Monday, September 29, 2014

Big number of loose guns a problem–MILF

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 30): Big number of loose guns a problem–MILF


AFP file photo

Aside from the weapons of more than 10,000 fighters, a huge challenge to the normalization process is the presence of tens of thousands of loose firearms in the areas covered by the new Bangsamoro entity.

Gadzhali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, admitted that even among the ranks of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, there were firearms that were not issued by the organization.

“There were some who had firearms who lent them to their relatives who were fighting for us,” Jaafar said.

A military source earlier said that some of the firearms of the MILF fighters had come from private armed groups and political families in the Muslim region which would further complicate the decommissioning process.

If these firearms are not surrendered, they may be used in criminal activities or sold to other armed groups, the source said.

Jaafar said the MILF had already addressed the issue of the loose firearms in the process of normalization but refused to divulge details.

“We do not want to go ahead of what the independent decommissioning body is planning. But we have already talked about our recommendations,” Jaafar said.

In the Annex on Normalization in the peace accord signed between the national government and the MILF, both groups will assess the plan for the disbanding of private armies.

Diverse approaches
It is not yet clear if it would be a military-led law enforcement operation or a joint operation with the MILF, but both parties agreed the disbanding of private armed groups will use “diverse and appropriate approaches.”

As the panels meet in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the disarmament process, the MILF ensured that all its fighters and supporters would strictly observe the gradual decommissioning of forces.

The MILF, however, repeatedly refused to make public the numbers of its firearms and other armaments, asserting that this was tactical information that would only be divulged at the right time.

As agreed upon under the Annex on Normalization, the decommissioning is defined as a process that includes activities aimed at ensuring a smooth transition for MILF fighters to productive civilian life.

To attain normalization and productivity, a comprehensive needs assessment will be conducted for the rebels and their communities as the basis for the crafting of comprehensive socioeconomic development programs.

An Independent Decommissioning Body composed of Brunei, Norway and Turkey will provide the experts needed for the decommissioning body.

The body is tasked with conducting inventory, verification and validation of BIAF members, weapons and arms, and to develop and implement the schedule for decommissioning.

The most meticulous and critical job of the body is the planning of the design and implementation of techniques and technologies for weapons collection, transport and storage. A joint mines detection and clearing operation will be conducted by the government and MILF in conflict areas to ensure the safety of civilians.

But for now, the most important thing to be settled, Jaafar said, is the immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law so the normalization process could proceed full steam.

“Without the BBL there will be no Bangsamoro government, and without the Bangsamoro government there will be no decommissioning,” Jaafar said.

US destroyer arrives in Subic Bay for routine port call

From InterAksyon (Sep 30): US destroyer arrives in Subic Bay for routine port call

US Navy file photo of the USS Halsey, an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, which arrived in Subic Bay on Sept. 29, 2014 for a routine port call. (Photo: US Navy)

USS Halsey (DDG 97), an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, arrived in Subic Bay on Monday for a routine port call that highlights the strong historic, community, and military connections between the Philippines and the United States.

The visit will allow the ship to replenish supplies as well as give the crew an opportunity for rest and relaxation.

While in Subic Bay the sailors of USS Halsey are eager to enjoy Olongapo City and strengthen their understanding of a country with historical ties to the United States and the US Navy.

The USS Halsey, named after Fleet Admiral William Frederick “Bull” Halsey Jr. (1882-1959), is part of the US Pacific Fleet and is homeported at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.

The USS Halsey is commanded by CDR Linda Seymour.

Activist farmer shot in Tagum City

From MindaNews (Sep 29): Activist farmer shot in Tagum City

DAVAO CITY – A 31-year old activist farmer was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen at around p.m. Monday, shortly after attending the Daao del Norte-Compostela Valley launch of the People’s Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel (PIAP).

A press statement from Bayan Southern Mindanao said Dexter Librando, an organizer of the Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (KMP) in Davao Del Norte was shot along 3rd Avenue near Fatima parish in Tagum City. Librando was rushed to the Tagum Doctors’ Hospital.

“Some of the participants of the launching earlier monitored suspicious men in the forum who tailed Librando when he left the venue,” the statement said.

“Librando has been active in the campaign against militarization of peasant and lumad communities in Davao Del Norte,” it added.

The human rights group, Karapatan Southern Mindanao said in a media advisory that Librando is in critical condition.

Grenade explodes at gas station in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Sep 29): Grenade explodes at gas station in Southern Philippines

BASILAN PROVINCE – One of two men riding tandem on a motorcycle tossed a fragmentation grenade and exploded at a gasoline station on Monday in Isabela City in Basilan, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said there were no casualties in the attack that targeted the ASL gasoline station in Riverside village. The assailants fled after the explosion.

It was unknown why police or military failed to intercept the still unidentified men despite the spate of attacks largely blamed by authorities to the extremist group Abu Sayyaf.

