Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2 top CPP leaders fall; mistaken identities, say kin

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 2): 2 top CPP leaders fall; mistaken identities, say kin
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—Police and military teams arrested two top officials of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Wednesday in Mexico town in Pampanga, a spot report to the regional police in Camp Olivas, south of here, said.

Eugenia Magpantay and her husband, Agaton Topacio, were arrested in a house on Tinajero St. in Barangay (village) San Antonio at past 5 p.m. on the strength of a warrant for a murder case filed in 2005, the report said.

Their arrests came a few months after Wilma and Benito Tiamzon–tagged as CPP’s topmost ranking officials–were arrested in Cebu.

It said that Magpantay, who went by the aliases Reming and Milan, was a central committee member and former secretary of the Central Luzon Regional Committee (CLRC) of the CPP.

Topacio used to be a member of the CLRC and lately served as head of the national secretariat of the CPP.

According to the report, the members of the arresting teams came from the regional and Pampanga police, the Philippine Army’s 48th Infantry Battalion, 703rd Infantry Brigade and Intelligence Unit.

But residents in Mexico claimed that the police and the military arrested the wrong persons.

Their relatives identified them as Lourdes David Quioc and Reynaldo Canlas Ingal.

They have been held in Camp Olivas since Wednesday night.

Told of the supposed mistaken identities, a police official said they would be released only after validation. But it appeared that their identities had been verified as the two suspects were scheduled to be presented in a media briefing at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Nica asks for more intelligence funds

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 1): Nica asks for more intelligence funds

The National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, which is tasked to gather local and foreign intelligence vital to the country’s security and economy, pleaded with the Senate Friday for more intelligence funds, saying its allocation for this purpose was dwarfed by the amounts received by other agencies.

Nica Director General Ager Ontog said that Nica had only P21.2 million in confidential and intelligence funds in its proposed P530 million budget for 2015.

This is 1.5 percent of the P1.4 billion total government intelligence fund for next year, Ontog noted.

The NICA is tasked with directing and coordinating all government activities involving national intelligence and counterintelligence, integration of information and production of intelligence, and conducting information build-up and counterintelligence activities.

For 2015, the biggest amount of intelligence and confidential funds are lodged with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, at P269.39 million; the Philippine National Police, at P306.029 million; and the Office of the President, at P500 million.

“One of the areas that we would like to request the honorable chair to help the NICA is on the matter of the intelligence fund,” Ontog said at the Senate’s hearing on the agency’s budget.

He said the NICA initially sought P63 million intelligence and confidential funds, but the Budget Department slashed this. He would be happy to have the original request restored, he added.

Sen. Loren Legarda, who chaired the budget hearing, was surprised at the amount set aside for intelligence activities of the country’s foremost intelligence agency, and promised to do her best to increase the allocation for its intelligence fund.

“How can you collect intelligence if you don’t have resources? How can you generate intelligent intelligence, accurate intelligence, updated, comprehensive intelligence? Garbage in, garbage out,” Legarda said.

She said good intelligence gathering helps a country develop faster.

“The country that is ahead in terms of intelligence information is the country that develops faster. That’s why I do not understand why you only have a P21 million budget when you are the repository of all intelligence activities of the government,” she said.

She asked the NICA to submit its rationale for its request for additional budget.

Ontog said that historically, insurgency, terrorism and the secessionist movement had been the threats that the country faced, which was why the PNP and AFP got the bigger chunk of the intelligence funds.

But he noted the environment was changing, and the country was faced with the threat of global terrorism and of local terror groups connected to them. There are also concerns about cybercrimes and cyberwarfare from countries, businesses, and other entities.

“There should be a change in the focus on the threats confronting our country,” he said.

Legarda agreed there should be a change of focus, but added that this did not mean the traditional threats would be neglected, as they will always remain.

Still, she said she believed the bigger threats were what Ontog mentioned, including the threat of the terror group Islamic State penetrating Philippine shores, as well as human and drug trafficking.

Legarda also said intelligence information gathered here and abroad was crucial to protecting the country, as well as to helping it develop economically.

For instance, she said, data gathered could help the country anticipate the need for goods in other countries, so that the government could focus on funding the areas that could fulfill these needs.

“It’s like a consumer market. You anticipate the needs of people and you R and D (research and develop) the products that you will sell. You will not produce and research these when these are already prevalent in the market. That’s how we should look at the world market. That’s why intelligence for the economic aspect is so important,” she said.

Aside from handling intelligence activities in the Philippine, the NICA has foreign posts in South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and China.

It also plans to post intelligence officials in Washington, DC and the United Kingdom.

Ontog said NICA officials posted abroad are mainly concerned with the political and economic developments in their respective locations. They also work with their counterparts in the intelligence agencies of these countries, which help the NICA officials come up with more complete assessments.

Southeast Asia: Answering The Call For Jihad – Analysis

From EuraAsia Review (Oct 1): Southeast Asia: Answering The Call For Jihad – Analysis

On 23 July 2014, a video was posted on YouTube showed Isnilon Hapilon, a senior member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and other members, pledging their support to the Islamic State (IS) through both financial and manpower support. Similarly, Mochammad Achwan, the chairman of Jemmah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) has delivered the message of their founder Abu Bakar Ba’asyir’s support for IS and its self-proclaimed Caliphate of the State of Islam. There are already records of huge numbers of Southeast Asians – approximately like 12,000 – travelling to Iraq and Syria to fight for the IS.

Why are the numbers of Southeast Asians trying to join the IS growing?

Why are the Southeast Asian terrorist organisations supporting IS?


The terrorist organisations have claimed that the reason for their support is that the war is being led by their Muslim “brothers” in Iraq and Syria. Another reason as claimed by these groups is the fact that the establishment of a Caliphate of the Islamic Kingdom is more or less a common goal.

However the real motive for the support to the IS could also be the resurrection of their credibility and hold in Southeast Asia. ASG in was formed as a splinter group from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) is based in Philippines.

Their collaboration with Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and al Qaeda led to the establishment of this group as one of the most violent separatist groups in that region. Heavy crackdowns through the joint efforts of Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian anti-terrorist squads have led to the disintegration of the JI into numerous smaller and less powerful splinter groups and weakened the ASG whose terror attacks since 2005 have been limited to extortion and looting of local foreign tourists. Thus supporting the IS could be perceived the ASG an opportunity for them to revives their claim to fame.

The video that was posted on YouTube began with still photos of Isnilon Hapilon on US’ ‘most wanted’ posters in addition to the symbolic black flag. This suggests that Hapilon was trying to establish their notoriety. They have already kidnapped two German tourists and demanded that the German government not support the US in their war against the IS. JAT, founded by one of the initial founders of the JI, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, is one of the most powerful splinter group of JI in comparison to other groups such as Hisbah, Tawid Wal Jihad and the Negara Islam Indonesia (NII). JAT is considered a jacket for JI and for some as a re-emergence of JI. However, JAT did not gain the stature of JI had attained till 2005. Support for the IS could thus be visualised by Ba’asyir to attain that stature.

