Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cheating alleged over naval ammo bidding

From the Manila Times (Oct 15): Cheating alleged over naval ammo bidding

Alleged cheating marred bidding conducted by the General Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee headed by its acting chairman, Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago, for supply of 76mm ammunition for the Philippine Navy, a reliable source who is also an insider told The Manila Times on Tuesday.

The Times source said the violation was made during the absence of the committee chairman, Rear Admiral Romeo Nebres.

The bidding was for the procurement of 723 rounds of 76mm ammunition for use of the Philippine Navy.

Submission of bids was held at Bulwagang Syquio, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, in Quezon City on October 9.

The alleged favored supplier, Simmel Diffesa, submitted falsified documents claiming that the supplier—Simmel Diffesa—is a company owned by a sole proprietor when in fact it is a subsidiary of Chemring Group of Companies.

During opening of bid documents, the supplier submitted an allegedly self-serving unaudited financial statement when the documents required an Audited Financial Statement (AFS) and/or a Corporate Financial Statement (CFS).

The AFS and the CFS are necessary for computation of the Net Financial Contracting Capacity of bidders.

The lawyer for the Technical Working Group asked the representative of Simmel Diffesa why the documents submitted by the supplier did not comply with requirements of the bid documents, and the representative answered that Simmel Diffesa is a single proprietorship.

Two other bidders were outrightly declared ineligible to bid allegedly for non-compliant documents .

Simmel Diffesa is a subsidiary of a Chemring Group PLC U.K.

Since the Chemring Group is a publicly listed corporation, its 2013 Audited Financial Statement is published in the Internet.

Simmel Diffesa is included in the list of its subsidiaries under page 119 of the Chemring Group Consolidated Financial Statements.


3 rebels, 2 soldiers killed in Ifugao clash

From the Manila Times (Oct 15): 3 rebels, 2 soldiers killed in Ifugao clash

The Mountain Province-based 54th Infantry Battalion on Wednesday said three rebels were also killed during the encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) remnants in Sitio Landing, Barangay Camandag, Asipulo town, Ifugao on Tuesday.

In the firefight that took place 7: 30 a.m., two troopers were killed while three others were wounded.

Capt. Jefferson Somera, 54th Infantry Battalion public affairs officer said that two squads of their “Bayanihan” teams were going about their road development project when they encountered the NPA band opposed to the project.

An hour-long firefight erupted which resulted in the death of three rebels and wounding of several others.

Somera said NPA casualties were seen being evacuated by troops in the area.

He added wounded government personnel are now in stable condition after treatment.

Additional forces were deployed to go after the retreating rebels.


2 days before 'deadline,' Abu Sayyaf steps up pressure on German hostages

From Rappler (Oct 15): 2 days before 'deadline,' Abu Sayyaf steps up pressure on German hostages

'Please do everything to get us here,' says 71-year-old Victor Okonek

PRESSURE. The Abu Sayyaf releases this photo of one of its German hostages on Wednesday, October 15
PRESSURE. The Abu Sayyaf releases this photo of one of its German hostages on Wednesday, October 15

Two days before its deadline to authorities, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) stepped up pressure on its two German hostages held in Sulu, posting photos of one of them on social media and putting him on the radio.

In exchange for the hostages' release, the terrorist group is demanding a P250-million (about $5.5 million) ransom for the release of Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrike Dielen, as well as Germany's withdrawal from the US-led war on the jihadi group ISIS.

The photos posted on Wednesday, October 15, showed 71-year-old Okonek sitting in the middle of a freshly dug grave while 4 masked men point their rifles at him. The kidnappers were carrying the black flag that was first associated with the Al Qaeda and now the ISIS.

"Abu Sayyaf behead this German national on Oct. 17, 2014, at exactly 3:00p.m if they can't avail our demands," reads the social media post.

The ASG also put Okonek, a medical doctor, on radio via RMN in Zamboanga City. "Im sitting here in a hole. They digged a hole, 3 meters by 1.5 meters. They told me it is my grave. They pushed me inside the hole and Im sitting with 10 men around me," Okonek told RMN. "Please do everything to get us out here."

The other hostage is Henrike Dielen, 55.

The two were on a holiday, on board a yacht, when they were taken by the Abu Sayyaf in April 2014 off Palawan province.

"Please do everything to get us out here," Okonek told RMN. "I don't know how she is," he said. Asked if he thinks he will be released, Okonek managed to laugh. "Very good question. I hope so."

Military deployment

The fresh threat came days after the Philippine military deployed additional troops to Sulu. There are now 7 battalions – 5 Marines and 2 Army – deployed to the island. A company size of K-9 tracking unit was also deployed to help hunt down the local terrorists.

Last month, the hostages aired their appeal to Philippine and German governments – again through RMN.

But the German government earlier said that while it received "the report" about the Abu Sayyaf's demand for the country's withdrawal from the campaign against ISIS, it stressed that "threats are not an appropriate way to influence our policy in Syria and Iraq."

 The Abu Sayyaf has been behind a spate of kidnappings and terrorist activities in Muslim provinces in Mindanao. Its leaders have pledged allegiance to ISIS.
On July 23, a video of senior Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon along with masked men was posted on YouTube. Using a combination of his native dialect, Yakan, and Arabic, Hapilon and his men swear allegiance or “bay’ah,” an oath, to ISIS and its head, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Hapilon carries a reward of up to $5 million from the US Rewards for Justice Program. He was indicted in the District of Columbia for “terrorist acts against United States nationals and other foreign nationals.”


AFP forms own crisis team to monitor kidnap victims in Sulu and Basilan

From InterAksyon (Oct 15): AFP forms own crisis team to monitor kidnap victims in Sulu and Basilan

Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. Tuesday said they have formed their own Crisis Management Team based at General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City to closely monitor the kidnap situations in Sulu and other areas of concern such as in Basilan.

"I ordered the creation of a Crisis Management Team here at the General Headquarters to monitor the situation, especially of the two Germans," Catapang told reporters during a news conference at Camp Aguinaldo.

Last weekend, Catapang visited Sulu to personally assess the situation on the ground after the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) holding the two German hostages threatened to behead them if their P250 million ransom demand would not be delivered by October 17.

Earlier, the military deployed more troops to Sulu including elite forces and an additional company of K-9 units to help track down the bandits and rescue the captives.

But Catapang admitted that they cannot just conduct rescue operations without a green light from the local Crisis Management Committee of Sulu led by either the governor or the vice governor.

The military said the bandits are holding at least 12 captives including five foreigners.


Reds kill 2 soldiers, wound 3, including officer, in Ifugao firefight

From InterAksyon (Oct 15): Reds kill 2 soldiers, wound 3, including officer, in Ifugao firefight

Two soldiers were killed and three others, including an officer, were wounded in a clash with New People’s Army guerrillas in Ifugao province on Tuesday.

The military also claimed to have killed one of the rebels although residents of Sitio Daclan, Barangay Camandag in Asipulo town, including the victim’s family, said the fatality was a civilian who had been caught in the crossfire.

Reports that more than 50 guerrillas were involved in the half-hour gunbattle against the patrolling troops of the 54th Infantry Battalion, commanded by the wounded 1st Lieutenant Roland Carinan, belied an earlier pronouncement of Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. that the NPA in Ifugao had been crippled and rendered “inconsequential,” making security in the province ready for handover to the local police.

