Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Draft BBL shows huge gov’t compromise to MILF

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 11): Draft BBL shows huge gov’t compromise to MILF

The government is giving up more than an arm and a leg in the forming of the Bangsamoro substate in an agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) based on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law that President Aquino personally submitted to Congress yesterday for enactment which will notably seek to set up a distinct parliamentary form of government for the proposed territory, with a lot of independent powers besides.

The Bangsamoro government will be headed by a Chief Minister called a Wali who will head a parliament of at least 60 representatives.

The proposed substate will cover the present geographical area of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; parts of Lanao del Norte, and the cities of Cotabato and Isabela.

The BBL also provides that other local government units where there is resolution of the local government unit or a petition of at least 10 percent of the registered voters can be part of the substate at least two months prior to the conduct of the ratification of the BBL.

Aside from having their own government, their own flag and own police force, Bangsamoro residents are guaranteed under the section on “Bangsamoro Participation in Central Government” of “at least one Cabinet Secretary; at least one official in each of the other departments, offices and bureaus, holding executive, primarily confidential, highly technical, policy-determining positions; and one Commissioner in each constitutional bodies (such as the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit).

The substate is also guaranteed a four percent share of the yearly collections of the Bureau Internal Revenue (BIR) aside from getting 75 percent of all central government tax collections within the territory.

The draft law also stated the Bangsamoro substate will get as Special Development Fund P7 billion for rehabilitation and development purposes upon the ratification of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, P10 billion on the second year to be paid out over five years and P2 billion a year thereafter.

The transmittal of the draft law was apparently timed for the European tour of President Aquino this week as he said he will carry the achievement on the peace pact in his European visits.  

Aquino said he would banner the BBL to country leaders as proof to the development of the peace processes in the country. adding that it is an opportunity to share the improvements on pushing lasting peace for Mindanao in the international scene.

“I will tell them that, while our success is not complete yet, we are all confident that our collective efforts toward a more progressive and more peaceful Philippines will continue,” Aquino said.

Aquino said enough time was poured in drafting the bill to ensure both parties have reached agreement and to bring ease to transition for the Moros in Mindanao. Aquino called on Congress to pass the bill at the soonest possible time to enable the Bangsamoro region to reap the fruits of the peace pact.

The President assured the public that the BBL is in accordance with the agreement between the parties, and was crafted to be fairly and justly for all.

“Now that we have a proposed bill, I fully believe that it is in accordance with our Constitution and with the principles of our Framework Agreement, and that it reflects our shared efforts towards growth that leaves no one behind,” he said.

Aquino called on the public to continue camaraderie and to support the passage of the bill, admitting that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been stagnant. He said the Filipino people should take the opportunity to take part in achieving peace by backing up the bill in Congress.
“Instead of choosing to spread negative news and unfounded assumptions about our southernmost region, let us harness our knowledge and time to fully understand the history, culture, and narratives of our fellow countrymen,” Aquino said.

President Aquino said that once Congress passes the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a plebiscite will follow for the people of the Bangsamoro to vote for their authorities. He pleaded to the voters to study the provisions of the Law.

“Your understanding and your participation will be the best defense against those who seek to sow doubt in our agenda of a just and lasting peace. These will give you an even greater ability to take part in the transition to a strong Bangsamoro government in 2016,” he said.
Aquino met with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad last week to seek clarification and resolution on issues prior to submitting the draft bill to Congress.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. earlier confirmed that the parties met to address details on the implementation of the peace agreement. Coloma said both leaders deemed it urgent and important that this draft Bangsamoro law be completed.

The submission to Congress is seen as significant as it means Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have agreed, after months of tense talks, on the entire legal underpinning for Muslim self-governance in the southern region of Mindanao.

He called for the passage “at  the soonest possible time” of the proposed law that would have MILF leaders governing a region comprising about 10 percent of the Philippines’ land area.

Aquino said this would improve the lives of millions of Filipino Muslims who are among the poorest inhabitants of the largely Catholic nation of 100 million people.

Under the timetable of a peace pact, the law is meant to be passed before the end of this year, giving Aquino time to put in place a regional government before his six-year term ends in mid-2016.

Once the law is passed, its residents would have to endorse it in a plebiscite scheduled for 2015.

The agreement separately calls on the MILF to disarm under supervision by international monitors.

Both Senate President Franklin Drilon and opposition Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jnr. said the bill has broad support, though they warned there may not be enough time for it to pass this year.

“This is an opportunity for us to find true and lasting peace. Nobody that I know of would want to squander this opportunity,” said Marcos.

The rebellion began more than 40 years ago when Marcos’ late father Ferdinand Marcos Snr. was president, and has since claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The 10,000-strong MILF is worried over delays in drafting the bill, but trusts it will be passed within the agreed timetable, its chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

The United Nations office in Manila congratulated the two sides and said it stood ready to support the implementation of the law.

“This is a critical milestone in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and a crucial achievement in ensuring lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao and in the wider Philippines,” it said in a statement.

Aquino is also scheduled to meet with members of the majority coalition in the House today to get their support for the swift passage of the proposed law.

According to House Majority Leader Rep. Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II the meeting will be held in Malacañang at 10:00 a.m. today with the members of the Liberal Party (LP), Nacionalista Party (NP), Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), National Unity Party (NUP), and party-list bloc led by Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe.

“The President will make a personal appeal for us to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law. There will be a larger ceremony on Friday after today’s (Wednesday) submission of the BBL to Congress leaders,” said Gonzales.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also expressed optimism that the proposed BBL would finally put an end to the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said the 125,000-strong military organization is fully supportive of the peace process between the government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.

“We believe that the successful implementation of the peace process with the eventual establishment of the Bangsamoro will provide the political solution that will end the four-decade conflict in Mindanao,” Catapang said.

Catapang said the AFP has always supported the Mindanao peace process knowing that the Mindanao problem cannot be solved through a military solution alone.

“By enacting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, a just and lasting peace will finally dawn in Mindanao ending more than 40 years of fighting between Filipinos versus Filipinos,” said catapang.

“With this political solution, the sacrifices of more than 150,000 Filipinos who perished in this strife would not be in vain,” the AFP chief also said.

Catapang stressed that the decades-long conflict in Mindanao has brought so much “sufferings, misery and misfortunes” not only to civilians but also to military personnel who continue to risk their lives as first responders to armed conflicts and violence.

Despite the apparent delays in the proposed BBL’s submission to Congress and time constraint it’s facing for its approval into law, its enactment will not be rushed, Sen. Marcos Jr. said yesterday.

