Monday, August 25, 2014

India reinforces naval ties with PH

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 25): India reinforces naval ties with PH

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Indian Naval ship Sahyadri. Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy

The Philippine Navy on Monday hailed the Indian navy following the latter’s visit to the country last week.

Lieutenant Commander Marineth Domingo, Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office Chief, said the visit of Indian Naval ship Sahyadri, under the command of Commodore Jyotin Raina, was about reinforcing the relations between the two nations and their navies.

“This affair aims to enhance and strengthen mutual relationship between the two nations and forces as it offers great liberty and an opportunity for the Indian Navy to show friendly aspect to the Philippines,” Domingo said.

“The goodwill visits are also opportune time for a visiting ship to unwind and relax, and see the beauty of our countrymen and at the same time build camaraderie with their counterparts,” Domingo added.

Arriving last Wednesday, Sahyadri left for India last Saturday after its crew played basketball and football with the troops of the Philippine Navy.
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Commodore Jyotin Raina (left) and Philippine Navy Rear Admiral Jesus Millan (right). Photo courtesy of Philippine Navy

BRP Abraham Campo met Sahyadri near Corregidor Island and escorted it to the anchorage site at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila.

Raina and his party visited the headquarters of the Philippine Navy in a courtesy call that Rear Admiral Jesus Millan, Philippine Navy Chief, initiated.

During the visit, the Philippine and Indian Navies conducted Subject Matter Expertise Exchanges, Community Relations and Community Service.

Police probe attack on Agusan rubber farm

From the Manila Times (Aug 25): Police probe attack on Agusan rubber farm

The Agusan del Norte police are looking into reports of an attack on a rubber plantation in the municipality of Remedios T. Romualdez (RTR) on Sunday.

Reports reaching the regional headquarters here on Monday said that at 5:20 a.m. on Sunday, the RTR Municipal Police Station received a text message through its mobile phone hotline from a certain Robert S. Lipke, a farmer from Barangay Tulosa, Cabadbaran City about armed men attacking his rubber plantation in the vicinity of Apugan, Sitio Kaunlaran, Barangay San Antonio.

The report said the group of attackers comprised about 30 men with assorted high powered firearms burned about 12,000 fully grown rubber trees and a storage house including three tons of rubber cap lump and other personal belongings.

RTR police already coordinated with their military counterparts in the area to verify the report.

It is also now conducting a deeper probe to establish the motive of the incident and to locate and identify the culprits and file the appropriate criminal charges in court against them.

Meanwhile, the Tubay Municipal Police Station is conducting further investigation to identify the suspects in the burning of an aircraft over the weekend.

Also, all units of the Agusan del Norte Police Provincial Office were alerted and directed to intensify the conduct of strong check point.

Reports reaching the police regional headquarters said that a plane used for pesticide control at the Del Monte banana plantation was parked at the hangar airstrip owned by Alberto M. Soriano, located at Purok 4, Barangay Dona Rosario, Tubay, Agusan del Norte, was burned by unidentified heavily armed men wearing black sweat shirts with Philippine National Police (PNP) markings and logo and black fatigue pants.

The report said that the information was received by PO2 Rodel Monteza of Tubay Municipal Police Station at around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Tubay Police led by Police Officer 3 Herbert S. Estoque, immediately responded in the area after informing the Bureau of Fire Protection of Cabadbaran City.

Investigation showed that at around 5:30 p.m., security guards Jacinto Gales, 58, of Purok 3, Barangay Dona Rosario and employed by Fireball Agency, and Jay-R Loreto, 27, of Purok 4, Barangay Sta. Ana saw about 50 heavily armed men with long and short firearms wearing police uniforms.

Three of the armed men pointed a gun at them and grabbed their issued shotgun. After the guards were disarmed, they were tied with straw thread (nylon twines).

 Another security guard, Danilo Nakila, 50, of Purok 2 arrived and was also tied up.

He testified that some of the armed men took a video of the incident. He said the others took cartons and sacks and stacked these with the machine of the plane and set it on fire.

After burning the plane, the armed men fled to an unknown direction. Nobody was reportedly injured during the incident.

Investigators have yet to determine the amount of damage to the plane owned by the Philippine Agricultural Aviation Corp.

Chinese media warns US over warplane interception

Posted to the Manila Times (Aug 25): Chinese media warns US over warplane interception

China’s state-run media warned Washington on Monday that Beijing could treat its surveillance flights as an “act of hostility,” after accusations a Chinese fighter jet flew dangerously close to a US military aircraft.

US Rear Admiral John Kirby said on Friday the armed Chinese warplane came close to the American P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft on three occasions, at times less than 30 feet (nine meters) away, in what he called a “very dangerous” intercept.

China’s defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun called the allegations “totally groundless” in a statement cited by the official news agency Xinhua.

The incident took place 220 kilometers (135 miles) off China’s Hainan island, over an area the US insists is international waters but Beijing regards as part of its territory.

The incident has echoes of a major incident in April 2001, when a Chinese fighter jet collided with a US Navy EP-3 spy plane around 110 kilometers off Hainan.

The Global Times—which is owned by the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, and often takes a nationalist tone—lashed out in an editorial at US surveillance “in the coastal waters and airspace of China.”

“Such reconnaissance is posing a threat to China’s core security interests, which could be treated as an act of hostility,” it said.

“It would be a life and death fight between China and the US if the collisions in the South China Sea became confrontations concerning both sides’ core interests,” it warned.

The episode comes as Beijing builds up its military might and naval reach, while Washington is engaged in a foreign policy “pivot” to Asia.

The official China Daily newspaper accused the US of undermining mutual trust, saying that Washington’s concerns over China’s rise were a “psychological need to create an enemy to make up for its sense of loss after the end of the Cold War.”

US naval and airborne reconnaissance missions “do nothing to convince the Chinese authorities and the Chinese people that the US is sincere in claiming it wants to build mutual trust with China,” the paper said in an editorial.

Washington and Beijing have long disagreed over aviation and maritime rights in the strategic South China Sea, the site of key shipping routes, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.

In the 2001 collision, a Chinese pilot was killed and the American aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing on Hainan.

Chinese authorities initially detained its 24-member crew for more than a week until both governments worked out a face-saving deal for their release.