In fact, Catapang had ordered the transfer of at least seven battalions, or roughly 3,500 troops, of the Army's 5th Infantry Division, whose operational area covers Northern Luzon, to Mindanao because NPA influence in the region had weakened.

The slain soldiers were identified as Privates First Class Mark Anthony Patdu and James Enale.

Aside from Carinan, also wounded were PFCs Raffy Anungus and Jhonryl Discaya.

The rebels, who belong to the NPA’s Nona Del Rosario Command, retreated only after the Air Force provided air support for the beleaguered troops.


US military ships cleared to leave PH but USS Peleliu to stay: VFA Commission

From InterAksyon (Oct 15): US military ships cleared to leave PH but USS Peleliu to stay: VFA Commission

Five of six US military ships were cleared to leave the Philippines, except the USS Peleliu, of which the US Marine who was tagged in the killing of a Filipino transgender is a crew member, a presidential adviser said on Tuesday.

Eduardo Oban, executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFACOM), said the US vessels are in the country either to re-fuel or to transport thousands of US soldiers who joined a military exercise with their Philippine counterparts last month.

“All other ships may now leave the Philippines to proceed with their respective operations or missions,” Oban said.

Apart from primary suspect Private First Class Joseph Pemberton, an undetermined number of witnesses, also US soldiers, are detained on board the Peleliu, Oban said.

“The bottom line is that all those involved in the case will stay and Peleliu is not going to leave until the investigation is done,” he said.

Oban said the other crewmen of the Peleliu may be allowed to leave the country and transferred to other ships.

Victim Jeffrey Laude, 26, was found dead inside an Olongapo City motel last Saturday. Witnesses said he was last seen with a foreigner.

Pemberton is among the 3,500 US servicemen who participated in the recently concluded joint military exercise with Filipino troops in various parts of the country.


2 NPA rebels yield to military in Bukidnon province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 14): 2 NPA rebels yield to military in Bukidnon province

Two communist rebels have surrendered to the military in North Cotabato’s Magpet town in southern Philippines, an army spokesman said on Tuesday.

Capt. Alberto Caber, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, the two rebels – Marco Via, 39, and his wife Gina Calimpitan, 34, – surrendered to the 57th Infantry Battalion on October 13 and were being investigated as part of a routine procedure.

He said the couple, who were recruited by the New People’s Army in the province, thanked members of the 57th Infantry Battalion for their safe return to the folds of the law.

“Joining the Communist Party of the Philippines and (its armed wing) the New People’s Army is a very big mistake we have committed in our lives, with the soldier’s help, this is a second chance for us to redeem our normal lives that were denied to us by the NPA after having fooled us to join their group through sweet promises (sic),” Caber quoted the duo as saying.

He said more than 400 rebels have surrendered to the Eastern Mindanao Command since April last year.

Caber said Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, commended the 57th Infantry Battalion for facilitating the surrender of the couple.

“Continuous NPA’s deception, harassment and attack to civilians and civilian properties prompted many of their members to leave the CPP-NPA. Not only our soldiers, but every concerned LGUs (local government units), PNP (Philippine National Police) and CSOs (civil society organizations) are very much willing to help them in their return to the folds of the law (sic),” Baladad said.

The NPA has been fighting for decades now for a separate state in the country.


Police seize bomb-making materials

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Oct 14): Police seize bomb-making materials

THE police authorities have arrested a man, believed to have ties with the Abu Sayyaf group, in possession of bomb-making components in one of the island villages of Zamboanga City, an official said Tuesday.

The arrest was made two days after the military authorities have foiled a bombing attempt and disrupted an improvised bomb found at the historic Plaza Pershing in the city.

Zamboanga City Police Office (ZCPO) spokesman Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca identified the arrested suspect as Abdulhalik Ajibon also known as Alex Ajibon, 50, a resident of Tictabon, an island village east of this city.

Huesca said Ajibon was arrested in a raid around 4 p.m. Monday in the village of Tictabon, which is one of this city's island villages.

Huesca said the raid was carried out on the strength of a search warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 12.

Huesca said Ajibon "is related and affiliated" to a certain Eric Ajibon also known as Eric Jailani, an Abu Sayyaf member based in the nearby province of Basilan.

The raiding team confiscated five blasting caps, two which with attached wires, concealed in a playing card plastic case, according to Huesca.

He doubts if Ajibon is just engage in blast fishing citing the explosive being used is non-electrical contrary to the blasting caps that were confiscated.

ZCPO director Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro disclosed they are investigating whether or not Ajibon has a hand on the improvised bomb that was found at historical Plaza Pershing downtown.

The improvised bomb placed inside a thermos was discovered around 7:35 p.m. Saturday underneath one of the cornet benches of Plaza Pershing.

Huesca said Ajibon was placed under the custody of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit for the filing of appropriate cases in court.


PH, U.S. governments will follow VFA in dealing with Olongapo murder, says Palace

From the Manila Times (Oct 14): PH, U.S. governments will follow VFA in dealing with Olongapo murder, says Palace

The governments of the Philippines and the United States will follow the provisions of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in seeking justice for the murder of a Filipino allegedly by an American serviceman in Olongapo City, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

“Susundin po ang mga detalyadong proseso ng VFA, na ang pangunahing layunin ay gawaran ng katarungan ang mga krimeng magaganap,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.

The VFA contains specific provisions on the legal processes to ensure that justice will prevail, Secretary Coloma said, assuring that the ongoing investigation will not be whitewashed.

On the treatment of American soldiers committing offenses in the Philippines, Coloma cited Article 5 of the VFA on criminal jurisdiction.

Article 5, Paragraph 1(a) states that “Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines.”

Article 5, Paragraph 6 meanwhile states that the “custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

He noted that the aspect of criminal jurisdiction is different from the aspect of custody.

“Sa aspeto ng criminal jurisdiction, ang mayroong hurisdiksyon sa mga paglabag sa batas sa loob ng bansang Pilipinas ay ang pamahalaan ng Republika ng Pilipinas. Sa aspeto naman ng custody, ayon sa VFA, ang may custody ay ang pamahalaan ng Estados Unidos,” he explained.

Coloma said that in the meantime, they will wait for the Philippine National Police, as the lead agency of the Philippine government, to announce the details of the investigation, which also involves the Naval Criminal Investigation Service.

Initial reports point to a US serviceman as the suspect in the killing of a transgender in a lodge in Olongapo City on Saturday night.

Police have identified the victim as Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, 26, of Barangay (village) West Tapinac, Olongapo City.

Laude’s body was found inside a comfort room, with his head slumped in the toilet bowl. Police said Laude could have been strangled to death.


AFP to combat ISIS with ‘hard and soft strategy’

From the Manila Times (Oct 14): AFP to combat ISIS with ‘hard and soft strategy’

To ensure that militant operatives of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) will not gain a foothold in the Philippines, Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said they and their American allies are planning to use “hard and soft” strategy to prevent this from happening.

During Tuesday’s media briefing at the conclusion of the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting, Catapang said the “hard strategy” will consist of intelligence sharing, situational awareness, and maritime security agreements with the US.

While the “soft approach” will involve the usage of civil-military operations teams, backed by United States Agency for International Development, doing development work.

The AFP chief said both approaches will require intensified cooperation with the US.

