Thursday, October 30, 2014

Two gunned down by cops in Penampang believed to be Sulu army recruiters

From the Star Online (Oct 31): Two gunned down by cops in Penampang believed to be Sulu army recruiters

KUALA LUMPUR: Two men shot dead by police in the vicinity of a shophouse in Penampang Baru, Sabah Thursday evening are suspected to be members of the Sulu Rebel Army and the "driving force" behind the recruitment of new members.

Initial police investigations revealed that the duo, in their 30s and 50s, had arrived from Kota Kinabalu and attempted an armed robbery in the area.

In the 5pm incident, a police team intercepted a vehicle in which the two men were travelling. At that juncture, the duo tried to resist and the police were forced to open fire, killing them on the spot.

According to a police source, police surveillance on the two men about a few weeks ago had revealed that they tried to recruit new members, spread the so-called Sulu Sultanate ideology in Sabah, as well as preached elements of violence.

"The suspects, who came from Kota Kinabalu, were also attempting to commit an armed robbery in the area.

"The police are now tracking down the remnants of this group and they are also believed to be getting active off the east coast of Sabah," he said when contacted.

In February last year, the country was stunned when armed Sulu rebels from southern Philippines intruded into Lahad Datu and Semporna in Sabah's east coast, which saw 10 members of the national security forces killed.

However, through a joint army and police operation, dubbed Operasi Daulat, the rebels were routed. More than 100 rebels were killed and hundreds of their followers captured in the state.

Following the incident, the Government set up a security shield to thwart violations, kidnapping and smuggling in Sabah, named Esszone (Eastern Sabah Security Zone) and Esscom (Eastern Sabah Security Command).

Meanwhile in Penampang, residents panicked when they heard gunshots in the business district of Penampang Baru.

A man in his 30s, who declined to be identified, said he was busy at work in a food store when he heard a loud thud.

"I rushed out of the shop and saw a group of armed men wearing ski-masks and firing shots in the direction of some occupants in a four-wheel drive vehicle," he said.

The food store employee, who was hiding in the vicinity, said he also spotted a group of policemen arriving at the scene about 15 minutes later and inspecting the bodies of two men who were earlier, gunned down in the vehicle.

He said he also saw the police take the bodies away in two black plastic bags.

A survey found that the police had cordoned off two business blocks to prevent the public from entering the area. – Bernama

ASEAN Update: Understanding the Geopolitics of the South China Sea Dispute

From ASEAN Briefing (Oct 27): ASEAN Update: Understanding the Geopolitics of the South China Sea Dispute

In recent years, the South China Sea has become a key area of concern for the ASEAN organization. In the face of an increasingly expansionary China, ASEAN has often seemed slow to react and unsure of what strategy it should pursue. While there are options in place, such as the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), there has been little unity in the actions of the ten member nations.

The DOC  was established in 2002 between ASEAN and China in order to help ensure peace and stability in the maritime territory. Over recent years, however, tension has escalated with China accused of repeatedly breaching the terms of the DOC.

While the South China Sea dispute has far-reaching consequences for international diplomacy, not least because of America’s conflicting ties to both Taiwan and China, this prolonged territorial dispute also poses grave threats to the ASEAN alliance.

China expansion

A key event in the recent South China Sea disputes was the Vietnamese and Chinese standoff in May – the most aggressive showdown of recent maritime confrontations. In early May, China placed the sizeable oilrig HYSY-981 in the Vietnamese Exclusive Economic Zone leading to a three-month skirmish between Vietnamese enforcement vessels and Chinese naval vessels. As well as disrupting trade routes, the venture also triggered violent anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam during which Chinese and Taiwanese-owned factories were torched and many other multinational businesses were forced to temporarily close.

Though the oilrig was moved to Hainan Island in July, the event typifies the Chinese pattern of encroachment and withdrawal, constantly jostling to throw cumulative doubt on the status quo established by the DOC. The visit of a Vietnamese military delegation to China last weekend seems to have smoothed ruffled feathers with both nations agreeing to resume military ties but this is by no means a lasting solution. China still intends to construct reinforced military bases and five lighthouses on disputed islets in order to facilitate their claims to the surrounding waters.

At the 47th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this August, the South China Sea disputes clearly remained a pressing issue with the final communiqué stressing, “We remained seriously concerned over recent developments which had increased tensions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, maritime security as well as freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea.”

Despite this reassurance, however, ASEAN remained silent on any definitive moratorium on all activities in the disputed territory; though noted, both the proposals from the US’ “FREEZE” and the Philippines’ “Triple Action Plan” were rejected despite claims from all sides that the DOC has not been respected by China.

Typically, China attempted to downplay this issue with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi claiming, “someone has been exaggerating or even playing up the so-called tension in the South China Sea.” In a noticeably tenacious reply, the Philippines Foreign Minister, Albert del Rosario criticized China of playing “deaf and blind.”
RELATED: Outlook on ASEAN Investment 2015

ASEAN confusion

ASEAN has been unable to agree on a unified response to China’s perceived infringement leaving their commitment to regional coordinated support looking weak. Economically speaking, not only is the South China Sea resource rich, the protracted maritime standoffs have also disrupted several of ASEAN’s key trade routes which run through the territory.

During the 2012 ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, four member nations – Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Brunei – all declared there were conflicting territorial claims with China in the South China Sea. This did not include ongoing disputes with Taiwan, whose claims are generally excluded from ASEAN dialogue. Yet, the ASEAN states were unable to agree on an appropriate response. Internal squabbling reached new heights when, for the first time in the group’s 45-year history, they were not even able to agree on a language for the summit’s concluding communiqué.