Military caught ‘flat-footed’ by ISIS recruitment in Davao

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 26): Military caught ‘flat-footed’ by ISIS recruitment in Davao

Government intelligence units are now scampering to verify information that Filipino Muslims have slipped out of Mindanao to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte revealed that some Muslim youths from Davao have been recruited by the jihadist group.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastincom), said an investigation is now ongoing to determine the veracity of the report. 

“On alleged ISIS recruits from Eastern Mindanao area, be informed that we are investigating the matter,” he stressed.

“Right now, we have our intelligence units working on it. We also have fusion with the PNP (Philippine National Police),” Caber added.

The military official, however, sought to assure the public that the Eastmincom can secure its jurisdiction.

Duterte revealed that some Davao Muslim youths were recruited by ISIS which now controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria.

According to Duterte, the Filipino recruits left the country in July.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division (ID) which has jurisdiction over Davao City, said he will check on the mayor’s revelation.

“I will check on it, I will validate and take a careful look if there is basis so we can do some appropriate action. We cannot dismiss that right away…because he has his own sources,” he added.

Duterte’s pronouncements apparently gave credence to the information revealed by former President Fidel V. Ramos earlier, saying more than 100 Filipino Muslims have slipped out of the country for the Middle East to train with ISIS to become jihadists.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), however, dismissed reports that Filipino militants are now with ISIS.

This, even after the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) have claimed allegiance and expressed support to ISIS.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, meanwhile, expressed fears that the failure of the government of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF to strike a peace agreement could lead to propagation of ISIS virus in Mindanao.

The MILF claimed that through the years, it has been instrumental in preventing the birth of a strong radical group in southern Philippines.

Gov’t honors commanders of PHL revolution with trading cards on Nat’l Heroes Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): Gov’t honors commanders of PHL revolution with trading cards on Nat’l Heroes Day

A special set of printable trading cards featuring the commanders of the Philippine Revolution was released by the government as part of its National Heroes Day celebration on Monday.

The trading cards, feature 24 of the Philippine Revolution commanders including the following:

1. General Antonio Luna

2. General Macario Sakay

3. General Artemio Ricarte

4. Major Manuel Quezon

5. General Baldomero Aguinaldo

6. General Manuel Tinio

7. General Edilberto Evangelista

8. General Mariano Trias

9. General Emiliano Riego de Dios

10. General Miguel Malvar

11. General Emilio Aguinaldo

12. General Pantaleon Garcia

13. General Gregorio del Pilar

14 General Pio del Pilar

15. General Jose Ignacio Paua

16 General Santiago Alvarez

17. General Isidro Torres

18. General Tomas Mascardo

19 General Juan Cailles

20. General Venancio Concepcion

21. General Leandro Fullon

22 General Vicente Lukban

23. General Licero Geronimo

24. General Vito Belarmino

Each card provides info on the year of the commanders’ birth, death as well as his birthplace, occupation and faction.

Among other information available on the card such are the commanders’ battles, the year it was held and whether it was a defeat or victory.

These cards aim to raise awareness among the youth, especially students, of some personalities who have managed to get their names published in history books by virtue of their words or actions.

According to the Malacanang site, National Heroes Day specifies no hero; the law that put into practice the celebration does not name a single one.

“…This lack of specifics offers an opportunity to celebrate the bravery of not one, not a few, but all Filipino heroes who have braved death or persecution for home, for nation, for justice, for freedom,” Malacanang said.

The celebration of National Heroes Day was first signed into law through Act No. 3827 of the Philippine Legislature on October 28, 1931. The Act declared the last Sunday of August of every year an official national holiday.

President Corazon C. Aquino’s Administrative Code of 1987 adopted this in Book 1, Chapter 7, which provided for a list of regular holidays and nationwide special days, setting National Heroes Day as a regular holiday celebrated on the last Sunday of August.

The Administrative Code provides that the list of holidays and special days may be “modified by law, order or proclamation.”

On July 24, 2007, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9492, which amended Book 1, Chapter 7 of the Administrative Code.

By virtue of R.A. 9492, the celebration of National Heroes Day thus falls on the last Monday of August.

PHL peacekeeping contingent in Liberia to be quarantined

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): PHL peacekeeping contingent in Liberia to be quarantined
To ensure that they are not contaminated with the deadly Ebola virus which is spreading havoc in Western Africa, the 115-strong Filipino peacekeepers serving in Liberia will be quarantined first before their scheduled return to the country this October.

This will last around 21 days, Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said Monday.

The procedure will be repeated again once these troops arrived in the country.

However, he declined to comment on how long these soldiers will be quarantined upon arrival and other specifics, adding that the matter is under the purview of the Department of Health.

The DND earlier announced the Filipino military contingent in Liberia will be pulled due to the Ebola outbreak while the 331-strong force in Golan Heights will be pulled out due to the worsening security situation in Syria.

However, DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said the Philippines is amenable to the redeployment of Filipino troops should the situation stabilize.

"We are committed to our peacekeeping commitment (to the UN) but if the threat level there goes beyond a certain level, the Philippines can disengage," he added.

Galvez said that the Philippines cannot be faulted for repatriating its troops especially in the Golan Heights as Japan, Croatia, and Austria already pulled out its forces there in 2013 when the threat level went up.

He said it is important to note that the Philippines has sustained its contingent in UNDOF amidst the withdrawal of other troop-contributing countries as the conflict in Syria intensified in 2013.

"When shooting started in Syria, we told the United Nations we can stay there as long as our troops are given adequate force protection equipment like bullet-proofed vests and armored personnel carriers to ensure their protection," he said.

"However, the situation there now is that our forces there are getting frequently caught in the crossfires and sometimes, our vehicles are being hit by shrapnel from shells fired by the combatants. The situation is getting more volatile to the point that our soldiers could get killed there, and we can tell the UN that the situation is now beyond our threat level," the DND spokesperson stressed.

The DND had earlier said that "amidst the volatile security environment in the Middle East and North African region, the Philippines prioritizes the safety and security of its troops, but remains committed to the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations."

"Meanwhile, in light of the rising health risk posed by the outbreak of Ebola virus in Africa, the Filipino troops deployed to the UN Mission in Liberia will also be repatriated as soon as possible," Galvez said.

NPA presence in Western Mindanao steadily decreasing - AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 26): NPA presence in Western Mindanao steadily decreasing - AFP
The number of New People's Army (NPA) fighters and weapons still in action in Western Mindanao has been steadily decreasing, 1st Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Gerardo F. Barrientos announced.

