Sunday, October 5, 2014

MILF: Jihadists spread likely in Mindanao

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 6): MILF: Jihadists spread likely in Mindanao

THERE is a real danger of Islamist extremism spreading in Mindanao, particularly if Congress fails to pass “good legislation” that will empower the Moro community and bring genuine peace in Mindanao, according to the chief peace negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Mohagher Iqbal
“The danger of [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] is not the actual confrontation,” Mohagher Iqbal, one of the key MILF figures in forging the peace pact with the government, said in an interview with GMA News Online.

“We have to look at two situations: One is the ideology of radicalism which is infectious,” Iqbal said after the extremist Abu Sayyaf and the MILF breakaway group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters swore allegiance to the self-proclaimed IS caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

“The other one is that if we fail in this engagement, with this present Bangsamoro Basic Law, and eventually become irrelevant then that’s the danger,” Iqbal said.

“If the Bangsamoro people will be empowered and the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed in the Congress as a good legislation, I think the MILF will play a very vital role in moderating the situation in Mindanao,” he added.

Iqbal made the remarks after a large faction within the MILF openly expressed its disapproval of the disarmament provision in the peace agreement it forged with the government and has allegedly begun “realignment” talks with the BIFF.

The MILF admitted in an editorial posted on its website that “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,” said the editorial on the MILF’s

“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,” it added.

The MILF said the provisions on “decommissioning” is one of the most misunderstood or misconstrued aspects of the peace pact.

“It is confused with surrender of firearms to government or their destruction, as was true in Aceh in Indonesia,” the group said.

“It is not of the same mold with the traditional (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,” it added.

The MILF explained that 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.

The editorial also claimed that the MILF believes 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.

But the MILF explained that “decommissioning” does not the mean the surrender of firearms or their destruction.

“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.”

Deferring improvement of military facilities in Pagasa meant to maintain moral high ground

From Ang Malaya (Oct 5): Deferring improvement of military facilities in Pagasa meant to maintain moral high ground

The order from the President not to desert the status quo in West Philippine Sea “was issued sometime in the middle of 2014, and we need to ensure that we maintain our moral high ground because we filed a case before the arbitral tribunal as regards the West Philippine Sea,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview with dzRB.

“We don’t want to deviate from the process that we chose to ease the tensions and avoid any incident that may be construed as ramping up tension or trying to provoke any of – the claimant countries that are involved. So at least, for this time, we are sticking to that tack,” she added.

“In our view, it will not weaken our position.”

Defense Secretary Gazmin told a Senate Committee last Friday, October 3 that they got instruction from President Aquino not to desert the status quo. “We have funds for the improvement but this is now being held in abeyance because of the case we have filed.”

The instruction deferred the improvement of airstrip and military facilities in Pagasa Island.

Philippines has been calling for moratorium in West Philippine Sea amid China’s aggressive reclamation in the region. The government also initiated Triple Action Plan to solve maritime spat in South China Sea. The plan was widely accepted by the international community except China.

Basic services and delivery of goods to Pagasa Island is not affected by the President’s directive not to change the status quo.

Decommissioning of MILF weapons ‘impossible’ — MNLF

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 6): Decommissioning of MILF weapons ‘impossible’ — MNLF

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) yesterday branded as “impossible” the decommissioning of the weapons of its breakaway group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), as part of the normalization clause of its peace agreement with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman of the MNLF, said that decommissioning of firearms is not attainable in Bangsamoro culture.

According to Fontanilla, losing firearms in Muslim culture is like losing a wife and dignity.

“That’s impossible. It’s just like abducting one’s wife or destroying one’s dignity,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

He stressed that the MNLF did not put decommissioning of firearms in its 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Philippine government for the same reason.

“The MNLF will never agree as we have done (before),” he said.

Fontanilla said there is absolutely no provision in the 1996 FPA that called for the decommissioning of MNLF weapons.

The MILF said that the decommissioning of its weapons will come in four phases and would only be completed if and when all the commitments of the GRP under the peace agreement are accomplished, including the establishment of Bangsamoro Police.

As symbolic goodwill, the MILF said it will decommission 75 various firearms before the end of 2014 which will be considered as phase 1.

