with the government operating troops,” Lacambra said in a statement issued Monday.

“The troops immediately asked the assistance of the local officials for the transport of the cadaver from Barangay Gubatan,” he added.

The body of the slain rebel was brought to Landa Funeral Homes for proper burial.

Lacambra said soldiers were in the area to conduct security operations after a cache of high-powered firearms was discovered inside a house last week.

Ex-militia killed, wife hurt in Zamboanga ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 18): Ex-militia killed, wife hurt in Zamboanga ambush

Motorcycle gunmen ambushed three family members on another motorcycle and killing the 51-year patriarch in Zamboanga del Sur province in southern Philippines, police said Monday.

Police Rolando Vics, a former government militia, was killed in the attack and his wife, Leticia, 49, had been shot and wounded in the arm. Their son, Marlon, was unscathed from the weekend attack which occurred near a bridge at Sitio Alegre in Lower Landing village in Dumingag town.

The gunmen fled after the shooting. Police said it is investigating the motive of the attack or if communist rebels were involved in the ambush. The province is a known stronghold of the New People’s Army rebels fighting for a separate state in the country.

Agusan NPA rebels raid mayor’s house

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 19): Agusan NPA rebels raid mayor’s house

At least 20 New People’s Army rebels raided the home of Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur Mayor John Roby Otero on Saturday (August 16) in Barangay Poblacion in the latest of a series of rebel attacks victimizing Agusan mayors.

Sta. Josefa Municipal Councilor Reynaldo Quijada,  a former provincial board member of Agusan del Sur said the NPA attack on the mayor’s house was a propaganda to spite  the military.

But the attack will boomerang on them (NPAs) because Otero served the people of Sta. Josefa with utmost dedication and sincerity.

Why the NPA  chose to raid Otero’s house was puzzling,  Quijada said.

Otero is the provincial chairman of the Liberal Party of Agusan del Sur during the 2013 elections and a nephew of former Sta. Josefa Mayor and losing LP Gubernatorial bet for Agusan del Sur Isosceles  Otero.

The Oteros are political rivals of the Plaza clan now headed by Agusan del Sur Governor Eddie Plaza. His two sisters are members of the House of Representatives for Agusan del Sur.

Sta. Josefa,  situated at the boundaries of Agusan del Sur and Davao, Compostela provinces, is about 200 kilometers away from Butuan City, Caraga region’s regional center and capital.

The raid on  the town’s chief executive was the second incident involving  the NPAs for the third quarter of this year alone. Last June 8, the NPA swooped down on the house of another town mayor Ramon Calo of Carmen in Caraga Region.

NPA rebels belonging to the Western Agusan del Norte-Agusan del Sur Sub-regional Command stormed the house Calo which is just across the Carmen Municipal Police Station and the Municipal Hall.

Calo was not in his house at the time of the raid as he was in Manila visiting his wife and children who have opted to stay in Manila for good. Calo’s wife was former mayor of Carmen.

MNLF siege exacts toll on Zambo trade

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 19): MNLF siege exacts toll on Zambo trade

The siege by the fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013 caused the economy in this highly urbanized city and in the entire Western Mindanao to plunge.

The three-week attack caused Western Mindanao’s economy to dip by 8.64 percent, or to 4.34 percent in 2013 from 12.98 percent in 2012, the National Statistical Coordination Board said here recently.

NSCB  Region 9 Director Mewchun Pamaran said the raid also adversely affected the economy of other parts of Western Mindanao that covers Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay and Zamboanga del Norte and their urban communities.

The assault caused the massive destruction of the semi-urban Muslim-Christian villages of Sta. Catalina, Rio Hondo, Sta. Barbara, Talon-Talon and Kasanyangan, prompting the city government to relocate thousands of displaced residents to the eight-hectare Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex in Barangay  Baliwasan and other  evacuation sites.

The siege caused the death of some 300 responding soldiers and policemen, rebels and civilians and wounded many others. It also moved many victims to  take refuge with their relatives in other parts of the region even as plane flights from Manila and bus travel within the region were suspended during the period.

Pamaran said Western Mindanao’s industry sector plunged “from 31.2 percent in 2012 to 4.3 percent in 2013, while its manufacturing sub-sector, which accounts for 26.1 percent of the total economy, sank to 0.1 percent in 2013 from 35.2 percent in 2012 due to the decline in food production.”

He said the other sub-sectors of industry such as mining and quarrying, construction, electricity, gas and water supply or EGWS were also affected, “with mining and quarrying dwindling from 0.6 percent in 2012 to -13.0 percent in 2013 due to the decline in gold production, ”while the EGWS recorded a “depleted growth of 2.9 percent in 2013 from 4.0 percent  in 2012.”

Due to the slowdown in Transport, Storage and Communication OR TSC, Trade and Repair, and Real Estate Renting and Business OR RERB, Pamaran said, the Service sector also waned last year to 6.1 percent  from 9.6 percent  two years ago.

Pamaran said TSC’s “8.2 percent  in 2012 diminished to 2.4 percent in 2013 while Trade and Repair shrank by 8.4 percent,  or from 10.5 percent  in 2012 to 2.1 percent last year.”

RERB also “plunged by 13.3 percent, or from 17.3 percent in 2012 to 4.0 percent in 2013, although Financial Intermediation grew from 11.7 percent in 2012 to 14.2 percent  last year due to the increased outputs of banks and non-banks,”  added Pamaran who remained  optimistic that with the aggressive effort of local government  leaders, coupled with the  support of civic groups, Western Mindanao will rise from the ashes of the tragic event.

