Saturday, October 25, 2014

2 ‘NPA women’ freed on ‘humanitarian consideration’ – Army

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Oct 23): 2 ‘NPA women’ freed on ‘humanitarian consideration’ – Army

Women ‘forced to admit as rebels’ – victims

Police in Davao Oriental has released two women, including one who is pregnant, on humanitarian grounds, even after they reportedly confessed to being members of the New People’s Army, said an Army brigade commander who said an Army unit has jointly conducted the checkpoint that arrested the women.

The women belied the allegation, and insisted that they were forced to confess they were guerrillas.

Col. Benjamin Madrigal Jr., commander of the Army’s 701st  Brigade, said the Mati City Police Station released Angelita Salientes, 20, and three months pregnant, and Lovely Jean Madinajon, 19, “in adherence and respect to International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights and Rule of Law” after the police found that Salientes was pregnant.

The two were released Tuesday after their arrest a day earlier .

Madrigal said the two women were arrested around 11:00 pm Monday in a joint police and Army checkpoint in the public market of Manay, Davao Oriental.

Read related story here: Pregnant farmer-organizer held, harassed by military in Davao Oriental
An Army statement Tuesday said that the checkpoint was conducted “because of persistent reports of CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines)-NPA plans to conduct attacks on AFP/PNP (Armed Forces of the Philippines/Philippine National Police) bases, and newly reported information from concerned citizens informing the authorities that five (5) NPA members were traveling down from Sitio Maglahos, Barangay Sobrecarey, Caraga, DOR to Poblacion, Manay on board two (2) motorcycles.”

Madrigal said the checkpoint “stopped the first of the reported motorcycles and invited the passengers, later identified as Angelita Salientes Miguel and Lovely Jane Madejanon Boyles, for questioning.”

“Apart from the prior alarm given to the PNP regarding the motorcycles, the invitation for questioning was also prompted by the action of one of the passengers of the motorcycle, who quickly transferred to the trailing motorcycle when they were signaled to stop. The other motorcycle fled, defying the authorities signaling them to a halt,” he said.

The two were taken to Manay Police Station for verification of their identity and police claimed the women “initially declared their names as Ana Gomez Duping and Irish Gomez Duping” who are just visiting their relatives in Caraga “but were not able to give the names and exact address of te said relatives, arousing suspicion and prompting the Manay PNP to refer the subjects to Caraga Police Station.”

“Upon arrival at the Mati City Police Station, the two subjects were immediately given medical check-up by a physician from Mati City Health Center and Davao Oriental Provincial Health Office, especially so upon hearing that alias Lyka claims to suspect herself to be 3 months pregnant, based on the delay on her menstrual cycle. After the dialogue, subjects were properly released and turned -over to the members of [the human rights group, Karapatan,” Madrigal said.

But Madenajon belied Madrigal’s statements.

In a phone interview with Davao Today, Madenajon said that they were “coerced and harassed by their captors” and were “forced to admit that they are NPA members” after being promised that they will be immediately released by the soldiers.

“That is not true. They were threatening us with their long firearms. They forced us to admit that we are NPA members,” Madenajon said.

“Our only problem that time when they arrested us was that our driver is driving without a license,” she said.

Madenajon said that they were telling their captors their real names but “they refused to believe us and they were giving us other names”.

She said that she even insisted the police to accompany them in their home in Mabini, Comval to prove that she is a resident there.

Human rights group Karapatan, who assisted the two, said that they plan to file a case against the 701st Infantry Battalion, Manay Police and 67th Infantry Battalion for charges of illegal arrest and illegal detention of the two before the Commission on Human Rights and to a regular court.

NPA strength declines in Bicol, Southern Tagalog

From the Bicol Mail (Oct 23): NPA strength declines in Bicol, Southern Tagalog

The Philippine Army’s Southern Luzon Command has reported a continuing decline of the true strength of the New People’s Army in Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions, according to an emailed statement sent to Bicol Mail Friday last week.

Major Angelo Guzman, Army spokesperson based in Camp Nakar in Lucena City, said the present estimated strength of the NPA in terms of number of combatants and firearms in the areas of Southern Luzon Command was established after the third quarter assessment of the Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO) on Oct. 7.

Major Gen. Ricardo R. Visayas, commanding general, expressed optimism that the Southern Tagalog and Bicol Regions are nearing normalization by June 2016, as number of NPAs continues to drop since the implementation of counterinsurgency program dubbed ‘Bayanihan’ in Jan. 2011,” Guzman said.

According to the records of the Army, the strength of the NPA in the two regions has declined from 773 combatants in 2011 to 526 as of Q3 of 2014, while their firearms were reduced from 771 pieces to 607 during the same period.

The number of affected barangays also decreased from 368 in 2011 to 270 at present.

Guzman said the data showed the Army’s continuing victory and gaining of trust and confidence of the people that he said resulted from social pressure and arrest of top NPA leaders.

He cited the apprehension of certain Dionisio Almonte a.k.a.
Inol who was collared in Valenzuela City last January 14.

“Almonte is the sub-regional committee secretary of the NPA in Southern Tagalog. In Bicol, the Army captured an NPA leader named Florentino Pura a.k.a. Soling on March 13,” Guzman disclosed.

