Tuesday, November 18, 2014

IED found in Lamitan City in Basilan

From GMA News (Nov 19): IED found in Lamitan City in Basilan

Security forces on Wednesday morning discovered an improvised explosive device in Lamitan City in Basilan province.

A photo tweeted by GMA News stringer Peewee Bacuño showed a bomb squad handling the explosive.
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Isa na namang IED ang nadiskubre at napigilang sumabog sa Lamitan City, Basilan ngayong umaga. | via @PeeweeHero
It was not immediately known what group was behind the IED.

Last October, an IED believed to have been left by the Abu Sayyaf bandit group went off in front of a compound owned by a processing firm in Basilan.

A MindaNews report quoted Isabela City police head Superintendent Albert Larubis as saying the IED exploded at the gate of the Cargill Oil Mill Philippines’ staff house in Barangay Sunrise.

No one was killed or injured in the explosion, though it damaged the gate of the compound, the report added.

In September, an IED detonated in Lamitan City. Though no one was injured in the blast, some electricity posts were damaged.

Allies stronger when standing together

From Ang Malaya (Nov 19): Allies stronger when standing together

“We have an ironclad commitment to the sovereignty, independence, and security of every ally. And we’ll expand cooperation between allies, because we believe we’re stronger when we stand together,” this is one of the strong statements of United States President Barack Obama while he is in Australia with G20 leaders including Russia and China.

Obama added that more military exercises will be done in the Philippine in the coming years. “With the Philippines, we’ll train and exercise more to prepare for challenges from counter-terrorism and piracy to humanitarian crises and disaster relief.”

United States President added that “the United States will continue to modernize our defense posture across the region. We’ll deploy more of our most advanced military capabilities to keep the peace and deter aggression.”

It is projected that approximately 60 percent of Navy and Air Force assets of US will be based in Asia-Pacific towards the end of this decade.

“We’ll increase military training and education, including working with the military partners we have in this region around the respect for human rights by military and police,” Obama added.

“And keep in mind we do this without any territorial claims. We do this based on our belief that a region that is peaceful and prosperous is good for us and is good for the world.”

However, in the the Philippines, constitutionality of Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is being questioned in the Supreme Court.


SC justices asked questions on EDCA, West PHL Sea

From Ang Malaya (Nov 19): SC justices asked questions on EDCA, West PHL Sea

The Supreme Court started hearing oral arguments for Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Tuesday, November 18. Supreme Court Justices will determine whether EDCA is constitutional or not based on the oral arguments presented by both ends.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asked petitioners who are against EDCA, “I see our islands in the West Philippine Sea being overtaken. What is wrong with prepositioning? How long does it take for a missile to reach Palawan?”

Sereno also asked that if Philippine government brought the case of territorial dispute in an international court, “isn’t that a fact that we must explore all means?”

“Isn’t that the greatest threat when our fishing grounds are no longer accessible to us?”

Petitioners believe that with EDCA, US will be able to position unlimited warships, weapons and troops. They also added that number and location for bases for US military are not yet specified.

“We have a problem here,” Chief Justice Sereno said. “We cannot presume the factual situation; we cannot paint for the people a situation where the facts are not yet presented before us.”

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also asked Atty. Harry Roque how he will advise the President in case China made an attack inside Philippine territory. Roque answered, he will advise the President to do everything except strengthening the Philippines’ alliance with the United States.

Roque believes Philippine government will have no operational control over US military’s activities under EDCA.

“There could be no argument for the unconstitutionality,” Associate Justice Jose Perez said.

“This should have been given to the Senate because they are your representatives,” Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

On November 25, Solicitor General Florin Hilba will present arguments to defend EDCA’s constitutionality.


BIFF denies it had a hand in North Cotabato bombing

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 18): BIFF denies it had a hand in North Cotabato bombing
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters denied Tuesday it was involved in Sunday’s bombing in Kabacan, North Cotabato, that killed one person and wounded more than a dozen others.

“We had no hand there,” BIFF spokesman Abu Misri Mama said in a telephone interview.

The BIFF, he added, “don’t attack civilians, only military.”

The military had said earlier it suspected the BIFF was behind the bombing to divert the military’s attention from an ongoing campaign against the rebels.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and continues to attack small military detachments as they continue to fight for an independent Islamic state in Mindanao.

But Mama urged the authorities to dig deeper into Sunday’s bombing and said the BIFF was also conducting its own investigation to clear its name.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza and Kabacan Mayor Herlo Guzman have offered a reward of P200,000 for information leading to the arrest of the people responsible for the blast, which occurred around 7 p.m. near the Kabacan Pilot Central Elementary School in Barangay (village) Poblacion.

Meanwhile, the mother of Monique Mantawil, 19, the lone fatality, said she believed Allah would punish the perpetrators of the attack.

Florence Mantawil said her family has accepted the death of Monique, a development communication student at the University of Southern Mindanao here.

Monique and several classmates were passing by the elementary school on their way to a photocopying center when the explosion occurred.

“You also have children; you will know how painful it is to lose a daughter,” the woman said as her daughter was laid to rest in accordance with Islamic rites on Monday.

Dr. Francisco Garcia, USM president, appealed for a speedy investigation of the bombing as he announced financial assistance for students injured by the blast who were recuperating in hospitals.


BIFF members in disguise kill Army intel officer

From GMA News (Nov 18): BIFF members in disguise kill Army intel officer

Members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) disguised as peasants shot dead on Monday a senior intelligence officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in Datu Saudi, Maguindanao, the fourth soldier killed the same way since September.