However, he clarified that they are still to determine or locate any ISIS cells operating in the Philippines.


US Marine tagged in Pinay transgender slay named, faces murder raps

From GMA News (Oct 14): US Marine tagged in Pinay transgender slay named, faces murder raps

Philippine authorities on Tuesday identified the US serviceman tagged in the killing of a transgender woman in Olongapo City over the weekend.
In a memorandum, the Philippine National Police (PNP) identified the suspect as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps 2nd Battalion 9th Marines.

Pemberton was positively identified by witness Mark Clarence Gelviro through a photo line-up process, the PNP memorandum said.

It added that a murder case is being prepared against the suspect.

Pemberton is being linked to the killing of 26-year-old Jeffrey Laude inside a motel in Olongapo City on Saturday night.

"Considering na identified siya and all the facts [are] sufficient, necessary charges will be filed against him. And let the court decide kung ano man ang appreciation sa evidence na makukuha," said Olongapo City mayor Rolen Paulino at a press briefing in Olongapo.

Paulino said the local police is working with the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) on the case. He said it was the police who provided the photo used to identify the suspect.

Earlier, the US Embassy in Manila confirmed that the serviceman, whom it did not identify, is now being held on board the USS Peleliu, one of the vessels that joined the 2014 Amphibious Landing Exercises (PHIBLEX) in Subic in Zambales earlier this month.

On Monday, Visiting Forces Agreement Commission Executive Director Eduardo Oban Jr. said US Pacific commander Admiral Samuel Locklear III has already ordered US ships in the country to stay in the Philippines until investigation on the incident is done.

The embassy also vowed to cooperate with Philippine authorities "in every aspect of the investigation."

Under the VFA, the Philippines has jurisdiction over the case, but the US has custody of the American personnel who will face charges.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines can request for the custody of American soldiers believed to be involved in heinous crimes.

Laude, who used the name Jennifer, was found dead in an inn in Olongapo City on Saturday, hours after the victim was last seen with a foreigner.

The incident happened months after the Philippines and the US signed a new military pact that will expand the presence and role of American soldiers in the country.

Pemberton is the second US soldier to be involved in a criminal act in the country since 2005, when Lance Corporal Daniel Smith was charged and later on convicted for the rape of a Filipino woman.

The rape case, which sparked a diplomatic row between Manila and Washington, was dismissed after the victim reversed her testimony.


Palace stands by VFA, EDCA after Pinay transgender slay

From GMA News (Oct 14): Palace stands by VFA, EDCA after Pinay transgender slay

Malacañang on Tuesday stood by defense agreements entered into by the Philippine government with the US despite the alleged involvement of an American soldier in the killing of a transgender Filipino woman in Olongapo City over the weekend.
At a press briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Aquino administration will not be deterred from improving the Philippines' defense capabilities although some groups may use the criminal incident as an argument against the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
"Nasa karapatan din ng pamahalaan na pumasok sa mga kasunduan katulad na, sa pagpapasya ng Pangulo at ng pamahalaan, ay kinakailangan para sa pambansang interes ng Pilipinas," Coloma told reporters.
Earlier in the day, the Philippine National Police (PNP) identified Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the US Marine Corps 2nd Battalion 9th Marines as a suspect in the killing of 26-year-old Jeffrey Laude, who also used the name Jennifer.
The suspect is being held by American authorities on board USS Peleliu while a murder case is being prepared against him by the police.  
Progressive groups have used Laude's killing to criticize the VFA and the EDCA.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate, for instance, said the incident "may just be the start of more abuses for US troops unless we scrap EDCA."
Last April, Philippine and US officials signed the EDCA, which will allow an enlarged rotational presence of American troops in the country. The new defense pact is effective for 10 years. 
The EDCA, whose constitutionality is being challenged before the Supreme Court, allows US forces to train, refuel aircraft and preposition their supplies within Philippine territory, which has yet to be agreed upon by both parties.
The VFA, ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999, meanwhile provides for the resumption of bilateral military exercises between the two parties and their enhanced defense cooperation. 
Procedures in place
At the Palace press briefing, Coloma further said the VFA had put in place procedures for holding liable an American soldier who commits a crime on Philippine soil.
"Kung mayroong mga partikular na insidente katulad ‘nung paglabag sa ating batas ay mayroon ding partikular na probisyon kung paano pangangasiwaan ang mga kaganapang itom," he said.
"Hindi po tayo dapat matinag doon sa ating determinasyon na magtatag ng Tanggulang Pambansa na nasa pambansang interes po ng lahat ng Pilipino," he added.
The VFA states that "Philippine authorities shall have jurisdiction over United States personnel with respect to offenses committed within the Philippines and punishable under the law of the Philippines."
However, the agreement states that the custody of the suspect goes to US authorities, who are required to present the suspect at judicial proceedings. 
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario nevertheless said that the Philippines could ask the US to waive custody over the suspect "in the case of heinous crimes."

But in a television interview Tuesday, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said there is nothing in the VFA that provides for the Philippine government taking custody of an implicated US serviceman even if the crime committed was heinous. 

DND: Transgender's slay an isolated incident

From ABS-CBN (Oct 14): DND: Transgender's slay an isolated incident

The Department of National Defense (DND) appealed to the public to ''look at the bigger picture'' and not blame the military exercises between the Philippines and the United States for the death of a Filipino transgender woman where a US Marine was tagged as the suspect.

"This is an isolated incident, albeit a tragic one. We call on all concerned not to lose sight of the bigger picture and to look at these - PH-US exercises, EDCA and homicide - as different issues," said DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez.

The US Marine, identified by the Philippine National Police as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, has been tagged in the killing of transgender woman Jeffrey Laude alias Jennifer.

Laude was last seen alive checking in at the hotel in Olongapo City. The hotel staff said Laude's companion, described as a foreigner, already left the hotel when her remains were found.

Laude's death has sparked outrage among members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community.

Militant groups which have long opposed the presence of US military in the Philippines also seized on the issue, renewing their call for the scrapping of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Galvez said the military exercises with the US is an important aspect in developing the Philippines' military, considered as one of Asia's weakest.

"If we have no exercise, there will also be no one to help us in developing our capabilities...We should treat these as different issues. Of course its easy to generalize and our appeal is not to generalize," Galvez said.

"We don't want the entire exercises to be ruined because of one person."


No hero's welcome for peacekeepers from Liberia

From ABS-CBN (Oct 14): No hero's welcome for peacekeepers from Liberia

There will be no hero's welcome for 115 Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia due to be repatriated next month due to the lingering Ebola virus threat in the West Africa, the military chief said Tuesday.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said the tentative return of the peacekeepers is on November 10.

He said the peacekeepers will not be given a hero's welcome by the military establishment because they have to be quarantined upon their arrival to ensure that they are not infected with Ebola.

"They will have to be quarantined for 21 days, all of them. Then thereafter, we will give them a welcome party for passing the quarantine test," he said.

The Department of National Defense earlier ordered the pullout of Filipino peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and Liberia.

DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said Golan Heights has been the subject of a territorial conflict between Israel and Syria while Liberia has been struggling to fight the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.

The Philippines has been deploying troops to the Golan Heights and Liberia as part of its commitment to help the UN maintain global peace.