In an interview on Oct 2, Lt. Gen. Virgilio O. Domingo, AFP deputy chief of staff (or the third highest ranking official of the AFP), said the AFP targets to turn over the maintenance of peace and security to the local governments and the PNP in 2016.

“But we will continue to support the local governments and the PNP in their concerns and needs in maintaining peace and security in their areas,” Domingo added, as he projected the communist insurgency to have waned to an insignificant force.

He lauded success in the present counterinsurgency program, the so-called Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” for ridding communities of the influence of communist rebels, the longest running communist insurgency in the world.

Domingo, who graced the 10th founding anniversary of 9th Infantry Division Wednesday last week, said they have already identified provinces in the country that were once bases of communist rebels but are now ready for development because of peaceful environment.

“We expect that at the end of 2016 we can give to all the local government units all over the nation the responsibility of maintaining the internal security of the communities,” he said.

But Domingo qualified that by that time, there are still small groups of the communist insurgents that the AFP will focus its attention.

Domingo said the AFP still hopes for a political solution to the communist insurgency problem through peace talks with the National Democratic Front-Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

“It is hard to attain progress if there are forces against the government in our nation,” he said.

Guzman said they have identified 33 provinces in the country targeted for ‘normalization.’

He said the provinces are located in Bicol, Eastern Visayas and eastern part of Mindanao, where the AFP is concentrating its forces and ready to add more [personnel and equipment] if needed.

“As of now we have sufficient forces to address the requirements of ‘normalizing’ the situation of the 33 provinces which will make us (AFP) achieve our mission in our timeline,” he said.

Guzman said ‘normalized provinces’ would mean that the presence and influence of the communist rebels had been reduced significantly, neutralizing their capacity to launch attacks and threaten communities.

“By the time, the AFP foresees the communist insurgents in ‘survival mode’ resorting to criminal activities and losing their ideology,” he said.

According to the IPSP “Bayanihan” target, the AFP hopes to see to it that “the capabilities of the internal armed threats are reduced to a level that they can no longer threaten the stability of the state and civil authorities and ensure the safety and well-being of the Filipinos.”

China's old maps negate own 'historical' claims over Spratlys

From the Philippine Star (Oct 24): China's old maps negate own 'historical' claims over Spratlys

A cartographic exhibit of historical "truths and lies" Scarborough Shoal was presented by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday presented anew publicly available maps defining the territorial boundaries of China from 1136 to 1933.
Carpio, who led the launching of the cartographic exhibit at the University of the Philippines Diliman, explained that one batch of maps (shown below) as those made by Chinese authorities or commissioned by the dynasties of old.
None of the maps indicates the disputed Kalyaan (Spratlys) Islands and the part of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) claimed by the Philippines, are covered by the Asian giant's sovereignty "since time immemorial," Carpio said.

Maps of China by Chinese authorities

All maps show Hainan Island (highlighted in red) as the southernmost territory of China.

Map of China and the Barbarian Countries. Engraved in stone in Fuchang in about 1136 during the Nan Song Dynasty. It was transferred on print in France in 1903. Hainan Island as the southernmost part of China is highlighted. IMOA/A. Carpio/US Library of Congress

Great Ming Dynasty Amalgamated Map. Painted in color on silk and published in around 1389 during the Ming Dynasty. Again, it shows Hainan Island as the southernmost territory of China.Hong Kong Baptist University

Atlas of the Ming Empire. The map, published between 1547 and 1559 by the Ming Dynasty, shows the then 13 provinces of China during the Jianjing period. Note that Taiwan is not included and Macau is not marked, while Hainan remains as the southernmost territory. US Library of Congress

Atlas of Heaven and Earth. Published in 1601 by Junheng Zuo during the Ming Dynasty. Seen is Hainan Island as the southernmost part of China. US Library of Congress

Map of the Myriad of Countries of the World. Created by Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in 1602, who was commissioned by Ming Emperor Wanli. Ricci moved China to the center of the map to please his Chinese clients. The panels, however, can be rearranged so any part of the world can be placed at the center of the map. It again places Hainan as the southernmost territory. US Library of Congress

RELATED: What are China's motives in South China Sea?

Selden Map of China. Published between 1606 and 1624 during the Ming Dynasty, the map was donated by English jurist and scholar John Selden to the University of Oxford in 1659 It shows China, South Asia, Southeast Asia and East Asia with South China Sea at the center . Bodleian Library, University of Oxford

Carpio called the Selden Map his "favorite" as it indicates the historical role of the now disputed South China Sea as an "important waterway that should be open to all nations."