Aside from creating antagonism internally, ASEAN’s response – or lack thereof – clearly signaled to China the alliance’s key shortcoming: the incompatibility of individual interests with regional loyalty. Indeed, in addition to diluting US influence, China’s insistence on bilateral resolution of the South China Sea disputes deliberately takes advantage of this vulnerability.

As Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, commented, “Southeast Asian nations have to come up with a common position.
Anytime they don’t, it’s a victory for China.” The then Secretary-General of ASEAN, Surin Pitsuwan, also stressed this point saying, “ASEAN will need to learn how to consolidate and coordinate positions if it wants to take on the global community.” And the advice is as apt now as it was then.

China’s strategy of assertive land reclamation proceeded by bilateral de-escalation operates on the old tenet of divide and conquer. China is capitalizing on the reluctance of certain ASEAN member nations to identify the disputes as a group problem, shifting accountability to individual countries. Yet it is clear that if ASEAN is to realize its full potential, threatened resources and trade routes in the South China Sea can no longer be considered Vietnamese, Malaysian, or Bruneian, but must be regarded as ASEAN. For now, without an ASEAN moratorium, China’s strategy appears to be working.

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Terrorist Threats to Singapore from the Sea

Posted to The Establishment Post (Oct 31): Terrorist Threats to Singapore from the Sea

The Islamic State’s successes in Iraq and Syria appear to have inspired resurgence among other jihadist groups. Al Qaeda Central sought to reassert its authority with the ‘Organisation of The Base of Jihad in the Indian Sub-Continent’ (AQIS) made public by Ayman al-Zawahiri on 3 September 2014. The genesis of AQIS, while a competitive response to the rise of IS in the global jihadist movement, is also an outgrowth of Al Qaeda’s long-term ambitions for expansion in South Asia since the early 2000s.
Al-Zawahiri’s pronouncement was followed three days later by a failed attack on a Pakistani naval frigate in Karachi for which the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the recently formed AQIS both claimed responsibility. The attack involved AQIS fighters who were former Pakistani naval officers, who sought to hijack the Pakistani frigate PNS Zulfiqar to launch missiles at US Navy vessels in the Indian Ocean. Local media reported that the attackers had pre-positioned their weapons in lockers on the dock, and these were used to take control of Zulfiqar. Looking beyond the AQIS tactics, the Karachi attack also demonstrated how maritime assets can be an attractive target for groups seeking to demonstrate their resolve.

Current threats from Southeast Asia’s maritime domain

A Republic of Singapore Navy Chinook helicopter deploys a rescue diver team and raft
U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Lara Bollinger
A Republic of Singapore Navy Chinook helicopter deploys a rescue diver team and raft
Southeast Asian states are no strangers to terrorism-related incidents either emanating from or exploiting the maritime domain. The innate predisposition to use the seas as an attack vector has long been significant among terrorist groups based in Southeast Asia, quite apart from the influence of extra-regional attack tactics. For example, the coast of Eastern Sabah, Malaysia, has been recently experiencing a spike in kidnappings attributed to the Mindanao-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG).
Violence in the maritime region bracketed by Mindanao, Borneo, and Sulawesi existed long before Islamist militants. The cross-border raids result from the combination of various dysfunctions such as loose border controls and illicit small arms proliferation in Mindanao.
The recent arrests of 19 IS-associated militants in Peninsular Malaysia further underscore the salience of the maritime domain for attack planning. One Sri Lankan suspect who was arrested reportedly had experience in human trafficking. He was believed to have been involved in a plot to transport two militants from the Maldives via small boat to the coastal state of Kerala in southern India to attack the US and Israel consulates further inland in Chennai and Bangalore.

Recent Singaporean responses to the potential threats

Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, in response to a recent question in Parliament on how Singapore enhances its maritime security, explained that the country’s maritime security agencies have adopted a “co-ordinated and multi-layered security regime”. Terrorist threats to Singapore, including those that straddle both land and maritime domains, illumine the rationale for the setting up of agencies like the Singapore Maritime Crisis Centre (SMCC).
Recently, the SMCC through its National Maritime Sense-making Group (NMSG) detected an individual who was listed as a crew member on two different vessels intending to enter Singapore on the same day. In light of the alleged plot by the IS-associated Sri Lankan, this crew anomaly could well have been a precursor to a terrorist-related attack, or an attempt to infiltrate Singapore’s territorial waters. NMSG immediately shared this information with the appropriate maritime security agency, which went on to undertake regulatory actions against the shipping agent involved.
This incident highlights the importance of a proactive stance of agencies like the SMCC to detect threats as early and as far away from Singapore as possible, and to coordinate operational responses to deter and prevent an attack from occurring. This critical task cannot be overstated, given the importance of sea-borne trade to Singapore.
SMCC, established in 2011 as a whole-of-government (WOG) entity, draws upon the expertise of its national maritime security partner agencies. The SMCC makes possible through its sense-making systems a national maritime common operating picture that is shared by the five maritime security partners and related national security agencies. This allows threat assessments to be harmonised across agencies and operational responses to be coordinated.
SMCC’s WOG activities fit in well with the broader effort by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) to enhance inter-service and inter-agency collaboration and interoperability. The ninth instalment of Exercise Apex will be held next month and involve more than 1,000 personnel from across the national maritime security agencies. These agencies, along with their maritime assets and vessels, will exercise multiple scenarios related to the terrorist threats to Singapore.
In sum, effort by both WOG and community (i.e. shipping agencies) to deter and prevent the maritime terrorist threat to Singapore demonstrates the necessity for Singapore to harness the power of all relevant stakeholders to deny terrorists the operating space to launch attacks against or through the maritime domain. Given the borderless, networked nature of the threat, a co-ordinated networked response is fully warranted.
This article was written by Joseph Franco and Romain Quivooij, Associate Research Fellows with CENS at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University. It was originally published on the RSIS site and reproduced here with their kind permission.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen threaten send back Malaysian captive's head to wife if ransom not paid

From the Star Online (Oct 31): Abu Sayyaf gunmen threaten send back Malaysian captive's head to wife if ransom not paid

KOTA KINABALU: Abu Sayyaf militants are threatening to behead Kunak fish breeder Chan Sai Chuin if the RM3mil ransom is not paid in November.

