Thursday, October 2, 2014

Military warns IS influence to complicate peace efforts

From the Philippine Star (Oct 2): Military warns IS influence to complicate peace efforts

The military warned today that the terrorist Islamic State (IS) could "radicalize" local extremist groups and may further complicate the efforts of the government to forge a lasting peace in southern Philippines.

This was despite the geographical distance of the IS group, which is based in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq and Syria, Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said in a forum.

"The Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) may mutate into larger, more coordinated and sophisticated terrorist organizations," he said.

Kakilala believes that these two factions may "jointly" or " separately" regroup and launch fresh new offensives to government-held positions and civilian populations in Mindanao and across the country.

He also warned that the Jemaah Islamiyah ties with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the combatant group of the BIFM, may be revived if Ameril Umbra Kato, BIFF leader, deemed it necessary to increase its leverage in Central Mindanao.

The BIFM-BIFF broke away with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, because it is against the peace deal with the Philippine government.

Sulu brigade commander relieved over friendly fire that killed 6 soldiers

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 3): Sulu brigade commander relieved over friendly fire that killed 6 soldiers

The Marine brigade commander whose men figured in a “friendly fire” that killed six soldiers in Sulu last June has been relieved and reassigned to the General Headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon, City.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto, 2nd Marine Brigade commander, is now assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence (J-2).

His men had been found to have fired a 105-mm howitzer round that landed right in their forward command post in Patikul and killed six members of the composite Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) at the height of heavy fighting in the area.

The next month, a Board of Special Inquiry convened by the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) established that the JSOG members were killed in a “friendly fire” while providing support for soldiers who were battling Abu Sayyaf members headed by Radulan Sahiron.

The AFP has also conducted its own investigation into the case.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, Philippine Navy spokesman, tried to downplay the relief of Pinto, saying it was “part of the rites of passage that every commander goes through.”

Arevalo said that from a position of tactical command, Pinto was expected to be taking a staff position at the GHQ.

“This movement is actually an opportunity for him to exercise his other functional field of specialization in a higher and bigger capacity,” he said.

Arevalo said that Pinto, a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class ‘84, provided an opportunity for other senior officers, junior to him, to move up the ladder in the AFP hierarchy.

He said that Pinto was replaced in Sulu by Col. Max Ballesteros, a graduate of PMA Class ‘85.

Arevalo described Ballesteros as a seasoned combat officer who has gone through all positions that prepared him for brigade command.

Prior to his new assignment, Ballesteros was Deputy Commander for Marine Operations in Naval Forces West in Palawan.

He was Assistant to the Chief of Naval Staff for Civil Military operations before he was assigned in Palawan.

“Colonel Ballesteros is one of the Marine Corps’ highly revered and decorated officer,” Arevalo said. “He is hardworking, very dedicated, and discerning military professional.”

US lifts 40-year arms ban to boost Vietnam sea defense

From Rappler (Oct 3): US lifts 40-year arms ban to boost Vietnam sea defense

The policy is meant to improve Vietnam's maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities

KERRY. US Secretary of State John Kerry (R), with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, delivers remarks during a press briefing at the US State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 01 October 2014. Shawn Thew/EPA

KERRY. US Secretary of State John Kerry (R), with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, delivers remarks during a press briefing at the US State Department in Washington, DC, USA, 01 October 2014. Shawn Thew/EPA
In a decision likely to anger China, the US is partly lifting a 40-year ban on arms sales to former foe Vietnam to help boost defenses in the tense South China Sea.
The historic easing of the ban in place since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 will only apply to maritime equipment, State Department officials stressed, and comes amid warming ties and as Hanoi makes "modest" improvements to human rights.

"What's driving this is not a sudden desire to transfer military equipment to Vietnam writ large, but a specific need in the region," said one official, highlighting what he called Vietnam's lack of capacity in the disputed waters and America's own national security interests.

"It's useful in trying to deal with the territorial disputes in the South China Sea to bolster the capacity of our friends in the region to maintain a maritime presence in some capacity."

Some 40 percent of the world's seaborne trade passes through the sea which is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia, as well as China and the Philippines.

Although the United States has not taken sides in the territorial disputes, it has warned Beijing against "destabilizing actions" amid a series of tense maritime incidents.

Earlier this year, Beijing placed an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, sparking deadly riots in the Southeast Asian nation.

Secretary of State John Kerry informed his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Min during talks Thursday of Washington's move to adjust the current policy "to allow the transfer of defense equipment, including lethal defense equipment, for maritime security purposes only," a senior State Department official said.

Kerry later praised "the transformation" in Vietnam since the US normalized diplomatic relations two decades ago, calling it "nothing short of amazing."

"Vietnam has become a modern nation and an important partner of the United States. And (when) we talk to the young people in Vietnam you can feel the enthusiasm for the potential of the future," he told a US-ASEAN business council dinner.

Not 'anti-China'

A prohibition on sales of other kinds of lethal weapons, such as tanks, will stay in place as Washington pushes Hanoi to improve its human rights situation.

US officials denied the policy change was "anti-China" and insisted they had no specific sales to outline so far, but would consider each request from Hanoi on a "case-by-case" basis.

And they sought to allay any concerns from Beijing saying it was purely a defensive measure.

"We're not talking about destabilizing systems, we're talking about defensive capabilities... These are not things that are going to tip the regional balance," a second State Department official said, also asking not to be named.

Any sales would be done in close consultation with the US Congress, and would be heavily focused on equipping the Vietnamese coastguard, the State Department officials said.