The Great Qing Dynasty Complete Map of All Under Heaven. Published in China in 1811 by Qing Emperor Jiaqing showing Hainan, once again, marking the southernmost borders.US Library of Congress

READ: United States: China 'occupying' South China Sea areas, breaking vows

The Complete Geographical Map of the Great Qing Dynasty. Qianren Huang published this map in China between 1814 and 1816. Hainan Island marks the southernmost boundary of the dynasty.US Library of Congress

Complete Map of Guangdong Province. Published in Wuchang, China in 1864 by Hubei Sheng and Huan Shu Ju, the map also shows Hainan as the southernmost territory.US Library of Congress

Complete Map of the Twenty Three Provinces of the Great Qing Dynasty. Published sometime after 1885 by the Qing Dynasty, the map is an "important" piece as China's claims it bases its territory on the Qing dynasty, Carpio said.US Library of Congress

Map of the Waterways and Roads in Guangdong Province. On the upper left side of this map, published around 1887, is an annotation by cartographer Li Zhongpei.US Library of Congress

"Qiongzhou (name of Hainan Island at that time) is far from the mainland, has a coastline of more than 1,400 li (unit of distance in Chinese) and is the territory [of China] that ships navigating to China will encounter when coming from Southeast Asia," the annotation reads.

Qing Empire's Compelte Map of All Provinces. Hainan is shown as an inset in this map, published by Peilan Li in 1896, indicating it to be the southernmost part of its territory.US Library of Congress

"Zhong Hua Guo Chi Di Tu." Published in 1929 in Beijing by Hebei Sheng and Gong Shang Ting, the map mentions treaties signed by China and the harbors opened to foreign powers. Again, Hainan Island is depicted as the southernmost territory.US Library of Congress

Map of the Provinces of China. Published around 1933 in Wuchang, China by Ya Xin Di Xue She, the illustration shows Hainan Island at the southernmost tip of the territory.US Library of Congress

"Throughout Chinese dynasties, China's territory never included the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Shoal," Carpio, maritime law expert, said.

He said the existence of ancient Chinese maps disproved China's so-called historical claims based on the nine-dash line covering maritime features and areas the Philippines considers its own.

Carpio explained that the territory acknowledged in the maps are even enshrined in China's constitution until 1946 stating that the "territory of the Republic of China continues to be the traditional territory."

The current constitution of China, however, "no longer defines the territory because it keeps on expanding," Carpio said, referring to the Chinese's 2012 takeover of the Philippines' Scarborough Shoal, which is also called Bajo de Masinloc or Panatag Shoal.
All images are digital reproductions from the Institute of Maritime and Ocean Affairs, Philippines.

AFP chief to Sulu: Sorry for 'secretive' release of Germans

From Rappler (Oct 25): AFP chief to Sulu: Sorry for 'secretive' release of Germans

The apology comes after Sulu officials complained that they were kept in the dark on the release of two German hostages held by the Abu Sayyaf Group

'SORRY.' Military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr meets with Sulu officials led by Governor Abdusakur Tan II on October 24, 2014. Photo from Sulu Capitol

'SORRY.' Military chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr meets with Sulu officials led by Governor Abdusakur Tan II on October 24, 2014. Photo from Sulu Capitol
Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr flew back to Sulu on Friday, October 24, to personally apologize to Sulu officials and stakeholders for not coordinating with them on the release of two German hostages of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) the previous week.

Catapang personally apologized to officials led by Governor Abdusakur Tan II for what the AFP chief called a "misunderstanding," said military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc.

"We would like to apologize to the people of Sulu for any shortcomings during the law enforcement operations in pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf Group to retrieve German and other hostages in their custody," a statement from the Sulu Capitol quoted Catapang as telling the officials.

Catapang also vowed improved military coordination with the local government unit as the troops in Sulu launch a full scale combat rescue mission to save at least 10 more remaining Abu Sayyaf hostages.

It was the "fog of war," said Cabunoc, explaining the oversight. The military supposedly forgot to inform the governor about the release of the hostages, in their rush to transport one of the hostages to Zamboanga City due to his ailment.

Apology accepted

The Sulu governor accepted Catapang's apology and praised him for his humility, added the statement of the Sulu provincial government. The governor noted that it's the first time that an AFP chief ever apologized to the people of Sulu.

"Umaasa kami na magiging maganda na ang sitwasyon sa mga darating na panahon (We are expecting the situation to get better in the future)," the Sulu statement quoted Tan.

After 6 months in captivity, Germans Viktor Okonek and partner Henrike Dielen were released on October 17. The military first brought them to the hospital inside the military headquarters in Jolo before a naval vessel transported them to the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) in Zamboanga City, where they waited for their flight to Manila.

The Sulu governor said they only learned about the release through the media. The Special Action Committee (SAC) created to oversee law enforcement operations for the release of the German hostages was supposedly bypassed.

The Abu Sayyaf claimed that a P250-million ransom was paid to secure the release of the Germans. Denying knowledge about the ransom, the military claimed that the pressure exerted by its troops had forced the Abu Sayyaf to release the hostages.

During the meeting on Friday, both Catapang and Tan denied knowledge about the ransom payment, according to Cabunoc.

The governor's father, Vice Governor Abdusakur, government officials, civil society, and religious groups were present at the meeting. Catapang brought with him the Westmincom chief and the military commanders in Sulu including island commander Colonel Allan Arrojado.

Catapang told them he wants to change the image of Sulu and "erase the stigma of kidnapping."


The Sulu provincial government and civil society organizations met on Monday, October 20, to discuss their disappointment with the military's handling of the release of hostages. One of the attendees even called for the pullout of troops in the province.