No individual claimed responsibility for the latest assault, but the province is a known lair of the Abu Sayyaf and other rebel groups.

5 Mindanao areas tagged as IS sources of jihadists

From the Manila Standard Today (Sep 30): 5 Mindanao areas tagged as IS sources of jihadists

DESPITE official denials, there has indeed been recruitment of Filipinos youths in the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Basilan, Sulu and Zamboanga Sibugay and part of the recruitment process is completed online, a retired police intelligence officials insisted on Monday.

Former National Police intelligence director Rodolfo Mendoza said the recruiters were foreigners, mostly Malaysians but also Arabs and Egyptians, who have joined causes with the local militant groups Abu Sayyaf and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

“These militant organizations have responded to the recruitment by Abubak’r Baghdadi, the commander of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria,” Mendoza said, noting that Malaysia recently warned the government that five more Malaysian extremists are believed to be hiding in Mindanao.

But Muslim Mindanao Gov. Mujiv Hataman also insisted that there has been no recruitment for the Islamic State in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and no movements of IS members in Basilan and Lanao del Sur have been monitored.

“Almost every week I was in Basilan when those reports came out. In fact I called the intelligence community in Basilan, the provincial director and even the battalion commander, they said they don’t know anything about it. Me, I’m sure that there is no ISIS in ARMM,” Hataman said.

At the same time, Hataman said he was outraged by the activities of the Abu Sayyaf and the BIFF who are supposedly coddling foreign jihadists.
Their actions, he said, are not far from those of IS, including beheading of civilians, theft and robbery, and terrorizing and these are against the law and the Creator.

But Mendoza said it was a mistake to belittle persistent reports of Filipinos joining the IS cause, adding IS members do not carry membership cards and are not listed in membership rosters.

“They swore allegiance to the Islamic State and accept that they are part of the caliphate or its Islamic army and it’s [an almost undetectable] process done online,” Mendoza said, adding that if you have sworn to support and be part of IS then you are an IS member.

Mendoza noted that some Muslims would consider their oath “qitil fi sabil illah (or, fighting in the path of God)” and will be backed up with admirable religious zeal.

Mendoza noted that the authorities can insist on waiting for proof of the presence of IS or immediately act on local and foreign warnings.

“The mere allegiance by Filipino militants to the ISIS does not only show support but will also include acts for the for the sake of cause,” Mendoza said.

“The essential ingredients of the bayah to Baghdadi and the ISIS is an obligation and obedience clearly shows that Filipino Islamist organizations have been recruited and converted,” Mendoza said.

While the ISIS influence progresses, Mendoza reiterated his call on the government to establish an entirely different but effective strategy in dealing with the matter and cooperating with neighboring countries that have already expressed alarm at the developments.

Last week, Malaysia placed Sabah on “red alert” purportedly because of the videos showing Abu Sayyaf militants swearing allegiance to the IS. It was also at that time that they warned the Philippine government about the five unidentified Malaysian extremists.

Last week, Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told the Malaysian newspaper The Star that Kuala Lumpur fears an Islamic State strike along the Sulu Straits, between Sabah on the island of Borneo and the southern Philippines.

The paper quoted Hishammuddin as saying he will be meeting with Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss allocating funds to safeguard the country’s waters.

Hishammuddin also announced that Kuala Lumpur will deploy a container freighter, MT Mas Lima, to the waters off Sabah to serve as a forward base from which they can interdict militants and criminals trying to enter Sabah.

The New York-based Soufan Group also revealed that as many as 200 Indonesians and at least 30 Malaysians have traveled to Syria to fight with the Islamic State and other rebel groups via countries such as Egypt and Turkey.

The extremists Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters has also claimed that it sent 200 Filipino fighters  in a “do or die” mission to fight alongside Islamic State rebels and were led by a leader identified only as Mohamad Husin Aljabouree.

BIFF leader Samer Samsudin claimed the BIFF fighters were able to slip out of the country from their hideout in Maguindanao by using the country’s backdoor to Malaysia, where they boarded a plane bound to the Middle East.

Also in July, videos of Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon showing him pledging allegiance to the Islamic State appeared on YouTube, but security officials said it was only a ploy to raise money and there was no proof that IS is indeed Filipino youth to their cause.

But it is not the first time Malaysia terrorist would seek refuge in Mindanao after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, alias Marwan, sought refuge from the BIFF where he is believed to be teaching Filipino jihadists how to make bombs.

ARMM governor: No ISIS presence in the region

From GMA News (Sep 29): ARMM governor: No ISIS presence in the region

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv Hataman dismissed reports that members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have gotten into the region.

A report on GMA News TV's “News to Go” on Monday said Hataman attributed the connection merely to bandit groups in the region identifying with the notorious jihadist group's “line of thinking.”

