Sunday, September 14, 2014

Troops pursue rebels in Abra

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 15): Troops pursue rebels in Abra
Additional police and military forces have been deployed in the boundaries of the provinces of Abra, Mountain Province and Kalinga to pursue and block retreating communist rebels following a series of encounters in the area last week, a senior police official said on Sunday.

Sr. Supt. Virgilio Laya, Abra provincial police director, said troops have been deployed in remote villages to intercept the rebels after 11 people, including two soldiers, were killed in clashes in the mountain barangay of Guinguinabang, Lacub town  last week.

“We have deployed blocking forces in the area. We want to neutralize their operation in the Cordillera region,” Laya said.

Abra is one of the longest held strongholds of the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Cordillera region. At least seven rebels and two civilians were killed in encounters last Thursday and Friday in Guinguinabang and the rebels have been on the run.

Laya said the soldiers arrested a woman guerrilla, Regina Marie Gustilo, 22, from Caloocan City and confiscated from her a Colt M-16 Armalite rifle with a long magazine loaded with 10 rounds of ammunition.

He said after the fighting on Thursday second gun battle occurred when rebels ambushed troops escorting civilians carrying the body of a rebel from Guinguinabang to the Poblacion.

“They were fired upon by a still undetermined number of communist rebels and it resulted in a fierce running gun battle,” Laya said.

He said the troops were conducting massive hot pursuit operations and “we want to neutralize their presence in remote communities to stop their harassment and extortion activities.”

Gov Eustaquio Bersamin said the clashes were a setback to government efforts to persuade the NPA to return to mainstream society and enjoy a peaceful life instead of running away from the long arms of the law.

“We will not allow the minor setbacks to derail our aggressive campaign towards lasting peace in the province. We want Abra to be known as a peaceful community with peace-loving and God-fearing people,” Bersamin said.

Serving 2 flags, Fil-Am soldiers sign up anew

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 14): Serving 2 flags, Fil-Am soldiers sign up anew

FIL-AM GIs Navy SpecialWarfare Operator Hermelito Rafol and USNavy First Class Jessica San Roque pose with US Ambassador Philip Goldberg during the reenlistment ceremony at the US Embassy. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

She had always aspired to join the military even back in her Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) days. He had joined the service just so he could skip college.

But together Utilitiesman First Class Jessica San Roque and Navy Special Warfare Operator Hermelito Rafol went to serve the US military service as Filipino-Americans detailed at the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

Now the chance came for San Roque and Rafol—born to Filipino parents but raised in the United States—to spend some time in the Philippines, where they were deployed four months ago.

So on a very rainy Wednesday morning last week, San Roque and Rafol took their oath as reenlistees in the US military in front of the Chancery at the US Embassy in Manila, accepting an additional four years of service.

San Roque and Rafol have been assigned to Basilan province for the past four months, helping in the PH-US Balikatan program.

On hand to witness their reenlistment, aside from their families, were US Ambassador Philip Goldberg and their commander, Col. Erik Brown, who led the oath-taking.

“God bless America. Mabuhay [ang] Pilipinas (Long live the Philippines)! I’m glad to be here in Manila and do something special in my career,” said the 29-year-old San Roque after the ceremony.

“Maraming salamat sa tulong ninyo (Thank you very much for your help) … We have a lot of history here being Filipino-Americans. Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!” said Rafol, who is in his early 20s.

San Roque has been in the US military for nine years and Rafol, for four years.

Renewed commitment

The pair also speak Filipino although Rafol said he studied to speak the language before his deployment here as he grew up speaking only Ilocano and English.

Goldberg thanked San Roque and Rafol for their renewed commitment to the US military, saying this “symbolizes the deep relationship” between the United States and the Philippines, which have the “oldest alliance” in Asia.

Great place in history

He said he was glad the two soldiers chose to take their military oath of reenlistment at the US Embassy in Manila, as “this was a great place in our history in our relationship.”

The US ambassador showed reporters the flagpole in front of the Chancery where he said  “dents” from bullets that had smashed their way through could be found.

Goldberg said this was the original flagpole at the US Embassy when Americans and Filipinos retook the place during the liberation of Manila from the Japanese Army in 1945.

The US Embassy said there were 9,410 Filipinos now serving in the US Navy.

