Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Government to issue White Paper on terror threat, says Zahid – Bernama

From the Malaysian Insider (Oct 28): Government to issue White Paper on terror threat, says Zahid – Bernama

The government is to issue a White Paper soon to inform the people of the threat of terrorism posed by certain Malaysian individuals, the Dewan Rakyat was told today. 

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pic) said police statistics indicated that 167 Malaysians were involved in militant activities abroad since December 2001. In a written reply to a question from Dr Ko Chung Sen (DAP-Kampar), he said 39 of these people were involved in the so-called Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

"I do not propose to reveal details of their involvement for fear that this can interfere with the ongoing investigations by the police," he said.

Zahid said the government, through the Immigration Department, had blacklisted those suspected to be involved in militant activities by placing their names on the Security List so as to detect them at the main entry points of the country.

"The Royal Malaysia Police has forged close cooperation with foreign intelligence agencies to check these individuals. The efforts encompass continued cooperation as well as exchange of intelligence information, especially among the Asean countries," he said.

Zahid said the police were also conducting investigations on individuals or groups suspected to be a threat against security and public order. Should there be evidence of their involvement in militant activities, action would be taken against them under existing laws, including the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001, he said.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said the government constantly took various measures to strengthen security along the Sabah east coast.

The police worked closely with the armed forces to handle the situation, he said in a written reply to a question from Liew Chin Tong (DAP-Kluang). Hishammuddin said the armed forces had stationed its personnel in strategic locations to thwart any threat to security, not just from the Sulu militia.


MILF: Islamic Workshops iFIX: “A Cure for the heart and the Tongue” held in Cotabato City

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 29): Islamic Workshops iFIX: “A Cure for the heart and the Tongue” held in Cotabato City

An Islamic Workshop entitled “iFIX: A Cure for the Heart and the Tongue” was held on October 27, 2014 at Alnor Hotel and Convention Center, Cotabato City. It was organized by the UNION OF MUSLIM YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS, composed of UVPN, MSA, IUB, INFO, BRO, JTO, Mujaddidat, Anfal Brothers, TRO, MYRO, MYS, BASEDMin, DYMAMin, BSIE & SSG-CCSPC, UNYPhil, YDP, KCASA, BUM, SI, Jum’iyatul Huffadz bil Filibeen and MPDA, in partnership with CONNECT INSTITUTE-PHILIPPINES.
An estimated 700 Muslim youth  and women including some Christians from various groups and communities attended the activity. 

Mufti Abu Huraira Udasan, the Grand Mufti of the Philippines delivered an inspirational message. Another short message was given by the Local Adviser of Connect Institute – Philippines-Ustadh Ahmad Javier. Brother Wael Ebrahim, International Preacher/Founder and Chairman of Serving Islam Team Hongkong lectured and facilitated the workshops..

The topics discussed were “The True Religion: Islam”, given by Mufti Abu Huraira; “The 10 Major Diseases of the Tongue and the Heart and its Cures” were presented by Brother Wael. He also discussed “WE ARE NOT TERRORISTS” where a lot of questions were raised and well-answered by him.

The activity was highlighted by an unexpected reversion of a young Christian woman who suddenly stood at the height of the program, saying emotionally that she wanted to embrace Islam. Her declaration of the Kalimatus Shahada ,”Ashhadu an laa ilaaha illaa Allah wa ashhadu anna Muhammadan 'abduhu wa rasooluhu”, (I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah), was assisted by Brother Wael. The participants rejoiced and chanted Allahu Akbar! (Allah is Greatest).

The program ended, awakening the participants about the need for “Fixing one's self”. This is to achieve one noble mission with one goal carrying One RABB (Lord), One DEEN (Religion) and One UMMAH (Nation) and that is UNITY.


MILF: Japan sets deadline for HRD Peacebuilding Coursework

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 29): Japan sets deadline for HRD Peacebuilding Coursework

Japan had set the deadline of applications for the Program on Human Resource Development (HRD) for Peacebuilding ,FY-2014, for the Non-Japanese Program Associates (PAs) on November 10, 2014  at the Embassy of Japan from an  identified eligible country until 5pm Japan Time (GMT+9).
The eligible countries who can join the program are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Somalia, and Vietnam.

This program was established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA) in 2007 by which the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center (HPC) was commissioned by MOFA to coordinates the program in cooperation with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme.

The program is aimed at strengthening civilian capacity of Japan and other countries in the field of peacebuilding.

At least 256 Program Associates both Japanese and non-Japanese have already graduated from the program over the past seven (7) years.

The 15 Non-Japanese PAs will participate in the Primary Course Coursework in Tokyo and Hiroshima from January 23, 2015 to February 27 (March 3), 2015, together with 15 Japanese PAs.

From the Philippines, particularly the Bangsamoro, the alumni who successfully graduated from the rigid Program Associates were Atty. Zainudin S. Malang, this writer, and Mr. Mahmod M. Tulino. These PAs are now engaged in peacebuilding activities in Mindanao and abroad.