Chan’s wife Chin Pek Nyen said the militants had not set any particular day for their November deadline but warned her they would kill him if the full ransom was not paid.

"They (Abu Sayyaf) told me that they will send back Chan's head if I fail to pay the ransom," Chin, 42, told a press conference here as she appealed to the state and federal governments to do more to secure her husband’s freedom.

She said the Abu Sayyaf gunmen made the threat during a call on Thursday night.
"I just do not know what to do. I tried raising the ransom by borrowing from friends and family.

"There no way I can raise it, how much can people lend me, I need the help of the Government," she said, adding that gunmen were sticking to RM3mil demand after reducing it from RM15mil to RM10mil over the past months.

Chan, who is from Perak, was abducted by Filipino gunmen from his fish farm on June 16 and is currently being held by Abu Sayyaf militants in an undisclosed location in the notorious southern Philippines island of Jolo.

Chin said the gunmen had refused to allow her to speak to her husband since July 27 and she could not say for certain if he was safe and unhurt.

"They tell me he is all right. They refused to let me speak to him. They call me at least once every two days.

"They ask me if I have raised the money. Asked me if I have raised RM1mil. When I say no, they get angry and threatened to kill my husband. They call me up to 17 times a day, until I answer the call," she said.

In her frustration, she said she had offered herself as hostage so she could be with husband and not "worry" about raising the ransom amount.

Chin hoped that Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would help secure Chan's release through various channels in Manila.

"I am a Malaysian, my husband is Malaysian, why is nobody helping us," she said.

"I really don't know what do now, I hope our Government will help," she added.

Abu Sayyaf gunmen are also holding a marine policemen, Kpl Zakiah Aleip, 26, who was abducted from Mabul island on July 12.

MILF: Moro-IP kinship council issues position paper on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 31): Moro-IP kinship council issues position paper on BBL

Moro-Ip Kinship Council, through Bai Nanapnay Saway of the Talaandig Tribe, and Chairperson of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) issued a position paper on the Bangsamoro Basic Law dated October 29, 2014.

In their position paper they stressed the following important issues:

1. The sacredness of the Peace Compact:  Last March 27, 2014, we had the opportunity to witness the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in Malacañan Palace.   Much has been reported about that historic event which brought hundreds of leaders and dignitaries from all over the country and the international community. 

What is not known to many is that right after the signing in Malacañan, traditional leaders from the indigenous and Bangsamoro people gathered at the Peace Arc along Mendiola to perform a very important ritual which we call in Talaandig as Tampuda Hu Balagon.  For the Maguindanao it is called Sapa or Dyandi, in Tausug Janji, or Budung for our indigenous kins in the North.  

This particular ritual has been performed hundreds of years ago by Apu Datu Mamalu and Apu Rajah Tabunaway whom we refer to as our ancestors.  Mamalu and Tabunaway are brothers and when Islam arrived, one of the brothers embraced Islam while the other decided to remain with his indigenous faith.  Since Apu Tabunaway was already going to follow a new way of life which is Islam, they entered into a peace pact wherein they promised to each other that they will remain as brothers and will protect each other from common enemies and invaders. 

The covenant between Mamalu and Tabunaway are what we refer to as the five pillars of kinship namely, Kilalaha (mutual recognition and respect), Sayuda (exchange of information), Buliga (cooperation), Uyaga (Mutual Protection of Life) and Pabatun-batuna (Help for those who are in need). 

This ritual is what we refer to as the traditional peace pact which up to now the descendants of Apu Mamalu like me and the descendants of Apu Tabunaway, like my Bangsamoro brothers and sisters still believe as a sacred covenant.   This is a living tradition which we still believe up to today because whoever will break the kinship will be cursed.  

2.   Following the pillars of kinship, we, indigenous peoples fully support the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because this is a product of a long struggle for self-determination and human security for our Moro kins.   Following the ritual that we did on March 27, 2014 which offered the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro to Magbabaya – this piece of document becomes a sacred covenant for us. 

This is not only an agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front but a sacred covenant among the tri-peoples of Mindanao.  That is why it is very important for us to regard the peace agreement as a sacred covenant with the obligation to implement its provisions to the letter and spirit.   In the crafting of the law, we should bear in mind the sacredness of the covenant itself because this is not only an ordinary piece of legislation but a peace formula that will unlock so many potentials for peace and prosperity not only for the Bangsamoro but also for the indigenous peoples and our Christian brothers and sisters.  We appeal to you to remain faithful, compliant and consistent with the peace agreement.

3.   I wish to invite your attention to the provisions in the BBL which not only embodies the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, the United Nations  Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) but more importantly the five pillars of kinship, as follows:

Article IX, Section 5 Indigenous Peoples Rights  --

This particular provision offers a bundle of rights and protection for the indigenous peoples such as the recognition of the right to native titles and/or “fusaka inged”, For us in the Talaandig, our claim on ancestral domain is not based on CADT but based on native title which is more solid and lasting than a piece of paper offered by the CADT. 

There can never be any contest that by native title, Kitanglad is the domain of the Talaandig in the same manner that Sulu Seas by native title belongs to our Tao Sug brothers and sisters; in the same manner that Mt.  Apo by native title belongs to the Manuvu and Bagobo; and Lake Lanao for the Maranaos; and Lake Sebu for the Tiboli; and Aruman River for the Arumanen Manuvu.

