Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Noy urged to pursue peace talks with NPA

From the Philippine Star (Sep 3): Noy urged to pursue peace talks with NPA

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas receives firearms from former NPA rebels during a turnover ceremony in Malaybalay City Sunday.

MALAYBALAY CITY, Philippines – Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. has urged President Aquino to pursue a peace dialogue with communist rebels.

Zubiri made the appeal before dozens of former communist rebels who witnessed the launching and turnover of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) at the Army’s 403rd Infantry Brigade here last Sunday.

He asked Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas to relay his message to the President. He said to achieve lasting peace, the government should start talking peace with the rebels.

“Let us start talking peace here, at least, in Bukidnon,” Zubiri said.

Roxas was in Bukidnon to facilitate the launching and turnover of the CLIP livelihood assistance to 66 former communist rebels who surrendered to government forces last May 2.

Zubiri challenged the communist guerrillas to talk peace with the government.

“If they can hear me, I offer them my hand of peace,” he said.

Roxas said each of the 66 former members of the New People’s Army (NPA) would receive P65,000 under the government’s local integration program.

Zubiri said the former rebels would also receive P50,000 from the provincial government.

He admitted the local government could not help the former rebels in terms of jobs, but he expressed optimism that they would be able to start a new life with the CLIP in time for Bukidnon’s centennial celebration.

Roxas tasked DILG regional director Rene Burdeos to ensure that the former rebels maximize the livelihood assistance.

The launch and turnover of the livelihood  program came hours after communist rebels bombed a tower of a telephone company in Impasugong town, also in Bukidnon.


The Islamic State sees rise in Southeast Asia

From the Manila Times (Sep 2): The Islamic State sees rise in Southeast Asia

JAKARTA, Indonesia: Emilia Az opens a folder on her Blackberry labeled “Wahhabis” and flicks through her recent messages. One is a cartoon depiction of an Arab fighter holding a necklace lined with severed heads. Another is a masked Indonesian man holding aloft the Islamic State flag.

“I get text messages like these all the time now. They have said they know where I live, that I will be killed. They said, ‘If you don’t turn to Sunni, back to the real path of Islam, we will behead you’,” Emilia said.

“Sometimes they throw stones at my house. Once I had a dog, a great dane, and they killed him with a big stone, like they wanted to show me that, ‘I know your house, and we are here’,” she added.

As a Shia Muslim, and a representative for an Indonesian interfaith organization supporting the rights of religious minorities, Emilia is a visible target for hardline elements of the Sunni majority in the world’s most populous Muslim nation.

The threats against her have so far proved empty, and she’s used to the abuse. But as the Islamic State group (IS) has gained international media attention, the messages she receives have increasingly adopted the sinister imagery of the conflict unfolding in Iraq and Syria.

As many as 200 Indonesian jihadists are believed to have traveled to fight with IS, and Indonesia’s counter-terrorist forces are concerned that those returning could be emboldened to carry out acts of terrorism on home soil.

Pledging allegiance

Abu Bakar Bashir, the imprisoned leader of Jemaah Islamayah (JI), the al-Qaeda-affiliated organization responsible for the 2002 Bali bombing, pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State group from his jail cell last month.

Security was stepped up last week in central Java at Borobodur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple, following an apparent bomb threat by IS-affiliated Islamists against the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Orga-nization World Heritage site.

In July, hardliners gathered outside a mosque in Solo, central Java, to publicly pledge allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Similar gatherings have been reported in Bima, West Nusa Tengarra, and in Jakarta, the capital.

Concerns over resurgent violence are not confined to Indonesia.

Malaysian authorities on August 13 announced the arrest of 19 people who had allegedly planned to travel to Syria to fight alongside IS. The group is also alleged to have planned to bomb a Carlsberg brewery and bars on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. So far about 100 Malaysian fighters are believed to have traveled to the Middle East join the group.

Police authorities last week said at least three Malaysian women have traveled to the self-declared Islamic State to serve as “comfort women,” in a phenomenon described as “jihad al-nikah,” or sexual jihad.

In Indonesia, crack anti-terrorist units—trained and funded by the United States and Australia—have, over the past decade, largely eradicated JI’s terrorist network. In the short term, concerns for a large-scale terrorist attack on the archipelago seem premature. But the efficacy of IS’ propaganda, mobilized by social media, has provided a cause around which Indonesia’s hardline elements may rally.

The Sunnah Defence League (SDL), an umbrella organization for Indonesia’s ultra-conservative Muslim factions, has for years demonstrated against practices it deems un-Islamic, from the hosting of the Miss World contest in Bogor last year, to the practicing of other faiths and non-Sunni interpretations of Islam.

Hardline subsects of the SDL – such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI)—enforce what they see as a form of vigilante justice: smashing up bars and nightclubs, and forcing the closure of churches and mosques of alternative faiths.

FPI spokesman Munarman, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, refused to comment on the organization’s stance on the Islamic State group when contacted by Al Jazeera, deciding mid-conversation that he was no longer the FPI spokesman.


AFP chief: NPA history by next year

From the Manila Times (Sep 2): AFP chief: NPA history by next year
THE Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, on Tuesday claimed that the communist New People’s Army (NPA) is fast becoming a spent force and would be fully neutralized by 2015.

Catapang said his target is to declare the entire country peaceful and ready for development before his retirement next year.

His timetable precedes by a year that of his predecessor, retired military chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, to end the Maoist insurgency by the end of President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s term in 2016.

Even with its small number, Catapang said, the NPA has chosen to remain active to survive through bombings, destruction of equipment and extortion.

He, however, pointed out that reports about the activities of the rebels were rather sensationalized and did not really picture the real situation.

“I think we have the momentum to declare the country next year by the time I retire as peaceful and ready for development,” Catapang said.

He noted that the NPA fighters now operate in smaller number, which indicates that they number fewer than the 4,000 active guerrillas earlier reported by the military.

“… I think they are down to 2,000 active, the non-active is another 2,000, that’s why it’s 4,000,” the AFP chief explained.

The AFP claims that the NPA has failed on its five-year plan that ended last year to regain back its Marcos-era strength of 25,000 fighters through massive recruitment process, particularly among the youth.