“Ang tingin ko rito nakikisakay lang dito sa uso-uso, dahil uso ang ISIS,” he said. “At walang additional security threat kung magpahayag na 'sinusuportahan namin ang ISIS' dahil 'yung line of thinking nila pareho rin.”

[Video report]

Hataman said the provincial government is coordinating with its local counterparts and has so far gathered no information about the speculated presence of ISIS members.

The Abu Sayyaf, which has aired its support for ISIS, are known to have forces in the provinces of Sulu and Basilan, the “News To Go” report said.

Recently, a mosque in Marawi City brought out the ISIS flag to show its support to the group, it added.

Earlier reports had quoted Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and former President Fidel V. Ramos as saying that ISIS was training at least 100 Filipinos.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is investigating the reports, said it has yet to receive any verified information on any recruitment activities by ISIS in the Philippines.

Aside from the Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has a signed a peace deal with the government, has also pledged support to ISIS.

Last Thursday, President Benigno Aquino III expressed the country's intetion to assist in the United States' campaign against the ISIS.

Add'l military support

Meanwhile, a separate “News To Go” report said the military will be sending additional troops to Mindanao in line with the threat that could be posed by ISIS.

[Video report]

The 501st Infantry Brigade and its attached units from Northern Luzon will be assigned to Western Mindanao for additional forces in Sulu, while the 21st and 41st Infantry Battalions will be sent to Zamboanga Peninsula, the report said.

The 501st Infantry Brigade was previously stationed to keep watch over the provinces of Kalinga, Apayao, Mt. Province, Ifugao, Nueva Vizcaya, and Benguet, including Baguio City, it added.

PHL scores ‘expansionist territorial claims’ at UN assembly

From GMA News (Sep 30): PHL scores ‘expansionist territorial claims’ at UN assembly

The Philippines on Monday (US time) scored China anew for its "expansionist territorial claims," this time before an assembly at the United Nations.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said China's expansionist territorial claims violated Philippine rights, according to an article posted on the UN website Tuesday.

“We have invited a State Party to settle our maritime disputes peacefully through UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea) including its provisions on dispute settlement, specifically arbitration,” del Rosario said at the UN Assembly’s 69th annual high-level meeting.

The DFA secretary did not mention China by name, the UN news release said.

“However, it [China] has refused to join us and has continued to unilaterally embark on an expansionist claim that violates the legitimate rights of the Philippines and other littoral neighbors under UNCLOS such as their Exclusive Economic Zones and Continental Shelves," del Rosario added.

“Instead of peacefully resolving the maritime disputes within the framework of UNCLOS, said State embarked on a series of dangerous, reckless and forceful activities in an attempt to impose unilateral change in the maritime status quo of the South China Sea.”

After USS Guardian case, SC justice sees need to refine sovereign immunity doctrine

From GMA News (Sep 29): After USS Guardian case, SC justice sees need to refine sovereign immunity doctrine

The writ of kalikasan plea on the grounding of a US Navy minesweeper in the Tubbataha Reef in January 2013 might have been junked by the Supreme Court but the ruling has opened doors for a possible review of the doctrine of sovereign immunity as applied in the Philippines.

In a concurring opinion, SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen emphasized the need in future cases to refine the scopes and limitations of the doctrine of sovereign immunity so those responsible for environment-related incidents like the grounding in the Tubbataha may be held liable.
"Our doctrine regarding sovereign immunity needs to be refined in the proper case with respect to its nature, source, and its limitations," Leonen said.

He said the high court can study refining the limits of the doctrine of sovereign immunity's application when determining jurisdictional immunities of foreign warships, "specifically when it violates domestic laws implementing international obligations even while on innocent passage."

The doctrine is currently understood as "a basic right extended to states by other states on the basis of respect for sovereignty and independence," said Leonen. In the 1987 Philippine Constitution, sovereign immunity is contained in Article XVI, Section 3, which provides that "[the] State may not be sued without its consent."

The Guardian grounding

The USS Guardian ran aground on Tubbataha Reef on January 17, 2013 but much of its potentially harmful content – including 15,000 gallons of fuel – were removed from the ship immediately. The ship was cut up and finally removed in late March of that year.

Leonen said that while states have agreed that sovereign immunity is legally binding, there is still a lack of international agreement on how it should be invoked and on the extent of the immunity in some cases.

"Those who have directly and actually committed culpable acts or acts resulting from gross negligence resulting in the grounding of a foreign warship in violation of our laws defining a tortious act or one that protects the environment which implement binding international obligations cannot claim sovereign immunity," Leonen said.

Leonen however said the Philippines has no law yet on the application of sovereign immunity in cases of damages or violations of domestic law involving agents of a foreign state. He, however, noted that Philippine laws "have openings to hold those who have committed an act ultra vires [beyond the powers of the entity] responsible in our domestic courts."

