Thursday, October 23, 2014

Intergov't body to ensure smooth relations between central and Bangsamoro gov'ts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 24): Intergov't body to ensure smooth relations between central and Bangsamoro gov'ts

The intergovernmental relations (IGR) body between the future autonomous Bangsamoro government and central government will work out the ways and means that will harmonize the exercise of shared powers.  This body shall promote the common goals of the Bangsamoro and Central government, said government chief negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

“Maybe there is an assumption that interests or goals of the central government and Bangsamoro government are different, when in fact, for most parts, they have the same or shared interests. The Bangsamoro government can be a very cooperative government working with all the other government agencies,” Coronel-Ferrer said during the fourth regular committee hearing on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which tackled the subject of trade in relation to the proposed law.

Coronel-Ferrer, during previous public hearings, underscored the role of the IGR body in helping the Bangsamoro government work in harmony with the central government and other local government units, especially on issues, policies, and exercise of powers “that [have impact] beyond the territorial jurisdiction of the future Bangsamoro government.”

Coverage of intergov’t relations body

According to the Bangsamoro bill, the IGR body will help the Bangsamoro government and the central government to coordinate with each other in the exercise of shared powers. Shared powers will be exercised in such areas as social security and pension; pollution control; penology; coast guard; customs and tariffs; funding for the maintenance of national roads, bridges, and irrigation systems; and public order and safety.

This intergovernmental mechanism is a key feature of the Bangsamoro Bill and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

A similar article on intergovernmental relations is found in the Local Government Code (LGC) which pertains to the relationship between the Central government and local governments in the exercise of the latter's devolved powers.

The power of general supervision of the President over the local governments and the Bangsamoro is reiterated in the LGC as well as in the draft BBL.

Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal affirmed the IGR body’s significance. He said the body is a distinct feature of the autonomy to be exercised by the future Bangsamoro, in comparison with that of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

“In order to solve [problems in decision-making or exercise of powers] between the central government and the Bangsamoro government, the principle of continuing negotiations or continuing engagement is in place. And that is through the intergovernmental mechanism,” Iqbal said.

Composition of intergov’t relations body

According to the Bangsamoro Bill, the central government shall appoint a head to represent the central government. The Bangsamoro government shall be represented by a minister. The body shall be supported by a joint secretariat.

Article VI, section 4, of the Bangsamoro Bill, says that the “Central Government and the Bangsamoro Government shall establish a mechanism at the highest levels that will coordinate and harmonize their relationships. For this purpose, a primary mechanism shall be a Central Government – Bangsamoro Government Intergovernmental Relations Body to resolve issues on intergovernmental relations. All disputes and issues relating to these intergovernmental relations shall be resolved through regular consultations and continuing negotiations in a non-adversarial manner.”

On taxation and other fiscal matters, the draft law also provides for the creation of an Intergovernmental Fiscal Policy Board.

These IGR bodies shall exhaust all means to resolve all issues brought before them. Unresolved issues shall be elevated to the President of the Philippines, through the Bangsamoro government’s chief minister. (OPAPP)

CPP/Ang Bayan: Video -- End US military presence and intervention in the Philippines

Ang Bayan video report posted to the CPP Website (Oct 21): Video -- End US military presence and intervention in the Philippines

End US military presence and intervention in the Philippines

The Communist Party of the Philippines is in solidarity with the Filipino people in strongly assailing the killing by an American soldier of a Filipina in Olongapo City on October 12.

The CPP and all revolutionary forces support the family and friends of the victim Jennifer Laude in the steps they have taken to obtain justice. The Filipino people fervently desire justice for Jennifer, for all other victims of crimes perpetrated by American soldiers and for the entire nation for the continuing violation of their freedom.

The CPP supports the Filipino people's demand to place the accused American soldier in Philippine custody. They must go all-out in demanding the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)--an unequal treaty stating that American soldiers facing criminal cases in the Philippines should remain in the custody of the US military.

CPP/Ang Bayan: End US military presence and intervention in the Philippines

English language translation of anti-US Ang Bayan propaganda editorial posted to the CPP Website (Oct 23): End US military presence and intervention in the Philippines

CPP Ang Bayan
The Communist Party of the Philippines is in solidarity with the Filipino people in strongly assailing the killing by an American soldier of a Filipina in Olongapo City on October 12.
The CPP and all revolutionary forces support the family and friends of the victim Jennifer Laude in the steps they have taken to obtain justice. The Filipino people fervently desire justice for Jennifer, for all other victims of crimes perpetrated by American soldiers and for the entire nation for the continuing violation of their freedom.
The CPP supports the Filipino people’s demand to place the accused American soldier in Philippine custody. They must go all-out in demanding the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)—an unequal treaty stating that American soldiers facing criminal cases in the Philippines should remain in the custody of the US military.
The VFA deprives a state of the sovereign right to exercise power over anyone who should be brought to trial. It is a huge insult to the Filipino people to be deprived of this right by the US government. Even as the Philippine government may request custody, the US government holds the prerogative of whether to grant the request or not.
Jennifer’s name is only the latest in a long list of Filipino victims of various crimes committed by American soldiers and the US military in the Philippines. In more than a hundred years of US colonization, neocolonial rule and military intervention in the Philippines, there have been myriad cases of killings, rape, massacre, robbery and plunder.
Jennifer’s killing is a painful reminder to the Filipino people of how US imperialism obliterated the lives of 700,000 Filipinos in the war of aggression of 1899-1902. Up to 800,000 more Filipinos would be killed by American soldiers in the war to quell the armed revolution for national liberation that lasted until 1916. Not a single US soldier or officer was held accountable for these crimes. Neither was any soldier or officer held responsible for the Subic rape case in 2005 and for various other killings, violations, shootings, beatings and intimidation, among other crimes.
We can expect more crimes like Jennifer’s killing committed by American soldiers due to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) signed by the Aquino regime and the US government. Under EDCA, more American soldiers will be entering the country and stationed in bases and facilities to be built in so-called “Agreed Locations” or areas within AFP military bases.
Aquino’s signing of the EDCA is but his latest act of subservience to US military power. Under the Aquino regime, the number of battleships and warplanes allowed to enter, sail, dock and launch various operations within Philippine territory in the name of “joint military exercises,” or “rest and recreation” and “supply procurement” by American forces have grown over the years. Thousands of American troops have been entering the country annually.
It is the puppet Aquino regime that has actually created the situation that culminated in Jennifer’s killing. Wherever American soldiers are found, prostitution and decadent lifestyles are rampant.
Jennifer was killed in the 70th year of US imperialism’s return to reconquer the Philippines. In the so-called Leyte Landing, the US invaded the Philippines anew to reoccupy it after its forces withdrew in 1942 upon their defeat in the hands of attacking Japanese imperialist military forces. The Leyte Landing (also known as Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s return) is the second time the US snatched Philippine freedom from the Filipinos.
Whenever it enters Philippine territory, the US military arrogates the privilege of having the world’s most powerful armed force. It is the US military that decides when and where to enter, where and how long to dock, what weapons to bring, how many soldiers to deploy and what operations to launch.
Every American soldier carries with him the imperialist arrogance of his chieftain Barack Obama, who, in a recent speech, boasted that “we are the indispensable nation.” Wherever they go, armed American troops behave like masters who expect to be waited on by their “friends.” Whether in Afghanistan or Iraq, Pakistan or the Philippines, American soldiers commit crimes and violate the sovereignty and integrity of the countries they enter as a rule.
There will definitely be more Jennifers who will be falling victim to various crimes and acts of violence perpetrated by American soldiers in the country. The Filipino people must give their all to fight for justice for Jennifer, to demand an end to US military presence and intervention and to oust Aquino’s puppet government.