For general inquiries on the contents of the program, applicants can inquire thru http://www.peacebuilderscenter.jp/eng/index_e.html or at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website http://www.mofa.go.jp/fp/ipc/page22e_000556.html


MILF: Japan offers scholarship for young Bangsamoro professionals

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 28): Japan offers scholarship for young Bangsamoro professionals

The Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship (JDS) conducted a Pre-Orientation and Tutorial program for the young Bangsamoro professionals held at Al Nor Convention Center, Cotabato City on Tuesday, October 21.
The orientation has participated in by professionals in Central Mindanao.

JDS fellows have also shared their experiences in Japan that motivated participants to join in the program.

The JDS started sending scholars for Master degree in 2003 to Japan, executed by NEDA with the assistance of the government of Japan through JICA.

The JDS programs have prioritized four slots for the Bangsamoro and two slots for other organizations in the Philippines who could be granted for scholarship to study in Japan. The courses are specifically for One-year Master’s Program of Public Policy to be offered by the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) and Two-year Masters of Agriculture, Science, International Cooperation Studies and Engineering which will be offered by the Hiroshima University.

Ms Kuno Kawatani Yuko, Administration Section of JICA said that the JDS program for the academic year 2015-2016, in the context of Bangsamoro, purposely is in support for the establishment of new Bangsamoro Autonomous government.
“This program is in cooperation with the Bangsamoro Transition Commission,” Ms Yuko said.

Ms Yuko said further that the Bangsamoro applicants in the JDS program are coming from Government officials and non-government organizations (NGOs).

“The head of the NGO will have to nominate their applicants to BTC, the BTC will receive all applicants’ papers, do the screening process and finally endorse them to Japan International Cooperation Centre or JICE,” Ms Yuko elaborated.
Who are the eligible applicants?

It must be a Filipino Citizen, between 22-39 years old as of April 1, 2015; must be an employee of target organizations and not to be a member of military;
currently employed in the target organization, has permanent status, has 2 years or work experience in duties particularly relevant to the selected component, at the time of application; has bachelor’s degree relevant to the applying fields; has a performance rating of at least “very satisfactory” from July 2013 to June 2014; and has not been awarded foreign scholarship for Master’s degree.

The ‘Bangsamoro prioritized slot’ accordingly has given special qualification may apply. The submission of application documents to BTC office is on or before November 14, 2014.

Other processes and requirements for JDS application can obtain from http://jds-scholarship.org/.   For further inquiries, the JDS can be contacted at Tel. No.: 02-753-3261, and or email jicejdsphilippines@yahoo.com This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The purpose of the JDS program is to support human resource development in countries that receive Japanese grant aid, targeting highly capable, young government officials and others who are expected to engage in formulating and implementing social and economic development plans and to become leaders in their countries.


MILF members linked to Sultan Kudarat attacks

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Oct 28): MILF members linked to Sultan Kudarat attacks

SULTAN KUDARAT – Police are verifying reports that some members of the former rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front may have been involved in recent attacks by jihadist Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Sultan Kudarat province in southern Philippines.

The BIFF, a splinter group of the MILF, attacked military and civilian targets in President Quirino town and nearby areas. The recent attack in the town killed a civilian and wounded two more in Katiku village.

Police also relayed this information to members of the International Monitoring Team which is overseeing the cease-fire accord between the MILF and the Aquino government. The MILF has signed a peace accord with Manila last year, ending decades of bloody fighting in the restive region.

The BIFF has been fighting for independence in Mindanao and has pledged allegiance with the Sunni jihadist group ISIS in Iraq and Syria.


MILF combatants to keep small guns in Bangsamoro

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 28): MILF combatants to keep small guns in Bangsamoro

While the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be bound by its peace accord with the government and will yield all its high-powered firearms when a new Bangsamoro political entity in Mindanao is established, its combatants will be allowed to keep small guns for their security.

This was pointed out by government peace panel chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer in a recent forum on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) sponsored here by the Maguindanao provincial government in conjunction with an anti-criminality and disaster preparedness conference among civilian, police and military authorities.

Under the peace accord’s annex on normalization, the MILF combat force’s big firearms will be kept by an independent body which would include representatives of foreign entities as well as the rebel front and military hierarchies, Ferrer explained.

She said a formal ceremony for the initial turnover of MILF high powered guns will likely be conducted before the passage of the BBL by Congress early next year.

But she qualified that small firearms, such as handguns, may be retained by MILF members for personal security.

Police auxiliary services in the proposed region will also be allowed to carry hand guns.

Upon the passage of the law, a Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will be established immediately to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and prepare for the BBL-prescribed creation of the Bangsamoro geo-political entity.


Villagers flee after tribal leader's killing in southern Philippines

From UCA News (Oct 28): Villagers flee after tribal leader's killing in southern Philippines

Manobo community says government-backed paramilitary group responsible for multiple attacks

Some 1,600 Manobo tribal villagers have fled their homes in the mountains of Surigao del Sur province after armed men killed a tribal leader, shot at homes, and burned houses and school buildings.