A total of 1,254 are officers while 8,156 are enlisted personnel, according to Capt. Craig Thomas, military public affairs liaison at the US embassy.

There are 352,272 men now doing active duty in the US Navy.

This sense of history between the two nations was not lost on San Roque and Rafol as they now make an extended career in the military service.

San Roque and Rafol said they were glad to have been afforded the chance of serving Filipinos in communities in Basilan.

San Roque said it was her second deployment to the Philippines and she was always happy to be back to her second home.

She said she found people in Basilan to be “very nice” and that some of them were surprised to find she was a soldier and that she could speak in the native tongue.

“My parents didn’t want me to forget [Filipino],” she said in explaining why she could fluently speak the language.

“They also told me to speak in [Filipino] if people would talk to me in [Filipino],” San Roque said.

Childhood passion

Serving in the military had always appealed to her ever since she undertook the ROTC program in school, she said.

According to San Roque, her parents were disheartened at the career path she has chosen. But she told them they should not fear because she could very well handle her job.

“As long as God is with me, I know I can do everything,” San Roque said.

She described her deployment here as “awesome” and an “adventure.”

Thousands of miles away from home, San Roque said she had a “great support team” with her fellow servicemen. She said she wanted to be an officer in the future and planned to serve in the US military for 20 years.

Wanted to skip college

While San Roque had always been gung ho about getting into the military, this was not the case for Rafol.

He sheepishly admitted he just wanted to skip college when he entered the military. It was his parents who urged him to try military service.

But when Rafol got into the service, he said he loved the experience, especially traveling to different places.

“I’m lucky that my first deployment is here,” Rafol said, adding that even before his assignment to the Philippines, he and his family would come back to Manila and Ilocos  for visits.

Asked about the security situation in Basilan, he said he believed the Philippine National Police is doing its best in improving the peace and order and public safety.

Unlike San Roque, who sees a long military career, Rafol said he might go back to school and go into business eventually.

But for now, he said he was looking forward to the next four years of military service in the US Navy.

Dureza: extend Bangsamoro transition period to 2019

From MindaNews (Sep 15): Dureza: extend Bangsamoro transition period to 2019

A former Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and government peace panel chair in the talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is asking Congress to extend until 2019 the transition period for the future Bangsamoro, as he also proposed the “convergence of the agreements” of the government with the MILF and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), to allow for “one roadmap for the Bangsamoro.”

Former peace adviser Jesus Dureza, government peace panel chair from 2001 to May 2003, told MindaNews Congress should look into the remaining issues in the Tripartite Review of the 1996 FPA so these can be incorporated into the BBL.

He said an extended transition with the “convergence” of the peace agreements “is the only way that can make this really succeed.”

Dureza explained that a transition period of less than a year will not augur well for the MILF and the entire peace process because “How can the MILF prove its worth to win the goodwill of other doubters?”

The MILF in February 2011 proposed a seven-year transition period, inclusive of a one-year pre-interim. But after the August 2011 meeting between President Aquino and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in Japan, where they agreed to fast-track the peace process, the MILF agreed to a shorter transition period of at least one year. Given the delays in the submission of the draft BBL to Congress and the very limited time before yearend, it is likely that the transition will be less than a year.

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews on September 8 that the MILF leadership will have to decide on a transition of less than one year but “if you are asking my personal point of view, mukhang mahirap kasi failure ang resulta. Why would you accept something na you know the result is a failure?”
Dureza, a lawyer and former Congressman representing the first district of Davao City, said Congress can extend the transition period and specifically state that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which will govern the parliamentary form of government in the interim, will be composed of the following. Duna na (There is already an) allocation.”

2019 instead of 2016

The draft BBL provides that the first regular election for the Bangsamoro Government is “on the first Monday of May 2016” and “shall be governed by the Bangsamoro Electoral Code.”

He said the extended transition can run up to 2019 and the first regular elections held that year instead of 2016.

Asked how he would propose the “allocation” of the BTA membership, Dureza said, “I have no specifics. But bottomline is: Congress must lay down all specifics in the law to make it inclusive. e.g. number of BTA members, majority of course MILF then a mix of MNLF, politicians, civil society, even representatives of the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters), ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group)?, whatever; extend transition period; and reset elections maybe to 2019.”

The transition period begins upon the ratification of the BBL and ends upon the dissolution of the BTA.

