Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Military offers more excuses in delayed pursuit ops vs Abus

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 22): Military offers more excuses in delayed pursuit ops vs Abus

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday offered more “excuses” for the delay in the ongoing pursuit operations against the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group that held the two German hostages who were released last Friday after ransom payment.

At press time, pursuing government troops had not caught up with the Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the island province of Sulu, particularly in Patikul town.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP-Public Affairs Office chief, said continuous heavy rains in the area, difficult terrain and the Abu Sayyaf splintering into smaller groups and mixing up with civilians are among the challenges in the current all-out offensive operations against the ASG (Abu Sayyaf Group).

“It’s really difficult to operate when you have harsh terrain in the area. Continuous rains are a challenge in the tracking operations of our reconnaissance elements; how to follow the tracks or traces of the enemies which are being swept (by rains),” said Cabunoc.

Cabunoc added that it has been raining in the areas of operation since Saturday.

“They (ASG) are also mixing up with civilian communities, that is a very big challenge because we are reminded to protect the rights of the people. We are not supposed to cause collateral damage,” added Cabunoc.

Cabunoc stressed that the areas now being operated by the troops are civilian populated.

According to Cabunoc, previous Abu Sayyaf encampments seized by pursuing government troops were situated in civilian-populated areas in Patikul.

“There are houses, not necessarily in the center. There are houses but these are barangays with civilian population,” said Cabunoc.

To avoid civilian casualty, Cabunoc said that government security forces are deliberate in the conduct of operation.

He also cited the deployment of Army soldiers who were former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), now assigned with the Army’s 35th Infantry Battalion, who are acquainted with Sulu and its terrain.

“We enlisted the help of these former MNLF who are now in the Army to identify plain civilians because they know exactly who are those identified with the Abu Sayyaf group,” said Cabunoc.

He said the military has been receiving reports that the Abu Sayyaf band being pursued holds other hostages.

“There are reports but yet to be validated. It has to be validated by our intelligence officers,” said Cabunoc.

The reports of the ASG holding some 11 more hostages who are foreigners have been published in the media for years. Not one of these hostages has been rescued by the military.

Last Friday, the Abu Sayyaf released Germans Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Herike Diesen, 55, after almost five months in captivity.

Reports said that P250 million ransom was paid for the release of the German hostages.

Currently, the military said that 10 hostages are still being held by the Abu Sayyaf, including the two European birdwatchers kidnapped in February 2012 and a Japanese.


US government: People of the Philippines deserve nothing less

From Ang Malaya (Oct 21): US government: People of the Philippines deserve nothing less

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had a press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry prior to their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia. Different state representtives are in Indonesia for the inauguration of Joko Widodo, new President of Indonesia, yesterday, October 20. Kerry also used the opportunity to hold meetings with state leaders to strengthen campaign against Islamic State extremists.

In their joint press conference, a question regarding the involvement of a US Marine in a the killing of a Filipino transgender was raised. “Whatever charges there are, whatever infractions have been affected by any American anywhere, we believe in the rule of law, and we believe in our agreement,” Kerry said.

“We will, indeed, uphold our agreements with our friends in the Philippines – they deserve nothing less.”

“The people of the Philippines who are gracious enough to permit an arrangement whereby we meet mutual interests with this kind of a force’s presence need to know that we’re not seeking a special privilege, that everybody’s rights will be appropriately protected,” US Secretary of State added.

Secretary del Rosario said, “we do have all the mechanisms in place so that justice can properly be served.”


Maguindanao residents support BBL

From the Manila Times (Oct 21): Maguindanao residents support BBL

MUSLIMS and non-Muslims in Maguindanao on Tuesday expressed support to the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), crediting the province’s development to the signed agreements between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu gathered peace stakeholders in a two-day forum in General Santos City to show their support on the current peace process in Mindanao.

The forum attended by representatives of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating with the MILF, discussed issues and concerns in the BBL that is being deliberated by the Congress.

Mangudadatu underscored the low crime rates and continuous arrival of investors in the Maguin-danao which were attributed to the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the BBL draft.

“Since the signing of CAB, FAB and the drafted BBL, we are continuously gaining good gains in terms of peace and order and investments,” Mangudadatu said. “We want our investors to be safe.”

Maguindanao recently invited Malaysia’s UNIVEX and the local-based Al Mujahidoon to invest in multi-million dollar banana and palm oil plantations in the province’s vast idle lands.


Luistro denies ISIS recruitment

From the Manila Times (Oct 21): Luistro denies ISIS recruitment

EDUCATION Secretary Armin Luistro on Tuesday said he has not received reports that Islamic State jihadists had recruited Filipino students in Mindanao.

“I’ve checked with all our regions and divisions in Mindanao and none of them has received any such reports,” Luistro told this reporter in a text interview.

The Department of Education (DepEd) earlier said it will verify reports that supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are recruiting in schools in Mindanao to expand the group’s global membership.

The DepEd chief said he asked all school heads in Mindanao to verify information on the existence of this group.

If found that this group is indeed recruiting students, Luistro promised that he will immediately coordinate with authorities and local officials to prevent jihadists or members of terror groups from preying on students.

“Please ask which school they are referring to and I promise to confirm and contact school authorities and local government units,” he said.


ASG bandits elude soldiers

From the Manila Times (Oct 21): ASG bandits elude soldiers

GOVERNMENT forces hunting down members of the notorious kidnap-for-ransom Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) returned empty-handed after four days of relentless scouring of the hinterlands of Sulu province in search of the bandits.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc on Tuesday said the bigger challenge for some 3,000 government troops is how to differentiate the bandits from innocent civilians.

Cabunoc noted that continuous rains washed out whatever tracks the escaping rebels may have left, making it harder to track them in the mountainous terrains of the areas being searched.

“It’s a challenge in tracking operations, for the reconnaissance elements on how to follow the tracks or traces of the enemies that were washed out by waters,” he said.

 Cabunoc explained that the ASG camps overrun by the soldiers were actually communities or villages populated by civilians.

“There are houses there, and part of the challenge there is how to distinguish the bandits from the innocent civilians,” he said.

Cabunoc added that they are enlisting the help of former members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) who have joined the Philippine Army to identify the bandits from the civilians.

“We are reminded to protect the rights of the people. We are not supposed to harm them, we are not supposed to cause collateral damage if there are skirmishes right inside these communities, and that’s the reason why we also enlisted the help of these former MNLF rebels,” he said.

The military official added that despite the challenges, the pursuit operations will continue until the Abu Sayyaf bandits are captured and their 10 foreign and Filipino hostages are rescued.


Biazon wants ‘illegal’ provision of Bangsamoro bill removed

From the Sun Star--Manila (Oct 21): Biazon wants ‘illegal’ provision of Bangsamoro bill removed

MUNTINLUPA City Representative Rodolfo Biazon suggested Tuesday to the ad hoc committee on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law to strike down some provisions of the bill that may jeopardize its constitutionality.