Equitable sharing in revenues from the utilization of resources in their ancestral lands – I would like to highlight that for us indigenous peoples, when we read the term equitable-sharing in the revenues, we do not put emphasis on the how much but more importantly on the value of sharing.   If we genuinely put our minds and hearts into the value of sharing, we will be able to look at the proposed BBL from the point of view of compassion and generosity.

Free and prior Informed consent

Right to freedom of choice as to their identity

Recognition of the traditional or tribal justice system

Reserved seats in the Council of Elders, Parliament, Establishment of a Ministry for Indigenous Peoples etc. – this for me is an affirmative action to ensure that the indigenous peoples who will be minority in the Bangsamoro will be assured of representation in the government. 

I wish to end by recalling that when the Christian settlers from Luzon and Visayas came to Mindanao almost a hundred years ago, they were welcomed by the elders of the Bangsamoro and indigenous peoples to their homes, communities and even gave them lands to till and develop. 

Many of them have their dreams fulfilled in the land of promise.  As you deliberate on the BBL, think about your fathers and grandfathers who were welcomed by the elders of the Moro and indigenous people when they arrived for the first time in Mindanao.  Remember their good stories of warm welcome, generosity and friendships offered by the natives of Mindanao

As you craft the Basic Law, craft it with that deep sense of gratitude and thanksgiving on their behalf and give back to us the same level of compassion, generosity and friendship. 

2 suspected Kiram followers shot dead in Sabah —report

From GMA News (Oct 31): 2 suspected Kiram followers shot dead in Sabah —report

Two men believed to be followers of the late Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III were gunned down in Sabah on Thursday, Malaysia's Bernama news agency reported.

Bernama said police shot the two suspected members of the "Sulu Rebel Army," described as in their 30s and 50s, in Penampang Baru in Sabah.

Both were also reportedly involved in recruiting new members to their group, the report said.

Citing initial police findings, the report said the two had arrived from Kota Kinabalu and attempted an armed robbery.

The report said a police team intercepted the vehicle the two were riding, and the two tried to resist arrest, prompting police to fire.

Bernama quoted a police source as saying authorities are now tracking the remnants of this group, adding they are "believed to be getting active off the east coast of Sabah."

Last year, Kiram's followers entered Semporna in Sabah's east coast and engaged local authorities in a standoff. The standoff led to a series of bloody clashes.

Kiram died in late 2013 but told his followers to continue efforts to reclaim Sabah.

Govt admits military pact with US ‘flawed’

From the Manila Standard Today (Oct 31): Govt admits military pact with US ‘flawed’

THE country’s Visiting Forces Agreement with the United States is indeed flawed, but renegotiating it at this time will be troublesome and may mean that Manila will have to forgo its benefits, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Thursday.

“It’s not a perfect agreement. It’s an imperfect agreement but given that, it’s not plausible for us to amend (it) at this time,” Del Rosario said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

Besides, Del Rosario said re-negotiating the VFA will mean the government would have to terminate it first and that will affect not only national security, but also the modernization of the Armed Forces as well as the interoperability training of Filipino servicemen.

“We need to abrogate and if we abrogate, it interrupts the benefit of the mutual defense treaty with regards to joint exercise between our two armed forces. It consequences the modernization, the joint training, the inter-operability,” the foreign secretary said.

“I think the Visiting Forces Agreement is a necessary element of the Mutual Defense Treaty because as I said it defines the behavior of the visiting forces,” Del Rosario said, referring to the 1951 agreement which obliges both countries to come to each other’s aid in event of armed foreign attack.

Del Rosario admitted that the country’s State of Visiting Forces Agreement with Australia was more balanced in terms of jurisdiction and custody of erring personnel, but the agreement with Canberra was ratified in 2012 while the one with Washington was ratified in 1999.

The foreign secretary made the admission amid calls for the termination of the VFA after the killing of Filipino transgender Jeffrey Laude in Olongapo City. US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton is suspected of involvement in the killing.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Rep. Walden Bello filed a measure seeking a joint congressional resolution urging the termination of the VFA because of the killing of Laude.

Santiago and Bello also wanted the VFA abrogated because of what they claimed of its one-sided effects in favor of the US and against the Philippines sovereignty, environment and human rights.

Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the Legislative Oversight Committee on the VFA, said the agreement was being used to shield transgressions made by US military on Philippine soil, which she said seriously infringe on the country’s ability to prosecute these criminal acts.

But President Benigno S. Aquino III rejected calls for the abrogation of the VFA and Malacañang officials stressed that the government stands firm in upholding its defense cooperation agreement with the United States.

“The President has already stated that the Philippines needs the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), which forms an integral part of our national defense strategy,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin also vouched for the VFA, saying that it remains an important strategy for the Philippines, particularly its defense capabilities.

“Its (VFA) abrogation now will have an adverse effect on the minimum credible defense posture that we are working hard to achieve,” Gazmin said.

China absorbing disputed areas

From the Manila Times (Oct 30): China absorbing disputed areas

Roger Baker

CHINA can slowly acquire more territory through its expansionist stance in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and later “absorb the region,” a geopolitics expert said.

Rodger Baker, vice president for East Asia and the Pacific of Stratfor, said Beijing’s expansionism is “political, not military,” since none of the countries claiming ownership of small islands in the region will risk military action.

“So China can slowly absorb the region,” Baker said during the Business Forum organized by The Manila Times.

“Certainly, building structure on the islands prevents others from doing the same, and in time of relative peace may give China slightly easier and more robust capabilities for maritime surveillance,” the Stratfor analyst explained.

“But the main purpose of occupying the islands is not military. It is political,” he said. Beijing’s “ownership” of the islands is further bolstered by the fact that it faces no concrete challenge.

“This strengthens the reality of Chinese possession,” Baker pointed out.