Initial reports reaching the office of Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the slain officer, Army Major Gerald Finsona, died on the spot from gunshot wounds sustained in the attack.

Three off duty soldiers were separately killed in earlier attacks by roving BIFF hitmen in Datu Piang and Salibo towns, both in Maguindanao, a component province of ARMM.

Highly placed sources from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division said efforts are now underway to inform the family of Finsona of his demise.

A subordinate of Finsona was wounded in the attack and is now undergoing medication at a hospital.

The spokesman of BIFF, Abu Misry Mama, warned of more assassination of soldiers if spotted by guerillas positioned in markets and public terminals.

Hataman said he has directed ARMM’s police director, Chief Superintendent Noel Delos Reyes, to deploy more policemen in areas vulnerable to BIFF incursions. 


AFP: BIFFs kill, rob three soldiers in Maguindanao

From GMA News (Nov 18): AFP: BIFFs kill, rob three soldiers in Maguindanao

An officer and two enlisted personnel were declared dead on arrival after members of the armed group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters shot them and took their valuables, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said on Tuesday.
According to a report by the AFP, the incident occurred on the national highway between Datu Piang, Maguindanao and Midsayap, North Cotabato. 
The victims came from General Santos City, and took a short cut through Datu Piang where members of the BIFF were waiting.
“The victims were on board a civilian pick up truck, which was flagged down by the armed group, BIFF. Without any provocation, the victims were shot at closed range and divested of their valuables,” the report said.
The 40th Infantry Battalion brought the victims to the Midsayap community hospital in North Cotabato, but all were declared dead on arrival, said the AFP
While the victims have been confirmed to be members of the Philippine Army, their names have been withheld pending notification of next of kin.

NPA vows more attacks

From the Manila Standard Today (Nov 19): NPA vows more attacks

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF) said the New People’s Army (NPA) will “carry out tactical offensives,” following its raid last November 7 in northern Occidental Mindoro.

The Paluan town attack was “successfully conducted by red fighters of the NPA Lucio de Guzman Command,” killing three government troopers, said a statement e-mailed to Manila Standard by Patnubay de Guia, spokesman of the NDF-Southern Tagalog.

“NPA red fighters, moving swiftly and precisely, successfully overpowered the armed elements” of the 408th public safety battalion of the Philippine National Police and the 76th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army.”

The Southern Luzon Command, through its spokesman, Major Angelo Guzman, said the  rebels, disguised as army soldiers, arrived in two vans and opened fire on the police officers at their station in Barangay Alipao.

Crime scene investigators said the one-hour shootout resulted in the killing of Police Officer 1 Rolly Alcagno, and PO2 Robert Tendido and the wounding of P03 Fibet Laquiores along with PO1 Jose Rico Aguillana and PO1 Alex Franciso.

Paluan police chief, Senior Insp. Arnel Tupas, has been relieved as a “standard operating procedure”, according to Supt. Imelda Tolentino, regional police information officer.

“Tupas was not in the police station when it was attacked,” she said.

De Guia noted that the NPA “will be carrying out more tactical offensives, both big and small, in the coming weeks and months in order to seize more weapons from the enemy.”

Paluan Mayor Carl Michael Pangilinan and his administrator Eduardo Yambao were taken hostage and brought by the NPA guerrillas to a remote barangay of Calawagan where they were held for three hours, he claimed.

At least 23 firearms, including seven M-14 rifles, 13 M-16, a shotgun, two handguns, assorted ammunition, and other war materiel were taken during the raid, De Guia said.

“A new platoon of NPA red fighters in Mindoro is set to be armed with the newly-seized weapons from the enemy,” he said.

Pangilinan was accused and warned by the NPA for his alleged abuses committed against the poor people of Paluan, landgrabbing, cuddling of illegal loggers and illegal drug traffickers, and other illegal syndicates operating in his municipality, the rebel message added.


Former MNLF leader and now Sulu solon urges Suluanos to study proposed Bangsamoro Law, join public hearing

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 18): Former MNLF leader and now Sulu solon urges Suluanos to study proposed Bangsamoro Law, join public hearing

Former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader and now  Sulu first district Representative Tupay Loong urged stakeholders to actively participate in the public hearing of the House of Representatives' Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will be held in this province on Wednesday, November 19.

“It is necessary to join public hearings because this is a matter that concerns the destiny of the Bangsamoro people,” he said. "I would like to ask our people... to study [the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law]."

Loong is one of the six vice chairpersons of the ad hoc committee. He said Suluanos should express their opinions and sentiments on the Bangsamoro Bill, also known as House Bill 4994, to help Congress craft an all-inclusive law.

Seventeen representatives, including Cagayan de Oro second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who chairs the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, are expected to arrive here for the consultation.  This will be the biggest contingent of legislators to visit the province, long regarded as the center of the Bangsamoro rebellion, said Loong. According to him, he expects more than 1,000 residents and local government officials in the province to attend.

Members of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, government peace panel legal team head Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman, and Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Undersecretary Jose Lorena are invited to serve as resource persons for the public consultation.

Issues expected to be discussed are the system of government that will be set up to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM); the integration of the provisions of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement into the Bangsamoro bill, and the welfare of the current employees of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) regional government.

The committee had earlier conducted hearings in Central Mindanao, the southernmost island province of Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga City. Hearings are also set to be held in Basilan and Zamboanga Sibugay to wrap-up the Western Mindanao leg of the series of consultations.