The military said it has launched an "intense offensive" against communist New People's Army rebels in at least three hinterland villages of Lianga town in the southern Philippines, but denied committing atrocities against residents.

"These allegations are meant to smear the reputation of the military," said Major Christian Uy, an army spokesman.

Uy, however, told ucanews.com that the military operation might have sparked the evacuation of villagers.

The tribesmen fled their homes after the killing of tribal leader Henry Alameda, 44, allegedly by a government-backed paramilitary unit in the village of San Isidro.

Alameda was leader of the group Continuing Struggle for the Next Generation, known by the Tagalog acronym Mapasu, which has been vocal in opposing plans to mine the Manobos' ancestral land.

Human rights group Karapatan reported that on the same day Alameda was killed, gunmen believed to belong to the Bagani paramilitary group also shot at a village official and his son in the village of San Lorenzo. The attack resulted in the death of Alden Dumaguit, 21, and the wounding of his father, village chieftain Undo.

The armed men also shot at houses in the village, injuring two other men and a child.
Onel Campos, spokesman of Mapasu, said the soldiers entered the villages on Friday and ransacked a village store, burned a corn husking machine donated by the Red Cross and destroyed a community school.

"The lives of our people are in danger," Campos told ucanews.com in a telephone interview.

"We are trying to assess the damage but presently we have identified more or less five houses that were destroyed or damaged either in the fire or during the strafing," Naty Castro, secretary general of Karapatan, told ucanews.com.

Captain Jasper Gacayan, an army spokesman, told ucanews.com "that these incidents happened, but our soldiers are not involved in these activities".

"The military is adhering to the International Humanitarian Law. If any witness can help identify the perpetrators, we are willing to help," he said.

He also confirmed the existence of the group Bagani, but denied that it is a paramilitary unit. Rather, he said, it is a group of tribal warriors formed by another tribal group as a "self-defense" mechanism against communist rebels.

"We backed up the Bagani because they are also victims of human rights violations and it is our mandate to protect communities form violence," Gacayan said.


Albay folk get food from soldiers’ allowance

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 27): Albay folk get food from soldiers’ allowance

GUINOBATAN, Albay—Some 2,200 families now staying in temporary evacuation centers in Albay due to the threat of Mount Mayon’s eruption will be eating food bought with soldiers’ allowances.

Maj. Angelo Guzman, spokesperson of Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said the food packs, each consisted of 1.5 kilograms of whole frozen chicken, a bag of “sigarilyas” (winged beans), a whole head of squash and half a kilo of dried fish, were bought using combined subsistence allowances from soldiers under Solcom.

He said soldiers voluntarily gave up a day of their allowance, equivalent to P90, to buy the items for the evacuees in Guinobatan East Central School
and Mauraro Elementary School, both in Guinobatan town; and the Cabangan Elementary School in Camalig town.

He said the amount reached P602,000, gathered from soldiers under Solcom’s 2nd Cavalry Squadron, 3rd Communications Electronics and Information Systems Group, Philippine Army’s 2nd and 9th Infantry Division, Naval Forces Southern Luzon, Tactical Operations Group 4 and 5 of the Philippine Air Force and Solcom Headquarters.

“A burden shared becomes less of a burden,” explained Solcom commander Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya.

Guzman said the effort was made to help the local government of Albay address the nutritional needs of their evacuees.

He said food remains a primary concern among evacuees as attested by reports from Army soldiers guarding the 6-kilometer permanent danger zone (PDZ) who found out that the main reason the evacuees return to their homes and farms was to harvest vegetables and livestock for food.

Col. Samuel Gayongorsa, Solcom’s chief of Unified Command Staff, and Col. Raul Farnacio, commander of 901st Infantry Brigade, turned over the food packs for distribution to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda during his birthday celebration at Guinobatan East Central School on Sunday morning.

Mayon Volcano remained in a state of lull but Salceda said he had no plan of sending back to their houses the evacuees who have been living in shelters for 42 days until the alert level is lowered from 3 to 2.

“In terms of calamities especially during the restiveness of Mayon, attaining zero casualty is our main goal. Albay must not only be safe for tourists, for traders, but Albay must be safe for its own people,” Salceda told evacuees at Guinobatan East Central School.

Salceda said the provincial government has identified the possible permanent relocation area for residents of the 6-km PDZ, to be developed with the help of the National Housing Authority.

Cedric Daep, chief of the Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office (Apsemo), said that if the alert level was to be lifted, evacuees living within the 7- to 8-km extended danger zone would be allowed to go home but not those from the 6-km PDZ.

Aside from food packs, evacuees have also been receiving psychosocial care activities and medical and dental checkups from the provincial government, different government line agencies, the AFP and the Philippine National Police.


Asean disunity playing into Chinese hands

From the Manila Times (Oct 28): Asean disunity playing into Chinese hands

Differences helping China to extend its ‘sphere of influence’ – Stratfor
China is taking advantage of the lack of unity among the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to extend its power in the region, a visiting geopolitical expert said on Monday.