‘PH-Indon sea pact can help resolve sea rows’

From the Manila Times (Sep 2): ‘PH-Indon sea pact can help resolve sea rows’

OTHER countries can use as a model a sea agreement signed by the Philippines and Indonesia in resolving territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), according to US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg.

The ambassador was referring to the pact between Jakarta and Manila that ended a 20-year-old dispute due to overlapping claims to exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

“Tensions need to be lowered and rules to be followed. One very positive example from the Philippines is what it did with Indonesia to resolve EEZ issues. It took 20 years to sign an agreement,” Goldberg said in a recent roundtable with The Manila Times’ staff.

“There is a template for how you can do it bilaterally and resolve something peacefully,” the US envoy stressed.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. agreed with Goldberg, saying the idea can lead to a tangible way to end conflicts.

“That mode is fully consistent with our position that the WPS (West Philippine Sea) issue has to be resolved through peaceful and diplomatic means,” he told The Times.

In May this year, after two decades of negotiations, President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono witnessed the signing of the agreement concerning the delimitation of the EEZ boundary in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.

The deal was signed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa based mainly on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), which sets that a country’s EEZ is an area beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea. It shall not extend beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.
Aquino said the agreement with Indonesia is a testament that the country is committed to end territorial disputes without the use of violence.

The Philippines filed a memorial against China before the International Tribunal on the Laws of the Sea (Itlos) to question the mainland’s nine-dash line rule in determining its territories in the West Philippine Sea.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the sea pact is the first maritime boundary treaty of the Philippines. It will be ratified by Aquino and submitted to the Senate for concurrence.

The DFA explained that the agreement includes the annexed charts showing the EEZ boundary of the Philippines and Indonesia in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea in southern Philippines and in the Philippine Sea on the southern section of the Pacific Ocean.

“The EEZ boundary line defines the limits of the sea space in southern Philippines, thereby giving our fishermen and other stakeholders a clear extent of the area where they can exercise the sovereign rights over the waters as provided for by national laws and treaties including the 1982 Unclos,” it said in a previous statement.


MILF: Creation of Bangsamoro urged to halt ISIS’ recruitment in the Philippines

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 3): Creation of Bangsamoro urged to halt ISIS’ recruitment in the Philippines

The need to establish a new political entity dubbed Bangsamoro has become imperative after some Moro people are trying to join, or may already be fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said yesterday.
Haji Acmad Bayam, the MNLF’s chief propagandist in the past, told the Manila Bulletin yesterday that he believes the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) would be a better foil for any of the reported Filipino Muslims who were trying to sneak to Syria and Iraq to train and fight with the unforgiving ISIS Sunni militants.

He said the government should take seriously the reports because there was already a precedent when Moro militants joined the Afghanistan revolution against the former Union of Soviet Socialist Russia (USSR).

“Some of them were known to have come back to the Philippines and spread the virus of revolution,” said Bayam.

He said there are reports that some Moro people have already joined the ISIS, or Islamic State (IS), which has and continues to carve its own territory out of Syria and Iraq, and called it a caliphate.

Bayam said those with the ISIS now, if they survive the fighting in the Middle East, will surely be going home, he said.

But what is scary is that the ISIS ideology leaves no space for co-existence and tolerance for its perceived enemies, he pointed out.

He said that with the Bangsamoro government under the MILF, with its own security apparatus that is also under the national government, returning militants will face their fellow Moro people in case violence breaks outs.

In referring to the Bangsamoro, it means that the new political entity to be created through the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to implement the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), signed by the MILF and the Philippine government on March 27 this year.

On the other hand, both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have said they have not received confirmation that Filipino Muslims were already with the ISIS.

Earlier, former President Fidel V. Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said they have received information that Filipino Muslims were being recruited to join the ISIS.

MILF: MILF officials briefed On JICA’s Project for the Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 2): MILF officials briefed On JICA’s Project for the Bangsamoro

Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao – On August 13, 2014, JICA Officials headed by Mr. Naoyuki Ochiai, Senior Advisor for Peace Building of the Economic Infrastructure Department, visited Camp Darapanan for a courtesy call to MILF Chairman, Al Haj  Murad Ebrahim and other members of the Central Committee. Mr. Ochiai was accompanied by his colleague Ms. Tomoko Shimada from JICA HQ, Ms. Samrah Karon from JICA Cotabato Project Office, and IMT-Mindanao Japanese member Mr. Takayuki Nakagawa during this meeting.
Mr. Ochiai briefed Chairman Murad about the progress of the project of JICA for the Bangsamoro, particularly the activities of the Quick Impact Project, under the Public Service Delivery Component of the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro which was at the time of visit was conducting the site validation to proposed communities. Aside from the update about the QIP, Mr. Ochiai also explained the plan of JICA to dispatch another team of Japanese Consultants this September 2014 to commence the activities for the Phase 2 of the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) which specifically covers the sectors of power, infrastructure and agriculture industry. JICA requested the leadership of the MILF to support the Japanese Consultants for the BDP. This new initiative of JICA for the Bangsamoro will collaborate with the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

Ms. Tomoko Shimada also explained another assistance of JICA in relation to job creation for the Bangsamoro through a private sector development. This new assistance is a Special Financing Facility for the Bangsamoro specifically for agribusiness development and is in collaboration with World Bank. The project, which will start next year, will allow the private sector to invest in the Bangsamoro area through a loan in the Land Bank of the Philippines.

Chairman Murad expressed his gratitude to JICA and the Government of Japan for its continued support to the Bangsamoro people in the implementation of the post signing agreement. The chairman also suggested to the JICA Mission to expand and assist the aquaculture in the island provinces which has a huge potential for economic development. He emphasized that although the agriculture sector in the mainland Bangsamoro area has the same potential, the island needs also a boast to parallel the economic opportunity with the entire territory, which the JICA Mission totally agrees.


MILF: MILF extends sympathies to Japan and people affected by deadly landslides

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 2): MILF extends sympathies to Japan and people affected by deadly landslides

In a written message addressed to Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki dated August 27, 2014, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chieftain Al Haj Murad Ebrahim conveyed the Moro front’s deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the people of Hiroshima, Japan who were severely affected by deadly landslides and mudslides due to torrential rains that caused the deaths of fifty (50) people with scores of people also missing.
Rescue teams rescued thousands and evacuated to schools and other public facilities.