Terrorism on the rise in Malaysia, research finds

From the Malaysian Insider (Nov 19): Terrorism on the rise in Malaysia, research finds

A global index has shown that Malaysia is experiencing a growing impact of terrorism on its shores, with its rankings jumping from 91 last year to 48 out of 162 countries this year.

Malaysia's score on the Global Terrorism Index (GTI) increased by 1.13 points to 3.04, making it one of many countries that are impacted by acts of terror. Countries in the same category as Malaysia include Norway, Ireland, South Africa and Paraguay.

Iraq tops the list with a score of 10 which means that it has the highest impact of terrorism. This is followed by Afghanistan (9.39) and Pakistan (9.37).

Neighbouring Philippines and Thailand take the 9th and 10th spots respectively while Indonesia is at number 31.

According to the report, the GTI is a comprehensive study that accounts for the direct and indirect impact of terrorism in terms of lives lost, injuries, property damage and the psychological after-effects of terrorism.

"The number of terrorist attacks around the world has increased dramatically; over 80% of all terrorism occurs in only 5 countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria)," it said, adding that 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks last year, 61% more than the previous year.

It also revealed that terrorism last year was dominated by four groups:  the Taliban, Boko Haram, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and al-Qaeda.

Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi revealed in Parliament that police statistics indicated that 167 Malaysians were involved in militant activities abroad since December 2001.

He said 39 of these people were involved in the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.

Police thwarted plans by Malaysian militants to bomb several nightclubs as well as a Carlsberg brewery in Shah Alam, Selangor.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein also addressed the situation, saying the government constantly took various measures to strengthen security along the Sabah east coast, which is the most vulnerable to outside attacks.

He said the armed forces had stationed its personnel in strategic locations to thwart any threat to security, not just from the Sulu militia.


AFP facing younger, more agressive Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Star (Nov 18): AFP facing younger, more agressive Abu Sayyaf

CAMP NAVARRO, Zamboanga City - The strength of the Abu Sayyaf remains at more than 400, with the extremist group setting its sights on the youth to boost its ranks, the military said on Tuesday.

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said 247 of the Abu Sayyaf members are operating in Sulu, where a fierce firefight erupted last Friday and left 10 terrorists and five soldiers dead.

He said about 200 other bandits are in Basilan.

When asked why the number of Abu Sayyaf members has not been reduced significantly in the last few years, Catapang said their data would still require further validation.

"We will assess through continuous operations if their ranks have been diminished," Catapang told reporters after a meeting with the Western Mindanao Command here.

Catapang admitted that the bandits are becoming younger because of the group's recruitment.

"Our enemies are young so they are very daring and aggressive," Catapang said.

"We regret that young people are doing this. Kidnapping and bomb-making should not be the ambition in life," he added.

Catapang said they are working with local governments to organize a summit that would tackle ways to promote peace and development in conflict-affected areas.

He said pursuit operations are ongoing against the terrorists who are still holding at least 10 people hostage.

"We are still in the law enforcement operations. We will be filing cases against the Abu Sayyaf who fought with our soldiers," he said.

Meanwhile, Catapang on Tuesday awarded medals to 28 soldiers who were hurt during a clash with local terrorists in Talipao, Sulu last Friday.

Gold Cross medals were awarded to 1Lt. Michael Asistores, Sgt. Eddie Lumandap and Pfc. Ariel Cajes for gallantry during the encounter with the Abu Sayyaf.

Awardees of the Wounded Personnel Medal were S/Sgt. Johnifer Tumala, Pfc. Carlito Sistoza, Pfc. Richard Rendon, Pfc. Reagan Apostol, Pfc. Jerimane Corpuz, Pfc. Emidio Bitin III, Pfc. Alexander Nael, Cpl. Ray Tampil, Pfc. Romarico Talledo Jr., Pfc. Rogelio Domingo, Pfc. Richie de Pedro, Pfc. Rogie Valdez, Pfc. Belger Ramirez, Sgt. Elmer Lazaga, Pfc. Eduardo Gomez, Pfc. Mark Manggad, Pfc. Orlando Ballesteros, Cpl. Dennis Azerador, Pfc. Jerico Diza, Pfc. Jeffry Baquial, Sgt. Delio Surio, Cpl. Jevsie Galulu, Pfc. Lloyd Saranglao all of whom are confined at Camp Navarro General Hospital.

Also awarded with the Wounded Personnel Medal were Sgt. Castro Kitong and Cpl. Joey de Guzman who are covering in a private hospital in Zamboanga City.


3 suspected Abu Sayyaf members arrested in Sulu

From GMA News (Nov 19): 3 suspected Abu Sayyaf members arrested in Sulu

Three suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf were arrested Wednesday morning in Sulu.
One of the three arrested members is a woman, 
View image on Twitter   View image on Twitter
3 miyembro ng ASG kabilang ang isang babae ang nahuli sa Sulu at hawak na ngayon ng PHL Marine | via @PeeweeHero
The three are now in the custody of the Philippine Marines, Bacuño added.
Photos posted by Bacuño on Twitter showed the three under heavy guard.

Last week, a clash between the military and the Abu Sayyaf in Talipao, Sulu left five soldiers dead and 26 others injured.

AFP public information head Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the soldiers who clashed with Abu Sayyaf bandits in Talipao were to observe the area and gather information regarding the bandits' whereabouts and the location of their hostages.
Authorities later said nine bandits were killed in the clash, including sub-commander Hairullah Asbang.
In October, the Abu Sayyaf released two German hostages in Patikul town.
The group claimed ransom had been paid for the release of the hostages, one of whom they threatened to behead. The government has denied that ransom was paid. 