Leonen said that in the past, the SC had ruled that "tortious acts or crimes committed while discharging official functions are not covered by sovereign immunity."

He also noted that in a previous case, the court held American naval officers liable for damages in their personal capacities.

Petitioners had no legal standing

Leonen said the petitioners in the Tubbataha case have no legal standing since the law requires "that parties bringing the suit are sufficiently and substantially possessed of individual interest and capability so that they can properly shape the issues brought before this court."

As a result of the Tubbataha case, Leonen called for a review of the rule on class suits brought as representative suits mentioned in the SC's 1993 ruling in Oposa v. Factoran.

The rule "allows a nonrepresentative group to universally represent a whole population as well as an unborn generation binding them to causes of actions, arguments, and reliefs which they did not choose."

Leonen expressed fears that in the future, "generations yet unborn [will] suffer from the legal inability to assert against false representation."

He claimed that in environmental cases, "allowing anyone from the present generation to represent others who are yet unborn poses possible dangers... Decisions of this court will bind future generations."

Leonen said the current procedure on representative suits will "not only weaken the minors' and unborn's ability to decide for themselves but may have unforeseen and unintended detrimental effects on their interests."

In its ruling, the high court said the petitioners should have first exhausted political and administrative means before pursuing legal action.

The high court denied the plea for damages because the recovery of damages, including the collection of administrative fines under Republic Act 10067, should be made in a separate civil suit or one deemed instituted with any criminal action.

As to the compensation and rehabilitation measures through diplomatic channels, the high court deferred to the executive department.

Leonen said had the case regarding the Tubbataha grounding been brought in a "timely manner, with the proper remedy, and in the proper court," sovereign immunity can be made not to apply to all the foreign respondents in the petition.

SC no 'environmental super body'

Leonen also said that the writ of kalikasan should not be abused, nor should the high tribunal be converted into an "environmental super body."

"The writ of kalikasan is not an all-embracing legal remedy to be wielded like a political tool... Abuse of our [legal] procedures contributes to the debasement of the proper function of the remedies and invites inordinate interference from this court from what may be technical and political decisions that must be made in a different forum," said Leonen.

"(Also) Our sympathy for environmental concerns never justifies our conversion to an environmental super body," the magistrate added.

Leonen, a known environmentalist prior to being a Supreme Court Justice, co-founded the Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center Inc.-Kasama sa Kalikasan (LRCKSK-Friends of the Earth Philippines), a legal and policy research institution advocating the rights of long term upland communities.

US, Philippines Launch Military Exercise Near Spratly Islands

From the Voice of America (Sep 29): US, Philippines Launch Military Exercise Near Spratly Islands

Spratly Islands, China Sea Territorial Claims

The Philippines and the United States have launched an annual military exercise in the South China Sea, near waters where China is engaged in bitter territorial disputes with its neighbors.

Around 5,000 sailors and Marines from both countries began 11-days of maritime maneuvers on Monday. The Philippine Bilateral Exercises, or "Phiblex" is designed to test the readiness of the two allies to respond to emergencies of any kind.

The two countries will practice boat raids, beach landings, live fire exercises and armored maneuvers near the Spratly islands and Scarborough Shoal, where China has been involved in a string of tense confrontations with rival claimants.

Portions of the resource-rich Spratlys are also claimed by Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Video: AFP boosts security in Mindanao amid ISIS threat

From ABS-CBN/Bandila (Sep 29): Video: AFP boosts security in Mindanao amid ISIS threat

[Video report: "AFP boosts security in Mindanao amid ISIS threat"

Intensified military security in Zamboanga Peninsula . Four are being monitored there : The Abu Sayyaf , MNLF - Misuari Faction , NPA and the alleged recruitment of ISIS in Mindanao.

Pinaigting ng militar ang seguridad sa Zamboanga peninsula. Apat ang binabantayan doon: Ang Abu Sayyaf, MNLF-Misuari faction, NPA at ang umano'y recruitment ng ISIS sa Mindanao. I-Bandila mo, RJ Rosalado. Bandila, Setyembre 29, 2014, Lunes

MILF: Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DA 12 turnover farm supplies to South Cotabato farmers

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 29): Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DA 12 turnover farm supplies to South Cotabato farmers

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro conducted its 2nd program launching with the turnover of agricultural farm supplies on September 23, 2014 at Barangay Sumbakil, Polomolok, South Cotabato. The Department of Agriculture-Region XII provided the farm supplies.
Barangay Sumbakil is one of the ten priority sites selected by the MILF for the Sajahatra Bangsamoro interventions. The delivery and turn-over of the farm supplies were the result of a Community Livelihood Needs Assessment Plan (CLNAP) undertaken by twenty-five community volunteers (CV’s).