AFP has bigger wars to face than be involved in coup plots—Catapang

From GMA News (Aug 18): AFP has bigger wars to face than be involved in coup plots—Catapang
The country has bigger wars to face in the 21st century and the Armed Forces of the Philippines can't afford to be involved in petty bickering among politicians, AFP Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Monday.

"Sabi ko nga in the 21st century we will be faced by global problems, global terrorism, global climate change, global maritime concern, and then global transnational crime," Catapang told Jessica Soho on GMA News TV's State of the Nation.
Catapang didn't mention it specifically but the Philippines is involved in a dispute with China over territories in the West Philippine Sea.

The new military chief asked for support for the modest modernization the Armed Forces was undergoing.

"So ito pong first horizon, we will have a minimum defense posture. Kumbaga sa boxing hindi basta-basta ma-knockdown ng kung sino mang maging kalaban natin," Catapang said.

"Kahit bantam weight tayo kahit siguro heacyweight yung klalaban yung first round naman siguro magsu-survive tayo," he added.

Catapang asked for a supplemental budget after the Disbursement Acceleration Program was declared partially unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

With the new wars that the country would face, he said it was important that facilities such as military camps be improved as well.

A former member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, Catapang clarified that he was never involved in any destabilization attempt against the administration of former President Corazon Aquino in the 1980s.

He said that after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, he suggested to RAM leader, then Colonel Gregorio Honasan, if they could already disband the reform movement.

AFP chief: Military will secure Palparan so he can stand trial

From GMA News (Aug 19): AFP chief: Military will secure Palparan so he can stand trial

The military is not coddling retired Major General Jovito Palparan Jr., the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said Monday, adding Palparan must be secured so he can be tried.

AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said in an interview on "State of the Nation with Jessica Soho" Monday night that the military will secure the general, who has been charged with kidnapping and serious illegal detention, so he can face justice.

"Di ba gusto natin humarap si General Palparan sa hustisya? Eh, anong mangyayari po kung pababayaan natin yung security niya? Kung mamamatay siya, paano tayo makakakuha ng justice kung may pagkakamali si General Palparan?," he said.

He said the military will continue to provide additional security as long as the court allows them to do so, pointing out that Palparan has yet to be proven guilty of the charges against him.

Palparan was brought to his arraignment at a Bulacan court on Monday by a convoy of National Bureau of Investigation and Armed Forces of the Philippines vehicles.

"Ang importante, mabuhay si General Palparan, maimbestigahan, and finally, ultimately, mapakita ... mahusaghan kung talagang nagkamali ba siya o nagcommit ng human rights violations," Catapang said.

Palparan has been charged in connection with the disappearance of UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño in 2006.

Palparan was arrested last week in Sta. Mesa, Manila after almost three years in hiding.

On Monday, the Bulacan court handling the cases against him entered a "not guilty" plea for him after he refused to enter one.

DND declares failure of bidding for P5.9-billion Air Force planes

From the Business Mirror (Aug 17): DND declares failure of bidding for P5.9-billion Air Force planes

The bidding for the acquisition of two long-range patrol aircraft for the military with a contract price of P5.9 billion is technically back to square one, after all the proponents failed in the initial stage of the delivery process.

Without precluding the decision of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on the motion for reconsideration that the failed bidders may file, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said that last week’s opening of bid documents was a failure.

As such, the Department of National Defense’s Special Bids and   Awards Committee (SBAC), headed by Manalo, will conduct a rebidding, wherein all of the disqualified bidders, and even those of other defense contractors that are interested over the project, may join.

“Not a single one qualified for the project and, at the end of the committee meeting or at the end of the bidding process, we declared the bidding as failed,” Manalo said.

At least 10 firms have earlier expressed their interest to supply the long-range aircraft, which are being procured under the modernization program of the military; but during the opening of bids on Monday last week, only seven submitted documents.

These firms are Elbit Systems Ltd. and Elta Systems Ltd. both of Israel, EADS-Casa, SAAB-Asia Pacific, L-3 Mission Integrated, PT Dergantara of Indonesia and Lockheed Martin, an American company considered as one of the world’s biggest defense contractor.

Manalo said that while the two Israeli companies went through the initial stage, which involved documentation, they failed in the further evaluation involving technical specifications for the project.

On the other hand, the five other companies immediately failed in the first stage.

The two Israeli contractors and the other defense suppliers manifested their intentions to file an appeal, which, under the BAC rules, they can do so within three days.

“You’ll be surprised to note, some of the reasons you thought would not happen. For example, the requirement of our laws is for the proponents to submit a list of ongoing contracts. You need it to determine the net financing capability of the company. Because you have your assets, your liabilities, and so you have your networking capital. But you would deduct there the contracts to arrive at a net financing capability. One of them is PT Dergantara of Indonesia,” Manalo said.

“PT Dergantara of Indonesia won in the bidding of our light-lift aircraft, so we have a contract with them, but it did not include it on its list of ongoing contracts. Everybody knew that we have a contract with them,” he added.

“It did not cheat, it seems like it wanted to bump its head. Carelessness,” Manalo said of the Indonesian company.

He said the same mistake was committed by EADS-Casa, which has won the contract for the delivery of medium-lift aircraft to the Air Force, but did not also include it on its list of ongoing projects.

“It is the responsibility of the bidder, of the proponent to see to it that the documents they are submitting are correct,” the chairman of the Special BAC said.

Manalo believed that the firms will not commit the same mistakes again for the second bidding.