GPH legal counsel: Proposed Bangsamoro Basic measure, inclusive of MNLF's plea

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 17): GPH legal counsel:  Proposed Bangsamoro Basic measure, inclusive of MNLF's plea

Lawyer Al Amin Julkipli, legal counsel of the government peace panel assured that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic measure includes the consensus points of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Speaking to the participants in the 12th Mindanao Communicators Network Congress in Zamboanga City, he said one of the interventions to stress the inclusivity of the measure is the inclusion of the 42 consensus points of the MNLF in the proposed law.

He said the 42 consensus points are based on the 42 provisions that the MNLF wanted to add to the Republic Act 9054 which established the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Julkipli explained that during the review process of the 19996 government-MNLF peace agreement, by the tripartite review process, all parties looked closely on the unaccomplished provisions of the pact.

“It was the initiative of our partners in the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to include in the Bangsamoro Basic Law the 42 consensus points,” he said.

Julkipli said that the MNLF is aware of the conscious effort that they are invited and are part of the peace process.

He said that the ARMM now maybe working, but for the MILF, it needs improvement in its autonomy.

“We can build on from that, because the 1996 accord with the MNLF resulted to the creation of the ARMM,” Julkipli said citing that the peace process between the government and the MILF is connected to the previous peace agreement with the MNLF.

Julkipli said following the meeting between the MILF and MNLF, one of the core messaging changed was to do away with statement like ARMM is a failure, because it would imply that the peace process with the MNLF was also failure.

He said that in the BBL, there are provisions stating that all powers being devolved to the ARMM will be devolved also to the Bangsamoro.

“It is a stark recognition on the part of the MILF and the government that the MNLF also has a stake in the peace process,” Julkipli said.


Fate of Malaysian captives unclear

From The Star Online (Nov 18): Fate of Malaysian captives unclear

An armed Abu Sayyaf member. - Filepic

An armed Abu Sayyaf member. - Filepic

KOTA KINABALU: The fate of two Malaysian captives in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf is now in question amid an ongoing military offensive against the militants at the mountainous jungles of Jolo in southern Philippines.

For now, marine policeman Konst Zakiah Aleip and fish farm manager Chai Sai Chuin are being held in a location away from the area of operations but that situation could change at any time, according to local anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo.

He said that the Philippines military was focusing its hunt for the Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the Patikul municipality, while the two Malaysians were being held at Indanan, about 5km away.

“There have been skirmishes between the Abu Sayyaf and the military since an initial encounter on Friday,” said Dinampo, a Mindanao State University academician.
Among those killed in the Friday firefight was the brother-in-law of Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, as well as 10 gunmen and five soldiers.

Dinampo said the military saw Abu Sayyaf gunmen on the run with three other hostages in Patikul.

The three are ornithologists Ewold Horn of the Netherlands and Lorenzo Vinciguerra of Switzerland, who have been held captive since February 2012, and Japanese national Toshio Ito, who was kidnapped in 2010.

Dinampo said that the military operations appeared to be part of a move by the Philippines government to disarm various groups, including the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It was part of the normalisation process following the signing of the Malaysia-brokered peace deal between Manila and the MILF.


Complete, incomplete projects on DND anniversary

From the Business World (Nov 17): Complete, incomplete projects on DND anniversary

LEADING THE CELEBRATION of the Department of National Defense’s (DND) 75th anniversary on Monday, President Benigno S. C. Aquino III in his speech cited the government’s recent efforts to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Mr. Aquino said his government has thus far spent P41.38 billion in the AFP Modernization and Capability Upgrade Program which took effect at the start of his administration.
He said 46 projects in the program have been finished, 12 of them last year, covering, among other areas, the acquisition of 15 helicopters and two ships, the building of a landing craft utility ship, and the procurement of additional rifles, as well as capability development among government troops.

The DND’s P90.86-billion Medium-Term Capability Development Program, in accordance with the Revised AFP Modernization Law, is also ongoing, Mr. Aquino said, with 33 projects to be completed until 2017.

But Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of this event, said several projects will remain incomplete by 2016, when Mr. Aquino’s term ends.

These projects include the acquisition of 12 FA-50 lead-in fighter jets from Korea Aerospace Industries Co. Ltd whose P18.9-billion contract was signed in March this year. Only six of these jets will be delivered by 2016, Mr. Gazmin said.

“Most of the yet-to-be-completed projects will make it in time before the end of the President’s term.... There are some that will not be completed.... The FA-50s will not all be delivered by July 2016,” he said.

The purchase of antisubmarine helicopters and close air patrol aircraft, which began early this year, has yet to be finalized. The military is also in the market for two anti-submarine helicopters and six close air-support aircraft, with contract prices of P5.4 billion and P4.9 billion, respectively.

Anglo-Italian firm Augusta Westland came out the only bidder for the helicopter deal after a bid opening on Nov. 4. Once it securers a contract, the company is expected to deliver the choppers within 730 days, or 24 months.

The bid opening for the close air support aircraft, eyed by at least six foreign firms, is scheduled on December 15. The bid documents specify delivery within 540 days, or 18 months, after the contract.

In his speech, Mr. Aquino also said his administration “will continue undertaking development projects in Mindanao” -- including, notably, the multimillion-peso, 80-kilometer Basilan circumferential road -- despite security threats such as the Abu Sayyaf.

The President’s speech followed in the wake of a recent ambush by suspected Abu Sayyaf members that claimed the lives of six soldiers securing the construction of the Basilan circumferential road.