CPP: Condemn “double insult” of US custody of Pemberton inside AFP HQ — CPP

Anti-US propaganda statement posted to the CPP-Website (Oct 23): Condemn “double insult” of US custody of Pemberton inside AFP HQ — CPP
Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) today condemned the US government for the “double insult” in refusing to surrender custody of the US serviceman who is the prime suspect in the brutal murder last October 12 of Jennifer Laude in Olangapo City. US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton was transferred yesterday from the USS Peleliu to a US military facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.

Pemberton is a crewman of the USS Peleliu which was has been docked at Subic Bay over the past several weeks. Witnesses point to him as the person with Laude less than an hour before her body was seen slumped on a motel room toilet bowl where she was apparently drowned. An autopsy conducted on Laude’s body reveals the brutality of her murder. Laude suffered bruises and abrasions, had broken collar bones and a broken larynx and contusions from the head to the buttocks.

Since October 12, the US government and military have maintained custody of Pemberton in line with the Visiting Forces Agreement which gives the US such prerogative.

“The continued US custody of Pemberton is a grave insult to Philippine sovereignty,” said the CPP. “Police investigators and prosecutors could not even independently verify Pemberton’s fingerprints or acquire saliva samples for DNA testing to compare it with those found in the crime scene.”

“Indeed, the US promises cooperation, but such only underscores the fact that, without the right to take custody of the suspect Pemberton, Philippine criminal jurisdiction over the Laude case is a joke,” said the CPP.

“What is doubly insulting is that the US, in maintaining custody, transferred Pemberton yesterday to a US facility inside the main headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) where not even the AFP chief of staff can check on him without seeking permission from US authorities,” added the CPP.

The CPP dismisses US claims of “cooperation” in transferring Pemberton, not to the US embassy, but to the Joint US Military Advisory Group (Jusmag) compound within Camp Aguinaldo. “The US is deceiving the Filipino people in saying that Pemberton’s transfer to Camp Aguinaldo is an assurance that he will be subject to Philippine criminal jurisdiction, when, in fact, Philippine police investigators are priorly denied the right to subject the suspect to an interview and other procedures.”

“The US decided against detaining Pemberton at the US embassy to prevent a repeat of the uproar that ensued when it detained US serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith who was accused, tried and convicted for the 2005 Subic rape case. “The US government and its crisis managers calculate that Pemberton’s detention inside Camp Aguinaldo will placate the anger of the Filipino people over the VFA by making it appear that the suspect is under Philippine authority even when, in fact, he remains under US custody.”

“The legal reality is that Pemberton continues to be detained inside an exclusive territory of the US government. Worse, such territory is inside the main headquarters of the Philippine armed forces, whose perimeter is secured by AFP soldiers trained by the US.”

“Thus, not only does such a transfer highlight the fact that the VFA impairs Philippines sovereignty, it underscores as well how the Philippine government is complicit in US violations of Philippine national freedom and integrity,” added the CPP.

“The CPP joins the Filipino people in denouncing Aquino for his devious defense of the VFA in saying that the abrogation of the agreement will not stop the perpetration of crimes by US servicemen in the future.”

“Aquino is misleading the people and drawing their attention away from the fact that with the VFA, thousands upon thousands of US soldiers imbibed with the US’ arrogant sense of entitlement and US military machismo are allowed to descend on Philippine soil and trample on Philippine sovereignty with impunity,” added the CPP.

Military assesses ‘Bayanihan’ effects

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 24): Military assesses ‘Bayanihan’ effects


The Philippines’ highest military officials gathered at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday for the third-quarter command conference to assess the country’s security campaigns.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang presided over the conference that was attended by the commanders of the major services, unified commands, AFP-wide service support units and other major ground units of the Army, Air Force and Navy.

The ground commanders briefed Catapang on the internal peace and security plan they called IPSP Bayanihan, which has been fine-tuned to focus military operations on armed threat groups.

“IPSP Bayanihan has not only remained on track but has brought significant gains the past year, particularly in addressing the communist insurgency,” said an AFP statement released after the conference.

“Through successful internal peace and security operations, more (communist) New People’s Army rebels are now surrendering to the government fold and their influence and mass base support continue to wane,” it said.

Only two complaints of human rights violations against soldiers have been brought out since the start of the year, the statement said.

Catapang pushed for the enactment of a “peace dividends” law that would allow the AFP to ask the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for land on which its people could plant high-yield crops like coffee, cocoa and bamboo.

Leaders of bloody 2013 siege spotted in Sulu

From the Gulf Times (Oct 23): Leaders of bloody 2013 siege spotted in Sulu

The two rebel leaders who led the bloody three-week siege that displaced thousands of residents in Zamboanga City are still alive, a source from the Philippine National Police disclosed yesterday.

The source who declined to be identified said Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari and his top commander Ustadz Habier Malik were spotted recently by police intelligence operatives at their stronghold in Jolo, Sulu.

“They [Misuari and Malik] are in Jolo,” the source from the intelligence community said.

The source said they are Misuari is alive and as for Malik, he said “we’re still checking this. We know that he has a son that bore a big resemblance to him in facial features”.

There is a standing manhunt for the two MNLF leaders.

Earlier reports said that Misuari immediately fled to Malaysia after the siege that killed dozens of soldier and more than a hundred MNLF fighters.

Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom ) chief lieutenant general Rey Ardo believed that Malik died during the standoff.

Defence secretary Voltaire Gazmin on November 4 last year said that Malik was “obviously dead” but “we don’t have evidence” to prove it.

Malik and hundreds of his men attacked Zamboanga City on September 9 aiming to hoist their flag and declare their independence from government.

This prompted the government to send hundreds of troops and policemen to reclaim the city from MNLF control.

The source added that Misuari and Malik still have many armed followers securing them, but this pales in comparison to the more than 300 men that took part in the three-week siege.

The source added that they are checking reports that Malik’s is apparently trying to forge an alliance with the heir of Sulu sultan Jamalul Kiram, whose followers tried to reclaim Sabah from Malaysia early last year.

“Malik’s group is dangerous . . . they are nationalistic in nature and they have the potential to become the counter part of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria [ISIS] here,” said the the source who has provided in the past vital information on the alleged recruitment of young Filipino Muslims to become ISIS followers.

The recruitment drive is reportedly being spearheaded by Zulkipli Bin Hir alias “Marwan” the Malaysian Bomb expert and JI member who is also said o behind in the Bali Bombing on October 2002 that killed hundreds of Australian tourist and injuring scores of others.

A Protestant pastor and his father were killed in an ambush in Zamboanga del Norte, police said yesterday.

Police said four others were wounded in the October 22 attack which occurred in the village of Nasibac in Leon Postigo town. It said masked gunmen opened fire on the group of pastor Ramil Ansong, 29, and his 50-year old father, Jose, killing both of them.

The four, including the pastor’s mother, Rosaria, managed to escape from the attackers despite their wounds.

