Sunday, August 24, 2014

AFP heroes await full benefits under law

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 25): AFP heroes await full benefits under law

On the battlefield, recalls retired Army chief and Medal of Valor awardee Arturo Ortiz, a soldier does not consciously think he has to be a hero. But there are times when the mission—and a brave heart—push one to do a “heroic deed.”

“It is sort of a self-sacrifice, doing something that isn’t required but you do it just the same. When we are in the middle of a battle, we never think we should be rewarded for what we are doing,” said the former Army commanding general.

Ortiz belongs to an elite group of 40 officers who have won the Medal of  Valor—the highest combat award in the Armed Forces of the Philippines—for exceptional bravery. Some received the award posthumously.

“You just find yourself doing what is beyond the call of duty,” said another fellow Valor awardee, Army Col. Cirilito Sobejana.

When they are wearing the Medal of Valor, the President and Commander in Chief can choose to salute them—the only ones in the military given such honor.

Aside from being a state policy to honor military heroes, Republic Act No. 9049, enacted in 2001, bestows awardees “adequate social services and financial rewards to encourage men and women to perform heroic deeds for their country.”

Except for the monthly gratuity, RA 9049 is mostly on paper because many institutions and establishments are unaware of it.

Full benefits

Humiliating as it may be, many recipients of the medal and their dependents have had to bring a copy of the law, their Valor citations and their birth certificates with them to prove they are entitled to the privileges stated in the law.

“The problem is there is no IRR (implementing rules and regulations) for the law,” Ortiz told the Inquirer in a recent interview.

Ortiz, who retired nearly three years ago, serves as the de facto head of the loose organization of Valor awardees, being the highest ranking officer among them.

“We are not enjoying the full benefits of the law because [of] lack of awareness and there’s no IRR to direct government agencies involved how to provide these benefits,” Ortiz said.

Bravery ‘diminished’

In a way, lack of public awareness of a law that recognizes a soldier’s bravery “diminishes” the prestige of the Valor award, Sobejana said.

The Valor awardees make it clear they are not asking for special treatment. Ortiz and Sobejana said what the awardees hoped for was only for the law to have implementation rules.

With an IRR, every government department would have the responsibility to inform the agencies under them how to implement what is stated in the law.

Sobejana noted the irony of the “full scholarship” accorded them by the law.

“The law says our children get free tuition and matriculation. But in the school [that] Sir Art (Ortiz) and my sons attend, most of the charges fall under miscellaneous fees, which the law doesn’t cover. We pay for that and so we practically don’t enjoy full scholarship for our children, as the law intends,” Sobejana said.

At the very least, when their children reach college, they are given slots at Philippine Military Academy (PMA) as long as they pass the physical exam.

It is quite insulting, Ortiz said, to feel that he and his fellow Valors have to beg for the benefits that the state says they should enjoy.

The stories of the field exploits of the 40 Valor awardees leave one in awe.

Firefight with NPA

Ortiz received his Valor medal for leading a night operation against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Murcia town, Negros Occidental province, in April 1990 as the commander of five joint teams of the 60th Special Forces Company.

Then a captain, Ortiz and his men made an 11-hour, cross-country march and scaled a 300-meter cliff to infiltrate the enemy camp. They crept on the ground until they were 10 meters away from the enemy before launching a surprise attack.

They overran the large NPA camp and killed 84 rebels in the two-hour fire fight.

Fighting the Abu Sayyaf

Sobejana was awarded the Medal of Valor after he and his men fought with 150 Abu Sayyaf bandits in Isabela, Basilan, on Jan. 13, 1995.

Then a company commander of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion, Sobejana held his ground although his right arm had been nearly severed by two bullets.

Biting his right thumb to keep his arm from falling off, Sobejana continued firing his rifle with his left arm, while giving directions to his men, maneuvering and exposing himself to the enemy.

The four-hour fire fight left 30 bandits dead.

In 2013, Sobejana became the chief of staff of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Golan Heights, Israel. Today, he is the Army’s operations chief.

Benefits not enjoyed

Sobejana said that to his recollection, no Valor awardee or his family had enjoyed the 20-percent discount in transportation services, hotels, restaurants, recreation and sports centers, admission to theaters, movie houses, concert halls and “other places of culture, leisure, and amusement” provided for in the law. RA 9049 states the establishments may claim the cost as tax credits.

Ortiz joked that he will just wait until he turns 60 next year to enjoy a 20-percent discount with his senior citizen card.

Ortiz and Sobejana said only St. Luke’s Medical Center, Makati Medical Center and Mercury Drug acknowledged the privilege of free hospitalization and discounts on medicines with no questions asked.

The law also provides that the Valors and their dependents are entitled to “free medical and dental services and consultation in hospitals and clinics anywhere in the country.”

Estrella’s sad story

It is a sadder story for the family of retired Army Col. Hilario Estrella, who was given the Valor award for leading his men in battle against 200 heavily armed communist insurgents in Zamboanga del Sur in 1984.

The rebels attacked his 32-man detachment in a predawn raid. Then a lieutenant, Estrella immediately lost 10 men. When their M60 machine gun malfunctioned, a wounded Estrella got it back working and fired at the enemies himself.

The fight took seven hours until the rebels withdrew, with 22 comrades dead, including three commanders.

Family taken hostage

Nearly three decades later, Estrella’s wife, Marilyn, said it crossed her mind to take down her husband’s photograph in the Gallery of Heroes at the AFP Museum at Camp Aguinaldo.

Marilyn and her daughter Abby said they felt they had been shortchanged as the family of a military hero. They said the government seemed to have left them to deal with the consequences of war on their own.