SC orals: Bases deal ‘repackaged’ thru EDCA

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 19): SC orals: Bases deal ‘repackaged’ thru EDCA

Critics of American military presence in the country took turns before the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to assail the implementation of the Philippine-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which they said will lead to the return of permanent US military bases in the country.

Petitioners during yesterday’s oral arguments on the cases seeking the nullification of the Edca which was signed by Philippine and US officials last April 28 said the agreement paves the way for the return of permanent presence of American troops.

Former UP Law dean Pacifico Agabin, also a counsel for the petitioners, said the Military Bases Agreement of 1947 “is being repackaged, embroidered and gift wrapped” in the form of EDCA.

Former Sen. Rene Saguisag, one of the petitioners, argued the agreement would allow the presence of US troops in the country that could last for decades.

Saguisag was part of the so-called Magnificent 12 in the Senate who voted in 1991 to terminate the RP-US military bases agreement despite then President Corazon Aquino’s support for the signing of a new treaty.

Saguisag insisted that EDCA is an international agreement that warrants the concurrence by the Senate under Section 21 of Article VII of the Constitution.

The said provision states: “No treaty or international agreement shall be valied and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.”

It added that Section 25 of Article XVIII also states that “foreign troops or facilities shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate.”

“It’s not up to President or Defense Secretary to decide on something that has intergenerational consequences,” Saguisag said.

“We remain convinced we voted on the right side of history. I am here in that continuum, that our 1991 collegial vote not be nullified by one man, no matter how much I like him and wish for him to succeed,” Saguisag said in apparent reference to President Aquino.

AFP defends visit to peacekeepers' quarantine island

From the Philippine Star (Nov 17): AFP defends visit to peacekeepers' quarantine island

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Monday defended its visit to the quarantine area in Caballo Island last Sunday and insisted that no protocol was broken when its officials they mingled with the Filipino peacekeepers.

AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr. said the visit was sanctioned by the Department of Health, which crafts the protocols on handling persons from Ebola-stricken areas.

“Because of the explanation of [Health] Acting Secretary Janette Garin that we should not be worried, I enjoined her to show to our soldiers that our troops there are safe,” Catapang told reporters in Camp Aguinaldo.

“She (Garin) dictates the protocol since she is the acting secretary of health so we are not violating anything. She was with us when we went there,” he added.

On Sunday, military and health officials visited the 132 Filipino peacekeepers from Liberia under quarantine on Caballo Island, an area located 2.6 miles east of Corregidor.

Catapang said the visit was meant to inform the public that the peacekeepers should not be stigmatized.

The visit, however, drew flak from critics who think the military and the Health department had violated their own rules when they mingled with the peacekeepers.

Filipino netizens even questioned the purpose of placing the peacekeepers under quarantine when they are allowed to accept visitors. Other critics also asked the media to be silent on the issue until the three-week quarantine period is over.

Reacting to critics, Catapang said the quarantine was conducted as a precautionary measure to ensure that the Philippines remains Ebola-free. He noted that Ebola patients become contagious only when they start to show symptoms.

Except for a soldier who had fever because of malaria, none of the peacekeepers have displayed symptoms of the virus so far.

The malaria-stricken peacekeeper has been transported to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine facility in Alabang, Muntinlupa City and will be brought back to Caballo once the treatment is completed.

Before they were sent home, Filipino peacekeepers were declared clear of the Ebola virus by United Nations personnel who subjected them to screening. Despite the negative results, the government decided to subject the peacekeepers to a 21-day quarantine.

“We just want to be exemplars or models. We just follow orders,” Catapang said, adding that the visit was also an opportunity to check the plight of the peacekeepers.
Catapang said members of the media are welcome to visit the quarantine area.

The Philippines pulled out its peacekeepers in Liberia due to the outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has so far killed more than 4,900 persons.

Open to OFWs

Meanwhile, Catapang said Caballo Island may also serve as a quarantine site for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who came from Ebola-infested countries in West Africa. He said the Island can accommodate as much as 400 individuals.

“They (OFWs) have nothing to fear if they surrender themselves,” the military chief said.

Another island being considered as a quarantine area is Corregidor, an island fortress located about 50 kilometers west of Manila.

“If we quarantine a large number of people, we might ask for Corregidor Island. It has better amenities and hotels. It’s another paradise island,” Catapang said.

The island can accommodate about 1,000 individuals, he added.

Catapang said the OFWs would be transported to the quarantine sites once they volunteer to undergo the procedure.


Some SC justices: ‘Raise EDCA issues before the Senate’

From GMA News (Nov 18): Some SC justices: ‘Raise EDCA issues before the Senate’

Saying it would be premature for them to rule on the matter, several Supreme Court justices on Tuesday said issues raised against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) would best be resolved in the Senate.

On the first day of oral arguments on the consolidated petitions against the EDCA, Associate Justices Jose Perez, Marvic Leonen and Bienvenido Reyes indicated that senators, and not the magistrates, were in a better position to decide on the EDCA petitions.
Under the EDCA, the US will be allowed to build structures, store and preposition weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years inside "agreed locations."