The defense department said there are 331 peacekeepers in the Golan Heights and 115 in Liberia.


CPP/NPA: NPA’s tactical offensives against 66th IB, 67th IB intensify in Comval, Davao Oriental provinces

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 13): NPA’s tactical offensives against 66th IB, 67th IB intensify in Comval, Davao Oriental provinces

Roel Agustin II
NPA Comval-Davao East Coast Subregion Subregional Command
While on the road early morning Sunday (October 12), combat troops of the 66th Infantry Battalion Alpha company mercilessly killed farmer Rolando Dagansan, 43 and his son Juda, 15 in Tubod, Manurigao, New Bataan town, Compostela Valley. The two Mandaya Lumads came from harvesting corn in their farm in Kabityan and were on their way to their home in Taytayan at 3am when soldiers attacked them. Their bodies were badly disfigured with so many gunshot wounds; their heads were defaced while Rolando’s arm was amputated. They were killed by a ruthless Army unit who concealed its fascist operations by using as pretext a purported medical mission in Manurigao.

Thus, it is only fitting that the tactical offensives launched by the New People’s Army Comval Davao Eastcoast Subregional Command on that same day is revolutionary justice for the Dagansans and other victims of military fascism, like Gregorio Amancio who was killed by the 66th IB inside his house last July 19 in New Bataan town.

At 10:45 pm on October 12, the NPA discharged command detonated explosives at the 66th IB headquarters in New Bataan, Comval, while another NPA unit ambushed soldiers belonging to the 67th IB in Kasunugan, Brgy. Mahan-ub, Baganga, Davao Oriental. Five soldiers were killed and two M16 armalite rifles were seized by the NPA in these two ambushes. Earlier, on October 11, at 10:35 pm, the NPA harassed the 67th IB patrol base in Cogonon, Trento town where two soldiers were killed.

The NPA’s offensives give lie to the AFP’s pronouncement that the fascist troops are already done in clearing Davao Oriental and some parts of Compostela Valley of the revolutionary movement. Red fighters have engaged the 67th IB four times in Baganga, once in Trento, Agusan del Sur, once in Compostela, and conducted three sniping operations and one harassment operations, all resulting to platoon-sized fatalities and platoon-sized casualties against the AFP unit over the last few months.

Last Sunday’s NPA tactical offensives are only the latest in the series of offensives against the relentless military operations of the 66th IB and the 67th IB:

On September 22, the NPA detonated explosives against the reconnaissance platoon of the 25th IB at 3 am in Upper Ambawan, Brgy. Ngan, Compostela. Four soldiers were killed while the military vehicle km450 was badly damaged. Another soldier belonging to the road security unit of the Petroleum Mining Corp was killed by an NPA sniper in sitio Mambusao, Brgy. Ngan, Compostela;
On September 24 at 10pm, two soldiers belonging to the 72nd IB and CAA detachments were killed by NPA snipers in Brgy. Tapia, Monkayo and at 11pm in Brgy. Maparat, Compostela;
On September 26 at 9am, the NPA encountered 67th IB troops in sitio Borboanan, Brgy.Kampawan, Baganga, Davao Oriental; four fascist troops were killed and two were wounded.
On September 27 at 2pm, the NPA burned a detachment of the 67th IB in km 28, Brgy. Panansalan, Compostela
As warfare intensifies in Comval and Davao Oriental provinces and because the US-Aquino regime is adamant in pushing for the large-scale mining operations in these areas, the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command augmented its troops in the towns of Compostela, New Bataan and Baganga. Ironically, while boasting to have crushed the NPA in these areas, the AFP has deployed 100 more soldiers from the 11th company of the 4th Scout Rangers Battalion—proof of its desperation to prevail over its failures against the Red fighters and revolutionary forces.

The AFP is daydreaming if it can obliterate the NPA and stifle strong opposition of revolutionary forces and the masses against large-scale mining. As more battalions are poured in the impoverished and Pablo-ravaged areas of Comval and Davao Oriental under the Oplan Bayanihan, the people’s army escalates further its tactical offensives. Likewise, the revolutionary masses are ever prepared to intensify the people’s war against a fascist, corrupt and hated US-Aquino regime.


CPP: Condemn the killing of Jeffrey Laude! Scrap the EDCA, VFA and MDT and end US military presence!

Anti-US/US military propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Oct 14):  Condemn the killing of Jeffrey Laude! Scrap the EDCA, VFA and MDT and end US military presence!

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins the Filipino people in extending profound sympathies to the family of Jeffrey Laude, 26, who was killed last Sunday evening in an Olongapo City lodge while she was with a yet unidentified American soldier.

The CPP condemns the brutal murder of Laude. According to initial reports, her face was forced down the toilet bowl until she drowned. She had lacerations on her head and injuries to her neck. Her body was found at around 11:30pm. Less than an hour earlier, she and some of her friends met a group of US servicemen in a disco house and left a few minutes later for the lodge just across the street.

Laude was a transgender known as Jennifer Ganda among her peers.

The CPP supports the Filipino people in demanding that the Philippine government immediately assert sovereign authority over the Laude case and demand custody of the American serviceman suspected of having committed the crime.

The CPP said the number of sexual and other crimes committed by US military personnel in Philippine soil are bound to increase with the heightened presence of US soldiers in the country under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which paves the way for US military basing.

Laude’s brutal murder amplifies the Filipino people’s patriotic demand to scrap the EDCA, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Defense Treaty and other unequal military treaties with the US. It amplifies their demand for an immediate pull out all US troops in the country and an end to US military presence in the Philippines that trample on Philippine sovereignty.

Over the past years, the US military has made a mockery of Philippine sovereignty in shielding its personnel who have committed crimes in the Philippines. This practice has been further reinforced by the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement which presumes the authority of the US government and military over their personnel involved in criminal transgressions while in Philippine territory.

The CPP calls on the Filipino people to lend all-out support to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude in their fight for justice. As in the past, the US military and government will do everything to prevent their personnel from being subjected to Philippine sovereignty.

Recall how the US military used the VFA to prevent US servicemen involved in the November 2005 rape of “Nicole” from being put under Philippine jurisdiction. The American personnel made to stand trial were not placed under Philippine police detention for even a single moment.

Only when found guilty was Lance Corporal Daniel Smith subjected to imprisonment in a special cell which US embassy and military personnel had access to. The American soldier will eventually transferred to the US embassy grounds and eventually whisked out of the country after the US government mounted pressure on the family to compel the victim to recant her testimony and thus overturn the verdict.

Over the past years, several other US military personnel involved in crimes in the Philippines have also been prevented from being subjected to local jurisdiction. American soldier Reggie Lane who shot peasant Buyong-buyong Isnijal on July 24, 2002 was repatriated the day after by the US military and was never subjected to criminal procedure. Also, three US soldiers who participated in Balikatan exercises in Cebu and mauled taxi driver Marcelo Batistil on March 6, 2000 were immediately repatriated to the US.

US personnel in Zamboanga City have also been involved in various cases of public disturbance, sexual violence and others since the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) was set up in 2002. Prostitution has become rampant in Zamboanga and has had a resurgence in Olongapo and elsewhere since US warships have been making more frequent dockings in Subic and Manila.


The Jihadist Popularity Contest

From The Diplomat (Oct 13): The Jihadist Popularity Contest by

The battle of ideology and allegiance between Islamic State and al-Qaeda is changing the face of jihad in Asia and the world.