"We were not informed that the hostages were already rescued, it was only through media reports that we became aware that they were already rescued Friday night and in the custody of the Armed Forces," read the statement of the governor.

The statement quoted an unnamed member of the academe say that "the use of Sulu citizens for their own telenovela must be put to a stop."

Arrojado and the battalion commanders met with the governor on October 22 and promised better coordination.

Pemberton in PH camp 'confidence-building move'

From Rappler (Oct 25): Pemberton in PH camp 'confidence-building move'

'We went beyond, I think, our obligations under VFA by reaching an agreement with the Philippines that allowed the suspect to be moved to a facility at Camp Aguinaldo,' says US Ambassador Philip Goldberg

'UNUSUAL STEP.' Ambassador Philip Goldberg says the US has gone beyond its obligations under the VFA. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler

'UNUSUAL STEP.' Ambassador Philip Goldberg says the US has gone beyond its obligations under the VFA. Photo by Mark Cristino/Rappler
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said the US decision to take the "unusual step" of transferring US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton to a Philippine military camp is a confidence-building measure meant to assure Filipinos that the US "understands the situation."
"We took this step allowing – within our custody under the VFA – a suspect to be moved to sovereign Philippine soil. It is an unusual step, one meant to build confidence that we understand the situation here. We’re sympathetic to the family. We’re sympathetic to the Filipino people," Goldberg said on Friday, October 24.

In a roundtable with select journalists from media groups, including Rappler, Goldberg said public opinion was a factor in the decision, which goes "beyond" the US obligations under the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) though Pemberton – suspected of killing transgender Filipino woman Jennifer Laude – remains under US custody while detained in Camp Aguinaldo.

"We went beyond, I think, our obligations under VFA by reaching an agreement with the Philippines that allowed the suspect to be moved to a facility at Camp Aguinaldo that maintain the principles of VFA – remaining under US custody," he said.

The US envoy added that the decision was made "in a way that's sympathetic to public opinion here, that is sympathetic of the government and judicial process here, and that assures the people that the suspect will be here for the length of hearings and, possibly, if it will come to a trial.

The VFA provides that Philippine courts will have jurisdiction over erring US troops, but custody will remain with the US. Pemberton's transfer to Camp Aguinaldo shows a difference in US action compared to the 2006 case of US Marine Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who underwent trial for the rape of Filipina Suzette Nicolas.

In Smith's case, the US insisted on detaining him inside the US Embassy for the duration of the trial and even after his conviction, pending appeal. He was acquitted after Nicolas recanted her allegations against Smith. (READ: EDCA, Olongapo murder, and the old case of Daniel Smith.

Goldberg said the US government also has the obligation to protect the rights of Pemberton and all Americans who join the US military.

"This is the commitment we make to the American people and American Congress to do those things as government representatives," he said.

Goldberg said the US has also protected Laude's right to get the justice she deserves.

He said the same treaty allowed the involvement of the US Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) which led to the quick identification of the suspect, and the cooperation of the witnesses.

"Quite frankly, I don't know if that would have happened if it hadn't been for our cooperation with investigators from the NCIS," said Goldberg.

He added: "This case may not have been resolved as quickly or as effectively without our cooperation. It is a very important point. It is our obligation, obviously, but it is also our instinct. Our instinct is to actually pursue justice." (READ: US envoy: VFA makes Laude probe 'quick, successful)

AFP to pursue complaint against Sueselbeck

From InterAksyon (Oct 25): AFP to pursue complaint against Sueselbeck

Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr awarded a plaque of recognition to an Army non-commissioned officer detailed as security personnel to murder suspect US PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton, an American soldier implicated in the killing of a Filipino transgender in Olongapo City.

Technical Sergeant Mariano Pamittan was cited for his professionalism and restraint during an incident on Wednesday (October 22) at the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board facility where PFC Joseph Scott Pemberton was being detained.

Pamittan was the on-duty soldier guarding the facility when Mr Marc Sueselbeck and Ms Marilou Laude, the fiance and sister of the murder victim,  Jeffrey Laude, intruded and and forcefully shoved Pamittan after climbing the perimeter fence.


While Pamittan expressed sympathy to Laude's family members who forcibly entered the compound that he was guarding, he stood pat on his duty and mission.

"I sympathize with the family because they lost a loved one. I also want them to have justice and closure for their loss. However, I have a duty I must fulfil, which is to secure Pemberton, who also has his rights. That is why despite their misbehavior, I exerted tolerance," Pamittan said of the incident.

"Our camp commander, Brig. Gen. Arthur Ang, directed us to exercise maximum tolerance," Pamittan added.

He said that he tried to reason with Mr Sueselbeck that he was entering a restricted area and, therefore, could get arrested for it. Foreign nationals have to undergo a rigid clearance process before being allowed to enter a military base.

"I told him and Marilou that they are intruding into a restricted area. I warned them that I could arrest and detain them in our stockade," Pamittan said.

Pamittan said he was also conscious that Filipinos could observe the incident through news and media teams present in the vicinity.

With the intercession of Brig. Gen. Ang, the intruders and their supporters submitted themselves to a peaceful dialogue.

