Monday, September 22, 2014

MILF: BIFF rejects invitation to Bangsamoro law congressional hearings

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 22): BIFF rejects invitation to Bangsamoro law congressional hearings

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Friday again rejected invitations to participate in congressional hearings on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  

“We cannot join in any peace process that falls short of our bid for an independent Moro state,” the group’s spokesman, Abu Misry Mama, announced over Catholic station dxMS in Cotabato City.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the 75-member House committee now working on the proposed law, earlier said they want the BIFF’s reclusive chieftain, Imam Ameril Ombra Kato and Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front to participate in the BBL deliberations.

The draft BBL, once enacted into law and ratified via a plebiscite, will pave the way for the replacement of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new, more politically empowered Bangsamoro self-governing entity based on the March 27, 2014 final peace compact between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Kato, now debilitated as a result of a hypertensive stroke in 2011, started as chief of the MILF’s 105th Base Command, but was booted out in 2010 due to insubordination and other offenses.

“We better keep on fighting the military in the field than engage in any hearing on that draft BBL. That is purely an initiative of the MILF and the government,” Mama said.

Kato, who studied Islamic theology in Saudia Arabia in the 1970s as a scholar of then President Ferdinand Marcos, had issued a communiqué reaffirming their group’s firm stand against the GPH-MILF peace initiative.

“We can only tell Congressman Rodriguez thanks for the invitation. None from the BIFF can join the hearings,” Mama said.

MILF: Sema to ARMM officials: ‘Support BBL’

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 22): Sema to ARMM officials: ‘Support BBL’

Maguindanao 1st District and Cotabato City Representative Bai Sandra Sema has urged the officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to support the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during the Congress pre-plenary Budget Hearing of the ARMM 2015 Budget on September 16 at the House of Representatives in Batasan Hills, Quezon City.
“We are happy because we continue with the struggle. Because we have produced good leaders and that we are now part of history, willing and committed to continue with the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro(government) gives (national) identity. It determines the future of all of us, not for MILF alone. We must unite and promote the BBL,” Sema said.

Sema, the Vice Chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, presided over the hearing for the pre-plenary approval of the proposed P24.299 billion budget of the ARMM for 2015.

On his part, House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Rep. Pangalian M. Balindong lauded the ARMM official for their readiness to relinquish their posts to provide a smooth transition to the new Bangsamoro entity.
The Bangsamoro once formed it will render the ARMM abolished.

Meanwhile, ARMM Regional Governor MujivHataman stressed out that the budget hearing may be the last one because the budget appropriation for the incoming new political entity is thru a Block grant, automatic appropriation.

House of Representative members Zajid Magudadatu, 2nd district of Maguidanao, Ruby Sahali, lone district of Tawi-Tawi, Ansaruddin Adiong, 2nd district of Lanao del Sur and Sitti DjaliaTurabin-Hataman, Anak Mindanao (AMIN) Partylist were in attendance during the budget hearing.‘support-bbl’

NPA leader freed on bail

From Tempo (Sep 22): NPA leader freed on bail

TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol – A high-ranking leader of the New People’s Army (NPA) was released from the Bohol Detention And Rehabilitation Center (BDRC) on order of a trial court here after he posted bail worth nearly half a million pesos, officials said.

Roy Erecre, the leader of NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas (KRSB) who had carried a P5.4- million bounty on his head, was freed from BDRC jail compound in Cabawan District, Tagbilaran, Friday, after his lawyers – City Councilor Adam Relson Jala and Victor Dela Serna (former O-I-C Bohol governor) – showed the release order reportedly signed by Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Suceso Arcamo to BDRC warden, Jail Chier Inspector Jose Rusylvi Abueva.

The lawyers immediately whisked Erecre away, on board Jala’s SUV cars, from the prison camp, which had become Erecre’s home since May this year.

Abueva said Erecre, a Boholano, was brought to Jala’s posh residence at Dao District, this city, for a dinner and reunion with the rebel leader’s family.

Before Erecre was arrested on May 6, 2014 in Davao City by combined elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and Philippine National Police (PNP), the Boholano NPA commander had been groomed to lead the entire operations of the NPA in the Philippines after the March 22, 2014 arrest of Tiamzon couple created a vacuum in the NPA national leadership.

Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA), and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, CPP-NPA secretary-general, were arrested in Cebu last March 22 by virtue of warrants of arrest for crimes against humanity, including murder, multiple murder, and frustrated murder charges.

The sudden twist of Erecre’s fate shocked both the military and the police here, as well as provincial officials.

Erecre was arrested on May 6, 2014 by virtue of several non-bailable warrants of arrest from regional trial courts in Cebu and Bohol for atrocities against civilians and government forces in Bohol in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a military report said.

WATCH: NPA rebels show captive soldiers

From ABS-CBN (Sep 22): WATCH: NPA rebels show captive soldiers

[Video report: Pagbuhi sa 2 ka POW sa Bukidnon isibog, deklarasyon sa SOMO/SOPO paabuton

Human ang 10 ka adlaw nga tanyag sa National Democratic Front of the Philippines – North Central Mindanao Region alang sa luwas nga pagrelease sa duha ka prisoners of war sa New People’s Army sa Bukidnon, gikasubo namong ipahibalo sa pamilya ug kahigalaan nilang Pfc. Marnel Cinches ug Pfc. Jerrel Yorong nga masibog ngadto sa walay tinong panahon ang gikatakdang pagbuhi kanila. Isip dugang pagpakita sa among sinseridad sa kaakuhan sa gitanyag og kalinaw, paabuton namo nga madeklara ang napulo ka adlaw nga Suspension of Offensive Military and Police Operations (SOMO-SOPO) nga padayong ginalihok sa Third Party Facilitators ug mga mahigugmaon sa kalinaw nga mga upisyal sa GPH.

Aron masegurong luwas ang duha, kinahanglan og igong panahon ang custodial unit sa pagbalhin kanila ngadto sa lugar nga relatibong layo sa ginalunsad nga rescue operations sa AFP. Sa ingon, dili usab mahiktan ang ubang mga units sa New People’s Army sa pag-atubang sa mga tropa sa AFP.

Subay sa una na namong gipamahayag, subli namong pangayuon nga mapailalum sa SOMO/SOPO ang 2 ka syudad ug 7 ka lungsod sa Bukidnon ug Misamis Oriental. Subli usab namong pasalamatan ang mga upisyal sa lokal nga gobyerno sa duha ka probinsya ug crisis committee sa ilang langkub sa padayong pagpaningkamot nga makatabang sa pagpangayo nga mapailalum sa SOMO/SOPO ang mga gitakdang lugar sa ilang tagsa-tagsa ka probinsya. Dalayegon ang ilang kaikag nga mahimong kabahin niining kahigayunan alang sa kalinaw.