Marilyn, an Army nurse, had hoped the military could help her renovate their house, which Estrella vandalized whenever he had a fit. Once, in a deranged moment and armed with his pistol, Estrella took his family hostage inside their house.

Abby said it was difficult to get her father medicines that would keep him sedated, because they weren’t always available.

“My father loved his job more than anything and gave his all when he was in the service. But I feel the military has ignored us,” said Abby, 18. She has become the custodian of her father’s medals and nameplate.

PMA blast

Estrella’s family and colleagues believe a bomb explosion at PMA in 1987 triggered the deterioration of his mental health.

Estrella was at the grandstand rehearsing for his conferment of the Medal of Valor by then President Corazon Aquino. The graduating class included Sobejana and another would-be Valor awardee, Capt. Robert Lucero.

Estrella suffered burns on his body. A lieutenant colonel, two other officers and a civilian died in the incident. Among the injured was PMA Commandant Lisandro Abadia, who later became AFP chief of staff.

When calm, Estrella would read books about war and the military, or draw up battle plans. Often, he sleeps, withdrawn from the rest of the world.

The P25,000 monthly stipend Estrella gets as a Valor awardee is mostly spent on his medication.

What’s bravery for?

Just like Ortiz and Sobejana, Marilyn had experienced having to bring a copy of RA 9049 to her children’s schools to convince authorities that they were entitled to scholarships. Marilyn’s daughter dreams of becoming a commercial pilot but the cost of flight training is dizzying.

The law states that anyone who would deny the Valors and their dependents the privileges and benefits due them could be imprisoned for up to six years and fined up to P300,000.

“We could always try to sue but what for? We can only imagine how much we’d spend for the litigation cost and our lawyers,” Ortiz said.

Increase gratuity pay

Ortiz said some Valors like him were proposing that their monthly gratuities be increased to P50,000 if it was difficult for public and private establishments to give them the scholarships and discounts provided by the law.

The amount is a long way from the P200 they each used to get as monthly gratuities for their exceptional bravery before RA 9049 became a law.

North Cotabato execs seek dialogue over slur in gambling tips

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 24): North Cotabato execs seek dialogue over slur in gambling tips
MIDSAYAP, Philippines – The municipal government here on Friday sought an urgent dialogue with Muslim residents, after a privately owned printing shop mass-produced a typescript of “tips” on illegal numbers game, which showed a caricature of pig stepping on a book labeled “Koran.”
Jordan Tayuan, a commander of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), pointed to a name-tag on the drawn pig, an Arabic writing which read “Muhamad”—and the caricature was entirely attributed by its printers to an “Inquirer Opinion Corner, August 17, 2014.”
(A simple look at the opinion page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s Aug. 17, 2014 issue would show that no such cartoon exists. The editorial cartoon on that day, titled “Inhuman Economic Systems” shows the illustrated image of Pope Francis saying “Let’s Put a Stop to This” as he views Asian youth trapped by a dragon called “materialism.”)
Mayor Romeo Araña told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that aside from holding dialogue with local Muslims, he had sought an “immediate social investigation” as to who was or were behind the printing, their motive, and whether it was true the Inquirer had originally published the item deemed offensive to the Muslims.
Tayuan said some wanted to immediately place any culprit under Sharia law trial in the “courts” of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). But he said cooler heads prevailed and the fussing residents agreed that a thorough investigation and case evidence would have been needed even in a Sharia legal process.
The typescript leaf was like a poor reproduction of “Bulantoy,” an unauthorized print of probabilities passed off as tips usually bought by gambling aficionados of numbers games, including the popular “last-two,” and the winning three digits in the official lottery draws of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Tayuan went to see the Inquirer after the Friday Muslim prayer in Cotabato City, asking whether it was true the Inquirer originated the publication. Tayuan wanted a copy of the newspaper’s August 17 issue “to assure them (the Muslims in Midsayap) that Inquirer did not publish this, contrary to the claim (of the gambling pad press).”
Ustadz Zainudin Abdulwahab, a radio host of a religious program, said those behind the printing could be out to sow intrigues, so that a few misguided individuals can be enticed to do crime generally against non-Muslims.
But Abdulwahab said it might also be a “timely lesson” to gambling Muslims to abandon the vice, which Islam prohibits. According to Abdulwahab, it is unlikely for religious persons to have seen or even get hold a copy of that piece of paper, since they do not bet in any form of gambling.
Araña said he has asked Tayuan to help defuse tension, in case offended Maguindanaon Muslim residents come to confront the printing shop owners, who were not identified by authorities “to preserve community peace and harmony between Christians and Muslims here.”

Rights group warns of more harassment on activists as Manobo leader is freed on bail

From the pro-CPP online publication Bulatlat (Aug 24): Rights group warns of more harassment on activists as Manobo leader is freed on bail

“This is clearly another case of state harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change. What is dangerous is that 101 John Does have been included in the warrant that was used to arrest him.” – Naty Castro, secretary general of Karapatan-Caraga

Indigenous peoples leader Genasque Enriquez was freed on bail on August 23, a day after he was arrested in Surigao city on charges of frustrated murder.

Enriquez, a 41-year-old Manobo, is the KATRIBU Partylist National Vice Chairperson and secretary general of the Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO Caraga). A statement by Karapatan-Caraga said he posted bail on three alleged frustrated murder charges before Judge Victor Canoy of the RTC Branch 29 in Surigao City at 11:45 a.m. yesterday.

“This is clearly another case of state harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change,” said Karapatan Secretary General Naty Castro. “What is dangerous is that 101 John Does have been included in the warrant that was used to arrest him.”