But the petitioners insisted the deal would trample on the Philippines' sovereignty.
But Perez outrightly admitted: "I don't have the expertise to determine whether or not there is really a giving up of national sovereignty. They should be given to the Senate for the senate to do its work."
"There could be no argument for the unconstitutionality (of the EDCA)," Perez added.
Leonen, too, thought the petitioners were arguing in the "wrong forum."
"These arguments can be raised in the Senate. This should have been given to the Senate because they are your representatives," Leonen said.
Associate Justice Binevenido Reyes, for his part, said: "Without declaring the unconstitutionality of the EDCA, we instead throw it back to the Senate for hearing and consideration."
The petitioners insisted that before Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was allowed to sign the EDCA in April, there should have first been concurrence by the Senate, through a two-thirds vote, as required under Article XVIII, Section 25 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Leonen, however, observed that none of the petitioners sought a relief that would mandate President Benigno Aquino III to transmit the EDCA to the Senate for its concurrence.
Asked by Leonen if the petitions would become moot and academic in case Aquino eventually transmits the EDCA to the Senate, former University of the Philippines law dean Pacifico Agabin said: "No. Transmittal only complies with procedural requirements on transitory provision (under the Constitution)...but the treaty can still be contested on substantive grounds."
For her part, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said it would be "premature" to rule on the issues raised by the petitioners because the bilateral deal has yet to be implemented.
"Is it not even better for this court to see the EDCA take its shape and then if there is a violaiton of law, bring the matter to the proper forum?" Sereno asked.
Rachel Pastores, one of the lawyer for the petitioners, disagreed, saying Filipinos do not have to wait for eventual constitutional violations due to the EDCA before the bilateral deal is struck down. She added that the Philippines' past experience with US military bases in the country showed that the EDCA would only work for the interest of the US.
Sereno responded: "Are we gonna say that because of the past, we cannot enter into new agreements just because we were not happy in the past (with former military bases)."
But Pastores said the EDCA itself, through its provisions, showed a "kind of agreement that violated territorial integrity."
Sereno however declared that she has not yet seen the EDCA violating the Philippines' territorial integrity, especially since the deal has yet to be implemented. "Maybe it is really not yet ripe for us to adjuficate," she said.
Sereno noted the benefits that the Philippines could get in terms of protecting its territory in case the EDCA is implemented and US aid is allowed, especially isince - she said - islands and fishing grounds in the West Philippine Sea  were already being "overtaken" and that activities like blacksand mining has become prevalent.
Sereno said the Armed Forces of the Philippines itself had admitted in the EDCA that it needed foreign assistance since it has short-term capability issues.
"Why don't we test (EDCA) and see if we have absolutely no say on how those agreed locations are run," Sereno said.
But Pastores emphasized that there was nothing in the EDCA that states that the pre-positioned materiel from the US would be used to help defend the Philippines against foreign incursion.
Both Sereno and Leonen noted how none of the 24 sitting senators, whose concurrence the petitioners insisted was needed before the EDCA could be approved, seemed to have joined the petitioners in their plea.
Pastores, in response, said: "(But) silence of other senators doesn't mean they are in favor of (EDCA). It's the responsibility of the President to ask the Senate for its concurrence and the Senate cannot demand to have the treaty concurred by the Senate."
Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, meanwhile, asked Pastores if she thought the "agreed location" under the EDCA was limitless. Pastores answered in the affirmative, and added there even were no guidelines yet on these "agreed locations."
Pastores also said that the EDCA was a "sell out of national sovereignty and national interest," adding that the deal was only in line with the US defense policy and protects the US strategic interest.
"The EDCA is an erroneous application of the President's foreign policy powers and exercise of patent excess of jurisdiction," said Pastores.
Harry Roque and Evalyn Ursua, two other lawyers for the petitioners, both stressed that the EDCA could not be considered as merely an implementing agreement for the uS-Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting forces Agreement.
"Just because the Philippines agreed to the MDT and the VFA does not mean it extends to all subsequent security engagements entered into by the Philippines with the US," Ursua said.
Roque also raised fears that the US might use the "agreed locations" under EDCA to bring in nuclear weapons to the Philippines.
"I find it hard to believe that the US will not store nuclear weapons here because that is the main reason for doing away with permanent bases," said Roque.
Upon questioning by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Roque said he would rather advise President Aquino to increase defense spending, enter alliance with neighboring countries or sue China in an arbitration court, rather than strengthen alliance with the US as a treaty partner.
Former Senator Rene Saguisag, in his opening speech on behalf of the petitioners, said President Benigno Aquino III or Gazmin did not have the authority to decide on matters that would have "intergenerational consequences" to the Philippines.
It will be the Office of the Solicitor General's turn to lay down arguments defending the EDCA during the continuation of oral arguments on November 25.

CPP/NPA: Kampanyang-militar ng AFP laban sa BHB, bigo at nagtamo ng mga kaswalti sa hangganan ng Nueva Vizcaya at Aurora

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Nov 16): Kampanyang-militar ng AFP laban sa BHB, bigo at nagtamo ng mga kaswalti sa hangganan ng Nueva Vizcaya at Aurora
Rowena Servante
NPA Aurora Provincial Operations Command (Domingo Erlano Command)
Dalawang magkasunod na engkwentro ang naganap sa pagitan ng mga gerilya ng Bagong Hukbong Bayan (BHB) sa pamamatnugot ng Domingo Erlano Command at mga pasistang tropa ng Philippine Army (PA) sa ilalim ng 703rd Infantry Brigade sa hangganan ng Nueva Vizcaya at Maria Aurora nitong nakalipas na ilang linggo.