China’s highly dynamic movements in the disputed territories, he further explained, changes the political reality there by easily redirecting attention when tensions arise.

“When tensions rise too high with a particular country, China can ease off, shift attention to a different country, or just use the perception of heightened tensions to drive a desire for an easing of stress,” Baker said.

While the United States and other “extra-regional allies” have expressed the desire for a legal settlement of the maritime disputes, these countries “are not going to intervene on behalf of Southeast Asian nations,” he added.

“In China’s perspective, [it] will lead to a realignment of political relations where the Southeast Asian nations will find accommodation with China more beneficial than attempts to oppose Chinese expansion,” Baker said.

He observed that while China’s unprecedented growth has pushed it to become a world economic superpower, it lags behind in terms of “soft power expansion.”

“The disconnect between China’s economic strength and the security role assumed by others—namely the United States—highlights the imbalance of power in the region. In some ways, it has benefited Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] countries, giving Asean states the ability to play off the big power competition for their own benefit,” the Stratfor official said.

Baker asserted that China will not “dominate” its smaller neighbors as colonial powers did in the past.

“China is hoping to simply draw in their cooperation and concessions, a recreation of the ages-old Chinese system of regional political management,” he said.

Also, according to Baker, Beijing cannot afford to have a confrontation with the Philippines because it would run counter to its maritime interests in the region.

“The Philippines is a US treaty ally, and thus seen as part of a US containment strategy to hold China in. There is plenty of room for expanded economic cooperation with China, despite the political speed bumps.”

Burgos disappearance trial finally gets off the ground

From Malaya (Oct 31): Burgos disappearance trial finally gets off the ground

ALMOST a year after Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr. was arraigned on charges of arbitrary detention for the disappearance of activist Jonas Burgos in 2007, the presentation of evidence against him finally began.
During yesterday’s hearing before the QC Regional Trial Court Branch 216, the prosecution panel presented Edita Burgos, mother of the missing activist, as its first witness.
When asked about the monetary equivalent of the damages incurred due to her son’s disappearance, Edita said: “It is not quantifiable.”
However, Edita admitted their family spent millions, including her retirement fund, to find her missing son.
She added their family loses P100,000 per year, following the abduction of Jonas, who was managing their farm.
Outside the courtroom, Baliaga, who was out on bail, maintained his innocence and claimed he understands what the Burgos family feels.
However, he stressed the case against him has taken him away from his mother and family, who he said are experiencing emotional hardships due to allegations lodged against him.
Baliaga added the hoped the truth will come out soon as he expressed disappointment on how the case has taken away his chances of pursuing his life goals.
Alleged military officers reportedly abducted Jonas on April 28, 2007.
The case against Baliaga was filed before the court following the issuance of a 14-page review resolution of the Department of Justice on Sept. 3, 2013.
He was arraigned in November 12 last year.
During his arraignment, Baliaga refused to enter a plea, and the court entered a “not guilty” plea for him.

Esszone safer compared to

From the Rakyat Post (Oct 30): Esszone safer compared to
Kuala Lumpur, says Shahidan

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim said the area was fully secured by officers on duty at Sabah’s east coast, making it safe zone.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim today said that the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone) districts were far safer compared to Kuala Lumpur.
According to him, the area was fully secured by officers on duty at Sabah’s east coast, making it safe.
“I feel that in the Esszone areas, we are moving about in conditions where we are constantly being watched by security teams.
“In fact being in Kuala Lumpur, I feel the Eszone is safer because we are being watched,” he said in response to a question by Putatan Member of Parliament Datuk Makin @ Marcus Majigoh in Parliament today.
Shahidan added that Malaysia was a country that was always the attention of outsiders who want to enter the country.

However, the intrusion into the country was not something to be taken lightly by the government, he said.

“This should not happen in this modern era, whereby a group of criminals attack a country.
“And the government has made the decision to ensure this was a safe zone because the area was also one where the economic activities were important,” he said.
Shahidan added that the state was also seen as one of the most beautiful places in the world and it was important to take care of it so that it was safe not only to those there, but everyone.
He was replying to Batu Sapi MP Linda Tsen Thau Lin who asked the prime minister to state the impact of the curfew at the Esscom that was imposed since July involving the tourism and fishing sectors.
“It doesn’t affect the people, in fact the people rather enjoy it because if we go to the shores along the Esszone area, we can see no movements anywhere.
“If there is any, it’s those who have obtained permits to fish,” he further explained.
Shahidan admitted there were those who attempted to invade, but it was at a controlled level.
“Apart from controlling the intrusion, we also focus on crime from within,” answered the Arau MP.

Bukit Aman team investigating kidnap-for-ransom groups in Semporna

From the Star Online (Oct 30): Bukit Aman team investigating kidnap-for-ransom groups in Semporna

KOTA KINABALU: A special team from Bukit Aman is questioning suspects detained following the shooting of a suspected kidnap for ransom (KFR) scout in Semporna on Oct 26.

Sabah Police Commisisoner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the team was conducting investigations and would leave it to them to probe further the involvement of those arrested and their connections to the KFR groups.

He was commenting after Wahab Atab @ Botak, a 34-year-old from Kg Balimbang Semporna surrendered himself to police on Oct 27 after he was named as one of six wanted men to assist in their cross border crime investigations.

Earlier this month, police arrested three suspected scouts of the KFR group while on Saturday police shot dead a suspected intruder on a speedboat in waters off Pulau Bangau-Bangau in Semporna, 
This was followed by the arrest of seven men and two women in the Semporna area.

The eastern coast of Sabah is considered to be volatile, with frequent kidnappings by KFR groups from the Southern Philippines.

Jalaluddin, meanwhile, said that all 10 police districts under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZONE) are holding exercises codenamed Ops Gempar where they would be testing the efficiency of the police in combating various threats including incursion, kidnappings and other criminal activities.