“In the face of such a horrible calamity, our fervent prayers for the early retrieval of those still missing and the safe rehabilitation of evacuees”, Chairman Murad said.

“The MILF looks forward to early rehabilitation and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure like houses, apartments, roads and bridges”, Murad further said.

Japan as a GPH and MILF partner is in peace making in Mindanao is a member of the International Contact Group (ICG).

The past many years, up to the present, Japan through the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been funding infrastructure projects in Mindanao and capacity building programs for the Moro people. Various universities in Japan are also offering training programs for MILF members and non-members including foreign nationals on various fields of specialization.


MILF: Stakeholder integrates Islamic finance in “Light for Peace” Project

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 2): Stakeholder integrates Islamic finance in “Light for Peace” Project

In consonance with Islamic tenets, an institution implementing Light for Peace Project integrates Musharaka and Murabaha, structures in Islamic finance, in the provision of solar-powered lighting facilities and acquisition by Moro beneficiaries.
Light for Peace Project is an initiative that provides affordable lighting to off grid communities in the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The project is implemented by One Renewable Energy Enterprise (OREE), Incorporated, an institution that provides supply, integration, design and importation services on Solar Photovoltaic (PV) devices.

OREE implements the undertaking with its grassroots partners, Barangay Renewable Energy Community Development Associations (BREDCAs), to reach out its target households.

The institution shares capitalization with BREDCA to acquire solar-powered lighting facilities then sell those to beneficiaries who will pay the items in monthly installment.

In Musharaka or partnership, the parties involved contribute capital to run the business who mutually agreed to share profit or loss. OREE and BREDCA will be engaging in Musharaka for the procurement and distribution of items.

In the distribution of the devices, BREDCA will employ Murabaha, a scheme wherein the provider procures the item then sell it with disclosed amount of profit to buyers in installment basis. 

Installment scheme lighten the burden of debt payment for the lighting facilities which is composed of solar panel, battery and LED bulbs. Its cost varies depending on the wattage. The cost for a 1.5 watt which can light a single bulb is P1,800.

OREE also provided BREDCAs with Training-Orientation on Enterprise Development in strategic sites in Mindanao with the support of Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF).

During the training, the officers of Katiyakap, an organization of peace advocates which piloted Islamic Finance in the Socsargen Area, shared their experience in implementing Islamic Finance.

With one million pesos funding entrusted by PEF, since 2012, Katiyakap have been providing capitalization in cash or in kind to target beneficiaries who wanted to engage in livelihood activities.

Five companies eye bullet supply deal

From the Business World (Sep 2): Five companies eye bullet supply deal

AT LEAST five companies have signified interest in securing a P67-million contract to supply 28 million pieces of bullet components that will be used to assemble 5.56mm M855 bullets locally.

These companies are the Toferma Enterprises which represents Turkish Firm MKE, Philippine-based tactical equipment company Stone of David, ATK Intrade Asia Pacific Corp., CBC Brazil, and Roquesan Enterprises, documents obtained by BusinessWorld from the Department of National Defense (DND) said.
Representatives of these companies have attended the pre-negotiation meeting held last week at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, the documents said.

All companies are still undergoing negotiation procedures with the DND Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) in setting the project’s parameters.

The bullets will be used for the newly minted M4 rifles which will be distributed to the Philippine Marines and other troops of the Philippine Army, DND Public Affairs Chief Arsenio R. Andolong, in an interview with BusinessWorld on Tuesday, said.
The contract involves the delivery of bullet components of around 28 million bullet pieces -- including the casing, primer and bullet head -- which will be assembled here in the Philippines by the Government Arsenal (GA), Mr. Andolong said.

Besides manufacturing a set amount of ammunition for the AFP yearly, the GA also serves a portion of the needs of the Philippine National Police (PNP), he added.

Meanwhile, the DND has also put in the auction block its planned procurement of 670,000 rounds of 7.62mm tracer cartridges, or projectile bullets that are visible to the naked eye through pyrotechnic components.
The DND has set an approved budget of P34.8 million for the contract, which is open to all interested bidders, both local and foreign.

Interested bidders can submit their proposals until Sept. 25, 2014 -- which is also the same date of opening of proposals -- to be held at the BAC Conference Room at the DND building in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Pamatong claims frame-up in NAIA bomb plot

From ABS-CBN (Sep 2): Pamatong claims frame-up in NAIA bomb plot

Frustrated presidential candidate Ely Pamatong on Tuesday claimed that the suspects in the foiled Sept. 1 bombing of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) were only framed up.

Pamatong said one of the suspects, Grandeur "Jojo" Guerrero, is his chief of staff in his organization called "United States Allied Freedom Fighters of the East (USAFFE).

Pamatong, who rose to infamy in 2004 after his supporters scattered steel spikes on EDSA following his derailed presidential bid, claims to hold a "5-star general" rank in USAFFE.

He is also a self-styled "international lawyer and spokesman" for the Nur Misuari faction of the separatist Moro National Liberation Front.

Pamatong claimed that a military plot is behind the arrest of Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon.

He alleged that Magdalo-affiliated soldiers framed up Guerrero. "He is one of the best persons and leaders I ever had for 12 years. Iyan ang chief-of-staff ko."

"He was framed by the Magdalo faction of Senator [Antonio] Trillanes," he claimed. "Kasi ito si Senator Trillanes, sa palagay ko agent yan ng China sa Pilipinas."

"Gusto nila sirain ang 'United States freedom fighter' [sic] dahil napakalaking million-march sa Davao for American [sic] and protest against China's occupation of Philippine territories," Pamatong alleged.

He said he is ready to face the National Bureau of Investigation if he is summoned.

Charges for illegal possession of firearms and explosives have been filed against the 3 suspects, who are claiming innocence.

Trillanes, meanwhile, denied Pamatong's allegations.

"That guy must be crazy but at least he betrayed the true intention of his latest stunt," he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News. "This was meant to be a diversion from the ongoing investigation against VP Binay after all."


Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang said the military monitors Pamatong's group but doesn't see them as a threat.

"Pamatong has been notorious for doing these things," Catapang said.

"He is part of our continuous monitoring but he is not really a threat to us.
Just so happened that he was trying to present himself as a prankster," he added.

Asked what Pamatong had to do with the arrested group, Catapang said: "I think they were close friends of Pamatong."

Catapang also believes that the foiled attack was not terrorism-related.

"I don't think it was a terror attack, because you know, they were just firecrackers," he said. "I heard it was pla-pla. We were told that there were gasoline containers, but not that big."


Soldier killed, another hurt in clash with NPA in Davao Occidental town—report

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 2): Soldier killed, another hurt in clash with NPA in Davao Occidental town—report

DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur, Philippines—A soldier was killed while another one was wounded in a clash with communist insurgents in Davao Occidental on Tuesday, a military report said.

Killed was Private First Class Harold Sacramento while the injured soldier was identified as Private First Class Jhonny Caballero, both of the 73rd Infantry Battalion.

Based on a report from the 73rd IB, some 20 New People’s Army rebels under Front 71 harassed a group of soldiers under 1Lt. Emmanuel Capisanan in Barangay Culaman in Jose Abad Santos town around 4:30 a.m.

A brief firefight ensued, which resulted in the government casualties.

Senior Supt. Michael John Dubria, Davao del Sur police director—who also has jurisdiction over Davao Occidental—said local policemen and those from the provincial mobile group has joined the manhunt against the rebels.

Dubria also ordered police chiefs to be on alert against possible NPA attacks in their areas.

In March, NPA rebels set off landmines in Bansalan town in Davao del Sur and also attacked the police station of Matanao town, also in Davao del Sur, in which two policemen were killed.


Malaysia-US Wrap Up Eight Days Of Joint Military Exercise In Tanduo

From Bernama, National News Agency of Malaysai (Sep 2): Malaysia-US Wrap Up Eight Days Of Joint Military Exercise In Tanduo

Malaysia and the United States (US) wrapped up eight days of joint military amphibious exercise (MALUS AMPHEX 2014) in Kampung Tanduo, about 150km from here today, renewing their commitment to ensure long-term peace, stability and security in Malaysia, particularly eastern Sabah.

About 500 personnel from the Malaysian Armed Forces, as well as 285 US Marines and sailors from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit took part in the joint military excercise in Tanduo and its surrounding areas.

Tanduo was the landing site of the terrorist intruders from Sulu early last year.

Speaking at the closing ceremony of the amphibious exercise, Malaysia's Chief of Army Jen Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor said MALUS AMPHEX 2014, the first Malaysia-US joint exercise held in Sabah, was among others, designed to foster and strengthen the existing relationship between the people of the two nations.

"US military presence in these waters (off eastern Sabah) coincides well with our policy of engaging with a strong and friendly policing force here.

"With the recent spates of cross-border incidents that have plaqued the waters, joint Malaysia-United States military cooperation bodes well with our commitment to eradicate the menace that has been plaquing this part of our country for many decades," he said.

Raja Mohamed Affandi represented Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin at the function.

Also present was US Marine Corps Forces Pacific Commander Lt Gen John Toolan Jr and Joint Force Commander, Malaysian Armed Forces Lt Gen Datuk Seri Affendi Buang.

Raja Mohamed Affandi said the excercise focused on amphibious landing, engineering civil action programme and medical civic action programme.

He said the conduct of the exercise had greatly benefited the Malaysian Armed Forces in dealing with cross-border threats.

"US presence here helps contribute to the well-being and security of this part of Malaysia. Though this is not a big scale exercise, it is a good platform for us to work on it and gradually increasing the scale of such exercise in the future.

"We look forward to engaging in similar ventures in the future, perhaps enhancing the level of such exercise so that it can have a positive impact on the defence of the state of Sabah," he said.

Later, Raja Mohamed Affandi told reporters that Malaysia was now in a better position to face any eventuality, including cross-border threats or intrusion following the successful completion of MALUS AMPHEX 2014.

"Our forces have gained a lot from this exercise with the United States, especially in terms of knowledge and experience," he said, harbouring hope that Malaysia and the US would continue conducting such exercise in the future for a common good.

Meanwhile, Toolan said the US was committed to helping Malaysia combat cross-border threats.

"We are aware of the security threats in this part of Malaysia (eastern Sabah), and our presence is a strong signal that we are here to help out Malaysia," he said, adding that Malaysian army personnel had shown tremendous capabilities during the joint excercise.

Toolan said the joint exercise would surely further strengthen military ties and cooperation between the two nations.

Feature: Restoring peace via organic farming in Lanao.

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 2): Feature: Restoring peace via organic farming in Lanao.

KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte -- Tingintingin, a hinterland barangay seven kilometers south of this municipality, is the home to farmers who devote to organic farming in northern Mindanao.
This village is used as a war field between government troopers and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Years of armed conflicts pummeled this community, especially during the all-out war declaration against MILF of former President Joseph Estrada in March 2000.
But, this war-torn village has evolved into a vast plantation of rice, corn and peanuts.

Christians and Muslims alike agreed to till their lands using techniques to achieve good crop yields without harming the natural by not using synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. As such, they recycled and composted crop wastes and animal manures, employ crop rotation, used green manures and legumes, observe careful use of water resources and good animal husbandry.

Malic O. Macabato, village chief, said he and the rest of barangay council members adopted organic farming to sustainably support their farmers.

Macabato emphasized that farming is the first step to combat hunger and to achieve a peaceful community.

He noted that conflict will not erupt if hunger is addressed, especially now that convergence efforts among national and local government agencies and civil society organizations are underway.

Tingintingin, with 204 registered household wherein 132 are Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (Pantawid Pamilya) members, has celebrated its first festival dubbed as Organic Upland Rice Harvest Festival on July 22 this year.

Convergence efforts underway

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is one of various national agencies which poured assistance to this village.

Aside from Pantawid Pamilya that serves most of the population, the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLunder the Grassroots Participatory Budgeting Process (GPBP) modality extended loans with zero interest rate to at least 25 members of Tingintingin Upland Rice Growers SKA on September 6, 2013.