“The numbers of NPA members in Western Mindanao and their firearms continue to decrease. NPA manpower in the said region was reduced by around 10 percent while their firearm was reduced by five percent," he said.

Barrientos attributed the decline to ongoing "Bayanihan" peace development efforts and the 1st Infantry Division's steady collaboration with local government units in Western Mindanao and Misamis Occidental on security concerns and its development implications.

Last Aug. 20, elements of the 53rd Infantry Battalion recovered two serviceable M-16 automatic rifles with magazines and ammunition in an arms cache located at the forested area in the tri-boundary of Zamboanga Del Sur, Zamboanga Del Norte and Misamis Occidental.

“The discovery of the arm cache was made possible thru timely information from the residents and former rebels who cooperated with the unit and revealed the general location where the main regional guerilla unit of the NPA kept their stash of weapons. Our former rebels who we had helped also corroborated the information which was fed to our troops on the ground resulting to the discovery of the arms cache," 53rd Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Alvin V. Luzon said.

“In addition to the two M-16 rifles, magazines and ammunition, the troops also recovered two handheld radios, two pairs of military uniforms and combat boots, medical paraphernalia, personal belongings and documents with high intelligence value. It goes to show that these items were left behind because the NPA lacks the manpower to bring it due to numerous surrenderees and the capture of their members," he added.

In earlier encounters, the NPA have used military and police uniforms to perform atrocities such as the raid of Municipal Police Stations of Tigbao in Zamboanga del Sur last 2012 and Don Victoriano Chiongbian in Misamis Occidental last 2013.

“I commend the troops involved in the discovery of arms cache. This is another result of the good rapport of our soldiers to the community. We facilitate the delivery of basic services such as medical services, low cost-high impact projects, information drives among others. In turn, the community itself abhor violence and denounce the presence of the NPA and its armaments. The community wants peace and development. Our soldiers will continue to protect the people to sustain the gains that we achieved," Barrientos said.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf member slain in Lamitan

From the Philippine Star (Aug 25): Suspected Abu Sayyaf member slain in Lamitan

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group was gunned down in the busy downtown area of Lamitan City, Basilan on Monday morning.

Police identified the victim as Abdul Asmaril Lampas, a native of Ungkaya Pukan town, said to be member and spotter of the Abu Sayyaf.

Police Senior Inspector Gean Gallardo, officer-in-charge of Lamitan City Police Office, said the victim was on board a motorcycle when he was shot several times by a lone gunman at Oval, Barangay Matibay, at around 8:40 a.m.

Gallardo said Lampas sustained seven gunshot wounds in the body.

He said investigators have yet to determine the motive of the killing.

He added that Lampas was a suspected member of the bandit group, responsible for several kidnappings and killings in the southernmost provinces of Mindanao.

Navy ships to get cannons, sensors

From the Philippine Star (Aug 25): Navy ships to get cannons, sensors

The two most modern warships of the Navy will be upgraded with sensors and cannons as part of the effort to strengthen the country’s territorial defense capabilities.
Navy spokesperson Lcdr. Marineth Domingo said the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz would be equipped with 25 mm Bushmaster auto cannons that would complement their 76 mm Oto Melara main guns.
“It will allow the vessel to handle targets coming fast and those that are too close for the ship's 76 mm to engage,” Domingo said.
Domingo said the two ships would also be provided with sensors but details of the acquisition are still being threshed out.
The specifics of the projects would depend on the availability of the budget.
“Our aim is to make them stronger to protect themselves and to protect our country,” Domingo said.
The Philippines acquired the BRP del Pilar and BRP Alcaraz from the US Coast Guard to improve Manila's territorial defense capabilities.
BRP del Pilar was commissioned in 2011 while BRP Alcaraz became part of the Philippine Navy’s inventory in 2013.
The government spent about P450 million to acquire BRP del Pilar and more than P600 million to acquire BRP Alcaraz. The two decades-old ships were acquired under the US Foreign Military Sales program.
The government has allotted P15.5-billion to acquire two more warships. The bidding process for the two brand-new vessels is underway.

What happens when Navy men cross the Equator?

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 25): What happens when Navy men cross the Equator?

One of the country’s most capable warships, BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF 16), has made it to Australia for the Exercise Kakadu 2014.

The ship arrived on Aug. 23 after it sailed from Subic last Aug.17 for the biggest Australian war games that will be participated by 12 countries.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz

BRP Ramon Alcaraz’s (left) docks alongside with HMAS Stuart (center) and HMAS Sydney (right), ships of the Royal Australian Navy at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia upon its arrival Saturday to participate in Exercise Kakadu 2014. Photo from the Navy

Most of the Philippine Navy personnel onboard the warship had to undergo the “ridiculous initiation” called “Crossing the Equator Ceremony.” There were 105 pollywogs out of 165 Navy personnel in the BRP Alcaraz.

“Pollywog is a term which refers to a sailor who has not yet crossed the equator, an imaginary line which divides the earth into northern and southern hemisphere,” explained Exercise Kakadu 2014 public affairs officer Ensign John Windy Abing.

Those who have already crossed the equator are called shellbacks, and a ceremony has to be done in order to be called as such.

“Tradition has it that all sailors crossing the equator for the first time should be prepared to appear before “King Neptune,” a Roman sea god who, according to legend, boards the ship as it crosses the equator line to test the seaworthiness of the sailors,” Abing wrote in his account.

But it doesn’t mean to be properly dressed for the rites. On the contrary, they were subjected to wear something “bizarre” and wear their uniform inside out to be distinguished from shellbacks.

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Navy chaplain, Maj Alejo Simon A Araño III (center) poses for a photo with King Neptune, Captain Ernesto Baldovino, and his royal dignitaries after finishing the initiation. Photo from the Navy

The pollywogs toured the engine room “which was so hot that it could probably boil eggs if you stay there for a long time” and the gun deck for the formal ceremony.

“The ceremony started with the appearance of Davy Jones, King Neptune’s Royal Scribe in an elaborate costume which made him look like a half pirate and a half retard. According to him, he summoned us to appear before King Neptune to answer the charges brought against us by the shellbacks.

It was then followed by the grand entrance of King Neptune played by no other than the Commanding Officer of the ship, Capt. Ernesto Baldovino together with his royal dignitaries who all looked more like psychiatric patients than royal with their elaborate costumes made from scraps,” Abing said.
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Davy Jones played by Lt Guillermo appears before the pollywogs at the start of Crossing the Equator ceremony on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo from the Navy

Baldovino, who played King Neptune, ordered the shellbacks to execute the supposed punishment to the pollywogs.