The Department of Agriculture Region XII delivered 100 sacks of Certified Palay Seeds, 50 sacks of OPV Corn Seeds, certificate of turnover for 5 heads of Carabaos or water buffalo, certificate of turnover for 1 unit of power tiller, certificate of turnover for 1 unit of corn sheller and certificate of turnover for 1 unit for rice thresher.

The Department of Social and Development Welfare (DSWD-XII) paid 43 cash-for-work workers from the Municipality of Polomolok, South Cotabato and 203 cash-for-work workers from Municipality of Banga, South Cotabato.

The program launching and turnover were witnessed by more than 300 community residents. Luisito Muntalbo, OPAPP Assistant Secretary graced the occasion and witnessed the turnover and delivery of goods by DA XII.

 He said: -“Sa kapayapaan lamang po natin patuloy at siguradong makakamit ang ating mga pangarap para sa ating sarili, sa ating anak at sa ating mga pamilya… At sana ang lahat po ng ating pamimigay ay maipagpapatuloy”.

Based on the facial expressions of the residents, the Sajahatra Bangsamoro can conclude that it has initially performed its mandate for the Bangasamoro community in that part of South Cotabato, which is predominantly populated by settlers.

Happy and fortunate for the farm supplies given to them, they are hoping for the dawn of sustainable peace and progress in Mindanao.

MILF: Two feuding clans in North Cotabato explore options for settlement

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 29): Two feuding clans in North Cotabato explore options for settlement

Through the joint efforts of Local Initiatives for Peace and Development (LIPAD)-Mindanao and the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) in coordination with the local government unit of Aleosan, North Cotabato, the 7th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIAF-MILF), and other concerned individuals; the two feuding clans of Minanimbong and Dagadas of Barangay Tunganuwan, Aleosan Cotabato met in a peaceful dialogue on September 24, 2014 at Barangay Villarica, Midsayap Cotabato.
The meeting dubbed “Exploratory meeting” resulted to crafting of options towards settlement of the clan’s conflict.

The parties agreed to explore possible option towards settlement of their long year’s of conflict that caused displacements, torching of houses, and loss of lives to both sides.

According to Hamsa Landayan, the Executive Director of LIPAD Mindanao, “That prior to the said meeting there were series of back channeling and shuttle communication efforts purposely just to ensure the commitment of both sides to meet with full trust on one another.

UNYPAD President Rahib Kudto, also a lead facilitator of the said gathering, said that there were seven-point decisions agreed and reached by the parties.

The MILF representatives Nayang Timan, Engr. Noldin Oyod, Project Manager of NIA MMIPC II; Mayor Vicente Sorupia, Jr. of Aleosan municipality and Samad Idol of LIPAD Mindanao were part of the facilitators.

Among of the guests in the meeting were representatives of LGU of municipality of Pagalungan represented by Administrative Officer Datu Zainudin Mamasabulod and Major Dimasalang Mamayog of the 7th IB PA from Pikit municipality, Nonviolent Peaceforce and other CSO’s.

The program was made possible with support from the The Asia Foundation (TAF) and the UNYPAD.

MILF: Heated exchange on Bangsamoro law debates

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 29): Heated exchange on Bangsamoro law debates

For a bill meant to ensure a lasting peace in Mindanao, it got off to a rather contentious start at the lower House.
Ad Hoc Committee deliberations on the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) began at the lower House on Wednesday amid heated exchanges on some of the bill's contentious points.

The first to be settled is the issue of the security of tenure of the local government employees who will be affected by the reorganization of the bureaucracy in the Bangsamoro areas.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita "Ging" Deles said, "All civil service eligibilities will be respected. We imagine there will be some reorganization. Separation benefits when necessary will follow the law of the land. Civil service laws and entitlements will be respected."

Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat wanted the earlier drafts of the BBL submitted to the panel, noting the delays in the submission of the BBL to Congress.

Committee chairman Rufus Rodriguez rejected the motion -- forcing a vote which Lobregat won 19-8.

Lobregat, a critic of the BBL, began his interpellation by saying, "I would also like to say we are for peace. Just, long and lasting peace. We are not anti-peace. We want BBL to be fair, just, acceptable, feasible, and consistent with the Constitution and existing law."

"If ever and whenever we raise certain issues or concerns, or question certain provisions, we want to clarify any and all ambiguities as these will affect not only areas under Bangsamoro but entire Mindanao and Philippines as well."

Cavite Rep. Elpidio Barzaga wanted to insert a provision that says the Bangsamoro will not secede from the Philippines.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal left it for Deles to answer. Deles felt it was unnecessary but left it to Congress.

Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Hataman felt that it was an offensive proposal. Barzaga then withdrew his proposal.

Deles reassured lawmakers that the wording of the draft law abandons Charter change but maintained nothing prevents anyone in the future from proposing Charter change.

Mary Ann Arnaldo of the Mindanao Civil Society Organization Peace Platform drew the ire of legislators in making a pitch for fiscal autonomy for the Bangsamoro, when she said it will spare them from having to bring "durian" or "pomelo" to legislators for their budget.