“No more, it’s too much of stupidity if they still fail because of paper works,” he said.

President Aquino to concentrate on draft BBL: Secretary Coloma

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 18): President Aquino to concentrate on draft BBL: Secretary Coloma

A report by ABS-CBN said on Sunday, August 17 that, President Benigno Aquino III will focus his attention in reviewing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) once it is submitted to him on Monday, August 18.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview by DZRB that, “It is in view of the timetable set by the government for the elections of officials of the Bangsamoro Political Entity to coincide with the 2016 elections”.

“Bibigyan ito ng Pangulo ng prayoridad na atensyon upang maihain sa Kongreso ang draft Bangsamoro Basic Law sa lalong madaling panahon, alinsunod sa roadmap at timetable para sa ganap na pagtatatag ng Bangsamoro Trasitional Assembly, at ang paghahalal ng mga opisyal ng Bangsamoro Political Entity kasabay sa pambansang halalan sa 2016,” he said.

This means that by the first quarter of 2015, a Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly should already be in place.

“Ito ay magaganap kung makapapasa sa plebisito ang Bangsamoro Basic Law na inaasahan din nating ipapasa ng ating Kongreso. So mula po doon sa ultimate goal sa 2016, doon po ‘yung pagtataya ng mga timeline na atin pong tinitingnan,” Coloma said.

The GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace panels ended their workshops on August 10, the contents of the draft BBL crafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) but diluted by Malacañang legal team.

In a joint statement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and BTC Chair Mohagher Iqbal said: “The parties have agreed that the resolutions arrived at by both parties will be incorporated into the final draft Basic Bangsamoro Law that will be prepared and submitted to President Benigno S. Aquino III.”

The BBL is an urgent measure that Malacañang asked Congress to give priority among other urgent bills.

“Prayoridad na programa ang nais na maipasa sa hanay ng kasaysayan na makapagtatag tayo ng Bangsamoro Political Entity… Deka-dekada na ang lumipas at binibilang doon sa pagpupunyagi na makamit ‘yung kaunlaran sa Kamindanawan, at isang malaking bahagi nito ‘yung estabilidad at kaayusan at kaunlaran doon sa lugar na sinasakupan ng Bangsamoro,” Coloma said.

MILF: Zamboanga City turns down JICA funded BDA Project

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 18): Zamboanga City turns down JICA funded BDA Project

WHY ZAMBOANGA? City Administrator Antonio Orendain asked Tony Sakalahul, Regional Managing Officer (RMO) of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) for Zamboanga-Basilan ( ZamBas ) Region, after knowing the latter purpose of visit to the Mayor's Office.
"Why not give it to other place in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)?” Orendain added, referring to the proposed infra project which is supposed to be awarded to the poor and needy people of Sacol Island. A warehouse and a Solar Dryer are to be constructed particularly in Barangay Landang Lawum upon validation of the area by the BDA inspecting team and with the green light of Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco- Salazar.

The administrator had to say about the unpredictable outcome of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as an excuse for the obvious refusal of BDA Development offer.

Sakalahul made it clear to Orendain by explaining the mandate, the mission, the vision and the scope of areas covered for development by the BDA.
"BDA is one of the two institutions born out of peace negotiation between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), whose mandate is not bind by the ratification or promulgation of the BBL. The other one is the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

From its advent in as early as year 2001 it has always been engaged in implementing various internationally funded projects in Mindanao. Even in Luzon and Visayas regions we can extend our services if needs arises," Sakalahul emphasized.

"Even if BBL could not make it to what it should be, BDA shall continue to exist by virtue of its development mandate", he added.

A member of Mindanao Alliance for Peace and Development (MAPAD) who accompanied Sakalahul interfered in the course of conversation saying, " I am also a legitimate Zamboangueño but I don’t see nothing wrong if the city government would allow some internationally-funded projects implemented by the BDA in some of our 98 Barangays especially in far flung island barangays such as Landang Lawum, among others."

Orendain told the BDA officials that there is no need for them to put up development projects in Sacol Island or anywhere in 98 barangays in Zamboanga City. This is because the City Government has its own development plan for the entire city.

Driven by suspicion that the BDA is MILF-run agency, Orendain cited Zamboanga City constituents' perception over the presence of the Moro front in the city as a serious security threat. "First, he said, the establishment of Political Committee Office in barangay Kawit. Second, recently the aborted Mining activity in barangay Baluno. We can no longer allow third incident", he asserted.

 Whereupon, Sakalahul reacted and explained further that the BDA programs are being sanctioned by the GPH and the MILF as well as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). This is probably the best time for us to provide assistance to your constituents if you allow us to show our good intention as we have nobly done during the distribution of our donated relief goods to evacuees in the Grandstand, Taluksangay and Baliwasan on November of 2013. We even had picture taking with the Mayor in her office”, Sakalahul recalled.

Hesitant to say directly "NO", hiding his true gesture of refusal, Orendain told BDA officials to wait until the people of Zamboanga is consulted. Thereupon, Sakalahul asked," Until how long shall we have to wait? We have timeframe to beat. We've got no luxury of time. We are tasked by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to get the validation job done by August 18 2014."

In that case, Orendain straightforwardly responded, "LOOK FOR ANOTHER PLACE OUTSIDE ZAMBOANGA CITY."

No amount of words can change the mind of the Hispanic Zamboangueños on matters related to Bangsamoro. Be it good or bad for as long as it is BM, their response is always NO.