Rodger Baker, East Asia and Pacific Vice President of Stratfor Global Intelligence, described the regional political situation in a conversation with reporters and editors of The Manila Times. “China is not pursuing territorial objectives as much as it is seeking to extend its ‘sphere of influence,’” Baker said. Part of the way it is doing that, Baker explained, is by making the most of the inability of the Asean to take a collective position with regards to China’s actions in the South China Sea.

“Overall, China is the biggest trade partner of the Asean, accounting for something like 39 percent of the group’s imports,” Baker said. “It has an economic relationship with every one of the ten Asean countries, but each is a little different.” These differences help to keep the bloc from taking a united stand. “For countries like Cambodia or Myanmar, the South China Sea is not an issue. So asking them to put their economic relationship with China at risk by supporting a position that doesn’t have any tangible benefit to them is a really tough sell.”

Part of the difficulty in achieving Asean unity lies in its history, according to Baker.
“The Asean, which was originally five nations, was formed as a barrier against Communism. At that time, there was a clear-cut difference in economic systems; countries either belonged to this system or the other. That’s no longer the case —that clear division has disappeared,” Baker explained.

As a result, economic and to some degree political aims have become more complex and much more individualistic, Baker suggested. “We can take a look at what happened before 1996-1997,” he said. “The Asean was this new power, and seen as being on its way to becoming something big. And then the crisis [the Asian financial crisis] hit, and everything sort of went to pieces; countries started looking out for themselves, and we started seeing a lot more competition, a lot more nationalistic attitudes among them.”

Writing for Yale Global in the wake of the disappointing Asean regional meeting this past August, author Bertil Lintner pointed out an aspect of the Asean group that might explain the lack of unity described by Baker. “Asean functions on two cardinal principles: consensus and non-interference in member states’ internal affairs,” Lindner wrote. “In effect, Asean finds it impossible to take any unified stand in regional conflicts—or address bilateral issues between its various members.” As economic ties with China are almost entirely ‘internal affairs’ from the individual member-nations’ points of view, anything that would impact them would technically be off-limits; a point that members such as Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia who rely more heavily than the others on Chinese trade and investment would undoubtedly remain firm on.

While China is so far doing a very good job of using the economic opportunities the Southeast Asian region offers—Baker describes it as one of the three regions, along with East Africa and Northern Latin America, that Stratfor sees as currently the most promising growth areas in the world—to bolster its geopolitical influence, it does run the risk of overplaying it, according to Baker.

“We’ve seen some evidence of a kind of nationalistic push-back against Chinese economic influence,” he said, citing some changes in investment rules and the cancellation of a massive Chinese-funded dam project in Myanmar as examples. So even though Asean cooperation may be “a very long way off,” as Baker put it, there may be encouraging signs that Asean members’ own self-interests might keep Chinese influence from becoming uncomfortably strong. “It seems that countries which have relied heavily on Chinese investment reach a point where they suddenly fear being economically dominated, and they tighten up,” he explained.

Baker also pointed out another critical aspect of the Chinese economy that serves to limit just how far it can push its geopolitical objectives. “There are about 400 million Chinese who are benefiting from the country’s economic growth,” he said.

“But that means there are about 900 million who are not. That’s a very serious concern for the government, so developing the country’s domestic economy is the main priority.”

That suggests that any intentional move that might put that objective in jeopardy is not in China’s plans; Baker himself assesses the chances of a wider, more aggressive conflict in the South China Sea as “low.” “China is simply not going to risk a serious escalation for the sake of some indefensible rocks,” he concluded.

Rodger Baker will be one of the expert speakers at The Manila Times Business Forum today to be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati.


Officials intervene to avoid looming clan war in North Cotabato

From the Philippine Star (Oct 28): Officials intervene to avoid looming clan war in North Cotabato

Local officials in Kabacan town on Wednesday started trying to amicably end the tension between two big families whose leaders were killed on Monday in a gun duel.

Jerry Manalo, chair of Barangay Aringgay and his longtime adversary, businessman Clemente Molina, killed each other using caliber .45 pistols in an incident that heightened the animosity between their families.

Superintendent Jordine Maribojo, chief of the Kabacan municipal police, said Molina and Manalo died from gunshot wounds sustained in the duel, which sent people in the scene of the encounter running for their lives.

The two reportedly met at a busy spot in the town proper of Kabacan and immediately challenged each other to a gunfight.

Molina opened fire first hitting Manalo in the chest. Manalo returned fire and felled Molina with a single shot in the head.

Manalo eventually died the same day while being treated of his gunshot wound in a hospital.

Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman Jr., chair of the municipal peace and order council, sent emissaries to convince the Manalo and Molina families to refrain from retaliating to prevent any escalation of hostilities between them.

Guzman tasked Maribojo to try to reconcile the two clans with the help of municipal elders and religious leaders.