Biazon, chairperson of the House committee on national defense and security, wants Article 5 section 1 removed from the Bangsamoro bill, saying it is unconstitutional.

"Article 5 Section 1 of BBL states that the National Government will only be responsible or will possess an exclusive authority on national defense and external security," Biazon told reporters at the weekly forum, Ugnayan sa Batasan.

Biazon said that national defense is only a component of national security, however, there is no definition of external security.

He said the general definition of national security includes national invaders, against terrorists, security against rebellion and security against insurgency.

"And yet, in the proposed law, the national government has no power to address rebellion, terroristic activities insurgency and against foreign invaders," the lawmaker said.

The former chief-of-staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said he will introduce a substitute bill emphasizing that the government is responsible for national security and not just for national defense.

The lawmaker proposed an amendment to delete a provision in the BBL, which defines that the National Government is only responsible for national defense and external security.

"I will remove external security. National security is a primary responsible of national government," said Biazon.

"The issue of constitutionality is very important. We need to be very careful, we need to craft a substitute bill to this administration bill," he added.

Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino assured Biazon that the National Government has the police and military control in Bangsamoro region.

"The Bangsamoro Basic Law is in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and upholds Philippine sovereignty and territorial integrity, specifically with the strength to the defense of military establishments. We have duly noted the key provisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, specifically Article 5, Section 1 which provides that defense and external security shall be the reserved power of the central government," Batino said.


Pemberton transferred to Camp Aguinaldo

From GMA News (Oct 22): Pemberton transferred to Camp Aguinaldo

(Updated 8:57 a.m.) US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspect in the killing of transgender woman Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude, was transferred on Wednesday to a facility inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, a highly placed military source said.

A press conference to be presided over by AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang will be held after Pemberton's arrival.
No other details of the transfer were immediately available as of posting time.
On Tuesday, Pemberton was a no-show in the preliminary investigation into the murder complaint lodged against him before the Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office.

Military flags down farmers for 'safety precaution'

From the Sun Star--Cagayan de Oro (Oct 21): Military flags down farmers for 'safety precaution'

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Farmers from the different places in Northern Mindanao march on the streets here again on Tuesday’s National Peasants Day to press their demands for a genuine land reform program in the country. (Joey P. Nacalaban)

ABOUT 700 farmers from the eastern part of Misamis Oriental on board six dumptrucks did not arrive on time to attend the National Peasant Day held at Kiosko sa Kagawasan (Freedom Kiosk) in Divisoria on Tuesday because they were allegedly flagged down by the military in Medina town, Misamis Oriental.

Farmer Eduardo Quidet said their convoy of dumptrucks, owned by the Provincial Government, was stopped by the army's 58th Infantry Battalion (58IB) checkpoint in Barangay Maanas, Medina around 8 a.m.

Quidet said after more than an hour of being held up, they were finally released. They arrived at Divisoria around 11:30 a.m.

Quidet is the field coordinator for eastern Misamis Oriental area of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Northern Mindanao Region (KMP-NMR).

“Ila ‘ming gi-hold kay wala kuno sila kasabot aha paingon ang mga tawo. Among giignan nga moapil sa usa ka kalihukan sa mga mag-uuma (They held us because they did not understand where the people were going. We told them we were joining a gathering for farmers),” he said.

Quidet asked the soldiers why they were apprehensive considering the trucks used belonged to the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental and had the permission of Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano.

They were held by the soldiers for more than an hour, and a copy of the group’s permit had been demanded from them.

But the group didn’t have a copy of the permit since the KMP-NMR regional office has it.

He said it was the first time they were stopped by the military since they have been attending the yearly farmers’ activity for 10 years.

They were only allowed to proceed when Quidet blurted out “sige, molarga ‘mi. Pusila ‘mi kay mopadayon ‘mi (we are going ahead. Shoot us, but we will push through).”

Richard Colao, KMP-NMR secretary-general, said they had secured a permit from the office of Mayor Oscar Moreno to hold the rally and they were even escorted by Roads and Traffic Administration enforcers during their march from the Provincial Capitol to the Kiosko to ensure the activity proceeded smoothly.

Colao said they also asked the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (Cocpo) to secure the site of the protest rally.

Random checkpoints

In a separate interview Tuesday, Major Christian Uy, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), confirmed that the 58IB is conducting random checkpoints from time to time in the area.

“Timing nag-conduct sila og checkpoint. Dili lang kay karon lang na sila nag-checkpoint,” Uy said.

He said the soldiers did it for safety precaution, “Igo lang sila gi-check, then they (farmers) were allowed to proceed.”

One of those who attended the rally, Resim Baculi, of the Upper Puerto Fight Carp Beneficiaries Association (UPFCBA) in Barangay Puerto, is optimistic when they got an assurance from the Registry of Deeds on Monday that their Certificate of Land Ownership Award (Cloa) of the 23-hectare land will soon be released.

“We hope that this will finally be realized,” Baculi said, adding their application for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (Carp) for the contested lot forms part of the 23-hectare lot in Upper Puerto is owned by a private company.

He said they are hopeful the ROD will keep its word of giving them the Cloa next week.

Sr. Fam Somogod, of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), said the support they have extended to the peasants in the region has been ongoing.

Among the assistance the tillers have received from the RMP are farm implements, as well as processing of documents for their application for Carp.


Curfew extended in Sabah’s east coast

From The Star Online (Oct 21): Curfew extended in Sabah’s east coast

KOTA KINABALU: A dusk till dawn sea curfew at six districts in Sabah’s east coast has been further extended until November 6, state Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said.

He said the curfew extension in waters off the Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau districts was needed to ensure security there.

He said the curfew was also to curb smuggling activities while enabling security forces to carry out their duties even more effectively.

Jalaluddin said resort operators and others in the tourism industry fully supported the curfew that had been enforced since July 19.

He said the curfew had not affected the fishing community in the affected areas.
The curfew came in the wake of the attack on a Marine Police unit at Pulau Mabul on July 12.

Marine Police Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32, was shot dead and his colleague Konst Zakiah Aleip, 26, was abducted when gunmen attacked them at the Mabul Water Bungalows Resort.

It was the latest security incident in Sabah’s east coast since November 15 last year when Taiwanese Chang An Wei, 58, was abducted and her husband Li Min Hsu, 57, killed at the Pom Pom island resort.

Chang was freed after 36 days of captivity in the southern Philippines island of Jolo.

On April 2, China tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino hotel worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna and just over a month later on May 6  China national Yang Zailin, 34, was abducted from from the fish farm he was managing at Pulau Baik in Lahad Datu.

On June 16, gunmen once again struck at a fish farm at Kampung Sapang in Kunak and abducted its manager Chan Sai Chuin, 32.