Police said the young Ansong was a pastor at the Seventh Day Adventist Church, a Protestant Christian denomination distinguished by its observance of Saturday, the original seventh day of the Judeo-Christian week, as the Sabbath.

Inspector Dahlan Samuddin, a regional police spokesman, said the victims were heading to the town’s centre to collect government pension when gunmen attacked them from the bushes.

He said policemen recovered bullet casings of M16 and M1rifles in the area.

“We are still investigating the motive of the attack and those involved in the murders,” Samuddin said.

Two soldiers from the 45th Infantry Battalion were killed when suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) stormed a hospital in Maguindanao on Wednesday night.

Colonel Dickson Hermoso, spokesman of the Philippine army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the two soldiers were manning the newly-renovated Maguindanao Integrated Provincial Hospital (MIPH) in Datu Hoffer town when the suspects attacked them about 9pm. He did not identify the slain soldiers until their families have been notified.

Initial reports said the suspects entered the hospital pretending as visitors to patients. They pointed their guns at the soldiers and forced them to surrender their M-16 rifles, and used the seized weapons to kill the soldiers before fleeing.

MIPH chief Tahir Sulaik condemned the barbaric acts of the perpetrators.

“We vehemently condemn the attack inside the hospital, we are open to all who seek our assistance but I was very sad they did it there,” Sulaik was quoted as saying.

Three suspected cross-border kidnap group informants nabbed in Sabah waters

From the Star Online (Oct 23): Three suspected cross-border kidnap group informants nabbed in Sabah waters

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysian security forces have arrested three men whom they believe were informants for trans-border criminals operating in Malaysian and Philippine waters.

Eastern Sabah Security Command chief Datuk Rashid Harun said the trio were arrested in waters near Pulau Mabul, off Semporna district at about 8.30pm on Wednesday.

They were detained for contravening a dusk-to-dawn curfew.

He said Malaysian security personnel seized a mobile phone from one of the men.
Upon inspection, the phone contained an incriminating message warning the receiver not to enter Malaysian waters due to the pervasive presence of Malaysian security forces.

Also seized was cash totalling RM1,890, a global positioning system (GPS) device, a note book and wallets.

He said two of the men possessed valid identification documents while the third had a late registration status document.

Military cites ‘significant gains’ in anti-insurgency drive at AFP meeting

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 23): Military cites ‘significant gains’ in anti-insurgency drive at AFP meeting
AFP Chief General Gregorio Catapang leads the Command Conference for the 3rd Quarter of 2014 to discuss the national security situation and assessments of its ongoing operations in the country. /PHOTO FROM AFP PAO

AFP Chief General Gregorio Catapang leads the Command Conference for the 3rd Quarter of 2014 to discuss the national security situation and assessments of its ongoing operations in the country.  PHOTO FROM AFP PAO

Top military commanders gathered at Camp Aguinaldo on Thursday to assess national security situation and the military’s ongoing campaigns, among others.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr. presided over the conference, AFP spokesman Major General Domingo Tutaan Jr. said in a statement.

Catapang reminded at the 3rd Quarter Command Conference, for the commanders to prepare for the Papal visit in January and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meetings next year.

The military officers discussed the Internal Peace Security Plan Bayanihan, the campaign strategy against insurgents and other internal threats.

Tutaan claimed that the IPSP campaign “remained on track but has brought significant gains” in the previous year in addressing communist insurgency.

But current estimates of communist insurgents remained at about 4,000 this year.

The military chief also voiced out his support for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, as well as the crafting and implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

He also tackled humanitarian assistance and disaster response, Tutaan said.

Catapang was also assured by ground commanders on the security and safety of the local communities including business establishments, investment climate for economic development and other opportunities for progress and prosperity, Tutaan said.

Only recently, the Abu Sayyaf freed two of its German captives in Sulu after claiming to have received P250 million. The military is pursuing the bandits, who are still holding over a dozen of foreign and local hostages.

Prior the release of the Germans, the military deployed about 3,000 troops in Sulu ahead of the Oct. 17 deadline by the Abu Sayyaf.

Gov't coordinating with Muslim rebels to end Abu Sayyaf: official

From the Philippine Star (Oct 23): Gov't coordinating with Muslim rebels to end Abu Sayyaf: official

The government is banking on the support of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest Muslim rebel group in the country, in neutralizing the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group, a senior government official said today.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that the government has been coordinating with the MILF in suppressing the group.

"They are our partner in achieving peace and order in Bangsamoro," he said in a news briefing in Malacanang, the presidential palace.

A Bangsamoro government is expected to be established to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao as part of a comprehensive agreement that was signed between the Philippine government and the MILF in March this year.

Coloma said the Philippine government was expecting the MILF to not only condemn the activities of the Abu Sayyaf, but also support the government forces' operation against the militants in areas covered by the envisioned Bangsamoro entity.

He noted that the government is also coordinating with local governments and the people at large.

President Benigno Aquino III has said that his administration is carrying out a two-pronged approach in dealing with the Abu Sayyaf.

He said the government is using military power to crush the group and its supporters on the one hand, and making efforts to develop Mindanao on the other.

Karapatan condemns AFP for 'coddling' Pemberton

From ABS-CBN (Oct 23): Karapatan condemns AFP for 'coddling' Pemberton

Human rights group Karapatan condemned the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for allegedly coddling criminals like US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton and retired Major General Jovito Palparan.

Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, said the AFP has nothing to gain in filing charges against Marilou Laude and Marc Sueselbeck, the sister and fiance of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude, respectively.

Palabay said the two just expressed their grief and frustration over the murder case of Laude when they scaled a perimeter fence at Camp Aguinaldo where Pemberton is being detained.

She said the AFP should just let it pass.

In a statement on Thursday, AFP spokesman Harold Cabunoc said they will send a letter to the German Embassy and the Bureau of Immigration about Sueselbeck's misbehavior.

Cabunoc said Sueselbeck's behavior is in violation of Presidential Decree No. 1227, or the law Punishing Unlawful Entry into Any Military Base in the Philippines.

He said Sueselbeck "assaulted a person in authority, the on-duty Filipino soldier guarding the holding facility. He forcefully shoved said soldier after climbing the perimeter fence."

Meanwhile, members of Karapatan and other militant groups held a protest in front of Camp Aguinaldo Thursday.

They accused the military of killing community organizers and torturing members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Abra.

"While making sure that the likes of Gen. Jovito Palparan and US marine Joseph Scott Pemberton are safe and free inside military camps, the [AFP] carries on its attacks against the Filipino people like bloodthirsty savages," Palabay said in a statement.