Nangyari ang unang labanan noong October 22, 2014 sa Sityo Manial, Barangay Lublob, Alfonso Castaneda Nueva Vizcaya. Naghahanda sa pagpakat ng ambus ang mga nag-ooperasyong sundalo nang maramdaman at madikitan sila ng mga Pulang mandirgma bandang 5:45 ng hapon. Ayon sa balita, sugatan sina Sgt. Benjamin Macarrubo at Pfc. Cristopher Estellore. Ang ikalawang labanan naman ay nangyari nitong November 12 sa kagubatan ng Barangay Galintuja, Maria Aurora, Aurora.
Tumagal ng halos kalahating oras ang palitan ng putok na nagresulta sa pagkakasugat ng dalawang sundalo na ginagamot ngayon sa isang ospital sa Baler. May mga ulat na nagsasabing dalawa ang patay sa mga kaaway at marami pang sugatan na pilit nilang itinatago sa publiko. Samantala, walang natamong pinsala ang panig ng BHB na maayos din namang nakaatras.

Mula ng mangyari ang mga nasabing labanan, gumamit ng malaking bilang ng tropa ang gobyerno para tugisin ang nakasagupa nilang yunit ng BHB na sumasaklaw sa lugar. Binubuo ito ng 3rd IB, 56th IB, Headquarter Service Company ng 703rd Infantry Brigade, 73rd Division Reconnaissance Company (DRC), K9 units, at mga elemento ng Special Forces sa ilalim ng Special Operations Command (SOCOM) na nakabase sa Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City, Nueva Ecija. Pinagbawalan nilang umahon ang mga residente ng Alfonso Castaneda at iba pang mga upland barangays ng Maria Aurora sa kanilang mga kaingin, siluan, at pangalapan. Apektado ang kabuhayan at seguridad ng mga mamamayang nabubulabog ngayon sa isinasagawang malawakang operasyon sa mga nasabing lugar.

Sa harap ng nagpapatuloy na militarisasyon sa kanayunan, lalo lamang nilang ginagatungan ang matagal nang galit at diskuntento ng mamamayan sa malaon na nilang dinaranas na kaapihan at kahirapan. Ang sistematikong pangangamkam ng lupa bunsod ng iba’t-ibang proyektong anti-magsasaka—-tulad ng Aurora Food Production and Agro-Forestry Project (AFPAP) sa Barangay Dianawan at eko-turismo na sumasaklaw ng daan-daang ektarya; pambabarat sa kanilang ani sa kabila ng napakataas na presyo ng mga batayang bilihin; kawalan ng kinakailangang suporta upang paunlarin ang sektor ng agrikultura; at pribatisasyon ng mga serbisyong panlipunan ay ilan lamang sa mga lehitimong dahilan. Wala silang ibang pagpipilian kundi buin ang sariling lakas para ipagtanggol at igiit ang kanilang mga karapatan. Nagsisilbing inspirasyon at sandigan nila ang BHB laluna sa pinakamataas na antas ng paglaban. Tinatamasa nito ang malalim na tiwala, pagtangkilik at pagtataguyod ng mamamayan kung kaya’t patuloy na nakakairal at sumusulong ang mga rebolusyonaryong gawain nito. Dahil dito, paulit-ulit na nabibigo ang kaaway sa mga pagtatangka nitong durugin ang BHB. At sa mga nabanggit na sagupaan, ipinagbubunyi ng malawak na masang pinaglilingkuran nito ang kabiguan at pinsalang natamo ng mga bayarang sundalo ng estado!

Pinatutunayan ng mga pangyayaring ito ang kasinungalingan at ilusyon ng Armed Forces of Philippines (AFP) sa sirang-plakang deklarasyon nito na matagal nang “insurgency-free” ang lalawigan ng Aurora. Malinaw kung para kanino lamang ang sinasabi nilang “kapayapaan at kaunlaran”—-upang pangalagaan at itaguyod ang interes ng mga amo nilang dayuhan at lokal na naghaharing-uri na kinabibilangan ng dinastiyang Angara. Iniinsulto ng punong kumander ng Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) na si Lt.Gen. Felicito Virgilio Trinidad Jr. ang talino ng sambayanang Pilipino sa pag-aakalang mapapaniwala niya ang publiko na nasa panig sila ng mamamayan sa kabila ng kanilang lantarang pagpapakatuta, pandarahas, at maruming rekord. Pilit niyang pinalalabas na ang isinasagawa nilang malawakang operasyon ngayon sa nabanggit na lugar ay “para lamang tugisin ang nalalabing NPA na nangingikil sa ordinaryong mga sibilyang naghahanda para sa nalalapit na kapaskuhan.” Wala na kasi siyang ibang maisip na dahilan upang bigyang-katwiran ang nagaganap na militarisasyon doon, at pagtakpan na rin ang kabiguan nilang pigilan ang pagsulong ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan.

Hanggang nananatili ang mga saligang ugat ng armadong tunggalian sa Pilipinas, hindi natin makakamit ang tunay na kapayapaan at kaunlaran para sa lahat na nakabatay sa hustisya at paggalang sa karapatang-pantao. Sa pagsusulong lamang ng demokratikong rebolusyon ng bayan mahahawan ang landas tungo sa ganap na kalayaan at tunay na demokrasya!


Rebels ambush 3 soldiers in Maguindanao province

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Nov 19): Rebels ambush 3 soldiers in Maguindanao province

BIFF rebels during a clandestine interview with the Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper in Maguindanao province in southern Philippines. (Mindanao Examiner Photo - Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO – Suspected rebels ambushed three soldiers on Tuesday in the town of Datu Piang in Maguindanao province in the troubled Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, officials said.