Sa hingtungdang mga pamilya, sa Third Party facilitators, mga mahigugmaon sa kalinaw nga upisyal sa GPH ug sa publiko sa kinatibuk-an, gipasalig namo ang makitawhanong pagtratar sa duha ka POW ug gigarantiyahan namo ang ilang mga katungod subay sa CARHRIHL ug sa mga internasyonal nga balaud sa gubat. Kung dunay sayo nga deklarasyon sa SOMO/SOPO, mapahigayonusab ang sayo nga pag-release kanila. Himuon lang ang pagpailalum kanila sa pormal nga imbestigasyon ug posibleng pagtaral ubos sa rebolusyonaryong sistema sa hustisya kung klarong walanay kahigayunan bisan gamay nga madeklarar sa GPH ang SOMO/SOPO.


Cesar Renerio

BUKIDNON- The communist New People's Army (NPA) has released a video clip online showing two captive government soldiers.

The video posted on YouTube shows Pfc Marnel Cinches and Pfc Jerrel Yorong, who have visibly lost weight and shackled.

Their guards are heavily armed.

The two soldiers urged suspension of military and police operations to facilitate their release.

They were abducted by communist rebels last August 22 in Bontungan, Impasug-ong Bukidnon while they were going to a market.

The NPA has called for a 10-day suspension of military and police operations but the military wants unconditional release of the soldiers.

2 cops hurt in landmine explosion in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat

From InterAksyon (Sep 23): 2 cops hurt in landmine explosion in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat


Two policemen were hurt in a landmine explosion in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat Mnday afternoon.

Police Officers 1 Angelo Vilo and Ritchi Cabillo, members of the 2nd Platoon of the Provincial Public Safety Company, were on board a motorcycle when a landmine exploded, said Sultan Kudarat Provincial Director Supt. Rex Dela Rosa.

Both sustained wounds in the feet and now being observed in a hospital in General Santos City.

Authorities believe that the New People’s Army was responsible for the explosion.

Before the incident, members of the 39th IB patrolled the area as armed groups were spotted in the isolated parts of Barangay Datalblaw.

ISIS Goes to Asia

Posted to Foreign Affairs (Sep 21): ISIS Goes to Asia by Joseph Chinyong Liow 

Extremism in the Middle East Isn't Only Spreading West

A man prays in a mosque outside Kuala Lumpur. (Courtesy Reuters)

As the United States sought in recent weeks to assemble an international coalition to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as the Islamic State), it looked mostly to the Middle East and Europe, regions that it said face a direct threat from the militant Islamist group. But other parts of the world are just as anxious about ISIS -- above all, Southeast Asia. The governments of that region have not publicized their concerns very loudly, but they are acutely aware that ISIS is a menace. Their top concern is that its extremist ideology will prove attractive to the region’s many Muslims, lure some of them to the Middle East to fight as part of the group, and ultimately be imported back to the region when these militants return home.

There is a clear precedent for this scenario. During the 1980s, many young Muslims from Southeast Asia went to Pakistan to support the Afghan mujahideen’s so-called jihad against Soviet occupation. Many of these recruits subsequently stayed in the region, mingling with like-minded Muslims from all around and gaining exposure to al Qaeda’s militant ideology. Many eventually returned to Southeast Asia to form extremist groups of their own, including the notorious al Qaeda­–linked organization Jemaah Islamiyah that was responsible for several high-profile terrorist attacks in the region over the last 15 years. With evidence now surfacing of Southeast Asians among the ranks of ISIS casualties, it’s only natural that governments in the region are feeling a sense of déjà vu.


Singapore has already revealed that several of its nationals have made their way to the Middle East to battle with ISIS, and the Philippine government has suggested that local ISIS sympathizers are attempting to recruit from among the Bangsamoro populations in the country’s southern islands. But the greatest concern comes from Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, has already confirmed that more than 50 of its citizens are currently fighting in Syria and Iraq; Malaysia has suggested that between 30 and 40 Malaysians are doing the same. In both cases, the actual numbers could be much higher if we consider those who may have traveled to the conflict zones from other destinations. Indonesian authorities have already noted that several of their nationals have been killed fighting for ISIS in Syria. On May 26, a Malaysian suicide bomber killed himself in an ISIS attack in Iraq. Another Malaysian fighter who died fighting for ISIS in Syria several months later has been celebrated as a martyr by leaders of the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, the same party that had earlier dismissed him after he departed for Syria. Intriguingly, three Malaysian women were also alleged to have left for Syria to wage a “sexual jihad” (jihad al-nikah), offering their bodies to ISIS fighters to “boost their morale.”

ISIS’ reach in Southeast Asia is based on several factors. First, certain devout Muslims feel a theological affinity for the militant group. They see parallels between ISIS’ mission and prophecies in Islamic holy texts of the eventual creation of a Khilafah Minhaj Nebuwwah (“end-times caliphate”) following the fall of dictators in the Arabian Peninsula; they are also reminded of the apocalyptic struggle that is said to be fated between the forces of Imam Mahdi, an Islamic messiah figure who is supposed to fight under a black flag, and those of the Dajjal, or Antichrist. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this millenarian perspective is growing in Indonesia and Malaysia with radical clerics such as Aman Abdurrahman, who, though in jail, are expanding their reach through the Internet and radical tracts -- including a book titled Strategi Dua Lengan (Two-Armed Strategy) -- increasingly finding their way into Indonesian translation.

Another reason for ISIS’ appeal is its sectarianism. The ISIS challenge is seen in some quarters as an extension of the Sunni-Shiite schism. To wit: The group’s struggle against Bashar al-Assad’s Alawite regime is considered legitimate in fundamentalist Sunni-Salafi circles. In much the same way, ISIS militancy in Iraq is seen as a consequence of Sunni grievance against the Shiite-led government of Nouri al-Maliki. This support needs to be understood in the context of Southeast Asia’s own problems with sectarianism: Shiite Islam is banned in Malaysia and is not widely accepted in Indonesia.

Finally, the question of the recruitment of Southeast Asians into ISIS cannot be divorced from the larger context of the humanitarian crisis in Syria. The universal sympathy for the Syrian people among Southeast Asia’s sizable Muslim populations has undoubtedly prompted a large number of humanitarian missions to depart for the conflict zone. Many members of these missions may well have set off with noble intentions. But once they arrive in territory held by ISIS, it is not difficult to imagine how they would be exposed to ISIS indoctrination and recruitment.