So far, Washington has only been allowed to sell unarmed patrol boats to the Vietnamese coastguard since a total ban on military sales was lifted in 2006. That could now change, for example, the officials said.

And they acknowledged that airborne defense systems would also be considered for sale if they included a maritime capacity.

"This policy supports Vietnam's efforts to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

Officials said however that the easing of the ban did not mean all arms sales were now on the table to the communist-run authorities amid continuing concerns about rights such as freedom of expression and religion.

"It's not an indication that we are going to provide all lethal assistance now, it just simply says we can remove what has been a hinderance to our ability to provide legitimate maritime capacity," the second unnamed State Department official said.

Top CPP leaders nabbed in raid

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 5): Top CPP leaders nabbed in raid

Presenting the suspects. Chief Supt. Raul
Petrasanta (left), police regional director, holds up
a photo of one of the arrested top communist leaders
in a raid in Mexico, Pampanga. Also in photo is Sr.
Supt. Timoteo Pacleb. JESS MALABANAN

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga—Police arrested a couple suspected as top leaders of the Communist Party (CPP) and linked to several murders, including the assassination of leaders of rival groups in the underground, a senior police official said on Wednesday.

Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, police regional director, said operatives nabbed Eugenia Magpantay-Topacio, 64, and her husband, Agaton Topacio, in a raid on a house in a remote barangay of San Antonio, Mexico.

“They did not resist the arresting officers,” Petrasanta said.

Magpantay-Topacio was identified as a member of the Central Committee of the CPP, head of the National Education Department and was former secretary of Central Luzon Regional Committee and Northern Luzon Commission. She was arrested in 1994 but was released on bail.

Topacio is head of the National Military Staff of the CPP and commander of the National Special Operations Group. The couple denied they were members of the underground movement.

Petrasanta said the couple faced various charges in Central Luzon, including kidnapping, murder and burning of 12 units of Victory buses in September 2011 in Capas, Tarlac.

He said they were the main suspects in the murder of Danilo Felipe in February 2001 in Barangay Narvacan Uno, Guimba and Jimmy Peralta in Bongabon in Nueva Ecija.

Agaton was linked to celebrated murders of underground personalities such as Romulo Kintanar, Felimon Lagman, Arturo Tabara and former congressman Rodolfo Aguinaldo of Cagayan, Petrasanta said.

He said the couple, who were arrested on the strength of warrants of arrest issued by Malolos Regional Trial Court, were being detained at the Regional Intelligence Division in Camp Olivas, Pampanga.

Relatives of the couple rushed to Camp Olivas and said the joint police and military team arrested the wrong persons, who they identified as Lourdes David Quioc, 64, and Reynaldo Canlas Ingal, 63, and they are not husband and wife but cousins.

Arnold David, 21, who claimed he was the youngest son of Quioc, said his mother is a known community “hilot” on call to help pregnant mothers and she also work as volunteer in their local church.

David presented Quioc’s  senior citizen’s and voter’s identification card to prove her identity and appealed on officials to let her mother go home.
Ingal, according to his sister Angelina del Rosario, is a retired driver from the National Power Corporation in Morong, Bataan.

Govt sets up monitoring of extremists

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 3): Govt sets up monitoring of extremists

Despite denying that there is a direct link between the Islamic State (ISIS) and local extremist groups, President Benigno Aquino III has created a technical working group as early as last August monitor and profile foreign fighters and terrorist groups.

This was disclosed by Anti-Terrorism Council executive director Oscar Valenzuela in a chance interview during the Forum on Current Dynamics of Radicalism in Southeast Asia on Thursday.

Valenzuela acknowledged that overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East are highly vulnerable to ISIS recruitment, but he said the ATC is still verifying reports of actual recruitment.

“The situation in Syria and Iraq also has implications on the country in as far as OFWs in these areas are present. OFWs comprise a vulnerable sector for terrorist recruitment, especially with the reported abundance of money of ISIS,” he said.

Valenzuela said based on raw intelligence reports, ISIS has been earning about $1 million to $3 million from the oil fields in northern Iraq and eastern Syria that it has taken control of.

He said the inter-agency TWG was created sometime in August, or a few weeks after the July 14 confidential memo submitted by Philippine Center for Transnational Crime executive director Felizardo Serapio Jr. to Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

Serapio’s memo cited a March 20 report from the Department of Foreign Affairs that two Filipinos were killed in Syria while fighting with the rebel group.

It also noted that the DFA report pointed to some 100 Filipinos who traveled to Iran had undergone military training and were deployed to Syria.
According to Ambassador Guy Ledoux, head of the European Union in the Philippines, the ISIS has been very active in recruiting foreign fighters.

Ledoux said in Europe alone, more than 3,000 radicals have been recruited by ISIS, mostly coming from France, United Kingdom, Germany and The Netherlands.

Valenzuela confirmed that the intelligence community is still verifying the report of the two Filipino fatalities in Syria.

As to the 100 Filipinos who reportedly underwent training in Iran, Valenzuela said this has already been denied by the Iranian ambassador to Manila.

According to Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala, head of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Office of Strategic Studies and Strategy Management, the local group Khilafa Isamiyah Mindanao has pledged allegiance to ISIS but there is no evidence to confirm a direct link.

