Sunday, November 30, 2014

Lumad students, teachers to protest military encampment in schools

From the Philippine Star (Dec 1): Lumad students, teachers to protest military encampment in schools

More than 50 Lumad students and teachers from community schools in Mindanao will start on Monday afternoon a vigil in front of the Department of Education central office in Pasig City to protest the continuous encampment of soldiers in their campuses.

Along with various non-government organizations led by Save Our Schools Network, the Lumad students and teachers called on Education Secretary Armin Luistro to scrap the memorandum which allows the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to use the schools in military operations.

The groups said that to date, there are around 214 Lumad community schools with military encampment in Mindanao.

The groups will try to seek a dialogue with Luistro to discuss the issues plaguing Lumad community schools.

On December 2, the group will also build a makeshift classroom to show the plight of Lumads every time they are forced to evacuate their communities when there are military operations in the area.

Education memo lets AFP encamp in schools

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 1): Education memo lets AFP encamp in schools

OPPOSITION lawmakers and children’s advocates on Sunday demanded that the Department of Education rescind its Memorandum 221 allowing soldiers to encamp in school premises and daycare centers, resulting in the trauma and displacement of indigenous schoolchildren.

In Mindanao alone, the Save our schools Network has documented 20 Education Department schools that were said to have been attacked or used by the Armed Forces, while 214 cases of military attacks on lumad community schools were listed.

Most of those cases took place in 2013 and 2014, the SOS Network said.

Gabriela Rep. Emmi De Jesus slammed the Education Department for its alleged inaction on the complaints of indigenous children and their elders over the agency’s alleged complicity in allowing soldiers to harass and occupy their schools.

He call for the immediate military pullout from school premises was supported by her six other colleagues in the Makabayan bloc.

In a dialogue held at the Education Department’s headquarters in Pasig earlier this week, De Jesus chided Secretary Armin Luistro for not asserting his mandate to protect the right to education of children especially in the indigenous communities.

De Jesus said she was “very alarmed that the agency still has not made concrete actions for the immediate pullout of the military in the areas mentioned.”

Manobo children and village chiefs picketed the Education Department’s gates as De Jesus and the leaders of the child rights’ organizations under the Save Our School Network, with Salinlahi Children’s Alliance as its lead, held a meeting with Tonisito Umali, the  Assistant Secretary of Legal and Legislative Affairs.

After hours of pleading with the department s to rescind its Memorandum 221, De Jesus said Umali merely gave a bureaucratic promise of calling for a “continued review and study” of the conditions obtaining in alternative schools in the tribal communities.

“We are challenging Brother Luistro to uphold civilian authority over military command,” De Jesus said.

“It is his job to assert to President Aquino that, as commander in chief, he has the power to put a stop to the havoc being brought about by the militarization in the countrysides, particularly in schools and tribal communities.”

The SOS Network said the public schools (day care, elementary and high schools) located in the hinterlands, including the lumad community schools established by private groups and individuals, had been facing the terror brought about by the military operations under the counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan.

“One of the provisions of RA 7610, or the Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination, bans military from using schools, hospitals and rural health units for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments and supply depots,” the network said.

“However, despite the prohibition stipulated under the law, elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines blatantly use/attack schools during military operations.
“Soldiers utilize schools as temporary military camps, barracks/shelter, storage of weapons and belongings and outposts.

“Students, teachers and community members live in an unprecedentedly harsh and dangerous environment with the presence of the military in schools and communities. Early exposure to violence is one of the alarming and threatening consequences of the military attacks on schools.”

In March 2012, the SOS Network said elements of the 85th Infantry battalion occupied an elementary school in Lopez, Quezon, where children were encouraged to watch films showing the bloody encounters of between the military armed groups.

The sounds of military operations and the mere presence of soldiers carrying high powered ammunitions in their schools were very disruptive, the group said.

“In San Miguel Las Navas, Samar, military elements of the 34th Infantry battalion permanently used the day care center along with the barangay health center and church,” the group said.

“Children complained about the foul odor coming from the walls of the Day Care as the soldiers were using it as their urinal.  They also used parts of its wall as firewood leaving the infrastructure unsafe and unpleasant.”