Officials said the attack killed an army major and two privates who were travelling in a car and their identities were withheld by the 6th Infantry Division.

The army quickly blamed the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the ambush. The soldiers also lost their weapons to the rebels.

It was the second attack in recent days in Maguindanao when some 500 rebels also assaulted the detachment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in the village of Sapakan in Rajah Buayan town.

The attack sparked a six-hour firefight that wounded Corporal Charlie Dilangsoy, according to First Lieutenant Jethro Agbing, of the 45th Infantry Battalion.

He said troops under Second Lieutenant Mike Vergel Concepcion, and pro-government militias headed by Kagui Teng Lumenda repulsed the rebels.

It was unknown if there were casualties on the side of the BIFF.

“The 45th Infantry Battalion under Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Bautista III, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as a whole, together with the support of the local populace, remain steadfast in maintaining peace and order to counter adverse intentions and future atrocities of the BIFF, and to give what the people of Maguindanao truly deserves, a harmonious and peaceful community free of elements who want to destroy the peace in Central Mindanao,” he said.


VLOG: SC begins oral arguments on EDCA

From Rappler (Nov 18): VLOG: SC begins oral arguments on EDCA

Can EDCA stand as executive agreement? Or does it need Senate ratification?

Protests welcome the first day of Supreme Court oral arguments on the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) on Tuesday afternoon, November 18. (READ: SC orals on EDCA: China threat looms over charter issues)

Rappler Carmela Fonbuena filed this video blog. Watch.

[Video: VLOG: SC begins oral arguments on EDCA


SC denies Laude kin's intervention in EDCA case

From Rappler (Nov 18): SC denies Laude kin's intervention in EDCA case

The High Court says the petition to intervene that Jennifer Laude's mother and sisters filed contains 'sensitive evidence' that might prejudice the murder case over her slay

The Supreme Court (SC) denied on Tuesday, November 18, the move of the relatives of slain transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude to intervene in the case against a disputed military agreement between the Philippines and the United States.

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), signed last April, expands the access of US troops to Philippine military facilities. Petitioners led by former senators are questioning before the High Court the constitutionality of the agreement, saying it was a treaty that should have been ratified by the Senate but was instead signed by Malacañang as an executive document.
In its en banc session Tuesday, the SC resolved that Laude's mother Julita and sisters Marilou and Michelle cannot intervene in the petitions assailing the constitutionality of the EDCA.
An intervenor status is granted to a petitioning party to resolve more effectively a legal dispute.
But the SC said the petition-in-intervention of the 3 female Laudes in the EDCA case contains "sensitive evidence" that might prejudice the murder complaint over Jennifer's slay, suspected to have been committed by US visiting soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton.
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno foresees the murder case to reach the SC, and so prevented its discussion during interpellation.
"We will not discuss that now, because I believe there is a distinct possibility that that case will be before us in the future," she said.
The SC also resolved to strike out from its records the said petition-in-intervention and all its annexes, as the subject documents discuss "in great detail" matters the city prosecutor's office in Olongapo would tackle in its preliminary investigation into the murder complaint against Pemberton.
Laude's death, heavily reported by the media, reignited clamor to end US military presence in the country sanctioned under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). (READ: Jennifer Laude, symbol of 'oppressed nation,' laid to rest)
One of these VFA-sanctioned US military drills brought Pemberton in the country.
Some sectors have criticized as mere theatrics the attempt to use Laude's case to tilt public sentiment against the EDCA.
The EDCA allows the US to construct facilities and upgrade infrastructures, store and preposition defense and disaster preparedness equipment, supplies, and materiel. (READ: DOCUMENT: Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement)

It also contains provisions meant to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), strengthen its external defense, ensure maritime security, increase maritime domain awareness, and expedite humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (READ: PH primer on military pact with US)

Proponents maintain the EDCA helps strengthen the country's position amid growing tensions with communist China in a controversial maritime row.
The EDCA was signed on April 28 just hours before US President Barack Obama arrived for a two-day state visit to the country.

Petitioners against the EDCA liken the US-Philippines military relations to an "unequal and exploitative love affair." (READ: Declare EDCA unconstitutional, EDCA asked)

A second set of petitioners also argued that the agreement deprives the country of its "power to tax, an incident of sovereignty," as "agreed locations are made available to the US rent-free." (READ: SC told: EDCA deprives state of tax powers)


Kidnap gang member captured in Zambo Sibugay

From MindaNews (Nov 18): Kidnap gang member captured in Zambo Sibugay

A suspected member of a kidnap-for-ransom-group (KFRG) was wounded and captured following a shootout on Saturday with government operatives in Zamboanga Sibugay, belated police reports said.

Senior Supt. Roberto Roy Bahian, Zamboanga Sibugay police director, identified the captured KFRG member as Honrato Encabo alias Jojo of Alicia town.

Bahian said Encabo was admitted and guarded at a hospital in the capital municipality of Ipil. A caliber .45 pistol with ammunition was seized from his possession.

He said the joint police and military operatives, armed with arrest warrants, swooped down the hideout of Encabo around 9 p.m. Saturday at Sitio Dapdap, Barangay Kawayan, Alicia.

Encabo opened fire upon seeing the arriving troops, Bahian said.

He said Encabo is charged for the crimes of kidnapping with serious illegal detention and robbery before a court in the municipality of Imelda, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Encabo is reportedly a member of Reme Sabtal Criminal Gang, formerly known as Mamay Aburi Group.

The group is allegedly involved in criminal activities that include kidnapping, extortion and highway robbery in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, Bahian said.