Each of the members received P10,000, said Maria Lani Bularon, former project development officer of SLP in Kauswagan. According to him, they used the money in growing upland rice in which they harvested it during the village’s harvest festival last month.

Aside from upland rice, farmers also grow corns and peanuts, coconuts, and mung beans. The Department of Agriculture provided the seeds while the local government unit provided a mobile rice mill.

Farmers need not to rent and go down as far as seven kilometers for a dryer in the Poblacion area here. World Food Programme, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and a non-governmental organization constructed a solar dryer while the local government unit constructed the storage facilities for the farmers’ produce.

Meanwhile, DSWD’s KALAHI CIDSS - National Community Driven Development, under the PAMANA modality constructed a peace center, health center, and day care center.

War no more

Macabato is optimistic that arm conflict will erupt no longer.

“I can assure that no one among us here will rebel against the government,” he said, adding that rebels have started to lay down arms and embrace the development because of each in the community are given importance.

"Makakasabi talaga ako na kaya namin talaga ang pagbabago dahil sa tulong ng DSWD at iba’t-ibang ahensiya ng gobyerno. Ngayon, talagang nasa matuwid na daan kami (I can prove to everyone that we can make a difference because of DSWD and other national government agencies’ intervention. Now, we are on the right path),” said Macabato.

He disclosed that two former MILF commanders and a Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) commander have been actively involved in organic farming.

The former rebels were engaged in numerous skirmishes and encounters against the military before that took a toll on their lives and those of their families. Now, they live peacefully as they are reintegrated to the mainstream society.

Recently, this town through mayor Rommel Arnado received the Galing Pook Award for its ‘From Arms to Farms’ program

3 NPA rebel returnees from Leyte receive P225-T financial assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 2): 3 NPA rebel returnees from Leyte receive P225-T financial assistance

Three members of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Leyte who returned to the fold of law each received P75,000 during the special meeting of the Leyte Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on Monday.

The assistance is composed of P50,000 livelihood and P15,000 immediate assistance from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and P10,000 basic assistance as counterpart of the provincial government of Leyte.

‘Dan,’ one of the recipients, expressed his gratitude and stated that he will put the money into good use to show to his former comrades who are yet to surrender that they are not ignored.

Moreover, 11 others who previously have availed of similar package of assistance were provided with membership cards of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth). They were from upland villages of Burauen, Carigara, Ormoc City, Merida and MacArthur.

Governor Leopoldo Dominic Petilla said that their membership with PhilHealth will continue as long as they remain as indigents.

However, he challenged them to make their livelihood program “sustainable.”

Aside from the financial assistance, they also received one sack of rice each from the provincial government.

The turnover of assistance held at the governor’s hall at the provincial capitol was witnessed by Vice-Governor Carlo Loreto, 802nd brigade commander, Col. Dinoh A. Dolina, Leyte Police Provincial Office director S/Superintendent Brigido B. Unay and other members of the PPOC.


Military, police sports meet formally opens Tuesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 2): Military, police sports meet formally opens Tuesday

In line with their sports development program, athletes from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday formally opened this year's AFP-PNP Olympics.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said sporting events include boxing, marathon, triathlon, shooting, basketball, volleyball, badminton, football, swimming, arnis, karatedo, taekwondo, and chess.

Zagala said that the sports activity will last until Sept. 23.

These activities will be held at the AFP Wellness Center in Camp Aguinaldo and in other major services and PNP sports facilities around Metro Manila.

The AFP-PNP Olympics encourages military and police personnel to actively engage in sports thereby promoting and enhancing physical fitness, discipline and teamwork.

Participants will come from all major services and units of the AFP and PNP.


AFP told to prepare report on Golan Heights stand-off

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 2): AFP told to prepare report on Golan Heights stand-off

The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been instructed to prepare a detailed report concerning the stand-off in the Golan Heights, AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said Tuesday.

"We were instructed by President Benigno S. Aquino III to prepare the report during a meeting together with the Secretary of National Defense. The AFP was told to document the blow-by-blow events that occurred," he added.

Catapang said it will be up to higher authorities to decide on whether the Philippines will file a protest regarding the handling by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander of the matter.

The filing of protest is a right of the Philippine government as a troop contributing nation to UN peacekeeping missions.

Catapang earlier said the AFP countermanded the order of UNDOF commander Indian Lt. Gen.Iqbal Singh Singha which called for the Filipinos in Positions 68 and 69 to surrender their weapons, in what observers said, was a vain attempt to save the 44 Fijians.

The former gave up their firearms without a fight and as a result were held hostage by the Syrian rebels during the beginning of the stand-off Thursday.

Catapang said that there is no section nor clause in the terms of reference (UN deployment of peacekeepers) authorizing troop-contributing countries to authorize the surrender of their troops' firearms in event of harassment or attack.

"It's not our fault that the Fijian peacekeepers were captured and held hostage, what I told the UNDOF commander was that he should save the Philippine contingent (in Positions 68 and 69) so that we can help the Fijians," the AFP chief stressed.

Besides, Catapang said that there is no assurance that the Syrian rebels will not capture the Filipino force once it surrendered all its weapons.

"And if that happens, the UNDOF commander will have a bigger problem in his hands," the AFP chief stated.

Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights are armed with M-4 automatic rifles, M-60 machine-guns, K-3 squad automatic weapons, and .45 caliber pistols.

Catapang also said that surrender of weapons, even if a ceremonial one as being proposed by the Al Nusra Front, is frowned upon by the AFP as it is a symbol of a Filipino soldiers' martial honor.

Catapang said that this action of the Philippine side did not contradict the UNDOF orders as troop contributing countries have leeway to countermand orders when it affects their national interest like continued security and safety of their military personnel.

Filipino troops attached to the UNDOF is placed at 331 officers and enlisted personnel.


PN AW-109 conducts deck-landing exercise aboard HMAS Sydney

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 20): PN AW-109 conducts deck-landing exercise aboard HMAS Sydney

An AgustaWestland AW-109 "Power" helicopter, assigned to BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), conducted successfully landing exercises aboard the flight deck of HMAS Sydney Monday (Australian time).

