Tuesday, September 23, 2014

#notinmyname: Muslims use social media to fight ISIS

From Rappler (Sep 23): #notinmyname: Muslims use social media to fight ISIS

'Tell ISIS that they can't murder in your name,' says a social media campaign against the 'ideology of hate'

REJECTING ISIS. On social media, Muslims fight ISIS through the #notinmyname campaign. Screen grab from Active Change Foundation on Youtube

REJECTING ISIS. On social media, Muslims fight ISIS through the #notinmyname campaign. Screen grab from Active Change Foundation on Youtube
While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) uses social media to boost its recruitment, a group of British Muslims wields the same weapon against the group's “ideology of hate.”
The London-based Active Change Foundation (ACF) leads Muslims in denouncing ISIS: #notinmyname.

On its website, the ACF urged Muslims to use "#notinmyname" on Twitter “to denounce their violent actions in your own words.” “Let your voice be heard rejecting the ideology of hate,” the advocacy group said.

“Islam teaches peace, respect, and love. ISIS is hiding behind a false Islam. It’s nothing to do with what we stand for. Tell ISIS that they can’t murder in your name,” it explained.

The 11-year-old ACF said #notinmyname “is open to all British Muslims to support,” even as the hashtag has gained attention beyond London.

Published on the ACF website, a minute-long Youtube video also introduced the campaign – with Muslims of different ages, men and women, taking turns in condemning ISIS.

“The ISIS does not represent Islam or any Muslim, because it's totally un-Islamic, because you're killing innocent people, because you're unjust. We must all unite together and try to stop this group from damaging Islam and damaging Muslims,” the Muslims said in a collective statement.

“Because your leader is a liar,” they also told ISIS.

'New machine to recruit militants'

SOCIAL MEDIA, TOO. Deported from the Philippines, 29-year-old Musa Cerantonio is said to have used social media to bring in recruits to ISIS. Screen grab from Youtube

SOCIAL MEDIA, TOO. Deported from the Philippines, 29-year-old Musa Cerantonio is said to have used social media to bring in recruits to ISIS. Screen grab from Youtube
The #notinmyname campaign came as the ISIS ideology, according to a report by Rappler's Maria Ressa, “is spreading fast on social media.”
The head of Indonesia's National Counter-Terrorism Agency, Ansyaad Mbai, has called social media “the new machine to recruit militants.”

An example comes from 29-year-old Australian national Musa Cerantonio, whom the Philippines deported in July, and whom Rappler reported to have used social media “effectively to encourage terrorism and urge Muslims to join the jihad in Syria and Iraq.”

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, a rebel group in the Philippines, has also claimed it formed an alliance with ISIS through social media.

ISIS, which declared a caliphate in a region straddling the Iraq-Syria border, has beheaded two US journalists and a British aid worker.

Various countries, including the Philippines, have slammed ISIS.

The leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, Pope Francis, has also condemned the extremists. Quoting his predecessor John Paul II, Francis said, “To kill in the name of God is a grave sacrilege.”

Captured top NPA leader posted bail

From the Bohol Chronicle (Sep 21): Captured top NPA leader posted bail

BAILED. Top NPA leader, Roy Erecre (center) gets a briefing from legal counsels Victor dela Serna and Adam Relson Jala, while waiting for the hearing at RTC Brank 49 to start. Erecre's camp submitted a motion to bail during the September 16 hearing for his rebellion case. The preliminary hearing is set on October 7.

The detained Boholano ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) found a chance to be granted bail in his rebellion case lodged at Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 49.

This cropped up after none of the eight witnesses for the government showed up during the hearing on September 16, during which the camp of the accused, Roy Erecre, submitted the motion to bail.

Late words reaching the Chronicle just before deadline last night revealed that the ranking CPP-NPA leader was released late Friday after he posted bail.

Erecre’s legal counsels, Victor dela Serna and Adam Relson Jala, said the hearing was even delayed by few minutes to await if any witness will show up in court.

RTC Branch 49 Judge Fernando Fuentes III set the preliminary hearing on October 7 wherein it would be known if the motion to bail will be granted.
The quick issuance of bail for the temporary liberty of Erecre surprised some sectors especially in the military,

 Erecre, also known as Vide Alguna, Toto and Pasyong, served as secretary of the Central Visayas Regional Committee of the CPP-NPA.

He has been detained at the Bohol District Jail in Cabawan after his capture some time in May this year.

He was captured by the combined forces of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), and the Davao City police at around 11 a.m. on May 7.

 Authorities cornered him and his girlfriend, a certain Judith Jaron-Niog, at Doña Salud Subdivision in Sasa, Davao City.

 In the afternoon of the same day, authorities transported Erecre to Cebu via Butuan City after the CIDG had taken his mug shots, fingerprinting, initial information and medical check-up.

 Erecre had eight pending cases then--robbery in band and rebellion in Bohol courts, three cases in Negros and another one in a court in Cebu.
So far the robbery in band had been dismissed recently.

 After his capture in May, he was first turned over to courts in Cebu that issued his warrants of arrest for a number of non-bailable criminal offenses in Bohol and Cebu including atrocities against civilians and government forces in late 1990s and early 2000s.

The Davao team turned over Erecre to Bohol authorities and is now detained at the Bohol District Jail.

 He reportedly led the ambush and killings in 1999 of Lt. Que and Lt. Bungaos in Carmen, according to the military information.

 Erecre, described by the military as “an alternate member of the Central Committee of the CPP-NPA” carried a bounty of P5.4 million.

 The military and police believed Erecre must have been in Davao for a mission where the NPAs remain active.

 There were also some information that Erecre had been groomed to replace spouses Benito and Wilma Tiamzon, chair and finance officer of the CPP-NPA, respectively--who were arrested in March this year.

 Erecre, the third in the CPP-NPA hierarchy, could have assumed the top leadership after the arrest of the the Tiamzons.

 Authorities continue the hunt for the rest of Erecre’s comrades who are also believed to be having a vacation in Mindanao.


Bohol court frees NPA’s highest-ranked leader

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 21): Bohol court frees NPA’s highest-ranked leader

Tagbilaran City, Bohol — The country’s highest-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) leader, a Boholano who was imprisoned at the Bohol Detention and Rehabilitation Center (BDRC), was freed early Friday evening upon order of the court.