Employment Opportunities

Both unemployment and poverty are factors for the growing number of Southeast Asian youth who are joining the IS. Muslim youth in rural Malaysia, Indonesia, southern Thailand and Philippines are mostly educated in the pasentrens or madrassas (Islamic schools), and many of them are unable to get mainstream jobs due to the poor standards of education.

Fighting for the IS is therefore a job opportunity as they are provided with both salaries and food. Further, many of the pasentrens in Indonesia are generally schools run by the former JI and members of other terrorist organisations preaching war strategies in the name of Islam.

Ideological Impact

Not all Southeast Asians joining the IS are doing so for money – for example, there are reports of a Malaysian navy officer travelling to Iraq to join the IS. Many Southeast Asians are spurred by the idea of fighting a war for the self-proclaimed Caliph and also to fight against the Shia majority (Shias are a minority in all the Southeast Asian countries). Recurring recruitment videos on YouTube also has an ideological impact on some Southeast Asian Muslims. In fact use of social media for recruitment is one of the biggest factors for the large numbers of Muslims from all over the world joining the IS.

Whatever may be the reasons, the fallout could be alarming. Both JI and ASG were organised by the Southeast Asian veterans of the Afghanistan war who had received training at al Qaeda camps. These organisations had not only developed these terror networks but had also contributed to the spread of a radical form of Islam – then a new phenomenon in Southeast Asia. History might repeat itself, and the return of the soldiers from Iraq and Syria might again lead to a development of the same pattern.

[Aparupa Bhattacherjee Research officer, SEARP, IPCS Email:]

[IPCS (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies) conducts independent research on conventional and non-conventional security issues in the region and shares its findings with policy makers and the public. It provides a forum for discussion with the strategic community on strategic issues and strives to explore alternatives. Moreover, it works towards building capacity among young scholars for greater refinement of their analyses of South Asian security.]

SAF officer hurt in gunfight

From Tempo (Oct 1): SAF officer hurt in gunfight

BUTUAN CITY – A member of the 1st Special Action Force Battalion (1st SAF) was wounded during a fierce gun battle with heavily armed communist rebels Monday afternoon in Barangay San Roque, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.

Supt. Romaldo G. Bayting, regional public information officer of Police Regional Officer 13 (PRO 13), identified the wounded SAF member as Senior Police Officer 1 Richard Maghanoy.

He was brought to nearby hospital in Kitcharao for medical treatment.

“Our troops also inflicted undetermined number of casualties on the New People’s Army (NPA) side during the gunbattle,” claimed Bayting, citing bloodstains along the withdrawal route of the fleeing rebels.

The rebels are believed to be regular members of the CPP-NPA Northeastern Mindanao Party Committee.

MILF faction won’t give up arms, in talks with rival rebs

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 2): MILF faction won’t give up arms, in talks with rival rebs

A LARGE faction within the Moro Islamic Liberation Front disapproves of the disarmament provision in the peace agreement it forged with the government and has begun talks with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters which is harboring foreign terrorists in Mindanao, sources said on Wednesday.

But the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said it stands “solidly” behind the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro it forged with the government, including its provision on disarmament, according to MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghadzali Jaafar.

Jaafar made the assurance amid reports that a large faction, led by a certain Hashim Salamat, supposedly a nephew of the deceased MILF founder also named Hashim Salamat, is undertaking “realignment” talks with the BIFF and the terrorists it is harboring.

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, confirmed on Tuesday that foreign jihadists Zulkifli Abhir, alias Marwan, of Malaysia and Mohammad Ali, alias Muawiyah, of Singapore are both operating locally with the BIFF.

Pangilinan, however, declined to comment on reports that a certain Abu Saad and one Quiam, both foreign jihadists of undetermined nationalities, were also operating with the BIFF and the Abu Sayyaf group.

“Those foreign individuals monitored were Marwan and Muawiyah,” Pangilinan admitted. “As to whether they are [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], I have not established that.”

But former President Fidel Ramos said the government should undertake all security measures “to prevent and pre-empt” any terrorist activity in the country, especially since Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country in January.

“The ISIS threat is its ideology and not its physical presence,” Ramos said during the book launching of “Front Pages of Philippine History” written by veteran Spanish journalist Jose “Pepe” Rodriguez held at the Writers Bar of Raffles Hotel in Makati City Tuesday night.

Ramos, who was defense secretary and Armed Forces chief of staff before he became president, likened the IS ideology as an unseen “virus” that only manifests itself when people are already infected.

He recalled that the 1995 Bojinka Plot, an elaborate terrorist plan that involved assassinating Pope John Paul the Great during his visit to the country, was only uncovered with timely intelligence operations.
But the Bojinka plot was later implemented when Al-Qaeda attacked the United States in 2001, he said.

He said information of Isis presence in the country is not new, considering that there are over a million Filipino overseas workers in the Middle East and spread out to other countries where there are young people who are idealistic.

Al-Qaeda is known to operate in the country through the Abu Sayyaf group and the BIFF, some of whose senior leaders were trained by Al-Qaeda during the Afghanistan civil war that started in 1978.

BIFF leader Samer Samsudin claimed in July the BIFF sent 200 volunteers to help IS in its holy war in Iraq and Syria. The Abu Sayyaf, in the same month, posted YouTube videos showing their leaders swearing allegiance to the IS.

Biazon doubts MILF rebels’ willingness to give up firearms

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 1): Biazon doubts MILF rebels’ willingness to give up firearms

An administration lawmaker yesterday expressed serious doubts on whether the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will indeed turn over their firearms to the government at the end of the year in the light of existing clan wars among Muslims.

According to Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, the scheduled turnover of the firearms by the MILF would be an acid test for the group that has forged a peace agreement with the Philippine government.

Biazon, a former chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, noted that previous agreements with another Muslim group (the Moro National Liberation Front) failed to ensure the turnover of the firearms.

“In the past, the MNLF forces were integrated to our security forces. But after the agreement, there were attacks (from the MNLF) such as the 2001 Cabatangan (Zamboanga) and the Zamboanga City siege last year. We have to adapt a disarmament program that is foolproof, and we have to factor in rido and the private armies,” Biazon said during the weekly media forum in the House of Representatives’ Ugnayan sa Batasan.

The MNLF headed by Nur Misuari entered into peace agreement with the government in 1996. The agreement included disarmament and the integration of some 6,000 MNLF forces in the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Proof of the insincerity in turning over firearms was the September 2013 Zamboanga City siege.