Gao and Dayawan were released by their Abu Sayyaf gunmen captors on May 30 while Yang was freed on July 9, both in Jolo. Chan however remains in the hands of his captors.


Why the military is having hard time pursuing Abu Sayyaf bandits

From the Philippine Star (Oct 21): Why the military is having hard time pursuing Abu Sayyaf bandits

Bad weather and the mingling of bandits with civilians pose challenges to government forces chasing the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu, the military said Tuesday.

Armed Forces public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the terrorists’ camps are located within civilian communities, making it necessary for soldiers to be deliberate.

“The rains there are continuous. Second, the (Abu Sayyaf) camp is actually a community. It’s not the usual camp with physical barriers and trenches,” Cabunoc said.

“Part of the challenge is the mixing of bandits with innocent civilians,” he added.

Cabunoc said military operatives had found civilians in the area where the seized Abu Sayyaf camps are located.

“[Joint Task Group Sulu commander] Col. [Alan] Arrojado said they even found civilians picking lanzones. They were in a hurry because they were afraid of soldiers,” the military spokesman said.

“Fortunately, the soldiers were with a former MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) member and they were told not to be afraid of soldiers because they do not harm innocent civilians,” he added.

The military has yet to encounter the bandits, who are still holding about 10 people hostage. Security officials, however, are optimistic that they would catch the terrorists in due time.

“We have to validate whatever information we get. We cannot disclose them. We do not want to compromise the conduct of operations on the ground,” Cabunoc said.

Security forces have launched law enforcement operations against the Abu Sayyaf militants behind the abduction of German nationals Stefan Viktor Okonek and Henrite Dielen and 10 other persons.

Three abandoned Abu Sayyaf camps have been seized by the military in Patikul, Sulu since Sunday.

Okonek and Dielen were kidnapped last April in their yacht in Rio Tubattaha off Palawan.

After six months of captivity, the two hostages were freed Friday night in one of the barangays in Patikul.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed that the hostages were released after they had received the full ransom of P250-million.

Military officials kept mum on the group’s claim even as they claimed that the hostages were freed due to “intensified law enforcement operations.”


Freed Abu Sayyaf hostages leaving for Europe tonight

From ABS-CBN (Oct 21): Freed Abu Sayyaf hostages leaving for Europe tonight

The two German nationals released by the Abu Sayyaf Group on the night of October 17 are set to leave for Europe on Tuesday evening.

Airport sources said Stefan Okonek and Henrike Dielen were assisted by the staff of the German embassy for their non-appearance check-in at the counter of Etihad Airlines at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1.

The commercial flight is scheduled to depart for Europe at 7:10 p.m.

The German embassy has requested that media not be allowed to take photos or videos of the departing couple.

The German embassy also deployed its own security personnel to prevent journalists from interviewing the two German nationals.

Okonek and Dielen, both on wheelchairs, were spotted at the dignitaries lounge of NAIA Terminal 1. They slipped into the airport through the tarmac area.


NSC: Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law will temper ISIS influence in PHL

From GMA News (Oct 21): NSC: Passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law will temper ISIS influence in PHL

More than promoting peace and prosperity in Mindanao, the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will also counter the threat of radical ideology promoted by the militant Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the National Security Council (NSC) said Tuesday.

NSC Undersecretary Zenaida Brosas told lawmakers at the hearing of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL that the passage of the law will also help curb the spread of extremism in the southern part of the Philippines.

“The Bangsamoro government would be able to moderate Islamic leaders, counter the ideology of radicalism being promoted by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and steer the Muslim community away from ISIS influence,” she said.

The proposed BBL, otherwise known as House Bill 4994, will formalize the creation of the Bangsamoro region envisioned to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Several stakeholders—from businesses to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) earlier this year with the national government, said passage of the landmark legislation will address the problem of conflict in Mindanao.

Several news reports have hinted at budding ISIS recruitment in Mindanao, with former President Fidel Ramos claiming that around 100 individuals are training with the militant group.

However, the Philippine Army said it has not monitored any suspicious activity from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf group after its leaders pledged allegiance to ISIS last August.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the MILF, while the Abu Sayyaf is a radical group allied with the al Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist networks.

ISIS gained notoriety for carrying out atrocities in the areas of Syria and Iraq it has managed to capture.

Dire repercussions

Brosas said passing the BBL will also allow the Armed Forces of the Philippines to focus its manpower and resources to addressing external national security concerns such as the protection of the Philippines’ territorial integrity and maritime domain.

Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro bill, however, could lead to adverse security implications for Mindanao and the whole country, she warned.

One of the dangerous repercussions seen by the NSC is the return of MILF to armed conflict.

“The failure of the CAB [to materialize into a law] will inevitably force the MILF to return to armed conflict—only this time, with greater determination of pursuing secession,” Brosas said.

Failure to pass the BBL will also be a vindication for rebel groups such as the MNLF and BIFF since it would show the government can’t fulfill its promises, she added.

“This might come to a point when a tactical alliance would be formed among the MILF, MNLF and BIFF in the quest for independence,” Brosas said.

The continued existence of the ARMM in the event the Bangsamoro bill isn’t passed, Brosas noted, might anger people in the region because they will feel “cheated” after desiring peace for several years.

National security

Former AFP Chief of Staff and incumbent Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said that while he is for the passage of the BBL, he wants the current House bill to be amended to emphasize the national government will have power on matters of national security.

Section 1, Article V of the proposed BBL states the national government will exercise reserved powers regarding national defense and external security.

Biazon, however, said national defense was just one of the components of national security.

“In the proposed law, they are saying that the national government has no power to address rebellion, insurrection, insurgency, and even terrorism. All of that are components of national security,” he said in a press briefing at the sidelines of the hearing.

The government will be effectively stripped of its powers to handle concerns such as rebellion, insurrection, disaster and terrorism if the bill fails to mention the specific phrase “national security,” he said.

Defense undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, however, clarified during the hearing that the Bangsamoro bill  gives the national government authority to address national security concerns.

“The power to address concerns regarding defense and national security is lodged with the President,” he said.

Biazon said he will propose a substitute bill to HB 4994 stating the government to take charge of concerns pertaining to national defense and security.

“I would propose an amendment to delete that proposal in the Bangsamoro basic law that which defines the national government is only responsible for national defense and external security,” he said.


Ex-MNLF troops now with Army will cut collateral damage in ASG pursuit

From the Business World (Oct 21): Ex-MNLF troops now with Army will cut collateral damage in ASG pursuit

PHILIPPINE ARMY troops who served the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) have proven themselves to be “great” assets in the military’s pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold M. Cabunoc made these remarks yesterday, saying these troops will help the military avoid collateral damage especially in far-flung communities in the region.

“We are not supposed to cause collateral damage if there are skirmishes right inside these communities and that’s the reason why we also enlisted the help of these former MNLF rebels who are now in the Army to identify plain civilians because they know exactly who are those identified with the Abu Sayyaf,” he said.