De Lima: PHL reviewing VFA provision on custody

From GMA News (Oct 23): De Lima: PHL reviewing VFA provision on custody

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday confirmed that the government is currently reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement, particularly with respect to the issue of the custody of US servicemen implicated in crimes in the Philippines.
"Ongoing ang review in the sense kasi they have been discussing iyong implementing guidelines of the VFA," De Lima said in a press conference.
"Walang implementing guidelines ang VFA. So since there are more or less contentious issues there, may mga provisions na medyo hindi malinaw, na medyo magkaiba ang interpretation ng US side at PH side kaya kailangan magkaroon ng implementing guidelines," she added. 
De Lima said among those being discussed in the review was the issue of custody, as well as the interpretation of the certification of official duty of a serviceman. 
The Justice secretary said the Department of Justice is among the agencies participating in the VFA review.
The VFA review comes as issues over the custody of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is accused of killing Filipino transgender woman Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude in Olongapo City, have been raised.
Meanwhile, De Lima branded "unnecessary" what she considered the "theatrics" displayed by the Laude camp on Wednesday when they went to Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City where Pemberton is being detained. 
The victim's partner German Marc Susselbeck and Jennifer's sister Marilou Laude climbed a fence to enter a restricted area inside the military camp and demand to see Pemberton, who was detained inside a 20-foot air conditioned freight container. 
"Naintindihan ko siyempre mga galit yan because of what happened but to go to such extent and may breach of security rin iyan. It's a camp. It's a military camp so you do not just barge in and push soldiers. So buti nga iyong ating soldiers doon, mga pasensyoso," De Lima said. 
De Lima said that Philippine authorities could request custody over Pemberton once the case reaches a court and a warrant of arrest has been issued. 
She said Pemberton's detention at Camp Aguinaldo was merely "in anticipation or preparatory for that stage in the proceedings na pwede na s'yang ikulong."

MILF members won't automatically be in Bangsamoro police—Ferrer

From GMA News (Oct 23): MILF members won't automatically be in Bangsamoro police—Ferrer

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not automatically be absorbed into the Bangsamoro police force, government chief negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said on Thursday.

In a statement citing the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law now pending in Congress, Ferrer said a regular process will be followed in hiring police officers.

“It is not true that the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the armed component of the MILF, will be the future Bangsamoro police,” she said. 
Ferrer said the Philippine National Police (PNP) will still have a regional head in the future Bangsamoro region under its chain of command.
She added that a Bangsamoro Police Board would also be formed under the National Police Commission (NAPOLCOM).
The NAPOLCOM will ensure that the Bangsamoro Police Board performs its functions without abusing its authority.
“In the case of the NAPOLCOM, it shall continue to have administrative control and supervision [over the Bangsamoro police] with matters of hiring and recruitment of the Bangsamoro,” Ferrer said.
Meanwhile, other matters within the Bangsamoro police force will be subject to the PNP's authority. 
“Salaries, training and promotion of personnel, the acquisition of firearms and other adjunct services shall also remain under the PNP’s jurisdiction,” she added.
The Bangsamoro police shall be headed by a Police Director and assisted by at least two deputies with the rank of at least Police Chief Superintendent.

China hits PHL’s West Philippine Sea action plan at the UN

From GMA News (Oct 23): China hits PHL’s West Philippine Sea action plan at the UN

China has blasted the Philippines at the United Nations for seeking support for its three-pronged approach in resolving the disputes in the contested South China South territories, which includes the promotion of legal arbitration that Beijing strongly opposes.
In an October 7 letter to the UN addressed to Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, China rejected Manila’s so-called Triple Action Plan or TAP, saying it “will only further complicate and aggravate the situation” in the area, where the two Asian neighbors and other claimants quarrel over features where huge oil and natural gas and minerals have been discovered.
“The Philippine plan, if put into practice, will undermine the sanctity and efficacy of the Charter of the United Nations and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea,” said Liu Jieyi, China’s Permanent Ambassador to the UN.
The Declaration that Liu was referring to is the non-binding, non-aggression pact signed by China and Southeast Asian nations in 2002 that calls on all claimants to the South China Sea to exercise restraint and to stop new occupation or construction of disputed features.
China’s latest tirade against the Philippines indicates its continuing animosity towards Manila, which earlier sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to try to declare as illegal Beijing’s massive claim over the waters that extends up to Philippine territorial boundaries.
The South China Sea, home to a cluster of islands, shoals, reefs and cays is being claimed in part or in whole by China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.
Parts of the South China Sea that is within Manila’s internationally-recognized exclusive economic zone (EEZ) has been renamed West Philippine Sea to stress the Philippines’ claim over the waters, where China is also asserting ownership.
Earlier, the Philippines wrote to Secretary General Ban to seek the UN’s support for the TAP during President Aquino’s attendance to the UN General Assembly in late September.
In that letter, which was circulated to the 193 UN member states, the Philippines outlined the TAP and called on the international community to support measures for a peaceful resolution of maritime disputes.
Manila’s three-way approach advocates steps which have already been rejected by China, like international arbitration.
Elevating the TAP to the UN reflects the Philippines' still-defiant stance against China and its firm resolve to garner international support for the approaches and steps it has taken to protect its territorial claims in the South China Sea and reduce threats posed by China's aggressive behavior in the contested region.
But to China, implementing the TAP will “cast a shadow over and impede the implementation of the Declaration and the consultations on a ‘code of conduct’ and impair efforts to uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, promote maritime cooperation and resolve relevant disputes.”
China, Liu said, only agrees with and advocates the “dual track” approach proposed by countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the South China Sea issue.
The two-step plan, Liu said, promotes negotiations between concerned parties while “China and ASEAN countries work together to maintain peace and stability in the South China Sea.”
“Being fully consistent with the spirit enshrined in the Declaration, this approach represents the only right path to properly handling and seeking a just and durable solution to the South China Sea issue,” Liu said.
Tensions in the South China Sea – one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes - spiked anew amid China’s increasing military and paramilitary presence and construction activities in contested features. Such move was criticized by Manila and foreign governments like the United States, Japan and Australia.
China insists it has “indisputable sovereignty” over nearly the entire waters, citing historical documents and ancient maps to back its claims. 

MILF: House committee to hold 4 consultations on BBL in Region 12

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 23): House committee to hold 4 consultations on BBL in Region 12

The House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee studying the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will hold four major public consultations this week in various parts of Region 12.
South Cotabato (1st District) Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr., one of the four committee vice chairs, said the consultations are scheduled on Thursday and Friday in four key cities in the region.

He said the committee, which will be led by its chair Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, will initially meet with various sectors in Cotabato City on Thursday, October 23.

Simultaneous consultations will be conducted on Friday, October 24, in Tacurong City for Sultan Kudarat residents; Koronadal City for those coming from South Cotabato province; and in this city for local residents and those from Sarangani Province.

Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong and Cotabato.
Acharon, who will lead the activities in this city, said the move is part of the committee’s efforts to fast track the passage of the BBL.

After this week’s schedule in Region 12, he said they will proceed to other key areas in Mindanao.

“There will be public consultations in all major urban centers in Mindanao,” Acharon told reporters.

The official said they are targeting to complete the public consultations by the end of November.

“We want it all done within November so we can proceed with the plenary deliberations and hopefully, its passage on third and final reading by mid-December,” he said.

MILF: ARMM ready to turn over P2-B projects to Bangsamoro gov’t

Posted  to the MILF Website (Oct 23): ARMM ready to turn over P2-B projects to Bangsamoro gov’t

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is ready to turn over to the incoming Bangsamoro government some P2 billion worth of infrastructure projects implemented from January 2012 to September this year.
ARMM-DPWH Secretary Hadji Emil Sadain said yesterday they could finish more projects before the transition from ARMM to the Bangsamoro entity starts.

The creation of the Bangsamoro entity is part of a peace agreement signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front last March.

Employees of DPWH-ARMM celebrated in Cotabato City last Monday the 24th devolution anniversary of the agency.