Explosive recovered from Army-NPA clash in Albay

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 30): Explosive recovered from Army-NPA clash in Albay

State forces recovered a landmine left behind by retreating communist rebels following a firefight with soldiers in Albay on Sunday morning, the military said.

Major Angelo Guzman, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Lucena City, said the improvised explosive device, classified as a landmine, was found after a group of soldiers under the Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Battalion engaged a band of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in a five-minute firefight in a forested area of Barangay (village) Bololo, Guinobatan, Albay around 6:40 a.m. Sunday.

He said the soldiers were on patrol when they clashed with about five unidentified armed men. No one was hurt in the encounter.

He said the suspected rebels might have unintentionally left the explosive as they withdrew. It was still unknown if the landmine was an anti-personnel or anti-vehicle type of explosive.

Lieutenant Colonel Perfecto Peñaredondo, commanding officer of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, immediately deployed other troops to pursue the rebels, Guzman said.

He added that the use of landmines by the suspected NPAs has been violating the Geneva Convention, the international law on the conduct of armed conflicts, and the Comprehensive Agreement for Respect to Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, an agreement signed between the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines, whose peace negotiations with the government has been stalled.

4 more NPA rebels yield

From the Sun Star Davao (Nov 30): 4 more NPA rebels yield

FOUR more members of the New People's Army (NPA) surrendered Saturday to Mayor Domingo A. Lim of Lupon town in Davao Oriental.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) acting public information officer Major Ezra L. Balagtay identified the surrenderees as Jayson Mabaslay, alias Beboy, a vice team leader; Richard Mabaslay, alias Cocoy; Jennifer Mabaslay, alias Jena; and Jocel Tejano, alias Jenny, all were medics and political guides.

Balagtay said the four surrendered after Jomar Mabaslay, alias Gilbert, a brother of Jayson and Jennifer, surrendered to the government authorities at Sitio Yauri in Barangay Calapagan in Lupon last November 22.

"Accordingly, the rebels decided to surrender because of hardship and disillusionment in the NPA bandit organization that has targeted civilians and non-military objective. The surrenderees admitted that they were victims of the NPA’s deception," Balagtay said.

Eastmincom commander Major General Aurelio Baladad, meanwhile, lauded the rebel returnees and re-iterated his call for the other communist rebels to lay down their firearms, return to the folds of the law, and live a normal and peaceful life with their love ones.

The Eastmincom has recorded a total of 442 surrenderees wherein those who surrendered with firearms were enrolled with Guns for Peace of the Armed Forces while those without firearms were enrolled in the Integration Program of different LGUs.

Balagtay said that at present, the rebel surrenderees are undergoing a stress and psychological debriefing and processing by the government authorities.

4 dead, 4 wounded in suspected NPA attack in Agusan del Sur – Army

From GMA News (Dec 1): 4 dead, 4 wounded in suspected NPA attack in Agusan del Sur – Army

Four civilians were killed while four others were wounded following an attack by suspected communist New People's Army in Agusan del Sur province over the weekend, a statement from the military said.

A statement from the Army's 6th Infantry Division identified the fatalities as Neljoy Cerna, 27; Noni Mabong, 51; Alfredo Cerna, 51; and Vanessa Sabas, 30. 

Cerna and Mabong died on the spot while the two were declared dead on arrival at the hospital.

Those wounded were:
Liza Casilla, 47;  

Elmer Adonis, 37;  

Mae Roselyn Adonis, 8; and  

Barangay chairman Emillio Solidor Jr., 49.

The statement said the attack occurred around 5:30 p.m. Sunday along Road 2 at Sitio Latay in Barangay Marfil in Rosario town. 

The military said that prior to the attack, Solidor was invited to a celebration of the Wayside Bible Baptist Church at Sitio Latay earlier in the day.

Around 5 p.m., Solidor left the area using the barangay ambulance. Six other civilians and eight children rode with the barangay official.

Minutes later, the group was fired upon by more or less 20 insurgents believed to be under the command of Leonida Belarmino Sanchez a.k.a. Monik/Susay, Randy Dondon Subla a.k.a Nice, Ariel Conejar Ornales a.k.a. Charlie/Jorlan/Brylle and Renato Sayasat a.k.a. Friday.  