“We will study this proposal very carefully. We will not rush its submission to Congress. More important for us is the participation of stakeholders in Mindanao. We want to hear them speak. We will listen. Our committee plans to undertake consultative meetings with all sectors in major cities and towns in Mindanao. We will give everybody a chance to study the BBL,” he said.

Marcos, chair of the Senate committee on local government, together with Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona  as chair of the committee on peace and unification, will undertake the deliberations on the BBL in the upper chamber, which, according to Senate President Franklin Drilon, will be simultaneous with the lower house.

This is to ensure its plenary debates by Jan. and holding of plebiscite next year.

“Since the budget is already coming, we are already expecting to hold plenary debates on the budget by the third week of October and the whole of November , we will expect to tackle in plenary the BBL if it is finished in the committee level by December, but to be safe, probably in Jan.,” Drilon said, adding that the bill has a wide bipartisan support.
“One thing that we will closely look at is that is should fall within the four corners of the Constitution. The President has assured us that there is no need for constitutional amendments. This is one historic opportunity that we can’t afford to miss,” he added.

Guingona for his part committed to oversee the approval of the measure by his panel on time and ensure that the historic and landmark piece of legislation shall be completed and passed soonest.

“Today’s historical event is a major step forward by our country in our bid to recognize the right of our fellow Filipinos with a culture and history of their own as everyone else’s equal.

“This event is particularly significant to me both as a son of Mindanao and as chair of the Senate Committee on Peace and Unification. I share the elation of my fellow Mindanaoans as we move closer to the passage of a BBL that addresses the aspirations of our people for peace and meaningful development,” Guingona said.

While President Aquino assured the constitutionality of BBL, Marcos stressed that it is still up to Congress to determine if the Bangsamoro Basic Law is really beneficial to the people of Mindanao and the rest of the country.
Marcos attended the ceremonies in Malacañang where members of the Bangsamoro Transitional Council, Peace Adviser Teresita Deles and Mohaqher Iqbal formally turned over the BBL to Aquino.

Despite the delay, he is confident that his committee will be able to finish consultations and hearings to submit a final committee report to Congress before the end of the first quarter next year.

He urged everyone, especially stakeholders in Mindanao to take part in consultations and hearings and ventilate their views and opinions about the BBL.

AFP Modernization Program has 20.8-B funding shortfall in 2014 & 2015

From AngMalaya (Sep 10): AFP Modernization Program has 20.8-B funding shortfall in 2014 & 2015

The Armed Forces Modernization Program would have a total funding shortfall of Php20.8 billion in 2014 and 2015, which belies claims by some sectors that the military is provided with hefty allocation each year, according to a lawmaker during the hearing on the defense department’s Php141.84 billion proposed budget for next year.

Rep. Ashley Acedillo (Party-list, Magdalo) said during the hearing Tuesday of the House Appropriations Committee chaired by Rep. Isidro Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) that the AFP requested for a budget of Php24 billion for 2014 and Php26.8 billion for 2015 for its Modernization Program.

However, he said both amounts were not approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said that for 2014, the AFP received only Php9.7 billion for its Modernization Program. For 2015, Acedillo said based on the AFP expenditure program, the DBP-approved funding for the military’s Modernization Program is Php20 billion, which is Php6.8 billion less than the AFP’s requested funding of Php 26.8 billion.

“In other words, there is a shortfall of Php6.8 billion in 2015. For 2014 and 2015, there is a shortfall of around Php20.8 billion,” said Acedillo, a former Philippine Air Force (PAF) pilot and officer.

Acedillo said while the government has other priorities to give funding support to, the AFP Modernization Program should be adequately supported for the country’s welfare and national security.

“As pointed out by our colleagues, we have many priorities. We understand that the AFP Modernization Program, spread for several years, will cost the government a lot. But we firmly believe that there is no price tag for national security,” said Acedillo.

He urged the government that should it slash the funding requests of the AFP, the reduction should not be too drastic. He also said the DND should work closely with the DBM and the House Committee on National Defense to find a solution to the budgetary requirements of the AFP Modernization Program.

Budget and Management Assistant Secretary Tina Rose Marie Canda said the original segregation or annual amount for the AFP Modernization Program is about Php15 billion a year. “We did not expect that there will be an acceleration in the acquisition of projects for the modernization program,” said Canda.

Pres. Aquino turns over Basic Law to Congress

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 11): Pres. Aquino turns over Basic Law to Congress

President Benigno Simeon Aquino III transmits on September 10 the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in turnover rites held at Rizal Hall of Malacanan Palace.
The President let Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal to physically hand over book-bound copies of the draft bill, first to Drilon and then to Belmonte while Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and OPAPP Sec. Teresita Quintos-Deles looked on.

The 122-page draft BBL was described by Aquino as “makatwiran, makatarungan,  at katanggap-tanggap sa lahat” (reasonable, just and acceptable to all).

In a speech that lasted for 8 minutes and spoken in pure Tagalog, Pres. Aquino said that he strongly believes that the draft BBL is in accordance to the Constitution, faithful to the principles of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), and reflects the collective efforts towards inclusive growth.

Aquino made specific appeals to the Filipino people especially in Luzon and Visayas, apparently referring to the Christian majority, to accept in full the Muslims by respecting their beliefs and ways of life. “(G)amitin natin ang ating talino at panahon upang lubos na maunawaan ang kasaysayan, kultura at karanasan ng mga kapwa rin natin Pilipino.” (Let us use our intelligence and time to fully understand the history, culture and experience of our fellow Filipinos.)

Addressing the numerous lawmakers who attended the occasion, Aquino urged the members of Congress to expedite the passage of the proposed BBL.

Aside from Drilon, other senators who graced the ceremony included Ralph Recto, Pia Cayetano, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and Vicente “Tito” Sotto III.

In a presscon, Drilon emphasized that the proposed BBL is a historic opportunity that must not be missed.

Sen. TG Guingona, chair of the Senate Committee on Peace and Unification, described the event as a “major step forward by our country in our bid to recognize the right of our fellow Filipinos with a culture and history of their own as everyone else's equal.

Officials of the international NGOs who attended the ceremony also expressed congratulatory words to  the Government of the Philippines (GPH), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the BTC.

The HD Centre, a member of the International Contact Group (ICG), said in its statement that it is “optimistic that the upcoming legislative process that now aims to entrench the common ground reached in the form of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro as embodied in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law will bear fruits of a just and lasting peace for the Bangsamoro and Filipino people.”