“The punishment consists of series of exercises and passing through stations which involved a royal haircut with free flour make-up and mayonnaise shampoo, crawling through the deck, royal bath in dirty water and a supposed jumping out of the ship,” Abing wrote.

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Shellbacks put flour and sandwich spread on the face of a pollywog during the Crossing the Equator ceremony on board BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo from the Navy

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Pollywogs perform push-ups as one of their punishments. Photo from the Navy

After they were finally declared as shellbacks, the ceremony ended with a boodle fight.

This was BRP Alcaraz’s first deployment overseas since she was commissioned by the Philippine Navy in 2013.

The Kakadu aims to promote and enhance regional interoperability and cooperation among the participating navies.

Peacekeepers coming home in 2-3 months

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 26): Peacekeepers coming home in 2-3 months

The pullout of more than 400 Filipino peacekeepers from Liberia and the Golan Heights may take two to three months, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

“It may take two to three months to complete the process,” DFA spokesman and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose stated on Monday.

Malacañang had said over the weekend it was ordering the repatriation of the Filipino soldiers serving as peacekeepers for the United Nations in the Golan Heights in the Middle East and Liberia in West Africa.

The government was forced to pull the troops out due to security and health concerns.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had said 115 soldiers in Liberia were being recalled because the Ebola virus outbreak “has the potential of being catastrophic.”

Top defense and military officials on Monday defended the decision to pull out the 332-strong Filipino peacekeeping mission from the Golan Heights, saying the security equation in the Israeli-occupied territory had changed.

Not abandonment 

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin stressed the decision was not an abandonment of the Philippines’ commitment to the UN Disengagement Observer Force since the pullout process would only start in October when the Filipino troops’ five-year tour of duty expires.

“Our commitment is term by term. Anyway, our commitment is about to end by October so we will give it a rest. But we’re not pulling out our contingents from other UN peacekeeping missions. It’s only in the Golan Heights and Liberia,” he said in an interview at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Del Rosario said Filipino troops had been meeting their “peacekeeping obligations” for a long time now. He said the peacekeepers in Liberia had been there for 10 years since 2004, and those in the Golan Heights for five years now since 2009.

“With regards to the Golan Heights, there has been a series of incidents involving our peacekeepers which demonstrated that they are exposed to unexpected serious risks which may worsen on the basis of current developments,” Del Rosario said.

UN peacekeepers have been caught in the middle of the fighting between Syrian troops and rebels in the Golan Heights, the area of separation between Syria and Israel, which has been largely quiet for the last 40 years.

In March 2013, Syrian rebels briefly held 21 Filipino peacekeepers and held four more two months later. All of them were eventually released on the intercession of the United Nations and the Syrian government.

Gazmin noted the Philippine contingent stayed put in the Golan Heights when the security situation started to worsen, unlike other countries which pulled out their troops, referring to Australia, Croatia and Japan.

In the case of Ebola-stricken Liberia, Gazmin said the troops would be put on quarantine for 21 days before leaving the African state and another 21 days upon their arrival in the Philippines.

He also said the government had been conducting periodic threat assessments to evaluate risks affecting the Philippine contingents.

Gazmin did not discount the possibility that the Philippines may redeploy troops to the Golan Heights once the security situation there improves.

“We will be studying that, and our United Nation peacekeeping office will make a recommendation as to where to deploy more forces,” he added.

2 Army intel men wounded in NPA ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): 2 Army intel men wounded in NPA ambush

Two intelligence men of the Philippine Army were critically wounded in an ambush staged by New People's Army (NPA) rebels in Gubat, Sorsogon on Monday morning.

A police report identified the victims, who were rushed to the Sorsogon Provincial Hospital, as Pfc. Ariel Arganda and one Cpl. Dorano of the 903rd Infantry Brigade.

The report said the two military men were going to Barangay Buenavista, Gubat town to conduct an intelligence work on the possible moves of the NPA against government soldiers.

While on board a motorcycle towards Barangay Buenavista, Dorano and Arganda were ambushed by the rebels. They were hit in the different parts of their bodies.

The rebels immediately withdrew, giving chance for villagers to rush the victims to the hospital for treatment.

Abu Sayyaf member killed in Lamitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Abu Sayyaf member killed in Lamitan City

A member and spotter of the Abu Sayyaf brigands was killed Monday in downtown Lamitan City, the police reported.

Senior Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamitan City police chief, identified the fatality as Abdul Lampas, a resident of Barangay Kabangalan, Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan.

Gallardo said Lampas was repeatedly shot at around 8:40 a.m. Monday at Oval site, Barangay Matibay, Lamitan City.

Oval site is where the Lamitan City public market is located.

Gallardo said Lampas sustained seven gunshot wounds and died on the spot.

Lampas had been identified as member of the Abu Sayyaf brigands based on the rouge gallery of the Lamitan City police headquarters.

No report of Filipinos recruited into ISIS—AFP

From GMA News (Aug 25): No report of Filipinos recruited into ISIS—AFP

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday said it had yet to validate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that Islamic State jihadists had recruited Filipinos.
Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP spokesman, said in a text message that the military had not yet received any verified information on any recruitment activities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Philippines.
“We treat information only accurate if validated, and so far, there are no reports nor names if Filipinos that are in the Middle East [are] fighting for ISIS,” Zagala said in a statement forwarded by presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda to Malacañang reporters.
The military spokesperson added that the AFP “[would] coordinate if need be with Mayor Duterte” so that the information on ISIS recruitment could be “processed and validated.”
Duterte was reported to have said in a local television program that the ISIS had recruited young Filipinos from Davao to fight government forces in Syria and Iraq.
Former President Fidel Ramos also claimed last week that the ISIS were currently training at least 100 Filipinos.
In a separate text message, Lt. Gen. Rainier Cruz III of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command said his troop was investigating the alleged ISIS recruitment activities in his area.
Earlier this month, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf rebels were reported to gave pledged allegiance to the Islamic State jihadists.

Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates programmed for upgrades

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates programmed for upgrades

The two Gregorio Del Pilar frigates in the Philippine Navy service are programmed for upgrades to restore the ships to their original US Coast Guard configurations.

This was revealed by Navy public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo in a message to the PNA.