Roy Erecre, the elusive leader of NPA’s Komiteng Rehiyonal Sentral Bisayas (KRSB) who had a P5.4-million bounty on his head, posted bail of nearly half a million pesos for his temporary liberty, local jail and military sources confirmed yesterday.

Erecre’s lawyers, City Councilor Adam Relson Jala and lawyer Victor Dela Serna (former acting governor of Bohol), after showing the release order reportedly signed by Regional Trial Court (RTC) Executive Judge Suceso Arcamo.

Jail Chief Inspector Jose Rusylvi Abueva, warden of the BDRC in Cabawan District, here, had no choice but to walk Erecre out of the facility and into Jala’s sports utility vehicle (SUV).

Erecre had been detained at the BDRC since last May. Over the weekend, he was staying at Jala’s posh residence in Dao District, this city, having a reunion with his family.

Before Erecre was arrested on May 6 in Davao City by combined elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), the NPA commander was reportedly being groomed to lead the entire operations of the NPA in the Philippines.

His meteoric rise up the NPA ranks was propelled by the arrest in Cebu last March 22 of the Tiamzon couple – Benito Tiamzon, chairman of the NPA, and his wife Wilma Tiamzon, NPA secretary-general – which created a vacuum in the NPA national leadership.

Senior Superintendent Dennis Palo Agustin, Bohol Police Provincial Office (PPO) director, was outraged by Erecre’s release. “Alam na pala niya (Abueva) at around 5 p.m. (Friday) ang release… 8:30 p.m. na niya tinext sa amin (Abueva knew about the release as early as 5 p.m. but he informed us about it at 8:30 p.m.),” Agustin said.

Col. Potenciano Camba, Army’s Special Forces (SF) commander based in Carmen town, Bohol, initially expressed disbelief over the news. “I did not expect that he could post a bail,” Camba said in a phone interview.

Provincial Administrator Alfonso “Ae” Damalerio in a phone interview said he would look into the events that led to Erecre’s release.


FBI helps Negrense cops

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 23): FBI helps Negrense cops
in bombing investigations


FBI Special Agency Daric Manser (right) with Supt. Willian Senoron, PBDC acting chief, his deputy, Supt. Fernando Jose Bonita, and Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. at the opening of Post-Blast Investigation at Panaad Park in Bacolod City.* (GPB photo)

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation is extending help to the police in Negros Occidental, in bombing post-blast investigation to enhance the investigative capability of police officers.

FBI Special Agent Daric Manser, who had investigated the Boston marathon bombing in the United States in 2013, yesterday shared his expertise and skills in post-blast investigation to 47 police officers in Negros Occidental. The five-day training was sponsored by the provincial government.
Manser is a Special Agent Bomb Technician of the FBI, who used to be stationed at Los Angeles, California.
The five-day training initiated by the Philippine Bomb Data Center of the PNP aims to provide Negrense policemen with basic knowledge in post-blast investigation, because of numerous bombing incidents in the country.
Police Supt. William Senoron, PBDC acting chief, said yesterday the course will enable them to identify the kinds, components and signatures of explosives after bomb explosions.
Post blast investigation is not an ordinary kind of investigation, as in homicide, murder or theft, because evidences arer almost totally destroyed. “We are teaching our police officers how to reconstruct pieces of evidence recovered at the crime scene,” Senoron said.
Two incidents of bombing allegedly perpetrated by the New People’s Army were recorded in Negros Occidental in 2006 while the Silay-Bacolod airport was being constructed, and the other, the blasting of sugarcane transloading stations in Escalante City, in previous months.
Senoron said the post-blast investigation is considered an expensive training, and he expressed his appreciation to Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr. for funding it.
Marañon, who spoke at the opening ceremony of pos-blast investigation held at the Pana-ad Stadium in Bacolod City, said the training is relevant and very important for police officers in these modern times, as bombing are being conducted in remote-controlled operations.
He vowed to continue supporting the police in Negros Occidental, as stable peace and order attracts more investors to invest in the province. If just one bomb explodes, it will scare prospective investors, Marañon added.
He also noted that many investors are coming into the province because of that stable peace and order.
The provincial government of Negros Occidental has allocated P2 million for the equipment and firearms for the newly-formed SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) unit of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office.
Senior Supt. Milko Lirazan, provincial police director of Negros Occidental, said NOPPO is very fortunate to be a recipient of the training, as it will further strengthen the capability of local police investigators in post-blast investigations.
Lirazan encouraged the police officers to learn as much as possible from the training, while other local government units cannot afford it, due to lack of funds.
“Great responsibility lies on your shoulders, especially when bombing occurs, although I hope it will not happen here,” he said.

The PBDC of the PNP serves as a coordinating body to provide technical assistance, operational support, enhancement of training and strategic information on all unlawful use of explosives both domestic and international incidents.

Photo: Troops intercept NPA supplies in Zambo Sur

Posted to GMA News (Sep 23): Photo: Troops intercept NPA supplies in Zambo Sur

A photo taken on September 16, 2014 and released by the Army's 32nd IB-S7 on Monday, September 22, shows troops from the 32nd Infantry Battalion checking several sacks containing alleged war materials and food packs intercepted from a suspected courier during routine patrol in the hinterland village of Saad, Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur. The seized supplies are believed intended for New People's Army fighters in the area. 32nd IB-S7/Richel


What now for Mindanao?

From the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism blog (Sep 23):
What now for Mindanao?

Civil society, development experts weigh in on prospects for the people of Mindanao, after winning the peace

By Julius D. Mariveles

It is the region that exports gold and caviar. It is also here where the lives of some people are like those in the least developed countries of Congo and Zimbabwe in Africa.

And as hopes continue to run high for the passage and signing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, those desiring peace must now answer the question: What should happen after the guns fall silent?

Academics, civil society organizations, and development experts weighed in on this issue during a forum on opportunities for development and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro held in Makati City today, Tuesday, September 23.

“The momentum for peace is building up… development and progress will come on its heels,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said in a statement read by Undersecretary Jose Lorena.

PARTICIPANTS sign up for the forum on development opportunities and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro | Photo by Cong B. Corrales
PARTICIPANTS sign up for the forum on development opportunities and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro | Photo by Cong B. Corrales

Deles, who heads the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, was optimistic that the partnership between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has “blossomed into a partnership and the possibility of peace (in Mindanao) excites our neighbors.”