The MILF said that second phase will come upon the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law before the Congress and the ratification of the BBL in a plebiscite which will be marked by decommissioning of 30 percent of MILF weapons.

The third phase will cover 35 percent of MILF firearms which would be decommissioned upon establishment and operationalization of the Bangsamoro Police.

The fourth and final phase covering the remaining MILF weapons or about 30 percent will come 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.

The GRP and the MILF have organized the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) composed of Turkey as chairman, Norway as vice chairman, Brunei as member, and two members each from the GRP and MILF to oversee the decommissioning process.

The MILF admitted that decommissioning is a very emotional and sensitive issue and considered it as an ultimate sacrifice in exchange for peace and settlement of the centuries-old conflict in Mindanao.

The MILF, however, clarified that decommissioning does not mean surrendering of weapons to the government.

CPP: Aquino clinging to power like a leech amid mounting calls for removal

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 5): Aquino clinging to power like a leech amid mounting calls for removal
Communist Party of the Philippines
Benigno Aquino III is clinging to power like a leech in refusing to heed mounting calls for his resignation, removal or ouster from power. Aquino’s adamance in remaining in MalacaƱang is reminiscent of Gloria Arroyo’s stubborness amid mounting protests from 2005 onwards.

Over the past several weeks, the corruption and rottenness of the Aquino regime continue to be exposed.

Aquino’s insistence that the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of realigning billions of pesos as “savings” for priority projects is a measure for economic development has been thoroughly exposed as a big lie. The list of projects and its proponents under DAP recently made public clearly shows that DAP funds were released mainly to Aquino’s political allies, especially key officers of the Liberal Party as a form of pork barrel to perpetuate the system of political patronage. Among the biggest DAP recipients are Sec. Jun Abaya, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Sec. Francis Pangilinan, all LP stalwarts.

It has been disclosed, in particular, that large amounts of funds were disproportionately allocated to Rep. Henedina Abad for her “beautifacation and greening projects” in their small province of Batanes. Congresswoman Abad is the wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who has been the subject of angry protests for having been the chief architect, implementor and defender of the DAP.

Over the past few days, Aquino’s police chief, Dir. Gen. Alan Purisima, a close personal aide and stooge since their Central Luzon days, has been under fire for having accumulated properties way beyond his salary as a police officer, including vast tracts of land and a mansion with a swimming pool. He has also reportedly received millions of pesos in “contributions” and enjoyed several million pesos in “discounts” for the purchase of his personal vehicle.

There are overwhelming calls for General Purisima’s removal. This is amplified by the people’s anger over his failure to clean up the Philippine National Police whose officers have been involved in high-profile crimes.

Despite being caught lying through his teeth in his testimonies before the Senate and under questioning by the media, General Purisima still enjoys the unwavering support of Aquino who sees no reason to remove him nor carry out an investigation into the PNP. This is the same kind of total support that Aquino has given Secretary Abad.

Amid numerous allegations of graft and corruption, Aquino insists that his regime continues to be the model of “good governance” and hews to the “righteous path”.
In a desperate attempt to make it appear that there is popular support for Aquino, his Yellow Army operatives of PR specialists paid for a full-page ad last week in daily broadsheets calling for another term for Aquino. This is after failing to generate a clamor in social media websites. Over the past month, Aquino’s “one-more-term” facebook page could only garner around 15 new fans per day.

Contrary to all-out efforts by Aquino’s political operatives and the scenario being conjured by MalacaƱang, there is no widespread clamor nor sizeable campaign calling for an extension of Aquino’s term. Still, Aquino’s spokespersons continue to stubbornly insist otherwise, asserting that Aquino is still listening to his “bosses” and will remain open to a term extension.

The Aquino regime is utterly isolated from the Filipino people who suffer from the overarching socio-economic crisis that has resulted in unprecedented numbers of unemployed and underemployed workers, worsening oppression and bigger numbers of people in the quagmire of poverty. It has shamelessly surrendered Philippine sovereignty in paving the way for US military basing through the signing of the EDCA. It has carried out a campaign of military suppression behind the curtain of “peace and human rights”.