In many ways, Southeast Asia seems to be seeing a repeat of its experience with Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s. The most familiar aspect is ISIS’ recruiting efforts, mostly undertaken by Southeast Asian sympathizers rather than ISIS leaders based in the Middle East. In 2012, ISIS’ appeal started to grow among Indonesian and Malaysian civil society groups that had mobilized in response to Syria’s humanitarian crisis by creating local awareness and fundraising. Within a year, several Islamic preachers in Indonesia had pledged allegiance to ISIS’ caliphate, and about half a dozen graduates from Indonesia’s Ngruki Islamic boarding school, previously a hotbed of Jemaah Islamiyah membership ideology and recruitment, are believed to have left to join the jihad in Syria (often with funding from Jemaah Islamiyah and other affiliated extremist groups). ISIS has also been actively recruiting in Malaysia through Islamic study groups known as usrah. In turn, those Malaysian recruits are believed to have attempted to recruit from Singapore. It is still not yet known exactly how successful these recruiting efforts have been. But it is clear that ISIS has been able to promote its jihad through sympathizers plugged into the region’s local Islamic communities and networks, just as Afghan militants did in earlier decades.

But there are also significant differences between the present-day jihad and the earlier one in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. While the Afghan mujahideen’s struggle was widely embraced, ISIS has proven extremely divisive in Southeast Asia, even among extremist groups, some of which have rejected and virulently condemned the organization. Jemaah Islamiyah, for one, has accused ISIS of being takfir (Muslims who pass judgment on fellow Muslims of being un-Islamic ) and dismissed its members as khawarij (extremists). Other groups, such as the conservative Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (Indonesian Mujahideen Council), have cast doubt on ISIS’ religious credentials, proclaiming that it is an organization and not a caliphate and hence has no legitimate claim to the loyalty of Muslims. Furthermore, they have also argued that ISIS’ process for appointing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as caliph was in violation of Islamic law, as it did not take place before a religious council that represents the entire Islamic community. As the terrorism expert Sidney Jones has rightly pointed out, the existence of this divergence of opinion on ISIS speaks to a split within Indonesia’s extremist community between those who support ISIS and others who remain loyal to al Qaeda and the al Nusra Front. Unsurprisingly, the other major difference from the days of the jihad in Afghanistan is ISIS’ use of social media. ISIS has consistently used Twitter and Facebook to amplify its message and broaden its reach. Also, the fact that authorities in Indonesia have been reluctant to shut down radical websites that carry ISIS propaganda, such as, despite already imposing a ban on the group’s jihadist teachings (likely because of a misplaced concern for its religious credibility in the eyes of the vocal radical Islamist community), has only enhanced its visibility in the region.


Without downplaying the ISIS threat to Southeast Asia, there are nevertheless limits to the effectiveness of its recruitment in the region. Despite huge investments from Arab governments, particularly Saudi Arabia, in Islamic education across Southeast Asia over the past three decades, the lingua francas of the region’s Muslim communities remain Malay and Indonesian, not Arabic. The vast majority of Muslims from the region are insufficiently literate in Arabic to even appreciate ISIS’ propaganda without translation, much less fully integrate with ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. In Afghanistan during the 1980s and 1990s, this problem was in part surmounted by the creation of dedicated training camps for Southeast Asians; although the situation may change, this does not seem to be the case in Syria or Iraq at the moment, where Southeast Asian recruits are thrown onto the front lines with everyone else. Second, Muslims in Indonesia and Malaysia enjoy social and economic conditions far better than those of their coreligionists in the Levant (or even in Europe, where there is a palpable sense of alienation and marginalization among Muslim immigrant populations). By and large, Southeast Asians simply have fewer incentives to travel to Syria or Iraq.

Finally, unlike the immediate aftermath of the Afghan conflict in the 1990s, terrorist recruitment in Southeast Asia today has lost the tactical advantage of surprise. With regional security and intelligence agencies alert to the potential threat emanating from Iraq and Syria -- thanks precisely to the lessons they learned from the 1990s -- conditions are considerably more difficult for the kind of clandestine recruitment that went on two decades ago. Two other factors are instructive in this regard. First, whatever its shortcomings, the Indonesian state today is not nearly as weak as it was in the late 1990s, when radical groups flourished after the fall of former President Suharto. Second, the apparent resolution of the long-standing conflict in the Philippines between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has potentially opened the way for cooperation on counterterrorism.

That said, it’s understandable that the governments of the region are concerned that ISIS might spawn a new generation of jihadist leaders, fighters, and ideologues in the region. Afghanistan still casts a long shadow over discussions in Southeast Asia -- and with good reason. But regional policymakers would be well advised to appreciate not only the similarities between the former challenge and the present-day conflict but also the very significant differences.

[JOSEPH CHINYONG LIOW is Senior Fellow and Lee Kuan Yew Chair in Southeast Asian Studies at the Brookings Institution and Professor and Associate Dean at the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University]

No evidence on ISIS recruitment in Eastern Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 22): No evidence on ISIS recruitment in Eastern Mindanao

DAVAO CITY -- The military in Eastern Mindanao has no evidence regarding the recruitment of Islamic States of Iraq and Syria in its area of coverage.

Major General Aurelio Baladad, commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command said they have no way to confirm that such recruitment exists.

He said that communities in Eastern Mindanao are not conducive on the alleged recruitment.

Baladad said both the Muslims and Christians here are peace-loving and supportive of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a proposed measure being deliberated in Congress.

He affirmed that the military supports the BBL which is the anchor of the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Baladad said he also observes that their counterparts in the MILF are supportive of attaining peace in Mindanao.

“We are one with them, we support peace,” he said.

Baladad said one way to promote peace in Mindanao is the realization of good roads in the countryside to the centers of trade and industry.

He said the military now provides data and confers with their counterparts in the local government units in order to come up with infrastructure that will benefit the residents in far-flung areas.

Manila open to renewed talks with communist rebels

From UCANews (Sep 22): Manila open to renewed talks with communist rebels

<p>Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro on Sunday leads peace advocates in calling for the resumption of negotiations between the government and communist rebels (Photo by D'Jay Lazaro)</p>

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro on Sunday leads peace advocates in calling for the resumption of negotiations between the government and communist rebels (Photo by D'Jay Lazaro)

The Philippine government on Monday said it is open to renewed talks with the communist-led National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Government peace adviser Teresita Deles made the statement in response to calls from religious groups on Sunday for the government and the rebels to go back to the negotiating table. 

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, the largest ecumenical network of various church leaders in the country, called on the government and the front "to return to the negotiating table to address the substantive issues that remain as the root cause of armed conflict in our country".

"Peace may be elusive, but it can be achieved if the parties [involved in] the conflict engage in principled negotiations," said Bishop Deogracias Iniguez of Kalookan, a platform member.

Deles told that the government is "willing to resume talks" but that they should be "agenda-bound and time-bound".

"We want talks that will prosper," she said.

The government signed a landmark deal with the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao in March, but formal talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People's Army, have stalled since 2011.

"We have discussed possibilities [with mediators]. If they will be able to find a way that will not be contradictory to our direction, then we can have talks," said Deles.