``I urge the public not to be alarmed over large scale movements and roadblocks that will be in place during the current operations over the next few days,’’ he said, adding that the operations started late Wednesday.

Negotiations For PAF site in Silay on

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 27): Negotiations For PAF site in Silay on

The negotiations for the acquisition of a four-hectare lot for the Philippine Air Force tactical operation center in Western Visayas, near the Bacolod-Silay airport are still ongoing, Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. said yesterday.
Marañon said the purchase has been delayed because they are dealing with several owners of the property.
The Philippine Air Force plans to set up its regional tactical operation group headquarters at the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Negros Occidental. Presently, its Tactical Operation Group-6 headquarters is in Iloilo.
Marañon said the property is located at the northern part of the Bacolod Silay airport.
The move to transfer the Air Force tactical operation center to Negros Occidental started during the stint of retired Gen. Victor Ibrado then chief of the AFP Central Command.
The MOA stipulates that the provincial government will acquire four hectares of land within or near the vicinity of the Bacolod-Silay Airport in Brgy. Bagtic, Silay City, while the PAF will undertake its development, construction and maintenance of structures, and facilities.
The MOA also states that the PAF will give Negros Occidental priority in extending assistance, or preference to the needs of the province in times of emergency, calamity and similar circumstances, when its services may be needed.
In times of natural calamities or armed engagement between government troops and local armed insurgents, the Army’s 302nd and 303rd Infantry Brigade in Negros island have to request air support, either from Iloilo or Cebu.

Philippines conducts first trilateral drills with Japanese, US navies in South China Sea

From IHS Janes 360 (Oct 26): Philippines conducts first trilateral drills with Japanese, US navies in South China Sea

The Philippine Navy (PN) hosted joint naval exercises with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the US Navy near disputed waters in the South China Sea, a spokesperson from the PN naval public affairs office confirmed with IHS Jane's on 24 October.

The exercises, which took place from 22-23 October, consisted of live gunnery exercises, manoeuvring drills and a practice of the newly ratified naval protocol known as the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). The protocol, which aims to prevent maritime tensions from escalating into conflict, was ratified unanimously by 25 Asia-Pacific countries at the 14th Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS) held in China earlier this year.

The naval public affairs office confirmed that the drills were the first time the PN had practised with the protocol and participated in joint naval exercises with both the US and Japan.

The drills involved JMSDF Takanami-class guided missile destroyer Sazanami (DD 113) and the USN's Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the latter of which is in the Philippines as part of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington 's (CVN 73) strike group. The carrier is currently docked in Manila on a routine port call and was not involved in the exercises. The PN's sole vessel to take part in the drill was the Pilar (Hamilton and Hero)-class frigate Gregorio del Pilar (PF 15).

Naval spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Marineth Domingo earlier told reporters that the drills would be conducted near disputed waters as it was the most convenient location considering the strike group's itinerary. She denied that the drills were conducted to send a signal of the Philippine's claims to China.

Manila and Beijing are currently locked in a sovereignty dispute over several islands and reefs in the South China Sea, a body of water that Manila calls the West Philippine Sea. Earlier this year, the Philippines filed a memorandum against Chinese claims in the area before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, claiming that China has illegally occupied a number of reefs claimed by both Manila and Beijing. China has described these moves as injurious to bilateral relations.

The US Embassy in the Philippines referred to George Washington 's visit to Manila on 23 October as one that: "highlights the historic and military connections between the Philippines and the United States" but did not comment on the trilateral naval exercises.

PA officer finished second in

From the Visayan Daily Star (Oct 30): PA officer finished second in
IPSC World Shoot XVII

Philippine Army Maj. Wilfredo Martin Jr. won a silver medal during the recent International Practical Shooting Confederation World Shoot XVII held in Florida, USA.

Martin was among the Filipino shooters who won silver medals after landing second overall in the prestigious shooting event last Oct. 12 participated in by 1,346 participants representing 60 countries around the world.

He finished at ninth place over-all for the individual category of the Classic Division that was lorded by veteran shooter Robert Leatham.

“It is an honor to represent the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the whole country in this prestigious event,” Martin said.

He was a member of the Philippine Army Shooting Team that participated in the annual ASEAN Armies Rifle Meet and was part of the 80-man team that represented the country in the competition.

Other Filipino winners were Daniel Torrevillas who won first place in the Classic Division Super Senior Category and Michael Ron Ligon who was also first place in the Classic Junior Category.

The 80-man Team Philippines garnered various medals in different events earning for them the tag as the crack shots of Asia.

Among the winners are Leonora Darte in the Classic Division Ladies; Philip Chua in the Revolver Division Overall; Edward Rivera in the Classic Division Overall; Edwin Gotamco in the Production Division Super Senior Category; Nelson Uygongco in the Open Division Senior Category; and, Edcel John Gino in the Open Division Junior Category.

The team also received trophies in the team matches for the Classic Division Overall; Production Division – Senior; Standard Division-Lady; and Open Division – Junior.

Army’s 6th ID honors partners, supporters

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 30): Army’s 6th ID honors partners, supporters

COTABATO CITY – Celebrating its 27th years of maintaining and securing the safety of the people and communities in its area of responsibility, the 6th Infantry Division (ID) anchored its  anniversary celebration this on peace, with the theme, “Ang Kampilan Division Para sa Kapayapaan”.

The Kampilan Division was established on November 30, 1987 and has served as the protector- defender of the people for more than two decades against lawlessness and other criminal activities here in Central Mindanao and neighboring areas.

In this year’s  celebration, various activities were conducted including Takbong Kampilan Para sa Kapayapaan last October 14, Fluvial Caravan for Peace last October 18 and Search for Lady Kampilan last October 24, 2014 to give tribute to soldier’s wives.

