Thursday, November 13, 2014

China shows off new stealth fighter

From the Manila Times (Nov 13): China shows off new stealth fighter

China’s new stealth jet fighter rocketed skywards Wednesday as Beijing puts on an unprecedented display of openness—and military force—at the country’s premier air show.

The black J-31 rose in a nearly vertical climb on take-off in Zhuhai before circling back and doing two rolls, in the aircraft’s first announced public appearance.

The plane’s existence has been the subject of rumor and speculation for years, with photographs appearing increasingly frequently on military websites in recent months.

Defense analysts say the J-31 is China’s answer to the United States’ F-35, though the Chinese jet lags behind the American one technologically.

The fighter’s Chinese name is “Falcon Eagle” and it is manufactured by a unit of Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), whose defense arm uses the slogan: “We are making the best weapons for guardians of the peace.”

The plane’s debut comes amid tensions between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes, particularly Japan which has feuded with Beijing over a group of islands in the East China Sea.

China’s air force said the display of military might at the air show showed the intention to build a strong country.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) air force “will make unremitting efforts to realize dreams of a strong China and powerful armed forces”, read a sign alongside an array of eight warplanes at the air show.

“The display… demonstrates the strength and confidence of (the) PLA Air Force to fulfill missions and achieve world peace.”

China has steadily increased its defense budget for years, with funding projected to rise more than 12 percent to $132 billion in 2014. But the US has accused Beijing of under-reporting its spending by as much as 20 percent in the past.

Defense analysts said China appears eager to sell the new fifth generation fighter abroad, also putting on display a model with a designation typically used for overseas destinations: FC-31.

“China’s defense industry wants to show the potential for export,” said Andrew Erickson, associate professor at the China Maritime Studies Institute of the US Naval War College.

Ally Pakistan is a likely first market, he added.

AVIC has already developed another fighter plane, the FC-1, in cooperation with Pakistan which was also on display at the show.

A large military transport plane, the Y-20, also made its debut at the show, flying lumbering turns over the crowd at its public outing on Wednesday.

“Of course, it is an advance in technology,” said the announcer as spectators craned their necks to see it against a smoggy sky.

The China National Precision Machinery Import-Export Corp., the firm at the heart of controversy over the supply of a long-range anti-missile system to Turkey in the face of US opposition, also had a presence at the show, but its booth was devoid of product displays.

The firm, which is under US sanctions for selling arms and missile technology to Iran and Syria, declined to provide promotional materials or answer questions when approached by a journalist.

Although billed as an air show, new sponsor China North Industries Corp (NORINCO) showed off a battle tank, the VT4, which proved a popular backdrop for visitor photos.

Other countries in the Asian region have beefed up military spending in response to China’s growing power.

“It’s a bit of a dance that happens all over the world,” Briand Greer, president of aerospace for Asia-Pacific at US conglomerate Honeywell said ahead of the air show.

“Economically everyone is tied to what happens in China,” he said. “But at the same time, you’ve got a huge power rising right in your backyard so you don’t want to feel helpless.”

BIFF denies hand in Bukidnon bus explosion

From ABS-CBN (Nov 13): BIFF denies hand in Bukidnon bus explosion

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) denied any role in the November 6 bus explosion in Barangay Dolongon, Maramag in Bukidnon.

BIFF spokesman Abumissry Mama, in a phone interview, said they have not yet investigated the incident.

The provincial police office of Bukidnon tagged the BIFF in the explosion after some of the bus passengers identified one of the suspects.

However, the BIFF said authorities should first conduct a deeper investigation before pointing fingers.

Mama admitted, however, that they have supporters and armed men in Bukidnon.

The BIFF is a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF has struck a peace deal with the Aquino government and is waiting for Congress to approve the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Grade 3 student, farmer killed in North Cotabato mortar strike vs BIFF

From InterAksyon (Nov 14): Grade 3 student, farmer killed in North Cotabato mortar strike vs BIFF

A Grade 3 student and a farmer were killed during a military mortar strike against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Pikit, North Cotabato early Friday morning.

Another minor, a Grade 6 student, was also wounded in the incident in Barangay Kabasalan, while BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama acknowledged that one of their fighters was killed by the shelling.

Officials of the 6th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over the area, have yet to issue a statement on the incident as of this posting.

Kabasalan council member Teng Lidasan said hundreds of families fled their homes and sought shelter at the barangay elementary school after successive barrages of mortar fire rocked their village around 3 a.m.

One of the shells scored a direct hit on the house of Kinto Kalidasan, 40, killing the sleeping farmer.

Another shell struck the pumpboat (motorized canoe) the students were riding as they fled, killing Ella Akmad Malading, 11, a student of the Kabasalan Elementary School.

The wounded student, a 14-year old girl, remains under observation.

 Abu Misri Mama confirmed that they were the targets of the mortar strike.

Slain student rebel, 3 others honored by NPA in Mindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Nov 13): Slain student rebel, 3 others honored by NPA in Mindanao

Communist rebels honored a student leader and three others who were killed by soldiers in a clash in southern Philippines.

The 23-year old Rendell Ryan Cagula, a student at the University of the Philippines in Davao City, was killed along with rebels identified only as Ka Payat, Ka Doming and Ka Jappie in the town of Maasim in Sarangani province on November 4.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on Thursday confirmed the death of Cagula, who was known in the New People’s Army as Comrade Lucas, and the three other rebel fighters.

“The Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines salutes Comrade Lucas whose young life ended in the battlefield while fighting the fascist enemy troops of the 27th Infantry Battalion in Maasim, Saranggani at 2 pm November 4, 2014,” it said.

The communist group said Cagula, a known activist, became exposed to the basic ills of society and the sorry state of peasants, workers, indigenous people and the urban poor. “His study of society led him to an awakening that the same ills can only be cured not by reforms but by a systemic change through an armed revolution,” it said.

The CPP said Cagula joined the rebel group in December last year and was deployed in southern Mindanao where NPA fighters and civilians admired his innate leadership skills, critical thinking and fortitude. “Cagula became Comrade Lucas when he left the comforts of city life and became a Red fighter who followed the iron discipline contained in the NPA’s three rules of discipline and eight points of attention,” it said.

Cagula also served as a medic in the NPA and conducted mass clinics in the villages. “He was happy with the masses. In between mass clinics, he taught the indigenous people and peasants of basic political education. In organizing the peasants, he participated in farm work for the communal production. He also did tapping rubber, planting vegetables and helping with the peasants in their individual farms,” the CPP said.

It said in less than year, Cagula became the political instructor of a platoon belonging to the Guerrilla Front 73 and worked in its recovery areas. There he began learning four different dialects of the indigenous peoples, to help him effectively immerse with the masses.

Last month, another young rebel Rhaim Buanjug, also known as Comrade Jack, also died from malaria. Buanjug was also a former activist in Davao City.

“The deaths of the two young Red fighters from Davao City were untimely, indeed, for they could have given more for the well-being of the masses and for the national democratic revolution. But comrades and the masses who dearly loved them know that in so short a time in their young lives, the two have left an irreplaceable mark in history,” the CPP said.