“I am not saying that it (complete disarmament) is impossible, but it will be difficult. There’s no quick fix. There are issues of culture, economy and law enforcement. The total disarmament is dependent on the stance of the MILF and the mainstream Muslim politicians,” Biazon said.

Biazon, however, agreed that the decommissioning of MILF combatants need not be included in the proposed Bangsamoro Bangasamoro Basic law which would establish the Bangsamoro Region by next year.

The decommissioning is provided for under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the MILF.

“We have to give the government and the MILF the flexibility to implement the disarmament process. It depends on the existing situations on the ground, and a lot of other things. You cannot define that by law,” Biazon said.

Legislator seeks relief of Army battalion

From the Business Mirror (Oct 1): Legislator seeks relief of Army battalion

PARTY-LIST Rep. Terry Ridon of Kabataan has asked the Armed Forces to withdraw the 41st Infantry Battalion and the 5th Infantry Division of the Army from Abra for allegedly committing human-rights violations and desecrating the remains of insurgents.
Ridon headed the National Solidarity Mission (NSM) that motored to Abra and investigated the effects of widespread militarization in the poor province.
The three-day NSM was organized by Karapatan, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Kalipunan ng Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas, Gabriela Women’s Party, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Salinlahi, Task Force for Indigenous People’s Rights, Health Alliance for Democracy, Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, National Union of Students in the Philippines, League of Filipino Students  and Anakbayan.
Ridon and NSM members went to Lacub, Abra, since Monday and returned to Manila on Wednesday.
“I have seen for myself what the continuing military operations have done to the tribal communities in Lacub, Abra. Farmers and workers are hindered by fear from continuing with their economic activities. Agricultural production has ground to a halt, as well as small-scale mining activities. The people of Lacub are going hungry because of the heavy military presence in the area,” Ridon said.
“Worse, there are reports from locals that the military is using civilians as human shield in counterinsurgency operations in remotest barrios of Lacub,” the lawmaker added.
Lacub residents allegedly told Ridon’s group that the military has forced several residents to serve as guides in exploring the mountains.     

GPH, MILF form transitional commission for Bangsamoro deal

From GMA News (Oct 1): GPH, MILF form transitional commission for Bangsamoro deal

The government peace panel and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have formed the independent transitional commission as part of the normalization annex of the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.
In a statement issued Tuesday night, the Swiss Embassy in Manila said the parties announced the formation of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) at the meeting on the implementation of the Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), held in Kuala Lumpur from Saturday to Monday.
Switzerland was tapped to head the said commission, the embassy said. Mo Bleeker, special envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, will serve as its chair.
Cecilia Jimenez Damary of the Philippine government and Ishak Mastura of the MILF were named members of the commission, with Swiss FDFA's Jonathan Sisson as special adviser.
An independent unit, the TJRC is tasked to "undertake a study and recommend to the Panels the appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations and marginalization through land dispossession, towards healing and reconciliation."
The commission will be given one year to submit to the panel chairs its report, which must include recommended programs and measures for the reconciliation of communities affected by the conflict. 
The Swiss Embassy said the commission will be going to Cotabato on Saturday for its first official public meeting. It will have a formal launch in Manila on October 11.
The TJRC is one of the mechanics within the Normalization Annex, which deals with decommissioning the armed wing of the MILF and outlines steps to disarm private armies in the proposed Bangsamoro area.
The last of the four annexes to the Framework Agreement, it was signed by the parties last January, during talks in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Roxas, Gazmin say arrest of Misuari difficult

From the Philippine Star (Oct 2): Roxas, Gazmin say arrest of Misuari difficult

Authorities are having a hard time arresting Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari, officials have admitted.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said police and military forces could not arrest Misuari because he is being protected by his supporters.

 “It is hard to locate Mr. Misuari because his hideout is enclosed in an area by his supporters or those helping him,” Roxas said during his visit here on Monday.

Military and police officials believe the fugitive is hiding with his armed followers in the jungles of Sulu.

Misuari was charged with rebellion, genocide and other crimes against humanity for the September 2013 siege of this city that left more than 200 people dead.

There are proposals in Congress to provide Misuari with a safe conduct pass to allow him to be a resource person in the deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Zamboanga City first district Rep. Celso Lobregat objected to the proposal, saying authorities have given assurance that ”justice would be served.”

“The MNLF should be invited but not Nur Misuari because he has a warrant of arrest…this is an insult to the people of Zamboanga,” Lobregat said.

Roxas said they would refer the case to the Department of Justice if there would be requests to suspend the arrest warrant for Misuari.

AFP mulls options on German hostages

From the Philippine Star (Oct 2): AFP mulls options on German hostages

The military is studying its options to rescue two Germans kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf.

“We are trying to analyze the situation...rescue or negotiations,” Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo Tuesday afternoon.

 “We cannot just go there...and then those who will be rescued will become collateral damage,” he said.

Catapang said a crisis committee is negotiating for the release of the hostages.

Stefan Viktor Okonek, 74, and Henrite Dielen, 42, were seized from their yacht in Rio Tubbataha off Palawan last April.

In a radio interview early this week, the captives urged Philippine and German authorities to ensure their safe release, saying their condition in the jungle continued to worsen. They also expressed concern about their health.

The Germans were allowed to speak by Abu Ramin, who claimed to be the spokesman for the Abu Sayyaf splinter group Al-Harakatul Al-Islamiyah. The group has demanded a P250-million ransom.

2 NPAs killed in Surigao gunbattle

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 1): 2 NPAs killed in Surigao gunbattle

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – Two New People’s Army (NPA) rebels were killed and an undetermined number of their comrades were believed critically wounded in a 45-minute firefight Tuesday against government security forces in Sitio Brazil, Barangay Mat-i, Surigao City.

In an initial report reaching this city on Wednesday, elements of the 30th Infantry Battallion (30th IB) responded to a call from local villagers about the presence of NPA rebels in their barangay and immediately engaged the insurgents in a fierce gunbattle that last nearly an hour.

And as the smoke cleared after the fiery exchange, two unidentified rebels lay dead while dozens more were believed injured but carried away with their retreating comrades.

Authorities seized from the slain rebels two M16 Armalite rifles, live ammunitions, personal belongings and anti-government documents. There was no casualty reported on the side of the military.

“Maraming mga sugatan ang dinala ng mga nagtakbuhang mga rebelde” (Many wounded rebels were brought along by the fleeing rebels), claimed Col. Jonathan Ponce, commanding officer of the Army’s 401st Infantry Brigade.

As of this posting, more combat troops from the 30th IB were deployed to beef up troops who are in pursuit operations in the Brazil area.