6th ID Spokesperson Col. Dickson Hermoso said, "when we shifted our paradigm from winning the war to winning the peace in 2010 – along with the coming out of  our Army Transformation Road Map  whicht is about good governance, operational excellence and organizational excellence."
“So it is not only fighting your enemy by use of force but to win the peace,” Hermoso stressed.

Highlighting the celebration, 6th ID through Commanding General Maj.Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan will give honor and recognition to individuals and groups for their valuable support and partnership in the campaign for the promotion of peace and solidarity in the region.

6th ID has been proclaimed as Best Army Unit in ten (10) major units of Philippine Army.

“This is the result of good leadership, implementation of programs and transparent governance in the Division as one unit).

We have parameters, Hermoso added, and we comply with these to accomplish all our budget-driven activities funded by the government through people’s money.

1,700 Manobos flee homes in Surigao del Sur due to killings, arson

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Oct 30): 1,700 Manobos flee homes in Surigao del Sur due to killings, arson

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – More than 1,700 Manobo residents fled their homes in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, after their communities were hit by a series of killings, gun attacks and school-and-house burning.

On Oct. 24, Manobo leader Henry Alameda had just finished eating his breakfast inside their house in Sitio Kabalawan, Barangay San Isidro in Lianga town when armed men barged in and dragged him outside.

The armed men, who were allegedly government soldiers and members of a tribal paramilitary group called Bagani led by Datu Calpet Egua, tried to bring him towards the forest but Alameda grabbed a post of the nearby waiting shed as his wife and children cried for help.

Alameda was shot in his chest and head.

Alameda was a council member of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang Sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), an inter-municipal Lumad organization in Surigao del Sur and has been vocal against the entry of mining corporations in the Andap Valley complex.

The tribal leader has also campaigned against military operations in ancestral lands and against the pork barrel system.

At around 4 p.m. in the nearby town of Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur, shots were fired at the house of Alejandro Dumaguit, the chief of Barangay (village) San Lorenzo.

Dumaguit was hit in his shoulder while his two children also sustained gunshot wounds in the hail of bullets. His son, Aldren, died after trying to save his father and sister.

The armed men also fired at the nearby houses hitting Aldredo Undayon, Victor Undayon and minors only identified as Enggoy and Lynlyn.

Two hours later, military forces and members of the Bagani were also reportedly seen near the house of Genasque Enriquez, the secretary general of the tribal group, Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon-Caraga.

Human rights group Karapatan said that a day before the series of attacks, Marcos Bocales, the former commander of the paramilitary group Task Force Gantangan and the present right hand man of Egua, sent text messages and called leaders of MAPASU telling them that the time has come for him to “put holes in the chests” of the tribal leaders.

The recent incidents caused the massive displacement of at least 1,700 indigenous people and farmers from the towns of Lianga and Prosperidad who are presently seeking temporary shelter in a gymnasium in Barangay Diatagon.

Dr. Naty Castro, secretary general of Karapatan-Caraga, also accused the military and the Bagani of burning homes and schools in their path.

A school building with two classrooms of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) was razed in Sitio Kabalawan while another building with three classrooms was damaged by fire in Sitio Kabuluhan.

“We are still trying to assess the damage but presently we have identified more or less five houses, which were destroyed or damaged either in the fire or during the strafing,” Castro said.

In an emailed statement, Enriquez, who has been hiding because of threats to his life, lambasted the 29th Infantry Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Battalion, 2nd Scout Rangers Battalion for the alleged human rights violations and demanded the immediate pull-out of the troops in their communities.

Accusing the military of training and funding the Bagani to sow terror in tribal villages, the group also demanded that Egua and his paramilitary group be immediately disbanded and be arrested for their involvement in the recent attacks.

Capt. Jasper Gacayan, spokesman of the military 401st Brigade, confirmed ongoing military operations in the area against communist guerrillas but he denied that they were involved in the attacks and asserted that the soldiers were far from civilian communities.

“It is true that these incidents happened but our soldiers are not involved in these activities. According to witnesses, the perpetrators were wearing uniform but there are no patches. It will be very impossible for soldiers to do these things,” Gacayan said.

Gacayan said the soldiers have been careful not to commit human-rights violations in observance of the Army transformation roadmap that sought to bring the military closer to the people.

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

Gacayan also confirmed the existence of the Bagani but said it was not a paramilitary unit but a group of tribal warriors formed by Egua as to defend their area.

The military spokesman also said that there were instances where they reinforced the Baganis. He cited the time when the New People’s Army attacked Egua’s group in July this year resulting in massive communist casualties.

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

The National Democratic Front earlier tagged Egua’s group as a private army used by both the military and private companies to protect logging and mining operations in the area.

(UPDATE) 2 suspected leftist rebels killed in Davao

From the Philippine Star (Oct 30): (UPDATE) 2 suspected leftist rebels killed in Davao

Two suspected leftist rebels were killed in a firefight with government troops yesterday afternoon in southern Philippines, a military official said today.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' Eastern Mindanao Command, the encounter occurred in Gupitan village in Kapalong town, Davao del Norte province-the same site where suspected leftist rebels and troops clashed last Sunday.

Before noon on Sunday, troops from the Philippine Army's 60th Infantry Battalion were on a security patrol when they caught up with about 30 members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Gupitan village. The one-hour firefight left two NPA guerrillas dead.

On Wednesday afternoon, Caber said pursuing troops caught up with the leftist rebels at Gupitan village, leading to a 50-minute firefight.

He said the encounter also resulted in the recovery an AK-47 rifle, two M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, and an improvised explosive device.

No one was reported killed or injured on the side of the government troops. Caber said the military's pursuit operations against the fleeing leftist rebels will continue.