On the other hand, BTC Chairman Iqbal simply said that he is “happy” when asked by media what he felt about with the event.

iqbal said that they have done their best over the 17-year long peace negotiations that could now culminate in a law that “addresses all the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro.”

CMM-MILF Sub-Committee on Information conducts capacity building on Protocol and Etiquettes

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 10): CMM-MILF Sub-Committee on Information conducts capacity building on Protocol and Etiquettes

The Campaign and Mass Mobilization, Sub-Committee of MILF Central Committee on Information held a two-day capacity building programs with the Theme: “Empowering the Bangsamoro Potential Leaders and Communities”, on protocol and etiquettes with updates on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on September 6 and 7 in two different venues.
The first activity was held on September 6 at Ma’had Sarque, Buluan, Maguindanao with Dr. Tarhata S. Guiamalon as speaker. She tackled Proper Protocol and Diplomat’s Etiquettes that are applicable both locally and internationally. About eighty participants comprising political and information officers, representatives from the professional sector in the area and nearby communities, and line agencies of the MILF Damakling Provincial Committee attended the activity. Respective chairs of MILF political and information committees also joined the occasion.

On September 07, 2014, another capacity building was held at a Training Center in Barangay Magatos, Kabacan, North Cotabato with approximately 200 participants from North Cotabato Provincial Political Committee officers, information officers and their respective chairpersons and representatives from MILF line agencies attended the program. This writer facilitated both programs in Buluan and Kabacan.

Professor Esmael A. Abdula delved on the peace agreements between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF, and touched on the progress of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Abdula is currently the Chairman of the Campaign and Mass Mobilization, Sub Committee on Information, Committee on Information and a member of the Steering Committee of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI).

Joining Abdula were Moidjoddin K. Talusob, KDFI Executive Director,  Gonie Yusop, Abu Adjam, Sheik Kamaroddin Pidtamanan, and Datu Mando “Manny”  Pedtamanan, a third termer Municipal Councilor  of Kabacan and now a member of the Peace and Order Committee of the Province of North Cotabato. Abdula is active in peace advocacies and capacity development program being undertaken by local and internationally-funded organizations in the Moro homeland, most notably the BLMI being his mother unit.

Full text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

From GMA News (Sep 10): Full text of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law

PNoy submits draft Bangsamoro law to Congress leaders

President Benigno Aquino III witnesses the turnover of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law between Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal (left) and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in Malacañang on Wednesday, September 10. Also in photo is Senate President Franklin Drilon.

On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III personally submitted to Congress leaders the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at Malacañang.
The BBL will embody the peace agreement signed by the Philippine goverment and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last March, which aims to end the decades-old conflict in Mindanao.
The legislation seeks to create the Bangsamoro political entity, which will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It will also specify wealth- and power-sharing arrangements between the national government and the new political entity.
The draft law's transmittal to Congress signals the start of another crucial stage in the peace process, when the bill will go through the legislative mill and face lawmakers' scrutiny. 
Once Congress passes the BBL, a referendum will be held in the proposed Bangsamoro territory. The Bangsamoro Transition Authority will be created and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be abolished.
Elections will be held for the Bangsamoro Government, and the exit agreement will be signed in 2016.

Bangsamoro bill silent on disarming MILF

From GMA News (Sep 10): Bangsamoro bill silent on disarming MILF

The draft Bangsamoro Basic Law submitted by President Benigno Aquino III to Congress on Wednesday carried no provision on decommissioning of the armed component of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Article Eleven of the 122-page document tackled peace and order and embodied the provisions in the normalization annex of the peace agreement between the MILF and the government, but was silent on the decommissioning process.
The 15 other articles of the Bangsamoro bill specified the territory, form of government and fiscal powers of the new political entity seen to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the chair of the government's negotiating panel, said the process of withdrawing the MILF’s firearms no longer needed legislation.
“Ang proposed law ay patungkol sa pagtatayo ng Bangsamoro. Ang decommissioning ay isinasagawa ng government. This doesn’t need a law to implement,” Ferrer said in a text message.
Secretary Teresita Deles, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, said steps towards the decommissioning of the MILF’s firearms were already being taken even without the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
“Normalization process doesn’t have to be in the law. Except for the part on the setting up of police, it’s executive action that doesn’t need new legislation. Normalization bodies are already set up, and joint planning ongoing,” Deles said.

The normalization annex of the peace deal signed in January covered the process of decommissioning the armed wing of the MILF and outlined steps to disarm private armies in the proposed Bangsamoro area.
Under this annex, an Independent Decommissioning Body is tasked to oversee the gradual decommissioning of MILF forces and weapons. This body shall be composed of three foreign experts and four local experts.
Last May, Ferrer and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the two sides had already started creating the different bodies that will implement the normalization process for the proposed Bangsamoro political entity, including the decomissioning of the MILF.

Army general claims Mindanao rebel leader Madlos 'bedridden'

From InterAksyon (Sep 10): Army general claims Mindanao rebel leader Madlos 'bedridden'

NDF-Mindanao spokesman Jorge Madlos ( file photo by Alex Baluyut)

The former commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, which is stationed in Northern Mindanao, claimed Wednesday that Jorge Madlos, also known as “Ka Oris,” the Mindanao spokesman of the National Democratic Front, has been "bedridden" since early this year.

In a phone interview, Major General Ricardo Visaya said the information on Madlos’ supposed condition came from former communist rebels who had surrendered.

Visaya relinquished command of the 4th ID to Major General Oscar Lactao Wednesday morning and will take over the Southern Luzon Command.

The Army general pointed out that Madlos, who has appeared several times before media on many occasions, such as the anniversaries of the New People’s Army and Communist Party of the Philippines or during the release of soldiers or policemen captured by the rebels, has not been seen or heard from recently.

The last known public statement by Madlos was when he announced the postponement of the release of four policemen captured by the NPA during a raid on a police station in Surigao del Norte.

The policemen were eventually released but Madlos was not present at the event.
Visaya could not give specifics on Madlos’ health but claimed the rebel leader was suffering from a kidney ailment.

He claimed Madlos has been moving between NPA camps in Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

Asked how the supposed ill health of the NDF officer would affect the communist rebel movement in the south, Visaya said they would suffer “low morale” if news of Madlos’ condition broke out.

He described the rebel officer as “very charismatic,” comparing him to the late CPP Visaya noted that it took the rebels several months to acknowledge Rosal’s death because they had to scout for a suitable replacement before announcing this.

He claimed this was the case with Madlos -- “hindi nila muna aamin ngayon, parang si Roger Rosal nga (they won’t admit it yet, just like Roger Rosal).”