Dismissed cadet Cudia asks SC to resolve his case soon

From GMA News (Oct 3): Dismissed cadet Cudia asks SC to resolve his case soon

Dismissed Philippine Military Academy cadet Jeff Aldrin Jeff Cudia has asked the Supreme Court to immediately resolve his petition questioning his dismissal from the military academy early this year.
In his 12-page manifestation to submit case for early resolution, Cudia, through Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, said the substantive and procedural issues raised by the Office of the Solicitor General against his petition have already been “effectively addressed, overturned and refuted in the petitioner-intervenor’s reply.”
“Given the stage of the instant proceedings, the resolution of the instant case is very well opportune,” the manifestation said. Cudia filed his original petition in March, or seven months ago.
Cudia said as long as his petition remains undecided by the high court, he finds it hard to find employment or pursue further studies.
“With every day that passes by, the future of Cadet Cudia-en exceptional student who could very well be a valuable member of the Philippine Armed Forces—remained at a standstill,” read Cudia's camp.
“As per his transcript of records, he is on indefinite leave and because of the PMA’s refusal to issue an honorable dismissal in his favor despite his completion of all academic requirements, his immediate employment or possible pursuance for higher education is nearly impossible,” the manifestation added.
Cudia also pointed out that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa had signed "not by the authority of the President" a letter dated June 11, 2014 affirming the finding of the Cadet Review and Appeals Board and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Last May, Cudia asked the high court to consider the Commission on Human Rights findings that he was not guilty of the offense as earlier decided by the PMA, and that the PMA trial was a "sham."
Cudia said it was "imperative" for his camp to furnish the high court a copy of the CHR report "with the aim of ultimately aiding this Honorable Court in dispensing justice and in resolving the instant case with wisdom and discernment."
Cudia did not march with the Siklab Diwa batch during the PMA’s graduation rites in Baguio City earlier this year since his appeal was still pending before the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the PMA at the time.
Last February, the PMA Honor Committee found Cudia guilty of lying about his reason for being late for a class, a violation that led to his dismissal from the academy.
Cudia’s classmates began ostracizing him after he opted to stay in the PMA even after the Honor Committee recommended his dismissal.
His family, however, has claimed there were irregularities on how the committee voted on his case, and asked President Benigno Aquino III to overturn the decision.
Cudia's family insisted that the PMA Honor Committee should have acquitted the cadet because one of its members had originally voted in his favor. Under PMA rules, an accused can be acquitted with just one "not guilty" vote.
In its investigation, the CHR said Cudia should not have been dismissed. The CHR said there was perjury, manipulation, and violation of the Honor Code committed by the committee members themselves.

AFP still planning for EDCA

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 3): AFP still planning for EDCA

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced yesterday that it continues to conduct studies to determine the best place to preposition American equipment while waiting for the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Treaty (EDCA).

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, AFP chief-of-staff, said that these materiel will be used in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions.

The Philippines and the US signed the EDCA last April in a bid to boost the two countries' HADR capabilities aside from enhancing the defense relations.

Catapang said planning talks include possible places which can be developed to host American equipment.

"We are hoping that the SC will come out with a (positive) ruling so that we can execute the arrangements needed for the EDCA and thus improve our security posture," he said in Filipino.

Militant groups have challenged the constitutionality of the EDCA at the SC last May.

Marine commander in Sulu relieved

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 3): Marine commander in Sulu relieved

Amid the dragging hostage-taking by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group of two Germans in Sulu, the Marine commander in-charge of the province was relieved yesterday.

Brig. Gen. Martin Pinto was relieved as commander of the 2nd Marine Brigade which is in-charge of the entire Sulu and the primary military unit running after the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group in the island-province.

A member of the Philippine Military Academy “Maharlika” Class of 1984, Pinto was replaced by Col. Maximo Ballesteros, of PMA “Sandiwa” Class of 1985.

Pinto would be reassigned at the military’s general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo as assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence.

On the other hand, Ballesteros is not new to fighting the Abu Sayyaf group having served to units deployed in Sulu and Basilan, which are both known to be terrorist havens. And prior to his new assignment, Ballesteros was the deputy commander of the Marine Operations in Naval Forces West in Palawan.

The changing of military commander in Sulu came amid the dragging captivity of Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf.

The two foreigners were snatched last April while on a cruise off Palawan aboard a yacht.

Navy Flag Officer in Command Vice Admiral Jesus Millan, however, maintained that the reassignment of Pinto and Ballesteros is part of the “normal rotation.”

“This is part of the normal rotation among senior commanders in the Navy,” Millan told reporters.

Millan stressed that Pinto’s reassignment to GHQ was not connected with the investigation called by the AFP leadership regarding a howitzer misfire last July that resulted in the killing of six troops from the AFP’s Joint Special Operations Group (JSOG) in Patikul.

“We have not reached whatever is the result of the BOI (board of inquiry) activated by the GHQ…it’s not (related) this is (career) advancement,” said Millan.

For his part, Navy Civil Military Operations chief Col. Edgard Arevalo echoed Millan’s pronouncements, describing both Pinto and Ballesteros as ready for their new posts.

Arevalo also stressed that the reassignment has nothing to do with the Sulu hostage-taking and the friendly fire last July.

Okonek and Diesen appealed earlier to the governments of the Philippines and Germany to exert all necessary efforts for their release. The two said they are suffering everyday under captivity in the jungles.