"Both vessels are programmed for upgrades in terms of sensors and firepower to revive their original capabilities," she added.

Both ships are members of the 11-ship Hamilton class cutters designed and built for the US Coast Guard for heavy weather patrolling during the 1960s.

These ships are the largest in the US Coast Guard service and armed with the 76mm Oto Melara automatic cannon and closed-in-weapon systems.

One sister ship, the USCGC Mellon was even fitted with a Harpoon anti-ship missile system during the 1990s.

But Domingo said specifics for the upgrades are not yet out as it defends on the availability of funds.

Earlier, the PN earlier announced that the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), one of the two Hamilton-class cutters in Philippine service, will be fitted with two Mark 38 Model 2 25mm "Bushmaster" automatic cannons before the end of the year.

"PF-15 (BRP Gregorio Del Pilar) has the priority in getting these weapons.These will be fitted before the end of the year. After this, the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), will be fitted next," she added.

BRP Gregorio Del Pilar is now undergoing minor maintenance at her Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.

These weapons will act as the ship's secondary weapons.

The weapon was commissioned by the US Navy following the terrorist attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was designed to counter high-speed maneuvering surface targets and will be installed in almost all US surface ships by 2015.

The remotely controlled chain gun system can fire as many as 180 25m rounds per minute at targets as far as two kilometers.

These weapons will be fitted by a US Coast Guard team after the PN found out that having a private shipyard install the guns extreme expensive.

BRP Ramon Alcaraz now in Australia for 'Kakadu 2014'

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): BRP Ramon Alcaraz now in Australia for 'Kakadu 2014'

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the Philippine Navy's most capable warship-to-date, has arrived at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia Saturday for "Kakadu 2014" Saturday morning (Philippine time).

This was disclosed by Ensign John Windy Abing, Navy public affairs officer for "Kakadu 2014", in a statement Monday afternoon.

He added that the biennial naval exercise hosted by the Royal Australian Navy is slated for Aug. 25 to Sept. 12.

Upon the arrival of the Filipino warship, the officers and crew of BRP Ramon Alcaraz interacted with their counterparts aboard HMAS Stuart (FFH-153) giving each other various tokens of friendship.

BRP Alcaraz and HMAS Stuart are among the ships which will be participating in the 18-day naval maneuvers.

A series of exercises await BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) and her crew during "Kakadu 2014".

Navy public affairs office chief Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo earlier said that this maneuvers are designed to improve proficiencies and efficiency of the ship and crew, are the following:

*Graduated harbor training;

*Mariner skills work-up;

*Force integration training;

*Structured live weapons practice;

*Collaborate planning;

*Structured tactical free play.

Twelve countries will be participating in the biennial naval maneuvers hosted by the Royal Australian Navy.

The participating countries with navy ships/aircraft are Japan, New Zealand, Philippines, Pakistan and Australia while Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Thailand, Vanuatu, South Korea, and India will be sending personnel as observers.

This is the second time the PN has sent its ship to participate since the exercise began way back in 1993.

The first time that the PN sent a ship was in 1999. PN observers were also sent in 2003, 2005, and 2007.

It can be recalled that on March 2014, Alcaraz’s sister ship, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15) was also sent to Indonesia to participate for the first time in the multilateral naval exercise codenamed “Komodo” which was participated by 16 countries.

The PN’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.

ISIS attracting hotheaded kids: analyst

From ABS-CBN (Aug 25): ISIS attracting hotheaded kids: analyst

[Video Report]

An international affairs analyst is not discounting the possibility that some extremist elements in Mindanao will try to send members to train and fight for the jihadist group Islamic State (IS).

Ateneo de Manila University professor Richard Heydarian said while the Islamic State's stated goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate may be far-fetched, it could provide a permanent haven for extremists from all over the world.

''The bigger threat down the road is the fact that you have a group which might have access to hundreds of millions of dollars. They control oil fields and then because of their sheer military success they are attracting young, hotheaded kids from around the world,'' Heydarian told ANC's Headstart.

''Now you have kids from around the world going there, getting very advanced training, and eventually these guys are gonna go back to their home countries and that's the threat down the road."

Heydarian added the Philippines must remain vigilant and boost its intelligence cooperation with its allies.

He also believes the government must continue to pursue the peace process in Mindanao in order to counter the further rise of extremism there.

Heydarian said one way to deal with extremism is to create development and progress, to dissuade people from engaging in radical or terrorist activities.

Eastern Mindanao Command joins nationwide celebration of National Heroes Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Eastern Mindanao Command joins nationwide celebration of National Heroes Day

Showing that military personnel even in the most farthest corner of the archipelago are well aware of the bravery and sacrifices of heroes, both past and present, the Davao-based Eastern Mindanao Command joined the nationwide celebration of National Heroes Day Monday.

Also known as the "Pambansang Araw ng mga Bayani", wreath-laying activities were spearheaded by Eastern Mindanao Command deputy Brig. Gen. Alexander F. Balutan.

This took place 7 a.m. at the Unknown Soldier’s Monument in Davao City.

This year's celebration has a theme of “Bayanihang Pilipino: Lumalaban para sa Makatwiran at Makabuluhang Pagbabago”.

Military units under the Eastern Mindanao Command such as the Army’s 4th Infantry Division which cover Regions 10 and 13; and the 10th Infantry Division which covers Region 11 and portions of Region 12 also joined the same celebration at their respective venues in coordination with the concerned local government units.

By virtue of Commonwealth Act Number 3827 of 1931, the last Sunday of August was declared a national holiday known as National Heroes’ Day.

MILF: Homeland Media Agency conducts Strategic Planning Workshop

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 25): Homeland Media Agency conducts Strategic Planning Workshop

After a series of brainstorming, the Homeland Media Agency (HMA) finally conducted a Strategic Planning Workshop at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Hall, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindnao on August 23-24, 2014.

The workshop materialized in partnership with the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a prominent and one of the most active youth non-government organizations in Mindanao headed by its President Ustadz Rahib Kudto, now a member of the GPH-MILF Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT). HMA is a non-partisan, non-profit online publication with members comprising Moro and non-Moros.