Even then, Visaya claimed the Mindanao rebels were “disorganized” and supposedly saddled with misunderstandings between their regional and provincial commands.

Top NPA leader Jorge Madlos already bedridden –military

From GMA News (Sep 10): Top NPA leader Jorge Madlos already bedridden –military

Jorge Madlos, the top communist leader in Mindanao with a P5 million bounty on his head, has been suffering from kidney ailment and is now bedridden, the military claimed Wednesday.

“He is bedridden for quite some time now,” said Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the new commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division. “He was bedridden as early as first quarter of this year due to kidney problems.”

Visaya said based on information from rebel returnees, Madlos is being moved from camp to camp to avoid military detection.

Aside from being the top leader of the New People's Army (NPA) in Mindanao, Madlos, also known as Ka Oris, is the spokesman of the National Democratic Front in the region.

Madlos, who is in his 60s and has been in the underground movement since the 1970s, is wanted for a number of crimes. He is the most prominent rebel leader after Benito Tiamzon, the chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, and Tiamzon's wife Wilma Austria, the party's secretary general.

Tiamzon and Austria were arrested by government forces in Cebu last March.

Visaya said the communist movement may keep Madlos' true health condition confidential until they find a replacement for him.

“Until they are able to develop a next leader, they would delay this, just like in the case of Ka Roger,” he said, referring to the late rebel spokesman Gregorio Rosal, who passed away in 2001 due to heart attack.

Youth group cries foul over ‘military espionage’

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Sep 11): Youth group cries foul over ‘military espionage’

 WITH previous cases of red-tagging that led to untimely deaths of student activists, the League of Filipino Students in northern Mindanao (LFS-10) is worried that members of its group may be victims of surveillance by the military who they suspected of “spying” on them.

Vennel Francis Chenfoo, LFS-10 spokesperson, said the group condemns the continuous surveillance and harassment that have been happening to some of their members and alleged the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be behind these activities.

"We condemn the espionage and infiltration the AFP is desperately doing against our organization, the tailing of our members and monitoring of our headquarters and even the homes of our leaders," said LFS in an emailed statement sent to Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro.

Chenfoo stressed spying poses a threat which curtailed both their civil and political rights due to the Philippine Army's "blatant disregard" of the Constitution.

Although relying on a few pieces of evidence, the youth group has called leaders of the AFP to put a stop to these activities.

The group's statement, however, was released following an official from the military's 4th Infantry Division (4ID) who said in a radio interview that the "NPA raid of a guard post in Bukidnon last August 30 can be attributed to the resurgence of the youth and student movement in the universities of northern Mindanao."

"We are particularly alarmed of the army's statement that even our parents were warned by them to prohibit us from joining activist organization," the statement read.

Chenfoo has called this red-tagging, an accusation of being a front of the New People's Army (NPA).

Major Christian Uy, 4ID spokesperson, told Sun*Star Cagayan de Oro that there is no truth to this claim of the LFS adding that he had called for the youth to stay away from groups that cannot contribute to the development of the nation.

"We don't have a perfect government and society to live with. But as young as they are, they have to look into the problems of this society. In joining organizations, join those which are helping solve the problems in our country and not those that carry arms and go against us," Uy said.

"[We] students do not have any choice but to organize our ranks and assert our right to an accessible, scientific, nationalist and a mass-oriented education. We have to link our movement to a broader people's movement seeking for an end to the current social and political crisis," Chenfoo said of their choice to radical idealism because they are robbed of rights to a decent future following the budget cuts in state colleges and universities.

"[The military] wanted to mold us as a passive and non-thinking dimwit incapable of speaking up. We will not be cowed. We are operating in the broad daylight. We are not members of the NPA," he added.

Rommel Limjoco, an active official of LFS in the region, claimed he was spied on by people who he believed are members of the military because of their built.

Around March this year, a man in his mid-30s inquired at a “sari-sari” store near his boarding house in Iligan City asking the vendor of Limjoco's demographic information.

Without the knowledge of the man who inquired, Limjoco was just right behind him when he asked the vendor.

"Since I know the vendor, I non-verbally told her not to say that it was me who the man was looking for. I was surprised because he asked of my whereabouts, where I live, what time I go home, etc.," Limjoco told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.

Around April, another man in his mid-30s introduced himself as an LFS coordinator for Davao while he was visiting a barber shop in Iligan.

According to the statement, the man asked the owner of the shop the current officers of the formation in MSU-IIT. The owner was a faculty member of the History department at a state university in this city.

"Judging from his well-built physique, the man appeared to be too old to be a student-coordinator and was more of a military officer.

Organization-wise, the LFS formations in Davao have all the means to communicate may it be in email or phone with the formations in Lanao to answer such queries," it added.

On June 20, 2014, the computer set and many organizational documents and flash drives were carted away by unidentified suspects at the LFS office in Bagong Silang, Iligan City.

Chenfoo also was a victim of spying when two unidentified men once asked his neighbors of his whereabouts last August 19.

In 2001, Reimon Guran, a political science student and a spokesperson of LFS-Southern Luzon, was shot dead after he was about to board a bus.

In 2006, Cris Hugo, a journalism student and LFS national council member, was shot dead in Legazpi City, Albay.

Both deaths of LFS officers linked them being mistaken as NPA insurgents.

Military: Threat against Zamboanga City remains

From the Zamboanga Today (Sep 10): Military: Threat against Zamboanga City remains

Despite Nur Misuari-led faction Moro National Liberation Front’s ejection from Zamboanga City, the threat still exists in Zamboanga City.

Thus said Colonel Andrelino Colina, commander of the Task Force Zamboanga (ZTF), to local reporters yesterday.

He cited the presence of the Abu Sayyaf group, lost command rebels in the nearby island provinces of Basilan and Sulu, and even those who are based in Zamboanga peninsula.

“The threat remains. While they are within the proximity, they can always target Zamboanga. But it will be different this time as we have strengthened the security,” Colina added.

Assuring security as the city marks the first anniversary of the September siege, Colina said they have strengthened the number of security forces of the city’s military task force.

He said his unit, the Task Force Zamboanga, has been upgraded into Joint Task Group Zamboanga, augmented by additional battalion of marines where it was given a control of naval boat units to directly respond to any threat groups without passing protocols from unit commands.

The upgraded military unit that is securing the city is bigger than the brigade size of the military unit, according to Colina.

Fugitive MNLF chairman Misuari surfaced recently in Sulu and led flag-raising ceremonies to commemorate the first anniversary of the declaration of the United Federated States of Bangsamoro Republik. He was shown in full battle gear with high-powered M16 automatic rifle.