The government (GPH) and MILF peace panels had agreed in 2012 that “the status quo is unacceptable” and that they would work for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the then 22-year old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Upon the ratification of the BBL, the ARMM is deemed abolished and the BTA takes over, using a ministerial form of governance.

The BTA is deemed dissolved “immediately upon the qualification of the elected Chief Minister under the first Bangsamoro Parliament.”

Bangsamoro Transition Authority

The draft BBL provides that during the transition period, the interim government will be the 50-member Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) “all of whom shall be appointed by the President.”

As the principal party to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the draft law states that the MILF “shall lead the BTA, in its leadership and membership.”

It also provides that “non-Moro indigenous communities, women, settler-communities and other sectors shall have representation in the BTA” and that nominations “may be submitted to the Office of the President for the purpose.”

MILF peace panel chair Iqbal, concurrent chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body tasked to draft the BBL, said it is up to the President if he appoints MNLF members into the BTA.

“Discretion nya yan” (That’s his discretion), he told MindaNews.

Not keen

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer did not reply directly to Dureza’s proposed extended transition and the “convergence” of the MILF and MNLF agreements.

She said: “Let’s focus first on the substantive aspects that would define the structure, powers and resources of the Bangsamoro. We’ll need to build understanding and consensus on these most essential provisions that would distinguish the Bsngsamoro entity from the ARMM and enable good governance and meaningful autonomy.”

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who will chair the House of Representatives’ 75-member Special Ad hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, does not seem keen on extending the transition period.

He told MindaNews in a telephone interview that the Moro people “have waited for this for centuries” and the transition period “should be faster” so that the Bangsamoro government can be set up soonest.

But Rodriguez assured that the special committee will ensure “inclusivity” in the law as well as in the proceedings.

Misuari, Kato

He reiterated the Committee would call on MNLF founding chair Nur Misuari and Ustadz Amiril Umra) Kato, a former commander of the MILF who set up the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) during the public hearings, to give them the chance to air their views on the draft BBL.

Both Misuari and Kato are fugitives. They have warrants of arrest for several criminal charges.

Dureza said Misuari “cannot give inputs while still a fugitive so he has to submit to jurisdiction of the court.”

Rodriguez said arrangements are being made for their appearance in the hearings (see other story).

The BTA, as agreed upon by the peace panels, will have the MILF on the driver’s seat of the BTA. Dureza said he hopes the MILF membership in the BTA “be mixed with members from the MNLF and other groups to make it inclusive.”

President Aquino has repeatedly stressed “inclusivity” in the peace negotiations and in the draft BBl. In his speech at the submission of the draft BBL to Congress in Malacanang on September 10, the President said the draft went through a “long and thorough process” and assured Congress that the proposed law was “crafted to be fair, just, and acceptable to all, whether they are Moros, Lumads, or Christians.”

MILF won’t fight for IS, focuses on Bangsamoro

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 15): MILF won’t fight for IS, focuses on Bangsamoro

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front is more concerned with establishing Bangsamoro than going overseas to fight for the Islamic State in the Middle East, a ranking official said on Sunday.

“We have no part in that,” MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Gadzali Jaafar said in a telephone interview when asked on Sunday about Filipinos jihadists going to the Middle East to fight for the terrorist Islamic State.

“We are innocent in that aspect, but it is possible that there are Filipinos fighting for the ISIS,” Jaafar said. “If indeed there are [Filipino jihadists in IS], it is voluntary on their part because they believe  in what the ISIS is fighting for.”

It is not the first time Filipinos have been reported to have gone abroad to fight in a jihad, or holy war.

Some members of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front are known to have trained during conflicts in Libya,  according to military sources who asked not to be identified.

In the 1990s, an undetermined number of Filipinos also fought in Afghanistan and came in contact with the brand of Islamic fundamentalist espoused by al-Qaeda and similar groups. Upon their return to the Philippines, the jihadists formed the Abu Sayyaf, the military sources added.

The Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the MILF, have recently vowed allegiance to the IS in video clips uploaded on the Internet.

“For us, the threat is not in the two groups’ joining the ISIS. Their number(s) (are) too tiny to be felt and make a difference,” the MILF said in an editorial posted on its website.

“The threat really comes from the extremism espouse(d) by the ISIS. Ideas are contagious and infectious.”