“These communities are their camps which have houses and one of our challenges is when those bandits mix with innocent civilians,” Mr. Cabunoc said.

Rainfall also jeopardizes the reconnaissance team’s tracking operations in sparse jungles as well as in heavily wooded areas, he added.

As a result, Col. Allan R. Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, has yet to report any engagements between government troops and the rebels, Mr. Cabunoc said.

Mr. Arrojado has led efforts to run after and apprehend the bandit group since Friday last week, when the group released two German hostages.

Military intelligence indicates that the Abu Sayyaf is still holding 10 hostages in captivity, some of whom are foreigners abducted in different parts of the country or nearby areas.

Government troops has since seized three encampments of the bandit group since it began its law enforcement operation on Friday last week.


Army out to re-establish presence, control in Sulu

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 21): Army out to re-establish presence, control in Sulu

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Monday ordered non-stop pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group—even as the military said it will preposition troops in Sulu to re-establish its presence there after eight years of absence in the province.

Aquino said the Abu Sayyaf must not be given any safe areas that would allow them to evade the law.

“The ASG has been a scourge for too long now. It affects our relationships with various neighboring states,” he said.

“It is time that the state engages in non-stop pursuit operations against them. There should be no safe areas for the ASG.”

Aquino also insisted that the government did not pay any ransom to free German hostages Viktor Stefan Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55, who were released by the Abu Sayyaf on the night of Oct. 17.

“Nothing came from the Office of the President. I can assure you that. I didn’t authorize anything from the Office of the President,” Aquino said.

But he did not say if money from non-government sources was released to the Abu Sayyaf to free the Germans.

On Sunday, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma insisted that the German hostages were released due to the intense pressure exerted by the military on the Abu Sayyaf.

The group claims it released the hostages after receiving a P250-million ransom.
Col. Allan Arrojado, the Army’s commander in Sulu and who is in charge of the pursuit operations against the Abu Sayyaf, said the Army had been absent in Sulu for eight years, and that allowed the bandits to become bolder.

Soldiers were first deployed in Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi in 1969 to neutralize the New People’s Army, the Islamic rebels and bandits, the Moro National Liberation Front, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Abu Sayyaf.

Arrojado said patience and perseverance would be necessary to defeat the Abu Sayyaf following the seizure of three of their camps.

“The positive side of the military’s efforts is that we have intruded into their controlled areas that have not been patrolled over the years,” Arrojado said.

The Army sent troops to Sulu to help the Marines neutralize the terrorist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Armed Forces Chief Gregorio Catapang said he was confident his soldiers would intercept the fleeing Abu Sayyaf gunmen.

“Surely we will catch up with them,” he said.

Col. Harold Cabunoc, head of the Public Affairs Office, said there was no time line in the pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf.

“The objective is to bring them to justice,” he said.

But he said the pursuing troops were having a hard time catching up with the bandits as they feared the Abu Sayyaf could have laid land mines and other explosive devices to slow down their pursuers.


War in the Philippines has raged for decades due to neglect and bad management

From the Global Post (Oct 21): War in the Philippines has raged for decades due to neglect and bad management

That's what Patricio P. Diaz says. He has spent life covering it. He’s 88.

The works of journalist Patricio P. Diaz would make a comprehensive history of the conflict in the Southern Philippines. He was only in his 20s when he started off as a reporter and columnist for a Mindanao publication.

But covering the conflict continues for Diaz, now 88 years old.

“Conflict was still very manageable” back in 1969, he once wrote in retrospect.

“A problem that could have been nipped in the bud had been allowed to grow into its present crisis through indifference, neglect, miscalculation and misunderstanding,” he noted.

Peace in the region has long remained elusive, although there have been promising recent developments. In March the Philippines government signed a “final” peace agreement with rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). And on Sept. 10, after several months of delay, President Benigno S. Aquino III submitted to congressional leaders the draft bill that would create a more autonomous region in Mindanao.

This new political region is to be called Bangsamoro. It is set to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). Unlike the rest of the Philippines, it will have a parliamentary form of government. The draft bill lists 58 powers exclusive to the Bangsamoro government, including authority over economic zones and industrial centers.

Writing in his column for MindaNews, Diaz sees many challenges ahead. The biggest hurdle is limited time, as the Bangsamoro region is expected to be set up by 2016.

The House of Representatives hopes to pass the Bangsamoro bill by December this year, and the Philippines Senate by early 2015. Yet even with the lawmakers’ best efforts, the law designating this new region should face stiff challenges before the Philippines Supreme Court.

“Too many possible complications within so short a time seem too real for comfort,” writes Diaz, who still lives in Mindanao and still writes with the same incisive and biting prose as before. (About the peace deal and the future of the Bangsamoro, he recently wrote: “There is no better deal than the best.”)

These are words of caution from the same journalist who has been proven right by history many times in his career.

“Muslim problems should not be taken lightly,” Diaz wrote in a 1969 piece about land disputes in the Southern Philippines. He warned the national government in the same article to do more than just placate Muslim leaders in times of tension.

The warning went unheeded. By the 1970s, rebellion exploded in Mindanao.

In 1989, amid government efforts to legislate an autonomy act for Muslim Mindanao, Diaz wrote that autonomy is good only if it reconciles Christians and Muslims in the region and brings back to the socio-political mainstream the rebel groups MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Autonomy, no matter how constitutional, should be “reconsidered, rethought and revised” if it fails to achieve these goals, he said.

He took issue with the use of the name “Muslim Mindanao” for being divisive. He warned that it is dangerous “to enact an autonomy based on legal and political principles” without addressing squarely the roots of the problem in Mindanao.

That same year, the Philippines Congress enacted a law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

More than 20 years later, President Aquino himself admitted that ARMM has been “a failed experiment. Many of the people continue to feel alienated by the system, and those who feel that there is no way out will continue to articulate their grievances through the barrel of a gun.”

The similarities between this assessment and the scenario Diaz saw coming two decades ago are striking.

With discussions on the Bangsamoro bill ongoing, Diaz notes that the law creating ARMM was never questioned on the grounds of constitutionality. The same is not the case for the Bangsamoro bill.

“We have to prepare for the worst, not just the best,” he writes.

New post for sacked AFP disburser

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 20): New post for sacked AFP disburser

One of the four officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center sacked for alleged irregular purchase of P80 million worth of medical supplies without the benefit of public bidding was  reassigned to another “lucrative” position in the same agency, according to documents.

Lt. Col. Florencio Ritchie I. Capulong III was designated as “Head, Secretariat” of the AFPMC’s Technical Working Group, the documents showed.

Capulong’s  new designation took effect on October 15, 2014 and was signed by Acting AFPMC commander Col. Benedicto Jovellanos and Sta. Ana’s chief of staff, Col. Fernando M. Reboja.