“There are endless opportunities for development,” she added.

The forum was held as the Philippine Senate started its deliberations also today on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that shall be the legal framework for the Bangsamoro that will replace the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

The Bangsamoro is envisioned to cover the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao Del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and the cities of Marawi and Lamitan. The drafting of the BBL followed the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels.

Poverty and the resulting hunger are the gut issues that must be addressed in the Bangsamoro areas, Fermin D. Adriano, senior policy advisor of the World Bank State and Peace-Building Fund told the PCIJ.

Adriano, who is also project and World Bank lead consultant for the projects in Bangsamoro, delivered a talk titled “Development opportunities in the Philippines with the signing of the CAB: More, less, or no impact?”

He said that the share of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the gross regional domestic product is a negligible 0.8 percent .


Four of 10 persons in the Philippines are located in Mindanao, many of them concentrated in the ARMM areas. Too, seven of 10 people in ARMM are poor, twice more than the poverty incidence in the entire country.

Adriano cited a big drop in the education index in the three provinces of ARMM between 1997 and 2000. The largest losers are the provinces of Lanao Del Sur, Sulu, and Zamboanga Del Norte. “There is practically stangation within the ARMM areas,” he said.

In fact, according to Maria Lourdes D. Lim, regional director of the National Economic Development Authority, the 2012 to 2013 Human Development Report showed that the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) levels were reported in nine areas in Mindanao, three of them provinces in the ARMM – Sulu, Maguindanao, and Tawi-Tawi.

Sulu has the lowest HDI of .266, “comparable to the least developed African countries like Congo and Zimbabwe,” Lim added.

The HDI is defined “as a measure of a countery’s average achievements in three basic aspets of human development: longevity, knowledge, and a decent standard of living. Longevity is measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge is measured by a combination of the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrolment ratio; and standard of living by GDP per capita (PPP US$).”

[DRAFT Bangsamoro Basic Law]

International advisor Sam Chittick, on the other hand, said fast political transition in conflict areas can lead to “local elite capture.” He pointed out that, “development alone does not reduce conflict and it can actually exacerbate conflict.”

Chittick, who has worked in conflict areas around the world, spoke for the Facility for Advisory Support for Transition Capacities, a joint United Nations-World Bank project in support of the Mindanao peace process.

He also posed questions that must be answered as development efforts kick in and if the Bangsamoro Basic Law would be approved by the government. these include: What changes will the average Mindaoan want from the Bangsamoro? What difference will it make in their lives?

“The focus should be on potential opportunities and not recipes,” Chittick said.

The forum was organized by the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies in partnership with the Institute for Autonomy and Governance, The Asia Foundation, ARMM Regional Board of Investments, Mindanao People’s Caucus, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, United Youth for Peace and Development, Women’s Peace Table.

Check out our blog tomorrow for more stories on the opportunities for development and the Bangsamoro.


Foreign fighters from Asia joining Islamic jihad

From the Asian Pacific Post (Sep 23): Foreign fighters from Asia joining Islamic jihad

The threat of ISIS in Southeast Asia is looming large and in the last few months, the Islamic State has started to move into the region to make it part of its caliphate, several intelligence agencies have warned.

The group which is behind the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) is bent on attacking people in places deemed to be un-Islamic or not extreme enough. 

ISIS members had confessed that the group was planning to launch attacks on several nightspots in Kuala Lumpur and the Carlsberg factory in Petaling Jaya, and on Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya. 

Already groups in southern Philippines and Indonesia have rallied behind ISIS, say experts and for this reason, Asean should come together to fight the spread of ISIS influence and to stop their plan to make Southeast Asia part of their caliphate, they said.

ISIS is the latest reincarnation of fighters from at least 2 al-Qaeda-linked groups that had become so brutal that, at one point, al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri distanced al-Qaeda from them.

The group traces its roots to al-Qaeda in Iraq, led by the ruthless Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who tried to ignite a sectarian war between Sunni and Shiite – and nearly succeeded.

ISIS is much better organised in that it has a military approach in spreading its influence with an over-arching set of strategies and a strong centralised leadership. Al-Qaeda has more of the attack-and-run style, and the groups affiliated with it seem to be operating relatively independent. ISIS has also used social media to the fullest, and has a steady source of funds. 

More than 12,000 Muslim extremists have travelled to Syria to fight in just 3 years, according to a report by the Soufan Group, a private security company.

That’s more than the 10,000 estimated to have fought in Afghanistan in the late 80s, the conflict that spawned al-Qaeda.

“That’s why so much of the world is today focused on Iraq,” said US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, who for 3 years, was Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.
“And why this has been a very troubling moment as ISIS, which went up into Syria to fight jihad there, are returning to Iraq to their roots with many foreign fighters in tow – including those who may be there from East Asia or other places in the world, including the United States," he told Rappler in an interview on Tuesday, June 17.

Intelligence sources disclosed that about 200 Australians, 50 Indonesians and about 20 Malaysians have gone to fight the jihad in Syria. Singapore said it’s investigating one Singaporean, while a Filipino intelligence source said at least one Filipino linked to Abu Sayyaf has gone to Syria.

On June 9, the day ISIS began its march to capture Baghdad, a video of Indonesian men in Syria was posted on YouTube.

In a little more than 11 minutes, hooded men holding their Kalashnikovs, speak in Bahasa Indonesia with snippets of Arabic. They urge their countrymen to join ISIS: “Let us fight in the path of Allah because it is our duty to do jihad in the path of Allah.”
Indonesia, the country with the world's largest Muslim population, was the base of Jemaah Islamiyah or JI, once al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia

The fear now is that Syria is functioning much like Afghanistan did in the late 80s.

Goldberg explained: “It’s a situation where Syria became a central focal point for these groups and for international jihadists. People just want to get to a fight – some of them not even understanding exactly what it is.”

That includes Southeast Asia and Australia, the countries where cells of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) were discovered after 9/11.

On Friday, June 13, Malaysian police arrested 3 Malaysians, including a Royal Malaysian Navy officer, in an operation led by its Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division in Sandakan on the east coast of Sabah.