In a statement, rebel spokesman Luis Jalandoni blamed the government for the impasse. He said government negotiators refused to honor previous agreements on human rights, security and immunity guarantees entered into by both parties in the 1990s.

The impasse saw the suspension of the next substantive issue on the negotiating table, the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms.

Deles said the agenda for the talks should be on "doable reforms" because "peace talks are about political settlement" and it is important for people's concerns to be brought out during the negotiations. 

The Philippines military estimates that the country's communist movement has about 4,000 armed men under its command, compared to more than 26,000 at its peak 30 years ago.

But the rebels still hold considerable sway in poor, rural areas where they receive material and moral support from a population that has endured the brunt of the Philippines' widening divide between rich and poor.

Filipino government, separatists to negotiate arms laydown in Malaysia

From the Malaya Mail Online (Sep 22): Filipino government, separatists to negotiate arms laydown in Malaysia

Representatives from Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will hold talks in Malaysia to set the terms for decommissioning of firearms by MILF fighters in the restive South Philippines region.

A Philippines government official told Filipino news portal GMA News Online that negotiating panels from both sides will meet in Kuala Lumpur from September 27 to 29 "to pull everything together".

Government peace panel chairman Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said part of the meeting agenda will have to finalise the composition of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) and the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), it reported.

 The TJRC will be tasked with studying and recommending "the appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations through land dispossession", as outlined under the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the MILF in March, it added.

The IDB, on the other hand, will consist of three foreign experts and four Filipinos who will validate the inventory of weapons and fighters that will be submitted by the MILF. Coronel-Ferrer said in the report that experts from Brunei, Turkey and Norway have been invited to attend the three-day meeting, and expect the TJRC and IDB to be established within a month.

“But the most important thing, the first order of business, is for the MILF to produce a list of weapons and combatants and submit it to the IDB," she was reported as saying.

Meanwhile, MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal told the news portal that the former paramilitary group has already prepared a list of firearms and names of combatants for the IDB.

He declined to reveal the final tally of weapons, but volunteered that "the firearms are combinations of high-powered and light-powered" weaponry.

Opinion: Disposition of firearms

Opinion piece from the  in Philippine Star (Sep 22): Disposition of firearms
There was no mention of “decommissioning” or “normalization” in the 1996 peace treaty with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

But two administrative orders implementing the agreement provided for the “disposition of firearms,” covering MNLF members who wanted to be integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police. Those with no firearms to surrender were disqualified from integration into the AFP or PNP.

The camp of former President Fidel Ramos sent me documents to show that the peace treaty, which his administration signed with the MNLF, did involve turning over weapons to the state, even if there was no mention of disarmament, decommissioning or normalization. What’s important in a peace process, FVR wrote, is implementation, not semantics.

MNLF rebels were required to turn in their weapons upon reporting to the AFP training center where they would undergo a six-month course.

The government compensated the MNLF member for every weapon turned over, with the amount set under the AFP “Balik-Baril Project.” But the government could “re-issue” the guns to the rebel returnees during their training or upon deployment.

That looks like the MNLF fighters were made to present their guns, they got paid for doing so, and then they got their weapons back. Not exactly laying down their arms, but at least the government was able to account for thousands of weapons.

“All firearms still in the possession of MNLF members not integrated into the military or police service shall be subject to existing firearms laws, rules and regulations,” according to Section 7 (b) of Administrative Order No. 295, dated Oct. 7, 1996, which covered integration into the AFP.

Similar provisions are found in AO No. 297 dated Oct. 15, 1996, on the integration of MNLF members into the PNP.

I read that to mean registering all loose firearms, either for possession at home or for a permit to carry the weapon outside the home.

Among those who didn’t want to be part of the AFP or PNP, how many actually turned in or registered all their weapons? We may never know. The picture becomes murkier if we try to make an accounting of all the firearms amassed by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari when he was governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). But Misuari was not the only local politician who built up an arsenal for use by his virtual private army.

FVR, who thinks we’re finding fault in his peace treaty with the MNLF “to play up and heap praises” on President Aquino’s administration and his peace negotiators, points out that from 1996 to 2000, 5,750 MNLF mujahedeen’s were integrated into the AFP and 1,750 into the PNP.

None of the MNLF returnees, once re-armed, ever turned against their fellow soldiers or policemen, FVR wrote. Among the most outstanding, he pointed out, was Yusoph Jikiri, who reached star rank and became deputy commander of the AFP Southern Command in charge of the MNLF integration program. Jikiri later became Sulu governor. Another standout was MNLF chief of staff Muslimin Sema, who won three consecutive terms as mayor of Cotabato City.

Those are impressive stories indeed. I also know other MNLF members who have embraced the ways of peace.

So if the peace process achieved a sufficient measure of success, why do we need another peace agreement? And how many more peace pacts lie ahead with other groups before peace actually comes to the conflict areas of Mindanao?

*      *      *

Jikiri’s province remains one of the most unsafe and least developed places in this country. It is seen as the base of Abu Sayyaf bandits and MNLF militants loyal to Misuari. Sulu is the subject of several travel advisories warning foreigners against visiting Mindanao.

Some quarters in P-Noy’s government believe the peace process with the MNLF had fallen into the quicksand of Misuari’s ego from which it was no longer possible to get out. That ego is beyond the control of FVR, and no one is blaming him for what happened many years after the peace treaty was signed.

Aquino critics, echoing Misuari’s argument, believe the original peace treaty has not been fully implemented and P-Noy just wants to tout a peace pact under his watch.

From the peanut gallery, a common question is whether peace can be possible in a region bristling with guns.

We have tough gun laws, but the laxity of enforcement – in fact the overall weakness of law enforcement – makes the reluctance of a rebel group to lay down arms understandable.

Even civilians feel the need to carry guns, believing the police, AFP and “force-multiplying” militias do not have sufficient capability to keep the public safe. Worse, some cops, soldiers and militias may themselves be engaged in crime.

Back in 1996, the MNLF was threatened with a fully armed breakaway group plus other security risks. Those threat groups weren’t laying down their arms, or being forced to disarm by the government; could the MNLF afford to do it first?

This time the Moro Islamic Liberation Front faces a rogue MNLF faction plus the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, and other quarters that the MILF might have wronged when it was still actively engaged in violent separatism. Can MILF members afford to lay down their weapons, especially in a region teeming with kidnappers, armed robbers and experts in improvised explosive devices?

The Bangsamoro may hurdle all the roadblocks to its creation. Whether the new entity will be a zone of peace and development is less certain. Will two peace treaties prove better than one?

Creating a secure environment for peace to take root has always been a challenge in many parts of Mindanao. Confronting that challenge will be more than the Bangsamoro government can handle.

As it is, Filipinos don’t feel secure, even in Metro Manila.