This is part of the helicopter shipboard exercise of "Kakadu 2014", the biennial naval maneuvers hosted by the Royal Australian Navy (RAN).

Ensign John Windy Abing, Philippine Navy public affairs officer, said the activity is part of the PN's efforts to improve its ability in the joint operation ships and aircraft.

Twelve nations are participating in this activity which started Aug. 25 and will end on Sept. 12.

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 deployed personnel as observers.

It is being held at the Northern Australian Exercise Area.

"(The) PN’s participation is expected to enhance its surface warfare capabilities and interoperability with regional navies. It will also be an opportunity for the PN to enhance cooperation, camaraderie, and good working relationship with the participating navies," Abing said.

He said 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.


Low ammunition supplies prompted Filipino peacekeepers to escape from Position 68

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 2): Low ammunition supplies prompted Filipino peacekeepers to escape from Position 68

Low ammunition supplies prompted the 40 Filipino peacekeepers from Position 68 to make a daring night-time escape across a minefield early Sunday morning (Syrian time).

It was either that or face the possibility of being massacred by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Syrian rebels who, the Filipinos traded shots for more than seven hours, said Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Tuesday.

Ammunition of the Filipino peacekeepers were depleted after a seven-hour long firefight with Syrian rebels Saturday.

"As a backgrounder, our peacekeepers in Position 68 and 69 were surrounded by the rebels. And then they (Syrian rebels) brought two Fijian officers, they want to show that the 44 Fijians were hostaged, they were negotiating with us to lay down our firearms," he disclosed.

This took place during the early part of the stand-off Thursday morning (Syrian time).

However, the Filipinos peacekeepers stood their ground while looking for means to solve the deadlock between the two forces.

Catapang divulged his conversation with the Filipino peacekeepers via video conference who narrated to him the details of what happened.

"We told them, you want the firearms, you ask the Fijians to give another 44 firearms. So our firearms is not for gives. It’s a great dishonor for us if we give up our firearms," the AFP chief quoted the Filipino peacekeepers.

During the negotiation, the Syrian rebels became impatient and attacked the Filipino soldiers Saturday morning (Syrian time).

"And they (Syrian rebels) attacked us for seven hours. So what shall we do? And when they were already tired attacking us, they again asked for a negotiation of the ceasefire," the Filipino peacekeepers told the AFP chief.

While talks were ongoing, Catapang said the Philippine peacekeepers were monitoring the enemy who was observed to be regrouping and amassing.

At this point, an order from United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt. Gen. Igbal Singh Singha came through telling Filipino troops that "once you are again attacked, the best thing to do, the order is, surrender your firearms (and) put up the white flag."

The order, Catapang said, is not negotiable.

He added that the AFP contingent to Golan Heights already had an idea the Syrian rebels will attack the following morning.

"So we had to make the greatest escape for the soldiers," he said.

"So, from that time on, we assessed, they were coming in reinforcements, then we think that the following day (Sunday), we will be attacked again. And that will be the end of it. We will be massacred, as the good Secretary Voltaire Gazmin stated. Because we didn’t want the people to know, we had a news blackout, they (Filipino troops) were low of ammunition," he revealed.

"So we planned for the greatest escape. And hopefully, with God’s grace, the area was, it was not foggy, and we were able to run in the middle of the night when the rebels were sleeping," he said.

"We made our greatest escape because it was a difficult escape route, because the route that we will pass through has mines, it was also mined. We had a guide, Capt. (Nilo) Ramones, the company commander," he added.

The AFP chief said the 40 Filipino troops from position 68 went down from their post.

When asked if they were not aided by UN armored personnel carriers in their attempt, the AFP official said: "Gen. Singha ordered no military operations."

"We were fortunate that we were reinforced (and extricated by the Irish contingent) in Position 69. But unfortunately, they really wanted us to surrender and give our firearms in Position 68," Catapang said.

"So, it’s still to be investigated, why the order of Gen. Singha was, there will be no reinforcement. Because he was already there, we were monitoring him. And then all of a sudden, he changed his mind. And then, another negotiation came in. When he told us that if the next attack comes in, surrender your firearms, put up the white flag," the AFP chief said.

Catapang said the Filipino peacekeepers were trying to inform Singha of their escape plans but the latter told Col. Ezra Enrique (UNDOF chief-of-staff) that he does not want to hear the escape plans of the Filipinos.


Philippine Navy eyes military vessel from Alaska – report

From AngMalaya (Sep 2): Philippine Navy eyes military vessel from Alaska – report


Four officials from the Philippine Navy and a U.S. Navy adviser examined M/V Susitna. M/V Susitna is catamaran-type military vessel prototype owned by Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Alaska.

“We get a lot of typhoons, and we do a lot of disaster response operations, this is something that we can do for that purpose,” a navy official said as reported by KTUU.com.

“This is a very unique vessel, that we can beach it. It’s a catamaran type; we can load a lot of stuff in here.”

M/V Susitna is now planned to be sold by Mat-Su government for 6 million dollars. The sale still needs to be approved by the Mat-Su assembly and the federal government.

This 59-meter vessel was designed by Lockheed Martin and Guido Perla & Associates and built by Alaska Ship and Drydock for Matanuska-Susitna Borough. M/V Susitna can ferry over 100 passengers and 20 cars in southern Alaska’s challenging waters.


Filipino UNDOF chief-of-staff quits due to loss of trust, confidence in Indian commander

From AngMalaya (Sep 2): Filipino UNDOF chief-of-staff quits due to loss of trust, confidence in Indian commander

Citing loss of trust and confidence in his commander, the Filipino chief-of-staff of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) quit his post Sunday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan Jr., on Tuesday said the officer in question was identified as Col. Ezra Enriquez.

Tutaan, in an interview, said that Enriquez decided to quit his post over UNDOF commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha’s order to the Filipino peacekeepers in Position 68 and 69 to surrender their weapons and raised the white flag in response to the stand-off and subsequent attack by Syrian rebels at the Golan Heights.

The order was issued in the vain hope that such actions will result in the freeing of the 44 Fijian peacekeepers earlier disarmed and captured by the Syrian rebels Thursday (Syrian time).