Police said they were members of a group linked to ISIS in Iraq and the Abu Sayyaf, a notorious group in the southern Philippines that has swung back and forth from its al-Qaeda roots to crime.

Malaysian authorities said they have arrested 15 other members of the same group since April 28.

The men, according to a Special Branch source, were planning to fight in Syria and then “launch suicide bombings in Iraq.”

They allegedly trained in the southern Philippines, where Southeast Asia's most wanted, JI leaders Malaysian Marwan and Singaporean Muawiyah, have found shelter and continue to train fighters.

Intelligence sources in the Philippines told Rappler that may well be true. Although curtailed significantly in the past decade and dampened by a signed peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, once JI's main partner in the Philippines, training still continues.

The more extremist BIFF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), continues to train and shelter members of JI, a charge the group denies.

If history repeats itself, according to the Soufan report, then “the Syrian war is likely to be an incubator for a new generation of terrorists.” 

The Philippine’s former top spy said that the influence and reach of the Islamic State in the country was evident as early as 2006.

Former Philippine National Police Intelligence director Chief Supt Rodolfo “Boogie” Mendoza said that eight years ago, the ISIS, led by its supreme religious leader Aby Bakr Al-Baghdadi, sent a communiqué to the Jemaah Islamiya and Khalifa in Mindanao, which both had links with Al-Qaeda.

Mendoza said the ISIS was established in the country after the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and the Abu Sayyaf Group agreed to join forces under the banner of the international terrorist group.

Mendoza added that the ISIS continues to recruit militants in Mindanao in exchange for money, adding that he also received reports that some Egyptians and Arabs were in Mindanao since 2012 to conduct military and training to build explosives among the recruits.

 Las week, a confidential 2-page-memo obtained from sources in Camp Crame headquarters of the Philippine National Police by the Inquirer contained reports of possible recruitment by jihadist to Filipinos.

The same memo also said “100 Filipinos who traveled to Iran had undergone military training and were deployed to Syria”, and that there is an increasing number of terrorist groups operating in Malaysia, Indonesia, Xinjiang in China, Thailand, and in Mindanao.

ISIS in Southeast Asia

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the Philippines, has condemned extremist jihadists in Iraq and Syria, and vowed to stop the spread of their “virus” into the Southeast Asian nation.

Another Philippine rebel group Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) claims Sunni preachers have been conducting recruitment for ISIS members.

Earlier reports say Malaysian women are offering sexual jihad or Jihad Al-Nikah to ISIS members. Malaysia denies claims.

There were two postings on ‘JIM-Jamaah ISIS Malaysia’ Facebook page calling for the beheading of Dayaks because they were non-Muslims. Dayaks are a people group in Sarawak.

Malaysian Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, 26, is said to be the first ISIS martyr. He reportedly drove a military vehicle carrying explosives into Iraq’s special forces headquarters in Anbar, killing 25 soldiers and himself on May 26, 2014.

The Malaysian police arrested 15 men for their alleged links to ISIS. One of them was a 30-year-old naval officer who had been in service for 10 years.

The Singapore government said that a handful of Singaporeans had gone to fight in Syria.

There may be at least 500 Indonesians who have joined ISIS. One 19-year-old fighter identified as Wildan Mukahallad died in a suicide attack in Baghdad.

About 30 Malaysians are said to be in ISIS in Syria, out of which 15 were killed.

“Mujahidin” groups have been recruiting Malaysians using social media and usrah (family) sessions. Mujahidin means those doing jihad.

With 20 million rupiah (about US$ 2,000), these young jihadists can fly to Syria and get real combat experience, compared to just a hiking session they get in Indonesia.


PHL, US forces to hold amphibious landing exercise starting Sept. 29

From GMA News (Sep 23): PHL, US forces to hold amphibious landing exercise starting Sept. 29

Philippine and US forces will hold amphibious landing exercises from September 29 to October 10 in Palawan and Luzon to bolster coordination between the two countries in regional issues and humanitarian disasters.
The yearly Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX) will see the participation of the Philippine Navy and Marine Corps as well as US Marines and sailors of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Commander, Task Force 76, the US Embassy in Manila said.
"PHIBLEX increases the teamwork between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the U.S. Marine air-ground task force, and improves the bilateral response to regional issues, humanitarian disasters and maritime-security needs within the Asia-Pacific region," the embassy said.
It said some 3,500 US service members based in Okinawa, Japan, and the US will work "shoulder-to-shoulder" with 1,200 Philippine sailors and Marines conducting:
  • a command post exercise
  • field training exercises, which include small arms and artillery live-fire training
  • amphibious operations
  • ship-to-shore movement
  • combined arms training
  • civil-military operations
  • humanitarian and civic assistance projects.
US Marines and sailors started arriving last week today to start preparations for the follow-on forces and the civil-military operations to benefit Filipinos living near the training areas.
"These benefits include providing free medical and dental treatment to local citizens while completing engineering and construction projects that will provide additional classrooms and necessities to the community," it said.
This year's focus seeks to boost the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ capability to conduct planning and effective execution of bilateral maritime security and territorial defense operations.
"Field training exercises will provide the Philippine and U.S. Marine units multiple opportunities to continue to improve their skills while sharing best practices and enhancing an already high level of cohesion," the embassy said.
It added Philippine and US forces will conduct humanitarian and civic assistance projects, including engineering civic action projects that will improve local infrastructure, and cooperative health engagements to share medical best practices.
They will also help the local Filipino medical community with treating patients.
"Bilateral Philippine-U.S. military training opportunities such as PHIBLEX 15 fortify our strong foundation of interoperability and enrich the relationship we have across a range of military operations — from disaster relief, to complex expeditionary maneuvers," the embassy said.

AMWSLAI receives award from AFP

From the Philippine Star (Sep 23): AMWSLAI receives award from AFP

From left: Col. Benedicto Jovellanos, deputy commander for Administration, AFP Medical Center; Brig. Gen. Normando Sta. Ana Jr., AFP Commander, AFP Medical Center; retired Philippine Air Force Col. Ricardo Nolasco Jr., AMWSLAI chairman and president; and Major Gen. Virgilio Domingo AFP deputy chief of staff (representing AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.)

The Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association (AMWSLAI) recently received a Plaque of Appreciation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “in grateful appreciation for invaluable and unwavering contributions to the AFP and the AFP Medical Center in particular.” The awarding was held last Sept. 3 during the celebration of the 77th AFPMC founding anniversary. The award was signed by Brig. Gen. Normando Sta. Ana.

AMWSLAI, headed by Ret. PAF Col. Ricardo Nolasco as chairman and president, is the undisputed pioneer in the non-stock savings and loan association in the country with 20 branches and 52 extension offices. Col. Nolasco said the primary purpose of AMWSLAI is to uplift the welfare and wellbeing of its more than 200,000 members composed of active and retired members of the AFP and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and their families by providing accessible and affordable credit to assist them with their social and economic needs.

The association has been the recipient of various awards, including the No. 1 Financial Institution of the Year from the Shoppers Choice Awards in 2005.


AFP awards CDO ROTC as ‘top unit in PH’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 22): AFP awards CDO ROTC as ‘top unit in PH’

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The Office of the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) awarded the Reserve Officer Training Corps of Xavier University as the country’s “Top ROTC Unit of the Year” on September 6, during the 35th National Reservist Week Celebration at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

The plaque of recognition was officially turned over to XU president Fr Roberto “Bobby” C Yap SJ by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) Region 10 Commandant Lt Col Lino D Inahid on Sept 17, Wednesday.

“This award is a result of striving for excellence,” said Lt Col Inahid who is also the commanding officer of XU ROTC.

“Let’s do this again,” he added as a challenge for future ROTC engagements of XU.

National Service Training Program (NSTP) formator Faith Silmonet expressed her happiness after XU ROTC was hailed at the best reserve corps.

“We’re glad about this national award. I just knew that there was an award for XU ROTC and we were notified to witness the turn-over ceremony,” she said.

This year’s recipients for the ROTC awards were screened intensively through series of interviews and board deliberations.

The second and third places were given to the Pamantasan ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila) of the Philippine Navy and to the University of the Philippines Visayas of the Philippine Army, respectively.


Among Asians, Filipinos trust US the most - survey

From the Philippine Star (Sep 23): Among Asians, Filipinos trust US the most - survey

Military officers from the US, Philippines, Asutralia and others stand at attention during the entrance of the colors to signal  the opening ceremony for the joint US-Philippines military exercise dubbed Balikatan 2014 on May 5, 2014 at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Quezon City. More than 5,000 U.S. and Filipino troops have begun two weeks of military exercises to flex their muscle in jointly dealing with potential crisis in the Philippines, which is prone to natural disasters and has been locked in a dangerous standoff with China over a disputed shoal. This year's war games focuses on maritime security. AP/Bullit Marquez

The United States has an ally in the Philippines, where an overwhelming majority sees it favorably at 92 percent—the highest among surveyed Asian countries.

Bruce Stokes, stated in a presentation delivered last weekend and posted online, cited a survey by US-based think tank Pew Research Center and noted that only 6 percent of Filipinos were found to have an "unfavorable" view of the US within the survey period.

The survey was conducted from March 17 to June 5 across 44 countries totaling 48,643 respondents through "nationally represented" telephone and face-to-face interviews with adults of 18 years and older.

Across age groups, the Philippines also leads as 94 percent of ages 18 to 29, 91 percent of ages 30 to 49 and 90 percent of ages 50 and above positively see the US.

Pew Research Center survey results showing Asian countries' view of the United States. Chart lifted from Bruce Stokes' presentation posted Saturday, September 20.
The survey came amid the Philippines' long-standing territorial dispute with regional power, China, in which the US has supported the country's pursuit for arbitration and slammed China's "provocative" actions at sea. The Philippines and the US, moreover, are defense treaty allies with a long history of bilateral relations.

Stokes, meanwhile, said South Korea follows the rank with 82 percent of its citizens with "favorable" perceptions of the Western power, followed by Vietnam and Bangladesh with 76 percent each, Thailand with 73 percent and Japan with 66 percent.

Also a majority of Indonesians (59 percent), Indians (55 percent) and Malaysians (51 percent) look at the US positively.

Only half of the Chinese—that is at 50 percent—have a favorable view of the US, while 43 percent saying they see it unfavorably.

Pakistan leads in unfavorable opinions of the US, with 59 percent, while only 14 percent say America is favorable.


Guard assists in rebuilding RP classrooms

Posted to the Pacific Daily News (Sep 23): Guard assists in rebuilding RP classrooms

Engineers from the Guam National Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines work together to rebuild damaged classrooms and buildings at Marasbaras National High School in Tacloban City, Philippines, following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan last November.

<B>Working together:</B> Engineers from the Guam National Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines work together to rebuild damaged classrooms and buildings at Marasbaras National High School in Tacloban City, Philippines, following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan last November. Courtesy of Maj. Josephine Blas, public affairs officer, Guam National Guard

Working together: Engineers from the Guam National Guard and the Armed Forces of the Philippines work together to rebuild damaged classrooms and buildings at Marasbaras National High School in Tacloban City, Philippines, following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan last November.
Some of the airmen and soldiers from the Guam National Guard helped a high school in a devastated Philippine city recover from Supertyphoon Haiyan almost a year ago.

About 80 Guam airmen and soldiers joined some of their counterparts from Hawaii and the Philippine military's Reserve Command in rebuilding seven classrooms at Marasbaras National High School in Tacloban City.

The rebuilt classrooms were turned over on Sept. 14, said Maj. Josephine Blas, public affairs officer of the Guam National Guard.

The project began in July with teams of airmen and soldiers from the Guam Guard's 254th Red Horse Squadron, the 1224th Engineer Support Company and the Hawaii Guard's 230th engineers rotating every few weeks through completion of the humanitarian assistance project, Blas stated.

Spc. Nelson Soliva, a Guam Guard soldier who spent several weeks in Tacloban for the rebuilding, said it's been his goal to become more involved in humanitarian efforts.

Almost a year since Haiyan devastated the Visayan region in the Philippines, Soliva saw the continuing suffering of many who survived Haiyan, which was dubbed one of the world's strongest typhoons.

In certain areas, people still live under tarps or in tents, Soliva said.

Schoolchildren arrive in their classrooms soaked when it rained, he said.