But the MILF, Jaafar said, has already condemned extremism and vowed to stop the spread of their “virus” into the Southeast Asian nation.

“The MILF condemns barbarism and savagery whether done by other groups including the ISIS or even by its (MILF’s) own members,” the MILF editorial added.

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

The MILF also said a planned Muslim autonomous region that is the centerpiece of the peace deal would be a bulwark against the ideology of the Islamic State.

Jaafar also doubted that IS is represented in the country and was able to recruit Filipinos to their cause because the MILF would have heard of it.

But he did say that Filipinos may have gone to IS on their volition because of their beliefs. “They were not recruited... [and] I firmly believe that no MILF rebel went to Syria or Iraq to fight for IS, ” Jaafar said.

Jaafar made the remarks after the government admitted on Friday the existence of a confidential memo on terrorist recruitment activities here.

The confidential memo on “Countering the threat of foreign fighters,” a copy of which was obtained by the Interaksyon news site, dealt with the possible involvement of Filipino fighters in Syria, two of whom were supposedly killed in March.

Philippines starts inquiry into Filipino militants in Syria

From Reuters (Sep 13): Philippines starts inquiry into Filipino militants in Syria

The Philippines is investigating the involvement of Filipino Islamists in the three-year civil war in Syria after two locals were reported killed fighting for Islamic State militant group, an intelligence official said on Saturday.

A senior police intelligence official said Manila was also monitoring young Filipino Muslims who have gone to Syria and Iraq, and then tried to radicalize others on their return home.

The Philippines has been battling its own small but violent Islamist militant group, Abu Sayyaf, which has been blamed for kidnappings, beheadings and bombings in the south. Since 2002, a U.S. special forces unit has been advising and training local troops.

Thousands of fighters from dozens of countries have traveled to Syria and Iraq to fight with extremist groups, prompting the United States to draft a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding countries "prevent and suppress" the recruitment and travel of foreign fighters.

"These are disturbing developments that could affect our internal security situation," the intelligence official, who declined to be named because he was not allowed to talk to the press, told Reuters.

"We have scant data based on intermittent information made available from different agencies, including the Department of Foreign Affairs. We are now exchanging intelligence with our foreign partners so we can build our own data base."

Based on these exchanges, he said they have noted a gradual increase of foreign fighters heading to Syria coming from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Xinjiang, a troubled province in western China.

But the movement is not only one way, he said. Some locals who saw action in Syria, labeled themselves as "veterans" had returned to the south of the mainly Catholic state to spread extremist Muslim ideologies.

Documents seen by Reuters showed two Filipino Muslims had died in the Syria conflict in March. The foreign ministry also reported in May that about 100 Filipinos traveled to Iran to undergo military training and were subsequently deployed in Syria.

"One of them was raised in Syria and the other was a local passport holder," said the intelligence official.

Rommel Banlaoi of the Center for Intelligence and National Security Studies said the threats from Islamic State militants in the Philippines "is real rather than imagined".

"ISIS is replacing al Qaeda as the champion of the world Islamic caliphate," Banlaoi said, adding a video on YouTube last month indicated an Islamic caliphate in the Philippines has been established.

Militants from Abu Sayyaf, Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Muslim convert group Rajah Solaiman Islamic Movement had pledged support to Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

On Wednesday, Washington authorized airstrikes for the first time in Syria and more attacks in Iraq in a broad escalation of a campaign against the Islamic State, which has seized large stretches of Iraq and Syria.

2 Fil-Ams re-enlist in US Navy

From GMA News (Sep 12): 2 Fil-Ams re-enlist in US Navy

Two Filipino-Americans accepted an offer from the United States military to re-enlist and continue their service with a special task force.

Manila-born US Utilitiesman First Class Jessica C. San Roque and US-born Navy Special Warfare Operator Hermelito U. Rafol underwent their re-enlistment ceremony with the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOPTF) at the US Embassy in Manila last September 10.

A statement from the US embassy in Manila said the two wanted the re-enlistment ceremony to be held in the Philippines, citing their close ties with the country.

US Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg said the two service members were "an inspiration to others, role models for dedicated service, and a representation of the commitment that our two countries share for one another."

The Philippines and the US have long been military allies. Early this year, US President Barack Obama vowed to back the Philippines against China, should the latter force military actions due to their dispute over the West Philippine Sea.