Lobregat wanted that stricken off the record, finding it insulting. Arnaldo withdrew her comments and apologized.

Representative Fred Castro wanted her to name the legislators. Rodriguez overruled him.


Earlier in the hearing, the MILF addressed fears about the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Iqbal told the panel that "the Bangsamoro is the sum of our hopes and dreams. It may mean nothing to you. It's the whole world to us. It's what we got. It is what we only have. We implore you then to step lightly on these dreams when you discuss the draft law. Do not trample them. Celebrate them. Welcome them."

Iqbal warned the lawmakers against people who sow fear with the aim of stopping the establishment of the Bangsamoro.

For her part, Deles expressed gratitude to Congress for the urgency being given to the law.

The committee has been allowed to start the hearings even during the budget deliberations at the plenary. Rules usually suspend all other committee hearings to give priority to the budget.

Government and MILF negotiators are now sitting on the same side as they lobby Congress for the passage of the law meant to institutionalize the comprehensive agreement signed in March to end the decades old secessionist movement in Mindanao.

The Mindanao Peace Weavers (MPW), meanwhile, held a picket outside the Batasan Pambansa to show support for the beginning of deliberations on the law.

PHIBLEX 15 is EDCA’s soft launch, brings threat

Posted to Ang Malaya (Sep 29): PHIBLEX 15 is EDCA’s soft launch, brings threat

Approximately five thousand Navy and Marines from United States and Philippines kicked-off the eleven-day Amphibious Landing Exercise 15 (PHIBLEX). The ceremony took place at Naval Forces West (NavForWest) headquarters at Barangay San Miguel, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

Kabataan party-list Terry Ridon from Makabayan Bloc said this event between US and PHL is a soft launch of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“Organizers of the PHIBLEX themselves admit that the military exercises have nothing to do with China’s incursion in the West Philippine Sea. In other words, these US warships are not here to drive away China from Panatag Shoal,” Ridon added.

Ridon noted that presence of US warships inside PHL territories brings threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region and did not produce any tangible benefit for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

USS Peleliu (LHA-5), Tarawa-class amphibious assault ship, arrived at Subic Bay Freeport Saturday, September 27 together with USS Germantown (LSD-42) a Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship.

“The promised benefits of the annual military exercises have yet to be seen, but now we have EDCA, which will allow for unhampered military presence in the country,” the Kabataan party-list representative said.

Activities for PHIBLEX 15 will be held at Subic Bay, Clark Air Field and in West Philippine Sea to train amphibious units capable of providing security in the region.

47 cops finish post-blast probe course

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 29): 47 cops finish post-blast probe course

The 47 Negrense police officers, who graduated from the five-day post-blast investigation course, with help of the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, returned to their units, equipped with basic knowledge on bombing investigations.

Supt. William Senoron, acting chief of the Philippine Bomb Data Center, said yesterday that the participants had FBI Special Agent Daric Manser among their trainors.
The five-day training was held at the Panaad Stadium in Brgy. Mansilingan, Bacolod City, from Sept. 22 to Sept. 26. It was financed by the provincial government of Negros Occidental, Senoron said.
Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. was the guest of honor and speaker at the opening ceremony, while his chief of staff and Provincial Legal Officer Jose Ma. Valencia spoke during its closing program on Friday.
Marañon vowed earlier to continue supporting the police in Negros Occidental, as stable peace and order condition attracts more investors to the province.

4,700 troops join PH-US joint exercises near China-claimed waters

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): 4,700 troops join PH-US joint exercises near China-claimed waters

Joint Philippine-US military exercises. PHILIPPINE STAR

PUERTO PRINCESA - Thousands of Philippine and US marines on Monday began military exercises close to flashpoints in the South China Sea, where Beijing is engaged in a bitter territorial with its neighbors.

The 12-day amphibious landing exercises -- involving about 3,500 US marines and sailors and 1,200 Filipino counterparts -- were officially launched from the western island of Palawan, directly facing the South China Sea.

China claims the sea almost in its entirety, and its increasingly assertive efforts to stake its claims have heightened tensions with neighbours including the Philippines, which has conflicting claims to parts of these waters.

But Philippine marine spokesman Lieutenant Jerber Anthony Belonio stressed that the location of the opening ceremonies was not linked to the territorial dispute.

"This has no relation whatsoever. This is just to show the capabilities of our new marine landing brigade which coincidentally is based in Palawan," he told AFP.

The Philippines has recently been beefing up its military assets in Palawan, the country's main outpost to the South China Sea which is a vital sealane, a valuable fishing ground and which is believed to hold vast mineral resources.

The poorly-equipped military has also recently been boosting its ties with defence allies -- particularly the United States, its former colonial power -- in the face of Chinese sabre-rattling.