In the wake of the territorial gains made by the Islamic State (IS) in recent months, its threat has been framed in the context of IS against the Iraqi government; IS against the Syrian government; IS against the West. These contests should not be downplayed, for their outcomes will have a massive impact on global affairs for years to come. But there is another, more subtle battle that stands to have even greater repercussions. IS is currently fighting a battle of ideology and allegiance against its older, more established cousin al-Qaeda, the outcome of which will define the not only the future of IS but the future of the global jihad and international security interests.

Ever since IS made its blitzkrieg debut in Iraq, al-Qaeda has been increasingly vocal in its opposition to IS operations. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s leader, has publically warned against IS’s attempts to bring al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, under IS influence. He has also expressed al-Qaeda’s more general concern regarding the overly aggressive methodology and ideological tone of IS. In recent months, this competition has taken on an international flavor. Syria, Iraq, and the surrounding region have been the most obvious areas of contention, with al-Qaeda and al-Nusra attracting the support of other regional groups like the Jordanian Salafist-jihadists, while IS ranks have swelled with new recruits. However, the competition has spread well beyond the immediate regional context. IS recently strengthened ties with extremist movements in Southeast Asia, with groups like Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fights (BIFF) pledging their allegiance to the IS cause. In the meantime, Zawahiri publically announced that he intended to extend al-Qaeda’s influence and the global jihad by starting a branch in India. IS’s meteoric rise has drawn in new recruits from all over the world, but its popularity has also led to a decline in perceived influence of al-Qaeda and has shaken the status quo of the global jihad.

Two Roads Diverged in a Desert

The global jihad is at a crossroads. If al-Qaeda prevails and reestablishes its authority, the dynamics of the global jihad, while still unstable, will at least maintain a familiar form. A return to the status quo with al-Qaeda will stem the flow of jihadists to IS, halting its momentum and allowing the U.S. and the international community to more effectively counter its efforts. But if IS manages to maintain its momentum and push al-Qaeda into the shadows, the size and scope of the regional conflict and the global jihad as a whole will change dramatically. Its violent methods may have been driven in part by the realization that shocking acts of brutality keep the spotlight focused on IS, and the group may ultimately moderate its methods as it becomes more established and the immediate crisis fades. However, regardless of future IS strategy, its current actions are creating momentum towards a more violent form of jihad that will be difficult to harness or reverse. There is already evidence of this as various groups have strengthened their ties to IS, simultaneously pledging their allegiance and ramping up the aggression of their operations, as in the case of the recent Algerian beheading. These instances suggest a trend towards increased violence that will continue even if IS ultimately tones down its own actions and rhetoric.

The IS call for a caliphate further adds to its appeal, for it serves as a tangible rallying point for jihadists. While al-Qaeda has made calls for a caliphate, it has never come as close as IS has in recent months in terms of established territory, funding and support. The current IS-occupied territory gives jihadists all over the world a gravitational center, a place where the idea of a caliphate feels within reach. In contrast to this unifying force, al-Qaeda has often portrayed itself as an elite and exclusive strain of jihadists. While this approach has added to its reputation and brand name, the exclusivity has limited its ability to coordinate on the scale of the current IS effort.

The Future of the Global Jihad

Al-Qaeda has previously held something of a monopoly on the global jihad, but it is currently losing the battle for influence against IS, and the implications of its decline and the parallel rise of IS are massive. The face of terrorism will change completely, and the international community is unprepared for such a change and upswing in violence and coordination. There is already clear evidence of extremist groups taking on the violent methodology of IS, but even more worrying is the potential for mass coordination towards the common cause of a caliphate. In past years, al-Qaeda has supported its various offshoots in different countries but has largely left them to handle their regional operations with a general ideological framework, rather than a clear, unifying goal. In the IS call for a caliphate, extremist groups have found a rallying point around which they can unite. The level of coordination that could develop around IS and affiliate groups would completely change the dynamics of the global war on terror, and the international community must prepare itself for a new class of jihad.

The international spotlight is focused on the skirmishes between IS and various opposing governments. This emphasis is warranted but only allows for a reactive analysis of the situation; focusing on this perspective alone will leave the West two steps behind as IS and its affiliate groups evolve faster than governments can revise their strategies. The international community needs to look at the bigger picture as IS and al-Qaeda campaign for global dominance. The outcome of that contest will shape the size and scope of IS activities in Iraq and Syria in the short term, and will define security strategies in the region for decades to come.

[Schuyler Moore is a senior at Harvard University, and most recently worked as an Academic Intern for the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.]


Kidnappings alarm GenSan

From Tempo (Oct 14): Kidnappings alarm GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – Authorities have expressed alarm over the reported kidnapping of two local traders here, one of whom was killed after paying a P25-million ransom to kidnap gang members. An official of the police’s Anti-Kidnapping Group, who asked not to be named, said a wealthy Chinese businesswoman here was reported abducted last month in which a few days later her dead body was recovered in Lanao del Sur.

The source said the victim was set up into a land deal wherein she was brought to Cotabato City for the negotiation and was reportedly held by kidnap gang members allegedly belonging to Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

The kidnappers reportedly asked for R25 million from the victim’s family who owns a trucking services here.

Despite the ransom payment, the source said the kidnappers killed the victim whose remains were immediately cremated after her body was recovered by the family in Lanao del Sur.

Last week, a local businessman here, who owns a rent-a-car services, was freed by his abductors after paying some P500,000 ransom.

Elpidio Patugan, 61, was freed in Guindulungan, Maguindanao after he was held hostage by his abductors for 20 days.

Supt. Rolly Octavio, deputy city police director, said the victim was first reported missing by relatives.

He said the victim was set up by kidnap gang members who requested him to rent his car going to Cotabato City.


Suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber nabbed in Zamboanga

From the Philippine Star (Oct 14): Suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber nabbed in Zamboanga

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A suspected Abu Sayyaf bomber was captured and bomb components were recovered from him by raiding policemen in an island off this city on Monday afternoon.

Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, spokesman of of the city police office, said the suspect identified as Abdulhalik Mohammad Ajibon alias Alex Ajibon, 50, tagged to be linked with the Abu Sayyaf group of Basilan province, was captured around 4 p.m. from his hideout in Tictabon, an islet off Sacol Island.

Huesca said combined elements of the Western Mindanao Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, Regional Intelligence Division 9, and combat police force of the Zamboanga City Public Safety Company carried out the raid with the strength of a search warrant issued by Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Gregorio dela Peña.

He said the raiding team served the search warrant against Ajibon for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition and explosive.

Police operatives recovered from Ajibon's possession several pieces of blasting caps, a primary component for an improvised bomb and wirings.

The arrest of the suspect came as the police and military intensified the hunt against members of the Abu Sayyaf following the foiled bombing during the Fiesta Pilar.

The bombing was thwarted with the arrest of a suspected female bomber, who was supposed to deliver improvised bombs intended for a Catholic shrine and a public plaza in the city's downtown area.

Huesca said police were also tracking down the male companion of the lady Abu Sayyaf member.


(UPDATE) 1 soldier killed, 3 hurt in Ifugao clash

From the Philippine Star (Oct 14): (UPDATE) 1 soldier killed, 3 hurt in Ifugao clash

A soldier was killed while three others were wounded in a clash with suspected members of the leftist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) in northern Philippines today morning, a military official said.