Meanwhile, elements of police regional mobile force were mobilized on Wednesday to support the elements of 1st Special Action Force (1st SAF) Battallion who are pursuing the fleeing NPA rebels where one 1st SAF member was slightly wounded, identified as PO1 Richard Dagapan (not Senior Police Officer 1 Richard Maghanoy as earlier reported) in Barangay San Roque, Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte.

Chief Supt. Dominador Eslava Aquino, Jr., regional director of Police Regional Office 13 (PRO 13) also alerted all municipal police stations and other police headquarters and detachments spread all over the region to avert any surprise attacks by the NPA’s.

He also ordered a round-the-clock combat and security patrols in their respective areas of responsibility, said PRO 13 regional Public Information Officer Supt. Romaldo G. Bayting.

Terrorists recruiting suicide bombers

From the Manila Times (Oct 1): Terrorists recruiting suicide bombers

FOREIGN terrorists who have been hiding in the Philippines and who have reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been trying to recruit local “suicide bombers” for the longest time but continue to fail, a ranking military intelligence official said.

The Army officer, who was instrumental in the capture of Indonesian father Rohman Al-Ghozi of Jemaah Islamiyah and who considers running after terrorists his “passion,” confirmed a report of The Manila Times that Zulkifli bin Abdul Hir alias Marwan, a Malaysian, is among those actively recruiting Filipino Muslims for ISIS in Mindanao.

There are at least two of them. Another is Mawiyah, a Singaporean,” the official said, speaking on condition that he would not be named.

The officer, who is assigned in Mindanao, said Marwan survived a military attack in Sulu years ago and has been “sighted” in Central Mindanao where his group continues to “indoctrinate” and “radicalize” young Muslim recruits.

“However, suicide bombing is not in our culture. We have a different culture wherein nobody here wants to blow himself up for any cause, no matter how religiously rewarding it is. Muslims, like any ordinary Filipinos, only want a better life,” the Army officer explained.

But he clarified that there is no active member of ISIS here.

“They have many forms of recruitment. Some are monitored. Some are not. There may be some Filipinos who went for training in Syria or Iraq but they are not there to pursue ISIS cause but only to train,” the officer said.

“And once there, they have no other option but to fight alongside other radicals. But surely they want to go back home,” he added.

Despite efforts by Marwan’s group to recruit suicide bombers, the best they could convince are “couriers,” or those tasked to place and detonate a bomb on a select target.

“It is nothing new to us [military]. There were only a few left today compared to, say, a decade ago. So, it should not cause undue panic,” the source said.

Unlike foreign terrorist groups who attack with impunity even on civilian targets, he said local terrorists have a different mindset. Most of them attack to retaliate or get even after an initial attack by their known enemies.

“Here, the mindset is that their enemies are us soldiers. The civilian populace is just a collateral damage. That’s why after every operation, it is common for us to brace up for retaliatory attacks. Retaliation is their greatest motivation here,” he pointed out.

Quoting an unnamed police intelligence official, the Times reported on Wednesday that Marwan, who has a $5 million bounty on his head, is joined in the recruitment by certain Quaim, Mawiya and Abu Saad, who are also JI members but have already pledged allegiance or ‘baai’ to ISIS.

The Army source, on the other hand, noted that Abu Saad was the name used by Al-Ghozi and that he was not sure if another has assumed the same name.

Al-Ghozi was killed in an encounter with government troops more than a decade ago.

Marwan and his group are reportedly targeting young Muslim recruits to undergo actual training in Iraq and Syria before bringing them back to the country where they are expected to propagate the ISIS doctrines.

Reports about the activities of Marwan’s group further bolstered earlier accounts that ISIS and its sympathizers have already entered and infiltrated various areas in southern Philippines.

“[They are now all in Mindanao and there is even a new guy], Abdurahman from Saudi Arabia,” the source said.

MILF: Editorial -- Decommissioning of MILF firearms

Editorial posted to the MILF Website: (Oct 1): Decommissioning of MILF firearms

Decommissioning is one of the most misunderstood or misconstrued aspects of the whole peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) particularly on the issue of normalization.
It is confused with surrender of firearms to government or their destruction, as was true in Aceh in Indonesia. Very surely, it is not of the same mold with the traditional DDR (Demobilization, demilitarization, and Reintegration) adopted by the United Nations, which clearly favors states or governments by treating rebels as enemy of the state including even those which have clear legitimate causes.

As applied in the GPH-MILF peace process, decommissioning is a formula that balances the principled stance of the MILF that any tint or semblance of surrender is not only politically wrong but more seriously an act of disobedience to Allah and that only duly constituted government or state has the sole legitimacy to hold or control the guns. "Who are in need of guns in the Bangsamoro when everything normalizes?" is an oft-repeated statement of MILF leaders.

The Annex on Normalization of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) has these related provisions on decommissioning : 1) The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for decommissioning of its forces so that they are put beyond use; and 2) Decommissioning shall be a process that includes activities aimed at achieving a smooth transition for the BIAF members to productive life.

Actually, there seems to be an oversight on the parties related to Item No. 1 above on the issue of "decommissioning of MILF forces", because only weapons can be decommissioned not people. However, this is corrected and put in proper context by Item No. 2, which says that the process includes activities aimed at achieving a smooth transition for the BIAF members to productive life.

In plain words, what is decommissioning pursuant to the agreement of the parties?

It is simply no surrender of firearms nor of their destruction. They are not given or surrendered to the government. It is not disarming the MILF per se, as some uninformed media people would like to say. Most likely, the models in Northern Ireland and Nepal will be followed whereby firearms turned over are put in warehouses under the care and protection of third party decommissioning body composed of international and domestic eminent persons.

For this purpose, the GPH and MILF have organized the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) composed of Turkey, as chair, Norway, as vice chair, Brunei, as member, and two members each from the GPH and MILF. All the parties have sent their representatives to the GPH-MILF Special Meeting in Kuala Lumpur last September 27-29 where they have initially planned on how to proceed immediately with their mandate.

As agreed by the parties, decommissioning is not only linked to other parallel tracks in the overall normalization efforts but also contingent on deliveries of political milestones in the journey of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). However, on the part of the MILF, it will undertake that goodwill symbolic decommissioning of 75 firearms before this year ends. This is the Phase 1. The rest of the decommissioning will formally take place in three more phases: The MILF will decommission 30 percent of its weapons upon the passage of the BBL in Congress and ratification of the BBL in a plebiscite by the people called for the purpose; 35 percent upon establishment and operationalization of the Bangsamoro Police; and the remaining MILF weapons or 30 percent two months prior to the signing of the Exit Agreement provided that the evaluation of the Panels with the participation of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) and Facilitator that all the commitments of the parties have been completed.