Misuari, who is wanted for rebellion, genocide and crimes against humanity for staging the Zamboanga siege in 2013, where over 200 people were killed, including civilians, and thousands displaced, rallies his supporters to pursue their right to self-determination or independence.

Also, hardline Abu Sayyaf militants operating in Basilan and the breakaway rebel group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), had earlier pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the extremist jihadists who now control large swathes of Iraq and Syria.

Clips have been uploaded in recent weeks on the video sharing site YouTube showing both the ASG and the BIFF pledging support to the ISIS.

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

But Armed Forces of the Philippine spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala dismissed the Abu Sayyaf and BIFF video clips, saying it is propaganda.

Late last month, Army soldiers were deployed to Sulu to take the place of Marines who were sent to Zamboanga City.

The Marines were brought in to augment the 500-member Task Force Zamboanga after recent reports of abductions in the city by members of the Abu Sayyaf.

On Monday, the Zamboanga City government led thanksgiving activities to security forces who defended the city from the MNLF. More activities have been scheduled by the city government this week to mark the first anniversary of the failed siege.

As Zamboanga marks one year since the bloody siege began September 9, thousands of people whose homes were destroyed are still living in the city’s sports stadium, where unsanitary conditions and overcrowding are widespread inside the biggest evacuation center.

However, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman said the grandstand (sports complex) is set to be closed by December 15.

“The grandstand transitional settlement plan for the over 2,000 families in the area has been plotted out,” Soliman told reporters in a press conference.

Health officials said pneumonia and other illnesses generated by the slum-like conditions have claimed 168 lives over the past year.

Security forces now stronger to fight terrorism, insurgents in Western Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Sep 10): Security forces now stronger to fight terrorism, insurgents in Western Mindanao

Photos released by the Western Mindanao Command show the signing ceremony between Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, of the Western Mindanao Command; and Police Director Edgardo Ingking, of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations.

Military and police authorities in western Mindanao have signed an agreement that would unify efforts in battling insurgencies and terrorism in that part of the southern Philippines.

Marine Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela said senior military and police officers led by Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, of the Western Mindanao Command; and Police Director Edgardo Ingking, of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations, signed the “Joint Letter Directives” that solidify the unity of effort between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police in addressing peace and security concerns in the region.

The accord will address the growing threats pose by the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiya militants who are behind kidnappings for ransom and terrorism; and the communist New People’s Army rebels.

The signing ceremony – held at the Western Mindanao Command headquarters in Zamboanga City - was also witnessed Lt. Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad Jr., the commander of Northern Luzon, who represented AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., and Police Director Juanito Vaño, of the Directorate for Logistics, who represented PNP Director General Alan Purisima.

“This (agreement) will further boost government efforts in fighting lawlessness and at the same time effectively promote peace and development in partnership with local governments and the communities as well. This is a very good development both for the AFP and the PNP,” Muyuela told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

It was the second accord entered between the AFP and the PNP this year.
In July, AFP and PNP authorities also signed a similar agreement that paves way for a joint anti-insurgency operation in eastern Mindanao.

The accord was signed at the headquarters of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City between Lt. Gen. Ricardo Rainier Cruz III, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command; and Chief Superintendent Wendy del Rosario, who represented Chief Superintendent Angelito Pacia, head of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations.

The signing ceremony was also attended by army commanders from the 4th and 10th Infantry Divisions and representatives from the AFP General Headquarters.

The officials signed the Joint Standing Operating Procedure Number 1 or the Condition Situation Response System.

The JSOP prescribes certain minimum actions or responses pertaining to the counter-insurgency campaign by the PNP and AFP operating forces working under the Area Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center Eastern Mindanao within the territorial boundaries of Regions 10, 11, 12 and 13 in accordance with the established Condition Situation Response System.

The new system will further enhance the interoperability operations between the police and military and effectively address the threats pose by the communist rebels and other threats, including terrorism.

Capt. Franco Suelto, a spokesman for the 1st Infantry Division, and Insp. Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesperson, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner that police and military forces are closely coordinating its efforts in law enforcement and anti-insurgency operations, and have been successful so far in their security campaign.

The joint police and military operations, according to Suelto, is covered by a Joint Letter Directive which mandates the AFP to support PNP law enforcement operations against lawless groups; and the Internal Peace and Security Operation that also mandates the PNP to support the AFP in counter-insurgency operations.

A Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Center was also created to craft and implement plans for intensified security operations against lawless and criminal elements, private armed and other threat groups in support of the local governments; assume functions during elections; monitor and assess peace and security situations; coordinate the implementation of necessary measures to ensure peace and security in their area of responsibility; conduct intensified law-enforcement; initiate and coordinate training and exercises; conduct information dissemination of timely and relevant information and enhance awareness program.

“Police and military efforts in maintaining peace and order, and the close coordination with the local government units in protecting the civilians, are working perfectly well with the support of course of various sectors of the society, the community and the public,” Suelto said.

Just this year, a joint police and military operation led to the capture of a senior NPA leader, Mercy Maghinay, in Zamboanga del Norte’s Siayan town following a clash with rebels. Security forces recovered a shot gun, a .45-caliber pistol, a hand grenade and some P100,000 in cash from Maghinay.

Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, Jr, commander of the 1st Infantry Division, said Maghinay heads the NPA forces in the province and was behind the spate of attacks on military and police targets. He said in Zamboanga City, policemen and army troops from the Task Force Zamboanga have captured more than a dozen Abu Sayyaf militants in joint operations in recent months.

Suspected NPA commander arrested

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Suspected NPA commander arrested

Aklan police operatives arrested a suspected commander of the New Peoples Army (NPA) in Barangay Agmalik, Sta. Fe, Romblon Tuesday afternoon.

Intelligence police operatives said Salvatico was considered a suspect in the killing of Malay (Boracay) Mayor Roger Aguirre on May 1990. According to reports, Mayor Aguirre was gunned down, including his two body guards, by suspected rebels while attending a benefit dance.

The Aklan police operatives had coordinated with the Romblon PNP prior to the arrest.

Salvatico, who was born in Nabas, Aklan, was facing charges of double murder and multiple murder, respectively, in different branches of the Kalibo Regional Trial Court. He is currently detained at the Kalibo PNP.

The suspect was considered as the 25th most wanted person in WV.

Army official wants former rebels empowered

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Army official wants former rebels empowered

Col. Dinoh Dolina, commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Brigade, is urging rebel returnees to get organized to be empowered.