'A new beginning'

Maj. Gen. Benny M. Paulino, the Guam National Guard adjutant general, said the project provided "a new beginning" for the students of Marasbaras National High School.

"Our reward is seeing your smiling faces and knowing that in some way, we were able to help you," according to Paulino's statement at the Sept. 14 turnover of the keys to the rebuilt classrooms.

The high school serves hundreds of students who have had to attend classes outdoors since the typhoon.

For Soliva, the experience was both rewarding and eye-opening.

"I became a lot more appreciative of the stuff we have here on Guam," said Soliva, who is a medic in the Guam National Guard.


BRP Alcaraz in Zamboanga for ‘show the flag’ mission

From GMA News (Sep 24): BRP Alcaraz in Zamboanga for ‘show the flag’ mission

BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16), the Navy's second frigate, is now in Zamboanga City for a "show the flag" activity to encourage patriotism and national pride.

The Alcaraz had arrived from its participation in Multilateral Naval Exercise Kakadu 2014 in Australia and port visit to Surabaya, Indonesia.

"The 'Show the Flag' [mission] in Zamboanga included activities such as open house, Thanksgiving Mass, and courtesy calls to the heads of Western Mindanao Command and Naval Forces Western Mindanao, courtesy call to the city mayor," the Philippine Navy said on its Facebook page Tuesday.

Also, it said such an activity seeks to encourage citizens to work for peace and development, "based on the principles of justice, human dignity and the well-being of all people."

Zamboanga City residents are still recovering from the effects of a failed siege by followers of Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari one year ago.

Captain Albert Mogol, Commander of Naval Task Force 80 and Captain Ernesto Baldovino, Commanding Officer of Ramon Alcaraz, are to turn over to Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar goods and books donated by the Filipino Australian Association in Northern Territory (FAANT) for those affected by the failed siege.

At the open house, Zamboanga City residents may board the ship for a guided tour.

The tour aims to promote peace and develop friendly relations among the communities where PF-16 will dock.


AFP chief softens stand vs UNDOF commander

From the Daily Tribune (Sep 23): AFP chief softens stand vs UNDOF commander

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. yesterday softened his stand against United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) commander Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha for supposedly ordering Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights to surrender to Syrian rebels.

Catapang, who previously called for an investigation against Singha, said the UNDOF commander should also be given credit.

The AFP chief cited Singha’s orders to the Philippine contingent in various stations in the Golan Heights to pull out from their positions when it was necessary, apparently due to higher risks.

Catapang said the UNDOF commander called for the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers from Positions 60, 80, 85 and 69 when he saw it was necessary to reposition.

“We need to give him (Singha) credit,” Catapang told reporters during the sendoff ceremony for the 18th Philippine Contingent to Haiti.

Filipino peacekeepers from Position 68 and 69 in the Golan heights were actually involved in the standoff with Syrian rebels late last month. The 35 Filipino troops from Position 69 were extricated by fellow Filipinos from Position 80, escorted by Irish armored assets.

However, the 40 Filipino peacekeepers from Position 68 were attacked by the Syrian rebels, forcing them to engage the rebels into a seven-hour firefight.

Catapang maintained that the Filipino peacekeepers, led by Capt. Nilo Ramones, repositioned to avoid engaging the Syrian rebels into a firefight which is not part of their mission as peacekeepers.

“If you study it carefully, all orders issued by General Singha were followed,” said Catapang, stressing that the repositioning of the Filipino peacekeepers from Position 68 was made to avoid firefight, apparently in compliance to Singha’s order not to fire.

At the height of the standoff, the AFP leadership was closely communicating with the embattled Filipino peacekeepers and supported the plan to vacate Position 68.

“He (Singha) has his own decision given to our soldiers, we also have our own decision…and we saw the easiest thing to do was to reposition because we were there not to go on firefight,” said Catapang.

Previously, the AFP termed the act as the “great escape” after evading the Syrian rebels by leaving their post at the cover of darkness but Singha branded it as “cowardice.”

Prior to the seven-hour firefight, 45 Fijian peacekeepers were disarmed and held by the Syrian rebels.

“I think it was a win-win (situation). General Singha did the right thing, the Armed Forces also did the right thing. At the end of the day, everybody happy. The Fijians were released, so we’re okay,” said Catapang.

Meanwhile, as evidence of its continued commitment to the United Nations peacekeeping mission, the AFP yesterday sent off another 157-strong all-Navy contingent to Haiti.

Catapang and Philippine Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Jesus Millan led the sendoff ceremony for the members of the 18th Philippine Contingent to Haiti, led by Cmdr. Aldrin Doctor.

The 157-strong contingent is composed of 12 officers and 145 enlisted personnel. All of the contingent members are from the Philippine Navy. Nine were female Navy personnel. Thirty-three are from the Marines.


Japanese agency turns over new Mindanao map to Bangsamoro

From the Business Mirror (Sep 23): Japanese agency turns over new Mindanao map to Bangsamoro

THE Japanese government recently turned over an updated geographic information systems (GIS) database to the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) turned over the new GIS database, which was updated with a standard scale of 1:50,000. This makes it more detailed than the 1:200,000-scale maps of Mindanao made in the 1960s.

“The new GIS database was derived from the data sets produced by the Jica project on Topographic Mapping for Peace and Development in Mindanao,” Jica Chief Representative Noriaki Niwa said.

“With more detailed geographic information, we aim to assist Bangsamoro development planners and leaders in implementing strategic and balanced peace and development initiatives in Mindanao,” Niwa added.

GIS database is geographically referenced data that utilized software to analyze specific information, and is being used by advanced countries in decision-making, and in analyzing quantifiable data.

In the case of the Bangsamoro GIS database, informations, such as socioeconomic data, transportation and road networks, as well as land conditions, were analyzed and updated.

Jica also provided BDA staff capacity-building support in using the GIS system.

The GIS database is expected to be useful in the spatial analysis work for the forthcoming Bangsamoro Development Forum in November.

The Japanese agency vowed to further assist BDA in planning sector-based priorities to help complete the Transitional Development Plan 2015-2016 (Phase 1) and the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2016-2020 (Phase 2) of the Bangsamoro.  

Jica has been supporting peace and development in Mindanao with 707 community development and 32 infrastructure subprojects with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

From 2003 to 2013, Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Jica have extended ¥15.1 billion in aid assistance to Mindanao.