The personnel were aware that the celebration could be their last, owing to the possible enactment next year of the draft Bangsamoro law.

The DPWH-ARMM was adjudged last July as a top performing agency, particularly in project completion and transparent handling of infrastructure grants from the national government.

Sadain and the ARMM’s chief executive, Gov. Mujiv Hataman, established two district engineering offices using savings from the agency’s 2013 and 2014 budgets.’t

MILF: Bangsamoro NGO’s attend ANC Forum

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 22): Bangsamoro NGO’s attend ANC Forum

In journey of a thousand miles, about 300 members of prominent Bangsamoro NGOs (non-governmental organizations) left Mindanao travelled all the way to the metropolis of Metro Manila and attended the forum on  “Bangsamoro and Beyond: A National Conversation” held October 8, 2014 at Dolphy Theater, ABS-CBN Compound, Quezon City.
The program is being hosted by Ms. Ces Drilon, a multi-awarded program anchor of ABS CBN.

These NGOs with areas of operations in Central, Western and Southern Mindanao were invited by The Asia Foundation (TAF) to share their views on Bangsamoro, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the modified draft Bangsamoro Basic Law, now in the hands of both Chambers of Congress.

The NGO’s that attended the forum were, Action for Advancement and Development of Mindanao, Inc. (AFADMin), United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD), Local Initiative for Peace and Development (LIPAD), Bangsamoro Center for Just Peace (BCJP)  and others NGOs from Central Mindanao, Lanao areas and the  island provinces including international agencies, members of the academe, business sector and government institutions, as well as foreign dignitaries.

They are local implementing partners of TAF-Australian-funded BASIC Bangsamoro (Building Autonomous and Stable Institutions and Communities in the Bangsamoro) program of assistance through DFAT (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

Bangsamoro and Beyond, is the first national forum in the KaSaMa (Karapatan sa Malikhaing Paraan) Dialogue Series, in partnership with ANC, is a dialogical platform for initial and continuous discussions on the CAB, the BBL, and the roadmap towards CAB’s implementation. It aims specifically to raise a national conversation on the Bangsamoro and its bright prospects for the future in the event that the BBL is enacted by congress.

Resource speakers included Secretary Teresita Deles of OPAPP, Ghazali Jaafar of the MILF, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma SJ, General Emmanuel Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace; Emmanuel Bonoan of Department of Finance and of KPMG in the Philippines; and Prof. Jurma Tikmasan of Nisa Ul-haqq.

Home viewers were given opportunity to join and participate in the forum through Twitter and Facebook using the hashtags, #BangsaForum and KaSaMa National Conversation  with their views and concerns were entertained that day. A replay of the video coverage of the Bangsamoro and Beyond will be aired at ANC on October 18, 19 and 20 at 8-9pm, 1-2pm and 6-7, respectively.

The KaSaMa consortium is an inter-embassy and multi-stakeholder human rights     initiative. Its Dialogue Series cover topics on human rights defenders in post-disaster work, gender rights, freedom of information, human rights in Islam, as well as sexual and reproductive health rights. 

It has established collaboration and partnership with the diplomatic community including representatives of the embassies of Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States, Delegation of the European Union and TAF who also came in full force during the forum. They praised the GPH and the MILF for choosing the path to peace which culminated in the signing of CAB last March 27, 2014.’s-attend-anc-forum

MILF: Bangsamoro people only asking for 'a little love'

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 22): Bangsamoro people only asking for 'a little love'

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said the success of Bangsamoro political entity and the realization of the Muslims’ identity rest on the “love” of the Filipino people.
During the “Bangsamoro and Beyond: A National Conversation” aired in ANC on Saturday night, MILF First Vice Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar insisted the Muslims never intended for a break-up between the Bangsamoro and the national government.

Asked if they should be trusted in the peace process, Jaafar said: “You have to force yourself to trust us because we live in the same country… The issue here is, how do you love us?”

He said there is a feeling among the general majority of the Bangsamoro people that “you don’t love them. Honestly and sincerely, what you love is the homeland of the Bangsamoro and the wealth of the Bangsamoro.”

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles said the question should be put on the shoulders of the skeptics.

“Why don’t we turn around the question? Where has skepticism brought us? We have to trust because the continuing distrust has brought us at a standstill, even a downward spiral,” she said.

The peace stakeholders are now in the process of defending the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law before lawmakers.

Deles noted the “full partnership” between and among stakeholders as evidenced by the MILF and government peace negotiators as one front defending the BBL before lawmakers.

They said the stakeholders have gone a long way in resolving the differences and struggles during the almost four decades of armed conflict.

Former Armed Forces chief General Emmanuel Bautista said all stakeholders are pinning their hopes on the passage of the BBL as a means to resolving the core issues, such as the insurgency in Mindanao.

He believes that the creation of the Bangsamoro identity will be a big deterrent to extremism in Mindanao.

Bautista, whose own father was killed by Muslim rebels in the 1970s, said: “My father died for peace. I should not turn my back on that. There’s no other way. We have to trust each other.”

Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, the chairman of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, said attaining peace is the task of everyone, including the Catholics.

He said inter-faith dialogues are needed to bring support for the Bangsamoro as this may be “the last chance for a lasting peace agreement.”

Jaafar said: “We all risked our lives for the Bangsamoro cause. We all came from the poor sector. If we did not struggle for the Bangsamoro, we could be owners of big plantations now… This is not a religious war… We only ask for a little love. This is what we’re asking for.”

MILF: BDA-SulTa Region conducts productive programs and engagements

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 22): BDA-SulTa Region conducts productive programs and engagements

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) for Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Region had undertaken series of productive programs and engagements in the Province of Sulu and Taw-Tawi.
On October 4-6, 2014, BDA-SulTa Region slaughtered 30 Cattles as part of the celebration of Eid’l Adha or Feast of sacrifice through the active partnership and facilitation of three Provincial Political Committee Chairmen of Sulu Province. The meat of the Cattles was distributed as ‘qurban” to 18 Municipalities of Sulu with each household given a kilo of meat.

BDA –SulTa Regional Manager Mr. Donimar Ajiji, Brother Tohami and some BDA Officials from Central Management Office (CMO) Cotabato City were dispatched to the islands as a team to monitor the program. The group also made a courtesy visit to Sulu Provincial Government.

Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan expressed gratitude to Turkish Diyanet Vakfi, the organization that provided the Cattles; to the BDA and to all who were behind the endeavor where Sulu constituents were able to feel the essence and spirit of Eidl Adha and the sense of sharing and love to ordinary Bangsamoro are upheld and valued.

The Cattle meat distributed as qurban courtesy of the Turkish INGO were received by thousands of Moro inhabitants throughout Mindanao and island provinces during the festival from October 4 to October 6. They thanked the organization whose unwavering support made them happy and delighted in observance and celebration of the feast of sacrifice.

The BDA-SulTa Region in partnership with Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had undertaken feasible programs for Bangsamoro communities dubbed as Quick Impact Project (QIP).

On October 15, 2014, BDA-Sulta Regional Manager Ajiji held meeting and community assembly with Mayor Bensar Estino of Panglima Benito Municipality and his constituents pertaining to a proposed project.