A growing numbers of sectors are demanding an end to Aquino’s rule. The most vocal and assertive are the workers, peasants, students and other democratic sectors that are the most oppressed by Aquino’s corruption, mendacity, brutality and acquiescence to foreign dictates. Recently, religious groups led by Catholic archbishops and bishops openly called for Aquino’s resignation. They have added their voices to the growing ranks of Filipinos disatissfied with the Aquino regime who have been seeking its immediate ouster.

Judging by Aquino’s statements and actions, he is bound to exert all-out effort to cling to power beyond 2016. He is set on perpetuating his rule either through the election of a proxy or by seeking a second or extended term.

To realize their aspiration to oust the Aquino regime, the Filipino people must take immediate political action. They must build their strength to force Aquino out of power by organizing in big numbers in their factories, communities, offices and university campuses. They must strengthen their determination by carrying out political education to firmly grasp the tasks of waging political mass actions to oust the Aquino regime.

Iqbal: Failure to pass Bangsamoro law could spread IS influence in Mindanao

From GMA News (Oct 4): Iqbal: Failure to pass Bangsamoro law could spread IS influence in Mindanao

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front is wary over the possible spread of influence of the jihadist Islamic State in the Philippines if the Bangsamoro Basic Law fails to hurdle the legislative process.

GMA News stringer Ferdinandh Cabrera quoted chief MILF negotiator Mohagher Iqbal as saying talks between the government and the MILF should show unity and sincerity in attaining peace to steer the Muslim community away from ISIS influence.

"The danger of ISIS is not the actual confrontation but we have to look up to two situations: One is the ideology of radicalism which is infectious, the other one is that if we fail in this engagement — with this present Bangsamoro Basic Law — and eventually become irrelevant then that’s the danger, Iqbal said.

Iqbal also noted that the MILF can help curb the spread of extremism in Mindanao.

"If the Bangsamoro people will be empowered and the Bangsamoro Basic Law will be passed in the Congress as a good legislation, I think the MILF will play a very vital role in moderating the situation in Mindanao," he said.

BIFF, Abu Sayyaf side with IS

Earlier in August, clips were uploaded on the video sharing site YouTube showing both the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Abu Sayyaf rebels pledging support to the Islamic State (IS).

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said: "We have an alliance with the Islamic State and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi."

Authorities describe the Abu Sayyaf as a radical group having links with the al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist organizations.

On the other hand, the BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). The MILF signed a peace agreement with the government in March.

Military to rely on navy for deliveries to Pagasa Island

From ABS-CBN (Oct 5): Military to rely on navy for deliveries to Pagasa Island

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will have to rely on its naval assets to deliver supplies for troops in the Pagasa island.

“The AFP can use its naval assets for the routine logistics run and transport of troops who are stationed there,” said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc.

Cabunoc is referring to the government’s decision to shelve improvements on a military airstrip in the island.

"We wanted to maintain the moral high ground in light of the case we filed at the (UN) arbitration tribunal regarding the West Philippine Sea," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said on Saturday.

"We chose... to ease tensions and avoid any incident that may be construed as ramping up tensions or trying to provoke any of the claimant countries," she added.

The Philippines infuriated China in March by asking a United Nations tribunal to declare Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) a violation of international law.

China claims almost all of the sea, a vital avenue for world trade that is also believed to harbor vast oil and gas reserves.

But its claims overlap in parts with those of the Philippines, as well as Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan.

“The AFP respects the government’s position about the runway project,” Cabunoc said.

The small runway lies on Thitu, the largest of several islands and reefs in the Spratly group that are garrisoned by Filipino soldiers but also claimed by China.

The runway is used mainly by military aircraft to resupply the Filipino troops guarding the island and nearby rocks, as well as a small community of Filipino civilians living on Thitu.

The upgrade plans were suspended by Aquino "sometime in the middle of 2014,” Valte said.

The airstrip project, as well as acquisitions of navy vessels, were part of Aquino's efforts to upgrade the capability of the Philippine military, one of the most poorly equipped in the region.