Abu Sayyaf leader teaching at Basilan high school nabbed

From the Philippine Star (Oct 28): Abu Sayyaf leader teaching at Basilan high school nabbed

A public high school teacher allegedly doubling as a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group was arrested by police operatives in a predawn raid on Tuesday in Lamitan City, Basilan.

The Regional Intelligence Division (RID) of the Police Regional Office (PRO) 9 identified the arrested suspect as a certain Nasser Usman, who teaches at the Tandung Ahas National High School.

The RID group backed by members of the Regional Public Safety Battalion and Special Action Force and elements of the Isabela City Police Station served the warrant of arrest at the suspect's home in Barangay Tandung Ahas at around 1:15 a.m.

The arrest warrant was issued by Judge Danilo Bucoy of Regional Trial Court  (RTC) branch 2 of the 9th Judicial Region in Isabela City for four counts of kidnapping with serious illegal detention in connection with the June 2001 Lamitan siege.

The suspect was also tagged in the 1995 siege in Ipil town, Zamboanga Sibugay and the mass abduction in Tumahubong in March 2000 in Sumisip town.

The RID said that Usman was a sub-leader of the Abu Sayyaf Group tasked in the Islamic propagation and indoctrination of members.

The suspect has been brought to the regional intelligence headquarters in this city for tactical interrogation.


Two schools of thought on the Bangsamoro bill

From Rappler (Oct 28): Two schools of thought on the Bangsamoro bill

CONSTITUTIONALITY. Former Justices attend the Ad Hoc Committee hearing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

CONSTITUTIONALITY. Former Justices attend the Ad Hoc Committee hearing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

Concerns over the constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are centered on these questions: Do you choose to read the Constitution broadly or restrictively? Are you open to the concept of "asymmetrical relationship" between the envisioned Bangsamoro and the central government or are you not?

With these comments, lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan, co-chair of the Philippine Bar Association, summed up the main points of the House ad hoc committee hearing on the bill with former justices and legal experts on Tuesday, October 28. (READ: Legal experts take on Bangsamoro bill)
As expected, opinions on the proposed law were divided. Former Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza said the BBL is unconstitutional while former Supreme Court Justice Adolf Azcuna led those who said that it is within the bounds of the Constitution.
Mendoza acknowledged that while the BBL, a product of the final peace accord between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), is an improvement over the failed Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain of the MILF and the Arroyo government, he still doubts the constitutionality of major provisions.
"I am of the opinion that House Bill 4994 is beyond the powers of the Congress to pass," Mendoza said.
Azcuna, meanwhile, said the recognition of the Philippine Constitution in the BBL preamble "should lay to rest the concern that the exercise does not mention the Constitution at all."
Mendoza raised 5 main provisions in the BBL, which he said were unconstitutional. Azcuna and government peace panel member Chito Gascon – members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission – offered their counter-opinions.
1. Use of the term 'Bangsamoro territory'
Mendoza: To call the proposed political entity as a "Bangsamoro territory" is to consider it a separate part of the Philippines although under its jurisdiction. Such a political entity is only a little different to the "associative relationship" of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity under the MOA-AD. The Constitution does not contemplate any state in the jurisdiction of the state much less does it provide for a transition status that prepares any part of the Philippines for independence.
Azcuna: Bangsamoro means "nation of the Moro." It's a recognition of a nation of people with a distinct culture. There can be many nations within a state. Although it is thinking out of the box, it is not unconstitutional.
2. Use of the term 'Bangsamoro people'
Mendoza: Provisions referring to "Bangsamoro people" limit suffrage and membership to the Bangsamoro government to those who ascribe to the Bangsamoro identity thus denying the rights and privileges of national citizenship guaranteed in the national Constitution.
Gascon: Everything in the provisions affirm the rights of all citizens. There is no two-tier citizenship. What it does say is that the Bangsamoro shall have the opportunity for self-governance by way of the establishment of a political entity that will govern themselves day to day. But who shall govern the Bangsamoro? All those elected by all citizens of the Bangsamoro, whether they ascribe to be Bangsamoro or not. There is nothing in the Bangsamoro Basic Law that says that only the Bangsamoro may be elected.
3. Parliamentary form of government
Mendoza: This provision is contrary to the Constitutional provision that the autonomous region should consist of an executive and legislative branch, both of which shall be elective and representative of constituent unit.
Azcuna: Our Malolos Constitution is a parliamentary form of govenrment. This is nothing new. The officials...will still be elected and the government will be democratic. Under the proposed law, while the Chief Minister will be chosen among members of the Bangsamoro parliament and not directly elected by the people, the members themselves will still be elected.
4. Separation of powers – BBL lists down reserved powers for the central government, exclusive powers for the Bangsamoro government, and concurrent powers between the two
Mendoza: The central government under the bill in question only has limited powers, contrary to the Constitution which vested the national government with a repository of all powers minus powers given by the Constitution to autonomous govenrments.
Azcuna: Under the Constitution, all powers not delegated are retained by the central government. In the case of the AFP, for instance, ultimately, who is the commander-in-chief of the AFP? It's still the President. There is no commander in chief of the AFP other than the President.
5. General supervision of the Bangsamoro government or the so-called "Asymmetric relationship"
The panels define "asymmetric relationship" as "implying a special status of the Bangsamoro vis-a-vis the central government that is different from that of local governments and administrative regions. The autonomous regions for Muslim Mindanao and the Cordillera contemplated in the Constitution partakes of this special and distinct status and can thus be described as asymmetrical."
Mendoza: It is the asymmetric relation qualification that waters down the President's general supervision. This can make the strict enforcement of national laws in the Bangsamoro difficult to secure. The right to self-determination cannot be used to justify this kind of relationship between the Bangsamoro government and the central government.
Azcuna: The "asymmetric relationship" is an attempt to reverse the balance. That is why there is a provision here on transitional justice. Let us let them chart their own course.
During the hearing, retired Colonel Cesar Pobre criticized the lack of a clear declaration in the BBL that the MILF has already renounced their quest for secession.