“In this case, the voice of my constituents will be followed as regards to that project. The people in the community know what is best for them. That is purely democratic. Hence, I as Mayor and my Municipal Council appreciate and fully support the QIP and the BDA Projects in any form” the Mayor said.

The proposed project is a construction of a Multi-purpose hall, two- classroom school building and a Warehouse with Solar Drier.  Barangay Paiksa was among the recipients of the QIP priority project.

The BDA-Sulta Region is comprised of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Province where the Agency is exercising its mandates for the Bangsamoro in cooperation and harmony with local government units and communities where the general welfare of the Bangsamoro people is a priority.

MILF: South Upi Indigenous People hold forum on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 21): South Upi Indigenous People hold forum on BBL

A forum on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was held at Barangay Looy, South Upi, Maguindanao on October 18, 2014, organized and attended by a group of Tedurays Indigenous People and settlers. 
The activity was initiated by Looy Barangay Chairman Bobby Vasques and Looy Barangay Council in coordination with Abdulbary Amerol, Datu Mohammad Diocolano, Rodolfo Torales, representing the Christian Settlers, Datu Usitimuay Mama of the Teduray community, and Datu Jerry Rajahmuda.

 Invited guests from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was led by Arman Armada, Head of Secretariat of Committee on Information, MILF-Central Committee, Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, Nash Pulindao of the MILF Committee on Information,  Hadji Bekak Kana, Rahib Payapat of Sajahatra Bangsamoro, among others.
About 300 participants attended, majority were Teduray natives and the rest from the local residents comprising Muslims and Christians.

The program started with a Plenary Session of the Barangay Council facilitated by Barangay Chairman Vasques that lasted for about 2 hours. At the ensuing activity, Barangay Chairman Vasques gave the welcome remarks. Den, MILF Vice Chairman of  Kutawato Provincial Committee gave the rationale of the forum.

Brother Rodolfo Toriales requested their guests to discuss the GPH-MILF Peace Process and status of the BBL.   Abdula, the  Chairman of the Campaign and Mass Mobilization, Sub -Committee on Information, Committee on Information, MILF CC and member of the Steering Committee of Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and KDFI Senior Program Consultant was introduced as main speaker.

Abdula asked, “Why there is a need to pass the BBL?  He answered it as follows:

1st End the long suffering of the Bangsamoro People
2nd Foster Unity and Harmony

3rd Bring in economic development and

4th The BBL is a shield against rising radicalism

He then gave the purpose of the BBL, “To establish a political entity, provide for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for meaningful self-governance.” And that every Bangsamoro and Filipino within and outside the Bangsamoro Government  must need to understand and support the peace process for us to help realize our noble dream to establish lasting peace in the whole country.

Payapat spoke on the features of the BBL.

Payapat presented and discussed the provisions of BBL pertaining to Basic Rights to make it very clear to everyone, Moros, settlers and IP’s alike:
1. The Role of the Indigenous People and protection of rights in the Bangsamoro Government

 2. The status of land ownership and religious rights of the Christians under the Bangsamoro Government.  

During the open forum issues and concerns raised by the participants were answered and clarified thoroughly by the speakers.

Nash Polindao delivered the closing remarks stressing, “We are brothers, our ancestors Rajah Tabunaway and Datu Mamalo were brothers. Therefore, this is now the time to unite and fulfill our dreams for lasting peace and sustainable development in our homeland”.  “Let us strengthen our support to the Moro struggle to right to self-determination,   let us establish the Bangsamoro Government, and support the clamor for the immediate passage of the BBL”.

Elite Philippine police unit gets new training facilities

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 23): Elite Philippine police unit gets new training facilities

Philippine police chief Alan Purisima and Special Action Force Director  Director Getulio Napeñas lead the unveilling of markers of training facilities in Santa Rosa City in Laguna province on Thursday, October 23, 2014.

Philippine police chief Alan Purisima on Thursday unveiled markers of training facilities for members of the elite Special Action Force in Santa Rosa City in Laguna province, officials said.

Officials said Purisima was accompanied by SAF Police Director Getulio Napeñas and other senior officials in the event. The new facilities included a mess hall, planning and classrooms, among others.

“This holds great promise for the police students who are undergoing training and those who will attend future courses under the auspices of this school because they will stand to benefit from the improvements made in this infrastructure,” Purisima said.

He said the SAF facilities will also play an important role in the achievement of one of the key objectives of the Philippine National Police P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 and strategic initiative embodied in CODE-P, which is to develop highly competent, motivated and values-oriented and disciplined personnel.

PNP P.A.T.R.O.L. Plan 2030 stands for Peace and order Agenda for Transformation and upholding of the Rule-of-Law as enhanced by Purisima’s “CODE-P: 2013 and beyond.”

CODE-P: 2013 and beyond is a program which stands for Competence, Organizational Development, Discipline, Excellence and Professionalism.

The SAF Training Branch has been making huge strides in its bid to become one of the premiere training institutions in the country, and in line with the PNP’s modernization program, strengthening of its personnel capabilities through the conduct of training courses with good training facilities is one of the priorities of the organization.

Purisima commended the past and present leadership of SAF for initiating reforms and bringing the institution in a class of its own within the PNP.

BIFF rebels attack Sultan Kudarat village

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 23): BIFF rebels attack Sultan Kudarat village

Policemen and local government officials rush to the village of Katiko in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province following a rebel attack staged by Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Thursday, October 23, 2014. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Rose Muneza)

SULTAN KUDARAT PROVINCE – Suspected rebels killed a civilian in an attack Thursday in the southern Philippine province of Sultan Kudarat, officials said.

Maj. Dante Gania, of the 6th Infantry Division, said more than two dozen members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters also engaged troops in a firefight after the gunmen attacked a military post in the village of Katiko in President Quirino town.

Gania said no soldiers were killed or wounded in the fighting except for one civilian, who was identified as Maximo Salamanca, brother of the village chieftain Sancho Salamanca. Another man was also slain and four others wounded in the violence.

He identified the leaders of the attackers as BIFF commanders Sukarno Sapal, Edzrapel Manalasal and Maganon. He said troops were tracking down the gunmen.

Two soldiers were also killed in a separate attack by gunmen in Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao province.

The soldiers were guarding the town’s main hospital when several gunmen disarmed the victims and shot them using their own automatic rifles and then escaped.

Other kidnap victims fear higher Sayyaf ransom demand

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 22): Other kidnap victims fear higher Sayyaf ransom demand

The repercussion of ransom being paid to a crime group that held hostage and released two German nationals recently is being felt most by the family of a businesswoman who is still in the hands of the Germans’ captors, the Al Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf.

Members of the Abu Sayyaf involved in the Germans’ kidnapping had confirmed receiving P250 million to free their captives, but Malacañang repeatedly denied ransom had been paid for the freedom of German nationals Viktor Stefan Okonek and Henrite Dielen.

Ronald Maravilla, chair of Labuan village here, said the family of Michelle Panes, a market stall owner abducted in August, fear that the woman’s kidnappers would demand an amount that they could not raise.

Maravilla, quoting Noel Panes, the victim’s husband, said the kidnappers had asked for a “very high” amount weeks after the abduction.

“They didn’t tell me the actual amount but they told me it is very high,” Maravilla said.

The kidnappers have not contacted the family since two week after the abduction, Maravilla said.