With the excellent facilitation of Mr. Edwin Antipuesto, a Cotabateño who willingly shared his expertise, the participants were able to conceptualized and developed HMA’s Vision, Mission, Goals and Objectives (VMGO) that suits to the current demand of the Mindanaoans in mass media practice and improve their skills and capabilities in developing relevant and balance newswriting and feature stories on the actual situation in Mindanao and its tri-people inhabitants. Through HMA, writer-members can convey accurate news and information via the social media.
The participants that attended the workshop composed of representatives from civil society organizations (CSO’s), the academe and local media practitioners, members of BLMI and UNYPAD some of whom helped facilitated the workshop.

The first day session was facilitated by UNYPAD officers Mr. Tu Alid Alfonso and Baisnaie J. Macabuat . Mr. Abubakar Bandila, HMA Board Member presented the HMA program and objectives.

Sheikh Mahmod S. Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director, lectured on Islamic orientation and provided updates on GPH-MILF Peace deals vis a vis the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Mr. Alih S. Anso, a media practitioner presented an overview of HMA and its historical background.

During the second day, Mr.Antipuesto lectured on situational analysis in conceptualizing sorts of formulation. He used SWOT analysis in threshing out the crucial elements in order to establish a realistic and viable concept for the HMA organizational and operational structure. Series of workshops and productive discourse yielded feasible concept that will serve as guiding principles in HMA’s operation.

Hadji Nurl Tingkasan, a DXMM Radio anchor based in Jolo, Sulu also assisted in facilitating the program. A post assessment meeting and action planning shall be held in due time to evaluate the just concluded strategic planning workshop, conceptualize and determine future programs.

Military honors fallen heroes at Libingan ng mga Bayani

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Military honors fallen heroes at Libingan ng mga Bayani

Ranking officials of the military and civilian government paid homage to the nation's fallen heroes during simple ceremonies at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig City, Monday.

Also present were ranking police officials, members of the academe, youth groups, diplomatic corps and members of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

Wreath-laying and other ceremonies honoring them took place at 8 a.m.

A wreath-laying ceremony was also conducted at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers (TUKS) at LNMB.

Likewise, a full military honor composed of personnel from the Philippine Army, Philippine Navy (Fleet and Marines) and Philippine Air Force was tendered to President Aquino upon his arrival at the LNMB.

Recently, the Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines together with the HERO Foundation Inc., along with other entities and individuals sponsored a concert featuring Army, Air Force, Navy and GHQ Band at Market! Market! Mall, Taguig City last Saturday and a 3K, 5K and 10K Run for Heroes 2014 at HPA Grandstand in Fort Bonifacio.

The Philippine Army and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, on the other hand, joins the entire nation in commemorating the National Heroes’ Day with the hope that our heroes' sacrifices will keep the flame of nationalism alive not just in every soldier but in all citizens.

PH warship arrives in Australia: Scenes when it crossed the equator

From Rappler (Aug 25): PH warship arrives in Australia: Scenes when it crossed the equator

The Crossing the Equator Ceremony is a tradition among sailors that dates back a thousand of years

WAR GAMES: The Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrives in Australia for the Kakadu war games. Photo courtesy of the PH Navy
WAR GAMES: The Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrives in Australia for the Kakadu war games. Photo courtesy of the PH Navy

The poor state of the Philippine Navy means many of the sailors remain a Pollywog, a term for those who have not crossed the imaginary line separating the northern and southern hemispheres. Those who have are called Shellback.

The country's biggest ship, BRP Ramon Alcaraz, has arrived in Australia to participate in war games that began Monday, August 25, and last until September 12.

A photo from the Philippine Navy shows the 40-year-old refurbished Hamilton-class cutter docked alongside Australian war ships HMAS Stuart and HMAS Sydney at Fort Hill Wharf, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia. It sailed from the Philippines on August 17 and arrived on August 23.

Alcaraz's voyage to Australia is so far its longest operational deployment overseas. It is also the first time it is crossing the equator since it was commissioned as a Philippine Navy ship in 2013.

It meant going through the "exhausting" Crossing the Equator Ceremony, a fun tradition among sailors that dates back thousands of years. When BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrived in the country last year, a number of traditions including a sail past were also observed.

"The feeling of fulfilment prevailed over exhaustion. We have just achieved what I consider as an important milestone of being a navy. We are now certified shellbacks," read the account of Ensign John Windy Abing.

CROSSING THE EQUATOR CEREMONY: Captain Ernesto Baldovino (leftmost) playacts as King Neptune. PH Navy photo
CROSSING THE EQUATOR CEREMONY: Captain Ernesto Baldovino (leftmost) playacts as King Neptune. PH Navy photo

The poor state of the Philippine Navy means many of the sailors remain a Pollywog, a term for those who have not crossed the imaginary line separating the northern and southern hemispheres. Those who have are called Shellback.

Out of the total 165 navy personnel onboard BRP Alcaraz, 105 were pollywogs.  

Lt Guillermo plays royal scribe Davy Jones
Lt Guillermo plays royal scribe Davy Jones
The pollywogs bathe in dirty water
The pollywogs bathe in dirty water
Flour make-up
Flour make-up
The punishment
The punishment

Legend has it that King Neptune, the Roman sea god, boards ships that cross the equator to test the seaworthiness of the sailors. Pollywogs, therefore, should prepare to appear before King Neptune before they become true blue sailors.
Following tradition, the Pollywogs wore their uniforms inside out to differentiate them from the Shellbacks. They toured the engine room and the gun deck before the elaborate ceremony actually began, where King Neptune's royal scribe Davy Jones appeared before them to discuss "charges" brought against them by the Shellbacks.
King Neptune, played by the commanding officer of the ship Captain Ernesto Baldovino, ordered the shellbacks to punish the pollywogs. Blindfolded, they got a haircut, flour make-up, and mayonnaise shampoo. They crawled through the deck and bathed in dirty water.
Baldovino later declared everyone as shellbacks and they celebrated through a boodle fight.
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.
Also among the first activities of the Filipino sailors was a visit to Australian war ship HMAS Stuart, where they exchanged ball caps with their Australian counterparts.
One of the weakest 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).

Two new frigates, a third Hamilton-Class cutter, and two Strategic Sealift Vessels are among those in the pipeline. (READ: State of PH Navy modernization: 'Golden Days will return)

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.

AFP to deploy Marine units in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): AFP to deploy Marine units in Zamboanga City

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said they are planning to deploy Marine units in Zamboanga City to help people there get over the trauma of last year's bloody siege.

"If you to go Zamboanga, it appears that people still have fears. I don't want that," Catapang said in Filipino.