Indigenous peoples leader Genasque Enriquez was freed on bail on August 23, a day after he was arrested in Surigao city on charges of frustrated murder. (Photo grabbed from Kalumaran Facebook account /

Indigenous peoples leader Genasque Enriquez was freed on bail on August 23, a day after he was arrested in Surigao city on charges of frustrated murder. (Photo grabbed from Kalumaran Facebook account /
Castro said that right after Enriquez’ arrest on August 22, “concerned citizens and organizations immediately trooped to the Surigao City Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) office to ensure his safety.” Among those who responded was the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) led by Sr. Noemi Degala and Sr. Stella Matutina.

Progressive groups, church people and civil society organizations in Caraga immediately raised the money for Enriquez’ bail, Castro said in the statement.

The Caraga region or Region XIII is located in the northeast part of the island of Mindanao in southern Philippines. It is The region is composed of five provinces namely, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and the Dinagat Islands. The administrative center of the region is Butuan City.

Karapatan-Caraga said the filing of trumped-up charges against leaders and members of progressive organizations are becoming a “trend” in the region. The military includes names of prominent leaders and activists as they file criminal cases against the New People’s Army for committing tactical offensives.

Castro cited the case of Armando Toreta and Eutiquio Bulat-ag, members of the peasant organization Unyon sa Mag-uuma sa Agusan del Norte-Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (UMAN – KMP), who are being detained in Butuan City based on trumped up murder charges.

“With utter disregard to due process, just like Genasque, they are not given the chance to respond to complaints at the investigation stage before these cases are filed and warrants of arrest are issued,” Castro said.

Karapatan-National secretary general General Cristina Palabay meanwhile said: “Malacañang is a factory of trumped-up charges against activists and those who are demanding that BS Aquino be held accountable for the presidential pork aka DAP.”

Enriquez was nabbed after attending a press conference on the Peoples’ Initiative Against Pork in Surigao City.

Repression of indigenous peoples

Katribu partylist spokesperson Kakay Tolentino denounced the filing of fabricated cases and arrest of Enriquez as a “form repression on the indigenous peoples to participate in the call against pork barrel funds, including the presidential pork.”

Tolentino said Enriquez has been a prominent indigenous peoples leader in the campaigns against destructive foreign mining and militarization in Caraga. She pointed out that in 2012, trumped-up charges filed against Enriquez and other progressive leaders were already dismissed.

She called on the Department of Justice to investigate the police and the military who resort to the filing of fabricated charges against activists “which are forms of legal harassment..abuse of the legal and judicial process and clear violation of human rights.”

The police and military “should run after those who actually violated the law, instead of filing charges based on evidence gathered from the air against leaders and members of legitimate, progressive organizations,” she said.

 Castro warned of a “disturbing trend to further curtail our civil liberties.”

“Human rights defenders like Genasque Enriquez are put at risk because of their public defense on the side of the poor and the powerless, who have only their people’s organization as a weapon against tyranny and abuse,” she said.

The Aquino Administration is no different from the previous Arroyo regime in its total disregard for human rights and due process,” Castro said.

Human rights group wants ‘trumped-up charges’ vs indigenous people leader dropped

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 24): Human rights group wants ‘trumped-up charges’ vs indigenous people leader dropped


Screengrab from
A human rights group on Sunday insisted that the ‘trumped-up charges’ filed against an indigenous people (IP) leader who was arrested and later released on bail Saturday should be dropped.
Genasque Enriquez, KATRIBU Partylist National Vice Chairperson and Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon sa Caraga (KASALO Caraga) secretary general, was arrested on Friday in Surigao City after attending a forum on People’s Congress for People’s Initiative and a press conference.
According to human rights group Karapatan, Enriquez was arrested without a warrant for frustrated murder charges by members of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), Philippine National Police-Surigao City, and the 30th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA).
Enriquez was released Saturday after posting bail raised by a church group, people’s organizations, and civil society organizations.
Karapatan Caraga secretary general Naty Castro said that the arrest of Enriquez is “another case of harassment against progressive leaders and organizations to silence us amid the mounting public clamor for change.”
Castro also said that filing of ‘trumped-up charges’ is trending in Caraga and that names of civilians, leaders, and members of progressive organizations are added to criminal cases and are being tied with the New People’s Army.

Sans final peace deal, ISIS surge in Mindanao feared

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 25): Sans final peace deal, ISIS surge in Mindanao feared

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front has expressed fear of an ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) virus in Mindanao if negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF fail to reach a peace agreement.

While the MILF belittled the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf and the MILF breakaway faction Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), citing their small forces, it, however, warned of the threat poses by the extremism being espoused by the ISIS which now controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

“The threat really comes from the extremism espoused by the ISIS. Ideas are contagious and infectious. Wild ideas are attractive to those who want adventures and pre-occupied with hatred and revenge,” the MILF, in a statement posted on its Web site, said.

“The MILF condemns barbarism and savagery whether done by other groups including the ISIS or even by its own members. Neither are we justifying the advent of the ISIS. That is not for the MILF to dip our fingers into it,” it added.

The MILF went on to cite the importance of the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is designed to address the decades-long Mindanao conflict.

The MILF emphasized the need for the passage of the BBL which is based on the letter and spirit of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its four annexes plus the addendum on the Bangsamoro waters.

“We don’t doubt the President will exercise his powers of review diligently, fairly and fully conscious that the BBL should and must address a problem, the Moro Question, and put it to rest forever. This is our conviction,” the MILF stressed.

“In short, what we mean is that the BBL we envision is one that complies with the flexibility of the Constitution and, more importantly, one that will lead to the resolution of this question. Short of this, the road ahead is not easy to contemplate on,” it added.