In spite of being affected by the straightforwardness of the Hispanic Zamboangueño, Sakalahul and company left the City Hall with friendly gesture. With this, no doubt the Moros in Zamboanga City would be deprived of benefits the envisioned Bangsamoro Government would have to offer if they do not act something for a change.

DND kickoffs 75th founding anniversary celebration

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): DND kickoffs 75th founding anniversary celebration

With its 75th founding anniversary still three months away, the Department of National Defense (DND) kicked-off celebrations for the historic event during simple flag ceremonies Monday morning.

With the theme, "75 Taong Sandigan ng Mamamayan, Tapat na Naglilingkod sa Bayan,” the DND aims to highlight its commitment "to honor the past, secure the present and plan for the future."

The DND was founded on Nov. 10, 1939. It was created under the National Defense Act (Commonwealth Act No. 1) which was passed in Dec. 31, 1935.

"Defense of our nation and its people was given due importance by our forefathers. As an important step to nation building, we needed to prove to the rest of the world that we Filipinos can hold and protect what we own, stand by our ideals, and ensure the safety of our people and country," DND Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said.

"Seventy-five years later, we are standing here as members of this great institution, continuing the work started by the very first defense personnel led by Secretary Teofilo Sison. Our duties and responsibilities may have expanded and evolved over time, but the core reason why we exist remain the same," he added.

In honor of its "Diamond" anniversary, the DND will hold a series of activities from August to November.

As part of its commitment to sustainable development of the environment, the DND will conduct tree-planting activities for around 300,000 seedlings in various sites across the country.

Among the planting sites are the grounds of the DND in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, the National Defense College of the Philippines, the AFP General Headquarters, Mt. Samat Shrine in Bataan, Capaz National Shrine in Tarlac, Camp Gen Peralta Jr. in Jamindan, Capiz, and Office of Civil Defense in Region 12.

DND-wide bloodletting activities will also be held to benefit retirees, veterans, and active-duty soldiers: on Aug. 20 and 27 at Fort Bonifacio General Hospital; on Aug. 28, 2014, at the Philippine Navy Officers’ Club & Ledesma Fort San Felipe Cavite City; on Sept. 4, at the Villamor Airbase; and on Nov. 4, 2014, at the PVAO Covered Court in Camp Aguinaldo.

And during the week leading to Nov. 10, a Recognition Day on Nov. 3 will also be held to honor the contribution of outstanding leaders and employees of the organization.

To allow the public to better know the DND, a static display, exhibits and drills will be held from Nov. 9 to 10.

These activities aim to showcase the services and programs of the various bureaus of the DND.

Furthermore, the DND will open its doors to qualified and deserving Filipinos who want to serve the nation as part of the Defense organization through a job fair on Nov. 9 at the AFP parade grounds.

“As your 35th Secretary of National Defense, it has been my honor to lead our Department of National Defense in the pursuit and fulfillment of our constitutional mandate as citizens of the state,” Gazmin said.

ISAFP willing to detain Palparan if ordered by courts

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): ISAFP willing to detain Palparan if ordered by courts

Should the courts find it necessary to order the transfer of retired Major Gen. Jovito Palparan to military custody due to security threats, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) head Major Gen. Eduardo Año expressed willingness to accommodate the former who now facing charges due to the alleged abduction and disappearance of two UP students in 2006.

"(If ISAFP) will be given tasking, ISAFP is very much willing to accommodate General Palparan," he said.

Año said that there are threats against the retired military officer at the Bulacan Provincial Jail as five New People's Army (NPA) members are also detained there and facing charges.

He added that it would be uneasy for both parties to be detained at the same facility.

"In fact Geneal Palparan after making the assessment on the threat of his life, recommended (that) he should be detained either in the PNP Custodial Center (in Camp Crame, Quezon City) or in the AFP Custodial Center or if they will task ISAFP we can provide (to) accommodate for him and that should be of course with the permission of the court," the ISAFP chief said.

He said the threat against Palparan is very real.

Palparan was arrested last Aug. 12 in Sta. Mesa, Manila after a three-year flight from authorities.

The former 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 commander of the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division. He retired from the service in Sept. 11, 2006.

President Aquino to China: what studies are you conducting in our Recto Bank

From AngMalaya (Aug 18): President Aquino to China: what studies are you conducting in our Recto Bank

Philippine President Aquino citing a recent report from Armed Forces of the Philippines said that two Chinese hydrographic research vessels are operating at Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea. Aquino told TV5 in an exclusive interview initially aired last Wednesday night and was aired in full Sunday night August 17.

“What are they doing there? What studies are they conducting? I hope [this] will not lead to increased tension between [our government and China],” Aquino told TV5.

Aquino said , “Just a reminder, Recto Bank is clearly within our exclusive economic zone.”

According to President Aquino, China has an unpredictable attitude towards Philippines when dealing with maritime disputes. “There’s a season when China’s belligerent. There’s a season when it’s friendly. There’s a time when it goes on a charm offensive. There’s a time when it doesn’t.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs also made its statement clearing its stand over Recto Bank. “In accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Philippines has the exclusive sovereign rights over the Recto (Reed) bank. No other state is lawfully entitled to assert sovereignty or sovereign rights over the said area,”archipelago under UNCLOS.”

Philippine authorized firm will start drilling in Recto Bank early 2016. In this quarter, Philippine government also expects the Permanent Court of Arbitration to release its decision regarding the government’s case against China’s claim over West Philippine Sea.

South Korea, US commence military drills amid nuclear threat from North

From AngMalaya (Aug 18): South Korea, US commence military drills amid nuclear threat from North

South Korea and United States started their annual military drills, the Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercise. The exercise will last until August 29.