The US Marine Corps said the exercises would "enhance the interoperability between US Navy and Marine Corps forces and their Philippine counterparts with a focus on improving our bilateral response to regional issues and maritime security crises".

This year's exercises will include small arms and artillery live-fire training, a mechanized assault and paratroop operations.

The USS Peleliu, a US amphibious assault ship, along with two support ships, arrived at the former US Subic naval base on the weekend to take part in the exercises.

In April, the two allies signed a new defence accord giving US forces greater access to Filipino bases as part of a US rebalancing of military power towards rising Asia, which is seen by many analysts as a check to the emerging power of China.

Although the United States has taken no side in the territorial disputes, it has warned China against taking "destabilising actions" in the South China Sea.

The sea is claimed in parts by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia as well as China and the Philippines.

China has been involved in a string of tense maritime incidents with rival claimants in the South China Sea. Earlier this year it placed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, sparking deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation.

New military spokesman is an old hand at the job

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): New military spokesman is an old hand at the job

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, incoming PAO chief of the military: a veteran in the task of representing the AFP.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) “Bantay Laya” Class of 1994 and a veteran in speaking for the military is the incoming chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang has appointed Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc for the position.

He will replace Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala, a product of the Officer Candidate School (OCS).

“The CSAFP (Chief of Staff, AFP) has told me to start serving as the Chief, PAO on October 1,” said Cabunoc.  He is leaving his position as commander of the 7th Civil Relations Group (CRG) at Camp Aguinaldo on October 3.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, the outgoing commander of the 1st CRG based at the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) in Camp Aquino in Tarlac City, will take over Cabunoc's post as the CRG.

In selecting Cabunoc for the position, Catapang was said to have considered the latter’s vast experience in public and media relations.

In 2009, he served as spokesman of the 9th Infantry Division; and in 2010, as the executive officer of the newly-formed Civil Military Operations Battalion. In 2011, he was assigned as Deputy Army Chief of Public Affairs, and  was designated later that year as the Army Chief of Public Affairs and Army spokesman.

Besides his expertise in public and media relations, Cabunoc is also a senior adviser and active participant of the multiple world champion Philippine Dragon Boat Team that recently won another gold in the world competition held in the United States.

AUDIO | German hostages plead with PH, German govts to free them from ASG as soon as possible

From InterAksyon (Sep 29): AUDIO | German hostages plead with PH, German govts to free them from ASG as soon as possible

An audio recording believed to be those of two German hostages of the Abu Sayyaf has them appealing to both the Philippine and Germany governments "to do all they can" to get them out of captivity "as soon as possible" and anxious over their medical condition on top of the threat to their lives.

The audio recording was obtained by News5 a day after the military deployed an estimated 1,000 more soldiers to Mindao to augment the security force there after the Islamic militants threatened to kill one of two German hostages.

A military statement said an Army brigade was flown to the Sulu island group, where the Abu Sayyaf militants are believed to be holding the two German tourists, Stefan Viktor Okonek and Herike Diesen.

In the audio recording, a man introducing himself as Okonek, said he is a medical doctor who had looked forward to a holiday in the Philippines, but was instead seized from a yacht by the Abu Sayyaf. The 71-year old German said he is "suffering a lot" and worried that his "medical condition" is worsening. He held out the hope that "our government will do all they can" to secure their freedom.

Right after that comes a woman's voice, introducing herself as Diesen. She appealed to "the Philippine and German governments to do all they can...because I really wish to see my family again."

Diesen, 55, said the "situation here is very stressful" and was uncertain how much longer they can bear suffering. She worried about them contracting "tropical disease, malaria or something" in the jungle.

She concluded her plea by saying "we're very, very keen to get out of here as soon as possible."

Reinforcements vs Abu

The reinforcements will allow Philippine Marines who have been fighting the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu as well as on Basilan, another southern island, "to concentrate on their main tasks", northern Philippines military spokesman Major Calixto Cadano told Agence France-Presse Sunday

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin had announced on Friday that, to "stop the Abu Sayyaf once and for all", army troops will be dispatched to Sulu to help the marines there.

Gazmin has announced the Philippines would not negotiate with the Abu Sayyaf over its demands for about $5.62 million in ransom for the Germans.

He also downplayed alleged links between the group, which is blamed for the Philippines' worst terror attacks, to Islamic State jihadists fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Abu Sayyaf has threatened to kill one of two German hostages unless a ransom is paid and Berlin halts its support for the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group.

[Audio: German Hostage, appeal]

German hostages held by Sayyaf in Philippines appeal for their safe release

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Sep 29): German hostages held by Sayyaf in Philippines appeal for their safe release

The Abu Sayyaf is holding 71-year old Stefan Viktor Okonek and Herike Diesen, 55, after being abducted at sea on April 25, 2014 while en route to Sabah in Malaysia from a holiday in Palawan Island in the Philippines.