Decommissioning is a very emotional and sensitive issue on the part of the MILF, but because of its sincerity and determination to solve the Bangsamoro Question in Mindanao, it has to undertake an ultimate sacrifice in exchange for peace and the settlement of the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao. The MILF is staking itself to the scrutiny of time and history and the vicious attacks of critics to prove that this is the right track to solve this question of problem. All other approaches are ideal and are simply not tenable.

MILF: Big number of loose guns a problem–MILF

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 2): Big number of loose guns a problem–MILF

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.
Ghazali 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.–milf

MILF: Switzerland Chairs CAB”s "Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission”

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 2): Switzerland Chairs CAB”s "Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission”

In a press release issued by the Embassy of Switzerland in Manila, it says: During their meeting on the implementation of the “Normalization Annex” to the CAB held in Kuala Lumpur from 27 to 29 September 2014, the panel chairs of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) announced the establishment of the “Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC).
The Commission will be headed by Mô Bleeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Head of the “Task Force for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities”. Having accepted the invitation of the two parties to chair the TJRC, Switzerland is fully involved in the peace process.

The CAB signed between the two parties on 27 March 2014 and facilitated by Malaysia provides among others a number of mechanisms within the framework of the "normalization process". One of these mechanisms is the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC). Having been invited by both panels to take on the chairmanship of this commission, the Swiss government nominated Mô Bleeker for this function. The TJRC’s two other commission members are Mrs. Cecilia Jimenez Damary, representing the Philippine Government, and Atty. Ishak Mastura, Representative of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Mr. Jonathan Sisson from the FDFA serves as special adviser to the commission.

As an independent commission established by the “Normalization Annex” to the CAB, the TJRC is tasked to "undertake a study and recommend to the Panels the appropriate mechanisms to address legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations and marginalization through land dispossession, towards healing and reconciliation. The TJRC shall also recommend programs and measures that will bring about the reconciliation of the different communities that have been affected by the conflict." The Commission is given one year to submit its report to the two panel chairs.

The TJRC will travel to Cotabato on October 4 to launch the first official public meeting, which is followed by a launch on October 11 in Manila. The Commission is supported by a small secretariat in the execution of its functions.

The “Task Force for Dealing with the Past and the Prevention of Atrocities” is an entity created by the FDFA in 2011. It combines several of the FDFA’s organizational entities, such as the Human Security Division, United Nations and International Organizations Division, the Directorate of International Law, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

The Task Force promotes a Swiss designed approach to the fight against impunity and the prevention of atrocities both at the multilateral and bilateral level. As in the case of the TJRC, the Task Force is frequently approached to offer its expertise.”s-transitional-justice-and-reconciliation-commission

MNLF: “There has to be a Bangsamoro nation" -- Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Editorial posted to the MNLF Website (Sep 29): “There has to be a Bangsamoro nation" -- Mayor Rodrigo Duterte

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City is one of the peace-conscious Mindanao leaders, who has had continuously urged the Philippine government to bring Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to the negotiating table.

“There has to be a Bangsamoro nation,” said Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. He is batting strongly for a federal government set-up for the war-wracked and corrupt-ridden Philippines in order to solve the Filipino-Moro war in Mindanao.

Knowing fully well that MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari has a key role in ensuring peace in war-torn Mindanao, the Davao City mayor has advised the Aquino government not to ignore the capability of the MNLF chairman in helping forge peace in Mindanao.

He emphasized the fact that the MNLF chairman remains to be a force to reckon with when it comes to Mindanao peace. He also reminded the Manila government that Chairman Misuari could still compel the Philippine government to make good of its promise based on the historical Tripoli Peace Agreement it signed decades ago with the MNLF.

The Philippine government under President/Dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos reneged on its commitment to implement the letter and spirit of the Tripoli agreement by unilaterally establishing two farcical autonomous governments in Mindanao manned by his political stooges.

The political blunder led to continuous bloody war instead of Mindanao peace. In his radio program, Mayor Duterte reiterated again his call to the Aquino government not to forget Chairman Misuari.

He emphasized: “For all of his faults, Misuari is still a man to reckon with. Forget the Zamboanga incident (September 9-20, 2013 AFP-MNLF war) for a while, we have to talk with him if you want peace.”

The call of the Davao City mayor was issued after Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Assistant on Peace Process (OPAPP) said congressional consultations on the Basic Bangsamoro Law (BBL) can still be successful even without the participation of MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari, who is asking for something that the BBL cannot provide.

On one hand, what she also meant by being successful is for Philippine Congress to mangle the BBL as it did to the 1996 MNLF-OIC-GRP Jakarta Peace Agreements in coming out with another failure version 5-province autonomous government in Mindanao.

The revised version Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) created by Philippine Congress under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was rejected by both the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) because it contravened again the letter and spirit of the 1996 final peace agreement.

As OPAPP head under the Arroyo government, Secretary Deles played an active role in betraying Mindanao peace for the third time. The stark betrayal of Mindanao peace started with the Marcos government in 1976 and repeated by the Aquino government in 1987.

The Philippine government just refused to correctly implement the international binding Tripoli peace agreement by only coming out with a Philippine Congress-created version that was rejected by the OIC and MNLF.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also admitted that he himself has some misgivings on the BBL, particularly on the territorial issues. But, he expressed the hope that the BBL will be enacted into law by the Philippine Congress for the sake of peace.

Nonetheless, similar to former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who does not see the prospect of permanent peace in Mindanao with even the enactment into law of BBL under the present government system.

Mayor Duterte also shared the view that the only way to attain durable and lasting peace in Mindanao is to adopt a federal system of government. The former Mindanaoan Senator Pimentel is also strongly advocating for a federal form of government for the Filipino nation to resolve the Mindanao conflict.

In strongly positing for federalism to solve comprehensively the Mindanao war and calling the attention of the Aquino government, the Davao City mayor illuminated: “I hold it as an article of faith, the only way you can really attain peace is to go federal. We cannot give you (Bangsamoro people) back the land that was taken from you, but allow us to offer you a nation…There has to be a Bangsamoro nation, and to the Misuari side, give them a nation too. Otherwise, we will have nothing.”