A native of Enrile, Cagayan, TSg Pamittan, 44, a Scout Ranger, belongs to a clan of soldiers, where over 20 of his relatives have joined the military to serve the country. He is married to Myrna Pamittan (38) and they have six children.


Meanwhile, the Armed Forces said on Saturday that it is bent on filing a complaint against Marc Suselbeck, the German fiancé of transgender murder victim Jennifer Laude despite his making an apology for scaling a perimeter fence and assaulting the Filipino guard at the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) detention center inside AFP General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Laude was killed on October 11 in Olongapo City and the principal suspect was the US Marine, Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is detained at MDB-SEB.

On Wednesday, members of the Laude family, Suselbeck and private counsel Atty. Harry Roque illegally entered the area on grounds that they want to see Pemberton.

AFP Chief-of-Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang wants the German deported as his action "assaulted the dignity of the country."

"The AFP will still send the letter (detailing Suselbeck’s misdemeanors) to the German Embassy and the Bureau of Immigration," AFP Public Affairs Chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

If the BI should rule that what Suselbeck did was wrong, he stands to be deported and possibly prevented from returning again.

For the meantime, Cabunoc said, the AFP is keeping tight watch on the MDB-SEB to ensure that Suselbeck will not repeat his actions there again.

He was assigned in various conflict areas all over the country, particularly in Northern Luzon, Visayas, Sulu, and in Central Mindanao.

Pamittan was the 90-RR gunner during the all-out war against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in 2000.

He was in a heavy fighting against the numerically superior and entrenched MILF members during the siege of Camp Abu Bakar during which his company commander, then Captain Samuel Manzano, was bleeding profusely after being hit by an enemy sniper.

Pamittan in another heavy fighting in Brgy Dicamay Uno, Jones, Isabela against New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in 1993 where his executive officer, then Col Lawrence Mina, was badly injured.

The Scout Ranger units where he belonged at that time emerged victorious in these encounters.

He also learned valuable experiences out of these violent incidents in his life.

“I’m lucky because even after my years in the service and these encounters, I did not sustain even a minor injury,” Pamittan said.

“I was also able to reflect that, as Filipinos, we shouldn’t be fighting each other. We should just talk about our problems,” he added.

MY PEACE project launched in Zambo City

From the Philippine Information Agency-Zamboanga Peninsula Region (Oct 24): MY PEACE project launched in Zambo City

Madrasah Youth Promoting English Advancement for Community Empowerment or MY PEACE project was launched in Sarang Bangun Learning Center, Zamboanga City, Tuesday, October21, 2014 with Mr. Macon Philips, visiting U.S Department of State Official and Coordinator of the U.S Dept. of State Bureau of International Information Program along with other U.S officials gracing the event.

MY PEACE is  a year- long project of the U.S Embassy in Manila, in partnership with the Voice of Mindanao-Zamboanga Peninsula and the support of American Field Service, Fatwah Foundation and the HMIJ Islamic College. It empowers at risk-Madrasah students in Mindanao by providing English language and life skills training as positive alternatives to joining armed groups.

According to Ms. Frenzie Carreon, Voice of Mindanao project director, “this project is being implemented by a local youth NGO in Mindanao, Voice of Mindanao, Inc., in partnership with the Department of Education in Zamboanga City, and USG Alumni.  The project has two outcomes: teaching English to Madrasah students (Islamic schools); and providing the students with life skills training.”

“This project takes a two-pronged approach, combining English language learning with life skills.  The project began with a training of trainers (TOT) for 30 trained teachers from Zamboanga City with a high level of English proficiency, who participated in intensive 5-day training on English teaching methods.  Following the TOT, the MY Peace Teachers will provide 10 hours per session of English language instruction and 8 hours of English Language Application activities through social enterprise workshops and other lifelong learning to 60 students for one (1) year,” Ms. Carreon explained.

The project consists of 13 sessions which will be conducted on one to two weekends a month. During the project period, the 60 Madrasah students will receive two (2) hours of life skills training per session also delivered by U.S. government exchange program alumni, and entrepreneurial/
business/work skills for six (6) hours based on curricular programs of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), under the guidance and supervision of TESDA-certified trainers from MEIN College.

Carreon informed that Sarang Bangun Learning Center will serve as the base of implementation of MY PEACE project.  “This center is furnished with internet connectivity and computer equipment.  In the final three months of the project, the students will be encouraged to put what they have learned to use by creating and implementing community projects,” she concluded.

Rebel returnee receives financial aid through CLIP

From the Philippine Information Agency-Zamboanga Peninsula Region (Oct 24): Rebel returnee receives financial aid through CLIP

A rebel returnee here was recently granted livelihood assistance by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) through its Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) implemented by the provincial government.

Marilyn Salvacion,(not her real name) 19-year old former New People’s Army (NPA) rebel who surrendered to the 10th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army headed by Lt. Col. Leonel Nicolas was given Php 50, 000.00 to help her start a business or any livelihood. The turn-over was held on October 20 at the Conference Room of the Governor’s Office.

The check was presented by Vice-Governor Senen O. Angeles, Brigadier General Apolinario Y. Alobba with ZNPPO Deputy Provincial Director PCI Rockie C. Laungayan,  Grace Sabal and Leila Realiza of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO), and Conrod A. Capitania of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)-ZN.