Gascon said the right to self-determination can't be curtailed and is also recognized by many UN declarations.
There is nothing "patently unconsitutional" in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio La Viña told the committee.
La Viña said Congress can take a risk by passing the law as it is but warned it would be prudent to scrutinize possibly problematic provisions before the proposed law is even questioned in Court.
"I can say with confidence that the current Supreme Court...(adheres) to a strict interpretation of constitutional law. Following that, you might actually want to be prudent. If you have a conservative SC, how can we be sure that we address before that any issues?" La Viña said.
La Viña proposed the inclusion of a definition of terms in the law. He said terms that needed further definition include "asymmetric relationship" and "geographic areas."
The Bangsamoro Basic Law needs to go through two rounds of voting before it can be passed into law – in Congress and through a plebiscite.
The Aquino administration hopes to finish the transition from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro before Aquino steps down in 2016.
Watch clips from the hearing below.
Clarita Carlos - Professor, UP College of Social Science and Philosophy
[Video: Clarita Carlos on Bangsamoro Bill
Vicente Mendoza, Fomer Associate Justice
[Video: Former Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza on Bangsamoro Bill
Adolf Azcuna, Fomer Associate Justice
[Video: Former Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna on Bangsamoro Bill

Napoleon Abueva - Former UP President

[Video: Former UP President, Napoleon Abueva on Bangsamoro Bill

Ferdinand Tan - Dean, San Sebastian College of Law

[Video: Dean Ferdinand Tan on Bangsamoro BIll

Nasser Marohomsalic - lawyer

[Video: Atty Nasser Marohomsalic on Bangsamoro Bill

Oscar Franklin Tan - lawyer

[Video: Atty Oscar Franklin Tan on Bangsamoro Bill

Antonio La Viña - Dean, Ateneo School of Government Dean

[Video: Dean Antonio Laviña on Bangsamoro Bill

Teresita Deles - Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary

[Video: Teresita Deles on Bangsamoro Bill

Chito Gascon - Government panel member

[Video: Chito Gascon on Bangsamoro Bill

Cesar Pobre - Former colonel

[Video: Former Colonel Cesar Pobre on Bangsamoro Bill

Renato de Villa - Former AFP Chief of Staff

[Video: Former AFP Chief of Staff Renato de Villa on Bangsamoro Bill

Scrap VFA? It's part of PH 'defense strategy'

From Rappler (Oct 28): Scrap VFA? It's part of PH 'defense strategy'

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin says terminating the Visiting Forces Agreement 'will have an adverse effect' on the country's defense posture

BALIKATAN: Thousands of American troops come to the Philippines every year for regular military exercises. Rappler photo
BALIKATAN: Thousands of American troops come to the Philippines every year for regular military exercises. Rappler photo

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin highlighted the role of the US military in the country's "overall defense strategy" in the wake of a petition filed by lawmakers to terminate the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA).

"Let us not forget that the VFA is a component of our overall defense strategy and its abrogation now will have an adverse effect on the minimum credible defense posture that we are working hard to achieve," Gazmin said in a statement on Tuesday, October 28.

Ratified by the Senate in 1998, the VFA allowed the return of American troops to the Philippines after the 1991 Senate vote that evicted US bases in the Philippines. Thousands of Americans are in the country every year for regular military exercises, among other activities.

The October 11, 2014 murder of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude allegedly by US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton has revived issues against the VFA. Pemberton was among the American soldiers who arrived in the country a few weeks ago for joint exercises with Filipino counterparts.

It's not the first time that an American serviceman has been implicated in a crime here. In December 2005, charges were filed against US serviceman Lance Corporal Daniel Smith for allegedly raping "Nicole," a Filipina, also in Olongapo City.

A Philippine trial court convicted Smith, but "Nicole" later recanted her statements leading to his acquittal by the appeals court.