“It is this high hope for the passage of a good BBL and the fear for not being able to realize it for whatever reason that the ISIS’ virus is much to be feared,” the MILF also stated.

It maintained that the MILF has been instrumental in hindering the birth of a strong radical group in Mindanao through the years. But the MILF leadership could not control everything if the negotiations fail.

“Surely, the current leadership of the MILF, which is matured, experienced, and reasonable — and has done and is doing everything feasible to succeed in this peace undertaking — will no longer be in control of everything.

Frankly, it is the power, moderating line, and influence of the MILF that hinders the birth of a truly strong radical group in Mindanao,” the MILF said.

“Without the MILF, it would be free-for-all in Mindanao. God forbid!” it warned.

The MILF earlier expressed disappointment over the “diluted” version of Malacañang of the BBL, which was returned to the peace panels last June 23 after more than two months review by the Office of the President.

The MILF and GRP peace panels met again early this month in Davao to come up with an agreed version of the draft law which was submitted to the President last Aug. 20.

AFP chief sending Marines to secure Zamboanga City

From GMA News (Aug 24): AFP chief sending Marines to secure Zamboanga City

Army soldiers will be deployed to Sulu to take the place of Marines who will be sent to Zamboanga City, which members of the Moro National Liberation Front besieged in 2013.

According to Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, the Marines will be brought in to augment the 500-member Task Force Zamboanga after recent reports of abductions in the city by members of the Abu Sayyaf.

“If you visit Zamboanga, it appears that the people still have fears. I don’t want that,” the AFP chief said.

The 2nd Marine Brigade in Sulu has five battalions of around 500 officers and enlisted personnel each. That number will be reduced to around 1,000 to 1,500 Marines, with soldiers from the Compostela Valley-based Army 10th Infantry Division taking the place of the redeployed Marines.

“Zamboangeños are more comfortable with the Marines,” Catapang said, adding Marines have been assigned to secure the city in the past.

Sulu, where Abu Sayyaf has a strong presence, will not be left undefended, however. Catapang said the AFP will have 3,000 Marines and soldiers deployed in the province.

Photo: Reserve force

From the Manila Standard Today (Aug 25): Photo: Reserve force

Navy men clean  the Manila Bay  shoreline of trash to mark  the 35th National Reservists Week. DANNY PATA

NPA wreaks havoc, admits to killings

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 24): NPA wreaks havoc, admits to killings

Some 50 heavily armed men believed to BE members of New People’s Army (NPA) swooped down on a banana plantation Saturday night and put a blaze to the company’s hangar and spray plane at Purok 4, Barangay Dona Rosario, Tubay, Agusan del Norte. This was learned through a sketchy report reaching the police regional command and tactical operation center yesterday.

The name of the company is yet to be established.

According to an initial flash report from Tubay Municipal Police Station (MPS), men surprised the company’s two security guards and disarmed them of their respective shotguns at around 7:40 in the evening.

The report said six armed men entered the hangar and hog-tied the guards before setting the spray plane on fire using gasoline, while other armed men served as lookouts around the perimeter.

The perpetrators were in the plantation compound for 20 minutes before fleeing to a nearby forested mountain.

As of this posting, the regional command of Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) based at Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez has ordered the Tubay MPS to conduct a thorough investigation to determine the exact cost of damage, the motive, and identities of the perpetrators in preparation for filing of charges in court.

Combat troops of the 402nd Infantry (Stingers) Brigade are still conducting massive pursuit operations after the group.


In another development, the NPA on Saturday has claimed responsibility for the killing of municipal councilor Cecilio Abuhan. Abuhan was killed Thursday afternoon in Barangay Bagoboc, Opol town, Misamis Oriental.

In a statement released to the local media, Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the CPP-NPA-NDF North Central Mindanao Region, said that a team of NPA snipers shot and killed Abohan, an incumbent town councilor of Opol, because of his alleged abuses against the village people of Bagocboc.

Abuhan succumbed to eight bullet wounds—six in the head and two in the body.

He was riding a motorcycle when ambushed by armed men, also on a motorcycle.

Margilen Abuhan, wife of the slain councilor and who is chairwoman of Barangay Bagocboc, said she received information that her husband was among the targets of a liquidation squad of the NPA.

Opol Senior Inspector Alwin Baclao said the investigation is focusing on the motive of the killing.

Abuhan had been in politics since 1994.

One dead, one wounded in Negros Occidental clash

From the Manila Times (Aug 24): One dead, one wounded in Negros Occidental clash

A SUSPECTED member of the New People’s Army and an army officer was wounded as government troops clashed with a band of communist rebels on Friday in a remote village in Negros Occidental, military reports said over the weekend.

Reports at Camp Aguinaldo said the encounter took place at around 4 a.m. in Barangay Magticol in Toboso town.

The wounded soldier was identified as 1st Lt. John Rey Espino of 62nd Infantry Battalion.

The troops were conducting patrol when they encountered a still unknown number of rebels.

MILF: JICA-BTC-BDA pilots Quick Impact Project implementation in Sarangani Province

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 24): JICA-BTC-BDA pilots Quick Impact Project implementation in Sarangani Province

Sarangani Board Member Virgilio C. Tobias briefed the visitors, BDA SouthMin Regional Manager Mohalikin D. Piang, Kasan M. Usop, Jr., Program Officer of JICA-CPO Quick Impact Project, Fumio Tonai an Architect and Consultant from JICA, and Abdulwahab Hussain from the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostitlities (CCCH) on August 15, 2014 at the Governor’s Office in the Provincial Capitol in Alabel about the province’s engagement with other development partners.