Malaysian journalist Philip Golingai, in an earlier interview, said the Abu Sayyaf is demanding 3 million ringgit for each of the two captives—Zakiah Aleip, a Malaysian policeman seized in Pulau Mabul in Sabah on July 12, and Chan Sai Chuin, a Chinese national taken from a fish farm in Kunak, Sabah on June 26.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said authorities are still checking reports that ransom was paid for the Germans.

“We are also confirming reports that certain personalities paid ransom to free the German hostages,” said Cabunoc.

“The AFP denies the insinuation or hint that some government officials agree to the ransom payment. We fully support the government’s policy of no ransom and no negotiation with any terror group,” Cabunoc told Inquirer by phone.

On Sunday, the military said it discovered an abandoned Abu Sayyaf camp in Barangay Kabuntakas in Patikul, Sulu.

Cabunoc said the camp could accommodate at least 100 people.

On Monday, another camp, also in the village of Kabuntakas, was discovered.

Cabunoc said the smaller camp was a “few hundred meters” from the encampment found on Sunday.

Earlier on Sunday, another camp, with at least 47 bunkers, was discovered in the village of Buhanginan, also in Patikul.

Cabunoc said the Buhanginan camp was used by the Abu Sayyaf group led by Muammar Askali alias Abu Rami.

“The troops on the ground strongly believe that the encampment in Buhanginan was used to hide the Germans. They had eye contact with the bandits there on Friday.

Priests, nuns in Jolo now being guarded by police, soldiers from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 22): Priests, nuns in Jolo now being guarded by police, soldiers from Abu Sayyaf

Priests, nuns and lay leaders in Jolo, Sulu, are now being guarded and placed under close monitoring by police and military authorities to keep them safe from the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements, according to Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo.

Quevedo, who heads the Catholic diocese of Cotabato, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer here on Tuesday that the measure was welcomed by the Catholic Church as a precautionary move against kidnappings of, and attacks against priests, nuns and lay leaders on the island-province.

“They are always guarded within Jolo and their movements are monitored by the military,” he said.
Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. INQUIRER file photo
Orlando Cardinal Quevedo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Monsignor David Alonzo, spokesperson of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, said eight priests, nuns, and missionaries, headed by Bishop Angelito Lampon of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, have been working in Sulu.

Quevedo and Lampon belong to the same religious order.

Alonzo said members of the religious community in Sulu, directly under the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, knew the dangers and the risks there.

“We have nuns and brothers in different congregations and convents in Sulu and assigned in some schools. They are aware of the situation there,” he said.

Quevedo said another precautionary measure the Catholic Church has taken was to prohibit priests and other members of the religious community from venturing into areas outside of Jolo.

“Another policy is that they are not allowed to move out of the town of Jolo,” he said.

While precautionary measures have been taken, Quevedo said the safety of members of the religious community in Sulu could not be ensured 100 percent.

“One cannot be completely assured of safety. Anything can really happen and so again, vigilance, caution about their movement and even cautious in the house itself,” he said.

According to Alonzo, lawless elements hardly touch priests and nuns these days but previous experiences showed that they were not safe from harm.

On December 28, 1990, Fr. Benjamin Inocencio, OMI, was shot behind the Jolo Cathedral.

The Abu Sayyaf was tagged in the Nov. 14, 1993 kidnapping of American missionary Charles Watson in Sulu. He was released less than one month later.

There was also the 1993 abduction of three Spanish nuns in Jolo.

In 1997, American priest, Fr. Clarence Bertelsman, was also abducted in Jolo.

On February 4, 1997, Jolo Bishop Ben de Jesus was killed in an attack just outside the same cathedral when two gunmen shot him at close range. He had six bullet wounds, one in the head.

Aquino rules out war against China

From Ang Malaya (Oct 22): Aquino rules out war against China

President Aquino said relationship with China is improving amid maritime dispute. “In most facets, excluding our differing opinions on who owns what, our relationship is improving.”

Aquino added that differences in South China Sea involving West Philippine Sea is “not the end all and be all.”

However, President Aquino said that there will be no one-on-one meeting between him and Chinese President Xi Jinping in the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit to be held in Beijing, China next month.

Instead of a meeting with China’s top leader, he will brief different state leaders about the current situation in West Philippine Sea.

He will also asked for an update regarding the Code of Conduct when he attends the closing sessions of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Myanmar after APEC summit in China. “Number one is, we will ask for an update of precisely what has transpired after the agreement with regard to pushing for the Code of Conduct.”

The President, in midst of China’s aggressive behavior in West Philippine Sea, is ruling out war. “Obviously, the Constitution says war as an instrument of national policy is forbidden. And it’s a ridiculous proposition.”

He noted that “we’ve done everything that we can given our limitations, capabilities, and needs, and also in conformity with our Constitution.”

Philippine Airspace Defense Identification Zone sees a bright future

From Ang Malaya (Oct 22): Philippine Airspace Defense Identification Zone sees a bright future

Armed Forces of the Philippines is looking forward to 2022 when Philippine Air Force is well equiped to intercept and deter unfriendly aircraft to enter Philippine Airspace Defense Identification Zone (PADIZ).

“That’s the goal for the entire PADIZ by 2022, once all requirements are in place,” said PAF spokesperson Lt. Col. Enrico Canaya, state media reports.

Philippine Air Force is set to receive twelve FA-50 which “will act as the country’s interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.”

First two FA-50 “Fighting Eagle” from South Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) will be delivered September 2015. Completion of delivery is expected until 2017.

Moreover, the government is acquiring three new air defense radar systems from Israel which will be installed in Palawan, Lubang in Mindoro, and Pasuquin in Ilocos Norte.

Department of National Defense is accepting the fact that over the years the country almost lost all air defense equipment.

‘Bantay Bayanihan' Visayas

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 23): ‘Bantay Bayanihan' Visayas
assessing peace, security

Ranking officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and key civil society leaders met for the Bantay Bayanihan Visayas Cluster meeting early this week in Dumaguete City.

The meeting was to discuss peace and security issues and local assessments in the Visayas cluster, Marrietta Jambora, its lead convenor, said.

Some provinces in regions 6, 7 and 8 in the Visayas have already been declared “conflict manageable and development ready” and are now comparing notes on how they are faring, she added.

Officials of the AFP's Central Command in the Visayas were invited to discuss the current indicators of the AFP, specifically the declaration of some provinces as “conflict manageable and development ready”, Jambora said.

Some of the participants came from Samar, Leyte, Cebu, and Bacolod, Jambora said.

The Bantay Bayanihan is a group composed of civil society representations to monitor the AFP's Internal Peace and Security Plan.

Present were Brig. Gen. Romeo Labador, CENTCOM deputy commander; Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the 3 rd Infantry Division, based in Jamindan, Capiz; Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303 rd Brigade in Negros Occidental; Col. Allan Martin, commander of the 302 nd Brigade in Negros Oriental, Col. Eric Uchida, commander of the 301 st Brigade, Senior Supt. Mariano Natu-el, OIC provincial police director of Negros Oriental, and Col. Philip Lapinid of CENTCOM.