Lieutenant General Felicito Virgilio M. Trinidad, Jr., commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' North Luzon Command, said government troops clashed with around 25 NPA guerrillas in Camandag village, Asipulo town in Ifugao province.

Trinidad said military forces launched combat operations in the area after receiving information about the presence of leftist rebels there. He said soldiers were fired upon by NPA guerrillas when approaching the area.

He said military forces are conducting pursuit operations against the leftist rebels in Camandag village.


EDCA discussion begins, bases to be determined

From Ang Malaya (Oct 14): EDCA discussion begins, bases to be determined

Military officials from United States and Philippines meet in a round table to discuss details on Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). Mutual Defense Board (MDB) and the Security Engagement Board (SEB), co-chaired by the AFP Chief and US Pacific Command commander Admiral Samuel Locklear, convened yesterday, October 13.

General Catapang said early this month that planning on EDCA will continue so that when Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of the agreement, plans will be implemented immediately.

“We will discuss important issues, including the areas where they will reposition their humanitarian equipment and the areas that they want to develop for their pre-positioning,” the AFP Chief said.

Previous reports say that three to five AFP bases will be used as EDCA bases where US troops and equipment will be housed.

According to sources US is requesting for access in Clark Airfield, Subic bay, Poro Point, and Camp Aguinaldo – general headquarters of AFP. Also, US is considering to ask access for five civilian airports in Palawan, Cebu, General Santos, Laoag, and Batanes for refueling purposes.

While AFP was reported to be offering Oyster Bay in Palawan, Naval Station San Miguel in Zambales, and Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija to further develop the bases.


New Army commanders in Negros, Panay

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 14): New Army commanders in Negros, Panay

Three infantry battalions of the 3rd Infantry Division in Negros and Panay island have new commanders after a revamp that involved the 47th Infantry Battalion in southern Negros, and 82nd and 12th Infantry Battalions in Panay, military records show.

Lt. Col. Pompeyo Jason Almagro will take over command of the 47th Infantry Battalion in southern Negros today, with Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3ID commanding general as the presiding officer.
Almagro, a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1993, will replace Lt. Col. Ariel Reyes, who took over as commander of the 12IB on Oct. 7, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID Public Affairs Office chief, said.
Reyes replaced Lt. Col. Wilfredo Isaac, who is now pursuing a career advancement course.
Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez is also slated to assume command of the 82nd Infantry Battalion. He replaced Lt. Col. Aldwine Almase yesterday.
Deocadez was previously relieved as 47IB commander, following the death of five Army soldiers in an ambush in Sipalay City. He was later designated as executive officer of the 301st Infantry Brigade in Iloilo.
Before his designation as commanding officer of 47IB, Almagro served as commander of the 3rd CMO Battalion and Assistant Chief of Staff for Civil-Military Operations of 3ID.
Deocadez is a graduate of the PMA Class 1993 while Almase, Reyes and Isaac belong to PMA Class 1992.
Guerrero, said that in a statement the 3ID has full trust and confidence Deocadez and Almagro, citing their competence and extensive background in Civil-Military Operations, that will definitely bring significant results to the Division’s peace and development efforts in Negros and Panay areas.
Meanwhile, Reyes has contributed much to the internal peace and security operations in Negros Occidental and his services will be needed in Panay as commander of 12th(Cadre) Battalion, he added.

Olongapo slay suspect admitted he ‘did something wrong’ – mayor

From Rappler (Oct 14): Olongapo slay suspect admitted he ‘did something wrong’ – mayor

Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino says the suspect made the reported admission upon questioning by Philippine authorities, but immediately invoked his right to a lawyer and would not elaborate further

The suspect in the death of a transgender Filipino in Olongapo City allegedly admitted to authorities that he had done "something wrong” upon initial questioning, a local official said on Tuesday, October 14.

“He said, ‘I did something wrong,’” Olongapo City Mayor Rolen Paulino said in an interview on DZBB, while fielding questions on the US marine suspected of murdering 26-year-old Jeffrey Laude, also known as Jennifer, in a lodging house in the city on October 11.

Paulino said, however, that the suspect – later identified by the Philippine National Police as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton – did not elaborate on his statement and invoked his right to a lawyer.  “So it ended there,” he said in Filipino.

At least two witnesses last saw Laude with an “unidentified male white foreigner” with a marine “style of hair cut” and is between 25 and 30 years old.

Paulino said that based on questioning, the suspect was narrowed down from the 4 who fit the witnesses’ description, after he made the reported admission to Philippine authorities.

The mayor also said two used condoms were recovered from the room in Celzone Lodge where Laude was found dead, and that Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) are still verifying whether these belonged to Laude and the suspect.

He said Laude died from drowning, based on the presence of water found in the lungs of the victim whose face, the official added, was swollen.

Responding to questions, the Olongapo mayor said that Laude did not have gender reassignment surgery, but had breast implants.

‘Justice for Laude’

Paulino said the family of Laude wants justice.

“That is the only thing that they want – justice,” Paulino said, when asked what the Laude family told him during his visits to Laude’s wake.

Laude was found dead on the floor of a comfort room of Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City, police said Sunday, October 12.

Paulino said that the CCTV footage showing Laude and the suspect were from a local bar that the two had gone to, and not at Celzone Lodge which he described as a “very old” place that had no CCTV cameras.

The United States on Tuesday confirmed it has taken custody of the suspect, whom it said is assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

It has also put on hold the departure of American ships from Subic Bay pending the probe.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Monday that the Philippines could ask the US “to waive custody,” as critics fear another battle over custody of a US serviceman who broke Philippine law.

Del Rosario said this could be done "in the case of heinous crimes.”

The murder case comes after a Philippine court, in 2006, sentenced US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith to 40 years in jail for raping a Filipina a year earlier.


AFP chief on Olongapo slay: 'This one is quite a big mistake'

From Rappler (Oct 14): AFP chief on Olongapo slay: 'This one is quite a big mistake'

JUSTICE FOR LAUDE: AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr wants the US military to surrender the US serviceman tagged in Olongapo slay. Rappler photo
JUSTICE FOR LAUDE: AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr wants the US military to surrender the US serviceman tagged in Olongapo slay. Rappler photo
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr joined calls for the US military to surrender to Philippine authorities the US Marines serviceman accused of killing Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude.
"Wala namang organization na hindi nagkakamali (No organization is perfect). But this one is quite a big mistake. The US Pacific Command will have to look into this very seriously. They are looking into it very seriously," Catapang said Tuesday afternoon, October 14.

"Hopefully they will surrender the identified soldier that is allegedly involved in that incident," Catapang added.

The police identified the US serviceman to be Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton. He is currently being held inside the US assault ship USS Peleliu, one of two US ships that brought into the country about 3,000 US sailors and Marines for the recently completed Philippine-US Amphibious Exercises (PHIBLEX).

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) allows the US, upon request, to take custody of an erring US officer. But the Philippines has also expressed its intent to take Pemberton into its custody.

Catapang faced the media after a meeting with US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Locklear III, who is in the country for the regular Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB). It is the body that approves joint activities and exercises between the two militaries.

Catapang is confident that the US military will cooperate with the investigation.