“CLIP is tasked to focus on integration program for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and National Democratic Front who will surrender and return to the rule of law,” Brig. Gen. Alobba stressed.

This program provides socio-economic interventions to former rebels and their families which may facilitate the healing process including the management and disposal of surrendered firearms.

The said rebel returnee thanked the government for the care while she was under government’s custody and for the incentives she received which will be used by the family to buy their neighbor’s lot so that they can start farming.

She added that she will go back to her studies since she only finished Grade 3.

The CLIP committee in the province was created on August 29, 2014 through Executive Order No. 108 signed by Governor Roberto Y. Uy, which is composed of the provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte, PSWDO, PNP, AFP, DILG and Center for Social Concerns and Development (CESCOD).

Residents return home after deadly clashes in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Oct 25): Residents return home after deadly clashes in Maguindanao

Residents who were displaced due to recent encounters between government forces and members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Central Mindanao have returned to their homes.

In a phone interview with GMA News Online,  Col. Dickson Hermoso, spokesman for the Army's 6th Infantry Division said the families who were affected have returned home a day after the clashes, and that security forces have set up patrol bases in barangays Katiko and Bagumbayan.

"May mga nagpa-patrol na rin 24/7 sa areas na 'yan, he added.

At least four people were killed in firefights that erupted last Wednesday and Thursday.

In the first incident, two soldiers were shot dead while guarding a hospital in Datu Hoffer town in Maguindanao. Hermoso was quoted as saying at least seven suspected BIFF members were behind Wednesday evening's incident.

On the other hand, Thursday's incident that involved troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion and the BIFF, was sparked by an attack on a militia detachment in Barangay Katiko in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat. In that incident, a barangay peacekeeper and a BIFF member were killed.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which is engaged in peace efforts with the Philippine government.

P87-M compensation for Tubbataha Reef damage not enough — militant group

From GMA News (Oct 25): P87-M compensation for Tubbataha Reef damage not enough — militant group

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on Saturday said the P87 million reported compensation of the United States government for the damage of the Tubbataha reef due to the grounding of minesweeper USS Guardian a year ago is not enough.

In a press statement, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the fine for the US should be 12 times the initial estimate of the Philippine government.

"Comparing valuations in the 2009 grounding of the USS Port Royal in Hawaii, the petitioners peg just and reasonable compensation for the damage to Tubbataha between $16.8 and $27 million, which is still bigger than the $2 million or P87 million that we are getting," he said.

"Five years ago under similar circumstances, the US Navy paid the state of Hawaii a total of $15 million for restoration and settlement, for damage to an Oahu reef; which while larger than Tubbataha, has not been identified as a World Heritage Site. In our petition, we cited that Tubbataha’s biodiversity concentration is 2.3 times more than that of the Hawaii reef," he added.

Reyes added that aside from fines, US forces responsible for the damage should be prosecuted under Philippine laws.

With that, he also stressed that the US Navy officers would be immune from any form of accountability as the Visiting Forces Agreement has no environmental guidelines.

"Our investigators could not even conduct face-to-face interviews with the officers responsible for the grounding of the ship. We could not even prevent the crew from leaving Philippine waters so that they could face a proper investigation," he said.

"More importantly, the VFA allows an unlimited number of US vessels to enter the Philippines and conduct an unspecified range of activities. This becomes worse under EDCA (Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement) because these vessels will have their own bases in the country," he added.

On Friday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario announced that the US has agreed to pay P87 million for the damage of the Tubbataha Reef, a biodiversity-rich area.

"I received correspondence just yesterday [Thursday] that the US has agreed to pay the compensation," del Rosario said in reponse to Senator Loren Legarda's question if the US government had paid the fine for the destruction of the reefs.

Legarda asked the question at the Senate hearing on the proposed Department of Foreign Affairs budget for 2015.

For its part, Tubbataha Management Office (TMO) welcomed the news.

TMO park manager Angelique Songco said the amount would cover both the P58.4 million fine imposed by the Philippine government for the restoration of the marine park and the expenses of the Philippine Coast Guard during the salvage operations.

The coast guard sought P28 million to cover its costs, she said. It took at least 10 weeks of salvage operations to haul away pieces of the USS Guardian.

Tubbataha is a World Heritage Site in Palawan, and is one of the top scuba diving destinations globally.

Earlier this year, park management said the reefs have yet to fully recover from the damage. A long wait is expected before the once productive area again flourishes.

For his part, Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. on Sunday said the P87 million is the figure being sought by the Philippine side as compensation for the damage to Tubbataha Reef.

However, he noted that the Palace is still waiting for the finalization of the arrangements, and that is still in the documentation stage.

The USS Guardian on January 17, 2013 ran aground at the South Atoll of the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea, damaging at least 2,345.67 square meters of the reef area. It took at least 10 weeks for salvage operations to haul away pieces of the USS Guardian.

Palace: US payment for Tubbataha damage in documentation stage

From GMA News (Oct 25): Palace: US payment for Tubbataha damage in documentation stage

The agreement by the United States to pay an P87-million fine for the damage caused by the minesweeper USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef in 2013 is in the documentation stage, Malacañang said Saturday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Palace is waiting for the finalization of the arrangements.

