Monday, October 27, 2014

NPA slams governor for island region bid

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 28): NPA slams governor for island region bid

The New People’s Army Leonardo Panaligan Command yesterday slammed Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. for pushing for a Negros Island Region and for his Negros First agenda.

Rebel spokesman Ka JB Regalado, said in a tape-recorded statement distributed to the local media, that the moves of Marañon were geared toward strengthening his control over the entire Negros Island.
Regalado also claimed that the NPA had launched a series of successful tactical offensives against the Philippine Army in central Negros, and alleged to have killed four Army soldiers in harassments of military outposts in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, and Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental.
Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, however, denied the rebel claims, saying that no such incident of harassment had taken place.
“That is plain and simple propaganda”, Tiongson said.
Rebel spokesman Ka JB Regalado, in the tape-recorded statement also said they successfully harassed the Alingasaw detachment in Moises Padilla on Sept. 16, that he claimed resulted in the killing of two Army soldiers, that was not reported by the military.
Regalado also claimed that personnel of the Alingasaw detachment were responsible for the death of activist Toto Quirante, and some of its members were linked to the molestation of a minor.
The rebel spokesman also said that the NPA successfully harassed the Balogo and T-Hill detachments in Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, and killed two more soldiers and caused injuries to two others.

Kidnap For Ransom Continues To Thrive In Southern Philippines

From Bernama (Oct 27): Kidnap For Ransom Continues To Thrive In Southern Philippines

The release of two Germans by the Abu Sayyaf after a 250 million pesos (US$5.56 million) ransom was paid has reinforced the perception that kidnapping for ransom continues to be a thriving business in southern Philippines.

Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Dielen, 55, had been held captive in the jungles of the island-province of Sulu about 960 km south of Manila after they were seized by Abu Sayyaf rebels in the Sulu seas in April, Xinhua news agency reports.

The government insisted that no state funds were used in paying the ransom on Oct 17, a claim affirmed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during an interview with foreign correspondents in Manila on Oct 22.

"You should ask the people who negotiated rather than me and in this particular case, the Germans were the ones who were negotiating," Aquino said.

A foreign wire agency quoted German government sources as saying that German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier had sent a special envoy to the Philippines to negotiate a deal with the Abu Sayyaf militants.

Sources said the envoy, Ruediger Koenig, arrived in Manila a day before the Germans were released.

The official statement of the Philippine military said the release of the hostages was the result of "military pressure."

But mayor Hussin Amin of Jolo, capital of Sulu province, called for an investigation of the alleged involvement of Philippine officials in payment of the ransom money.

The payment was made public by Abu Rami, spokesperson of Abu Sayyaf who confirmed that the group had received the whole 250 million pesos "no more no less."

Rami said top Philippine government officials were among members of a team that delivered the money to the Abu Sayyaf in an undisclosed village in Patikul, a town in Sulu province.

Mayor Amin said despite denials of government officials including Aquino, it appears that the Abu Sayyaf had received the ransom money it had earlier demanded for the Germans' release.

"If indeed ransom was paid, the government is indirectly arming the Abu Sayyaf. These bandits can buy many firearms with the money and they can further endanger our lives. There has to be an investigation," he said.

Retired police chief inspector Antonio Clarito said the Abu Sayyaf can now buy some 1,250 pieces of high-end and state-of-the art weapons with the latest ransom money it received.

Aquino has admitted that the Abu Sayyaf is still holding at least 11 hostages who are "in reasonably good health based on intelligence reports."

The Abu Sayyaf, tagged as a terrorist group by the US and Philippine governments, claims it is fighting to establish an independent homeland in the Muslim-populated south of the mainly Catholic Philippines.

In July, a video appeared on YouTube where one of the Abu Sayyaf leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) militants who have taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria.

But Philippine authorities have said that the Abu Sayyaf is mainly a criminal gang engaged in kidnappings for ransom and other lucrative illegal activities.

The group has kidnapped dozens of foreign aid workers, missionaries and tourists in the south.

And like the IS, the Abu Sayyaf is known for its brutal beheading of some of its captives including an American tourist seized in 2002.

Among hostages still being held by the Abu Sayyaf are two European birdwatchers, a Malaysian fish breeder and an elderly Japanese man.

Last year, the group released retired Australian soldier Warren Rodwell and Jordanian journalist Baker Atyani after ransoms were reportedly paid.

Local analysts have long wondered about why, despite its superior strength and resources, the Philippine military are still unable to defeat the Abu Sayyaf which is believed to have only a few hundred armed followers.