In relation to this, Enriquez has filed an administrative leave until October, the month the 331-strong Filipino contingent is expected to return to the Philippines.

Tutaan said Enriquez’s action was done in protest of the order that could endanger the lives of the Filipino troops.

The AFP spokesperson added that Enriquez filed his administrative leave on Sunday (Syrian time).

Tutaan also clarified that it was Enriquez who kept the AFP updated with what was happening in Golan Heights.

As of this posting, all Filipino peacekeepers involved in the Golan Heights stand-off are now in camps Faouar and Ziuoani with the rest in Position 80.

Forty Filipino troops in Position 68 made a breakout early Sunday morning (Syrian time), catching their Syrian attackers flatfooted and making it to safe zone.

Last Saturday morning (also Syrian time), an Irish armored contingent extricated the 35 Filipinos troopers manning Position 69.


AFP won’t loose grip on West PH Sea, ready for violent acts – military chief

From AngMalaya (Sep 2): AFP won’t loose grip on West PH Sea, ready for violent acts – military chief

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang said on Tuesday, “The AFP shall not let loose on the country’s grip over the West Philippine Sea’s chain of islands. While we would do our best to avoid confrontation with China, we will remain always ready to protect our people from violent activities.”

General Catapang added, “the AFP will continue to maintain our presence in the area to safeguard our national interests.” The Philippines will remain peaceful and non-confrontational.

“However, we cannot let our troops down. This is why we undertake routine resupply and rotation of forces to ensure that our personnel manning our posts in the West Philippine Sea have enough provisions and rest.”

“Likewise, we recognize the condition and state of their dwellings and we are working out ways to improve their shelters, taking into account that the declaration on the Conduct of Parties is observed,” Catapang explained.


Anti-Chinese ‘bombers’ are Ely Pamatong’s men

From AngMalaya (Sep 2): Anti-Chinese ‘bombers’ are Ely Pamatong’s men

Ely Pamatong confirms connection with Anti-Chinese ‘bombers’ claiming to be member of United States Allied Freedom Fighters of the East.

“He (Grandeur Guerrero) is one of the best persons and leaders I ever had for 12 years. He is my chief-of-staff.”

“He (Grandeur Guerrero) was framed by the Magdalo faction of Senator Trillanes,” Pamatong said adding that Trillanes is a Chinese secret agent.

Guerrero with Emmanuel San Pedro and Sonny Yohanon were arrested in NAIA terminal 3.

“I don’t think it was a terror attack, because you know, they were just firecrackers,” said General Gregorio Catapang.  “I heard it was pla-pla. We were told that there were gasoline containers, but not that big.”

“Well, you remember that there was a guy who wanted attention – he threw some metal spikes along EDSA. These aren’t barbarous acts, but comic relief, maybe. Getting attention.”

“Pamatong has been notorious for doing these things,” Catapang said.
“He is part of our continuous monitoring but he is not really a threat to us. Just so happened that he was trying to present himself as a prankster.”

Pamatong with his group are known to be anti-Chinese. He even declared war against China last 2011 by burning flags.


Ambushed RPA leader stable’

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 2): Ambushed RPA leader stable’
A ranking leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade, who survived an ambush perpetrated by alleged New People’s Army rebels, although injured, is now in stable condition, Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, Negros Occidental police director, yesterday said.

Geovannie Banista, alias Ka Amor, who was driving a motorcycle, was ambushed by four suspected NPA rebels on Friday in Sitio Ilan, Brgy. Locotan, Kabankalan City.

Lirazan said Banista, who is the district commander of the RPA-ABB in southern Negros, sustained multiple gunshot wounds. He, however, miraculously survived the attempt on his life, he added.

Empty shells of an M-16 armalite rifle, AK 47 assault rifle and ,45 caliber pistol were recovered at the scene of the incident by the police.

Col. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, yesterday condemned the latest attack against a leader of the RPA-ABB, who is now a civilian, and described it a “desperation attempt” of the NPA.

“They (NPA) think that killing people will make them win the war,” Aying said.

Military records show that Aying was instrumental in bringing Banista and Ka Malvar, who was killed by the NPA in previous years, to the peace table in southern Negros, while he was still the commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion.

Aying said Banista has been marked for liquidation by the NPA for 15 years now.

He added that the attempt to kill Banista will have an effect on the ongoing closure peace agreement between the RPA-ABB and the government.


Gov't probes 'destab' angle in foiled NAIA car bomb plot

From Rappler (Sep 2): Gov't probes 'destab' angle in foiled NAIA car bomb plot

The DOJ is mulling the filing of terrorism charges against the suspects in the foiled plot, but the AFP does not believe that they belong to a terrorist group

EVIDENCE. NBI Director Virgilio Mendez presents evidence seized from suspected of the 3 car bomb plot during a press conference at the NBI headquarters on September 2, 2014. Photo by Jose Del/Rappler

EVIDENCE. NBI Director Virgilio Mendez presents evidence seized from suspected of the 3 car bomb plot during a press conference at the NBI headquarters on September 2, 2014. Photo by Jose Del/Rappler

Authorities are determining whether the suspects in the foiled car bomb plot at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) belong to a bigger group that may be out to cause destabilization in the country, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Tuesday, September 2.

De Lima also said in a news briefing with NBI officials that the DOJ is mulling the filing of terrorism charges against the suspects who face illegal possession of explosives raps.

De Lima said the 3 suspects – Grandeur Pepito Guerrero, Emmanuel San Pedro, and Sonny Yohanon – will be charged with illegal possession of explosives, and may face charges of "conspiracy to commit terrorism," subject to further validation.

Aside from the NAIA plot, the group had reportedly planned to strafe the Chinese Embassy and the building of real estate developer DMCI, both in Makati; and to plant Improvised Incendiary Devices (IIDs) at the SM Mall of Asia.

(READ: Explosives found in car at NAIA 3 parking lot)

De Lima said said Guerrero is the "self proclaimed" leader of the "USAFFE" – a name borrowed from the acronym of the United States Armed Forces in the Far East during World War 2.

She said it is a "misguided group" that claims to be "defenders of the Filipino people and considers China and 'oligarch taipans engaged in monopolistic business practices and illegal mining' as their enemies.” The NBI is determining the size of the group and their other possible agenda.