Capulong was designated to his new position on the same day his termination order as Special Disbursing Officer was issued.

His new job would enable him to review projects and to decide which projects his group would endorse to his superiors, a military source said.

His designation, the source said, posed a  telling blow to reforms being pursued by AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. who had  promised to reassign  officials involved in the purchase deal so they would not influence the ongoing investigation.

Capulong was removed from his post as Special Disbursing Officer because of a complaint filed by a certain Renato Villafuerte before the Office of the Ombudsman urging Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate the alleged corruption at the AFPMC.

Catapang also placed under “floating” status former AFPMC commander Brig. Gen. Normando T. Sta. Ana Jr.; Col. Rogelio S. Del Rio, former Acting Chief of Staff for Logistics; and Maj. Neil D. Bugarin, former Management and Fiscal Office chief.

The document also showed that  Lt. Col. Raymund C. Elpedes was named as replacement for   del Rio as logistics head and Lt. Col. Achilles R. Estravilla as finance chief. Their designations also took effect on October 15.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP Public Affairs Office chief, said he has yet to verify if  Capulong’s new designation.

“If ever, that might be illegal. But I won’t comment for now because I’ve not seen yet a copy of the designation,” Cabunoc said.

Capulong was among awardees of the 2014 The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) given by Metrobank Foundation, Inc.

Based on Villafuerte’s complaint,  Capulong made a cash advance of P40 million to procure medicines even if funds were not yet available. “The scheme employed by these government officers should be stopped. Documents of cash advance are in possession of [the] Management and Fiscal Office for funding and some are still in the possession of [the Special Disbursing Officer,” Villafuerte said in his complaint.


Chief NDFP negotiator accuses military of war crimes in Abra

From GMA News (Oct 20): Chief NDFP negotiator accuses military of war crimes in Abra

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) committed "atrocious war crimes" during military operations in Lacub, Abra last September, the chairman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel said Monday.

Citing findings of a fact-finding mission, NDFP negotiator Luis Jalandoni said in an online statement that "it is clear that the 41st Infantry Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Rogelio Noora and 2LT Joe Mari Landicho and Capt. Deo Martinez as officers on the ground, committed atrocious war crimes and crimes against humanity and other grave violations of IHL (international humanitarian law)."

Jalandoni accused the military of the "brutal killing, torture, mutilation, and desecration" of New People's Army members Arnold "Ka Mando" Jaramillo, Recca Noelle "Ka Tet" Monte, Brandon "Ka Sly" Madranga, Robert "Ka Dawyan" Beyao, Ricardo "Ka Tubong" Reyes, Pedring "Ka Jess" Banggao, and Robert "Ka Limbo" Perez.

He also said that two civilians — Fidela Salvador, who was accused of being an NPA guerilla, and Noel Viste, who was allegedly used as a guide and a human shield by the military — were killed during the operation.

Jalandoni also alleged that the AFP used 24 civilians as human shields during their operations in Lacub last September 5. 2014. The military also fired towards civilian houses in Talampac Proper and Pacoc, Talampac between 9:00 and 10:00 p.m, he said.

A call for investigation, resumption of peace talks

"2Lt. Landicho, Capt. Martinez, and Lt. Col. Noora should be held accountable for these war crimes. The responsibility of the Commanding Officer of the 5th Infantry Division under which the 41st IB operates, should also be investigated," Jalandoni said.

The chairman pointed out that war crimes are prohibited by the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) signed in 1998 and approved by NDFP chairperson Mariano Orosa and then President Joseph Estrada.

In a text message to GMA News Online, AFP Public Affairs Office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said, "War is violent and not really the best way to solve problems. That is the reason why the AFP supports peace and development in our land."

Cabunoc added: "The CPP NPA NDF(P) on the other hand is continuously pursuing violent means to advance their interests. Therefore, they are answerable to the deaths of their misguided followers who engage our troops in bloody firefights."

Jalandoni meanwhile revealed that peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP negotiating panel may resume soon. The talks on truce and cooperation was stopped in February 2013.

"A series of consultations between the NDFP Negotiating Panel and a high level delegation of the GPH (Government of the Philippines) has resulted in a meeting between the two sides scheduled in Utrecht within the next few days," he said.


Top Security Officials to ‘Face the People’ in Sulu Province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 21): Top Security Officials to ‘Face the People’ in Sulu Province

Top Philippine military and police officials will have their hands full when they attend a public dialogue Friday in Sulu province to answer all allegations that authorities facilitated the payments of ransom to Abu Sayyaf militants in exchange for the release of two kidnapped German yachters.

The dialogue was the offshoot of a meeting on Monday by representatives of various civil society groups and different sectors with Sulu Gov. Toto Tan, who heads the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and its special ad hoc crisis committee handling the hostage crisis.

Among those expected to attend the dialogue are top officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) and they are expected to answer questions regarding the October 17 release of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55, in exchange for P250 million ransom.

The ransom negotiations and release of the foreigners were so secretive that the military did not even inform the PPOC and the crisis committee about it. Up to now, the AFP and PNP have not submitted a report to the PPOC.

Gov. Tan said the PPOC and the crisis committee only learned about the release of the hostages after the media broke out the news. “We were not informed about that the hostages were already rescued and it was only through media reports that we became aware that they were rescued Friday night and (already) in the custody of the Armed Forces (of the Philippines,” he said.

The military strongly insisted that no ransom was paid for the release of two German nationals and even dared anyone to come up with evidence that ransom had been paid to the Abu Sayyaf.

An Abu Sayyaf spokesman, Aboo Rami, told Radio Mindanao Network in Zamboanga City, that they freed the two German yachters after getting the P250 million ransoms. The hostages were recovered by policemen, but were whisked away by soldiers and brought to a military base in Jolo town and not even the local mayor was told about the release of the Germans.

The duo was heading to Sabah in Malaysia on a private yacht from a holiday in Palawan province when militants who were returning to the southern Philippines from a failed kidnapping in Sabah spotted the Germans and seized them on April 25.

According to sources, leaders of civil society and sectoral groups in Sulu are preparing their position papers which they would submit – through Gov. Tan – to AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Catapang and PNP Director General Alan Purisima.

Provincial legislators and mayors are also expected to pass a separate resolution in connection with the military’s action that totally ignored civilian authorities when it hid information of the hostages’ release which was cloak in secrecy.

Sources said the position papers may also include suggestions and measures to improve the organizational structures on public order and law enforcement operations that would likely involved participation of community leaders to help authorities curb criminality in the province.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, a military spokesman, insisted the foreigners were freed by their kidnappers due to pressure exerted by security forces – a line which the military have used many times in previous release of foreign hostages by the Abu Sayyaf.