Another Daniel Smith?

The incident recalls the decade-old rape case against US Marines Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, the first case under the VFA, that prompted debates over the supposed lopsideness of the treaty in favor of the US. (READ: EDCA, Olongapo murder, and the old case of Daniel Smith)

Like Smith, Pemberton was on a furlough after participating in joint exercises with the Philippine military.

The murder of Laude in Olongapo City, allegedly by Pemberton over the weekend, cast a shadow over the talks on Tuesday.

"Kami po ay nababahala at nasasaktan. Kapwa Pilipino natin ang naging biktima. (We are alarmed and hurt. Our fellow Filipino was a victim.) At the end of the day, we have to protect his rights. We have to fight for his rights. We have to give justice to his untimely death," Catapang told reporters.

'It won't affect PH-US relations'

Locklear himself expressed his regrets, said Catapang.

"Personally he wants to express his regrets of what really happened. It was an unfortunate incident. He said he symphathized with the family and he wants a full investigation to be conducted by the NCIS together with the Philippine National Police.

Locklear earlier ordered the grounding of the USS Peleliu and USS Germantown pending the investigation.

Catapang also assured that the murder case will not affect relationship between the two militaries.

"This will not affect our relationship with the US inasmuch as the committed offense was not during the PHIBLEX exercises but during an admin break," said Catapang.


PH, US militaries sign 426 activities, skip EDCA talks

From Rappler (Oct 14): PH, US militaries sign 426 activities, skip EDCA talks

The Mutual Defense Board skips the most anticipated topic, the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, pending the Supreme Court ruling on the new deal's constitutionality

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr and US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Locklear III approved on Tuesday, October 14, a total of 426 joint activities between the two militaries.

"We were joking. Admiral Locklear said, 'Greg, I need another ballpen.' We signed 426 activities. Our pens were running out of ink. That is how many activities we were talking about," Catapang said in a news briefing after the regular Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) meeting. 
They discussed the murder of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude allegedly by a US serviceman, maritime security, terrorism, transnational crime, and others except the most anticipated topic – the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), pending the Supreme Court ruling on the deal's constitutionality.

"We are continuously talking about EDCA. Of course we want a decision on whether EDCA is constitutional or not. Unfortunately, we cannot move forward if there legal impediments. But we continuously dialogue and informally talk about it. There are no final or official dicussions right now on EDCA," Catapang said.

It is the first time that the MDB-SEB held a formal meeting since the signing of the new military-to-military deal in April 2014. The MDB-SEB has the power to decide on how the EDCA will be implemented.

Catapang said that "if the SC decides that it is constiutional, we will start meetings about the EDCA."

EDCA's 2 new activities

EDCA expands existing cooperation activities to include two new activities. The US military can build military facilities and preposition defense assets in “agreed locations” that have yet to be determined by the two countries.

With one of the weakest militaries in Asia, the Philippines is resorting to EDCA as part of its strategy in securing the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea), where tension ocassionally erupts between claimant countries.

Critics argue that this is de facto military basing, which is not allowed under the Constitution. But the government has maintained that the necessary provisions had been put in place to make sure that Filipino officers have access to facilities that the Americans are going to build. This was an issue that caused an impasse during the negotiations.

The new deal is being contested in the Supreme Court for supposed unconstitutionality. Critics also protest that the deal is lopsided in favor of the US. (READ: Solgen to SC: EDCA needed to defend West PH Sea)

Laude's murder in Olongapo City, allegedly by US Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton over the weekend, has cast a shadow over the talks on Tuesday.

The crime was committed in the city where the former US Naval Station was located, the same naval station that the US military reportedly wants to be included in the "agreed locations" for EDCA.

It also recalls the decade-old rape case against US Marines Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, the first case under the Visiting Forces Agreement. (READ: EDCA, Olongapo murder, and the old case of Daniel Smith)

Like Smith, Pemberton was on a furlough after participating in joint exercises with the Philippine military.


AFP Medical Center chief ordered relieved over P80-M procurement mess

From InterAksyon (Oct 14): AFP Medical Center chief ordered relieved over P80-M procurement mess

AFP Medical Center chief Brig. Gen. Normando Sta. Ana Jr. with visiting American officers. (photo from http://usarmy.vo.llnwd.net/)

Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. has ordered the relief of the commander of the AFP Medical Center over the alleged procurement of P80 million worth of medical supplies without the required public bidding.

"It's confirmed," AFP public affairs chief Liuetenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc told InterAksyon.com about the relief of Brigadier General Normando T. Sta. Ana Jr. although he did not elabroate, saying he has yet to receive more instructions from Catapang on the matter.

Normando is reportedly an adopted member of the Philippine Military Academy "Dimalupig" Class 1981, of which Catapang is a member.

There is talk that Colonel Joseph Acosta, chief of the AFP Medical Corps, is being eyed to replace Sta. Ana.

Also set to be relieved are special disbursing officer Lieutenant Colonel Florencio Ritchie I. Capulong, Management and Fiscal Office chief Major Neil D. Bugarin, and acting ACS for Logistics Colonel Rogelio S. Del Rio, who were also implicated in the procurement mess.

The complaint against Sta. Ana and the other officers was filed by a certain Renato Villafuerte before Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales. A copy of the complaint was obtained by InterAksyon.com.

But it has been learned that the AFP headquarters has been undertaking a "parallel investigation" for more than two weeks now, although the composition of the probe body remains under wraps.

In his complaint, Villafuerte asked Morales to investigate Sta. Ana and the other repsondents for alleged malversation of funds in violation of Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act of 2003.

InterAksyon.com sent repeated requests to the AFPMC Public Affairs Office for the side of Sta. Ana and the other respondents but has received no reply so far.

In his complaint, Villafuerte said the respondents allegedly circumvented Rule XVI of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184, Section 48.2, which requires public bidding as a mode of procurement including "highly exceptional cases."

He said the respondents may also have violated Rule II, Sec. 7.1, which requires that "procurement should be within the appproved budget of he procuring entity."

He alleged that Capulong, with the approval of Sta. Ana, purchased the medicines and medical supplies from "favored suppliers" without bidding.

Aside from this, they also allegedly "requested realignment of funds amounting to (P)40 million to support the cash advance of Ltc Florencio Capulong," Villafuerte said.

"They also procure(d) medicines even without funds and procured on account. Millions na po ang utang nila kaya pagdating ng pondo ay halos ipangbayad na lang (Their debt runs to millions so when funds come these are almost all paid) through Cash Advance of Ltc Florencio Capulong," he added.

Villafuerte said the officers "have committed grave abuse of authority prejudicial to the interest of the government and also failed to adhere on the principle of transparency."


Palace says US retains custody of Marine in 'Gapo slay as party-list solons demand handover

From InterAksyon (Oct 14): Palace says US retains custody of Marine in 'Gapo slay as party-list solons demand handover

Malacanang said on Tuesday that the Visiting Forces Agreement allows the United States military to retain custody over the Marine named as a suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jefrrey Laude in Olongapo City.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the government may “file a manifestation” with American authorities for the custody of Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton but addded that the Palace is leaving this decision to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Coloma made the statement even as lawmakers from the main Leftist bloc in the House of Representatives demanded that the Philippines demand custody of Pemberton, who the Philippine National Police said was positively identified by a witness.