“The ever exploitative and oppressive conditions of the Philippine society continue to provide fertile ground for the young to join the revolution. Comrade Lucas’s martyrdom teach that the youth should never fear sacrifice for there can be no revolutionary victory without sacrifice, to not waver in the face of any setback, to always uphold the revolutionary cause, to not let down guard, rely on the masses at all times, and to strive more in order to defeat the enemy.”

“Thus, we shall prevail, because the people and the battlefield are our infinite sources of strength and support. Comrade Lucas’ example and the martyrdom of other Red fighters continue to inspire the revolutionary forces to steadfastly carry out the most urgent tasks in advancing the revolution, to outwit the enemy and to resolutely bring the people’s war to revolutionary victory,” it added.

The NPA has been fighting for decades now for the establishment of a separate communist state in the country.

Finish anti-rebel operations quickly, mayor asks military in Sultan Kudarat

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 14): Finish anti-rebel operations quickly, mayor asks military in Sultan Kudarat

SEN. NINOY AQUINO, Sultan Kudarat — Mayor Dante Manganaan of this municipality named after the late former Senator Benigno S. Aquino Jr. urged the military on Friday to finish its operations against communist rebels in the area quickly and ensure the safety of noncombattant civilians.

Manganaan issued the call following evacuations from Barangay (village) Nate starting Thursday, when soldiers from the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion started  combat operations in the area.

By Friday, more than a thousand individuals had sought refuge in the Nate village hall and nearby school buildings.

“Some 360 families, composed of close to 2,000 individuals, have fled for fear that they might get caught in the crossfire,” Manganaan said.

Manganaan said the tension in Nate started last Saturday when soldiers and New People’s Army rebels clashed. An unidentified rebel was killed while a soldier was wounded in the encounter.

Manganaan said that the local government immediately provided the evacuees with food and other relief items but feared the town’s resources could not sustain the assistance if the situation lasted much longer.

While some evacuees would return to the affected areas during the daytime, he said, it was obvious that they had no plans of resettling there while the operations were continuing.

“For a third-class municipality, our limited budget could not sustain [the provision of relief goods] if the evacuees stay longer in the evacuation site. We might run out of budget for their basic needs,” Manganaan said.

The town used to be known as Kulaman, a barangay of the municipality of Kalamansig, until 1989 when it was made a muncipality and named after the husband of then President Corazon Aquino and father of the current President of the Philippines.

Dearly Gavileno, co-chair of the finance committee of Nate’s village council, said village’s quick-response fund of P60,000 had run out as of Friday.

Negotiators stepping up efforts to secure freedom for abducted Malaysian cop

From Asia One Malaysia (Nov 14): Negotiators stepping up efforts to secure freedom for abducted Malaysian cop

Negotiators stepping up efforts to secure freedom for abducted Malaysian cop

Intense sorrow: Chan Sai Chuin's family members at a press conference in Parliament.

 KOTA KINABALU - An imminent release might be on the cards for at least one of two Malaysians being held by the militant Abu Sayyaf group at Jolo island in southern Philippines as middlemen step up the tempo of negotiations.

Indications from the ground are that marine police Kons Zakiah Aleip has been moved from a jungle hideout to a farm under the control of the notorious Al Habsi group in the Indanan municipality.

Another Malaysian, fish farm manager Chan Sai Chuin, 32, is being held separately by another group led by Khatib Hajan Sawadjan and is constantly on the move between Patikul and Indanan municipalities.

Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist Octavio Dinampo said negotiators had been stepping up their efforts in securing Kons Zakiah's release since nearly two weeks ago.

"I was told that certain negotiators are on their way to help secure the release of the policeman very soon," said Dinampo, a Mindanao State University academician.

Kons Zakiah was abducted after gunmen attacked a Marine Police unit in Pulau Mabul on July 12 that also resulted in the killing of Kpl Ab Rajah Jamuan, 32.

It was one of a series of security incidents in Sabah's east coast that saw Taiwanese Chang An Wei, 58, abducted and her husband Li Min Hsu, 57, killed at the Pom Pom island resort on Nov 15 last year.

On April 2, China tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipino hotel worker Marcy Dayawan, 40, were taken from the Singamata Reef Resort near Semporna.

On May 6, China national Yang Zailin, 34, was abducted from the fish farm he was managing in Pulau Baik, Lahad Datu.

On June 16, gunmen once again raided a fish farm in Kampung Sapang, Kunak, and abducted Chan.

In Kuala Lumpur, in an event in Bukit Aman, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said: "Chan's wife already met me in Parliament asking for assistance to raise the ransom money but the Government's policy is we do not negotiate with terrorists. However, we are doing everything we possibly can to secure the safe release of both Malaysians."

Two weeks to beheading deadline

From the Free Malaysia Today (Nov 13): Two weeks to beheading deadline

Little hope of freeing fish farmer manager and police constable if their kidnappers are not paid RM3 million each for their release.

KOTA KINABALU: Abu Sayyaf gunmen, buoyed by RM 18 million in ransom monies which they received recently for the release of a kidnapped German, are reportedly threatening to behead a fish farm manager from Kunak, Chan Sai Chiun, 32, if they are not paid RM 3 million for his ransom within the next three weeks.

[Video: Wife sobs as gunmen threaten to behead husband]

They have sworn to send his head back to Kunak.

The gunmen, generally cross border criminals, also kidnapped marine policeman Kons Zakiah Aleip, 26, from Pulau Mabul on July 12.

Chan’s wife Chin Pek Nyuen, 42, is at her wit’s end since she has only been able to raise RM 140,000 so far to help free her husband, who has been in captivity since 16 June, 2014.

In a statement issued after turning up at Parliament on Thurs, Chin said that she was appealing to the 222 MPs to help secure her husband’s release.

She said that she was promised by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Shahidan Kassim, that the Federal Government which is responsible for security in Sabah is doing all it can to help free Chan.

“That was a week ago when there was a three week deadline to pay up the ransom,” said Chin. “The gunmen keep calling me.”

Chin wants the Federal Government to pay the kidnappers the RM 3 million they are demanding. Apparently, it was the gunmen who advised her to ask the Malaysian Government to pay the ransom monies.

Sharifah Erna Berson, 23, the wife of Kons Zakiah, has had no contact with the kidnappers, according to her.

The kidnappers are also demanding RM3 million for his release and have threatened to behead him by the end of this month if it was not paid. The kidnappers reportedly told the police to pay the ransom money.

The MPs whom Chin met at Parliament House hope the matter will be raised during the Federal Cabinet meeting tomorrow. They are perplexed the gunmen cannot be traced through the phone calls they make on a regular basis to Chin. One call apparently came just as the victim’s wife was speaking to some MPs.

Some of the MPs with Chin felt that the Federal Government should pay the RM 6 million demanded and bring the two men home. They said the Government seems to have billions to waste elsewhere.

This is easier said than done.

Putrajaya has since taken a decision not to pay ransom monies for anyone kidnapped in Sabah by gunmen from the Philippines.

Suspected Abu Sayyaf now working as guard arrested in Zamboanga City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 13): Suspected Abu Sayyaf now working as guard arrested in Zamboanga City
Zamboanga Philippines - An alleged Abu Sayyaf member, who took part in the 2001 siege of Lamitan, Basilan and several other kidnappings in that province, was arrested here on Wednesday, authorities reported Thursday.

Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, city police chief, said Rael Muharibil Jumadil, who was also known as Abu Mursan and Jumadil, had been working here as a security guard.

Jumadil, a resident of Barangay Bagkaan in Tongkil, Sulu, was arrested by combined police operatives as he was performing his duties as security guard for a shipping company at the local port around 8:30 a.m.

Casimiro described Jumadil’s role in the Abu Sayyaf these days as that of being “liaison or courier” while working as a private security guard of the M/V Stephanie Marie of Aleson Shipping Lines, which has been plying the Isabela-Zamboanga City route.

He said the suspect did not resist arrest. Police recovered from his possession a shotgun with defaced serial number, a caliber .38 revolver, ammunition and several identification cards belonging to different individuals.

The suspect is the subject of warrants of arrest for seven cases of kidnapping, issued by Judge Leo Jay Principe of the Regional Trial Court Branch 1.

He said Jumadil was also involved in the 2001 kidnapping of 15 persons from the Golden Harvest Farm in Tairan, Basilan.

This was the second time that an Abu Sayyaf member was arrested while working as a security guard here.

Last May, Abu Sayyaf member Harijin Jinny was reportedly working as a security guard at the Zamboanga City public market when captured by police.

NDF to CBCP: 'We never asked you to mediate'

From InterAksyon (Nov 13): NDF to CBCP: 'We never asked you to mediate'

NDFP chief negotiator Luis Jalandoni

Communist rebels said they had never requested the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines to mediate in the stalled peace negotiations between them and the government.

In what amounted to a rebuke of CBCP president Socrates Villegas, who earlier said he was rejecting a proposal to mediate in the peace talks, Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the negotiating panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which represents the rebels, said it was their “firm policy … not to entrust any entity with the power of mediation in the peace negotiations.”

“When the CBCP president speaks of ‘the request to mediate in the government-NDF dialogue’, such a request has never come from the NDFP,” Jalandoni, a former Catholic priest, stressed in a statement released Thursday.

“Such power to make decisions arbitrarily and impose them on the parties to the peace negotiations could mean grave danger to the revolutionary movement and people,” he explained. “Hence, the Royal Norwegian Government (RNG), which has been requested by both the GRP/GPH (government) and the NDFP to help in the peace negotiations, is asked only to be a Third Party Facilitator.”

Besides, he said, “The request to any third party to play a role in peace negotiations must be done by both parties. Both parties also have to agree to the type of role the third party will fulfill in the peace negotiations.”

But even without the CBCP, Jalandoni said there have been “persistent efforts to strive for a just peace” by several groups, such as the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum, the Pilgrims for Peace, the Sowing Seeds for Peace and KAPAYAPAAN Campaign for Just and Lasting Peace, “which have prominent and significant Church leaders.”

“The call of these peace advocates acting as ‘bridge builders for peace’ to resume peace talks, honor all agreements, and address the root causes of the armed conflict, is a welcome positive impetus to foster the peace negotiations to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Jalandoni said.

In his November 10 statement, Villegas, who is Lingayen-Dagupan archbishop, said he was rejecting a proposal for the prelates to mediate in the “dialogue” between the government and rebels because the CBCP “will not lend itself to a fruitless exercise or to a charade visited on the entire country," and “does not find a disposition to sincerity and trustworthiness in the parties to the dialogue."

Villegas also noted what he called “troubling aspects” about rebel conduct:

• The NDF leadership at Utrecht has hardly, or if at all belatedly, acknowledged the many raids or attacks conducted by NPA rebels, thus putting in question whether the NDF indeed has effective control, as umbrella organization, of the activities of the cadres in its military arm.

• The ceasefires put in effect in past negotiations "have regrettably been used by the rebel forces to recruit membership especially in far-flung barangays that have had to labor under the burden of supplying food and sustenance to the members of he New People's Army."

Jalandoni said Villegas was mistaken on both points.

“It should be made clear to the CBCP president that the revolutionary leadership is based in the Philippines,” he said. “The NDFP negotiating panel is mandated by the revolutionary leadership to carry out peace negotiations on behalf of the revolutionary forces. The command and leadership of the revolutionary struggle are carried out in the Philippines.”

He acknowledged that the NDFP negotiating panel does recommend ceasefires “in connection with the peace negotiations,” but that the implementation of any proposal is decided by their Philippine-based leadership.

He cited the 27-day Christmas ceasefire of 2012 to early 2013, which was proposed during a meeting of both parties and the Norwegain facilitator in The Hague.
Jalandoni also called Villegas’ accusation that the NPA was a “burden” to people in the countryside a “grievous error.”

“The NPA and other revolutionary forces carry out pro-people programs of land reform, health, education including literacy and numeracy, culture and self-defense, among others,” the NDFP officer said. “These programs result in the improvement of the lives of the people, in their millions. Hence, the people cherish the NPA as their army, defending their rights and programs.”

He hinted suggested that the CBCP president was merely repeating “a distortion of reality” by the government negotiating panel and said: “Church leaders and other Church people close to the struggling people in the countryside would know that the allegation from the GPH peace panel is false.”

Jalandoni also disputed Villegas’ claim that the peace negotiations have not “borne substantial fruit,” saying The Hague Joint Declaration, which lays down the framework of the talks, the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law and other basic agreements “are very significant results. Internationally these have won recognition, such as two European Parliament resolutions endorsing these agreements.”

3 soldiers hurt in 2 separate incidents in North Cotabato

From InterAksyon (Nov 13): 3 soldiers hurt in 2 separate incidents in North Cotabato

Three soldiers were hurt in a bombing and a separate shooting incident in North Cotabato.

Two troopers from the 57th Infantry Batallion were injured when a homemade bomb exploded in Sitio Natutungan, Barangay Bagumbayan, Magpet, North Cotabato.

The military was in the area for operations against an armed group hiding in isolated parts of Magpet around 4 p.m. Wednesday when they encountered members of the Guerilla Front 53, said 57th IB Commanding Officer Col. Nilo Vinluan.

The homemade bomb was made from fragmentation grenade, Vinluan added.

The injured soldiers are now safe.

In a separate incident, one soldier from the Charlie Company of the 40th IB was injured in a strafing incident Wednesday afternoon.

Here, the victim was identified as Sgt. Frederick Marimon. He sustained two gunshot wounds in the right leg from bullets from a .45-caliber gun.

Marimon came from his camp in Barangay Tugal Midsayap going to the market on board his motorcycle when unknown perpetrators fired at him, said Midsayap police chief Superintendent Reynante Delos Santos.

The victim was able to run away as the perpetrators took his Honda Wave motorcycle.
Authorities believe that the perpetrators are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. They said part of the BIFF training includes killing military troopers.

This is the third incident of shooting and motorcycle-jacking of soldiers in the 6th Infantry Division’s area of responsibility.

Catapang warns against climate change and ‘new, fiercest enemies’ it brings

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 12): Catapang warns against climate change and ‘new, fiercest enemies’ it brings

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gregorio Catapang Jr. on Wednesday called on citizens to be “united” in facing “climate change” as the natural disasters it brings “are our new and fiercest enemies”.