On the other hand, after the views have been said, read and dissected, one of the pillars of the Bangsamoro Mujahidat (lady freedom fighters), Madam Isnira Arap Baginda, expressed her viewpoint on the Bangsamoro nation issue. She simply said, “we already have, what we need is a State.”
She could be referring to the MNLF-proclaimed United Federated States of Bangsamoro Republik (UFSBR) that is today seeking sovereignty recognition in the United Nations (UN) and throughout the world.
Related to the development of the elusive Mindanao peace, Chairman Nur Misuari was informed by the MNLF Foreign Affairs Secretary General Al-Ustaj Abdulbaki Abubakar that the OIC General Secretariat has decided to convene a meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum (BCF) between the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Manila on October 13, 2004.
The Bangsamoro Coordinating Forum was formed in June 2004 by the OIC with the active participation of both MNLF Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari and MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim. It was established by the OIC as a venue for cooperation between the MNLF and MILF in putting Mindanao peace forward for comprehensive solution.
The scheduled BCF meeting is be presided by Ambassador Syed El-Masry, who is the representative of the Egyptian government and OIC special envoy to the Philippines. Egypt is now heading the OIC Ministerial Committee tasked to monitor and solve the Bangsamoro Question that is annually discussed in the plenary session of the Islamic Cooperation of Foreign Ministers (ICFM) conferences.
The special OIC committee is composed of Egypt, Indonesia, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Somalia, Turkey, Malaysia, Brunei and Bangladesh. The MNLF is recognized a Permanent Observer in the OIC and Chairman Prof. Nur Misuari is looked upon as the official representative and spokesman of the Bangsamoro people of Filipino-occupied Mindanao in the 58-nation pan Islamic body.
The MNLF is also an Observer Member of the OIC Parliamentary Union of Islamic Conference (PUIC) as approved during the 7th PUIC Global Session held in Palembang, Indonesia in 2013.
The MNLF-Bangsamoro People’s National Congress under Chairman Sharif Zain Jali has a direct formal liaison with PUIC with regards to the affairs of the Muslim and Animist Lumad natives of Mindanao.
On the BBL issue, the OIC has rejected the GPH-MILF peace agreement on the moral ground that it is contrary to the salient provision of both the 1976 Tripoli Peace Agreement and 1996 Jakarta Peace Agreement calling for the establishment of a Bangsamoro autonomous government in 13-provinces and 9-cities in Mindanao.
The Philippine government has been implementing its unilateral version characterized by the ARMM and soon again by the projected BBL concept under the new Aquino government.
President Benigno S. Aquino III belittled the ARMM created by his mother’s administration and only upgraded by the Arroyo government into 5-province ARMM as a “failed experiment” by replacing it with his own version autonomous government to be called simply “Bangsamoro.”
On this development, when MNLF Chairman Misuari was invited by Philippine Congress to attend the congressional sessions, he officially rejected the invitation. He was conscious of the fact that BBL was rejected by the OIC and also to follow the advice of MNLF leaders, like Reverend Absalom Cerveza.
The MNLF Peace Panel Chair Reverend Cerveza suggested to Chairman Misuari not to attend the hearing because it is very dangerous. He clearly said that “there is no guarantee because the Executive and the Judiciary are in collision.”
He further expressed that he cannot be convinced that the Aquino government would issue a safe-conduct pass to the MNLF chairman, who is better off in his home island protected by 30,000 Moro warriors.
Chairman Misuari was personally informed by the MNLF legal counsel Atty. Ely Velez Pamatong on the invitation to attend the BBL congressional sessions in Manila. But he courteously declined explaining that “government knows everything there is to know on his views.”
He further added that “GRP knows everything there is to know about my view on the Bangsamoro people and their dream of independence.”
On the other hand, through Atty. Pamatong he extended his gratitude to Congressman Rufus Rodriguez and Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. for the kind gesture of inviting him. He has urged Senator Marcos, chairman of the Senate Committee on Local government, and the rest to go to Jolo to conduct the hearing.

US lifting arms sale ban to Vietnam, selling six spy planes

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): US lifting arms sale ban to Vietnam, selling six spy planes

United States and Vietnam are serious in boosting defense ties. The US expressed its plan to lift arms sale ban to Vietnam. A plan Vietnam welcomed.

Le Hai Binh, Vietnam’s Foreign Affairs spokesperson said Vietnam welcomes moves that promotes ties between Vietnam and the U.S. to uphold peace, stability, and cooperation in the region and the world.

“It should be limited at first to those defensive capabilities such as coast guard and maritime systems that are purely for external security,” U.S. Senenator John McCain said.

The ban may be lifted towards the end of this year. Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh at the same time Foreign Affairs Minister of Vietnam will be at US before the week ends. Measures on the arms sale agreement might be a topic during the Minister’s US visit.

US is also expected to sell six spy planes to boost Vietnam’s territorial awareness and strengthen its capability to protect its coastal areas. Bihn is yet to get first hand information on the possible sale.

Amid strengthening of ties with US, Binh said, “With the independence and self-control principles of Vietnam’s diplomatic policy, every bilateral relation of Vietnam is not aimed at any third country.”

Largest Japanese warship now on sea trials

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): Largest Japanese warship now on sea trials

Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter carrier is now on sea trials. The 250-meter helicopter carrier will be on sea trials for six months before its commissioning next year.

The carrier is the largest built warship for Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force after the Second World War. As a multi-role ship it can carry out anti-surface, anti-submarine warfare and amphibious operations.

The warship looks alike to a light aircraft carrier and is even larger than few class of light aircraft carriers. For some restrictions in the Japanese constitution, the carrier is called helicopter destroyer. The warship is legally an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) platform.

It has 5 helicopter landing area and can carry up to 30 helicopters. It has an unofficially declared capability of carrying multi-role fighter jets.

With the latest in Japan’s arms development, China has expressed concerns.

“We are concerned over Japan’s constant expansion of its military equipment. Japan’s Asian neighbors and the international community need to be highly vigilant about this trend. Japan should learn from history, adhere to its policy of self-defense and abide by its promise to take the road of peaceful development.”

US providing USD17.68M to strengthen PHL maritime law enforcement capabilities, judicial reforms

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): US providing USD17.68M to strengthen PHL maritime law enforcement capabilities, judicial reforms

Under the 2011 Letter of Agreement on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, United States will be providing USD17.68 million to enhance Philippines’ maritime law enforcement capabilities and judicial reforms.

“This Agreement will once again prove to be good to both the Philippines and the United States and for the entire Southeast Asia,” said US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Secretary Brownfield. “With better enforcement and better ability of the Philippines to police its reefs, islands and other claims, the Agreement will be beneficial to the rest of the world.”

The said amount of money will be allocated to help in the development of Coast Guard and PNP Maritime Group operational and institutional capabilities. It will also be used to produce more skilled PNP and other law enforcement entities to strengthen regional coordination and law enforcement activities concerning maritime issues.

The fund will also be used in strengthening Philippine criminal justice system and provide professional skills training to the justice sector.

US will definitely respond militarily to any engagements against allies

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): US will definitely respond militarily to any engagements against allies

United States will definitely respond militarily if an ally is engaged or threatened in the Asia-Pacific region. US Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said in his speech at Council on Foreign Relations, “While the Senkakus are under Japanese control, Article 5 applies, and we would respond if there was an attempt to take the Senkakus.”