US envoy: VFA makes Laude probe 'quick, successful'

From Rappler (Oct 23): US envoy: VFA makes Laude probe 'quick, successful'

The US ambassador also denounces 'media circuses' surrounding the death of Jennifer Laude, a transgender Filipino allegedly murdered by a US Marine

'MEDIA CIRCUSES'? German Marc Sueselbeck, boyfriend of murdered transgender Filipino Jennifer Laude, 26, climbs the gate of the facility where Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton is detained at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Manila on October 22, 2014. US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg criticizes this as part of 'media circuses.' Photo by Noel Celis/AFP

'MEDIA CIRCUSES'? German Marc Sueselbeck, boyfriend of murdered transgender Filipino Jennifer Laude, 26, climbs the gate of the facility where Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton is detained at the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Manila on October 22, 2014. US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg criticizes this as part of 'media circuses.' Photo by Noel Celis/AFP
US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg defended the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) on Thursday, October 23, by claiming it helps in investigating an American serviceman's alleged involvement in a transgender Filipino's death.
In a rare sit-down interview, Goldberg also criticized the “media circuses” surrounding the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude, whom US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton allegedly murdered.

“The VFA is what allowed this investigation to be as quick and successful, because our criminal investigators participated with the PNP to identify a suspect, to be able to identify witnesses, to cooperate and collaborate, because we're friends and allies,” Goldberg told GMA News in a live interview on Thursday.

The US Naval Criminal Investigative Service earlier coordinated with the Philippine National Police (PNP) in identifying Pemberton as suspect in Laude's case.

Goldberg cited this as a benefit of the VFA after Pemberton on Wednesday, October 22, was moved to the Philippine military headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo, while remaining in the US' legal custody.

The US' exercise of custody over Pemberton has sparked criticism of the VFA, a 1998 agreement that, among other things, formalizes military exercises between the US and its former colony. (READ: Why PH must assert sole custody over US Marine)

Leading a Senate investigation into Laude's death, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago rejected the VFA as a failure.”

'VFA helped Yolanda survivors'

The US ambassador, however, said Filipinos should understand “that the VFA has a purpose.”

Goldberg said the VFA, for one, “is what allowed” the US to deploy troops to Leyte, which was hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), “so quickly” in 2013. “Other countries had to wait a couple of weeks while they negotiated these kinds of arrangements,” he said.

Back then, the USS George Washington and other ships brought more than 335,000 liters of water and 36,360 kilos of food and supplies to help in post-Yolanda relief efforts.

The US Embassy in Manila stressed this in a separate statement, as the USS George Washington arrived on Thursday for a routine port call to stress ties “the historic and military connections” between the Philippines and the US.

Goldberg also mentioned the joint exercises between Filipino and American troops, and US aid as the Philippines “builds what it calls a minimum credible defense.”

These forms of assistance come as the Philippines, as well as other Southeast Asian countries, faces an increasingly aggressive China in the South China Sea.

“These are all part of our relationship as allies, as friends, and the VFA is a central part of that relationship, and it's a central part of making sure that justice is served, and that's why we have it,” Goldberg said.

'Disappointing' move by Laude's fiancé

The focus for now, Goldberg stressed, should be the call for justice and not “theatrics.”

He criticized “intruders” – Laude's sister and fiancé – who climbed the gates of Camp Aguinaldo to protest against the “special treatment” for Pemberton. (Watch more in the video below.)

“I think what happened yesterday at Camp Aguinaldo, where intruders actually came into an Armed Forces of the Philippines military base, were able to enter, were able to get into a restricted area, is quite disappointing, quite frankly,” the ambassador said.

“We should all be focused on making sure that the rule of law is followed, and to make sure that justice is served – justice for the family, justice for Jennifer Laude. We ought to have that as our goal – not media circuses and the kinds of things and acts that took place yesterday,” he added.

Protestors, on the other hand, claim that US custody of Pemberton is itself an injustice.

Facing these criticisms, Goldberg asserted that Pemberton “is under US custody.”

When asked if the US will turn him over to the Philippines if an arrest warrant is issued, Goldberg replied, “We'll follow the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

Pressed for a categorical answer, Goldberg stood his ground: “We'll follow the VFA that... the suspect is under US custody.”

Pemberton: A question of trust

From Rappler (Oct 23): Pemberton: A question of trust

Since the US does not have faith in the Philippines’ justice system, how can Filipinos be expected to have faith in America’s security commitments?

Since the US does not have faith in the Philippines’ justice system, how can Filipinos be expected to have faith in America’s security commitments?

That is the simple issue highlighted by the Pemberton case and similar cases in the past. The Philippines has had half a dozen defense and security arrangements with the US since 1951. The country is divided as to its wisdom and necessity.

When problems arise from these security arrangements, the incident that causes it invariably is not security-related. In every case, it would involve US servicemen who violate Philippine criminal laws when they are off-duty. Pemberton is not an isolated case. In the past 60 years, similar cases have arisen.
Predictably, the US immediately protects the US servicemen. If the US cannot even protect Filipino women from U.S. servicemen, how can Filipinos rely on the US to live-up to her commitments embodied in the treaties or agreements they have with us.

That should be food for thought for the Senate whose members’ battlecry is to review the VFA, but with cautionary statement not to abrogate it. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which is before the Supreme Court, has interlocking references with VFA. Yet the haunting question is trust, whether as allies we can trust each other.

PH, Japan, US conduct naval exercises off West PH Sea

From Rappler (Oct 23): PH, Japan, US conduct naval exercises off West PH Sea

In a theoretical scenario, the dummy target in the gunnery exercises could be a ship or an airplane of the enemy

The navies of the Philippines, Japan, and the United States conducted naval exercises in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on Wednesday, October 22, involving one of the most capable US ships, the USS George Washington strike group.

"The BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF 15) of the Philippine Navy joined the George Washington Carrier Strike Group off the coast of the Philippines from October 22-23 to conduct maneuvering, communications and gunnery exercises to further enhance their ability to work together and demonstrate their commitment to the US-Philippines alliance," the US Embassy in the Philippines said in a statement.

Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JS Sazanami also participated in the two-day naval exercises, according to Philippine Navy public information officer Lieutenant Commander Marineth Domingo.

Domingo said the Japanese ship is under the operational control of USS George Washington, the floating military air base forward deployed to the 7th Fleet area of operations that is based in Yokosuka, Japan.

The Philippines and Japan have maritime disputes with China in the South China Sea.

The US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier has a crew of about 5,500 sailors – 320 of whom are Filipino-American. It can carry up to 80 aircrafts. The USS George Washington is now in Manila for a routine port call, the US Embassy said.

The naval exercises began at 5:30 am on Wednesday, October 22, when the USS George Washington, including the JS Sazanami, had a rendezvous in West Philippine Sea.

Gunnery exercises

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar, JS Sazanami, and the missile guided cruiser USS Antietam, which is a part of the USS George Washington battle group participated in the gunnery exercises.

The BRP Gregorio Del Pilar proved to be a good aim, boasted Domingo. "PF 15 fired at dummy target. It was actually very successful. PF 15 proved to be a sniper," she said.

In a theoretical scenario, the dummy target – called the "red tomato" because of the color – could be a ship or an airplane of the enemy, said Domingo.

She said the 3 navies also executed the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), an agreement between foreign navies to avoid confrontations at sea.

The USS George Washington was also among the first responders in the aftermath of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that flattened towns and cities in the Visayas November last year. It provided more than 335,000 liters of water and 36,360 kilos of food and supplies in support of relief efforts.