Government troops have since been deployed to pursue the attackers.

Technology connects one hope, one dream for peace

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 30): Technology connects one hope, one dream for peace

BRIDGES Through giant screens during EPIC (Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication), the video conference held by the US Embassy in Manila and Philippine nongovernment organization PeaceTech Inc., “enemies” in Cotabato City and Zamboanga City are connected and begin to understand the opposing sides of war. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

BRIDGES Through giant screens during EPIC (Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication), the video conference held by the US Embassy in Manila and Philippine nongovernment organization PeaceTech Inc., “enemies” in Cotabato City and Zamboanga City are connected and begin to understand the opposing sides of war. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

While the sounds of soldiers’ gunfire fighting Islamic militants raged through parts of southern Mindanao on Nov. 14, there was an even louder sound echoing throughout Cotabato and Zamboanga cities: more than 3,000 voices singing for peace.

The voices belonged to war victims, former fighters, soldiers, high school students and out-of-school youth from the country’s conflict-affected regions, stretching from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) strongholds in Tawi-Tawi, Sulu and Basilan provinces all the way to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) communities in Central Mindanao.

What was interesting was that all these people singing for peace were sharing their dreams through giant screens in a massive video conference.

Called EPIC (Empowerment for Peace through Information and Communication), the video conference, held by the US Embassy in Manila and Philippine nongovernment organization PeaceTech Inc., was in stark contrast to the recent application of information communication technology (ICT) by the Islamic State (IS) and other groups using technology to destroy rather than build.

Connected by PLDT-Smart Foundation with a high-speed private line, the huge video conference used a variety of techniques to promote understanding, ranging from dialogues between guests from “opposing” sides of war to interactive games played through screens measuring 5.2 x 6.1 meters.

These were all done to connect the youth of Central and Western Mindanao, who had gathered in the gymnasiums of Notre Dame University in Cotabato City and Western Mindanao State University in Zamboanga City.

‘We are the same’

The purpose was to emphasize that whichever community these young people are from, they have more in common than what they have been taught.

Twenty-eight-year-old Anthony Jamid of Tawi-Tawi, who lost his home and an uncle during the course of a conflict as a young boy, was glad to be in Zamboanga City for EPIC.

“I think the video conference is a good idea. Before I saw the people from Cotabato on the screen, I thought that they were always engaged in war, as that is what I see in the news. I saw it as a city of war,” Jamid said.

“I [saw] their faces and now, I see we are the same. Interacting with them made me realize we have the same fears, questions and dreams,” he said.

On the other side of the video conference in Cotabato City was 22-year-old Noralyn Lumbatan of Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao province.

“I realized that if it [were] not for PeaceTech [and the US Embassy], my negative perception would not change—that the people of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi cannot be trusted. But then, when I participated in EPIC, I have learned that they are also joyful, that they can be trusted.”


Anizar Anapi, 22, was raised in conflict. He still suffers from the trauma he went through at the age of 12, when his family fled their home in order to save their lives while their town in Basilan was being bombed. But he recognizes the potential that ICT has for healing the wounds of the past.

“The Internet helps us to connect with other people so they can express what they want and share thoughts on peace. If people from other areas see they want peace, they will not fear,” he said.

These young people were joined by adult speakers who have experienced the horrors of the 40-year Mindanao conflict, which has taken as many as 150,000 lives and which the MILF and the Philippine government has vowed to end.

Master Sgt. Emilo Hemongala, who joined the video conference in Cotabato City, almost died in a MNLF ambush in Mindanao. “The moment we arrived at our assignment, the rebel forces immediately attacked us …. That was my first encounter where the field you trekked on was riddled with land mines,” he said.

Powerful moment

In a powerful moment, Hemongala was bridged through the screens with his “enemy”—Edmund Gumbahali—a MNLF member who comes from the community in Sulu where Hemongala was assigned.

Gumbahali himself was held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf in 2011 and 2012: “For three months, I suffered a lot of mental and emotional trauma, especially the feeling of longing for my family …. They kept on telling me: ‘Tomorrow, we will behead you.’”