“Batay sa pahayag ng Department of Foreign Affairs, ni Sec. (Albert) del Rosario, nasa documentation stage na itong pakikipag-ugnayan ng dalawang bansa hinggil sa danyos,” he said on government-run dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

He noted the P87 million is the figure being sought by the Philippine side as compensation for the damage to Tubbataha Reef, a world heritage site.

“Hintayin natin ang documentation at pagsasapinal (niyan),” he said.

Earlier, del Rosario said the US had agreed to pay a fine of around P87 million for the damage caused by the USS Guardian.

The World Wide Fund for Nature and the Tubbataha Management Office had determined that the damaged area reached 2,345.67 square meters.

It took about three months before salvage teams could cut up and remove the USS Guardian from the area.

MILF: Editorial -- BBL and IPRA

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Oct 25): Editorial -- BBL and IPRA

During the congressional hearing conducted by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Poblacion Nuro, Upi, Maguindanao on October 22, so much goodwill --- and irritations--- have been generated from both supporters and oppositors of the proposed law.
This only shows how important the proposed law on the lives of the inhabitants not only of those in the proposed Bangsamoro territory but even those living outside of it.

The center of discussion was about the move of the oppositors to include the Indigenous People’s Rights Act (IPRA) in the proposed BBL, which to its supporters is not necessary and relevant and will only create more problems rather than solutions.

While we respect both views, it is a fact, however, that the IPRA is for the indigenous peoples (IPs) while the BBL is for the Bangsamoro. It is as simple as that and let us not complicate it. 

More importantly, the BBL is not a simple legislation but rightly as a legislated agreement on the basis of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) after 17 years of hard negotiation that the parties resorted to it, instead of continuing the bloody confrontations in the battlefield that claimed the lives of 150,000 combatants and civilians. The IPRA, on the other hand, is the result of a social movement not only of the IPs but including right-minded individuals, civil society groups, and the international community, who cared for the indigenous communities who were and are still the most marginalized sectors in this country. President Fidel Ramos, who was surely behind it and signed the IPRA law in October 1997, should get a big share of the credit.

While there is no direct mention of IPRA in the proposed BBL, but all the essentials elements including the four bundles of rights are in it; in fact, there are “more plus, plus.”

One such outstanding feature of the BBL which is not in the IPRA but only in the mining law is the “equitable share” entitlement of the IPs on the revenues generated from the exploration, development and utilization of natural resources that are found within territories covered by native title. Moreover, while there is no direct mention of IPRA in the proposed BBL, but all the essentials elements including the four bundles of rights are in it; in fact, there are “more plus, plus.”

What is equitable?  It is a remedy or solution that is that is ethically or legally just and reasonable under the circumstances.

Why did the MILF oppose any direct reference to the IPRA in the BBL? First, the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has already given it the power and jurisdiction over ancestral domain and natural resources; second, the IPRA is tribal and clannish in application; third, it is not sufficient to address the concerns of the Bangsamoro over their ancestral homeland and ancestral domain, being surfaced-oriented legislation and never on the revenues generated; and fourth, drawing a line or delineating at any point especially in Maguindanao would create troubles not only between Moros and IPs but also IPs and IPS. Even the mainly IP municipalities of North Up and South Upi have mixed communities of Tidurays, Maguindanaons, and migrants; and besides, there were already land titles issued which must be respected.

Can we imagine the ill-effects of subdividing the Bangsamoro territory on the basis of tribes and clans (13 Moro tribes and one IP tribe and two or three sub-tribes, and countless clans)? Come, let us ponder on this!

MILF: MILF calls on foreign investors on plantation economy to go slowly and cautiously

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 25): MILF calls on foreign investors on plantation economy to go slowly and cautiously

A member of the MILF Central Committee has called on prospective foreign investors on plantation economy especially on palm oil to go slowly and be extra cautious as they might contribute unwittingly to the fast dispossession of ordinary people of their landholdings in the proposed Bangsamoro territory.
“Don’t rush up,” Sheikh Mohammad Muntassir, head of the Da’wah Department of the MILF, advised these foreign investors.

“Haste makes  waste,” he added.

Reports reaching the MILF said that there has been a massive acquisition of lands by powerful individuals especially in Maguindanao, who offered high prices for lands acquired by the government under the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) program called “Voluntary Offer to Sale” or VOS, which under the law are owned by tenants-beneficiaries.

He asked prospective investors to investigate first the status of the lands not just with the one dealing with them but also with the concerned agencies of government particularly the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

He also said that the MILF could offer some advises, saying that the MILF knows the status of the landholding in the Bangsamoro.

He disclosed that most of the internal conflicts in Moro society are due to conflicting land claims.

He also called on the Aquino administration to check on this anomalous purchases of lands covered by the agrarian reform program of government, saying if this development does not stop there would be serious land problem in the Bangsamoro in the very near future.