Muktadir brothers among 6 men wanted by cops over cross-border crimes

From Asiaone Malaysia (Oct 27): Muktadir brothers among 6 men wanted by cops over cross-border crimes

Muktadir brothers among 6 men wanted by cops over cross-border crimes

KOTA KINABALU - A hunt is on for six men including the infamous Muktadir brothers who are believed to be linked to various cross-border crimes in Sabah.

The brothers and their accomplices are believed to have been moving in and out of the state to the Philippines for kidnap-for-ransom activities, smuggling and other cross-border crimes during the past year here.

Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) commander Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun said the six identified as Badong, Ali @ Brown, Nikson - believed to be the Muktadir brothers; Bocai @ Komander Black, Wahab, and Alex - might have blended well with local communities in east coast Sabah.

"They are basically 'locals' and that is why we need assistance from the people in Sabah's east coast to cooperate with the police and provide us information as to where these men are (if they know)," he said on Monday.

"We need them to facilitate in police investigations pertaining to cross-border crimes here," he added, without elaborating further. Rashid said they were also depending on intelligence sources to locate these men.

"We don't know for sure where they are at the moment, but believe they are in and out of Sabah all the time," he said.

According to sources, the brothers are believed to be based in a water village in Sitangkai Island in the Tawi Tawi chain of islands that straddles Sabah's east coast.

It is learnt that they used to live in Semporna when their father worked as a security guard in the district before he became a notorious pirate ope­rating in Semporna waters from the southern Philip­pines.

AFP told to keep mum on Pemberton case

From the Manila Times (Oct 27): AFP told to keep mum on Pemberton case

With preliminary investigations against Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton ongoing, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it will no longer give any updates on the matter.

This was said by AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Monday.

He added that this was the instruction given to them by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) effective last Sunday.

“Everything concerning Pemberton will be handled by the DFA,” Catapang said in Filipino.

“And anyway, we are not really supposed to comment on the case as our role is to merely provide security,” he added.

Pemberton was transferred to the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board (MDB-SEB) compound in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City last Oct. 22.

An incident took place later in the day as German national Marc Suselbeck, together with members of the Laude family and their legal counsel, Atty. Harry Roque, made a scene by scaling the perimeter fence of the MDB-SEB facility.

Suselbeck is the supposed boyfriend of Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude, the Filipino transgender allegedly killed by Pemberton last Oct. 11.

Japan, China in talks to avoid war

From the Manila Times (Oct 27): Japan, China in talks to avoid war

Chinese defense officials are meeting a Japanese delegation in Beijing this week for informal talks on preventing simmering territorial disputes from erupting into armed conflict, the talks’ host said on Monday.

The former members of Japan’s Air and Marine Self-Defense Forces will meet with the current Chinese defense officials on Wednesday, as Tokyo calls for a first official meeting between Japanese premier Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Japan’s Sasakawa Peace Foundation, which has been involved in such talks over previous years, is hosting the forum amid fears of an armed conflict near the disputed Tokyo-controlled Senkaku islands, also claimed by China which calls them Diaoyus.

There will be two days of talks in the Chinese capital followed by two more meetings that will be held in Japan or China in the coming months, with a report expected early next year, the Foundation said.

“We’re hosting the meeting ahead of a resumption of official talks between defense authorities, and hope to help deepen communication between the two sides and create a positive atmosphere for bilateral relations,” foundation official Yu Zhan said.

While there are signs of a thawing in relations between Tokyo and Beijing, longstanding territorial conflicts and Chinese anger over Japan’s aggression in the first half of the 20th century have weighed on ties.

In November, Beijing unilaterally declared an air defense identification zone covering the East China Sea, which overlapped a similar Japanese zone and covered the bitterly contested islands.

In the same month, Japan accused China of flying fighter jets “dangerously” close to its military planes near the disputed archipelago—believed to harbor vast natural resources below its seabed —but Beijing laid the blame at Tokyo’s feet.

Last month, senior officials of the two countries agreed to resume stalled talks over setting up a hotline between defense officials to prevent an unintended conflict.

Abe and Xi, both strong nationalists, have not held direct talks, but the Japanese leader made brief contact with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang earlier this month at an international gathering in Italy. That followed other Japan-China meetings between senior officials and business leaders.

Last week, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso and China’s Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli briefly chatted on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation finance ministers’ gathering in Beijing, ahead of the forum’s annual summit next month.