“Climate change and the natural disasters that they bring are our new fiercest enemies. We must all be united to face them,” Catapang said in a speech during his visit to Guiuan in Eastern Samar.

Guiuan was one of the hardest hit area by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that struck Central Visayas in 2013. It was considered the strongest storm in recent history and killed thousands and displaced millions.

Catapang visited Guiuan to lead the handover of motorized fishing boats to the victims.
The P3 million boat project was funded by Metrobank Foundation with the Army’s 8th Infantry Division, Civil Relations Service and TOPSOLDIERS.

A total of 150 motorized fishing boats were turned over to fisherfolks in the towns of Lawaan, Balangiga, and Guiuan, which hosted a secret US Naval base in World War II.

Even when he was commander of the Northern Luzon Command, Catapang recognized the need to address “new enemy on the horizon” like climate change and natural disasters.

(UPDATE) 2 soldiers wounded in clash with leftist rebels in Davao

From the Philippine Star (Nov 13): (UPDATE) 2 soldiers wounded in clash with leftist rebels in Davao

Two soldiers were wounded in an encounter with suspected leftist rebels in southern Philippines yesterday, a military official said today.

Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ao, commander of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, said the two soldiers were hit by a landmine exploded by members of the leftist rebel group New People's Army (NPA) during a 15-minute firefight.

He said troops from the 57th Infantry Division were on security patrol on Wednesday morning when they encountered an undetermined number of NPA guerrillas at Sitio Bagumbayan village, Magpet town in North Cotabato province.

During clearing operations, soldiers recovered at the scene a 200-meter detonating cord, black powder, a fragmentation grenade, pliers and empty shells of M16 rifle.

Philippine Navy, Royal Brunei Navy conduct bilateral exercise

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 12): Philippine Navy, Royal Brunei Navy conduct bilateral exercise

The Philippine Navy and the Royal Brunei Navy are conducting a joint naval exercise dubbed 'Seagull', which aims to strengthen  bilateral relationship and enhance the mutual cooperation and understanding between the two navies.

The bilateral training exercise is on November 10-16 at the Naval Forces West (NFW), this city.  The exercise will be divided into two major activities - the in-port activities and at-sea training events.

In-port activities will include subject matter expertise exchanges on visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), firefighting and damage control and gas oil protection and takedown (GOPLAT) while at sea events will include tactical maneuvers, live gun firing and cross deck training.

To enhance friendship between the participating troops, social interactions such as goodwill games, courtesy calls and fellowship dinner will also be conducted.

The participating forces from the PN are composed of BRP Gregorio Del Pilar (PF-15), BRP Apolinario Mabini (PS-36) and one Naval Special Operations Group (NAVSOG) team.

The Royal Brunei Navy vessels that will participate in the exercise are Patrol Vessel KDB DARUTTAQWA and Fast Patrol Boat KDB SYAFAAT commanded by Lieutenant Colonel (L) Khairil bin Haji Abdul Rahman (Patrol Vessel KDB DARUTTAQWA) and Major (L) Pengiran Mohd Fahmy bin Pengiran Haji Mohd Sallehuddin (Fast Patrol Boat KDB SYAFAAT) and have a total complement of 95 personnel including officers, crew, a section of the Naval Surface Action Group (NSAG) and attachments.

This year is the 6th iteration of the bilateral exercise  held every other year and hosted alternately by the two countries.

AFP to hold blocked screening of the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” for the benefit of soldiers’ orphans

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 13): AFP to hold blocked screening of the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” for the benefit of soldiers’ orphans

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) through its Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO) will hold a blocked screening of the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” on December 12, Friday, 7:00 PM at the SM Megamall Cinema 9.

The blocked screening is part of AFPEBSO’s fund-raising activities for the benefit of soldiers’ orphans.

The AFPEBSO has been providing educational assistance to some 4,500 dependents of military personnel. It caters particularly to the disadvantaged orphans whose parents perished or were incapacitated in combat.

At present, the system has 257 programs as mandated by law and by partnerships with educational, government, socio-civic, and financial institutions.

Meanwhile, the featured film is the last and final instalment of the three-part film adaptation based on John Ronald Reuel Tolkien’s Novel “The Hobbit.”

Interested viewers may call AFPEBSO or Office of the Major Service Ones at (02) 912-6922, 911-6153, 0917-5076617 (Globe), 0999-9933376 (Smart), and 0932-8435446 (Sun).

Army seized NPA regional headquarters

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 11): Army seized NPA regional headquarters

The Regional Headquarters of the New People’s Army (NPA) Northeastern Mindanao Region was seized by Special Forces after a 30-minute running gun battle on November 2 at 1:30 pm.

The elements of the Regional Sentro de Grabidad (RSDG) of Communist NPA under Northeastern Mindanao Regional Command were caught in a surprise when attacked by a platoon of the Special Forces under Captain Elpidio B de Castro of 9th Special Forces Company, 3rd Special Forces Battalion while encamped having a ceremony “tribute for their fallen comrade” at So Hebron, Brgy New Tubigon, Sibagat town Agusan del Sur.

The enemy camp has estimated land area of 15,000 sq. m. with 81 bunkers made out of tent and wooden bedsteads, along with five multi-purpose halls that serve as their kitchen and lecture room which can accommodate 30 people. It is situated at the peak of Makalo mountain range overlooking So Hebron of said place.

Around 80 Communist NPAs occupying the camp fled in different direction during the attack. They also dragged their killed and wounded comrades during their escape. After the firefight, troops were able to recover one m16 rifle with M203 grenade launcher, one improvised grenade launcher, one portable generator set, improvised explosive devices, two caliber .45 pistols, 5 Icom radios, voluminous subversive documents and other war materials.

“The Communist NPA in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur are now gradually losing the people’s support; they are always in a defensive mode, we will sustain our momentum to wipe them out. However we will still give them a chance if they’ll opt to go back into the fold of law” says Col Gregory M Cayetano, 401st Brigade Commander.

Misamis Occidental declared conflict-manageable, development-ready province

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 11): Misamis Occidental declared conflict-manageable, development-ready province

Misamis Occidental Governor Herminia Ramiro, 1st Infantry Tabak Division Commander BGen. Gerardo F. Barrientos Jr. and P/Chief Superintendent Isagani Francisco Genabe Jr. have jointly declared Misamis Occidental a conflict-manageable and development-ready (CMDR) province during the 1st Congress of Mindanao Liga ng mga Barangay (LnB) presidents held at Provincial Farmers Cultural and Training Center, Capitol Compound in this city last Friday.

The joint declaration, which was read by Atty. Ricardo Lumantas, affirmed that security situation of the province was considered CMDR after the insurgency problem in the area dwindled in the past years.

The Integrated Territorial Defense System (IPDS) and Integrated Area/ Community Public Safety System (IA/CPSS) have also been established in the province to preserve the gains of the 1st ID, PA in its Internal Peace and Security Plan (Bayanihan campaign) with the strong support of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

To sustain these gains, the parties have also agreed to mutually cooperate and support each other.