CPP/NDF: NDF-EV condemns indiscriminate strafing in civilian communities and other human rights violations in Northern Samar (with audio recording)

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 5): NDF-EV condemns indiscriminate strafing in civilian communities and other human rights violations in Northern Samar (with audio recording)
Fr. Santiago Salas (Ka Sanny)
NDFP Eastern Visayas Chapter
The National Democratic Front of the Philippines in Eastern Visayas strongly condemns the indiscrimate strafing in civilian communities in Lope de Vega last September 28-29, as well as human rights violations in other parts of Northern Samar. We support the people’s demands to end Oplan Bayanihan and the militarization of Northern Samar and elsewhere in Eastern Visayas.

Village officials of Brgy. Pagite, Lope de Vega have trooped to the local government and the media to complain of military operations that put civilians in danger. Last Sept. 22-29, the 34th IB launched search-and-destroy operations in the barangay’s subvillages (sitio) of New Sumuroy and Ginbauyan without the knowledge of the village council. The village officials point out this violates the 2008 memorandum of agreement between officials of Lope de Vega’s villages and the military that the civilian officials must be informed of any military operations so that civilian lives would not be put at risk.

On Sept. 28, government soldiers indiscriminate strafed allegedly against the New People’s Army (NPA), but forcing the majority of residents in the two subvillages to evacuate for safety to the village center. The following day, Sept. 29, two attack helicopters went on aerial strafing of the environs of New Sumuroy, convincing those who remained behind to flee for their lives.

The soldiers only showed themselves in the village on Sept. 30 and left on Oct. 2. Meanwhile, the civilian residents of Brgy. Pagite have been unable to return to their homes because of fear and uncertainty over reckless military operations. Children have been left in shock after their traumatic experiences. Even though it is already the harvest season, the ricefields are rotting because the barrio folk are too afraid to venture out. The people are forced to take refuge in the village center and rely on relief assistance from the local government and humanitarian groups.

The climate of impunity caused by Aquino government forces reigns in other parts of Northern Samar. Only this September, about 100 village officials and leaders of the peasant organization Alyansa han mga Parag-uma Kontra Kakablasan ha Las Navas (APKLAS or Peasant Alliance Against Poverty in Las Navas) petitioned against “peace and development team” (PDT) operations by the military. These PDT operations are in reality psywar, intelligence and combat operations that violate human rights and ruin the livelihood of the peasantry. In fact, suspected military elements gunned down Las Navas town councilor Nelson Mercader last August 5 on the mere accusation he supported the NPA.

There are earlier incidents of human rights violations. There is the harassment and threats by the 34th IB against Raul Durin, a village treasurer in Brgy. Imelda, Las Navas who is accused of supporting the NPA. The 803rd CMO Company also monitors the movement of civilians and threatens reprisals against village residents in Brgy. Osang, Catubig if any soldier were to suffer harm by the NPA. Because of this, the people are reluctant to work in their farms out of fear.

The NDF-EV condemns the 8th Infantry Division’s wantons violation of human rights and international humanitarian law. These violations are contrary to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law between the NDFP and the Philippine government. The Aquino government’s Oplan Bayanihan commits rights violations on a wide scale. The seriousness of Benigno Aquino III for a just and lasting peace is already under question. It is only a matter of time that the people will rise up and oust his corrupt, unjust, pro-imperialist and fascist regime.


Allies help in monitoring West PHL Sea, recent resupply missions successful

From Ang Malaya (Oct 5): Allies help in monitoring West PHL Sea, recent resupply missions successful

“We have limited capability in monitoring but because of our friendly relations with some countries, we are provided information [regarding the West Philippine Sea],” National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said answering Senator Loren Legarda’s question during a budget hearing.

Legarda asked Gazmin how Armed Forces of the Philippines is monitoring the West Philippine Sea amid financial constraint.
Secretary Gazmin noted that AFP is relying on current capabilities. “Right now we rely only on what we have.”

Gazmin also told the Senate committee that the government has access to West Philippine Sea and recent resupply missions were not interfered.
“Our two recent resupply missions were not bothered by China.” This is amid the increased presence of Chinese maritime enforcer in the region.

During a successful resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal last March 2014, a US Navy plane was present to provide support.
Last August, a Chinese reporter asked AFP Chief General Catapang, “When is your next resupply mission to Ayungin [Shoal] and how do you plan to outsmart the Chinese vessels?”

General Catapang answered, “In order to outsmart the Chinese, we will not announce the date we plan to do it. We’ll just do it first and announce it later.”