Filipino, US militaries meet to plan Edca implementation

From the Business Mirror (Oct 2): Filipino, US militaries meet to plan Edca implementation

SENIOR military officials will discuss the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) when they meet with their counterparts from the US, despite pending petitions at the Supreme Court (SC) questioning the legality and seeking the invalidation of the pact.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Armed Forces chief of staff, said RP-US Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting scheduled this month would focus on planning in deference to whatever decision that the Court may render.

“We might already discuss it despite the absence of decision, it’s some of planning. Just in case, it will be a go, then we already have plans. If not, then we will confine it in the Cabinet,” Catapang said.

The MDB-SEB, whose members are from the Philippine and US militaries, are advisory bodies that are meeting once a year to discuss and review security issues between the two countries, including crafting activities under the Visiting Forces Agreement.

The regular bilateral military exercises between the two forces fall under the boards, which are alternately meeting in the country and in the US.

Catapang said that among those that will be discussed during the meeting are the principal requirement of Edca—where the US will preposition its troops and “humanitarian equipment” and what facilities should be constructed or develop in order to house them.

Upon its signing early this year, the Edca, which officials said should benefit the country by ensuring its territorial defense and maritime security, given the security problem in the West Philippine Sea, was supposed to immediately work in identifying camps and bases where the Americans, along with their equipment, will be hosted.

Initially, the Armed Forces has identified Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales and Oyster Bay in Palawan as possible sites for the repositioning American troops. Other areas were also being considered.

However, various groups went to the SC and questioned the agreement which was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador Philip Goldberg while US President Barack Obama was in the country for an official visit.

Since then, any discussion on the pact was put on hold.

But Catapang said the petitions should not stop them from planning for the Edca, including its activities, without precluding the decision of the court.

Gazmin said earlier that the agreement should bring in bigger number of US soldiers under military exercises that are also bigger in scope compared to the regular war games that both countries are holding in the Philippines.

“The planning should be continuing so that once the court will give its nod, we could immediately execute it. Hopefully, the Supreme Court could immediately decide on it whether it is a go or not, because this is something that affects national security,” Catapang said.

The chief of staff admitted that the absence of any decision is also affecting the country’s security posture.

Pestano slay suspects arraigned after 19 years

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Oct 2): Pestano slay suspects arraigned after 19 years

Eight Navy officers accused of involvement in the 1995 killing of Ensign Philip Pestaño pleaded not guilty to murder charges before the Manila regional trial court (RTC) yesterday.

The accused are Commanders Reynaldo Lopez, Luidegar Casis and Alfrederick Alba; Lt. Commander Joselito Colico; retired Lt. Commander Ricardo Ordonez; Hospital Man First Class Welmenio Aquino; Machinery Repair First Class Sandy Miranda, and retired Petty Officer 2 Mil Leonor Igacasan.

They did not grant any interview when they appeared before Branch 6 Judge Jansen Rodriguez.

Accompanying them were their lawyers Jay de Guzman and Ana Luz Cristal.

Pestaño’s parents and their lawyers, former senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Eirene Aguila, were also in court.

The court will decide on the accused’s bail petition during the next hearings on Oct. 27, Nov. 13 and 20.

Two other accused, Lt. Commander Ruben Roque and Petty Officer First Class Carlito Amoroso remain at large.

It was learned that Roque had already left the country even before the case was filed.

Amoroso was included in the bail petition, although he is still at large.

Pestaño was found dead with a gunshot wound to the head inside his cabin on board the Navy cargo ship BRP Bacolod in September 1995.

Early reports said he committed suicide, but his family believed he was murdered.

Pestaño reportedly discovered that the Bacolod was carrying illegal logs.

US, PHL forces ‘careful’ vs. identifying PHIBLEX with West PHL Sea dispute

From GMA News (Oct 2): US, PHL forces ‘careful’ vs. identifying PHIBLEX with West PHL Sea dispute

As joint military exercises by Philippine and American forces continue in Palawan, officials are careful to identify the ongoing "war games" with the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.
The 2014 Amphibious Landing Exercise (PHIBLEX), which began on Monday, is currently being conducted in Palawan, near disputed waters on the West Philippine Sea.
In his live report on News To Go from Palawan on Thursday, GMA News' Ian Cruz said, "Ingat na ingat nga 'yung Amerika at Pilipinas doon sa issue sa West Philippine Sea."
"Sinasabi nga nila, 31st iteration na ito ng PHIBLEX kaya naman wala raw talagang kaugnayan ito sa West Philippine Sea. Pero kapag tinatanong naman 'yung magkabilang panig kung applicable ba 'yung scenario dito—'yung pag-retake ng island—ang sinasagot nila, lahat ito applicable sa lahat ng nasasakupan ng Pilipinas," he said. 
He added, "Ibig sabihin, 'yung natutunan nila rito, pwede ring i-apply doon sa West Philippine Sea, pero 'yun nga lang, hindi nila directly inili-link doon and wala silang pinatutungkulan na isang bansa lamang tulad ng China, na talaga namang agresibo ang posisyon pagdating sa proteksyon ng West Philippine Sea."
[Video report]
On Thursday, more than a hundred soldiers participated in a mock retaking of the province's King's Paradise Island, the report said. In the scenario, Philippine and American forces were to reclaim the area from an extremist group. The operations were conducted within a few minutes, which officials said should be done to ensure the capture of their targets.
Some Japanese soldiers were on-site to observe the activity, the News To Go report said. Officials saw it as a good sign that another country is interested in the exercises.
According to Navy Commodore Manuel Natalio Abinuman, they will look into Japan's possible participation in the exercises, which may boost "regional stability," especially on the issue of the disputed waters, it added.
‘Soft launch’ for EDCA?
Earlier, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon claimed that the joint military exercises is a "soft launch" for the activities planned under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), a 10-year defense agreement that allows for an enlarged rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines. 
He added that the presence of US troops can only heighten tensions about the West Philippine Sea.
“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. Yet what the US Navy fails to highlight is the threat their presence brings to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific Region,” Ridon said in a statement.
PHIBLEX will run until October 10 in several other areas in Luzon, including Subic Bay and Tarlac province, to boost coordination among Filipino and American soldiers regarding regional issues and humanitarian disasters.
Around 1,200 members of the Philippine Navy and 3,500 US Marines and sailors from the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and Commander, Task Force 76, are involved in the latest round of the yearly military exercises.