You’ve got the wrong man, religious group tells AFP-PNP

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 27): You’ve got the wrong man, religious group tells AFP-PNP

Dominiciano Muya
Dominiciano Muya

“He is not an NPA (New People’s Army insurgent) but an agriculturist that we employed to ensure food, environmental and livelihood sustainability for indigenous communities that have requested for our schools.”

This was the statement made by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) as the group condemned the arrest of Dominiciano Muya whom they said was their consultant for sustainable agriculture program in Southern Mindanao since 2003 and later became its staff-in-charge of school construction when the Salugpongan Ta’ Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center was established.

Muya was arrested by the joint forces of the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police (PNP) last October 16 at around 1:45 pm in Tagum City, Davao del Norte.

Authorities maintained that Muya is a high-ranking New People’s Army (NPA) officer in Southern Mindanao, a contention that RMP rejected.

Muya, who had a P4.8-million bounty on his head when he was arrested, also yielded a .45-caliber pistol with serial number 060878, a hand grenade, two cellular phones and subversive documents.

He was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest for the crimes of robbery with double homicide and damage to properties filed at the RTC Branch 10 in Bayugan City Agusan del Sur; and criminal cases of multiple murder and double frustrated murder filed at RTC Branch 8 in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon.

Gen. Eduardo Año, commander of the 10th Infantry Division said Muya was involved in the killing of PO1 Marito Correos and PO1 Rey Mongaya Ejercito in Bayugan,
Agusan del Sur last June 19, 2004; he is also responsible for the killing of 2Lt. Lucresio Julampong in Barangay Bantawan, Baganga, Davao Oriental last June 14, 2009.

But the RMP said Muya had nothing to do with the accusations hurled against his person by the military and the police.

They said Muya is an agriculturist and a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, major in Soil Science in University of Southern Mindanao in North Cotabato.

The group also claimed that the handgun and the grenade taken from Muya, as reported by authorities were all planted on him and are, thus, considered false evidences.

“He was illegally arrested while doing his regular work for RMP-Southern Mindanao”, the group said, adding that Muya was “canvassing for construction materials” when arrested.

Meanwhile, the Southern Mindanao Regional Command of the NPA assailed the arrest of Muya, saying that the army “wrongly accused Muya as part of the CPP (Communist Party of the Philippines) – Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA’s Southern Mindanao Regional Command, said that the AFP “manufactured the criminal charges” against Muya.

“The 10th ID-Eastern Mindanao Command arrest and detention of Muya is part of its crackdown against advocates, educators and non-government workers who are serving the poor and the neglected Lumads and peasants in Talaingod and Kapalong towns and other parts of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and other provinces in Mindanao,” Sanchez pointed out.

13 senators want VFA review, not rejection

From InterAksyon (Oct 28): 13 senators want VFA review, not rejection

At least 13 senators, mostly allied with the Aquino administration, rejected the joint resolution filed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Akbayan partylist Rep. Walden Bello to abrogate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), supporting instead its review.

Thirteen was also the number of senators who made the historic decision to scrap the Philippines-United States Military Bases Agreement. The current call to do away with the VFA came following the murder of transgender Filipino woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude” allegedly by an American serviceman.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said he is not in favor of the abrogation of the VFA but agreed that the 1999 treaty need to be reviewed.

“I’m not in favor of abrogation. At the very least, review. But I’m not in favor of abrogation,” Drilon said.

The other senators who supported a review and not the scrapping of the agreement are: Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Cynthia Villar, Paolo Benigno Aquino, Grace Poe, Sergio Osmeña III, Pia Cayetano, Acting Senate Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III, JV Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Aquilino Pimentel III, Nancy Binay, and Sen. Loren Legarda.

Only Sen. Teofisto Guingona III supported Santiago’s call for its abrogation.

‘Serve notice of VFA termination’

In the joint resolution, Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, and Bello sought to terminate the VFA with the US. 

It also directed Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to serve the notice of termination of the VFA to the United States.

Aside from the inequity of the VFA on the jurisdiction and custody over US servicemen who have committed crimes within the Philippine territory, the joint resolution also called for its termination due to its unfavorable effect to the country’s sovereignty, environment, and human rights record.

It enumerated the following controversies involving US military forces in the country:
  1. In 2012, Glen Defense Marine Asia, a US Navy contractor, was investigated for allegedly dumping hazardous wastes in Subic Bay.
  2. In 2013, the USS Guardian ran aground the Tubbataha Reefs, causing massive damage to the Reefs.
  3. On 11 October 2014, transwoman Jennifer Laude died in an Olongapo City motel, allegedly in the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, for which Pemberton is currently facing a murder charge before the Olongapo City prosecutor’s office.
According to the joint resolution, these incidents clearly violate the Constitution and Philippine criminal laws; trample on Philippine sovereignty; and infringe on local and international laws pertaining to the protection of the environment.