Army lags freeing 2 captive soldiers

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Oct 30): Army lags freeing 2 captive soldiers

IRONING out the two key issues that concerned parties need to resolve to free the two soldiers held captive by the New People’s Army (NPA) for two months now is vital to hasten the release.
But the imminent freedom of Private First Class Marnel Cinches and Private First Class Jerrel Yorong depends highly on the period of the implementation of the suspension of military operations (Somo) and the areas that will be covered under this, said Bishop Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI).

“The green-light of the Somo by the Department of National Defense (DND) through the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a welcome development,” said Calang, who is a member of the local religious group that is working for the soldiers’ release.

Calang is a member of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (Pepp), co-chaired by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

But Calang said the obstacles to freeing the soldiers are the number of days of the Somo needed to facilitate the captives’ release and the presence of the soldiers in areas where the rebels demand a pullout to ensure the security of everyone involved.

Appeal of facilitators

He added the military is adamant on enforcing a three-day Somo, the standard number of days in which the government soldiers cease its operations.

The NPA, on the other hand, is now amenable to a five-day temporary cessation of combat movements from its proposed 10 days.

Calang said both the NPA and the military must meet halfway for the release to finally happen.

“Mao ‘nang appeal sa local third party facilitators, mag-adjust and both parties (NPA and military) for reasonable and practical measures for safety of all involved, especially the captive soldiers,” he said.

Moral responsibility

He added, “It is the moral responsibility of the religious leaders [who are acting as peace negotiators] to ensure safe and orderly release.”

Calang said their other concern is the military’s insistence of not pulling out its troops on the ground and for them to stay put in areas where the release is set to take place during the Somo.

He said this would pose a risk for the NPA’s “custodial force,” the team that would escort Cinches and Yorong to the agreed venue for the turnover, since there is a possibility they could engage in an armed encounter with soldiers who will be on the ground by that time.

Calang said the third-party peace negotiators could be blamed if anything will happen to anyone, whether rebels or soldiers, during the transport of the captives.

He said the negotiators only want a peaceful turnover and any possibility of bloodshed is out of the picture.

Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro tried to ask Major Christian Uy, the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID) spokesman, for comment, but he has not replied to the text message sent Wednesday.

Torched P20-M heavy equipment

Meanwhile, the Philippine National Police in Northern Mindanao confirmed that the Maoist rebels are responsible of the torching of nine heavy equipment in Sitio Malolos in Barangay Sinuda in Kitaotao town in Bukidnon around 4 p.m. of October 27.

Police Superintendent Bernardo Mendoza, the new spokesperson of the Police Regional Office (PIO) in Northern Mindanao, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Wednesday that the damage of the torching amounted to P20 million.

The heavy equipment were owned by Algon Engineering Construction whose office is based in Davao City and owned by a certain Alex Gonzales.

Torched were one prime-mover, cement mixer, backhoe, grader, boom truck, vibrator and scraper and two dump trucks.

The heavy equipment were used to repair and concretize the highways spanning Bukidnon and Davao.

“There were about a hundred of rebels from NPA Front Committees 53, 55, and 56 based in Bukidnon-Davao areas. The leaders haven’t been identified yet. They torched the equipment to get even with the government by delaying the projects such as the repair and construction of the Buk-Davao highway. Not only that they also deprived the workers their jobs,” Mendoza said.

He added that pursuit operations against the rebels are ongoing.

MILF: Mindanao mayors vow support for draft Bangsamoro law

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 30): Mindanao mayors vow support for draft Bangsamoro law

Mindanao mayors have vowed their support for the planned Bangsamoro region.
In a four-page declaration issued here  during  the three-day Mindanao Cluster Island Conference, the mayors pledged to “do away with ethnic pride and prejudice” in the pursuit of lasting peace.

They said the planned Bangsamoro region would “transform the island into a land of peace and opportunity without   conflict, hunger and suffering.”

The mayors also issued several resolutions, including one that endorsed the Mindanao Development Corridors Program.

League of Municipalities of the Philippines president Sandy Javier described the program as “a key strategy that would build infrastructure and spur the development of growth clusters to achieve balanced and inclusive growth.”

At the hearing of the ad hoc committee on the proposed law at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, retired Supreme Court associate justice Adolfo Azcuna maintained that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is not unconstitutional.

“Bangsamoro is an attempt to redress long historical imbalances,” he said.
“ It’s a valid provision because (it clarifies that) there is no dismemberment of the country involved,” Azcuna added.

Meanwhile, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Borge Brende during a meeting with Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, reiterated his nation’s support for the Mindanao peace process.

BRP Benguet one of world’s oldest commissioned ships to undergo repair, drydocking

Ang Malaya (Oct 30): BRP Benguet one of world’s oldest commissioned ships to undergo repair, drydocking

One of the world’s oldest navy ships commissioned, now serving the Philippine Navy, BRP Benguet will undergo repair and dry-docking. The Armed Forces of the Philippines will apply the sum of PhP40 million for the said project.

BRP Benguet (LT-507) is a tank landing ship designed for US Navy during the World War 2 era. It was first commissioned way back May 1944. The World War 2 vessel USS Daviess County was transferred to Philippine Navy last September 1976. It then was named BRP Benguet.

Benguet is being used by PN to transport soldiers, military cargo and help carry out relief operations. It is also being used to transport civilians when requested.

Philippine Navy is currently waiting for the delivery of two brand-new Makassar-class Landing Platform Dock from Indonesia. When delivered, these LPDs can act as PN’s floating command center while carrying out its main purpose as military sealift and transport vessel.

Delivery of two Makassar is expected to be supplied in 2016 and 2017.

These sealift vessels will be carrying landing craft utility/mechanized, including the upcoming Amphibious Assault Vehicles (AAV) and attack helicopters.