Work then emphasized, “We would definitely respond militarily to certainly any engagements against our allies.”

By 2020, US Navy and Air force will position 60 percent of its strength in Asia-Pacific including 100,000 troops. US defense will expand its reach regardless of budget, Deputy Defense Secretary Work added. “That is what makes us the only true global power.”

Work noted that US military is establishing more weaponry including ballistic missile defense ships, maritime patrol aircraft and missile defense radars in Asia-Pacific. He added that the first new military base in Japan after World War II will be established.

Japan is a “cornerstone of our alliances in Asia,” the high ranking Pentagon official said.

US deploying best war machines in Asia-Pacific

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): US deploying best war machines in Asia-Pacific

A lot of individuals from private and government sector in Asia-Pacific are asking how serious US is in its ‘Rebalance to the Pacific.” High ranking Pentagon official Robert Work laid out almost all the details on how US will be doing the rebalance.

Rebalance in Asia “is geographically dispersed, operationally resilient, politically sustainable, with an aim of maintaining peace and prosperity in one of the most important regions in the world, and regardless of the level of our budget, that will go forward.”

Work said Pacific Command is recalling all its Army from Afghanistan with all their equipment and assets. Four Marine air-ground task force were also distributed in the region.

“Our Pacific-based forces will all have our best and most advanced equipment, equipped with the most advanced payloads that we can possibly give them.”

“The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter going to go first to the Pacific,” Work noted. The “stealthy and highly capable Zumwalt destroyer” is also expected to be deployed in the Pacific on 2018. Aegis ballistic missile defense ships, missile defense systems and radars are also being relocated to key areas in the region.

The new P-8 maritime patrol aircraft will be armed and will also be deployed in Asia-Pacific.

“Pacific Air Forces are going to have our most advanced weapons, to include stealthy, long- range attack missiles and longer-range air defense missiles,” he added.

“The Navy is going after a new long-range anti-ship missile, which will allow it to engage ships at standoff ranges.”

“The four biggest construction projects since the end of the Cold War are going on in the Pacific,” Deputy Defense Secretary Work said.

AFP to beef-up Marine strength in West Philippine Sea

From Ang Malaya (Oct 1): AFP to beef-up Marine strength in West Philippine Sea

Armed Forces of the Philippines leadership is planning to beef-up its Marine force in Palawan. The deciding body of AFP is currently discussing possibilities.

According to GMA News Online’s source, one battalion from Sulu-based 2nd Marine Brigade will be redeployed to Palawan-based 3rd Marine Brigade.

The source said Marine brigade in Palawan is currently undersized and is needing one more battalion to become a full complement brigade.

Sulu-based Marine brigade will be downsized to give space for army deployment. It was reported earlier this week that augmentation troops from Philippine Army were deployed in the area.

Palawan was chosen for their new assignment due to West Philippine Sea dispute with China. Additional Marines may help in territorial defense operation.

Currently, PHIBLEX 15 is happening in some parts of West Philippine Sea. The 3rd Marine Brigade is participating in the said amphibious exercises.

“A significant amount of the exercise will take place here in the province of Palawan,” AFP Brig. Gen. Armando V. Banez, commander of the 3rd Marine Brigade.

“We are sending out a strong message of commitment to the people in Palawan, and our country as a whole, as we support nation building and developmental efforts throughout our country.”

US: China’s wholesale reclamation is problematic, undesirable, source of anxiety

From Ang Malaya (Oct 2): US: China’s wholesale reclamation is problematic, undesirable, source of anxiety

United States again hits on China’s ‘problematic behavior’ in South China Sea. “The net effect of problematic behavior by China or by others on the stability and the security of the Asia-Pacific region is hugely germane to U.S. national security, as well as our global responsibilities,” US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said.

He added that US has directly spoken to China about concerns on reclamation works in South China Sea. “That means digging up the bottom of the sea, creating landfill to build out what are essentially rocks or shoals into a large enough territory to hold facilities of various types.”

Russel is responsible for US affairs on East Asia and Pacific.

The ASec noted that China is not the only country who did reclamation works. “But the scale, scope, and pace of China’s reclamation work vastly exceeds that of others and is the source of clear anxiety and instability, neither of which are contributing to the kind of region that we and I think China wants.”

Daniel Russel clearly said that reclamation works “has the slightest effect on the legal status of a rock under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

He described China’s activity as unilateral action and ‘wholesale reclamation’ that changes the status quo making it “more difficult to reach a peaceful and diplomatic solution” which is undesirable. It also “runs directly counter to the commitments that China and the 10 ASEAN countries made back in 2002 in paragraph five of their declaration of conduct.”

China conducts reclamation works in Johnson Reef, McKennan and Hughes Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Gaven Reef in the Spratlys.

Land of 200 tongues: Gov't maps Philippine languages

From Rappler (Oct 1): Land of 200 tongues: Gov't maps Philippine languages

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino's 'linguistic atlas' – ready by 2015 – will show where languages are are spoken, by whom, and what their variants are and their connection to other languages

LINGUISTIC ATLAS. KWF Commissioner Purificacion Delima shares updates on the KWF's Linguistic Atlas project last Tuesday, September 30. Michael Bueza/Rappler

LINGUISTIC ATLAS. KWF Commissioner Purificacion Delima shares updates on the KWF's Linguistic Atlas project last Tuesday, September 30. Michael Bueza/Rappler
The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF, or the Commission on the Filipino Language) is mapping languages in the Philippines, which will show how rich the country's linguistic heritage is.
So far, the commission has finished research on 89 languages and is verifying 111 more with the help of Sentro ng Wika at Kultura (Center for Language and Culture) offices across the country, according to KWF Commissioner Purificacion Delima.

The language commissioner spoke at KWF's Kapihang Wika sa Filipino on Tuesday, September 30.

"Sa totoo lang, napakayaman ng Filipinas sa linguistic heritage. Kaya ang gagawin ng komisyon ngayon ay ang reconstruction at revitalization ng mga wika," said Delima. (Quite honestly, the Philippines is rich in linguistic heritage. So, what the KWF would focus on is the reconstruction and revitalization of languages in the country.)

The project started in 2014 and is expected to be completed next year. Called the "Linguistic Atlas ng Filipinas" (Linguistic Atlas of the Philippines), the project is funded by Senator Loren Legarda, a known advocate of cultural preservation and promotion.

The project aims to document all the languages in the country, especially those that are in danger of "extinction." The Linguistic Atlas will illustrate the languages according to where they are spoken, who are speaking them, as well as what their variants are and their connection to other languages.

The KWF has collected "voice samples" for 25 of the 111 languages that it is in the process of verifying, said said Delima.