The cases show that the VFA is used to shield transgressions made by US military on Philippine soil, seriously infringing on the country’s ability to prosecute these criminal acts, it said.

On the claim that the country needs the VFA against China, Santiago said, “The VFA does not imply that the US will come to our aid, in case of a fire fight with China over the West Philippine Sea. On the contrary, in 2013, then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the US would be neutral.”

Historic Senate rejection

On 16 September 1991, the Senate rejected the proposed Philippines-US Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Security that sought to extend the US bases in Clark and Subic to 10 more years.

Subsequently, the Military Bases Agreement was terminated on 21 December 1992 when the 25-year tenure lapsed, prompting the US to vacate its bases by the end 1992.

After the US turned over the military bases, the government transformed them into economic zones spearheaded by the Bases Conversion Development Authority, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, and the Clark Development Corporation.

The government however restored American military presence in the country through joint military exercises called Balikatan contained in the VFA ratified by the Senate on 27 May 1999.

AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan fails to meet target

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 28): AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan fails to meet target

The military’s internal peace and security plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan,” designed to render the insurgency problem to irrelevant level by 2016, has failed to curb the armed strength of the communist New People’s Army (NPA), three years after it was launched.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said that based on latest assessment, the NPA strength is estimated at “4,000 plus more or less.”

When IPSP “Bayanihan” was launched by the AFP in 2011, the NPA strength was placed at more than 4,000. It was designed to defeat insurgency by 2016.

IPSP “Bayanihan” is a brainchild of former AFP chief and now executive director of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace Undersecretary Emmanuel Bautista.

Catapang said that based on latest assessment, there are places where the number of NPA rebels are dwindling while in some areas they are growing.

The AFP chief said that the military has adopted new system in determining the exact strength of the communist forces.

“We are accounting, zero-based accounting…anyway, in December, we will give the final figures,” Catapang said.

Catapang, however, maintained that the non-significant change in the armed strength of the NPAs is not blamed on the failure of the military in addressing insurgency problem.

“It’s too early to tell that,” Catapang said.

In a statement earlier, AFP spokesman Maj. Gen. Domingo Tutaan claimed that IPSP “Bayanihan” has not only remained on-track but led to significant gains on the part of the government.

“The IPSP Bayanihan has not only remained on track but has brought significant gains in the past year particularly in addressing communist insurgency. Through successful internal peace and security operations, more NPA rebels are now surrendering to the government fold and their influence and mass-base support continue to wane,” Tutaan said.

Italian man reported missing in Sabah sneaks into Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Oct 27): Italian man reported missing in Sabah sneaks into Philippines

Missing Italian William Bocchi. (Photo by

An Italian businessman who was reported missing in Sabah, Malaysia has entered Zamboanga City in southern Philippines, but his whereabouts is unknown, Filipino immigration officials said.

Malaysia’s The Star Online reported that the 52-year old William Bocchi - who is in the financial service business and a sales representative for a compressor distributor - was reported missing since October 13 and believed to have boarded the ferry Danica Joy in Sandakan on October 14 and since then have not been heard off.

“We have confirmed that William Bocchi arrived on board (the ferry) Danica Joy and has legally entered Zamboanga City from Sabah,” Sitti Rubaina Lutian, the regional immigration head, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Lutian said they do not know the current location of Bocchi since he entered Zamboanga City as a tourist. “The mere fact that Bocchi entered Zamboanga City is a good development because the information now shows that he is not missing in Sabah and has travelled to Zamboanga City,” she said.

She said tourists can stay for as long as three years and even apply for a permanent residency provided they comply with immigration requirements and do not violate Philippine laws.

Philippine authorities have launched a discreet search for Bocchi after news of his disappearance reached Zamboanga City.

The Star Online reported that Bocchi, who arrived in Malaysia through the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on October 12, flew over to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah the following day before making a connecting flight to Lahad Datu.

Lahad Datu businessman Sia Yiik Huon had reported Bocchi’s disappearance on October 20 after being alerted by a friend in Kuala Lumpur who received an email from Bocchi’s colleague, known as Fabio, who said the missing Italian was due to return home on October 16. He said Bocchi was supposed to have met a client in Lahad Datu.