MILF: House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL holds consultations in Cotabato City; gains mass support

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 24): House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL holds consultations in Cotabato City; gains mass support

In a public consultations on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) held in this growing city of diverse cultures on October 23, 2014 at the Gymnasium of the Cotabato City State Polytechnic College (CCSPC), overwhelming support from multi-sectoral groups to the BBL is evidenced by a large number of participants who flocked to the gym and raised their views and concerns.
House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee Chairman Rufus Rodrigues of the 2nd District, Cagayan de Oro who chairs the House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL spearheaded the public hearing. 

ARMM Executive Secretary Atty. Laisa Masuhud Alamia said that the ARMM government is in full support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“The government of ARMM administration is fully supportive to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Atty. Alamia said in her opening message.

She believes that the BBL is the foundation of attaining lasting peace in Mindanao. Her message of support was hailed by participants from BTC, CSO’s, NGO’s, political leaders, ARMM and Regional Legislative Assembly workers, academe, religious groups, women and youth, among others.

Atty. Alamia expressed ARMM’s cooperation and support to House Bill No. 4994.

A group of peace advocates led by Sulong Bangsamoro Movement (SBM) bearing placards of support called on the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) agreed version of BBL.

Some of their placards said “BBL is the right formula for peace”, “Thank you for the prompt action on the BBL”, “Help pass the BBL.”

Meanwhile, the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a non-government organization with members from the Moro youth sector that engages in peace advocacy and development said in their position paper submitted to Cong. Rodriguez, “The UNYPAD firmly supports the GPH-MILF in their efforts for the creation of the Bangsamoro Government.”

In their position paper, it said:

- Bangsamoro Basic Law is the key towards genuine peace and development in Mindanao;

- Bangsamoro Basic Law will redefine Filipino–Bangsamoro relationship, which will open the path towards national unity and reconciliation;

- Bangsamoro Basic Law is an answer to human rights violations and injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people;

- Bangsamoro Basic Law will provide quality education to the Bangsamoro and will address poverty, and;

-Finally, the Bangsamoro Basic law is a deterrent to threat of radicalism in the Southern Philippines.

The public consultations by the House Ad Hoc Committee started in Poblacion Nuru, Upi, Maguindanao on October 22, Wednesday followed by another consultation at CCSPC Gymnasium and in General Santos City, on Friday.

Church leader hopeful of soldiers’ release

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Oct 24): Church leader hopeful of soldiers’ release

BOTH the New People’s Army (NPA) and the military have expressed desire to hasten the release of two government soldiers held captive by the Maoist insurgents for more than two months already, a church leader said Friday.

Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), said he sees no problem why Private First Class Marnel Cinches and Private First Class Jerrel Yorong should not be let go by their captors in a few weeks’ time.

Calang, a member of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (Pepp), one of the groups that acts as a mediator in the ongoing talks aimed at releasing the two soldiers, said Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is very open to this, but he made it clear that the military is in position to negotiate with the NPA.

Although, he added, Gazmin explained to him and Pepp chair Archbishop Antonio Ledesma in a October 16 meeting with the DND secretary that the “practical advice” regarding the suspension of military operations (Somo) leading to the eventual release of the captured soldiers will come from the local commanders, since it is they who are familiar with the situation on the ground.

Gazmin was referring to Major General Cesar Lactao, commanding general of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), and Colonel Jesse Alvarez of the 403rd Infantry Brigade.

Bukidnon, where Cinches and Yorong were taken at gunpoint by the guerrillas last August 22 falls under Alvarez’s area of responsibility.


Major Christian Uy, 4ID spokesman, said in a separate interview Friday that Lactao has already tasked Alvarez to handle this particular situation.

Uy said there is a continuous coordination between Alvarez and the third party advocates in addressing the issue.

Calang added that sitting down and discussing with the NPA about the release of the soldiers is the role of the local crisis committee headed by Governor Jose Maria Zubiri of Bukidnon.

Calang said that in a meeting he attended with the local crisis committee, Pepp leaders and military officials in Bukidnon on Thursday, Zubiri relayed to the group that the NPA has maintained its request for a 10-day Somo so it could facilitate the turnover of the captive soldiers without hitches.

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro tried to get Zubiri’s side through a text message sent to his staff, but no reply had been received at press time.

Since the military has maintained it can only enforce Somo for three days, Calang said he is hopeful that something could be worked out from this differing stand.

“Hopefully, within the week, we will get the result. We are hopeful the decision is mutual and beneficial to both parties,” Calang told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro.

He said he is not pessimistic since Gazmin has assured Pepp he will order a Somo, but that he (Gazmin) needs to hear first from the local commanders (Lactao and Alvarez) their recommendation before he could give his decision.

‘Fruitful meeting’

He said even Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno, the incumbent Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC) chair, is also doing his share in fast-tracking the soldier’s release.

He said Moreno and Lactao reportedly met a few days ago and that the result of the meeting was “fruitful.”

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro tried to get in touch with Moreno to ask him details about his meeting with Lactao, but failed.

Calang added that Zubiri also told the military that Cinches and Yorong have been taken good care of by the NPA and that the protocols of war are observed in the handling of the two soldiers.

“I think they (NPA) will protect [their captives] since it is not only their families that are involved but the church leaders and local government officials, as well,” he said.

Calang said all their efforts will be in vain if the NPA will not stand by ensuring that Cinches and Yorong are in good physical condition under their care.