In a related development, Governor Ramiro said the provincial government takes the lead role in Internal Peace and Security efforts through the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) with the AFP and PNP ensuring the safety and wellbeing of the people in the area.

Having been declared a CMDR province, Ramiro expressed optimism that more investors will soon come to the province, thereby creating jobs for the unemployed. She also believed that the province’s tourism industry would also grow.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, National Barangay Operations Office Director Leocadio Tubera, BGen. Apolinario Y. Alobba of the 101 Infantry Brigade, LnB National President Edmund Abesames, LnB-Misamis Occidental President Gerard Hilarion M. Ramiro, Vice Governor Virginia Almonte and others.

Zamboanga Sibugay declared “Conflict-Manageable and Development- Ready” province

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 12): Zamboanga Sibugay declared “Conflict-Manageable and Development- Ready” province

Members of the Provincial Peace and Order Council here has approved the joint resolution of the local government unit (LGU), Philippine National Police (PNP), and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declaring the province as “Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready,” during its 4th Quarter meeting held at the Conference Room of the Provincial Capitol last Nov. 6.

“I am happy to see you today as we discuss important matters prior to the formal signing and declaration of Zamboanga Sibugay as ‘Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready’ province on November 26,” Governor Wilter Yap Palma addressed the PPOC members as he presided the meeting.

The good governor also cited the recent release of Jewel Nique, who was kidnapped on July 25, 2014 in Olutanga town, as well as a Chinese national from Kabasalan who was also released last week.

Asked if ransom has been paid to the kidnappers, Governor Palma said he has no knowledge about it. He called on all sectors of society to be vigilant and to report any threats to proper authorities such as the PNP and AFP to preempt any similar incidents.

Col. Ignacio A. Obligacion, commanding officer of the 102nd Infantry “Igsoon” Brigade gave a briefing on the CNN problem and its efforts against communist insurgency, to include the progress of the internal peace and security operations in the province.

He said only Barangay Tampilisan of Kabasalan town remains to be affected, though less influenced by the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP)-New Peoples’ Army (NPA) – National Democratic Front (NDF) or the CNN. This situation is now being addressed by the 44th Infantry Battalion with Bayanihan team activities, according to Obligacion.

On the other hand, PSSupt. Robert Roy V. Bahian, PNP provincial director reported, “With 766 police personnel, and a police to population ratio of 1–865, the province remains peaceful and manageable, a relatively improved peace and order situation from the past years.”

On November 21, 2014, the group of Congressman Rufus Rodriguez who chairs the ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives will be coming over to discuss, deliberate, solicit ideas and review the Bangsamoro Basic Law. “We have to participate in this consultation because this is one big event,” said the governor.

 “My only request – as a civilian, as a lawyer, and as head of this province, ‘Let us give peace a chance.’ After all, everyone wants to have lasting peace, then progress would follow,” said Governor Palma.

There will be a busy schedule ahead as dignitaries will be coming over for the BBL consultation on November 21, 2014 and the formal signing of the LGU, PNP, AFP Joint Resolution declaring Zamboanga Sibugay as “Conflict-Manageable and Development Ready” province on November 26, 2014.

Also present during the PPOC meeting were Vice Governor Rey Andre C. Olegario, CSupt. Miguel A. Bernante (Ret), Executive Assistant for Peace and Order and Public Safety, heads of national government agencies and media personalities.

President Aquino pushes for legally binding code of conduct for South China Sea

From the Phillippine Information Agency (Nov 14): President Aquino pushes for legally binding code of conduct for South China Sea

President Benigno S. Aquino III has called on fellow Asean leaders to continue negotiations with China on the forging of a legally binding code of conduct in the South China Sea, amid tensions over territorial claims in the region.

In his statement during the plenary session of the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here, President Aquino underscored the need to create the code in building a “more inclusive” and “more prosperous” region.

“The President called on the Asean member countries to ‘continue negotiations with China on the forging of a legally binding Code of Conduct’ of parties involved in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea),” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in an interview with the media after the plenary session, which was held at the Myanmar International Convention Center here on Wednesday.

“Speaking at the plenary session of the 25th Asean Summit, he said that this will lead to ‘building a better, more inclusive, and more prosperous Southeast Asia’ for all nations of goodwill,” Coloma added.

He said the President proposed a three-pronged approach “towards building a Southeast Asia that serves as a wellspring of empowerment” and inclusive growth -- strengthen the foundations of regional cooperation and integration; develop and implement the economic strategies vital to the Asean’s common vision; and advocate the rule of law as basis for positive engagement and a stable regional environment.

President Aquino also mentioned the “warm conversation” he had with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the 22nd Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit in Beijing on Tuesday.

The two leaders talked about pursuing the peaceful path and continuing the agreements forged in the past between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China.

Relations between the Philippines and China have turned sour due to a territorial dispute over resource-rich islands in the West Philippine Sea, which are also being claimed, in whole or in part, by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

During the plenary session, President Aquino also expressed support for the strengthening of the Asean secretariat and an increase in the members’ contributions to its annual operating budget, as well as the implementation of a master plan for communicating the character, structure and overall vision of the Asean community.

The President proposed that Asean member countries pursue strategies on greater connectivity, public-private partnerships (PPP), and regulations harmonization in the fields of trade and investment, and energy sector integration.

The Chief Executive invited the other member countries to participate in the Asean PPP Networking Forum to be held in Manila next month. The forum will promote sharing of best practices in forging public-private partnerships as an innovative way to implement the master plan on Asean connectivity.

President Aquino also called for the further “harnessing of opportunities for harmonized engagement” through existing bilateral, trilateral and sub-regional arrangements, such as the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area and Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle.

He stressed that a more robust development of small and medium enterprises must be pushed, as these are the major employers of the manufacturing sector and engines of growth at the grassroots level, said Coloma.

President Aquino further called for the harmonization of technical standards, operating systems and regulations for the establishment of an Asean Power Grid and a Trans-Asean Gas Pipeline.

Recalling the Philippines’ hosting last September of a national convention on an Asean Single Aviation Market (ASAM), the President urged other member countries to support the establishment of a Regional Air Traffic Management Bureau and the creation of a Council of Directors-General of the Asean Civil Aviation Authorities.

President Aquino called attention to the challenges to connectivity posed by the emergence of a more mobile migrant labor community, namely the need to enhance the protection of the rights of migrant workers; and the adoption of a regional action plan for adopting and implementing the Asean Convention on Trafficking in Persons.

“He reiterated the need for ending the ‘vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction’ by building more resilient communities and strengthening the Asean Committee on Disaster Management,” said Coloma.

President Aquino said the Philippines will participate in the Third World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai, Japan next year and the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey in 2016.

MILF: World Bank vows support for Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 13): World Bank vows support for Bangsamoro

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said officials from the World Bank has promised to support the envisioned Bangsamoro government.
MILF First Vice Chairman Ghazali Jaafar said following the recent Philippine Development Forum, World Bank officials requested for a meeting with the MILF to express the financial institution's commitment to helping the Bangsamoro government, particularly in investments.

The two-day forum was attended by some key government officials, foreign donors and agencies. MILF presented to the public the Bangsamoro Development Plan, considered the road map of the proposed entity.