Don’t keep Misuari out of Mindanao peace deal—Duterte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 22): Don’t keep Misuari out of Mindanao peace deal—Duterte

Nur Misuari.  FILE PHOTO

Nur Misuari. FILE PHOTO

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte warned Sunday that the government should not keep Nur Misuari out of any new peace settlement in Mindanao, saying that the leader of the Moro rebels at the height of their secessionist revolt in the 1970s was “still a man to reckon with” and had an equally valid and internationally recognized peace agreement with the government.

“We might succeed in convincing everyone to agree on the Bangsamoro, including the courts, but the problem is, what about Misuari?” Duterte said on his local television show “Gikan sa Masa, para sa Masa (From the Masses, for the Masses)” on Sunday.

Duterte was referring to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law which Congress has been asked to pass as the charter of the proposed Bangsamoro, the name of a broadened politically autonomous entity envisioned to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that was created under the so-called Final Peace Agreement signed by the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari and the Philippine government under President Fidel Ramos in 1996.

The Final Peace Agreement was the culmination of peace talks in furtherance of the Tripoli Peace Agreement of 1976 but which frequently broke down over the years. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which had split from the MNLF in the late 1970s, was not a party to the 1996 peace accord.

The Tripoli agreement introduced the concept of regional autonomy for Filipino Muslims, who had been fighting for secession.

Rodrigo said the government cannot now just ignore Misuari, who can still invoke the Tripoli Agreement as a valid agreement brokered by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, then called Organization of the Islamic Conference.

“If ever, if at all, there will be talks again, you cannot ignore Misuari and the Tripoli Agreement, a valid treaty signed by Imelda Marcos in behalf of the Philippine government, we have to honor that, and we have to talk to Misuari,” Duterte said.

“I’ve been telling the peace panel ever since, do not forget Misuari. If I were to be there to talk about peace, I would like to include everyone because Misuari, for all of his faults, is still a man to reckon with,” he added.

“I mean, there are enemies that you cannot kill,” he said, adding that the government has to eventually give him clearance to renew the negotiations.

“If you remove Misuari, who will you talk to?” he asked. “The Abu Sayyaf? There’s no one else, there’s no emerging leader there who could really hold sway over the population.”

Duterte said that if the government really wants to talk peace, it may have to go to the extent of “forgetting the Zamboanga fiasco,” a reference to nearly a month of heavy fighting in September last year between government forces and MNLF guerrillas protesting the Bangsamoro peace process from which they felt left out. More than 200 people were killed in the fighting, which razed sections of Zamboanga City.

Duterte said he had some “misgivings” about the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law but he believed the legal infirmities in the crafting of the bill could be threshed out and fixed.

“I have my misgivings but I would rather say to you now that as a Mindanaoan hungry for peace, I hope and I pray that it would pass Congress,” Duterte said.

“Eventually if there are questions in the Supreme Court, about issues that still need threshing out, such as the creation of a territorial entity, whatever, in the Bangsamoro draft, whatever needs to be corrected, would follow constitutional amendment,” he said.

That is why, Duterte said, he was worried by a statement made by Senate President Franklin Drilon that Congress was running out of time for Charter change.

“Personally, I want the BBL to pass for lasting peace in Mindanao, not only in Davao City,” he said.

He said that some of the questions that might be raised to the Supreme Court involve issues of territory, wealth sharing and the maintenance of a regional police force.

“So you still need to reconcile that, and the mechanism to transcend these objections is to amend the Constitution, but Drilon said there’s no more time for the Cha-Cha,” he added.

Filipino jihadists killed in Syria - reports

From Rappler (Sep 22): Filipino jihadists killed in Syria - reports

The government says the reports are 'not confirmed' but a group has been formed to monitor Filipino extremists' activities in relation to ISIS

The information on two Filipino jihadists reportedly killed last year while fighting for the Islamic State (ISIS) came from an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) in Syria who reported the incident to the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Rappler learned.

The OFW saw two dead opposition fighters on the streets of an area outside Damascus after a massive firefight between Syrian government troops and the rebels. A Syrian government soldier supposedly asked where the OFW was from and when the Filipino replied “Philippines,” the soldier pointed to the bodies and said: “Philippine. Abu Sayyaf.”

The OFW would report this to the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, which would relay the report to Manila. It’s an old report based on an incident that happened in December 2013, according to a source privy to the information.

The death of the 2 Filipino fighters wasn’t the first report about Filipino involvement with ISIS. Two months earlier, in October 2013, the embassy in Damascus came across a report published in an Iranian news site which claimed that a Filipino “terrorist” was killed in Syria.

Citing a military source, the report of FARS News Agency (FNA) named the dead Filipino fighter as “Abo Ahmad Shiko from the Philippines.”

ISIS now controls parts of Iraq and Syria in a bid to establish a so-called Islamic Caliphate prompting the US to carry out airstrikes that target ISIS camps. The Abu Sayyaf, on the other hand, is a terrorist group notorious for kidnap-for-ranson and bombings in the Philippines.

Rappler executive editor Maria Ressa reported in June 2014 how ISIS is boosting membership in Southeast Asia, citing intelligence reports of at least one Filipino joining 200 Australians, 50 Indonesians, 20 Malaysians going to fight the jihad in Syria.

“It’s impossible that only 3 Pinoys went and they’re all dead,” said the source privy to the report.

A confidential Malacañang memo that recently circulated among journalists cited fears by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) that "some Filipino fighters, pronouncing themselves as veterans, have already returned to the country and are teaching the cause of Islamic fundamentalists and extremists in Syria."

DFA memo

The President received the information about the 2 Filipino jihadists only in March 2014 through a DFA memo. The same information was relayed to the Department of National Defense and the National Security Agency.

The reported death of the 2 Filipino jihadists made local headlines early September following a Reuters report revealing the government inquiry into their death. The same Reuters report said about 100 Filipinos who were trained in Iran were deployed in Syria.

The DFA responded to the Reuters report by saying the deaths “remain unconfirmed” but that "the Philippines will do its part in global efforts to thwart ISIS.”

The reports came out as the Philippine military denied that Filipino fighters have left the country to fight for ISIS in Syria. Military officers denied earlier claims by former President Fidel Ramos and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte that at least a hundred fighters have joined ISIS. They also dismissed a video of Abu Sayyaf members swearing their oath of allegiance to the ISIS.

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Freedoms (BIFF), the breakway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which opposes the peace agreement also claimed pledging allegiance to ISIS.

Confidential Malacañang memo

A confidential Malacañang memo would also circulate among local media showing police official Felizardo Serapio of the Law Enforcement and Security Integration Office asking Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa Jr "to consider the creation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) that will create a database on monitoring and profiling foreign fighters, as a significant contribution to manage and inhibit further presence of Filipinos, as reported, in conflict-stricken areas as foreign fighters."