Military officials in southern Philippines remain silent on two German yachters being held by the Abu Sayyaf in the restive southern as the hostages appealed to Manila and Berlin to secure their safe release.

The Abu Sayyaf is holding 71-year old Stefan Viktor Okonek and Herike Diesen, 55, after being abducted at sea on April 25 while en route to Sabah in Malaysia from a holiday in Palawan Island in western Visayas.

The militants have demanded P250 million ransom ($5.6 million) from Germany and for Berlin to cease all support to US airstrikes against Islamic State or IS in Iraq and Syria. The Abu Sayyaf, which is harboring Jemaah Islamiya members, and another rebel group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighter, have earlier pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State or IS.

The Radio Mindanao Network has aired Monday the appeals of both hostages, but it was unknown where the calls originated although the police said it launched an operations to rescue the duo in Sulu, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region.

Okonek, who is a physician by profession, said they came to the Philippines for a holiday, but ended up taken hostage by the Abu Sayyaf. He said his health condition is deteriorating and always fear for their safety. He said they have to lay and sleep on the ground guarded by heavily armed men and appealed to the Germany to do all it can to secure their release.

Diesen also appealed to both countries to free them, saying, they are much stressed and living dangerously in the jungle.

Manila has sent over 1,000 soldiers to Sulu, but this was to replace marines who are being shipped to another province in central Mindanao.

The soldiers will have to be briefed and oriented about the situation in Sulu, and have to undergo familiarization of the terrain in the province before they can be used to any mission to rescue the German captives and other foreign hostages, including a 64-year old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010; and two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in the southern Tawi-Tawi province two years ago.

The terrorist group has set a deadline until October 10 for Germany to comply with its demands or it will behead one of the hostages – most likely Okonek. The demands were contained in a letter released by Abu Rami together with three photos of the hostages, and a copy was posted on the websites and SITE Intelligence.

The letter reads: “The Abu Sayyaf is warning the families of the hostages and the German government, and the Philippine government – first, you give us our demand of P250 million up to October 10, 2014 – or we will behead one of the hostage; secondly, Germany must cease its support to America on the killings of our brother Muslims in Iraq and Sham (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine), and our brother mujahedeen.”

There was no immediate statement from the German Embassy in Manila up to this writing, although there were unconfirmed media reports that a ransom negotiation is going on in an effort to free the two hostages.

The Western Mindanao Command based in Zamboanga City has not issued any statement on the Abu Sayyaf threat to kill one German captive, but it released a media statement about an upcoming football clinic to be held in Zamboanga City.

Philippine military, Zamboanga City honor ‘fallen heroes’ in rebel siege

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Sep 29): Philippine military, Zamboanga City honor ‘fallen heroes’ in rebel siege

Zamboanga City Mayor Beng Climaco is presented with Philippine flag that survived rebel siege last year.

The Philippine military and the Zamboanga City government have honored Monday soldiers and policemen who died fighting rebels that attacked this southern port city last year.

The attack by Moro National Liberation Front rebels sparked three weeks of house-to-house fighting and street battles that displaced more than 120,000 people. Over 400 people were killed and wounded in the battle.

Defense Chief Voltaire Gazmin, accompanied by Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., and Western Mindanao Command Chief Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, together with Interior Secretary Mar Roxas joined Mayor Beng Climaco in the ceremony that honored 20 soldiers and five policemen who perished in the fighting, including 13 civilians.

They laid a wreath on a marker which Climaco unveiled and on it was this engraved “In remembrance of the 38 fallen heroes of the Zamboanga siege, September 2013, who laid their precious, lives to the cause of upholding on flag, one nation, one Zamboanga. Your memories and sacrifices will forever be etched in the heart of every Zamboangueno.”

Soldiers presented to Climaco the Philippine Flag “that was never lowered down during the Zamboanga siege. Battle-scarred yet resplendent, it continued to unfurl until victory was declared on September 28, 2013.”

Climaco led other military, police and government officials in visiting the sites of the deadly battles in the villages of Mariki, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, and inspected ongoing housing projects for those displaced by the fighting. Catapang and Guererro later spoke to soldiers at the Western Mindanao Command, and attended a peace and order council meeting at the City Hall, where a photo exhibit of the siege was also held.

“The victory of Zamboanga will always remind us of the heroism and sacrifices of our soldiers. They risked their lives to defend the city and save innocent civilians from lawless elements selfishly trying to grab power. Rest assured the AFP will continue to guard against those who attempt to destroy or harm our way of life. Be it Zamboanga or anywhere else,” Catapang said.

For his part, Roxas praised the vigilance of the local people and their commitment to peace. “We are here to remember, to reflect, and to recommit on what Zamboanga is for all of us - Zamboanga Hermosa. The siege brought out the best of the Zamboanguenos,” he said.