EDCA issues

The petition to terminate the VFA is also a hurdle for the new military-to-military agreement between the Philippines and US, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that is meant to increase US military presence in the Philippines as a deterrence to the aggressiveness of China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of EDCA in November. (READ: SolGen to SC: EDCA needed to defend West PH Sea)

"Kailangan natin ng tulong dahil hindi natin kayang mag-isa harapin itong ating mga problema ngayon. Kaya tayo nagdo-double time sa ating modernization program at capability upgrade. But as of now hindi pa natin kayang tumayong mag-isa," Gazmin said in an interview with dzRH on Tuesday.

(We need help because we cannot face the challenges by ourselves. We are fast-tracking our modernization program and capability upgrade. But as of now, we cannot do it alone.)

3 cases vs VFA

Senator Miriam Santiago and Akbayan partylist Representative Walden Bello cited 3 new cases to show that VFA has been disadvantageous to the country: the continuing US custody over Pemberton, the dumping of hazardous wastes in Subic Bay in 2012, and the 2013 USS Guardian grounding of the Tubbataha Reefs. (READ: Miriam Santiago, Bello push for VFA termination)

The VFA provides that Philippine courts will have jurisdiction over US servicemen accused of crimes but custody will remain with the US until the "completion of the judicial proceedings."

In a motion filed before the Olongapo prosecutor's office on Monday, October 27, Pemberton's lawyer said there is no basis for the murder charge against the US Marine. If the case is elevated to court, it should be reduced to homicide, the lawyer added. (READ: US Marine says no basis for Laude murder charge)

Gazmin said the US has shown it is willing to cooperate with Philippine authorities on the Pemberton case.

"It is a work in progress and we should not hastily throw it into the trash bin before it has truly proven its worth. The Laude case has shown that the Philippines and US are willing to cooperate fully with each other within the terms of the agreement. Both sides have also shown their respect for the sensitivities of one another over this incident. That is the VFA at work," said Gazmin.

The US last week agreed to transfer Pemberton to a detention facility inside the compound of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) in Camp Aguinaldo, the general headquarters of the Philippine military. It's considered Philippine soil but the US keeps custody over Pemberton.

Fellow Americans are securing Pemberton inside the compound while Filipino guards are securing the perimeter.

Philippine Air Force ensuring airworthiness of all its flying assets

From Ang Malaya (Oct 28): Philippine Air Force ensuring airworthiness of all its flying assets

In a bid to ensure airworthiness of Philippine Air Force’s flying assets, one Bell 205A helicopter is set to undergo maintenance process. PAF allocates PhP18,430,373.60 for spare parts and maintenance works needed for the helicopter.

Bell 205A is a version of Bell UH-1 Iroquois. PAF has approximately 8 of its kind used for search and rescue operations. It is powered by one T53-11A. Bell 205A can load up to 8,500 pounds and can accommodate 14 passengers.

Deadline for submission and opening of bids is set on morning of November 13 at PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

While on the process of modernizing the armed forces, Philippine Air Force is also on the move to make sure all current flying hardware are working on good condition and mission ready.

One OV-10 Bronco is also set for maintenance and upgrade. Thirty million pesos is allocated for one unit of OV-10 Bronco attack plane.

Bids and Awards Committee of the Office of the President is also procuring two helicopter Twin Pac Engine models PT6T-3BE and PT6T-3DE for two Bell-412 helicopters of Presidential Airlift Wing. PhP259 million is allocated to procure two helicopter engines.


Gazmin: Do not forget that VFA is a component of PHL defense strategy

From Ang Malaya (Oct 28): Gazmin: Do not forget that VFA is a component of PHL defense strategy

“Let us not forget that the VFA is a component of our overall defense strategy and its abrogation now will have an adverse effect on the minimum credible defense posture that we are working hard to achieve,” Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

He added that US have done “a lot to improve our defense capabilities, you know fully well that our efforts to upgrade the capabilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been sorely left behind.”

“The Laude case has shown that the Philippines and United States are willing to cooperate fully with each other within the terms of the agreement. Both sides have also shown their respect for the sensitivities of one another over this incident. That is the VFA at work,” the national defense chief noted.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement (LOVFA), and AKBAYAN Party-List Representative Walden Bello filed a joint resolution to terminate VFA. According to Santiago, the forces agreement between US and PHL is unfavorable for to the country’s sovereignty, environment, and human rights record.

The resolution cited different incidents that US violated the Philippine Constitution and criminal laws, trample on Philippine sovereignty and infringe on local and international laws pertaining to the protection of the environment. It added that VFA is used to shield transgressions made by US military.


Defense chief sees backlash if VFA terminated

From GMA News (Oct 28): Defense chief sees backlash if VFA terminated

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Tuesday said the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) could affect the country's defense posture.

Speaking to reporters, Gazmin said the VFA, which provides legal framework for the conduct of military exercises between Filipino and United States troops, is a component of the country's overall defense strategy.

"It will affect our goal of having a minimum credible defense posture because the VFA is a component of our overall defense strategy," he said.

He added: "We need help because we cannot face the problem alone at present. We are working double time in our modernization program and capability upgrade so that we can stand alone. But as of now, we cannot stand alone."

He described the agreement as a "work in progress" that must not be thrown out before it has proven its worth.

Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago and Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello earlier filed resolutions calling for the termination of the VFA.

The two lawmakers filed the resolution in the wake of the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude allegedly at the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton last October 11.

Gazmin said the transfer of Pemberton to a detention facility inside Camp Aguinaldo last Wednesday is an indication that the VFA is working.

"The Laude case has shown that the PH and US are willing to cooperate fully with each other within the terms of the agreement. Both sides have also shown their respect for the sensitivities of one another over this incident. That is the VFA at work," he said.

Pemberton was initially detained at the USS Peleliu and was brought to the AFP general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo last October 22.

He is detained in a container van located at the Mutual Defense Board-Security Engagement Board inside the camp.


Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan siege arrested

From ABS-CBN (Oct 28): Abu Sayyaf in Lamitan siege arrested

A member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) suspected of being involved in the 2001 Lamitan siege was arrested in Basilan before dawn on Tuesday, police said.

Nasser Usman was arrested in Barangay Tandung Ahas, Lamitan City for kidnapping and serious illegal detention charges through a warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 2 of Isabela City.

Police said Nasser was the former sub-leader for the Abu Sayyaf Group's Islamic Propagation and Indoctrination based in Barangay Tandung Ahas during the time of ASG founder Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani.

Nasser allegedly took part in the 2001 Lamitan siege, where the ASG invaded the city and took hostage medical personnel of the Jose Maria Torres Memorial Hospital.

He was also allegedly involved in the 1995 Ipil siege, where Abu Sayyaf members who disguised as military men raided the town in Zamboanga del Sur.

Fifty-three people were killed, and banks and shops were looted during the attack. The group also took around 30 people hostage.

Police said Nasser also took part in the 2000 Tumahubong kidnapping wherein the ASG abducted several teachers and students from two schools in Tumahubong, Sumisip, Basilan.

A priest and three teachers among the kidnap victims were found dead on May 3, 2000.


Bandit in Lamitan Siege nabbed on kidnapping raps

From GMA News (Oct 28): Bandit in Lamitan Siege nabbed on kidnapping raps

A suspected member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), who allegedly figured in the Lamitan siege 13 years ago, was arrested in Basilan on Friday, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said.
PNP spokesperson Superintendent Wilben Mayor said Nasser Usman was arrested by authorities in Barangay Tandung Ahas, Lamitan City around 1:15 a.m.
Usman is the subject of a warrant of arrest issued by the Isabela City Regional Trial Court for a kidnapping and serious illegal detention case filed against him.
He is believed to be an ASG "sub-leader" when founder Ustadz Abdurajak Janjalani led the bandit group.
Usman was also involved in the 1995 Ipil Siege where 53 people were killed after the ASG raided the Zamboanga del Sur town.
The suspect is currently at the Police Regional Office 9 for documentation and other procedures.
During the Lamitan siege, the ASG entered Lamitan town in Basilan and seized the Jose Maria Torres Memorial Hospital and the Saint Peter's church in June 2001.
They brought with them at least 20 foreign and local hostages from the Dos Palmas Beach Resort in Palawan and engaged the military in a day-long standoff.

Palace reminds solons: PNoy wants VFA continued

From GMA News (Oct 28): Palace reminds solons: PNoy wants VFA continued

A Malacañang spokesperson on Tuesday reminded administration lawmakers that President Benigno Aquino III wants the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States continued.
This was after Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiage, who are both aligned with the majority coalitions in Congress, filed a joint resolution seeking to terminate the VFA.
"The President has already stated that the Philippines needs the existence of the VFA which forms an integral part of our national defense strategy," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a press statement.
Coloma added that the VFA is necessary for the Philippines to address "challenges" including potential military conflicts and territorial disputes.
Still, Coloma indicated that the "procedural" VFA review being conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) will continue, with the aim of addressing gaps in the interpretation of the current agreement.
Some lawmakers have called for the renegotiation or the complete termination of the VFA, signed by the Philippines with the US in 1998, following the killing of Filipina transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude.

The VFA provides for enhanced defense cooperation between the US and the Philippines through the resumption of  bilateral military exercises between the two parties. It was ratified by the Philippine Senate in 1999.

The agreement also states that a US soldier participating in military exercises who committs a crime on Philippine soil will be under the jurisdiction of the Philippines, but will be kept under the custody of the US.

US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton, a participant in bilateral military exercises, is currently detained at the Philippine military headquarters while facing a murder complaint in connection with Laude's slay.
Aquino himself earlier said that he finds no reason to abrogate the VFA after Laude's killing. 
Last week, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department is reviewing the VFA provision on the custody of US servicemen implicated in crimes in the Philippines.
But Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said that changes to the VFA are unlikely despite the DOJ review, since the US is not inclined to amend the agreement.

Early on in Aquino's presidency, the agreement was reviewed by the Presidential Commission on the VFA, headed by Executive Secretary Paquito "Jojo" Ochoa Jr.
Malacañang, however, admitted earlier this month that the Palace review of the VFA did not produce any concrete results.