South Korean Defense Ministry said this year’s military drills will include simulation of response to nuclear attack for the first time between US and South Korea. US and SoKor military will use a strategy made last year at annual South Korea-US defense meeting.

On the contrary, North Korea reiterates its threat that if US and SoKor continue with Ulchi Freedom Guardian they will be forced to launch an attack. “Considering the characteristic, content, period, size and arms used for the exercise, the joint Seoul-Washington drills are a war practice aiming at a pre-emptive attack. It has put the Korean Peninsula to the worst state ever in history,” a North Korean News agency said.

“If the U.S. imperialists threaten our sovereignty and survival – our troops will fire our nuclear-armed rockets at the White House and the Pentagon — the sources of all evil,” said Hwang Pyong-So, director of the North Korean military’s General Political Bureau.

Amid the threat, a high ranking South Korean military official said, “If the North commits a provocative act, we would retaliate strongly.” As reported by AFP news agency.

Philippine military don’t need to be in par with China, PNoy

From AngMalaya (Aug 18): Philippine military don’t need to be in par with China, PNoy

President Aquino said during an exclusive interview aired by TV5 Sunday night, the Armed Forces of the Philippines really needs to be equipped with modern hardware. But having said that, Philippines don’t need to be in parity or some semblance of parity with China’s military.

Aquino noted that China has nuclear power and China is indeed a military super power. He added that our constitution does not allow the government to invest in nuclear weapons.

On earlier report, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said “The Armed Forces of the Philippines is drawing closer to its projected minimum defense posture with the expected deliveries of more equipment under its modernization program.”

“We are getting closer to our desired state in terms of capability and readiness,” Gazmin noted.

Gazmin said that Philippine military will reach the state of having minimum credible defense in 2016.

Senate okays joint resolution increasing daily allowance of soldiers, cops to Php 150

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Senate okays joint resolution increasing daily allowance of soldiers, cops to Php 150

The Senate unanimously approved on third and final reading on Monday a proposed joint resolution increasing the subsistence allowance of the military and police from P90 to 150 per day beginning next year.

Voting 20-0 with no abstention, the Senate passed Joint Resolution No. 2 with the House of Representatives that will also cover the personnel of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, Philippine Coast Guard, candidate soldiers, cadets and civilian active auxiliaries of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“By providing a modest increase on the existing subsistence allowance of our uniformed personnel, we hope to uplift their morale and recognize their sacrifices for this country,” Sen. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV, principal author and sponsor of the bill, said.

Trillanes urged his counterparts Magdalo Party-list Representatives Ashley Acedillo and Gary Alejano to push for the passage of the joint resolution at the House of Representatives.

Like a proposed bill, the joint resolution will also require approval of the bicameral conference committee to consolidate the conflicting provisions before submitting it to Malacanang for the signature of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Senate President Franklin M. Drilon lauded the passage of the joint resolution, saying a boost in the daily allowances would help members of the military and the police better provide for their families.

“According to the National Statistics Office (NSO), an average Filipino family needs at least P13,200 per month to live decently – a far cry from what our troops and police officers currently receive. Those who protect our nation and their families deserve the attention and help of the state, especially as prices of even the most essential goods go up,” he said.

A former Navy officer, Trillanes said the subsistence allowance of P90 per day was too meager to cover the needs of uniformed personnel.

”Despite their vital, indispensable and invaluable contribution to the country, they remain among the lowest paid public servants. They receive measly salaries, inadequate allowances and insufficient benefits,” Trillanes, chairman of the Senate committee on national defense, said.

Sen. Loren Legarda, vice chair of the Senate committee on defense and security, said increasing the subsistence allowance of the soldiers and policemen would address their “most basic and pressing needs.”

“The hard reality is that our uniformed personnel remain among the lowest paid public servants despite the enormity of their tasks. It is high time that we address the long-standing concerns of these public servants who always put their lives on the line,” Legarda said.

Chinese research vessels detected off Recto Bank as early as June -- DND

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Chinese research vessels detected off Recto Bank as early as June -- DND

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez on Monday said that the presence of the two Chinese research vessels off Recto Bank was detected as early as June.

He declined to give details who made the sighting for security reasons.

Galvez said the research vessels bear the hull number of "14" and "792" and are capable of hydrographic research and have long endurance.

"It can stay at sea for a month as they are quite big," the DND spokesperson pointed out.

He added that these ships seems to be capable of underwater mapping operations.

"That's why the President is questioning their presence there," Galvez disclosed, adding that Recto Bank is well within Philippines waters and not contested territory.

At the moment, he said the two ships are not in the area.

Draft Bangsamoro Law to be submitted to the President within the week: Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Draft Bangsamoro Law to be submitted to the President within the week: Palace

The government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are preparing the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) for submission to the Office of the President within the week, a Malacanang official said on Monday.

“Ayon kay (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) Secretary (Teresita) Ging Deles, lahat ng mahahalagang isyu ay natalakay at nailinaw na. Ang ginagawa na lang ng magkabilang panig ngayon ay inihahanda ‘yung mismong draft Bangsamoro Basic Law na ihahain sa Tanggapan ng Pangulo,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in an interview with members of the Malacañang Press Corps.

Secretary Coloma said that once the Office of the President receives the draft, it will immediately study it and submit it to Congress.

He said the Palace is confident that the Senate and the House of Representatives will fast-track the passing of the draft BBL.