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has repeatedly called on the US for help as China has increased military and diplomatic pressure to take control of the contested areas.;postID=3616214782870513798

The truth behind Hueys’ night flying

From the Daily Zamboanga Times (Sep 14): The truth behind Hueys’ night flying

The seemingly never breaking sound at night brought about by Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopters patrolling around the city of Zamboanga, perhaps, makes the residents to speculate.
It may be disturbing to some as it shatters the serenity of the night. For others, it may be perceived as another firefight somewhere between the government troops and the armed threat groups. But people should not be worried about flying at night especially in the vicinity of Zamboanga City.
Here are some facts to know about helicopter flying at night.
Night Visual Flight Rules (NVFR) Proficiency or Night Flying is one of the flying proficiency programs of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing (THW), a unit of the Philippine Air Force tasked to conduct heli-lift operations in support of ground units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP).The proficiency program aims to prepare pilots and aircrew of the 205th Tactical Helicopter Wing for night flying missions using UH-1 helicopter popularly known as Huey. This is the time when civilians are most vulnerable.
The Night Flying Proficiency is being conducted within and outside an aerodrome upon approval of the Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force and after proper coordination with concerned units or agencies. This is conducted using Night Vision Goggles (NVG) among aircrew every three days when no night mission has been performed. That’s the twice-a-week neverberating sounds you hear within Zamboanga City, but those sounds assure our peace and order.
The helicopter proficiency sound you hear assures necessary skills and expertise among aircrew for critical night flying missions such as Air Reconnaissance, Troop Insertion and Extrication, Limited Close Air Support (CAS), Resupply, Medical Evacuation (MedEvac), Casualty Evacuation (CasEvac) and other support to AFP and PNP forces. Also, it serves extra dimension in security as this aerial flight jibed with aerial patrols deter possible attempts of more chaos from among perpetrators.
As gallant vanguards of our precious skies, the airmen must undergo hard training to be always ready when aggression comes and Night Flying Proficiency being performed by the airmen of 205th THW is a testament of cognizance and readiness for war anytime, even at night.

MILF: Young Moro Professionals welcome the submission of BBL to Congress

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 14): Young Moro Professionals welcome the submission of BBL to Congress

The Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN), a Manila-based organization of Moro professionals and students with nation-wide membership, and GenPeace welcomed the submission of proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to Congress.
In a statement released for the public, YMPN and GenPeace underscored their support to the peace process and cited that breakthroughs in the peace efforts affirm their hope for 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.

Last Wednesday at Malacañan Palace, President Aquino led the ceremonial hand-over the draft BBL to Congress headed by Senate President Franklin Drilon and Speaker of the House Feliciano Belmonte, Jr.

Once ratified by law-makers and passed through a plebiscite, the BBL will serve as a charter for the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“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,” said the groups.

The young Moro professionals called on the law-makers to unite and transcend political differences for the crucial passage of the BBL which they consider 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,” the statement further said.

YMPN calls on the youths to have an informed perspective on the Bangsamoro in building an environment of mutual respect, cultural tolerance and humane society.

“In the same light, unity is also important to all stakeholders of the peace process. 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.”

The Moro youth further called members of the civil society to engage in a productive dialogue as they make “yesterday's dream of a just and lasting peace a reality of today and tomorrow.”

The BBL was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, eight of which were nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and seven were chosen by the government.

Tedious consultations involving various stakeholders in Mindanao were employed to ensure inclusivity in the process of crafting the proposed Bangsamoro law.

Photo: Nur Misuari and 1st Anniversary Celebration of the Declaration of Independence of Bangsamoro Republik

From the MNLF Website (Sep 3): Photo: Nur Misuari and 1st Anniversary Celebration of the Declaration of the Independence of the Bangsamoro Republik

3 Navy ships helping in M/V Maharlika-2 search-and-rescue efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 14): 3 Navy ships helping in M/V Maharlika-2 search-and-rescue efforts

Displaying its commitment to serve and protect the public at all times even in the most inclement weather, three Philippine Navy (PN) patrol vessels played a key role in rescuing and recovering the victims of the ill-fated M/V Maharlika-2 which foundered off the waters of Southern Leyte Saturday night.