Serapio's memo raised fears about the Middle East becoming yet again a training ground for Filipino extremists. "The deliberate acquisition of terrorist skills introduces governments to a disturbing fact that radical recruits will be utilizing such type of experience into their home countries."

Serapio's concerns are echoed by other governments. In a speech last week before the UN Security Council, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her country and Southeast Asia are also at risk from the brutality of ISIS.

“We’ve seen this before. Extremists, foreign fighters returning home, responsible for terrorist attacks in our region,” she said.

Ramos earlier expressed the same concern, citing how the slain Abdurajak Janjalani fought alongside jihadists in Afghanistan and then returned home to form the Abu Sayyaf Group.

SAF cop slain in encounter with NPA rebels in Agusan Norte

Posted to InterAksyon (Sep 22): SAF cop slain in encounter with NPA rebels in Agusan Norte


BUTUAN CITY -- A member of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) was slain in an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at a lakeside municipality in Agusan del Norte over the weekend.

A report from the Agusan del Norte Police Provincial Office reaching the regional police headquarters Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez in this city on Monday identified the fatality as Police Officer 3 Eusebio O. Taru, whose body was taken to a funeral homes in Surigao City.

The report said that members of the PNP 1st Special Action Battalion implemented combat “Operation Plan Conquest” at 12:20 p.m. on Saturday in the areas of Sitio Taiwan, Barangay Bangayan, Kitcharao in Agusan del Norte where they encountered an undetermined number of armed group believed to be members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

A 15-minute firefight ensued after which the rebels withdrew toward the southeast direction.

However, PO3 Taru was seriously wounded and died before he could be brought to a hospital, the report added.

Police and military teams are conducting pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels.

Navy activates operational group to track down Sayyaf

From the Philippine Star (Sep 22): Navy activates operational group to track down Sayyaf

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Navy has activated its operational group to track down the terrorist Abu Sayyaf following the surge in kidnappings perpetrated by militants in southern Philippines, a military official said yesterday.

Apart from tracking down the Abu Sayyaf bandits, the group will also monitor the possible movement of Islamic State jihadists in Mindanao, Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao, said.

Police and military intelligence officials have not confirmed the existence of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant in the country but reports said the Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters had pledged allegiance to the IS.

Yoma said they are monitoring IS-related activities in the region to make them better prepared to respond to security threat.

He added the Western Mindanao Command formed last week the joint ZamBaSulTa (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu) task group to focus on the kidnapping activities of the Abu Sayyaf.

Yoma said additional troops from Luzon will be deployed in Mindanao to augment the forces under the activated task group.

Malaysian authorities raise red flag as Abu Sayyaf declares support for Isis movement

From the Malaysian Insider (Sep 22): Malaysian authorities raise red flag as Abu Sayyaf declares support for Isis movement

A screen grab from YouTube showing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and other masked men declaring their support for Isis. – September 22, 2014.

A screen grab from YouTube showing Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon and other masked men declaring their support for Isis. – September 22, 2014.

Militant group Abu Sayyaf has declared its support for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) movement in Syria through a video posted on Youtube, triggering a red alert in Sabah, The Star reported today.

The video saw Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, who was clad in a black gown, and masked men declaring their allegiance to Isis and its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi through an oath of loyalty. The 48-year-old Isnilon is one of the world's most wanted terrorists, with a RM16 million bounty on his head, the report said.

The six-minute clip had been posted on the website in July but sources told the daily that it only picked up momentum on social networking sites last month.

The video, the report said, appeared to have been shot in the jungles of southern Philippines, where the militant group is based and the opening scene of the clip showed the Isis movement's black flag.

Isnilon and his men had spoken mostly in Arabic and in his native dialect – Yakan – in the video, which authorities believed was meant to gather support for the Isis movement in Southeast Asia, it was reported.

Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and Jemaah Ansharut Tauhid (JAT) leader Abu Bakar Baasyir took heed and also called on his followers to join Isis, the report said.

He is believed to have assembled high-ranking JAT leaders and family members at the Pasir Putih prison in Indonesia to order them to support the Isis.

Sources told The Star that following this new development, authorities are also keeping a close watch on pro-Isis and jihadist websites in Bahasa Malaysia.

Isnilon is wanted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Malaysian authorities and is believed to have been responsible for an incident on Sabah's Pom Pom island in Semporna last November, where Taiwanese national Chang An-Wei was kidnapped and her husband Hsu Lee Min was killed. She was later released after negotiations.

 “He (Isnilon) and his men are dangerous and their main business is kidnapping, which is carried out to finance their terror activities," a regional intelligence analyst was quoted as saying. "He and his men have beheaded an American kidnap victim."

Malaysian authorities, the report said, are concerned that Isnilon and his troop could easily gain access into Sabah from their base in southern Philippines.

 “The situation in Iraq and Syria, where Isis is operating, seems to have given a fresh impetus to Isnilon. There are very good reasons for Malaysia to put out the red alert for this terrorist given the long coastline,” the analyst was reported as saying.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar assured that Bukit Aman would tighten security to prevent the Isis movement from spreading its influence in Malaysia.

 “We are keeping close tabs on the development of such radical groups in neighbouring countries. We will step up security along our borders to prevent any of these elements from slipping in,” he was quoted as saying, adding that police were working with their counterparts in other countries to boost intelligence gathering.

 “We will not allow extremists to gain a foothold in Malaysia."

CAFGU shot dead in Payo as Army proposes turnover of “manageable” barangays

From the Catanduanes Tribune (Sep 22 ): CAFGU shot dead in Payo as Army proposes turnover of “manageable” barangays

A member of the Philippine Army’s Civilian Armed Auxiliary (CAA) Company was killed the other Wednesday (Sept. 10) in Panganiban town when he was shot by unidentified suspects.

The shooting of CAFGU member Joseph Clopino dela Cruz, 29, based at the Viga camp of the 22nd Infantry Battalion, Echo Company, came just two days after the 83rd Infantry Battalion proposed to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan the turnover of “vulnerable” communities as well as peace and security operations to local government units and the Philippine National Police.

According to the report reaching the office of Catanduanes PNP provincial director Senior Superintendent Adelio Benjamin Castillo, the CAFGU member was with his two brothers to gather lumber at Kilometer 15, barangay San Miguel for the repair of their house at barangay San Miguel at 11 A.M. that day.

When Joseph moved away from his brothers to pile pieces of lumber, suddenly a gunshot was heard. His brothers rushed over and saw the militiaman bloody and with a gunshot wound on his head.

He was brought to the Viga district hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Motive for the shooting remains unknown, according to the report.

His death came after Lt. Col. Bernardo Fortez asked the provincial board to pass a resolution declaring Catanduanes as a “manageable conflict area and development-ready province”.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, he told the board, has proposed the handover of Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO) to LGUs before the end of September 2014.