“Just wondering if anyone here personally saw the P250 Million cold cash in the hands of Abu Sayyaf? Let's not believe the word of Abu Rami as if he is Jesus Christ. Di na natin mababawi ang ating pinagsasabi kung mali tayo. Unless, may magsabi dito saksi sya mismo nag abot si Mr You ng pera kay Mr Abu, walang nakakasiguro,” he said in a reaction to Facebook commentaries by “netizens” on the reported payment of ransoms to the Abu Sayyaf.

Sources in Sulu said a private jet delivered 12 trolley bags containing ransoms in Jolo and that several bags full of money had been left in the plane.

Cabunoc branded the Abu Sayyaf statement as “propaganda” and even cited allegations in the past against the military that it delivered ransom to the militant group to buy the freedom of hostages in Basilan province in 2001. He said the military does not negotiate with terrorists.

“Well, I’m used to shooting terrorists. We don't negotiate with those bastards when I was in the frontline. Soldiers like me have died fighting these bandits. Masakit din sa kalooban namin kung gawan ng kwentong ganyan. Kasuhan nyo kung sino may kasalanan. Kahit naman siguro kayo, kung nahuhusgahan sa social media ay di rin matutuwa kung pagtatawanan. Patas lang po. Tinatawanan din tayo ng mga Abu Sayyaf at ng mga kurakot at tiwali na dahilan di maubos ubos ang mga iyan,” said Cabunoc, who was previously assigned in Basilan where he fought the Abu Sayyaf.

It was unknown what role the military played in the ransom negotiations, but Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan, a spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said: “The AFP has no information on that (ransom payments) but suffice to say that the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other security forces do not and will not negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers.”

The release of the Germans came hours after security forces launched an operation in an effort to capture Abu Sayyaf militants holding foreign hostages in Sulu.  Officials said police and military, armed with arrest warrants, are presently intensifying law enforcement operations against the Abu Sayyaf, which recently pledged allegiance to ISIS.

The military said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen are hiding in civilian communities and have moved their hostages from different hideouts and making it extremely difficult for security forces to track them down of rescue them.

Another Abu Sayyaf faction also threatened to kill Malaysian fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin, 32, who was kidnapped along with a Filipino worker on June 16 this year from a fish farm in the town of Kunak in Tawau District. The militants are demanding 3 million ringgits (P41 million) for the safe release of the fish breeder.

It is also holding captive a Malaysian policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, who was seized on June 12 also this year following a clash in Sabah that killed another policeman. The militants are demanding 5 million ringgits (P68.3 million).

The militants are still holding hostage a 64-year old Japanese treasure hunter Katayama Mamaito, who was kidnapped from Pangutaran Island in July 2010; and two European wildlife photographers Ewold Horn, 52, from Holland; and Lorenzo Vinciguerre, 47, from Switzerland, who were taken captive in the coastal village of Parangan in Panglima Sugala town in the southern Tawi-Tawi province in 2012. And several Filipinos kidnapped in other provinces and brought to Sulu.


Rally for Tiamzons disrupts QC court operations

From Rappler (Oct 21): Rally for Tiamzons disrupts QC court operations

Militant groups occupy the entrance of the Quezon City Hall of Justice during the trial of alleged CPP-NPA leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon

CLENCHED FIST. The Tiamzon couple salutes their supporters outside the Quezon City Hall of Justice. All photos by Ben Nabong/Rappler

CLENCHED FIST. The Tiamzon couple salutes their supporters outside the Quezon City Hall of Justice. All photos by Ben Nabong/Rappler
Militant groups disrupted operations of the Quezon City Hall of Justice on Tuesday, October 21, when they massed in front of the building to demand the release of alleged Communist Party of the Philippines leaders Benito and Wilma Tiamzon and other political prisoners.
Hundreds of activists composed mostly of farmers trooped to the main entrance of the hall of justice to picket while the Tiamzons attended their pre-trial hearing inside the building.

The rally caused the delay of other court hearings inside the hall due to the number of militants in front of the building. Lawyers and attendees of other hearings were barred from entering the building to prevent activists from barging into the doors.

SUPPORTERS. The protesters were composed mostly of farmers belonging to the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

SUPPORTERS. The protesters were composed mostly of farmers belonging to the leftist Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.
Court hearings were eventually suspended due to the rally.

Local police secured the perimeter of the hall of justice to secure the Tiamzons but as the couple waited at the side entrance for the police van that will take them back to Camp Crame, their supporters started to march towards the gate, instigating a brief clash between the police and militants.

The Tiamzons, who are facing charges of kidnapping and serious illegal detention of military officers in 1988, held their fists up high and smiled in response to the display of support.

SIDELINED. Lawyers and court employees watch outside as the police and rallyists try to outdo each other.

SIDELINED. Lawyers and court employees watch outside as the police and rallyists try to outdo each other.

Angry AFP chief orders sacked hospital officials to report to him

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Angry AFP chief orders sacked hospital officials to report to him

Angered by a report that the sacked commander of the AFP Medical Center was still reporting for duty and another one was even designated to a new position, Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. ordered them to report to him at his office at the General Headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

"They're already relieved from their positions and yet they continue to report for work to their former positions. The Chief of Staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr., has ordered them all to report GHQ as soon as possible," Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Public Affairs Office (PAO) of the AFP, said Tuesday.

On Monday, a document showed that one of the four hospital officials sacked for alleged corruption in the purchase of P80 million worth of medical supplies without public bidding was designated to a new position.

In the document, a copy of which was obtained by Interaksyon.com, showed the designation of Lt. Col. Florencio Ritchie I. Capulong III as Head Secretariat of the AFPMC's Technical Working Group.

His designation was seen as a serious blow to reforms being advocated by Catapang, who had earlier said he relieved the officials involved so they will not influence the ongoing investigation.

Capulong was sacked from his position as Special Disbursing Officer (SDO) because of a complaint filed by a Renato Villafuerte before the Office of the Ombudsman urging Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to investigate corruption at the AFPMC.

Also sacked by Catapang was former AFPMC commander Brig. Gen. Normando T. Sta. Ana Jr.; Col. Rogelio S. Del Rio, former Acting Chief of Staff for Logistics, MC4; and Maj. Neil D. Bugarin, former Management and Fiscal Office chief.

Reports said that Sta. Ana continued to report for work even after he was sacked "but he was not signing official documents."

In the document, the date of effectivity of the designation of Capulong to his new position was on October 15, 2014. The order was issued by acting AFPMC commander Col. Benedicto Jovellanos and Sta. Ana's chief of staff, Col. Fernando M. Reboja.

Capulong was designated to his new position the same day his termination order as Special Disbursing Officer was issued and became effective.

Unfortunately, Capulong was among awardees of the 2014 The Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) given by Metrobank Foundation Inc.

The award is given to exemplary soldiers in the service.