The QIP, a joint undertaking of JICA, Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and BDA, is being implemented in 20 target sites as a prelude for the establishment of the proposed new Bangsamoro political entity.

Usop said out of 86 target communities initially identified all over Mindanao, only 20 QIPs are being considered for pilot implementation on which Barangay Burias in Glan, Sarangani is included.

Tobias, who welcomed the guests in behalf of Sarangani Governor Steve Solon, said the provincial government is very much willing to help in the project implementation and provide counterpart if required.

Piang said their group was also doing parallel courtesy call with the provincial, municipal and barangay political officers of Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the provinces of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat.

The team proceeded to the municipality of Glan to meet the municipal mayor and interact with stakeholders from Barangay Burias for site validation.

To qualify for the QIP, the prospect community should meet the criteria which are accessibility, poverty, security, and experience in conflict.

Through a barangay assembly, the community members will select one from the menu of development projects: classroom, multi-purpose building or solar drier.

Tobias thanked the QIP implementers for considering Sarangani people as the beneficiaries.

In support to peace and development of Mindanao, Japan through JICA and other Japanese institutions have been implementing development interventions and providing scholarships for the Bangsamoro.

MILF: Bangsamoro draft with Congress next week: Palace

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 24): Bangsamoro draft with Congress next week: Palace

Malacañang said President Benigno Aquino III is now in the process of studying the draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said only a few more provisions in the draft law have to be reviewed by the President.

Lacierda said the President knows the importance of the agreement, which Malacañang is targeting to submit to Congress by the end of August.

"The bulk of it has already been agreed upon by both panels. More than 70 percent have been agreed upon so we're looking at a few provisions that would still need the President's observation. Certainly, the President knows the importance of this agreement and we are all waiting for it to be submitted to Congress," he said.

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law was submitted to the President on Wednesday night.

Once passed, the law will pave the way for a creation of a Bangsamoro entity in Mindanao.

MILF: BDA SouthMin turns-over MTF-RDP development projects for three communities in Sarangani

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 24): BDA SouthMin turns-over MTF-RDP development projects for three communities in Sarangani

The Bangsamoro Development Agency-Southern Mindanao (BDA-SouthMin) Regional Management Office recently turned-over three (3) Cycle 1 development projects for thee barangays of Sarangani Province under the Mindanao Trust Fund-Reconstruction and Development Programme (MTF-RDP).
On July 17, 2104, three units of travelling corn sheller were turned over to the Peoples Organization (PO) of Barangay Tuyan, Malapatan and on the following day, the PO Barangay Daliao in Maasim received two units fishing vessels with fishing implements designed for catching flying fish from the program.

Likewise, the PO of Barangay Ticulab in Maitum received one unit solar drier with warehouse on July 22, 2014.

The officers and members of the three POs expressed their sincerest thanks to BDA, MTF-RDP, the Project Technical Team as well as their respective Municipal Government Units for the time, efforts and financial support shared for the realization of the projects.

The constituents of the three barangays said they have been longing for income-generating projects that can provide them additional income.

The projects were identified by the community members themselves based on the thematic map of their respective barangays during the Community Action Plan workshop which were facilitated by the BDA regional staff in line with the Community Driven Development (CDD) process required by the program.

The BDA regional staff reviewed the Operations and Maintenance Plan for the project and oriented the POs on financial transactions that shall transpire during the procurement process for the Cycle 2 projects.  

In his inspirational message, BDA SouthMin Regional Manager urged all the POs to take care of their respective projects because their good track record in project management will mean more projects from other development partners that shall come in their communities.

Ustadz Luqman Tandalong, BDA Program Management Officer, and Engr. Tohamie Ibrahim, Institutional Development Officer of the BDA Central Management Office graced the turn-over ceremonies in Daliao and Tuyan.

In Barangay Daliao, the PO officers and members vowed to support anti-dynamite fishing drive by the government. To manifest their support to the advocacy, they inscribed their handprints and signatures on a tarpaulin bearing message of support to anti-dynamite fishing.

The PO of Barangay Tuyan looks forward to acquire hauler out of the income of the corn shellers.

Zambo City under full alert PPA steps up port security measures

From the Zamboanga Today (Aug 23): Zambo City under full alert PPA steps up port security measures

Authorities have stepped up security measures at the vital installations in Zamboanga City including the major ports in the wake of incidents occurred here and its neighboring island provinces and rumors that armed group is going to launch a second attack in the city.

Engr. Liberto Dela Rosa, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) manager of Zamboanga, security has been stepped up inside the city’s major port effective last Wednesday after several incidents which happened in the city and in Mindanao area.

“The security was intensified in the port after several rumor text messages spread, arrest of suspected Abu Sayaff members, and bombing in other parts of Mindanao,” Dela Rosa told reporters in an interview.

Port authorities conduct strict checking on passengers and their baggage. They also advise passengers to go to the port early before their scheduled trip so proper inspection could be conducted to avoid missing their trip.

Also part  of their security measures, Dela Rosa directed local detection teams to strictly use K9 or bomb sniffing dogs and to put in place x-ray machine and CCTV cameras at the port, where many people converge and ships are docked.

More or less 1,500 passengers bound either for Sandakan, Manila, Jolo, Lamitan, Isabela and Tawi-Tawi are using the major port everyday.

Dela Rosa explained they’re doing this strict security measure to assure the public that the main port is safe from possible entry of bombs, explosives and other weapons as well as contabands that could threaten the city’s security.