The proposal, Fortez stated, is based on the positive results garnered by the AFP against “communist terrorists” since 2009 through the neutralization of CPP-NDF-NPA personalities, seizure of high-powered firearms and clearing of affected barangays, with left-leaning organizations no longer affecting the peace and order in the province.

From 200 members in the mid-1990’s with 150 firearms and 100 influenced barangays, the government forces have reduced the numbers to 27 communist rebels and 14 firearms, with all 100 villages cleared as of the 2nd quarter of this year, Fortez reported.

These came through 31 encounters, 24 of them government-initiated, that resulted in the seizure of 46 firearms, 13 landmines, 17 blasting caps and 10 ICOM handheld radios, as well as the death of 10 insurgents, the capture of 18 others and the surrender of 93 members.

The 83rd IB commander said the enemy has been cut down to small splinter groups unable to conduct major tactical offensives due to lack of firearms, limited resources and reduced access to local authorities due to dwindling support from the masses and the success of Barangay Intelligence Networks (BINs) and immersion strategies.

New batch of peacekeepers ships out, this time to Haiti

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 23): New batch of peacekeepers ships out, this time to Haiti

Philippine troops, who are to be deployed as U.N. Peacekeepers in Haiti, take their oath during sendoff ceremony Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 at Villamor Air Base at suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he's been told security threats on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are not expected to ease soon, dimming hopes that U.N. peacekeepers can be deployed back to the region in the near future. Monday's sendoff came hours after the last batch of Filipino UN Peacekeepers arrived home after fighting rebels in Golan. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Philippine troops, who are to be deployed as U.N. Peacekeepers in Haiti, take their oath during sendoff ceremony Monday, Sept. 22, 2014 at Villamor Air Base at suburban Pasay city south of Manila, Philippines. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he’s been told security threats on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights are not expected to ease soon, dimming hopes that U.N. peacekeepers can be deployed back to the region in the near future. Monday’s sendoff came hours after the last batch of Filipino UN Peacekeepers arrived home after fighting rebels in Golan. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Petty Officer Second Class Jane Briones, 37, and her two daughters shared a tight embrace as she was about to leave for Tahiti, where she will be a part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force there.

“I am sad and at the same time excited because I have this chance to serve as a peacekeeper; I am sad to leave my daughters and husband behind,” the tall woman in uniform said on Monday.

Before boarding her flight, she told her children to keep doing well in school so they would always end up with honors.

Briones, who is an expert in supplies and logistics, was one of nine women who left the country to serve as part of the 18th Philippine Contingent to Haiti (PCH).

The 157-strong 18th PCH flew out of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City at 3:45 p.m. Monday.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. led the sendoff for the 18th PCH, which will be part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force to Haiti.

Cmdr. Aldrin Doctor, contingent commander, said 40 of the 157 personnel were members of the Philippine Marines. Nine were women enlisted personnel.

Their mission will be different from that of the peacekeepers in the Golan Heights, who returned to the country last weekend after facing Syrian rebels in a standoff.

“We won’t be on combat duty so it’s relatively safer. It’s different from Golan Heights,” Doctor said.

The 18th PCH will provide perimeter security for the UN Mission to Haiti headquarters, administrative and logistics clerical services, as well as operate military vehicles and provide security to VIPs.

The contingent will serve a tour of six to nine months, replacing the 17th PCH composed of 11 officers and 145 personnel led by Capt. Luzviminda Camacho, the first female contingent commander.

Catapang called on the peacekeepers to maintain their high standards of bravery, decorum, discipline and professionalism.

Army awards medals to 'world's fastest dragon boat crew'

From the Philippine Star (Sep 22): Army awards medals to 'world's fastest dragon boat crew'

The Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team celebrates after breaking world records at 9th International Boat Federation Club Crews World Championships in Standiana Bacin, Italy from Sept. 3 to 7, 2014. Army IO

The Philippine Army on Friday conferred military merit medals to the members of its Dragon Boat Team, considered the fastest in the world.

In a statement Monday, the Philippine Army said the recent win of the team at the 9th International Boat Federation Club Crews World Championships in Standiana Bacin, Italy earlier this month was particularly notable.

"For the Army paddlers, the win had been more glorious this year because they carried solely the name of the Philippine Army in a world competition for the first time," the Army said.

At the competition, the crew outpaced 25 other competing teams in the 200-meter category and broke the 53-second world record in the same event by posting 47.85 seconds.

Army Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri confers medal the to 17-man Dragon Boat team on Friday, September 19. Army IO

In the 500-meter event, meanwhile, the team was faster than the 28 other crews, nailing the world record by clocking an all-time best record of 2 minutes and 6 seconds.

The Philippine Army said it "takes pride in its soldier-athletes that possess world-class skills."

Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri awarded the medals to the 17 members of the Philippine Army Dragon Boat Team.

PN warship home from Australia naval exercises

From the Philippine Star (Sep 23): PN warship home from Australia naval exercises

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – The Philippine Navy (PN)’s warship BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrived here yesterday morning after joining naval exercises of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) last month.

Alcaraz docked at the international port of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) here at about 8 a.m.

Navy public affairs chief Lt. Commander Marineth Domingo said before heading home, Alcaraz made a port call in Indonesia as a matter of courtesy for participating in the RAN exercises.

The naval exercises dubbed “Kakadu” were held from Aug. 25 to Sept. 12 in Northern Australia.

Domingo said the warship would hold a “show the flag” activity here before sailing for Subic, Zambales.

While in the city, Alcaraz will be opened to local residents for a tour of the ship.

Domingo said the frigate would undergo regular checkup in Subic.

PH force in Golan lauded; new team off to Haiti

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 23): PH force in Golan lauded; new team off to Haiti

Several lawmakers led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez commended the bravery of 40-man Filipino peacekeeping troops who pulled the “greatest escape” last month after battling the Syrian rebels in the Golan Heights.

Peace force. Filipino  troopers arrive in Manila
after pulling  off the “greatest escape” from
the Golan Heights while another batch of
peacekeepers (below) will see action
in Haiti a few days after Monday’s  send-off
ceremony at the Villamor Airbase. AFP
Another batch of 157 Filipino soldiers will join the UN mission in Haiti  to replace the 155-strong Navy contingent who has accomplished its goal.

“The AFP will continue to support the peacekeeping missions of the United Nations,” said military chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. “

As a force provider, it is an honor to train, equip and deploy members of the military to represent the country to these missions,” Catapang said.

In the House,  Romualdez as independent minority bloc together with Rep. Ben Evardone urged the House leadership to commend the Filipino soldiers for their gallant stand in fighting Syrian rebels who tried to overrun the   UN camp in  the Golan Heights.

“Our peacekeeping troops deserve commendation for the bravery, courage and professionalism they displayed during the attack despite being outnumbered by the heavily armed Syrian rebels. Their refusal to surrender in carrying their mandate is very laudable,” Romualdez said.