Although Jaafar did not give details about the meeting - as some of these are not yet finalized – the MILF is optimistic that the World Bank will be one of the partners of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority in the future.

The MILF also thanked members of the international community for extending assistance to Mindanao. He said the European Union (EU) has committed about 5 million Euros worth of assistance for the Bangsamoro.

The MILF assured the donors and partners that their help will not be wasted.
"May mechanisms sa funding. There will be rules and policies on how it will be transparent and sinu-sino ang tatanggap ng pondo. Aayusin pa ang mechanisms na yan," Jaafar said.

Meanwhile, the MILF acknowledged that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) continues to face opposition.

The group Suara Bangsamoro, which means "the voice" of the Moro people, earlier said the BBL is not the key to achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.

Jaafar said the MILF understands the concerns of some sectors opposed to the BBL, but he said the MILF will try its best to explain the importance of the proposed law and the benefits that can be reaped from it.

"Kami sa leadership ng MILF, tanggap namin na mayroong ilang bagay diyan sa BBL na kulang. Ito ay negotiation, at maaring hindi lahat ng gusto natin ay ating makukuha," Jaafar said.

MILF: Editorial - Solving the Abu Sayyaf crisis

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 10): Solving the Abu Sayyaf crisis

Solving the Abu Sayyaf crisis is not as easy as what many would like to imagine. It is a multi-faceted phenomenon that not even the most advanced nations can handle without any tint of its nature protruding. Radicalism is or starts in the mind.
It manifests itself and becomes a problem even in ordinary discussion. Those of this mold would argue in extreme or uncompromising views that makes the discussion unwholesome.

Discussion is 70% listening and only 30% speaking; and it is not an imposition either.

This radicalism would become more problematic when it finds expression in actions and programs of any one or groups or organizations or even states.

Compound these with the lure of things that glitter and the religious conviction that a lofty end justifies all the means to achieve it means that we are inevitably heading toward a greater trouble.  Nazism and Fascism, to a much larger extent, are of this category. Currently, the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) will surely fit into the category.

It is no wonder the Abu Sayyaf, despite the all-out efforts of the government including the use of brute force, are still alive and kicking to this day.

What is the secret of their staying power? Or more appropriately what explains the inability of the government to stamp it out to this day?

Of course, the answer is initially explained above. The full answer will not come in handy or never at all.

Frankly speaking, even the MILF has no magic formula to address the issue. But in areas where it has strong presence, like Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Lanao Del Sur, kidnapping is neutralized to a certain degree. Of course, the would-be-kidnappers are still in the periphery but knowing that the MILF knows every nook and corner of these areas --- in addition to knowing their relatives and friends --- they are in odd situation before they do the next pull. But this is no guarantee that all is safe and well in these provinces.

Kidnapping can happen in a flash especially small or more individual-based or when the opportunity presents itself. It is a menace even in urban centers. As a matter of fact, reports say, there are more incidents of kidnapping in Manila than in Mindanao.

Be this it as it may, the MILF firmly believes that once a good legislation in the form of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed by Congress, which fairly addresses the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people, and firmly implemented on the ground, all those fighting the government would be rendered without a cause to continue their struggle. They will gradually fade out.

We also believe that the families and supporters of the Abu Sayyaf are like every one of us: They want peace, justice, and development to come to their areas. This should be the benchmark of a good policy.

Moreover, what is good in the MILF’s policy is that we never cut our bridges to those who still believe in a just and legitimate struggle of the Bangsamoro for their right to self-determination.

Human rights advocates kick off 'Manilakbayan'

From the Sun Star-Davao (Nov 13): Human rights advocates kick off 'Manilakbayan'

HUNDREDS of human rights advocates trooped to the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) headquarters in Panacan, Davao City on Thursday as the advocates kicked off the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2014 in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day.

With the theme: "Food and Peace in MindaNOW", contingents from Southern Mindanao, Cotabato, and Soccsksargen held their first protest action in front of the Naval Station Felix Apolinario in Panacan around 10 a.m.

Hanimay Suazo, Karapatan-Southern Mindanao secretary-general and Manilakbayan convenor, said the human rights-based campaign Manilakbayan is a month-long activity of the people in Mindanao who are fighting in active defense of the communities that Oplan Bayanihan is trying to devastate.

Suazo said their campaign aims to bring to the broadest public attention the human rights situation in Mindanao amid militarization that is continually escalating and worsening since first quarter this year.

"Contingents here are bringing the fight in defense of their grassroots achievements in literacy through Lumad schools, sustainable agricultural productions, preservations, and developments of our indigenous culture and assertion of our basic and comprehensive human rights," Suazo said.

Suazo said the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao 2014 campaign will bring at least 300 mass leaders, victims of human rights violations, the Lumads human rights defenders, peasants, workers, women and children, and church people to Manila from Davao dated November 13 to December 10.

"This mobilization would highlight the continuing political repressions and other human rights violations viciously being unleashed against human rights defenders, activists from the peasant sector, students, workers and labor leaders, among the others, who are active in the struggle for people's rights," she said.

Suazo said such massive militarization resulted in human rights and international humanitarian law violations concretely manifested by extra-judicial killings, illegal arrests with trumped-up charges against activists, military encampment in communities and schools, force evacuation, and other violations.

Around 500 mass leaders and members of progressive people's organizations and community members are facing trumped-up criminal charges to prevent them from speaking out against the repressions while eight forced evacuation incidents of 19 Lumad communities in Mindanao were recorded in 2014 alone, she added.

Suazo said the Manilakbayan contingent from all over Mindanao would converge in Surigao City where a press conference will be held then the group will proceed to Tacloban, Leyte for a "Sa-lubong" before going to Allen in Samar.

From Samar, an activity for solidarity will be held in Naga City before the Manilakbayan contingents will go to Quezon Province. A "kampuhan" will be held in Manila from November 22 to December 8 wherein participants will mobilize to various government offices.

Bukidnon bus bombing suspect linked to Cotabato blast

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Nov 12): Bukidnon bus bombing suspect linked to Cotabato blast

THE suspect in the bombing of a passenger bus in Maramag, Bukidnon has a pending arrest warrant for the August 2013 Cotabato City bombing that killed eight and wounded scores of individuals, authorities said Wednesday.

Senior Superintendent Glenn dela Torre, Bukidnon provincial police director, identified the suspect as Dawtin Gendang, who is also known by his other moniker as “Actor.”

Dela Torre told reporters during the visit of Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Alan Purisima at Camp Ernesto Alagar on November 12 that Gendang has an arrest warrant for the Cotabato bombing, which happened on August 5, 2013.

Earlier, Inspector Jose Regner Sevilleno, deputy chief of the Maramag municipal police, said the perpetrator, before his name was released to the media as the person behind the explosion of an improved explosive device (IED) inside the Rural Transit Mindanao Incorporated (RTMI) passenger bus on November 6, is a member of the terror group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

The Bukidnon police are coordinating with other law enforcement agencies to locate the suspect, who Dela Torre said is believed to be based in Maguindanao.

Dela Torre said the complaint against Gendang was filed before Prosecutor Rommel Alonto in Malaybalay City on Wednesday.