PHL, US troops retake an island in simulated situation

From Ang Malaya (Oct 2): PHL, US troops retake an island in simulated situation

During a Thursday, September 2 PHIBLEX 15 activity, Philippine and US troops retake an island in a simulated situation. Approximately a hundred troops carried out the drill in few minutes. Japanese troops were observing the activity.

PHL-US is the oldest defense alliance in Southeast Asian region. Soldiers from two countries are from time to time testing and updating emergency response capabilities for various kinds of situations.

“We’re hoping to gain new techniques from the U.S. marine corps. If they have new doctrines, we’ll be able to learn from them,” Palawan-based 3rd Marine Brigade spokesperson Captain Reyson Talingdan.

Majority of the drills for PHIBLEX 15 will be held at Palawan near the disputed waters.

“The field training exercises will provide the Philippines and U.S marine units multiple opportunities to continue to improve their skills while sharing best practices and enhancing an already high level of cohesion,” U.S. embassy in Manila said.

'Islamic State popularity growing in Philippines'

From the Philippine Star (Oct 2): 'Islamic State popularity growing in Philippines'

The appeal of the jihadist organization Islamic State (IS) is gaining ground in the Philippines, particularly among extremist groups in Mindanao, the Anti-Terrorism Council said Thursday.

At a security forum co-organized by the European Union, Assistant Secretary Oscar Valenzuela, executive director of the council's project management committee, said the Philippines was not spared from the "regional spillover" of the international security crisis sparked by IS in the Middle East and spread through social media and the Internet.

The country saw pledges of allegiance to the IS Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi by known jihadists in previous months such by members of the Abu Sayyaf group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Abu Sayyaf senior leader Isnilon Hapiton along with some of his men appeared in a video uploaded on YouTube reading a pledge to al-Baghdadi, while BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama confirmed a video showing their members vowing loyalty to the IS.

Valenzuela also noted a show of support by Aleem Jamil Yahyam, chairman of the Bangsamoro Supreme Council of Ulama, to the IS "through prayers."

He said the presence of foreign Islamic preachers may also have security implications in the Philippines, with Australian national Robert Edward "Musa" Cerantonio, an alleged IS preacher, arrested in Cebu in July and Canadian citizen Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips in Davao in September. Philips had denied links with terror groups.

Failure to indemnify class suit plaintiffs vs Marcos a ground to terminate talks, NDF warns

From InterAksyon (Oct 1): Failure to indemnify class suit plaintiffs vs Marcos a ground to terminate talks, NDF warns

File photo of NDF negotiating panel head Luis Jalandoni

Communist rebels warned that government’s failure to recognize and indemnify the original 9,539 class suit and 24 direct action plaintiffs who filed and won a landmark case for human rights violations committed during the Marcos dictatorship constitutes “just cause” for terminating peace negotiations.

The warning issued by Luis Jalandoni, who heads the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front, followed complaints earlier this month by the human rights group Samahan ng Ex-Detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto or SELDA.

SELDA had accused the Human Rights Victims Claims Board of “continuously refusing to state categorically that it recognizes as victims the 9,539 members of the class suit against former President Marcos in 1986” even if the plaintiffs as well as the 24 direct action plaintiffs “have been recognized and verified by the US Federal Court in Hawaii,” which tried the case and ruled against the dictator’s estate.

The HRVCB, headed by retired police general Lina Sarmiento, was created through Republic Act 10386, or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

The Claims Board set a six-month period, from May 12 to November 1 this year, for some 20,000 expected claimants to apply for compensation. However, recent reports have said only a fraction of that number have filed their claims amid complaints from claimants, many of them elderly and ailing, that the application process is too difficult for them.

SELDA chair Marie Hilao-Enriquez, a victim of the dictatorship and one of those who sued the Marcos estate, claimed the “process of accepting applications is not aimed at recognizing the most number of martial law victims” and also did not encourage victims to file their claims for compensation.

She added that claimants “are treated like persons who are only after money, of a very small amount that can never make up for their sacrifices and sufferings as victims. They are after justice and reparation.”

Worse, she said, “The HRVCB itself is violating the law. Conclusive presumption becomes disputable presumption in their denial to recognize the victims who have time and again proved they suffered abuses and rights violations under the Marcos dictatorship.”

Jalandoni, in a statement, said Section 17 of RA 10368 says: “The claimants in the class suit and direct action plaintiffs in the Human Rights Litigation Against the Estate of Ferdinand E. Marcos (MDL No. 840, CA No. 88-0390) in the US Federal District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii wherein a favorable judgment has been rendered, shall be extended the conclusive presumption that they are HRVVs (human rights violations victims)...”