Zamboanga City Police Directo Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro had earlier placed the city on full alert after an abduction incident last August 18 involving a grocery owner in Zamboanga’s west coast.

At least eight fully armed men broke into a grocery store in Barangay Labuan and abducted a businesswoman identified as Michelle Panel, 36, and her husband Noel.

Few weeks more before the first anniversary of the September Zamboanga siege in which dozens of people died and over 120,000 were left homeless, fear is again returning to the streets as residents worried that armed groups are going to launch a second attack.

Reports via text message that armed men believed to be loyal followers or sympathizers of Nur Misuari are thought to be congregating in villages around the city.

Misuari’s faction, composed of breakaway members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), is opposed to Bangsamoro peace agreement signed March 27 between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mayor Isabelle “Beng” Climaco Salazar had earlier appealed local residents to remain calm amid reports of security threats in schools and other places. She also sought to calm fears by underlining that despite “challenges” the situation in Zamboanga City “remains normal.”

On September 2013, the MNLF - under the leadership of Misuari - laid siege to Zamboanga to protest the peace deal between the government and the MILF.

Almost one year since the September siege, Misuari and his close followers remain at large and their rebellion cases filed against them by Zamboangueños have never been heard as of this report.

Still thousands of families mostly Badjaos and other indigenous peoples, who were placed inside “grandstand” and Cawa-Cawa boulevard after the clashes between security forces and Misuari’s faction, struggle for life under harsh conditions.

PH drops in peace index ranking

From Rappler (Aug 24): PH drops in peace index ranking

Internal and external threats to peace continue to hound the Philippines, affecting its overall ranking in the 2014 Global Peace Index

PEACE TRENDS. The Philippines ranks 134 out of 162 countries in the 2014 Global Peace Index (GPI) prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Screenshot from the GPI website
PEACE TRENDS. The Philippines ranks 134 out of 162 countries in the 2014 Global Peace Index (GPI) prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace. Screenshot from the GPI website

As the world became less peaceful for 7 years in a row in 2013, the Philippines also slipped in the global peace ranking.

The Philippines remains to be in the lowest quartile of the 2014 Global Peace Index prepared by the Institute for Economics and Peace, ranking 134 out of 162 countries – a drop of 5 places from 2012.

This is due the presence of both internal and external challenges to peace.

The Philippines is one of the countries found to have “notable increases in terrorist activity” in 2013, along with countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. The index did not provide details on what these activities were.

Another factor that contributed to this result is the country's ongoing territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

In 2013, the Philippines is also one of the countries with the largest discrepancy between levels of peace and democracy as the country continued to rank low in the peace index even as it exhibits “strong democratic credentials.”

The Aquino government signed a final peace accord in March with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the biggest organized armed group in the Philippines. The agreement aims to entrench a new autonomous government in Southern Philippines with a better political and fiscal structure than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which it will replace.

Even as the government and the MILF work towards implementing the peace accord, other armed groups, reportedly with terrorist connections, continue to exist. (READ: Philippine militants pledge allegiance to ISIS jihadists and Senior Abu Sayyaf leader swears oath to ISIS)

More than dealing with arms and law enforcement, the report said societal and political issues – such as widespread graft and corruption in government and the “patron-client nature” of political institutions must also be addressed.

The report lauded the abolition of the pork barrel system in 2013 as an “important step” towards the responsible use of personal funds and making politics “less personalized” but noted that is still “insufficient.”

Meanwhile, the report said the case filed by the Philippines against China before UNCLOS to claim parts of the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) as “risky” as it could “result in a long-term estrangement between the two sides.”

Global trend

Across the world, the index found that global peace has deteriorated since 2008, with conflict in Eastern Ukraine, the Gaza strip and Libya, among others, dominating media coverage.

How much did conflict and violence all over the world cost? A total of $9.8 trillion in damages, corresponding to 11.3% of global gross domestic product (GDP), the report said. This is equal to twice the total GDP of entire Africa.

Iceland remains to be the most peaceful country in the world. Meanwhile, Syria replaced Afghanistan at the bottom as the situation in Syria further deteriorated in 2013 while Afghanistan marked a slight improvement.

The index ranks the peace situation in each country not just by the lack of conflict, whether external or internal, but also by looking at how the country maintains and prevents conflict.

Among the factors considered are:
Well-functioning government
Sound business environment
Equitable distribution of resources

Acceptance of the rights of others

Good relations with neighbours

Free flow of information

High level of human capital

Low levels of corruption.

Communist rebels raid two Philippine plantations in one day

From Rappler (Aug 24): Communist rebels raid two Philippine plantations in one day

Communist insurgents raided two banana plantations in one day in the southern Philippines in some of their most brazen attacks for months in the face of recent setbacks

SHOW OF FORCE. New People's Army rebels in Compostela Valley. File photo by Karlos Manlupig
SHOW OF FORCE. New People's Army rebels in Compostela Valley. File photo by Karlos Manlupig

Communist insurgents raided two banana plantations in one day in the southern Philippines in some of their most brazen attacks for months in the face of recent setbacks, authorities said Sunday, August 24.

The attacks by the New People's Army (NPA) in the strife-torn island of Mindanao on Saturday caused extensive damage but no one was killed, officials added.

About 50 guerrillas raided an aircraft hangar at a plantation owned by Del Monte Philippines in the town of Tubay on Saturday evening.

"The rebels disarmed the security guards and seized their two shotguns, tied their arms... then proceeded to the hangar and poured gasoline onto the (crop-duster) plane. It took only less than thirty minutes to burn the area," said investigating police officer Jomar Ascares.