DBM slashes military’s 2014, 2015 modernization budget

From the Business Mirror (Sep 22): DBM slashes military’s 2014, 2015 modernization budget

The military’s modernization program would have a total funding shortfall of P20.8 billion in 2014 and 2015, as the budget sought by the Armed Forces to modernize its assets and equipment was turned down by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The Department of National Defense (DND), which oversees the Armed Forces, has proposed a budget of P141.84 billion for next year that also include other agencies and offices under the DND.

Party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo of Magdalo disclosed that while the defense department requested for a budget of P24 billion for 2014 and P26.8 billion for 2015 for the Armed Forces Modernization Program, the twin amounts were not approved by the DBM.

During a recent budget hearing, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said that for 2014, the military received only P9.7 billion for its modernization program.

For 2015, the DBM only approved P20 billion for the same program, which is P6.8-billion less than the AFP’s requested funding of P26.8 billion.

“In other words, there is a shortfall of P6.8 billion in 2015. For 2014 and 2015, there is a shortfall of around P20.8 billion,” said Acedillo, a retired officer of the Air Force.

He added that while the government has other priorities to fund, the AFP Modernization Program should also be adequately supported for the country’s welfare and national security.

“We understand that the AFP Modernization Program, spread for several years, will cost the government a lot. But we firmly believe that there is no price tag for national security,” he said.

Acedillo advised the DND to work closely with the DBM and the House Committee on National Defense in order to find a solution to the budgetary requirements of the modernization program.

During the same hearing, Budget Assistant Secretary Tina Rose Marie Canda said the original segregation or annual amount for the AFP Modernization Program is only P15 billion a year.

“We did not expect that there will be an acceleration in the acquisition of projects for the modernization program,” Canda said.

The AFP modernization law was enacted on February 23, 1995, during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos. On December 11, 2012, President Aquino signed into law Republic Act 10349, which amended the AFP modernization law by extending the program for another 15 years, with an initial budget of P75 billion for the first five years.

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has urged Congress to continue supporting the AFP Modernization Program.

“With your help, we really need our modernization program to proceed. We are very much thankful for this 16th Congress for supporting us because we have already lined up P85 billion for our first horizon,” he said.

Catapang said what he wants done before his term ends is to declare the entire country peaceful and ready for further development, so that it can transition toward territorial defense.

“Inasmuch as we know, the wars we will be facing in the 21st century will all be global— global terrorism, global climate change, global maritime concern, global transnational crime and global proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” he said.


BIFF attacks North Cotabato barangay

From InterAksyon (Sep 24): BIFF attacks North Cotabato barangay

BIFF spokesman Abu Misri with followers. AFP FILE PHOTO

Members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday evening attacked Barangay Maligaya in the town of Kabacan, North Cotabato.

On their sight was the Peacekeeping Force Detachment of 1st Platoon of the Charlie Company of the 7th Infantry Batallion, said 6th ID spokesman Major Dante Gania.

The two sides exchanged gunfire for several minutes but no one was hurt.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama immediately admitted that his group was behind the attack.

The military said the BIFF also encountered some elements of Ilaga, a civilian armed group with a long-standing conflict with BIFF.

Many Ilaga members are farmers whose lives are disrupted by the BIFF attacks.

It is not known if civilians left the area due to the firefight.


Threat of BIFF attack sends Cotabato families fleeing

From Rappler (Sep 24): Threat of BIFF attack sends Cotabato families fleeing

More than 100 families sought temporarily shelter at the municipal gymnasium of Kabacan town, fearing a repeat of attacks by Muslim rebels years ago

More than 100 families sought temporarily shelter at the municipal gymnasium of Kabacan town Tuesday night, September 23, amid threats of attack by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Starting late Tuesday afternoon until midnight, residents of Lower Paatan and Kuyapon villages fled their homes after receiving reports that a number of renegade rebels were planning to launch an attack on inner barangays of Kabacan town.

A few years ago, the BIFF attacked these same villages, displacing hundreds of families as well.

Barangay (village) officials and tanod (watchers) assisted the fleeing families toward the town proper, according to municipal social workers.

Police and the military in Kabacan town have tightened security in the area. The BIFF has not issued a statement.


Peace brokers grilled: Does Bangsamoro bill create sub-state?

From Rappler (Sep 23): Peace brokers grilled: Does Bangsamoro bill create sub-state?

Senators raise concerns over the 'single biggest issue' in creating a Bangsamoro entity: Will central government still prevail over the Bangsamoro government?

FIRST BRIEFING. Senator Bongbong Marcos (left), chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, talks to Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles (right) and Bangsamoro chairman Mohaguer Iqbal (center) before the start of a briefing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Albert Calvelo/PRIB

FIRST BRIEFING. Senator Bongbong Marcos (left), chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government, talks to Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles (right) and Bangsamoro chairman Mohaguer Iqbal (center) before the start of a briefing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Albert Calvelo/PRIB

It's a criticism that has been hurled at the proposed law seeking to create a new autonomous government in Mindanao – that it creates a state within a state, threatening the sovereignty of the Philippines.

On the first Senate briefing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law on Tuesday, September 23, Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr asked the peace panels that negotiated and crafted the bill about the "elephant in the room."

Marcos cited the 2008 Supreme Court decision, which junked as unconstitutional the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domains between the Arroyo government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that sought to create a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity.

"If the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity is a state in all but name as it has a permanent population, a defined territory, a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states, this would seem to describe as well the Bangsamoro (political entity). Why is it not a state within the state?" said Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on local governments.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel Ferrer answered: "Your honor, I think the first criteria actually applies to all local government [units]. With regard to the third criteria, it's very clearly stated in the draft bill in accordance with the Constitution that the matter over foreign policy, foreign affairs belongs to the central government and is co-shared with the Senate when it comes to ratification of treaties."

Under the final peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in March, powers would be divided into reserved powers for the central government, exclusive powers for the Bangsamoro, and shared powers between the two.

Marcos noted that there are specific powers devolved to the Bangsamoro that could impinge on the sovereignty of the state. For instance, barter trade and counter-trade with ASEAN countries is listed under the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government – a power that would involve foreign policy.