However, he said, the HRVCB, particularly Sarmiento, had failed to “secure a court certified copy of the original list of 9,539 class suit members and 24 direct action plaintiffs,” leading to “so much confusion, aggravation and problems for the human rights victims.”

The NDF chief negotiator stressed that compensation for the victims of the dictatorship is a central condition of the peace talks, “reflected in Article 5 of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” that the NDF and government signed in 1998.

Article 5 states that, “The Parties hereby respect and support the rights of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime taking into consideration the final judgment of the United States Federal Court System in the Human Rights Litigation Against Marcos, Senate Resolution 1640, Swiss Supreme Court Decision of 10 December 1997; and pertinent provisions of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture.”

It also commits the government to “execute with the duly authorized representatives of the victims a written instrument to implement this Article and guide the satisfaction of the claims of said victims, with regard to the amount and mode of compensation, which shall be the most direct and quickest possible to every victim or heir…”

The issue of compensation, he added, “is also manifested in Number 6 of the Oslo Joint Statement signed on 14 February 2004 by the GRP and NDFP and attested to by the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator, as well as in Number 5 of the Second Oslo Joint Statement signed on 3 April 2004 by the two Parties and attested to by the Royal Norwegian Government as Third Party Facilitator.”

He said the continued refusal to recognize the class suit and direct action plaintiffs against the Marcoses would not only violate the CARHRIHL and the Oslo Joint Statements but RA 10368 itself, and “will destroy the peace negotiations.”

ALAM NA | 5 threat groups lean toward jihadist Islamic State, says military officer

From InterAksyon (Oct 2): ALAM NA | 5 threat groups lean toward jihadist Islamic State, says military officer

Brigadier General Jose Kakilala at the EU-sponsored forum on radicalism in the Philippines, 2 October 2014, Edsa Shangri-La Hotel. JAIME SINAPIT/

A military officer on Thursday identified five groups as having obvious leanings for the jihadist Islamic State (IS) group, a “network of death” rampaging in some territories in war-torn Syria and Iraq.

Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala, chief of the military’s Office for Strategic Studies and Strategy Management (OSSM), identified these groups as:
  • Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) aims to establish an independent Islamic State through radical ideology and violent operational method. Composed of a handful of Muslim extremists, ASG is involved in high-profile kidnap-for-ransom cases. Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has trained ASG members in bomb-making and launching bombing operations.
  • Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) is a terrorist network established in several countries in Southeast Asia;
  • Rajah Solaiman Movement (RSM) envisions the “reconversion” of the entire Philippines to Islam and is responsible for the 2004 ferry attack and the 2005 valentine’s Day bombing;
  • Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), a faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which has an ongoing peace process with the government.
  • Khilafa Islamiyah Mindanao’s (KIM) existence is still being validated. “Although KIM’s existence still has to be validated, it could be a factor of concern if it can forge a direct tie with ISIS and emerge as an umbrella organization for other existing and emerging jihadist groups that embrace the idea of creating an Islamic State in the southern Philippines same as what the Jemaah Islamiyah envisions,” Kakilala said. According to military intelligence records, KIM first emerged in 2012 and was first reported by Kakilala himself in October that year.
These groups are closely being monitored, the general said at a European Union-sponsored forum on “Current Dynamics of Radicalism” at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

“The AFP is determined to quell the so-called ‘peace spoilers’ that are either nationalists or fundamentalist in orientation,” Kakilala said.

According to the military, ASG, JI, and BIFF have already sworn support and allegiance to the radicalism of the IS group as shown in some video footages uploaded in the Internet.

The government security authorities are monitoring reports of ISIS influence in some areas in Mindanao.

‘Rooted in Arab Spring’

“This group is rooted in the Middle East during the Arab uprising that swept Egypt, Yemen, Libya, Algeria, and Syria,” the general said.

Kakilala said the current security challenge in the country has once again seized the spotlight due to the emergence of the IS.

Different local and international groups, including some representatives from the government security agencies, participated in the EU-sponsored forum at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel in Mandaluyong City.

Ambassador Guy Ledoux, head of European Union Delegation to the Philippines, said tackling Islamic radicalism in the Philippine context is necessary to help prevent the spread of terrorism especially in Mindanao where there exist terror groups, citing the Abu Sayyaf Group.

Reports of Pinoys fighting with ISIS still being validated - ATC

From InterAksyon (Oct 2): Reports of Pinoys fighting with ISIS still being validated - ATC

The Anti-Terrorism Council on Thursday said it is still validating reports of Filipinos who have joined the Islamic State abroad, including two supposedly killed fighting with the jihadists in Syria.

“We’re validating such report that two Filipinos were fighting with the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as IS used to be known) in the conflict areas,” ATC executive director Oscar Valenzuela told a forum on Islamic radicalism at the EDSA Shangri-la in Mandaluyong City.

Valenzuela did not identify the two Filipinos.

He also admitted that there is no solid evidence, only suspicions, of Filipinos actually joining IS in Syria or Iraq, adding that the most likely recruits would be overseas Filipino workers in or near the conflict areas who he said “are vulnerable to recruitment by ISIS because money is so abundant.”

Earlier, the military said any Filipinos who might have joined ISIS fighters would most likely have crossed the borders from somewhere else and not necessarily have come from the Philippines.

Earlier, obtained a copy of a confidential memorandum from Felizardo Serapio Jr., executive director of the Philippine Center for Transnational Crime, asking Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to “consider the creation of a Technical Working Group that will create a database on monitoring and profiling foreign fighters, as a significant contribution to manage and inhibit further presence of Filipinos, as reported, in conflict-stricken areas.”