Just hours before the burning of the plane and hangar, about 60 NPA fighters raided another banana plantation in Pantukan town, disarming 10 security guards, burning a building and equipment and cutting down about 300 banana plants, said the area's police director Senior Superintendent Abraham Roxas.

The NPA is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, which has been waging an insurgency since 1969 that has left tens of thousands of people dead.

They are believed to have about 4,000 fighters. The figure is down from more than 26,000 in the 1980s but they remain active, raiding rural businesses and isolated police and military outposts.

The group has suffered recent losses like the death of 13 NPA fighters in a clash with a pro-government tribal leader last month and the arrest of several senior insurgent leaders earlier this year.

The attacks on the plantations were in retaliation for the companies' refusal to meet extortion demands, said a Mindanao army spokesman, Major Christian Uy.

He said the NPA fighters on the ground were becoming "desperate" to raise money because they were receiving less financial support from their superiors.

President Benigno Aquino had aimed to reach a peace deal with the communists by the end of his term in 2016.

But the government last year said talks had collapsed due to rebel demands that detained comrades be freed.

AUDIO | Army intel officer shot dead in QC

From InterAksyon (Aug 24): AUDIO | Army intel officer shot dead in QC

An unidentified gunman shot dead an Army intelligence officer late Saturday night on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

Police identified the victim as Roderick Antipacha. He died on the spot.

A scavenger who was sleeping near the crime site in Barangay Old Balara told police he heard a shot a little past 9 pm and was awakened from sleep.

He then saw a man sprawled on the ground, bloodied.

The witness added that he saw a dark figure of a man with a gun running away from the scene.

Probers are still investigating whether the murder was related to the intelligence officer's job.

[Audio report]

Opensiba ng NPA ibinandera

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 24): Opensiba ng NPA ibinandera (NPA offensive launched?)

Ibinandera kahapon ng New People’s Army ang opensiba nito sa nakaraang mga araw kontra militar at pulisya sa lalawigan ng South Cotabato sa Mindanao.

Sinabi ni Ka Efren Aksasato, ang tagapagsalita ng NPA, na isang sundalo umano ang nasawi at 6 iba pa ang sugatan sa mga serye ng atake ng rebeldeng grupo sa bayan ng Tampakan, T’boli at Lake Sebu. Inakusahan rin nito ang South Cotabato Police – Public Safety Company at ang 27th Infantry Battalion sa ilalim ni Col. Shalimar Imperial ng human rights violations at nagsisilbi umano ito bilang mga private security guards ng Sagittarius Mines Incorporated sa Tampakan.

“The PNP performs as dismantler of mass actions against the large-scale mining while the 27th Infantry Battalion is notorious for butchering anti-mining activists.  Both forces also secure the environmentally destructive quarry operations of the construction companies backed by local bureaucrats and are enjoying contracts for huge government projects.”

“Residents and farmers in Tampakan and Koronadal City have insistently been opposed to the quarry operations because of its damaging effects to their properties and means of living,” pahayag pa ni Aksasato.

Maging si South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Fuentes ay inakusahan rin ni Aksasato na siyang nasa likod ng pagpapalaganap sa diumano’y peace and development operations ng militar na isang cover sa malawakan opensiba sa lalawigan.

“Conforming to the US-Noynoy Aquino regime’s Oplan Bayanihan, the provincial government of South Cotabato headed by Gov. Daisy Fuentes facilitates the implementation of the 27th Infantry Battalion’s peace and development operations to impose the realization of the bogus developments she adamantly vaunted about in her recent state of the province address, notwithstanding the enduring agrarian problems, displacement and dispossession of the masses,” wika pa ni Aksasato.

Matagal ng nakikibaka ang NPA upang maitatag ang sariling estado sa bansa.

5 rebels torch agricultural aircraft in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Aug 24): 5 rebels torch agricultural aircraft in Southern Philippines

A small group of communist rebels torched an agricultural aircraft used by Del Monte Philippines in the southern province of Agusan del Norte, the army said Sunday.

It said at least 5 New People’s Army rebels torched the small aircraft, owned by Philippine Agricultural Aviation Corporation, in the village of Dona Rosario in the town of Tubay. There were no reports of casualties in Saturday raid, according to Major Christian Uy, a spokesman for the 4th Infantry Division.

Uy said the rebels escaped on two motorcycles after the attack. “Del Monte is renting the aircraft from Philippine Agricultural Aviation Corporation,” he said, adding, the attack was probably connected to a failed extortion attempt.

Del Monte has banana and pineapple plantations in southern Philippines.

There was no immediate statement from Del Monte or the NPA on the raid, but the rebel group has been fighting for decades for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.

Attacks on civilian targets demonstrate rebels refusal to engage in open combat -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 24): Attacks on civilian targets demonstrate rebels refusal to engage in open combat -- AFP

Attacks on 'soft targets' like cargo trucks, undefended farms and plantations and in the case of Agusan Del Norte, light civilian aircraft, only demonstrates the New People's Army (NPA) refusal to engage the military in open or fair combat.

This was stressed by 4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya Sunday.

"The enemy is resorting to attacking 'soft target', using small groups, just to get even on us," he added.

Visaya stated that he has ordered his men to keep their guard up to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Five NPA fighters earlier attacked and burned an aircraft owned and operated by the Philippine Agricultural Aviation Corporation (PAAC) at P-4, Dona Rosario, Tubay town, Agusan Del Norte Saturday night.

Major Christian Uy, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, said the incident took place around 7: 30 p.m.

He added that the five rebels are reportedly from the NPA's SPP21C, Guerilla Front 21, North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

The NPA fighters were aboard two motorcycles when they attacked the above-mentioned airfield. The two civilian guards present did not resist the rebels' incursion.