“Being together they can become stronger in asking for help because they are organized,” he said.

He added that government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) can extend assistance if they are organized.

Currently, the Philippine Army is in close coordination with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the religious sector to assist returnees who were affected by typhoon Yolanda.

Also they tied up with various institutions that are “very willing to support former rebels” such as the Landbank of the Philippines (LBP).

He cited that in Ormoc City, they have established a sustainable mini-farm program in partnership with the local government unit and the DSWD. The LBP also made available a loan window of up to P50,000.

Each returnee is provided with some 400 to 1,000 square meter area for them to cultivate. They were also equipped with skills on organic farming.

The group is expected to start their harvest in December.

“Hopefully this is one way to support alleviate poverty in the province,” he said.

The Philippine Army recorded more or less 130 surrenderees from Leyte province.

Mindanao CSOs gear for educational campaign to support BBL

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 11): Mindanao CSOs gear for educational campaign to support BBL

Various civil society organizations (CSOs) here are ready to engage in educational debates “doubtful Mindanaons” to ensure that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) submitted to Congress on Wednesday promotes the interests of all the stakeholders.

“We must be grateful and at the same time vigilant against spoilers. May we ask the Muslim, Christian, and the Indigenous People to engage in spirited discussions and debates,” said Samira Gutoc of the People Development Initiative for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“Amid our diversity, the Filipino people should be in one alliance for the success of the Bangsamoro accord which will benefit all through the basic law. We look forward to reading the BBL and participate in its success,” said Datu Alexander Mama-o, president of the Filipino Alliance for Integrity and Reform (FAIR Movement-Philippines, for his part.

“Thank God! It is already out,” said Claretian priest Angel C. Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga.

On Wednesday, President Benigno S. Aquino III formally transmitted the proposed BBL to leaders of both chambers of Congress in Malacañang to start the legislative process.

The BBL would operationalize the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed last March 27.

The peace deal is a product of over 17 years of negotiations between the parties that envisions the establishment of the Bangsamoro region that would replace the old, graft-ridden Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) set up.

The proposed region would be run by a ministerial-form of government with additional powers and financial autonomy compared to the existing operations of the ARMM.

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) and Generation Peace Network (GenPeace) described the recent development as a breakthrough in the peace efforts for enhancement of peace and development in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao.

“Peace building is a continuing process and we in the youth sector take the challenge to help ensure that the gains of peace in this generation will be sustained and benefit all,” the groups said.

Both YMPN and GenPeace also called for Congress to set aside political differences and unite for the crucial passage of the BBL which is a landmark edict in the history of lawmaking and peacemaking in the country.

“Once the BBL is open to the public, we call on our fellows in civil society to engage in a productive dialogue as we make yesterday's dream of a just and lasting peace a reality of today and tomorrow,” they said.

National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Yasmin Lao said the transmission to Congress of the BBL proposition signals the government’s commitment to end the conflict in Mindanao, which has stunted the socio-political stability and stunts the economic growth and development of the region for decades.

“Let us avoid unnecessary comments or remarks that might inflame or exacerbate the rising emotions attendant to highly charged discussions and deliberations on the proposed BBL,” she said.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, for his part, has urged Congress to study, deliberate and act upon all matters related to the advancement and welfare of the Bangsamoro people, and make BBL the basis of peace and prosperity in Mindanao.

AFP conducts WPS Summit in Marikina City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): AFP conducts WPS Summit in Marikina City

In line with its efforts to create awareness on the West Philippine Sea, the Armed Forces with the help of the National Youth Congress conducted a summit on the WPS at the Bulwagang Kapitan Moy, Marikina City on Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, AFP public affairs office chief, said the summit aims to instill patriotism and love for country through subject matter expert discussions.

Around 300 youth participants attended the event.

The NYC is an affiliation of schools, and youth and community-based organizations established in December last year at GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan.

It has mobilized similar awareness projects during the Araw ng Kagitingan, Philippine Independence Day, and National Heroes Day.

The core group of NYC is actively involved in various discussions on the West Philippine Sea, particularly in its member schools and communities.

Zagala said that the AFP is seeing to it that the youth is empowered to participate in the national effort to promote our interests in the West Philippine Sea.

Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law 'most significant' political step towards lasting peace in Mindanao -- Deles

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law 'most significant' political step towards lasting peace in Mindanao -- Deles

With the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress on Wednesday, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita "Ging" Deles said its passage would be the "most significant" step towards attaining lasting peace in Mindanao.

"Today, we reach a turning point in our national quest for peace in Mindanao. His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III has submitted to the leadership of the House of Representatives and the Philippine Senate a document embodying the administration’s proposal on the provisions of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). This draft embodies the substance and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed by the government and MILF negotiating panels last March 27 in Malacañang Palace," said Deles in a statement.

Once enacted into law, she said the consent of the people in the proposed Bangsamoro core territory will have to be obtained through a plebiscite to be held likely next year.

For the areas that would vote "Yes", Deles said, they will be governed by a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), which will be created by the law with members to be appointed by the President.

In 2016, simultaneous with the national and local elections, the first Bangsamoro elections will be held that will install the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro.

"This political roadmap is firmly on track, and we hold our congressional leaders to their promise to prioritize the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law," she stressed.

Deles expressed gratitude "for the patience, fortitude, and resilience shown by the government and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace panels, as well as the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), in the pursuit of peace, guided solely by the best intentions not only for the Bangsamoro people, but also for the entire country."

"We expect and look forward to a vigorous public debate arising from a thorough and sober review of every provision contained in this draft document. Every word, line, and provision shall be subjected to the sunshine of democratic debate, where all voices will be heard, with our Constitution as the guiding light," she noted.

"For now, let us welcome the dawning of a new era that has taken us more than 17 years to bring to our people’s doorsteps. This is the farthest distance we have reached in our peace journey with the MILF, and the most significant political step we have taken in our political roadmap for the Bangsamoro. To our esteemed partners in the peace process, now is not the time to rest or be complacent. Now is the time to be heard, and to listen to the views of others, as we set aside our differences to unite behind the cause of peace. Let us pass a Bangsamoro Basic Law that would make past and future generations proud," Deles said as she urged the Legislative branch of the government for its immediate passage.

(NewsFeature) No fence-sitting in the quest for peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): (NewsFeature) No fence-sitting in the quest for peace

Even for a Tausug-Muslim who is affiliated neither to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) nor the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), there is no fence-sitting in the pursuit of peace because its outcome is not only inclusive, but would last for generations.