Serapio also heads the Law Enforcement Integrated Office, which is under Ochoa.

The memo cited a March 20 memorandum from the Department of Foreign Affairs to President Benigno Aquino III on the deaths of two Filipinos “allegedly fighting alongside the opposition group in Syria.”

It also referred to a report by the DFA to a March 20 meeting of the Regional Anti-Terrorism Council Convergence Group for the National Capital Region that “100 Filipinos who traveled to Iran had undergone military training and were deployed to Syria.”

The DFA has since said these reports are unverified.

However, recently, intellligence sources have maintained that jihadists, including foreigners from the Jemaah Islamiya network who have pledged allegiance to IS, are in Mindanao seeking recruits. The persistent reports prompted Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief, to suggest the creation of an inter-agency task force to address the threat.

Maguindanao lumad leader killed in ambush

From InterAksyon (Oct 2): Maguindanao lumad leader killed in ambush

Murdered Teduray chieftain Lencio Arig (photo courtesy of Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement)

A leader of the Teduray tribe in Maguindanao province was killed in an ambush Thursday afternoon, an indigenous peoples advocacy group said.

The Mindanao Peoples' Peace Movement said Timuay (chieftain) Lencio Arig was with his wife and small daughter when attacked in Barangay Romongaub, South Upi town. The two were unhurt.

The group could give no further details of the incident as of this posting.
Timuay Labi (supreme chieftain) Sammie Bello, who heads the Timuay Justice and Governance, the indigenous political structure of the Teduray and Lambangian tribes of Maguindanao, of which Arig was a member, also said they had yet to receive a fuller account of the incident.

Interviewed by phone, Bello said the initial information he had received indicated that Arig was "riddled with bullets" when the killers "emptied a whole M16 magazine on him."

He said the reports relayed to him indicated that Arig and his wife and child were walking from his farm in Romongaub to the highway when they were waylaid "between 2 to 3 p.m." by the gunmen, who had masked their faces with bonnets and hidden themselves in a rubber plantation.

Bello described the murdered tribal leader as someone who "always went out of his way to avoid conflict."

The 100,000-strong Teduray Lambangian, along with the Dulangan Manobo, lay claim to an ancestral domain that spans 300,000 hectares of land and coastal waters within 12 municipalities of Maguindanao and parts of neighboring Sultan Kudarat province.

They have been campaigning for official recognition of their ancestral lands and indigenous culture within the prospective Bangsamoro homeland that is expected to be created once the Bangsamoro Basic Law is enacted.

2 NPA tigok sa sagupaan

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 1): 2 NPA tigok sa sagupaan

Dalawang rebeldeng New People’s Army ang kumpirmadong nasawi sa sagupaan nito sa militar sa Surigao City sa Mindanao.

Walang inulat na casualties sa panig ng mga sundalo sa ilalim ng 30th Infantry Battalion, ngunit ipinag-utos naman ng 402nd Infantry Brigade sa tropa ang pagtugis sa NPA.

Natiyempuhan umano ng isang army patrol ang grupo ng mga rebelde sa Barangay Mat-i kamakalawa kung kaya’t nagkaroon ng labanan doon. Nabawi rin ng mga sundalo ang dalawang M16 automatic rifles mula sa nasawing mga rebelled.

Walang inilabas na anumang pahayag ang NPA ukol sa casualties nito, ngunit ilang beses na rin nagbanta ang naturang grupo na mas paiigtingin pa nito ang kanilang opensiba laban sa pamahalaan.

Matagal nang nakikibaka ang mga rebelde upang maitatag ang sariling estado sa bansa sa kabila ng paulit-ulit na peace talks na kadalasan ay nauuwi sa wala dahil sa mga hinihinging demands ng komunistang grupo sa pamahalaan.

MILF clan war sumiklab sa Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 1): MILF clan war sumiklab sa Mindanao

Ingat na ingat ang MILF sniper nito habang nakasilip sa kanyang Barrett scope sa Maguindanao province. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

Patuloy pa rin kahapon ang paglikas ng mga sibilyan sa ilang barangay sa bayan ng Pikit sa North Cotabato dahil sa labanan sa pagitan ng dalawang commander ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front sa lugar.

Sa huling ulat ay mahigit na 500 katao na umano ang lumayas mula sa Barangay Bulol matapos na magsagupaan doon ang grupo nina Commander Makalugi at Commander Solaiman kamakailan lamang.

Hindi pa matiyak ang tumpak na bilang ng mga nasawi at sugatan sa magkabilang panig dahil sa matinding tensyon sa lugar. Dedma lamang ang 6th Infantry Division sa kaguluhan sa pangambang madamay ito sa labanan.

Sinabi naman ng MILF na ginagawan na nito ng paraan upang matigil ang gulo. Nabatid na away sa lupain ang pinag-ugatan ng sagupaan, subali’t matagal na rin umanong may alitan at galit sa isa’t-isa ang dalawang commander.

Nagmistulang rido na rin o clan war ang labanan dahil maging ang mga tauhan ng dalawang magkatunggaling commander ay kanya-kanya na rin upak ang ginagawa sa angkan at pamilya ng bawat isa.

Army Artillery Regiment names first information officer

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 1): Army Artillery Regiment names first information officer

Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel

A former army spokesperson in Mindanao Major Rosa Maria Cristina Manuel has been named as the new public information officer for the Army Artillery Regiment in Palayan City in Nueva Ecija province just outside Manila.