Based on Villafuerte’s complaint, Capulong made a cash advance of P40 million to procure medicines even if funds were not yet available. The scheme is a form of realignment of funds under their discretion.

"The scheme employed by these government officers should be stopped.
Documents of cash advance are in possession of [the] Management and Fiscal Office for funding and some are still in the possession of [the Special Disbursing Officer]," Villafuerte said in his complaint.

In the same document, Lt. Col. Raymund C. Elpedes was designated MC4 and Lt. Col. Achilles R. Estravilla as MFO chief. Their date of designations was also October 15.


Sen. Miriam to probe transgender murder, PH-US military pact in Senate hearing tomorrow

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Sen. Miriam to probe transgender murder, PH-US military pact in Senate hearing tomorrow

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago will preside over the hearing of the Committee on Foreign Relations on the Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude murder case tomorrow, 22 October 2014, 10 a.m. at the Senate Committee Room 3.

The following have confirmed that they will attend the hearing:

1. Secretary Albert de Rosario, Department of Foreign Affairs
2. Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, Defense Policy Chief and Chief Negotiator for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement
3. Executive Director Eduardo Oban Jr., Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement
4. Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, Deputy Chief for Operations, Philippine National Police
5. Colonel Pedrito Delos Reyes, Acting City Director, PNP Olongapo City
6. Chief Inspector Gil Arizo Domingo, PNP Olongapo City
7. Mark Clarence Gelviro aka “Barbie”, cictim’s friend who identified the suspect
8. Michelle Laude, sister of the victim
9. Marilou Laude, sister of the victim


Pemberton a no-show at probe into Laude slay; victim's kin fear US Marine already out of PH

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Pemberton a no-show at probe into Laude slay; victim's kin fear US Marine already out of PH

The U.S. Marine accused of killing Filipino Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude was a no-show during the preliminary investigation into the murder complaint against him Friday afternoon before the Olongapo City Prosecutor’s Office. Laude's family fears that Pemberton had already left the country.

Rowena Garcia-Flores, the lawyer of Private First Class Joseph Scott Permberton, said her client was not obliged to appear before the prosecutor’s office for the investigation.

Also, Pemberton’s lawyer said the U.S. Marine had 10 days to submit a counter affidavit after the latter’s receipt of the October 17 subpoena to appear in the investigation.

“The October 17 notice did not require the personal appearance of Pemberton. The subpoena only gave Pemberton 10 days within which to file [or not] a counter affidavit,” Flores said.

During the inquiry, senior state prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos directed Flores to make Pemberton appear during the next investigation scheduled on October 27. The prosecutor said that Pemberton's absence meant that he had laready waived his right to reply to or refute the statements against him by the prosecution.

[Video report]

But Virgie Suarez, counsel for the Laude family told media after the inquiry that Pemberton's lawyer did not say whether her client would be able to appear in the next inquiry. Suarez said Pemberton's camp also did not say if they would be able to submit a counter-affidavit.

"Ang susunod na hearing ay October 27. Pero sa October 27 hindi rin nakapagbigay ng konkretong salita na si Pemberton ay darating at di nakasisiguro kung magsa-submit ng counter affidavit [The next hearing will be on October 27. But there was no concrete statement that Pemberton would show up on October 27 and submit a counter-affidavit]," said Suarez.

"Nagpapakita na napakataas, napakarogante ng mga Amerikanong sundalo dito….Nagpapakita ng sense of impunity as if they are above the law [American soldiers here are displaying their superiority and arrogance. They are showing sense of impunity as if they are above the law]," the lawyer added.

A representative from the U.S. Embassy showed up during the investigation on behalf of Pemberton. Laude’s sister Marilou, the victim’s German fiancĂ© Marc Sueselback, and lawyer Harry Roque also attended the inquiry.

Prosecutor Delos Santos clarified during the inquiry that private lawyers for the prosecution including Harry Roque wouls only be involved in the civil aspect of the complaint, while public prosecutors would be in-charge of the criminal aspect. "It's only the civil aspect of the case that can be covered by Atty Roque. Ang trabaho po namin intindihin n'yo ay criminal aspect."

Delos Santos,  said that she didn't want to run into disagreement with the private prosecutors just like what happened during the trial of the 2005 Subic rape case involving US Marine Daniel Smith. Delos Santos was the prosecutor who handled the rape case of "Nicole" against Smith.

"Ayoko pong sa bandang huli tayo magkabangga, dahil hindi ho talaga uubra...ang private prosecutor. We have lessons learned in the Smith case, we don't want to commit the same mistakes," she said.

During the inquiry, the prosecutor asked for the forensic results on the swab and seman samples from the crime scene. Laude was found dead on the night of October 11 inside Room 1 of Celzone  Lodge in Olongapo after checking in at the motel allegedly with Pemberton.

Delos Reyes also ordered an ocular inspection of Ambyanz Discop Bar, also in Olongapo, where Laude and Pemberton reportedly met before they went out and checked in at Celzone.

Pemberton already out of PH? 

After the investigation, Laude’s camp denounced Pemberto’s absence.
The victim’s mother, Julita, criticized the U.S. allegedly hiding a  “good for nothing” person, who should not be emulated.

Hanggang ngayon, hindi nagpapakita. Saan kami hihingi ng tulong para ilabas ‘yan? Nagtatago sila ng walang kwentang tao…na hindi dapat pamarisan….Kung mabuti s’yang tao bakit ‘yong anak ko na mabuting tao pinatay n’ya?” Julita told media after the inquiry.

[He has not showed up until now. Where should we get help for him to show up? They are hiding a good for nothing person who should not be emulated…If he was a good person why did he kill my child who was a good person?]

Julita said her camp would not give up in finding ways to seek justice for Laude. “Gagawa kami ng paraan…Magtatapos kami sa dulo hangga’t makamit ng anak ko [ang hustisya].”

Laude’s sister Marilou said it was possible that Pemberton could have already left the country.

Posibleng pinaalis na nila ‘yan. So ano ang mangyayari sa amin? Sino ang huhulihin?....Pinatay n’ya ang kapatid ko na parang wala lang…parang nawalang bula…Maski ang attorney n’ya di masabi. Dapat ang attorney n’ya tumutulong po para mapalabas si Pemberton, para makamit ng kapatid ko ang hustisya,” said Marilou.

[It’s possible that they already let him leave. So what will happen to us? Who is going to be arrested? He killed my sibling just like that and then he disappeared like a buble. Even his attorney can’t say where he is. His attorney should help in making Pemberton surface so that my sibling could achieve justice.]

But the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs said that Pemberton is still being held at the amphibian assault ship USS Peleliu, which is docked at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.

[Video report]


Foreign jihadist group said to be training BIFF and ASG in urban warfare, bomb making

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): Foreign jihadist group said to be training BIFF and ASG in urban warfare, bomb making

A foreign group of jihadists with links to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is suspected to be training rogue Moro fighters and followers of the extremist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in bomb making and urban guerilla warfare in Sulu and Central Mindanao, a source from the Philippine National Police (PNP) disclosed on Tuesday.