He said they would also file similar charges against the other suspects, especially the BIFF top leaders who Gendang got his orders from.

When asked about the previous report that the motive of the bombing is extortion, Dela Torre said it is linked to the terror act since groups like the BIFF need financial resources to bankroll their activities.

It can be recalled that Gendang was accused of carrying out the Cotabato bombing whose target was the convoy of Cotabato City Mayor Guiapal Guiani Jr.

[READ: Cotabato blast kills 8, hurts 40]

At the time of the explosion, the car that was supposed to be used by Guiani was borrowed by his sister, City Administrator Cynthia Sayadi, who was conducting an assessment of the flood survivors in some of the city’s villages.

It was reported that prior to the bombing, Sayadi had been receiving death threats.

Although Sayadi survived the attack, one of his police escorts was killed.
Aside from the city official’s car, seven other vehicles were damaged in the explosion.

US ambassador to visit Zambo City

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Nov 13): US ambassador to visit Zambo City

UNITED States Ambassador Philip Goldberg will be the keynote speaker Friday in the graduation ceremony of 181 out-of-school-youth (OSY) on livelihood skills training in Zamboanga City.

The livelihood skill training was conducted under the auspices of the US Embassy through the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDev) project.

The five-year USAid project will actively engage at least 19,000 OSY in workforce and community development activities by developing their basic education competencies, livelihood capabilities, and life and leadership skills for civic engagement.

The US Embassy said in a statement Thursday that Goldberg will attend the signing of the Cities Development Initiative between the American government and Zamboanga City Government.

The Cities Development Initiative, which is part of the US-Philippines Partnership for Growth, aims to unleash the development potential of this city through collaboration in the areas of health, education, environment, and economic and investment promotion.

US, China reached military agreements to prevent confrontation

From Ang Malaya (Nov 13): US, China reached military agreements to prevent confrontation

United States President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping met during Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to discuss major international, regional issues of common concern and China-US relations.

China and US crafted two military agreements to enhance cooperation and prevent any confrontation in Asia. First agreement is the two countries will notify each other on major activities such as military exercises. The second one is on rules of behavior for encounters at sea and in the air.

These agreements are also crafted to prevent incidents similar to what happened last August 19 when a US Navy P-8 anti-submarine warfare jet encountered a Chinese fighter jet. Pentagon described it as “very, very close” and “very dangerous.”

The White House calls these agreements as “military-to-military confidence-building mechanisms.”

“It’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves again having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate a conflict,” U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

Aquino to China: Take solid steps to tackle sea row

From Rappler (Nov 13): Aquino to China: Take solid steps to tackle sea row

President Aquino's statement comes after China offered a friendship treaty with Southeast Asian countries

President Benigno Aquino III thanked China for its partnership with ASEAN but made it clear the economic giant has to address the South China Sea issue based on the rule of law.

On Thursday, November 13, at the ASEAN-China Summit, in front of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other ASEAN member states, Aquino said the issue is one that concerns not just the region but the world.

“We see an opportunity to maximize China’s role as a partner of ASEAN, one that can be realized if both parties can demonstrate to the rest of the world that they can jointly address security concerns in the region based on the rule of law,” he said.

“ASEAN has expressed concern over developments in the South China Sea. This is not only an issue between ASEAN and China; countries outside the region also have a legitimate and strategic interest in the South China Sea since a substantial percentage of world trade traverses this international body of water.”

Aquino also said all the efforts of ASEAN and China to have hotlines and search and rescue arrangements will not be meaningful unless “there are concrete positive developments on the waters of the South China Sea.”

China's friendship treaty

The President's statements come after China, at the East Asia Summit earlier on Thursday, offered a friendship treaty with Southeast Asian countries, to show it should not be perceived as a threat in the region. China, however, still emphasized its preference to settle maritime disputes directly with each country rather than involve other parties.

Aquino pushed for the implementation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or DOC and the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC).

“This does not necessitate reinventing the wheel. We can source the elements of the proposed COC from existing norms and international conventions that promote good conduct at sea,” he said.

“These, among the many other initiatives we may undertake with China, will allow us to give rise to a region that is even more capable of pursuing greater progress and prosperity, one that adheres to the rule of law.”

It is Aquino’s first ASEAN Summit since the Philippines submitted a memorial to a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal over a maritime dispute with China in the South China Sea.

The memorial, a nearly 4,000-page document, was submitted by the Philippines on March 29 in a bid to end what it considered decades of bullying by China. China however has refused to acknowledge the designated arbitral tribunal's jurisdiction to hear the case.

Other ASEAN countries such as Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei are also claimants in the disputed area. Talks on the urgent need to adopt a legally-binding COC have dominated the Summit with countries agreeing it must be completed soon since it's been pending for over a decade.

Stronger partnership

At the Summit, Aquino also mentioned the “warm conversation” he had with President Xi Jinping in Beijing just two days prior, wherein the two countries “agreed to work on improving relations between our two countries.”

“I believe that relations can be improved without sacrificing our advocacies, including efforts to clarify maritime entitlements through arbitration,” he said.

Aquino also praised ASEAN and China’s efforts to deepen trade liberalization through the upgrade of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area, and China’s interest in engaging ASEAN Defense Ministers in dialogue on security cooperation.

He also acknowledged the memorandum of understanding signed on the Establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

“The Philippines recognizes that China’s emergence as an economic power has been of great benefit not only for the Asia-Pacific region but also for the world. China’s growth expands international trade, investment, and tourism. As such, we are looking forward to China’s partnership in many areas as we build the ASEAN Community beyond 2015,” he said.

PNP generals face raps over AK-47s in NPA hands

From Rappler (Nov 13): PNP generals face raps over AK-47s in NPA hands

The PNP has failed to file graft complaints againstretired and incumbent generals over 1,004 missing firearms that found their way to communist rebels so the Ombudsman builds up a case on its own

Several retired and incumbent police generals are facing criminal and administrative complaints for a case of 1,004 missing AK-47s.

An earlier investigation by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) revealed the firearms had ended up in the hands of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

In a statement on Thursday, November 13, the Office of the Ombudsman said the following Philippine National Police (PNP) generals are named in complaints of falsification, graft and corruption, and violation of the Private Security Agency Law:
  • Director Gil Meneses, PNP Civil Security Group director who is currently on non-duty status
  • Director Napoleon Estilles, Director for Plans and former head of the Firearms and Explosives Office (FEO)
  • Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, PNP Police Regional Office 3 chief and former FEO head
  • Chief Superintendent Tom Rentoy, former PNP Supervisory Office for Security and Investigation Agencies chief
  • Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis, acting executive officer of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership and formerly chief of the FEO licensing division
The other respondents are:
  • Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto Jr, former chief of the FEO licensing division
  • Senior Superintendent Allan Parreno
  • Superintendent Nelson Bautista
  • Chief Inspector Ricky Sumalde
  • Chief Inspector Ricardo Zapata Jr
  • Chief Inspector Rodrigo Benedicto Sarmiento
  • Senior Police Office 1 Eric Tan
  • SPO1 Randy de Sesto
  • 3 non-unformed personnel
  • Isidro Lozada of Caraga Security Agency
  • Representatives of gun supplier, Twin Pines Incorporated
The PNP personnel are either with or were once assigned to the PNP's Firearms and Explosives Office, which handles the processing of gun licenses. On top of criminal charges, the PNP officials face administrative charges for grave misconduct and serious dishonesty, according to the Ombudsman.