Colonel Leandro Loyao III, the regiment commander, said Manuel will also head the Civil Military Operations office. “I am optimistic that by designating her, the public will be aware about the contribution of the so-called artilyeros or kanyoneros in the over-all campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in winning the peace through Bayanihan while gearing towards achieving our goals in Artillery Capability Development in line with the Army Transformation Roadmap,” Loyao said.

He said Manuel is the first public information officer since the creation of the Army Artillery Regiment in 2007.

Hardworking officer

Manuel, who was previously assigned with the 10th Infantry Division under Eastern Mindanao Command headquarters in Davao City in Mindanao, also specializes in artillery operations.

Her former colleagues said Manuel is a hardworking officer and is a known “workaholic” and one of the best spokespersons the army had in Mindanao. She is also active in civil and humanitarian missions and member of various civic groups.

Children's Month Celebration

Loyao’s announcement also coincided with the start of the month-long celebration of the 22ndNational Children’s Month where the Army Artillery Regiment launched educational activities with dozens of school children from the Wells of Wisdom Foundational Learning Center.

The students along with their parents and guardians were accorded with package tour around selected Fort Magsaysay facilities. The children were overwhelmed in the capability demonstration performed by the artillery personnel since it was their first time to see 105mm Howitzer cannons.

“We showcase our capabilities to our visitors as our way of informing them that our weapons symbolize peace. We only used them when havoc caused by criminal armed groups greatly affects soldiers and most specially the women, children and elders,” Loyao said.

He said soldiers and students also planted mahogany seedlings in one of the areas in Fort Magsaysay which was devastated by Typhoon Santi last year. They also watched a film about the army that added up to their learning about the soldiers’ concern for their welfare. Guests from JCI Duwaling and Cabanatuan Golden Grains educated the children about anti-bullying through a localized independent film produced and directed by one of its members Jojo Matias, from Cabanatuan City.

“This is indeed a great experience for our students since it’s our first time to enter a military camp and mingle with very kind and accommodating soldiers. We plan to include this kind of tour again for our students next year,” said Pastor Roland Barrientos, the school president.

Army Artillery Regiment, a major combat support unit of the Philippine Army, has 7 Field Artillery Battalions deployed in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao and directly supporting infantry units not only in times of skirmishes or battles with various armed groups, but also active in helping communities and sustaining the environment by alleviating its conditions caused by either natural or man-made disasters.

Aquino welcomes Filipino troops who fought Syrian rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 1): Aquino welcomes Filipino troops who fought Syrian rebels

[Video report: Talumpati ni President Aquino para sa 7th PHL Contingent to Golan Heights]

President Benigno Aquino gives his message during the Heroes’ Welcome Ceremony for the 7th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights at the Rizal Hall of the Malacañan Palace on Wednesday, October 1, 2014. (Photo by Rey Baniquet)

President Benigno Aquino welcomed back Filipino troops who were members of the 7th Philippine Contingent to Golan Heights and presented awards Wednesday to 10 soldiers during the Heroes’ Welcome Ceremony held in Malacañang Palace.

Aquino conferred the Distinguished Service Star to National Contingent Commander Colonel Ezra James Enriquez and Lt. Col. Ted Dumusmog, who both led the contingent during the crisis situation in the Golan Heights, resulting in the successful extrication of all Filipino troops to safe locations. 
 Enriquez planned the defense posture of the Filipino troops when the Syrian rebels attacked their positions. 

Aquino also presented the Gold Cross Medal to Position 68 Commander Captain Nilo Ramones, Jr. and seven others.

Position 68 Assistant Commander, 2nd Lieutenant Larry Endozo, was cited for assisting Captain Ramones; Master Sergeant Wilson Lagmay for ensuring troops held their position; Sergeant Alwin Cuyos for his unfazed action that prevented the rebels from breaching their gate; Staff Sergeant Leonardo Aboy for neutralizing the gunner of a ZPU-2 (a Russian anti-aircraft gun); Staff Sergeant Andry Mejos as team leader of the Bravo unit and for his accurate firing at the enemy; Sergeant Ramil Bobiles, whose action prevented the rebels from advancing; and Corporal Joneve Acolicol for his bravery that led to the extrication of their unit. 

The Distinguished Service Star, the third highest military award of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), is presented to soldiers who have rendered eminently meritorious and valuable service while holding a position of greater responsibility. The Gold Cross Medal, the fourth highest military award, is given by the Chief of Staff to members of the AFP for gallantry in action. 

Aquino praised the troops and spoke with them in Tagalog. 

“Humahanga ang buong sambayanan na talagang ito ang uri, kalidad, saka galing, tapang, husay, talino ng ating Sandatahang Lakas. Talagang nakadagdag kayo sa puri at sa dangal ng ating Inang Bayan, kaya naman dapat kayong talagang pasalamatan. At sa ngalan nga ng sambayanan, ako na ho nagpapasalamat para sa kanilang lahat. Ulitin ko lang ho, sana itong tagumpay nating ito ay talaga naman paulit-ulit, para masabi nating dagdag pa, tulad noong pagreresolba doon sa Zamboanga Crisis, ito ngang sa labas lang ng ating mga bakuran, talagang pinakita na naman niyo ang gilas ng Pilipino,” he said, referring to security forces that defended Zamboanga city from attacks by the Moro National Liberation Front in September last year in Zamboanga City.