Eighteen-year old Khalid (not his real name) believes that even for him, and other Filipino-Muslims who never handled a firearm, peace is desirable whatever your political or religious belief is.

“Kahit hindi naman ako kasama d’yan sa MI (MILF) at MN (MNLF), sir, gusto ko pa rin sana na matuloy ang pinag-uusapan nila (MILF) at gobyerno (referring to the peace process),” Khalid said.

When I asked why, it took few heartbeats for him to finally reply “wala naman kasi dapat na iba pa, sir, ‘di ba, dapat kapayapaan lang, yon din sinasabi ko sa mga kabigan ko.”

Vague definition, but if anything, the 18-year old lad should be the last one to serve as a “spokesperson” for the government which for all practical purposes was the reason why he is at Camp Bagong-Diwa in the first place.

Khalid was among the 11 minors being held at SICA 2 (Special Intensive Care Area) for their alleged involvement in the Zamboanga Siege, a year and a day ago.

Already, his case is being handled by a lawyer from the Public Attorney’s Office, and he is confident that eventually he would be able to prove his innocence.

With the help of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and a non-government organization, documents are being slowly secured from Zamboanga which can prove his status as a civilian.

Asked for the treatment he was receiving at the Bagong Diwa, he replied “ok naman po, may mga tumutulong naman,” adding that the only misgiving is that he was forced to halt his livelihood for a year now. Khalid sells food and beverages at the port in Zamboanga.

Born in Cagayan de Oro, Khalid’s family moved to Zamboanga after his father died when he was only two years old. He is the youngest in the brood of three.

Unfortunately, raising three children alone proved too much for Khalid’s mother, and few years after settling in Zamboanga, his mother finally left them to fend for their own. He was raised by a family friend whom he calls as his "lola."

President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday submitted to Congress the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

As envisioned, the Bangsamoro Government shall be secular and democratic, a government of all, even as it establishes institutions, programs and policies that would serve the needs and uphold the ways of life of its majority Muslim population.

“The basic rights of all inhabitants shall be guaranteed, and special rights accorded all indigenous peoples, women, children, and minorities shall be respected and promoted,” according to GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

The United Nations, in a statement, expressed its positive reaction on the submission to the President of the Philippines of the Consensus Draft on the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“This is a critical milestone in the implementation of the CAB, and a crucial achievement in ensuring lasting peace and sustainable development in Maindanao and in the wider Philippines,” the statement said.

According to UN, “we celebrate this remarkable achievement and are proud to have accompanied both sides on this journey.”

For Khalid and his friends, the principles articulated in the Bangsamoro Basic Law might be difficult to grasp, but the benefits are easier to be appreciated.

“Majority of my friends are actually Christians, but we never talked about our differences in the faith,” Khalid said in the vernacular, adding that “all we wanted are livelihoods for our families.”

Congress aims to pass Bangsamoro Basic Law in Q1 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Congress aims to pass Bangsamoro Basic Law in Q1 2015

Senate President Franklin Drilon said Wednesday they aim to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law in the first quarter of next year.

"We are giving ourselves until the first quarter of next year," Drilon said when asked by reporters about the Senate's timetable in passing the bill.

During the ceremonial turnover of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, President Benigno Aquino III asked Congress to pass the bill immediately so that Muslim Mindanao would have sufficient time to prepare to govern itself.

Drilon said passing it in the first quarter of next year would give the region enough time to conduct a plebiscite and have the transition commission in place before the 2016 election.

The proposed Bangsamoro law will have bipartisan support in the Senate, he said, noting the presence of Senate minority leader Senator Tito Sotto, chairman of the Senate’s local government committee Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos, and Peace and Unification Senator TG Guingona.

“This bill will have bipartisan support. We will co-author it with several of our colleagues and we will immediately set the committee hearings, next week. We will request Senator Bongbong and Senator TG to set the committee hearings next week,” he said, adding that the Senate will tackle the Bangsamoro Basic Law after the ongoing committee hearings on the budget.

Drilon said he is confident that the measure will be passed.

“What we will look at with care is that the Bangsamoro Basic Law should be within the four corners of the Constitution," he said.

The Senate President said he is glad that the President has assured that the bill is within constitutional boundaries.

He in turn guaranteed that they will respect the rights and consider the aspirations of Muslim Filipinos.

Once the basic law is ratified, the Organic Law that created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will be repealed, Drilon said.

BI to deport Canadian national reportedly recruiting Filipino Muslims to conduct terrorist activities

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): BI to deport Canadian national reportedly recruiting Filipino Muslims to conduct terrorist activities

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is set to deport a Canadian national within the week after he was classified as “undesirable alien” in connection with the reported recruitment of locals to conduct terrorist activities.

BI Commissioner Siegfrid Mison said Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips was the second foreign national to be deported over alleged links with Islamist militants, after an Australian Islamic preacher caught last July in Cebu.

The BI chief said they are continuously verifying raw intelligence reports that about 100 Muslims from Mindanao had left the country to be trained in response to the global calls of Islamist militants to fight for Iraq and Syria.

"Based on various sources of information, he (Philips) was supposed to be inciting and recruiting people to conduct terrorist activities," Mison said in a chance interview with reporters.

Reports claimed that Philips is scheduled to give lectures to selected Muslims in Zamboanga City but police started questioning his presence a few days after he landed Sunday in Davao City.

"He was also barred from entry into Germany and other European states for his activities. Right now, he is in the custody of the police. He is blacklisted," Mison said.

To date, the BI had blacklisted 40,000 Filipinos and foreigners, including Islamic militants, fugitives and members of criminal gangs.

Reports gathered claimed that Philips is a professional instructor of Islamic and Arabic studies in Dubai, UAE who was also barred from entering the United States and Australia because his activities were considered as national security threat.

Mison admitted that they only rely on information of international community as they are having a hard time keeping Islamist militants out of the country.

Submission of BBL draft to Congress, definitely good news -- EastMinCom

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Submission of BBL draft to Congress, definitely good news -- EastMinCom

"Good news," this is what the Eastern Mindanao Command called the submission Wednesday of the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) in Congress.

"The submission of the draft BBL is a good news for all. The Eastern Mindanao Command supports the national government's initiative not only in establishing a Bangsamoro Region but every peace and development programs," said unit spokesman Capt. Alberto Caber.

"We are hopeful that this talks will be finally implemented. Our soldiers long for peace," he added.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) earlier said that by enacting the proposed BBL, "a just and lasting peace will finally dawn in Mindanao ending more than 40 years of fighting between Filipinos versus Filipinos."