"Do they have other agenda? Is it just about the dispute with China, going against so-called oligarchs and taipans, or is there a bigger agenda or any other agenda that would probably result to destabilization?" the DOJ chief said.

She said the recovered IIDs from the Toyota Revo at the NAIA3 parking lot were found to be capable of causing injuries, and even death, to those within a 5 to 10-meter radius.

De Lima also said that Guerrero admitted to be a member of the Guardians – a group comprised of military, police, and civilian members – but added that it's not yet known whether other Guardian members are part of the group.

ANTI-CHINA GROUP? The 3  suspects in the foiled car bombing at the NAIA are presented to media at the NBI headquarters in Manila on September 2, 2014. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

ANTI-CHINA GROUP? The 3 suspects in the foiled car bombing at the NAIA are presented to media at the NBI headquarters in Manila on September 2, 2014. Photo by Joel Leporada/Rappler

'Not terrorists'

Armed Forces Chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said on Tuesday he is not convinced that the apprehended individuals belong to a terrorist group.

Addressing the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Catapang said that the suspects are "close friends of [Ely] Pamatong" who are trying to "catch attention."

"It's not a terrorist attack. Pamatong has been notorious for doing this," Catapang said, and recalled past public stunts pulled Pamatong, who has been described as a perennial nuisance candidate.

Pamatong was responsible for the scattering of metal spikes on major roads in Metro Manila, Baguio, Davao, Cagayan, Bicol and Laguna in 2004, in protest of the government's refusal to issue his supporters permits to rally.

In the briefing, De Lima said the NBI's Anti-Organized Transnational Crime Division (AOTCD), which was also involved in the capture of retired Major General Jovito Palparan, learned from its informant that the plan was originally set on August 25, National Heroes' Day, but was pushed back to a later day.

NBI Chief Virgilio Mendez, who met with President Benigno Aquino III with other NBI officials on Monday, said that the President's instructions is to determine the "actual purpose of the plan of action" of the group and whether they are supported by others.

"We believe there are other entities in line with this, but we still cannot say how serious they are," Mendez said.

Public vigilance

De Lima brushed aside the allegations made by lawyer Oliver Lozano that the destabilization angle is meant to justify Aquino's term extension.

"With due respect to Atty Lozano, he has has a fertile and wild imagination," she said.

De Lima also released to the media the group's "Manifesto ng Kilusan Laban sa Pananakot (Manifesto of the Movement Against Initimidation)" originally dated August 28, when it was supposed to be circulated to the media. A list of email addresses, including that of media organizations, were also found, apparently for the circulation of the manifesto.

De Lima said that anyone can espouse an advocacy and have an opinion on national issues, "but if you do it the wrong way, it is still wrong."

"If you create chaos, sow panic in the community, who will benefit here?" she said.

De Lima appealed to the public for "calmness, sobriety" and for "vigilance" while authorities determine the "extent of their capacity to create chaos, confusion, destablization etc.

Meanwhile, MalacaƱang gave assurances there is "no serious danger stemming from the incident."

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma on Tuesday also said the group has been on the radar of intelligence group, which led to the folling of the attack, and said the government will be in "a constant state of vigilance, alertness and readiness."

'Elaborate security plan' for Pope Francis PH visit – AFP

From Rappler (Sep 2): 'Elaborate security plan' for Pope Francis PH visit – AFP

'We won't fail the Pope in his visit here,' says Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr

Philippine military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr gave assurances that Pope Francis will be safe when he visits the Philippines next year.

"We are preparing a very elaborate security plan for our Pope. We are so elated and awaiting the visit of the Pope," Catapang said in briefing before the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) on Tuesday, September 2.

"We won't fail the Pope in his visit here," he added.

Pope Francis will visit the Philippines from January 15 to 19, 2015, to meet earthquake and typhoon survivors in the Visayas, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle earlier announced.

Tagle said the Vatican will release other details "later in the year."

Before his arrival in the Philippines, Francis will visit Sri Lanka from January 12 to 15, 2015.


New deadline: Bangsamoro bill in Congress before Sept 13

From Rappler (Sep 2): New deadline: Bangsamoro bill in Congress before Sept 13

Chief Peace Adviser Teresita Deles says the proposed Bangsamoro law will be in Congress before President Benigno Aquino III embarks on his Europe trip

After failing to meet the target deadline, MalacaƱang and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) hope to submit the proposed law creating a new autonomous government in Mindanao to Congress before President Benigno Aquino leaves for Europe on Saturday, September 13.

Chief Presidential Peace Adviser Teresita Deles said in a statement that the draft is now in its final stages.

"The presidential review of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was completed almost two weeks ago. On the basis of the President's comments, there were further discussion and exchange of notes between MILF and the Office of the President, the results of which were also submitted to the President. The draft BBL is now undergoing final stages of refinement," Deles said.

She added: "By the estimate of MILF panel and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal, the draft bill is now '99.99% done. It is expected to be submitted to Congress before the President leaves for Europe next week."

Mindanews earlier quoted Iqbal as saying that the final text of the proposed law that will create the Bangsamoro government to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is already "99.99% done."

Iqbal, however, declined to identify what the remaining issue was. He also declined to give a target deadline.

The creation and approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law is the next step in the peace process in Mindanao after the government and the MILF signed a final peace accord in March aimed at ending 4 decades of war that has claimed the lives of over 120,000 people.

The envisioned Bangsamoro government will be ministerial in form, with elected members electing a chief minister among themselves. It will enjoy a block grant or automatic appropriations instead of having to get the approval of Congress for its budget.

The composition of this ministerial form of government, and how the block grant will be calculated, have been some of the most contentious issues of the discussions.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the MILF agreed to decommission a specific number of firearms and troops in certain phases in exchange for political commitments, including the passage of the basic law.

The basic law will go through two rounds of voting before being enacted in law – in Congress and in a plebiscite. Its contents are under embargo until the bill has been filed in Congress.

The government wants the Bangsamoro political entity, which will enjoy greater political and fiscal autonomy than the ARMM, to be established before Aquino steps down from office in 2016.