New languages discovered

Delima added that they discovered languages – like the Tagabulos in the province of Aurora, and Gubatnon Mangyan in the island of Mindoro that were not in previous Philippine language lists.

There were even names of Philippine languages that actually refer to the group who are speaking it.

Meanwhile, Delima reported that they discovered one language that they deemed as "dead."

The Ayta Sorsogon language of the Agta Cimaron o Agta Tabangnon community in the province of Sorsogon was not being used by the said community anymore, said Delima.

She reasoned that discrimination may have figured in the "death" of the Ayta Sorsogon language.

Delima shared that elders in the community were not teaching the language to their children "dahil ayaw malaman ng komunidad na sila ay Agta, dahil sila ay binu-bully sa paaralan (because they would not want others to know that they are Agta, for fear of being bullied in school)" said Delima, who went herself to the Agta Tabangnon community.

The Captain in Golan: Nilo Ramones is home

From Rappler (Oct 1): The Captain in Golan: Nilo Ramones is home

Captain Nilo Ramones, the platoon leader in the UN encampment under siege, recalls the tense firefight with the Syrian rebels and their subsequent escape

MAN ON THE GROUND: Captain Nilo Ramones, platoon leader at the besieged Position 68 in the Golan Heights. Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The military band started playing and the generals stood up to welcome the 344 Filipino troops from the Golan Heights as they marched towards the grandstand in Camp Aguinaldo. A pop was heard and yellow confetti flew above them. It's no ordinary celebration. It's a homecoming meant only for heroes.

"We are very happy because they recognized our hard work and sacrifices. We were away from our families. Our service to the country was recognized not just by the Armed Forces leadership but also by the entire nation. We are very thankful," said Captain Nilo Ramones, 31, the platoon leader at the embattled United Nations encampment in Golan Heights, after the festivities Wednesday afternoon, October 1.

It was only a month ago when Ramones and his men exchanged gunfire with Syrian rebels, among them members of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al Nusra Front, as they defied orders to surrender their firearms. The Filipino troops would later execute an adrenalin-inducing escape mission. They abandoned their belongings and carried only their firearms, bullets, and their gadgets.

"Masayang masaya kami kasi ho buhay na kami. Buhay na kaming lahat. Napasigaw nga ako noon na 'Oh buhay na tayo!' Noong pagka-step namin sa fence ng host natin na Israel, napasigaw kami. Safe na tayo sa lugar na ito," Ramones said.,(We're very happy that we're alive. I remember shouting then, 'Guys, we're alive!' The minute we stepped inside the fence of our host Israel, we all shouted. We were already safe there.)

The escape was not authorized by the UN. It was a controversial move that brought world attention to issues surrounding UN operations in conflict areas. The UN has since ordered a review of peacekeeping operations.

Their commander at the UN may call the Filipinos "cowards" and the UN itself may deny the controversial order, but back home these doubts do not matter. In a spontaneous speech Wednesday morning, President Benigno Aquino III himself hailed their heroism and did not hide his disappointment with the UN commander's orders.
"We are very happy that no less than the President supported our decision there," Ramones said. "Ang pag-surrender ng baril, wala ho yan sa dugo natin bilang Pinoy. Bawal po sa amin yung pag-surrender ng baril kasi yun 'yung honor namin. Kumbaga yun 'yung asawa namin dito. Kapag malayo po kami sa pamilya namin, 'yun na ho ang magiging asawa namin," Ramones added. (We Filipinos do not surrender our firearms. We are forbidden to surrender our firearms because it is our honor. Our firearms are like our wives. If we are away from our families, our firearms are our wives.)

First time

The President awarded Ramones and 7 other soldiers the Gold Cross Medal, the 3rd highest award for combat. It is the first time in recent years that Filipino soldiers received military combat awards for an assignment overseas. The last was in the 1950s for troops of the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK).

The prestigious Distinguished Service Medal was also awarded to UNDOF chief of staff Colonel Ezra "Iking" Enriquez and contigent commander Lieutenant Colonel Ted Dumusmog, who guided Ramones and his troops and coordinated with their commanders in Manila.

Aside from Ramones, the others who received the Gold Cross Medal were 2nd Lieutenant Larry A Endozo, Master Sergeant Wilson Lagmay, Sergeant Alwin Cuyos, Staff Sergeant Leonardo Aboy, Staff Sergeant Andy R Mejos, Staff Sergeant Ramil R Bobiles, and Corporal Joneve Acolicol. The rest of the troops in Position 68 received the Military Merit Medal.

AWARDS: President Benigno Aquino III and the awardees of Distinguished Service Star and Gold Cross medals. Photo from AFP-PAO

AWARDS: President Benigno Aquino III and the awardees of Distinguished Service Star and Gold Cross medals. Photo from AFP-PAO
Ramones does not deny that he feared he would not be able to bring his platoon home complete. "We were also afraid because we were up against terrorists. But Filipinos are brave fighters. Fear is normal. But I know that my troops are well trained. We were able to hurdle that challenge," Ramones said.

And while the world weighed in on whether or not the Filipinos made the right decision to escape while Syrian rebels were still holding the Fijian peacekeepers, to Ramones and his men it was a matter of survival.

"Sa sitwasyon na yun talagang tatakas at tatakas ka. Kapag maabutan ka ng madaling araw.... Based sa aming assessment, wave by wave ang pag-atake nila. 'Yung umaga na yun, more than 100 to 200. The next day ibang grupo na naman ho 'yun. Alam mo na mangyari kaya kami tumakas," Ramones said. (In that situation, you will really have to escape. If you stay until dawn.... Based on our assessment, they attack by waves. That morning, there were 100 to 200 of them. The next day, it was another group. You already know what would happen so we escaped.)
The UN peacekeepers were only supposed to monitor the ceasefire between the neighboring countries Syria and Israel. The Golan Heights – a buffer zone – between the 2 countries is supposed to be a demilitarized zone. But escalating internal conflict in Syria has brought the rebels to their camps. The governments of both Syria and Israel assisted the Filipino peacekeepers during the firefight and the escape.
A soldier for 11 years now, Ramones said it was the most difficult situation he has found himself in. Used to fighting communist rebels, Ramones said Golan Heights was different because they were dealing with terrorists who have been known to behead their captives. (The Fijian peacekeepers were released a week after their escape.)
"Ito na yun pinakamatinding nangyari sa buhay ko," he said.
The celebrations are not over. On Thursday, October 2, the Filipino peacekeepers will also receive the "Sagisag ng Ulirang Kawal" award in a separate program at the Philippine Army headquarters.
This early, Ramones and his men are also preparing for their next mission: to secure Pope Francis during his visit to the Philippines in January 2015. A Catholic himsef, Ramones said it will be an honor to secure the Pope.