Lt. Cmdr. Marineth Domingo, PN public affairs office chief, said that these ships are the BRP Alberto Navarette (PG-394); BRP Rafael Pargas (PG-379) and DF-350.

Two of the ships, BRP Alberto Navarette and BRP Rafael Pargas, immediately left their Lapu-Lapu City base upon receiving word that M/V Maharlika-2 was experiencing "steering casualty" while enroute to Liloan Port, Southern Leyte around 7: 30 p.m.

The DF-350, meanwhile, left its pier in Agusan Del Norte to help the two other Navy ships in search-and-rescue (SAR) operations.

These ships made this run despite the inclement weather.

The M/V Maharlika-2 was abandoned around 9:20 p.m. six nautical miles of northwest of Binit Point, Panaoan Island, Southern Leyte.

"About 3 a.m., PG-379 and DF-350 arrived at the area and coordinated with the Philippine Coast Guard thereat. At around 6 a.m. PG-379 and DF-350 started transfer of survivors from M/V Epic St. Martin and M/V Lara Ventures, the nearby civilian ships who first responded to the distress call," Domingo added.

Civilian and Navy ships have rescued and transported a total of 110 survivors along with three cadavers which were recovered.

"Initial interview made by the crew of PG-379 to one of the survivors revealed that at around 6 p.m. Saturday, M/V Maharlika-2 started to sink when the lashing of vehicles and other cargoes aboard parted causing her to list to her starboard side until it capsized," Domingo related.

She added that Navy ships will aid the Coast Guard in ongoing search efforts for the three passengers still missing.

After Golan crisis, AFP chief reminds PMA cadets to follow orders

From Rappler (Sep 14): After Golan crisis, AFP chief reminds PMA cadets to follow orders

AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Catapang Jr delivers a speech during the recognition rites of PMA Class 2018

General Gregorio Catapang Jr
General Gregorio Catapang Jr

Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr reminded cadets of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) about the value of following orders and leadership at a time when Filipino troops’ defiance of their United Nations commander’s orders in Golan Heights was getting widespread support back home.

"Before you become leaders, you have to follow orders,” Catapang told the cadets in his speech during the recognition rites of PMA Class 2018.

Catapang, the guest of honor, said obeying orders is one of the important values the military wants to inculcate among its cadets through character formation and time-honored traditions.

He also cited leadership, stressing that it is the focus of training of cadets.

The AFP chief challenged the cadets to lead the plebes by good example as plebehood is the “most formative” years in their military life.

UN controversy

The defiance of Filipino troops in Golan Heights sparked questions about the peacekeeping operations of the UN.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario is scheduled to meet next week UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to discuss the Philippines’ “operational and tactical issues” concerning the deployment of peacekeepers to Golan Heights. (READ: UN chief ot hear out PH peacekeeping issues)

UN Disengagement Observer Force commander Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha on August 28 ordered the Filipino troops to surrender their firearms to the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Al-Nusra Front, who stormed UN encampments on August 28. The Filipinos troops in Golan didn’t want to follow Singha’s orders so they called their commanders in Manila, who supported their decision to disobey Singha.

Catapang said it wasn’t part of the UN commander’s mandate to order troops to surrender their firearms. He added there was no guarantee that the Syrian rebels would not take the troops hostage like the 45 Fijian peacekeepers who had surrendered their firearms earlier that day.

The standoff in Golan Heights took 7 hours. The Filipinos would later execute a daring escape mission.

Singha called the escape an “act of cowardice” and said it put the lives of the Fijian peacekeepers in danger. Back home, the Philippine military got support from Malacañang and Congress. The Fijian peacekeepers were released on September 11 or almost 2 weeks since they were taken hostage.

In Baguio City, Catapang refused to further discuss the controversy.

Important milestone

Catapang, a PMA alumni belonging to Class 1981, acknowledged 319 fourth classmen of the ALAB TALA (Alagad ng Lahing Binigkis ng Tapang at Lakas) Class 2018 during the recognition rites at the Borromeo Field.

One of the most significant milestones in the life of a cadet, the rites allow the fourth classmen, the lowest members of the Cadet Corps of the AFP, to be in “at ease” status after being recognized by their upper classmen through a handshake.

This year, there were 1,450 PMA passers out of 12,195 aspirants nationwide. The PMA cadets were selected after rigid medical, psychological and physical examinations.