He added that he is planning to remove this by bringing Marine units in Zamboanga City to assure people of their security and that life must go on.

The AFP chief said this seems to be the ideal solution for Zamboangeños as the latter is comfortable with the Marines.

In September 2013, more than 300 followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari laid siege to Zamboanga City which sparked a three-week fierce fighting with government troops.

The fighting left more than 200 people dead and over 100,000 homeless.

Catapang said the Marine units that will be deployed to Zamboanga City will come from Sulu.

But the move will not left Sulu undefended as the 1st Infantry Division and the Joint Special Operations Group will be tasked to protect the province from threat groups like the Abu Sayyaf which is known to operate in the area.

Aside from Zamboanga City, the AFP chief said he is also looking at the possibility of deploying Marine units in Tawi-Tawi, Batanes and Palawan.

He added that this is ideal for the latter as their concept of operations is amphibious in nature and very mobile.

"I want the Navy to play bigger role. It's a chain of bodies of water so we need to strengthen our Navy,” Catapang concluded.

Grenade lobbed at church wall in Maguindanao, no one hurt

From InterAksyon (Aug 25): Grenade lobbed at church wall in Maguindanao, no one hurt

Investigators at the site of the bombing, 24 August 2014. DENNIS ARCON/

A loud explosion alarmed residents of Zone 5 Barangay Tamontaka in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao around 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

Three persons on board a motorcycle allegedly threw a PRB423 fragmentation grenade toward the dark portion of the back wall of the Lourdes Grotto Church, said Datu Odin Sinsuat chief of police PIns Datulon Pinguiaman.

While no one was hurt in the explosion, it struck fear and worry among the residents near the site.

The perpetrators allegedly came from the Datu Odin area and were moving toward the Cotabato City area, Pingulaman added.

He strongly believes that the perpetrators were also afraid, that’s why the grenade was lobbed at an isolated part of the church.

Checkpoints have been set up in entry and exit points to the city due to an earlier explosion of a home-made bomb in City Plaza which injured several people, including a soldier.

In a related development, a bomb also exploded in Barangay Saguing, Makilala, North Cotabato in the wee morning of Friday.

Again, no one was injured in this explosion, although a steel shop owned by Ernesto Panes was destroyed.

Investigation into the two explosions continues.

GPH, MILF: awaiting “mutual acceptance” three years after the “rejections”

From MindaNews (Aug 24): GPH, MILF: awaiting “mutual acceptance” three years after the “rejections”  

August 23, 2011, Day 2 of the supposed three-day peace talks between the Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) at the Royale Chulan Hotel in Kuala Lumpur abruptly ended at noon, with the MILF announcing “we reject” the government’s “3 for 1” counter-proposal, and the government replying, “we reject your rejection.”

Neither side expected the sudden adjournment. The International Contact Group and the Malaysian facilitator got the panels to meet again in the afternoon but no joint statement was issued.

“Heaven and earth” was how MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described the gap between the GPH proposal handed over to them on August 22, in response to the MILF proposal that it handed over to the GPH in February that year.

GPH peace panel chair Marvic Leonen said the gap was “not too far apart.”

The “rejections” came barely three weeks after that historic August 4, 2011 meeting between President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Tokyo, Japan. There, both leaders agreed to fast-track the peace process, sign an agreement within the first half of the Aquino administration (2010 to 2013) so that implementation can be done in the latter half (2013 to 2016).

Three years and a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) later, residents in the proposed Bangsamoro and the rest of the country await the end of exchanges between Malacanang (Office of the President) and the MILF, on the final text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBC) that would govern the future Bangsamoro — that version incorporating the “mutually acceptable” provisions from the 97-page draft BBL that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to Malacanang on April 22, the Malacanang-reviewed provisions, the outputs of the 21-day “workshops” by the GPH and MILF peace panels in Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Davao, the August 13 to 15 meetings between Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa and MILF/BTC chair Iqbal in Davao City and their meetings in Manila since Tuesday, August 19.

Ochoa, who had effectively taken over the negotiations with the MILF since noon of August 10, was accompanied by the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, to the meetings with Iqbal on August 13 to 15 in Davao City and the meetings in Manila since August 19.

The MILF’s website, announced on August 21 that the revised draft for the President’s review was submitted to Ochoa, in the presence of Caguioa and Assistant Executive Secretary Mike Musngi, at 8 p.m. on August 20. Iqbal signed the document as BTC chair.

Although the target date of August 20 was not mentioned in the Joint Statement issued by Ochoa and Iqbal on August 15 in Davao City, both parties then agreed on August 20 as the date for the submission of a “mutually acceptable” draft BBL to President Aquino. Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresitta Quintos-Deles told MindaNews on Augsut 15 that the final draft of the BBL would be submitted to the President “before end of next week” (by August 22) and to Congress before the end of August.

As early as July last year, the President had called on Congress to pass the BBL before yearend 2014 to give the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) enough time to govern the area using a ministerial form in preparation for the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro in 2016. Aquino wants the Bangsamoro government installed by June 30, 2016, the day he steps down as President.

Final text

“We are ready to adhere to our understanding to work on the final text of the proposed BBL after its review by the President,” Iqbal’s cover letter to Ochoa on the draft BBL said.

MindaNews learned that as of Sunday, August 24, notes were still being exchanged, although already based on the comments of the President.

The President was initially expected to have transmitted to Congress and certified as “urgent” the draft BBL on May 5 when it resumed sessions after the Holy Week Break but until Congress adjourned sine die on June 11, the draft was still with Malacanang. It finally handed over a copy of the reviewed draft to the MILF on June 21.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Iqbal had raised their “concerns” over the Malacanang-proposed revisions to the BTC draft in a meeting with the President in Hiroshima before the President delivered his keynote address at the Consolidation for Peace for Mindanao seminar on June 24.

No details of the meeting were released except to say “concerns” were raised but Iqbal in Istanbul, Turkey two days later, revealed that Malacanang-proposed revisions had “heavily diluted” the BTC draft and if followed, would render the future Bangsamoro less autonomous than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) that it seeks to replace.

The President was again expected to submit the draft BBL on July 28, during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Congress but the GPH and MILF peace panels, to whom the reviewed draft was elevated by the BTC in a resolution on July 3, had not succeeded in coming up with a “mutually acceptable” draft BBL despite their “workshops.”