"[If we compare them with other LGUs], LGUs are not allowed to enter joint economic agreements, they cannot take out loans from foreign entitties or foreign banks, whereas the Bangsamoro is allowed to do that, so there is a difference," Marcos said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Deles clarified that the power is limited to the regulation of barter trade.

"They are not allowed to enter into agreements. In fact, this is already a devolved power under Republic Act 9054 (the ARMM Organic Act)," Deles said.

During the early parts of negotiations with the Aquino government, the MILF had proposed for a sub-state that will continue to be under the central government.

While panels have argued that the eventual final peace agreement does not create such, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, a constitutional expert, has called it as unconstitutional as it "attempts to redefine the sovereignty" of the Philippines.

“The Philippine Constitution provides for the powers of the state. The Constitution is supreme. The Agreement reserves to the central government the exercise of so-called ‘reserved powers,’ which are described as powers ‘retained by the central government.’ Thus, the Agreement diminishes the sovereignty of the Philippine government by listing what are the powers that the central government can retain," Santiago earlier said.

This provision is only one of the many issues that senators said the defenders of the Bangsamoro bill need to clarify.

DELIBERATIONS. The defenders of the Bangsamoro Basic Law faces the Senate for the first time since the measure was submitted to Congress. Photo by Rappler
DELIBERATIONS. The defenders of the Bangsamoro Basic Law faces the Senate for the first time since the measure was submitted to Congress. Photo by Rappler
'More clarifications needed'
How power will be shared between the central government and the Bangsamoro government is the "single biggest subject" that needs to be deliberated on about the proposed law, Marcos said.
The Bangsamoro bill seeks to establish an autonomous government in Mindanao that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and give the ne entity wider political and fiscal autonomy.
It will be parliamentary in form, to be composed of a combination of political parties elected through proportional representation, district representatives, and reserved seats similar to the current party-list system.
It is also designed to get automatic appropriations similar to the internal revenue allotment of LGUs. Under the bill, the Bangsamoro will get a 4% share in national internal revenue collections, to be taken from the national government's share.
With a new kind of autonomy being proposed for the Bangsamoro, senators Aquilino Pimentel III and Pia Cayetano shared Marcos' concerns about how possible conflicts between the Bangsamoro government and the central government will be solved.
Marcos asked: What if, in the transition process, there are issues that cannot be resolved? Who will prevail?
Deles said: "The President. The President is the only President there is."
Senators questioned the definition of the phrase "parity of esteem," referred to in the proposed law as the concept stating that: "The Central Govenrment shall respect the exercise of competencies and exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro government. The Bangsamoro Government shall respect the exercise of the competencies and reserved powers of the Central Government."
Marcos said the provision gives yet another impression that the Bangsamoro government is on equal footing as the national government, giving rise to the issue of sovereignty.
Lawyer Bong Montesa, one of the independent lawyers who assisted the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, the body which crafted the first draft of the law, said "parity of esteem" does not refer to "parity of powers" but is about "mutual respect" for the "competencies" of the national and Bangsamoro government.
Other concerns on power-sharing raised in the briefing included:
Under the power-sharing provisions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum will be created. If there are contradictory enactments by the Bangsamoro legislature and the Philippines Congress, this is to be negotiated? What law will be followed?
What if there is a difference between the Bangsamoro development plan and the national development plan, which will prevail?
The BBL seeks to create a Bangsamoro police that will still be part of the Philippine National Police. Will they be under the direct control of the PNP chief? Can they be ordered by the PNP chief to carry out duties? Who will prevail between the chief minister and the PNP chief?
The BBL seeks to create a Bangsamoro Commission on Audit, without prejudice to the powers of COA to audit the autonomous government. In case of disparity in their findings, which one will prevail?
On the Philippine Congress-Bangsamoro Parliament Forum, government legal counsel Anna Tarhata Basman said national distinction will still apply, and the forum only enables both bodies "to prevent contradictions" and harmonize legislations.
Marcos asked: What if the conflict is not resolved?
The panels did not give a direct answer. Instead, Ferrer provided a background on how the provision came into being.
On the difference between the national and Bangsamoro development plan, Deles said mechanisms will be put in place to harmonize the two. Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the Bangsamoro development plan will be a "replica" of the government development plan.
On the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro chief minister and the PNP over the Bangsamoro police, Ferrer said: "It's going to be shared power just like in the exercise of powers in LGUs, where LGUs exercise operational control and supervision as well."
Marcos asked whether the PNP chief can countermand the order of the chief minister.
Deles answered: "In principle, yes, since the Chief Minister also gets his powers from the regional police board, which is part of National Police Commission."
On auditing bodies, government peace panel member Senen Bacani said the Bangsamoro Commission on Audit will have a mandate similar to the internal audit of private corporations, with external audit done by the national COA.
Marcos said the Senate will engage with Iqbal on how far Congress can amend the proposed law with respect to the peace accord signed.
"The principle they are affirming is that of affirmative action because Bangsamoro lands have been left behind in terms of investment. But then, again, many LGUs make the same argument," Marcos said. Whatever it is, again, the Bangsamoro would have to explain exactly why their situation is not the same with other regions."
The present ARMM is plagued by poverty as it continues to suffer from the lowest gross regional domestic product in the country.
The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law seeks to create institutions that will put an end to 4 decades of armed struggle in Mindanao that has killed over 120,000 people.
Senator JV Ejercito urged the peace executives to talk to local officials in areas that will be included in the plebiscite. Ejercito said many mayors he has talked to have expressed skepticism over joining. He did not name who the mayors were.
Deles said she believes the skepticism over the proposed Bangsamoro is borne out of the lack of information about it.
In a short speech before the briefing started, Iqbal sought to address comments that the creation of the Bangsamoro government is divisive and is only a ploy of the MILF toward gaining independence.
"What divides the country is neglect, the lack of appreciation for diversity," Iqbal said. "The Bangsamoro is our best insurance against independence. If the Bangsamoro work to bring peace, then independence will become less attractive. Look at the result of the no vote for Scotland, where the no vote defeated the yes vote. The same applies for the Bangsamoro," he said.
The Tuesday briefing is only the first of a series of hearings on the proposed law.
The House of Representatives is set to conduct its first committee hearing on the BBL on Wednesday, September 24.
Both the Senate and the House will conduct hearings in Mindanao.