“Tinitiyak naman ng liderato ng Senado at ng Camara de Representante ang kanilang buong pagsuporta para sa agarang pagpapasa ng draft Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.

“Hindi tayo dapat maligalig dahil ayon na nga sa magkabilang panig ay natalakay na at napagkasunduan na ang mga pinakamahahalagang usapin,” Coloma added.

Pampanga gov appeals to AFP to help PNP, PDEA in the fight vs illegal drugs

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 18): Pampanga gov appeals to AFP to help PNP, PDEA in the fight vs illegal drugs

Governor Lilia Pineda has appealed to the Philippine Army to assist the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the fight against illegal drugs.

Pineda, who chairs the Committee on Anti-Dangerous Drugs of the Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), said that with Pampanga being declared insurgency free and ready for further development, the Philippine Army now has more time in helping the community in addressing the proliferation of illegal drugs.

"We know that fighting the proliferation of illegal drugs is not a mandate of our soldiers, but we are appealing to them to help the PNP and PDEA in solving this alarming problem of the communities," Pineda said.

Major General Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad Jr., new commander of Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM), told the governor in his courtesy call to the provincial government that they will give their full support to the PNP and PDEA in helping curb the proliferation of illegal drugs.

“Fighting drug addiction, saving drug users and jailing the pushers is everybody’s concern, hence, we vowed to obey the call of the governor,” Trinidad said.

The governor, who also met the 1,047 barangay health workers (BHWs) from the various communities and towns of province's second district, also asked them to give vital information on the activities of the suspected drug pushers and users in their respective areas and immediately report it to the authorities.

Likewise, the governor asked the village chiefs to be vigilant and be at the forefront in the fight against illegal drugs as most of the crimes committed in their villages are drug-related.

Arturo Cacdac, PDEA director general said the fight versus illegal drugs is a concerted effort of the agency, police, local government units and the public.

Cacdac said that providing information to law enforcement agencies is important.

He said that barangay officials should report illegal activities in their respective villages.

He alsoc assured them that their identities will be highly confidential and will pay attention to their reports.

PH's biggest ship off to join war games in Australia

From Rappler (Aug 18): PH's biggest ship off to join war games in Australia

The Philippines is one of 12 countries that will participate in the 'Kakadu 2014,' one of the largest international maritime exercise that happens every 2 years

OFF TO AUSTRALIA: BRP Ramon Alcaraz is joining war games in Australia. Rappler file photo
OFF TO AUSTRALIA: BRP Ramon Alcaraz is joining war games in Australia. Rappler file photo

The country's most capable warship – BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16) – sailed to Australia on Sunday, August 17, to participate in war games that the Royal Australian Navy is hosting next week.

The Philippines is one of 12 countries that will participate in the "Kakadu 2014," one of the largest international maritime exercise that happens every 2 years. This year's exercises will be held from August 25 to September 12.

"Philippine Navy's participation is expected to enhance its surface warfare capabilities and interoperability with regional navies. It will also be an opportunity for the Philippine Navy to enhance cooperation, camaraderie, and good working relationship with the participating navies," said Ensign John Windy Abing, Navy public affairs officer, in a statement.

"The Philippine Navy's participation in multilateral exercises is an affirmation of its commitment in collaborating with other navies to promote peace and stability in the maritime region," Abing added.

One of the weakest militaries in Asia, the Philippine Navy is upgrading capabilities and training of personnel to have a "minimum credible defense" posture in the wake of escalating tensions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). (READ: State of PH Navy modernization: 'Golden Days will return)

Alcaraz is the navy's most capable warship. It's a 40-year-old refurbished Hamilton-class cutter that the Philippines acquired from the US Coast Guard, which has decommissioned the ship.

The team also brought with them one of the brand new naval choppers from Italy.

Up to 180 Philippine Navy personnel led by Philippine Navy Vice Commander Rear Admiral Isabelo Gardor. This is only the 2nd time that the Philippines is participating in the exercises. The Navy joined in 1999 and only sent personnel as observers in the following exercises.

The other countries that will send ships and aircraft this year are Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan and Australia. Seven others, including China, are sending personnel as observers.

Earlier in March, Alcaraz's twin ship BRP Gregorio Del Pilar also sailed to Indonesia to participate in the "Komodo" naval exercises that was participated in by 16 countries.

‘Instant millionaires’: PNP awards P5.2M to informants

From Rappler (Aug 18): ‘Instant millionaires’: PNP awards P5.2M to informants

Two informants have given information leading to the arrest of Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee and alleged NPA leader Grayson Magranga Naogsan

INFORMATION PAYS. PNP chief Director General Alan La Madrid Purisima handed a total of Php 5,200,000 cash to two informants who provided information that led to the arrest of controversial businessman Delfin Sy Lee and notorious NPA leader Grayson Magranga Naogsan. Photo courtesy of the PNP PIO

INFORMATION PAYS. PNP chief Director General Alan La Madrid Purisima handed a total of Php 5,200,000 cash to two informants who provided information that led to the arrest of controversial businessman Delfin Sy Lee and notorious NPA leader Grayson Magranga Naogsan. Photo courtesy of the PNP PIO

For turning over information that eventually led to the arrest of most wanted criminals, 2 informants received a total of P5.2 million ($119,010) in cash from the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Monday, August 18.

PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima hoped the awarding of the bounty would encourage other informants to step forward.

“Report to us through Twitter, text, email, or other means the location of these fugitives so that we can arrest them. It pays to help in making our communities safe,” Purisima said in a statement.