The source, who has requested anonymity for now, indicated the presence of at least eight foreign jihadists. Two of them, identified as Malaysian bombmaker Zulkipli Bin Hir alias Marwan and Singaporean Mauwiya, are said to be leading the pack of foreign trainers.

Both are known members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an Indonesian terror group blamed for a number of deadly attacks in Southeast Asia, including the Bali Bombing on October 2002 that killed at least 200 mostly Australian tourists and wounded hundreds of others.

"These trainers are a mixture of foreign nationals," the source said. "But they have a common cause."

He added that the other trainers are of Middle Eastern origin: "We are still trying to gather their profiles, complete their dossiers."

The source added that these foreign jihadists are apparently training members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MIF) and elements of ASG in bomb-making and urban guerillla warfare tactics.

He added that the training is done in batches, with the last batch having "graduated" sometime in July, or a month before the ASG and some BIFF commanders pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has taken over huge swaths of territories in the Middle East.

"The training is a series of short courses mostly on urban guerilla warfare," the source said, "but they are continuous."

He added that the Middle-Eastern trainers have already relocated themselves to Central Mindanao, where there is military activity against Moro rebels, while Marwan and Mauwiya were left behind in Sulu to train ASG fighters.

Just recently, the military launched punitive attacks against suspected ASG members in Sulu after the bandit group freed their two German hostages reportedly in exchange for a P250-million ransom.

However, he said that, based on information from their intelligence assets within the group, the ASG did not receive the full amount of the ransom money for the two Germans, who were captured inn the high seas by the ASG in Southern Palawan last April: "According to our information, the ASG received only P240 million."

Roldolfo "Boggie" Mendoza, a retired PNP officer and anti-terrorism expert, shared in previous interviews that, "once you have sworn allegiance to ISIS, you are considered part of the caliphate army. There should be no debate here. ISIS is multi-national."

Mendoza, now president of the think-thank Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR) is credited with exposing "Oplan Bujinka" in 1995, a plot allegedly hatched by al-Qaeda linked militants for launching attacks in US territory, where the militants planned to hijack commercial planes and used them as flying bombs aimed at select targets.

Although the plot was "foiled" in 1995, it materialized six years later when 11 al-Qaeda terrorists managed to hijack two commercial planes on September 11, 2001 and slammed them through the World Trade Center in New York City, snuffing out more than 2,000 lives and inflicting injuries to thousands of other victims.

SC sets EDCA oral arguments for November 18

From InterAksyon (Oct 21): SC sets EDCA oral arguments for November 18

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday scheduled for next month the oral arguments on the petitions questioning the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

Atty. Theodore Te , the SC Public Information Office Chief, said the oral arguments will be held on November 18, although he explained that another date might be reserved by the High Tribunal if the initial hearing turns out to be insufficient to conclude the arguments.

The cases challenge the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement entered into between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America.

The first petition challenging the legality of EDCA was filed by former senators Rene Saguisag and Wigberto Tanada, followed by a similar petition by militant groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers party-list and several other individuals.

Named respondents in the petition are Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto del Rosario, then Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, and the entire Philippine negotiating panel that came up with the EDCA.

The petitioners argued that the SC should stop the implementations of EDCA since it is unconstitutional and that, contrary to explanations raised by Malacanang and the Defense and Foreign departments, it is primarily motivated by the US strategic rebalancing toward Asia and, therefore, in the service of US security and economic interests more than Philippine interests.

They added that, by entering into EDCA, the respondents effectively waived the country's sovereignty, adding that what they have done "is so gross that it constitutes a derogation of our country's dignity and an unconscionable sellout of our sovereignty."

They also pointed out that, contrary to the claim of the respondents, EDCA is also disadvantageous to the country as it is full of provisions that run counter to Philippine national interest, such as the rent-free provisions and tax exemptions for US forces and their contractors, as well as the fact that the term of the agreement can be extended beyond 10 years.

Also, they added, there is no iron-clad guarantee that EDCA will not allow the entry of nuclear weapons in the country, since what it only prohibits is the prepositioning or storage of nuclear weapons but not the entry of US naval vessels and aircrafts carrying weapons of mass destruction.

Likewise, they said, there is no guarantee, contrary to repeated pronouncements by Malacanang and the Department of National Defense, that EDCA will help in the modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, considered as the most ill-equipped military force in the region.

Massive land grabbing reported in SouthCot town

From MindaNews (Oct 21): Massive land grabbing reported in SouthCot town

Officials of Tantangan town in South Cotabato have raised alarm over the alleged massive land grabbing activities in two of its villages that is reportedly backed by an armed group.

Tantangan Mayor Benjamin Figueroa Jr. disclosed the problem on Tuesday as he sought the intervention of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in resolving the matter, which already forced some residents to abandon their lands.

He said the affected areas mainly cover portions of barangays Poblacion and Magon, specifically within the boundary areas of the municipality and those of Mangudadatu town in Maguindanao and Lutayan in Sultan Kudarat.

The area is composed largely of irrigated rice lands that stretch to the banks of Lake Buluan, which is shared by Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat provinces.

The mayor said the affected lands are all privately-owned and properly titled, making the claims and their annexation illegal.

“These land grabbers are very aggressive because they are protected by an armed group and they would just immediately claim the lands that they want,” Figueroa said.

He said they confirmed the presence of the armed group last week following verification made by local government personnel.

“They were already within the AOR (area of responsibility) of South Cotabato,” he said.

The municipal government, in coordination with the local police personnel, is currently establishing the identities of the members of the armed group and their possible affiliations, he said.

“We have to resolve this as soon as possible and before the situation in the area would worsen,” the mayor said.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes, who chairs the PPOC, advised the municipal government to assist residents who were affected by the land grabbing activities to file the necessary charges against the perpetrators.

“This problem actually started in the ’90s and has not been resolved up to now because nobody was filing charges against these land-grabbers,” she said.

She acknowledged the need to pursue law enforcement activities in the area but noted that such action needs legal basis through the formal filing of charges.

As to the reported presence of an armed group in the area, she directed police personnel in Tantangan to coordinate with the South Cotabato Provincial Police Office so they could properly act on the matter.

Two years ago, tension gripped communities in barangays Poblacion, Magon and the neighboring villages adjacent to the boundaries of the three municipalities due to the rising land grabbing activities.

The municipal government of Tantangan earlier reported that it already lost a total of 143 hectares of titled private lands due to alleged illegal occupation by claimants from the neighboring Lutayan and Mangudadatu towns.

The supposed land grabbing activities in the area started in 1994 and worsened during the last several years.

Some farmers in the area had been forced to leave their lands supposedly due to threats of violence from the claimants.