According to the report, Bocchi was last seen arriving at the Lahad Datu airport on October 13 from Kota Kinabalu and police had since determined that the businessman had taken a bus from there to Sandakan the same day. In Sandakan, Bocchi checked into a hotel in the downtown area at about 9.25 p.m. on October 13 and left the following day.

Sabah police said it was Bocchi’s first visit to Sabah. The Star Online said the Italian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur had been kept abreast of efforts to locate Bocchi. The Embassy has been keeping in touch with Bocchi’s family.

US Marine says no basis for Laude murder charge

From Rappler (Oct 27): US Marine says no basis for Laude murder charge

If prosecutors elevate the case to court, US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton asks that the murder charge be reduced to homicide, says his lawyer

PRELIMINARY HEARING. The Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office resumes preliminary hearing on the Pemberton case. Photo by Randy Datu
PRELIMINARY HEARING. The Olongapo City Prosecutor's Office resumes preliminary hearing on the Pemberton case. Photo by Randy Datu

A US Marine accused of killing a transgender woman in the Philippines said there was no basis to charge him with murder, his lawyer told state prosecutors on Monday, October 27, in the latest development in the politically charged case.

Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is detained at the Philippines' military headquarters in Manila, did not attend the preliminary hearing in Olongapo, but his lawyer filed a motion to "declare the absence of probable cause for murder or any other crime."
If prosecutors elevate the case to court, Pemberton asked that the murder charge be reduced to homicide, his lawyer Rowena Flores, said. Murder carries a maximum penalty of life in prison while the maximum penalty for homicide is 20 years.
Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old transgender woman, was found lifeless on October 11 in a cheap hotel in Olongapo City half naked in a bathroom with strangle marks on her neck, according to police.
The cause of death was "asphyxia by drowning", police said.
Pemberton, who had just finished participating in US-Philippine military exercises near Olongapo, had checked into the hotel with Laude and was the last person seen with her, police said.
'Don't teach us'
The head of the preliminary investigation rejected Pemberton's pleas Monday.
"We will rule on probable cause after we complete the process. Don't teach us what to do," chief prosecutor Fe de los Santos told Pemberton's lawyer.
"The bottom line is we will go on with the preliminary investigation," she said.
Next week state prosecutors will inspect the Olongapo night club and hotel where Pemberton and Laude were seen on the night of the murder, de los Santos added.
During the televised hearing on Monday, Laude's mother asked prosecutors to allow her to see Pemberton in detention but de los Santos disagreed.
A spokesperson for the US Embassy in Manila was not available for comment.
Laude's murder has renewed anti-US sentiment in the former American colony sparking street protests in Manila.
On Monday, some 50 protesters held a rally near a government building where the hearing was held.
The incident also revived calls to review a 1998 agreement that governs joint exercises between Philippine and American forces.
On Friday, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the implementation of the agreement was being reviewed but it would not be renegotiated.

2 NPAs killed in clash with soldiers, cops in Davao del Norte

From InterAksyon (Oct 27): 2 NPAs killed in clash with soldiers, cops in Davao del Norte

Eastmincom chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad is welcomed by the Army 10th ID's chief, Major Gen. Eduardo Ano, in file photo.

Two suspected members of the New People's Army whom the military claimed were on extortion rounds were killed in a clash with soldiers and policemen in Davao del Norte Sunday.

The unidentified gunmen fired upon the soldiers of 60th Infantry Battalion and Kapalong PNP around 11:16 a.m., October 26, prompting the government security forces, belated reports said Monday.  The incident happened in Sitio Marmol, Kimataan II, Brgy. Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.

The soldiers of the 60th Infantry Battalion and Kapalong PNP elements recovered one AK-47 rifle from the NPA group after an hour's firefight. There was no casualty on the government side, and the soldiers were still pursuing the rest of the group.

Earlier, said the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command, concerned citizens tipped off the soldiers on alleged extortion perpetrated by the NPA in their village.

Residents revealed that there were wounded NPA members who managed to escape after the firefight.

The soldiers and local PNP intensified their joint law enforcement operations to complement the peace and development operations in Eastern Mindanao.

Earlier, on October 14, 2014, two NPA members also on alleged extortion rounds were killed, two were arrested, and soldiers recovered 11 assorted high-powered firearms from the suspected rebels who encountered soldiers of 72nd Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Kinangan, Malita, Davao del Sur.

EASTMINCOM Commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad earlier commended all military unit commanders in the area for securing the people in the far-flung areas. He also encouraged NPA members to return to the folds of the law with their firearms. “Our campaign here is to win the peace. We want to help NPA members to safely return to the folds of the law and live a normal life,” Baladad said.