“They demonstrated the military’s core values of courage and commitment of the country for showing highest levels of professionalism and competence. Surely, they would be admired by their peers worldwide,” Romualdez added.

For his part, Evardone filed House Resolution  1517 to commend the “unparalleled valour and firm commitment” of the Filipino soldiers.

MNLF says Misuari met Pamatong on BBL issue

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 23): MNLF says Misuari met Pamatong on BBL issue

MORO National Liberation Front founder Nur Misuari again rejected a suggestion for him to appear before a congressional hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, saying the government already “knows everything there is to know” about his views on the matter.

Lawyer Elly Pamatong, who is out on bail for scaterring spikes along Epifanio delos Santos Avenue in 2004, said he met the MNLF leader at his hideout in Mount Tumantangis in Sulu last week.

He also dispel reports he is representing the government during his talks with Misuari,

“I am an MNLF lawyer and friend of Misuari,” Pamatong said in a telephone interview. “I was trying to convince him to come down and surrender.”

MNLF Spokesman Absalom Cerveza initially thought Pamatong was sent by the government to persuade Misuari to attend the congressional hearing on the Bl, but he later confirmed that Pamatong met with Misuari in Sulu.

“I see no reason for Pamatong going to Jolo. I guess Pamatong was instructed by Congress to go to Jolo and convince Misuari to attend,” Cerveza said.

But Pamatong quoted Misuari as saying that he has repeatedly expressed his opposition to the government’s Framework Agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and its resulting Comprehensive Agreement on the Bansamoro and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“The GRP knows everything there is to know about my view on the Bangsamoro people and their dream for independence,” Misuari was quoted as saying.

Instead, Misuari said Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local government, can go to Jolo to conduct the hearing in Jolo.

Cerveza admitted that Misuari called him to ask about the suggestion that he join the congressional hearing, but Cerveza said “it’s very dangerous. There’s no guarantee because the Executive and the Judiciary are in collision.”

Cerveza reiterated that they were not convinced that the government would issue a safe-conduct pass to Misuari, who is wanted for the Seige of Zamboanga City on Sept. 9, 2013 and is now based in Mt. Tumantagis in western Sulu island where he is protected by 30,000 Moro warriors.

But Mindanao leaders continued to urge the government to bring Misuari to the negotiating table because, as MNLF founder, he still has a key role in ensuring peace in Mindanao.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is one such Mindanao leader and he advised Malacañang against belittling Misuari’s capability in helping forge peace in Mindanao.

Duterte made the call came after Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process, Sec. Teresita Deles said congressional consultations on the BBL can still be successful even without the participation of Misuari  who is asking for something that the BBL cannot provide.

Duterte said that Misuari remains to be a force to reckon with when it comes to Mindanao peace.

He reminded the government that Misuari could still compel the Philippine government to make good of its promise based on the Tripoli Agreement it signed decades ago with Misuari.

“I’ve already said before that we should not forget Misuari,” Duterte said on his radio program on Sunday. “For all of his faults, Misuari is still a man to reckon with. Forget the Zamboanga incident for a while, we have to talk with him if you want peace.”

Duterte admittd that he himself have some misgivings on the BBL, particularly on the territorial issues, but he also hopes that the BBL will be enacted into law by Congress for the sake of peace.

“I hold it as an article of faith, the only way you can really attain peace is to go federal. We cannot give you back the land that was taken from you, but allow us to offer you a nation,” the Davao mayor said.

“There has to be a Bangsamoro nation, and to the Misuari side, give them a nation too. Otherwise, we’ll have nothing,” he added.

Cordilleras want own Moro-type autonomy

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 23): Cordilleras want own Moro-type autonomy

AS A RESULT of the national attention the creation of the Bangsamoro entity is getting,  Northern Luzon’s lawmakers are now pushing for the creation of the Cordilleras Autonomous Region after the previous Organic Acts failed ratification in 1990 and 1998.

“Cordillera autonomy will bring to the national attention as well the benefits of accepting and promoting cultural diversity through the formulation of multi-cultural policies for indigenous peoples and indigenous cultural communities,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

Two Organic Acts creating the CAR were enacted in 1990 and 1998, but both Organic Acts failed ratification mainly because of the people’s lack of awareness and understanding of the autonomy issues coupled with the misinformation drives undertaken by some sectors, the lawmakers said.

The lawmakers—Reps. Nicasio Aliping Jr. of Baguio City, Manuel Agyao of Kalinga, Teddy Brawner Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, Eleanor Bulut-Begtang of Apayao, Maria Jocelyn Bernos of Abra, Ronald Cosalan of Benguet and Maximo Dalog of Mountain Province—jointly filed House Bill 4649 that seeks to create an autonomous region in the Cordilleras.

They filed HB 4649 on July 30 and the House plenary referred it to the House committee on local governments led by South Cotabato-General Santos City Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr.

The authors invoked Article X, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution, the same provision that mandates the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas sharing a common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of the Constitution, the national sovereignty, and the territorial integrity of the country.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, in accord with the Constitution, was created under R.A. No. 6734 and was strengthened and expanded under R.A. No. 9054.

However, the authors said, the Cordillera Autonomous Region had yet to be realized.

Early last week, the House’s 75-member special ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law, chaired by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, approved its rules of procedure to guide its consideration of the Palace-proposed BBL as contained in HB 4994 and designed to replace the ARMM that President Benigno Aquino III has tagged as “a failed experiment.”

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III on Sunday warned that the BBL might prompt other regions, such as the Cordilleras, to also demand autonomy if some provisions, for instance, allowed the Bangsamoro to have its parliamentary system of government.

The CAR proponents recalled that on July 15, 1987, President Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order 220 creating the Cordillera Administrative Region with the mandate to administer the affairs of government in the region, accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units of the region, and prepare for the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras.

Subsequently, the lawmakers said, two Organic Acts creating the CAR were enacted in 1990 and 1998 but both failed ratification mainly because of the people’s lack of awareness and understanding of the autonomy issues.

In 2006, the authors said, the Regional Development Council-Cordillera Administrative Region  or RDC-CAR decided to renew the pursuit of regional autonomy after it had determined that the only way to drastically address underdevelopment and poverty in the region was through regional autonomy.

“With policy and budgetary support from the national government, the RDC-CAR has since engaged in information, education and communication and capability-building activities towards regional autonomy at all levels in the region down to the grassroots,” the lawmakers said.

This campaign, they said, resulted in the draft Organic Act filed in the 15th Congress as HB 5595.

“Pulse surveys conducted thereafter revealed an increasing support to regional autonomy,” the lawmakers said.

The authors of HB 4649 stressed that Cordillera’s autonomy would be the most effective option to provide the region with the needed solid foundation to pursue sustainable development as the region hoped to benefit from the management and use of its natural resources.