Kabataan Representative Terry Ridon addressed his call to US President Barack Obama, who he said should issue an executive order waiving custody of Pemberton. “The gravity of the crime committed against our fellow countryman demands that no less than the president of the United States take action immediately,” Ridon said.

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, on the other hand, harked back to the case of another US Marine, Daniel Smith, who was convicted of raping the Filipina “Nicole” but spirited out of the Makati City jail by Philippine authorities and handed back to the Americans. Smith was later acquitted by the Court of Appeals after Nicole issued a statement saying she could not recall if she was raped or not, which was widely reported as a retraction.

“The custody of Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton should be with the Philippine government.  The suspect should not be protected like the US soldier Daniel Smith in the case of Nicole,” Colmenares said.

"If we read the VFA, there is a particular section under Article 5 on criminal jurisidiction. We have to distinguish criminal jurisdiction from custody," Coloma said at a briefing aired over Radyo ng Bayan. "The Philippines has criminal jurisdiction on instances where Philippine laws have been violated. But on the aspect of custody, according to the VFA, the United States government has custody rights."

"The Philippines can make a manifestation on our position on the issue of custody. We will leave it up to the Department of Foreign Affairs," Coloma added.

At the same time, he said: "According to Undersecretary Eduardo Oban of the VFA Commission, the Philippine and US governments have agreed on the importance of a thorough investigation so that the ends of justice will be served."

Coloma added that President Benigno Aquino III views the case "seriously."

"As the Chief Executive, he looks at this case seriously and he wants our government to do what is right," he said.

Explaining why Obama could allow Philippine custody of Pemberton, Ridon explained that since “the VFA is an executive agreement on part of the US, I believe it is in the power of the US president to waive custody of the suspect in favor of the Philippines."

“The Aquino administration must not allow the US to once again undermine our sovereignty by keeping the US serviceman accused of killing Ms. Laude in the US military’s custody while investigations and subsequent criminal proceedings transpire. Aquino should remember how the US military belittled our judicial system in the case of Lance Corporal Daniel Smith back in 2005," he added.

Colmenares said the murder of Laude proves that the VFA and the recently signed Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows increased American military presence in the country, are one-sided pacts that favor only the US.

"We have seen how Filipinos can become helpless victims by US military forces in our very own country under the unequal agreements like VFA and EDCA,” he said.

His fellow Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate called for the abrogation of EDCA, warning that the Laude murder “may just be the start of more abuses for US troops.”

“This is also the reason why we are urging the Supreme Court to junk the EDCA. It is not only unconstitutional and unequal, but most importantly will subvert our justice system and sovereignty,” he said.

In a separate statement, Representative Sherwin Tugna of the Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list urged the family of Laude to file a case against Pemberton so that a formal investigation could begin.

“I can understand the sentiments of the bereaved but first things first, the family has to file a formal complaint so the case can move immediately,” Tugna said.

He also said the active participation and cooperation of the US embassy in Manila would help not only in the quick resolution of the case but in calming the sentiments of people "because this will show the sincere respect of both our countries to the rules law."

Tugna acknowledged that the Laude murder highlighted the issue of custody under the EDCA and VFA.

“This kind of incident must push the government authorities to renegotiate the terms of treaties and other executive agreements our country has entered into.  We must identify incidents and crimes which custody over US personnel offenders be turned over to Philippine authorities," he said.

"This action will need strong political will because we then have to go back to the drawing table with the US government and ensure that protection is given to Filipinos," Tugna added.


PNP names US Marine suspect in transgender's killing

From InterAksyon (Oct 14): PNP names US Marine suspect in transgender's killing

The Philippine National Police named on Tuesday the US Marine identified as a suspect in the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude in Olongapo City over the weekend, radio reports said.

PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Wilben Mayor named the suspect as Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines.

A report from Olongapo police director Senior Superintendent Pedrito delos Reyes said the American was "positively identified" by witness Mark Clarence Gelviro from a "photo line-up" provided by the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service.


PH to seek custody of U.S. Marine over killing of Filipino transgender in Gapo

From InterAksyon (Oct 14): PH to seek custody of U.S. Marine over killing of Filipino transgender in Gapo

The Philippines will seek custody of United States Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton of the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines, who is being suspected of killing 26-year-old Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude inside Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City Saturday night.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesperson Charles Jose said the country would seek custody of Pemberton if it would be proven that he had a hand in the slay of Laude.

"I think we will and we should but there's no guarantee (that the) U.S. will grant our request,” Jose told Agence France-Presse in an interview Tuesday.

Jose’s statement was supported by Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, who served as counsel of one of the U.S .Marines accused of raping a Filipina only known as “Nicole” in Subic in 2005.

“If you interpret the law, custody should be with us but under the VFA (Visiting Forces Agreement), the U.S. may request custody if the person involved is a U.S. military personnel,” Justiniano said, adding that this was provided for in Article V, Section 6 of the VFA, which was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999 during the term of then President Joseph Estrada.

Pemberton, who was part of the 3,500-member US contingent in the Philippines for joint military exercises, is being held onboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu now docked at Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales province.

The U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) and the Philippine National Police are doing a joint investigation into the October 11 killing of Laude.

The PNP said witness Mark Clarence Gelviro had positively identified Pemberton through a photo line-up process provided by a representative from the NCIS.

“A case of murder is being readied for filing” against Pemberton, according to the police.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the U.S. Embassy in Manila said that it "expresses its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude, also known as Jennifer."

"The United States will continue to fully cooperate with Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation," it said.

For his part, Retired Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of Staff Eduardo Oban Jr., head of the Presidential Commission on the VFA, said the Philippines could request for Pemberton’s custody but the decision still rests with the U.S.

He said Article V, Paragraph 6 of the VFA states that the Philippines has jurisdiction over the case, while the U.S. has custody over an American personnel accused of committing offenses in the Philippines.

Ang jurisdiction ng kaso ay sa atin, ang custody ay nasa U.S. habang dinidinig ang kaso,” Oban said Monday night in an interview with dzMM radio.

Article V, Paragraph 6 of the VFA states that, “The custody of any United States personnel over whom the Philippines is to exercise jurisdiction shall immediately reside with United States military authorities, if they so request, from the commission of the offense until completion of all judicial proceedings.”

The same paragraph states that, “United States military authorities shall, upon formal notification by the Philippine authorities and without delay, make such personnel available to those authorities in time for any investigative or judicial proceedings relating to the offense with which the person has been charged.”

“In extraordinary cases, the Philippine Government shall present its position to the United States Government regarding custody, which the United States Government shall take into full account,” the paragraph further read.

Meanwhile, incumbent AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. told media on Tuesday that the crime happened after the US-Philippine joint military exercises and thus the AFP was longer responsible for Pemberton’s actions.

"But their movements (of U.S. military men) while in the country are closely being monitored," Catapang said.

Catapang said the AFP was "deeply saddened" by the incident.

"Kami'y po ay nababahala din dahil kapwa Pilipino ang biktima. Ano man ang kanyang kasarian, we have to fight for the victim, fight for justice [We are also concerned because a fellow Filipino was the victim. Whatever is the gender of the victim, we have to fight for the victim, fight for justice]" he said.

Nevertheless, Catapang said the incident “will not affect” the Philippines and the U.S. military relations and the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the two countries.