Uy said that the rebels targeted and burned one PAAC aircraft on the airfield before making their escape.

Pursuit operations are now ongoing.

Filipino Muslims recruited by jihadists worrying--Duterte

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 24): Filipino Muslims recruited by jihadists worrying--Duterte

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is worried about the consequence when the number of Filipino Muslims reportedly trained with the Islamic State (IS) come back to the country and generate bad for compatriots as he confirmed reports recruitment by jihadists happened sometime last month.

“Naay naghung-hung nako, nay nag-adto didto naa pud mga batan-on (recruited), mga Filipino Muslim naa didto kay kung madisgrasya involve ang Filipino… maski papaano Filipino pa rin… ilang makuha ang technology pareho kaniadto sa Afghan dala dala ang technology sa Taliban (Sometime ago somebody whispered to me that Filipino Muslims went there (Iraq) including the young, and if they get into danger involving the Filipinos… they are still Filipinos…they might acquire the technology just like in the past in Afghanistan when they brought with them the technology). I am sad,” Duterte said during his Sunday Program Gikan sa Masa Para sa Masa.

Duterte however said he is not condemning anybody for choosing to be there although “I am worried for them…I just hope they are there to fight for religious principle and not hatred and leave (Iraq) that way there.”< p>The mayor’s confirmation came on the heels of reports that about 100 Filipino Muslims from Mindanao are undergoing training with IS in Iraq. No less than former president Fidel Ramos revealed the information that members of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are trained by IS.

Duterte said he was told of the same information sometime last month but he was not sure of the number. He was also wondering what the dimensions are if true that BIFF has pledged allegiance to IS.

According to Duterte, the consequence of undergoing training would pose danger to Filipino compatriots once they come back bringing with them a principle fueled by hatred.

I always have high respects on principle and religious values but if fueled by hatred it is difficult. I hope it will not generate something bad for us. They will not bring the technology of terror, Duterte emphasized.

Duterte pointed out that it is different if the objective is driven by religious principle “Islam is a guide for human being,” he said.

In an interview with ANC last week, Ramos was quoted as saying that the information reached them (retired people) that young Filipino Muslims have already infiltrated Iraq to undergo training to return and be jihadists or militants.

According to Ramos, the Abu Sayyaf has been encouraged by the success of IS, which recently declared an Islamic caliphate in its controlled areas in Iraq and Syria. It has been reportedly responsible for the atrocities in some parts of Iraq, resulting even in beheading of some people, mass execution and the taking of child brides.

Army (detachment commander) dies in Northern Samar ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 24): Army (detachment commander) dies in Northern Samar ambush

A detachment commander of the 52nd Infantry (AGILA) Battalion was killed Friday when the ‘habal-habal’ he was riding on was flagged down by some 15 to 20 members of the New People’ Army (NPA) some 150 meters away from San Pascual village in Catarman, Northern Samar.

The Division Public Affairs Office (DPAO) of the 8th Infantry Division (8ID) in a statement disclosed that the victim SSg Marciano Padilla was on his way back to the detachment when the incident happened.

The killing happened three days after the National Democratic Front of the PhilippinesEastern Visayas through its spokesperson Santiago Salas urged revolutionaries to pursue revolutionary actions against the government, said Lt. Colonel Erwin A. Alea, OIC DPAO chief.

The 8th ID, according to Alea, is saddened by the incident adding that they salute the dedication and patriotism of Padilla.

He said that the incident only proved that the CPP-NPA-NDF (CNN) has no intention of following the agreements stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHIHL), which it signed together with the government of the Philippines.

Meantime on the same day, government troops under the 34th Infantry Battalion (34th IB) assigned in Catubig, Northern Samar were involved in a firefight against suspected members of NPA.

The troops were providing security to barangay officials of Osang village along with social workers, community volunteers in conducting a feeding program to 22 pupils of Osang Elementary School, Barangay Osang, Catubig, Northern Samar.

The soldiers were fired upon by more or less five armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) who positioned themselves about 100 meters from the school.

The soldiers managed to immediately secure the pupils and civilians to a safe place while returning fire at the NPA.

The NPAs withdrew after almost 10 minute’s firefight; no one was hurt in the incident.

The attack during the feeding program only showed the other party’s total disregard of the agreement that civilians should be distinguished from combatants and shall not be the object of attacks, the DPAO official said.

Army, cops deployed in SK town following death of farmer

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 24): Army, cops deployed in SK town following death of farmer

Police and military authorities have been deployed in a remote village of Sultan Kudarat province following a shooting incident that sent people fleeing Saturday.

Soldiers from the Army Special Forces Battalion and policemen backed by militiamen were deployed in the village of Maindang, Lutayan, Sultan Kudarat after a farmer belonging to a huge clan was shot dead.

Senior Inspector Melvin Balba, Lutayan PNP police chief, said Oscar Gayak, a farmer, was shot dead right in his own home by the suspect later identified as Carali Mama, also a farmer.

Both belonged to Muslim clans identified with Moro rebel groups.

Quoting a police report, Balba said Mama armed with a hand gun arrived at Gayak’s house at about 4 p.m. and the two had a conversation.

Minutes later a guns shot was heard followed by Mama fleeing hurriedly.

Balba said the two had been locked in a long standing family feud locally known as “rido.”

Afraid relatives of Gayak would retaliate, several families have left the village and moved toward the town center to avoid getting trapped should warring clans clash.

Balba said the government forces will only serve as peacekeepers to prevent the escalation of the armed conflict.

Lutayan is about 40 kilometers north of Tacurong City.