The complaint against them also asked that they be suspended pending the investigation, which will be led by a 5-lawyer special panel created by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. The panel will conduct the preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication of the cases, the Ombudsman said.

The PNP CIDG earlier announced in June that it was eyeing the filing of charges against at least 19 PNP personnel over the case. In 2013, the PNP FEO discovered some 1,004 AK-47s supposedly bought by mining firms and security agencies could not be accounted for.

But the PNP later took back Magalong's announcement. The charges now are a result of the motu proprio case build-up by the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices based on a news report. This means the Ombudsman went ahead with its case build-up even without a complainant.

From the PNP to the NPA

The CIDG's investigation revealed the firearms had ended up in the hands of the New People's Army (NPA) through Lozada, who bought the riffles through authorized firearms dealer Twin Pines. Lozada claimed the NPA threatened to kill him and his family in 2010 unless he supplied them with the firearms.

Lozada used other entities – the JTC Mineral Mining Corporation, the Claver Mineral Mining Corporation, and another security agency – to secure the firearms. The CIDG chief told reporters in a press conference in June 2014 that the other companies did not know of Magalong's plans.

The CIDG's probe would also reveal that Caraga Security Agency's license to operate had expired by September 2012. Magalong said then that Lozada purchased the firearms in “trickles” from 2011 to shortly before the May 2013 elections.

FEO officials could be in trouble for processing and approving Lozada's application "despite irregularities," the Ombudsman said.

Some of the rifles have been recovered by authorities after encounters between military, police, and the NPA. Most of the firearms, however, could no longer be identified since they had been tampered with.

THE QUARANTINED LIFE | Peacekeepers given 'routine like soldiers on operations'

From InterAksyon (Nov 13): THE QUARANTINED LIFE | Peacekeepers given 'routine like soldiers on operations'

The 133 United Nations peacekeepers quarantined on Caballo Island after returning to the country from Ebola-stricken Liberia on Wednesday will be kept busy with a “routine like soldiers on operations,” the commander of Task Group Liberia said.

Navy Captain Luzviminda Camacho said the all the peacekeepers had arrived on the island by Thursday morning.

“Okay naman sila du’n, bale fixing pa lang sila nu’ng mga gamit nila na dumating, kasi kanina lang sila bumaba ng barko (They’re okay there, they’re still fixing their things because they just disembarked earlier today),” she said.

Although all the peacekeepers passed a UN medical screening before returning home, they will be quarantined on Caballo for 21 days, the incubation period for the Ebola virus, as a precaution.

Asked how the peacekeepers, who include five policewomen, felt about the quarantine, Camacho said: “Happy naman sila kasi nandito na sila sa Pilipinas, pero wala naman silang magawa kasi that’s the … SOP (standard operating procedure) na dapat i-quarantine sila kasi galing nga sila sa Liberia (They’re happy enough because they’re in the Philippines now, but there’s nothing they can do because that’s the … SOP that they have to be quarantined because they came from Liberia).”

She added that they were “willing namani-take ‘yung quarantine para sa kanila kasi it also will help ‘yung family nila (they’re willing … to take the quarantine for them because it will also help their families).”

Camacho said a 50-man unit, which includes a medical team, is tasked to support the peacekeepers.

The support unit is billeted some 500 meters from the quarantine area and includes a security detail.

There will be strictly no contact between the support unit and the peacekeepers for the duration of the quarantine.

The unit also supplies food “pero ‘yung mga (but the) peacekeepers … will be the ones to cook for themselves, so may mga activities din sila du’n (they also have activities there).”

Detailing the daily routine for the peacekeepers, Camacho said, “Every morning kailangan gumising sila, meron kasi kaming (they have to wake up, because we have a) PA (public address) system … every 6 o’clock in the morning and 6 o’clock in the evening, their medical officer will be taking their temperature … tapos (and then there will be an) accounting of personnel,” followed by mess at 7 o’clock …  ‘yung routine na ginagawa ng sundalo kapag nasa operations (the routine of soldiers on operations).”

She added that there will also be a sportsfest for the quarantined peacekeepers.

Earlier, military officials said cable TV and Internet connections have also been set up in the quarantine area.

Ombudsman opens probe of PNP officials over misdocumented, missing AK47s

From InterAksyon (Nov 13): Ombudsman opens probe of PNP officials over misdocumented, missing AK47s

The Office of the Ombudsman said on Thursday it has opened an investigation prompted by criminal and administrative complaints filed against ranking officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in connection with 1,004 improperly documented high-powered AK47 firearms, some of which have apparently found their way into the hands of the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said the investigation is based on the complaints filed against the respondents for 19 counts of falsification of documents, 23 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), 23 counts of violation of Section 3(j) of R.A. 3019, and violation of R.A. 5487 (Private Security Agency Law).

Being investigated are PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO) officials Police Director Gil Meneses, P/Dir. Napoleon Estilles, Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta, Chief Supt. Tomas Rentoy II, Chief Supt. Regino Catiis, Senior Supt. Eduardo Acierto, Senior Supt. Allan Parreno, Supt. Nelson Bautista, Chief Insp. Ricky Sumalde, Chief Insp. Ricardo Zapata Jr., Chief Insp. Rodrigo Benedicto Sarmiento, Senior Police Officer 1 Eric Tan, SPO1 Randy De Sesto and three non-uniformed personnel.

Also included in the criminal complaint are Isidro Lozada of Caraga Security Agency and representatives of the gun supplier, Twin Pines, Inc.

"Administrative charges for Grave Misconduct and Serious Dishonesty were also filed against the PNP-FEO officials, with a prayer that they be preventively suspended by the Ombudsman pending administrative adjudication," the statement said.

The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (OMB-MOLEO) initiated motu proprio the case build-up based on an article published in the Philippine Star on June 6, 2014.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) then issued an Investigation Report dated 17 July 2014 revealing that four private security agencies and a mining company successfully applied for and were issued firearms licenses by PNP-FEO using falsified and incomplete documentary requirements.

Based on the PNP-FEO database, 1,004 licensed firearms were released through the submission of incomplete and/or falsified applications submitted by Isidro Lozada, owner of Caraga Security Agency, who purchased the firearms from Twin Pines, Inc. which, in turn, facilitated and submitted the falsified and/or incomplete license applications of Lozada to the PNP-FEO.

Despite irregularities in the applications, licenses were processed and approved by PNP-FEO officials and personnel.

Documents gathered during field investigation disclosed that Caraga Security Agency’s License to Operate had expired on 30 September 2012.

The CIDG was also able to validate information that firearms matching the serial numbers of the licensed AK47s issued to the security agency and mining company were recovered from encounters between the military and the NPA in the Caraga and Western Mindanao regions.

Morales created today a five-lawyer special panel to conduct the preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication of these cases.