The PNP said the P2 million was awarded for information leading to the arrest of Delfin Lee, the Globe Asiatique owner who defrauded government and home buyers of about P6 billion. Lee was among the PNP’s top 5 most wanted and was arrested in March this year by the PNP’s Task Force Tugis.
With Lee’s arrest, 3 more remain on the Task Force’s priority list – former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes, Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and Dinagat congressman RubenEcleo Jr.

Another most wanted man, retired general Jovito Palparan, was arrested by members of the Armed Forces and the National Bureau of Investigation on August 12.

Another P3.2 million, meanwhile, was given to the informant who gave information that led to the arrest of Grayson Magranga Naogsan, an alleged New People’s Army (NPA) leader.

Naogsan was arrested in Baguio in 2012 for his alleged involvement in the ambush of government troops. The PNP said Naogsan’s actions resulted in the death of 23 soldiers and members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit and a barangay official.

The PNP said the money came from the PNP Confidential Intelligence Fund.

“Our 2 instant millionaires deserve every single centavo of the money they received for their courage to provide information that led to the arrest of Delfin Lee and Grayson Naogsan,” said Purisima.

The prize money for Palparan’s arrest, said Purisima, would be released as soon as the PNP’s Reward Valuation Committee approves the application for reward money.

New Palace post for ex-AFP chief

From Rappler (Aug 18): New Palace post for ex-AFP chief

President Benigno Aquino III appoints retired General Bautista as Executive Director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace

Retired General Emmanuel Bautista is returning to government service next month with a new rank. Start calling him undersecretary beginning September 1, when he is scheduled to start his civilian job in the Office of the President.

President Benigno Aquino III appointed Bautista to a newly created post – Executive Director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace, Rappler learned.

Security, Justice, and Peace is one of the 5 Cabinet clusters created by Aquino in 2011, through Executive Order No. 43, to lead policy discussions on key issues such as territorial disputes and peace talks.

The EO names Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr as the chairman of the cluster.

"The Security Cluster shall ensure the preservation of national sovereignty and the rule of law; and focus on the protection and promotion of human rights and the pursuit of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace," the EO reads.

The EO specifies the following goals:
Protecting our national territory and boundaries
Attaining a just and lasting peace

Ensuring the welfare of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)

Strengthening the rule of law

Institutionalizing an efficient and impartial justice system that delivers equal justice to the rich and poor

Advancing and protecting human rights.

The other members of the cluster are Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia. The National Security Council serves as the secretariat.

Aquino announced in July that he was giving Bautista a new government post after a month of vacation. He did not reveal the post but speculations were rife back then that he was going to replace the defense chief.

Bautista served as chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from January 2013 to July 2014. A series of crisis happened under his watch.

Bautista had to deal with the Sabah crisis shortly after he assumed the post in January 2013; the March 2013 kidnapping of peacekeepers in Golan Heights; the September 2013 siege in Zamboanga City; the October 2013 earthquake in Bohol and Cebu; and Super Typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas in November 2013.

Bautista also helped draft the counterinsurgency program of the military – the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan which was put in place when he was deputy chief of staff for operations (J3) under the Arroyo government.

Aside from the security cluster, the other 4 Cabinet clusters are: Good Governance and Anti-Corruption chaired by the President himself; Human Development and Poverty Reduction chaired by Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman; Economic Development chaired by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisma; and Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation chaired by Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

Philippines slams China over 'sovereignty patrols'

From Rappler (Aug 18): Philippines slams China over 'sovereignty patrols'

The Philippines says China regularly sends ships as part of 'illegitimate sovereign patrols' to claim the disputed West Philippine Sea

'SOVEREIGNTY PATROLS.' A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP
'SOVEREIGNTY PATROLS.' A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

The Philippines slammed China on Monday, August 18, for conducting regular “sovereignty patrols” in the South China Sea by deploying ships with the sole purpose of staking Beijing's claim in the disputed waters.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) protested this “emerging pattern” after Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, in an interview aired Sunday, August 17, said the military recently spotted two Chinese hydrographic ships in Recto (Reed) Bank.

The potentially oil-rich Recto Bank is located in the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.

In a statement, DFA spokesman Charles Jose asserted that Recto Bank falls within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ), an area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines or edges, within which it has the exclusive rights to exploit sea resources.

Jose said: “We are protesting the conduct of sovereignty patrols by Chinese vessels on Recto Bank. The frequent passage of Chinese vessels in Recto Bank is not an innocent exercise of freedom of navigation, but is actually done as part of the pattern of illegitimate sovereignty patrols in the Philippine EEZ, pursuant to China's unilateral effort to change the status quo in the South China Sea.”

Asked to define “sovereignty patrol,” Jose said: “There's a difference when you're just passing by and just exercising your right of freedom of navigation, but it's a different thing when you have a constant presence. You're moving but you're constantly there, in your effort to exercise sovereign rights.”

Jose explained that the sovereignty patrols refer not only to the hydrographic ships that Aquino cited, but to the “emerging pattern” of China asserting its presence in the West Philippine Sea.

He cited the constant presence, at any given time, of 4 to 5 coast guard vessels in Ayungin Shoal, where a Philippine warship remains stranded and serves as a military detachment.

He also said Chinese fishermen in the disputed waters remain “supported by the Chinese coast guard.”

Aquino fears worsening tension

Jose said the DFA will file a diplomatic protest against China over these sovereignty patrols as soon as possible.