“The two parties are also (on) the same level of understanding that an ‘agreed version’ of the BBL is the only way that would strengthen their partnership in jointly pushing for the early passage of the bill in Congress,” the report added.

Deles, according to a press release of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) also on August 21, said “the latest draft (of the BBL) has been submitted to the President for his review” and “further discussions may be held based on the guidance of the President.”

‎She added she is “confident that a mutually acceptable bill will be filed in Congress as a true demonstration of the parties’ firm partnership for peace.‎”

“3 for 1” formula

The MILF in February 2011 proposed what it referred to as an “asymmetrical state-substate relationship,” where, among others, “powers of the central government and state government are clearly stated, aside from those powers they jointly exercise.”

Government’s counter-proposal in August 2011 did not respond to the “asymmetrical relationship” proposal of the MILF but offered a “three for one” solution which it described as “pragmatic, workable, viable” — massive economic development;  political settlement with the MILF; and cultural-historical acknowledgment.

The ARMM which the President had repeatedly referred to as “failed experiment,” was to play a crucial role in the undertaking.

It wasn’t the first time that the prospect of an “improved” ARMM was dangled before the MILF although the Aquino administration, unlike previous administrations, never reached the stage of offering it formally.

The Estrada administration, which waged an “all-out war” against the MILF in 2000 offered the MILF an “enhanced” ARMM which it rejected. The Arroyo administration made a similar move and again met the same rejection.

The Arroyo administration initially worked for but later abandoned the idea of postponing the August 11, 2008 ARMM election, days before the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) would have been signed.

The MOA-AD was initialed but its formal signing on August 5, 2008 in Kuala Lumpur was aborted following the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) by the Supreme Court a day earlier.

“Reforming” ARMM

The Ramos administration offered the ARMM to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), even getting MNLF chair Nur Misuari to run for ARMM Governor, unopposed, under the administration party, after the President ordered the rival candidates to withdraw.

Misuari as governor was supposed to have governed from September 30, 1996 to September 30, 1999 but stayed on on holdover capacity because Congress failed to pass the law that would amend RA 6734, the Organic Act creating the ARMM, and incorporate the provisions of the “Final Peace Agreement” signed on September 2, 1996.

In the end, the MNLF complained that the amendatory law, RA 9054, rendered the ARMM less autonomous than it already was.

Misuari stayed on as Governor until late November 2001 when he was arrested for alleged illegal entry in an island off Sabah after allegedly leading a rebellion in Sulu and Zamboanga days before the ARMM election.

Although the Aquino administration did not formally offer the ARMM to the MILF, its proposal revolved around a “reformed” ARMM.

ARMM by then has had six elections with Zaldy Ampatuan as the lone reelected governor (2005-2008 and 2008 -2011). His second term was short-lived as he was arrested on December 5, 2009, having been implicated in the November 23, 2009 massacre of 58 persons including Genalyn, wife of then Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

Genalyn led the convoy that was bound for the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak town to deliver the certificate of candidacy for governor of her husband. Their vehicles were flagged down along the highway and at gunpoint they were herded off to Sitio Masalay in Barangay Salman where they were massacred and more than half buried mass graves.

The armed men were reported led by the ARMM governor’s brother, then Datu Unsay town mayor Andal “Datu Unsay” Amptuan, Jr. who wanted to run for Maguindanao governor, unopposed, like his father in the previous election .

After the Ampatuans were jailed a special audit done by the Commission on Audit covering the period January 2008 to September 2009 alone showed over a billion pesos worth of transactions by Ampatuan’s office had “inadequate, spurious or entirely non-existent support documents.”

ARMM beyond 2011

The GPH proposal in August 2011 noted that while the ARMM “may have been a failed experiment in the past, the current proposal is based on a more balanced understanding of whether its past failure was due to its structure and the systems that it spawned or the quality of the past national or regional leadership. This proposal presents the possibility of a more empowered, more workable, and thus, more genuine autonomy of a Bangsamoro region.”

For the MILF, it was not a question of national or regional leadership but the structure. ARMM was not an option.

The stage for a “reformed ARMM” had actually been set in the early months of 2011, when the ruling party pushed for the postponement of the August 8, 2011 ARMM elections, to synchronize it with the May 13, 2013 national mid-term elections.

On June 30, 2011, President Aquino signed Republic 10153, the law that synchronized the ARMM polls with the national and authorized the President to name officers-in-charge (OICs) who would serve from September 30, 2011 (the end of the term of the officials elected in 2008). The OICs were to serve until June 30, 2013, when the next set of officials shall have been elected or earlier, if developments in the peace process could lead to a new political entity before that date.

The 14-month window within which the President could appoint OICs to serve the ARMM, could have been the transition from the ARMM to the new political entity with the MILF already on board, similar to what the Ramos administration did to Misuari and the MNLF.

No formal offer

The Aquino administration apparently dropped the political overtures following the rejection of the “3 for 1 proposal” in August 2011.

MILF chair Murad had earlier told MindaNews that no formal offer was made but it was “implied.”

Iqbal told MindaNews Sunday( (Aug. 24), that no formal offer of the ARMM was made to them in August 2011. Datu Michael Mastura who was active in the MILF peace panel while Leonen was the GPH panel chair told MindaNews he and Leonen would often engage in repartees as lawyers often do and that Leonen “did once hint but our panel never succumbed to it.”

The Supreme Court initially issued a temporary restraining order preventing Aquino from appointing OICs in the ARMM but after the TRO was lifted, he named former Anak Mindanaw party-list Representative Mujiv Hataman, one of his buddies in Congress when he was Tarlac Representative, as OIC ARMM Governor.

Hataman took over the post from Acting Governor Ansaruddin Alonto Adiong, the Vice Governor who assumed the post of Governor when Ampatuan was detained. Adiong did not show up during the turnover on December 22, 2011.

Finally, a framework

It took months – specifically until December 2011 — before the peace panels could return to the negotiating table after the August debacle.

By April 24, 2012, the peace panels finally signed the “GPH-MILF Decision Points on Principles as of April 2012” and by October 15, 2012 the Framework Agreement on the Bagnsamoro (FAB).

The government peace panel was then chaired by UP College of Law Dean Leonen. He left the panel in November 2012 to move over to the Supreme Court as Associate Justice.

UP Political Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, a member of Leonen’s panel since July 2010, became chair by December 2012 and steered the panel through four annexes to the FAB and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which was signed on March 27, 2014 in the gardens of Malacanang.