"With this political solution, the sacrifices of more than 150,000 Filipinos who perished in this strife would not be in vain," it added.

Throughout the Government of the Philippines-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (GPH-MILF) peace talks, the AFP has expressed its support for the process, saying that "the same suffering, misery, and misfortune that our people feel every time armed conflicts arise," because soldiers suffer, too, as they "continue to risk their lives as first responders to armed conflicts and violence."

The military also expressed optimism since the beginning of the peace talks saying that the milestones achieved had put into concrete example the principles embodied in its Internal Peace Security Program "Bayanihan" that concerted efforts and cooperation among stakeholders is key to achieve the common goal of just and lasting peace not only for Mindanao but for the entire country.

Lactao gets command of Cagayan de Oro-based 4th Infantry Division

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Lactao gets command of Cagayan de Oro-based 4th Infantry Division
Major Gen. Cesar Lactao assumed command of the Cagayan de Oro-based 4th Infantry Division Wednesday.

This was after Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya, the former commander of the unit, was promoted to head the Lucena-based Southern Luzon Command, after the incumbent chief, Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo, stepped down on Sept. 8 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

“I pray that all the stakeholders in this area will continue to strengthen the partnership and cooperation that we have established," Visaya said in his outgoing speech.

“To Major Gen. Lactao, I can confidently leave to you this command, which is geared up with its officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees towards meeting the challenges of the changing dynamics of the battlefield,” he added.

Lactao is a member of the Philippine Military Academy "Maharlika" Class of 1984.

Prior assuming command of the 4th Infantry Division, Lactao is the deputy chief-of-staff for operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

“I vowed to reduce the threat level of violence in Northern Mindanao. I will provide security and peace of mind to our people and assist them in improving their way of life, improving our communities and of course our beloved country. We have to have a peaceful and ready for development provinces by this year and next year,” he stressed.

He also said that he will be guided in this mission Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) "Bayanihan".

"The approach of IPSP is the human security centered approach. We have work hard so that our people shall be free from fear and free from want. As a practitioner of national security, I firmly believe that we could not have national security without human security,” Lactao pointed out.

The new 4th Infantry Division commander received various military awards for excellence in combat and administration, letters and plaques of commendation and appreciation from different military units and civilian sectors.

He is a well-rounded and highly respected Army officer having been assigned to several military units and offices and held different vital positions in operations and intelligence both local and abroad.

Mindanao stakeholders see passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law to pave way for social recovery

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Mindanao stakeholders see passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law to pave way for social recovery

The business sector, youth, and various stakeholders in Mindanao see the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as an end to the "costs of war" that would eventually pave way for social recovery in the region.

In the statement of support, the Mindanao business sector particularly the Rotary Club of Tagum North, called for the prompt enactment of the Bangsamoro Basic Law to ensure that the Philippines "never again experiences huge economic losses due to war, a figure that has amounted to more than Php640 billion since the conflict started in the early 1970s."

"We welcome the submission of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress as the next major step towards achieving peace in the country," the statement said.

The group also commit "to encourage greater investment opportunities in Bangsamoro to counteract decades of lost and wasted economic opportunities, which have left Mindanaoans marginalized and impoverished across generations."

"Our efforts will also strive to establish and support social protection mechanisms that will help prevent pointless loss of lives," they said.

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) and Generation Peace Network (GenPeace), for their part, also welcomed the submission to Congress of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

"The breakthroughs in the peace efforts affirm our hope for enhancement of peace and development in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao; that signed peace agreement namely: the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), will be realized and contribute to the upliftment of the lives of the people," they said.

"Peace-building is a continuing process and we in the youth sector take the challenge to help ensure that the gains of peace in this generation will be sustained and benefit all," they added.

The youth sector also called on members of Congress "to unite -- transcend political differences -- for the crucial passage of the BBL, which is a landmark law in the history of law-making and peace-making in the country."

"Our future is what is at stake in the success of instituting genuine autonomy in the south that serves as a political solution in addressing the decades-old conflict and peace-building to resolve the Bangsamoro right to self-determination," they said.

The group also called on their fellow youth and other stakeholders "to have an informed perspective on the Bangsamoro in building an environment of mutual respect, cultural tolerance and humane society."

"Our diversity as a Filipino people -- in religion or ethnicity -- is a gift that is weaved by our common aspiration for peace and progress. Together, let us be critical and vigilant in appreciating the merits of the BBL that will be opened to the public and undergo deliberations and consultations by Congress. Once the BBL is open to the public, we call on our fellows in the civil society to engage in a productive dialogue as we make yesterday's dream of a just and lasting peace a reality of today and tomorrow," they said.

Meanwhile, the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) said the transmission to Congress of the draft BBL is a welcome development for all the stakeholders of the proposed measure.

"It brings to the fore the commitment of His Excellency, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, to put an end to the conflict in Mindanao which has threatened the socio-political stability and stunts the economic growth and development of the region," said NCMF Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao in a statement.

"We encourage all concerned to allow and facilitate the passage of the bill into law to provide opportunity for qualified residents and voters of the affected areas to approve or reject the proposal as part of their democratic right of suffrage to be expressed through the plebiscite to be called for the purpose. Let us avoid unnecessary comments and/or remarks that might inflame or exacerbate the rising emotions attendant to highly charged discussions and deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law," she said.

"We have to think and act in accordance with what is best for our country and people, giving paramount importance and relevance to efforts towards peace and development," she added.

Filipino UNDOF chief-of-staff now in PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Filipino UNDOF chief-of-staff now in PHL

The Armed Forces announced that the ranking Filipino officer of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), who resigned from his post due to differences of opinion with his commander, is now back in the Philippines.

Major Gen. Domingo Tutaan, military spokesman, said Col. James Ezra Enriquez, the UNDOF chief-of-staff, has arrived in the Philippines Wednesday afternoon.

He said that Enriquez requested his repatriation.

Tutaan said the Filipino UNDOF chief-of-staff will report to Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Thursday.

He declined to comment on whether Enriquez's reports will focus on the Golan Heights stand-off.

Enriquez earlier tendered his resignation due to differences in opinion regarding the handling of Singha of the Golan Heights stand-off crisis.

The UNDOF commander earlier ordered the Filipino contingents in Positions 68 and 69 upon learning the 44 Fijian peacekeepers were captured by Syrian rebels after surrendering their weapons last Aug. 28.

UNDOF commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, however, rejected Enriquez's resignation.

Instead, the Indian commander has placed Enriquez on administrative leave until the repatriation of the 331-strong Filipino contingent in the Golan Heights is repatriated this October.