He pointed out that these patrols violate the following:
  • The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the so-called Constitution for the Oceans on which the Philippines based its historic case against China over the South China Sea; and
  • The Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) in the South China Sea, a non-binding document signed by the Philippines and China, among others, in 2002, to prevent conflict and ensure peace in the disputed waters
Jose asserted: “In accordance with UNCLOS, the Philippines has exclusive sovereignty rights over Recto Bank or Reed Bank. No other state is lawfully entitled to assert sovereignty or sovereign rights over the said area.”

He also said China's sovereignty patrols specifically violate Paragraph 5 of the DOC, which says claimant states should “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Paragraph 5 of the DOC also lies at the heart of the Philippines' Triple Action Plan (TAP), a proposal to resolve South China Sea disputes by, among other things, imposing a freeze on provocative activities.

China has rejected the Philippines' TAP while other Southeast Asian countries have adopted only parts of it and have not specified the activities to be suspended. (READ: PH hits China over sea plan: 'We're humoring ourselves')

While China dismissed the proposed moratorium, Aquino said he fears the worsening of tensions in the South China Sea due to the two hydrographic ships that the Philippines spotted.

The question AFP's Catapang won't answer

From Rappler/Newsbreak (Aug 17): The question AFP's Catapang won't answer

A Chinese television journalist tries to ask AFP chief Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr a question – but gets a laugh instead

She gave it a try and the Philippine military chief humored her.

A Chinese television reporter joined Manila defense reporters in an ambush interview with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr on Thursday, August 14.

AFP Chief, Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr
AFP Chief, Gen Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr
She asked: “When is your next resupply mission to Ayungin [Shoal] and how do you plan to outsmart the Chinese vessels?”

A smiling Catapang replied: “In order to outsmart the Chinese, we will not announce the date we plan to do it. We’ll just do it first and announce it later.”

The general, the military officers, and the journalists – including the Chinese reporter – had a good laugh.

The question recalls the tense March 29 rotation and resupply mission of the Philippine Navy to Ayungin Shoal in West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), where the Philippines grounded a World War II era warship to serve as an unconventional naval detachment for the Philippine Marines that keeps watch of the disputed territories.

China demands that the Philippines tow the ship out of the shoal, even offering to shoulder the cost, but the Philippines won’t give in. The Chinese Coast Guard has previously forced the Philippine Navy to abort resupply mission but on March 29, the Filipinos successfully evaded them in an operation where the US Navy assisted.

The incident happened a day before the Philippines filed its international arbitration case against China.

The Marines are rotated in Ayungin Shoal every 3 months but blockades by China has in the past forced them to stay in the grounded ship for an extended period.

Another resupply mission was conducted in July. There were no blockades.

The Philippines is currently concerned with the continued buildup of China in the disputed maritime territories. It is proposing a moratorium on provocative activities but China is rejecting it.

Abu Sayyaf demands P15M ransom for gov’t mechanic

From MindaNews (Aug 18): Abu Sayyaf demands P15M ransom for gov’t mechanic

Suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits have demanded P15 million ransom in exchange for the release of a government mechanic they seized last Saturday in Sulu.

The bandits abducted chief mechanic Ronald Pelegrin and killed his assistant, Dante Avilla, after they stormed the Sulu provincial motorpool at around 10:30 p.m. Saturday in the municipality of Patikul.

Pelegrin, 38, and Avilla, 29, are cousins and residents of Barangays Salaan and Pasobolong this city, respectively.

Avilla’s father, Angelberto, disclosed Monday that the ransom demand was relayed to Pelegrin’s wife, Emily, through a cellular phone call on Sunday.

Avilla’s younger brother, Jemel, 23, and Pelegrin’s mother, Rizalina, corroborated the statement of Angelberto. Rizalina is the elder sister of Angelberto.

“He (Ronald) told us that he is being treated well and was already given a dress (t-shirt). Pero ganon pa rin, nasa panganib ang buhay niya (Still, his life is in danger,” Angelberto said.

Rizalina asked the government authorities to exert efforts to secure the safe release of her son, noting they don’t have money to pay ransom.

Jemel asked the government to pursue the suspects so that justice could be given to their family for the death of his elder brother.


Dante Avilla’s youngest daughter wipes his casket on Monday, 18 August 2014, in Barangay Pasalobong, Zamboanga City. Photo by MindaNews

Jemel, like his elder brother, also works as an assistant mechanic at the Sulu provincial motorpool, which is under the Provincial Engineer’s Office.
They are both casual employees hired for in the last three and six years, respectively.

He said his cousin, Pelegrin, has been employed at the provincial motorpool for the past 15 years already.

Jemel recalled that there was no opportunity for Pelegrin and his older brother, including their wives, to escape since the Abu Sayyaf bandits have surrounded the victims’ sleeping quarters after they barged into the provincial motorpool compound.

Jemel said it was fortunate the Abu Sayyaf bandits were not able to detect that the wives of Avilla and Pelegrin were inside the sleeping quarters.

Jemel said Avilla hid his wife, Liezle, under the bed while Emily, Pelegrin’s wife, hid at the back of the sleeping quarter’s door.

Jemel is housed in a separate sleeping quarter located less than a hundred meters away from that of the victims’ quarters.

Jemel said the bandits shot his elder brother’s foot when the latter refused to go with the group and was killed later due to continued defiance.

“May tali ang mga kamay niya. Pero putol na noong nakita ko ang bangkay niya (His hands were tied. But they were severed when I saw his cadaver),” he said.

Jemel said he hid himself for safety since there was nothing he can do as the suspects, numbering to around 50, were fully armed.

Avilla, whose remains arrived late Sunday in this city, lies in state at his father’s residence in Barangay Pasobolong.