Despite their differences, the guests realized that they have a common vision for Mindanao. Said Major Singagandal, a former MNLF fighter from Sultan Kudarat who was in Cotabato City for EPIC: “Jihad has a different meaning under the circumstances …. In our current status, it’s a jihad where we have to avoid violating human rights.

Instead, we help each other and unite to achieve peace and discuss the problems so our children and the next coming generation shall be educated.”

Educating youths

The video conference was part of a larger program the US Embassy is doing with PeaceTech, an organization that has pioneered using videoconferencing and ICT for peace-building in the Philippines and Indonesia.

Most of the three-month program focused on training 100 “at-risk” young people, like Jamid and Lumbatan, who are vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups or even radicalism because they are from conflict-affected communities without opportunities.

Seventeen-year-old Hamad Taisher Hashim of Sulu is another out-of-school youth who participated in EPIC, a son of an MNLF fighter who has spent much of his life fleeing one home for another. “It was so hard to live because of the constant uncertainty and always being scared,” he said.

He said young people often joined insurgents because of the money. “If they help in a kidnapping, they sometimes get a part of the ransom. They can’t finish school and they can’t get jobs and have nothing to do,” he said.

These concerns had motivated the US Embassy and PeaceTech to hold EPIC. US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg flew to Zamboanga City for the video conference to reach out to the thousands of people.


“It was amazing—1,500 kids here, 1,500 in Cotabato all coming together because they are optimistic and, like kids everywhere, they want a good future, they want to get together, they want to train, they want to know what possibilities there are in life and that’s a wonderful thing.”

“The whole idea is to reach out to young people, especially the Muslim youth who may not see a brighter future, so they don’t fall into the same traps and they see that there is a better way in trying to deal with other communities, to give them an idea that there’s hope for the future.”

Jamid of Tawi-Tawi understood the ambassador’s words. “I will go home and tell others like me that there are more important things in this world than revenge and violence. We will not attain anything positive with this,” he said.

No room for vengeance

Anapi returned to his native Basilan with a clear mission in mind: “I will tell religious leaders what I have learned. And I will tell other young people not to exact revenge because their fathers or brothers are one. You do not have to follow them.”

“Many people join rebel groups because of revenge, because they do not know who the enemy is,” he said.

For much of the three months, EPIC focused on training on conflict management and the benefits of peace.

Hashum of Sulu said he was learning quickly: “If I am going to make peace in our community, I will start it in myself. I believe if we do not have peace in our own self, we cannot give peace to others.”

The out-of-school youth also learned skills in videography and reporting, with which they make videos informing other young people about their communities.

There was also training on project development so the out-of-school youth can create and implement in their communities projects that they feel will help spread peace and sustain what they have learned from EPIC.

Anapi went home to Basilan with funding from EPIC, which would build the playground he never had for others: “They have no playground in my place. The youth are bored; they have no time to enjoy themselves. So there, they will join violence even though they don’t understand why it’s happening.”

“Conflict is not a situation they necessarily want to find themselves in. It’s just that they have never known any other way until now. And with technology dominating the lives of young people more and more, the possibilities for greater understanding are limitless,” said lawyer Gianna Montinola, cofounder and president of PeaceTech.

PeaceTech staff Jonathan Husain in Central Mindanao and Kishee Dawabi in Western Mindanao led the workshops.

Dawabi said: “Most had low self-esteem, some were aggressive and had difficulty expressing their ideas and problems in a peaceful and acceptable manner. Some were apathetic or aloof, having their own prejudices against other participants coming from other places.”


Dawabi said the opportunity to express their thoughts was of great help: “They drew their ideas on peace, conflict and other concepts—this let them also discover themselves. Fun games taught the importance of a win-win perspective, resolving conflict instead of a win-lose deal. And that although conflict is something natural and part of our daily lives, it does not need to always escalate to violence.”

Jamid said he had seen himself change as a result of what he has learned in EPIC.

“I did not believe in the peace process nor peace; I did not think the world would get better. I was just concerned with my own world. I did not care about anything else. Now, I think peace is attainable if we all unite, if the groups involved will understand each other.”

Anapi now dreams of going back to school and becoming a professional. “I learned about respect, leadership and friendship, and to be true to yourself and to do good things …. Peace for me is all about understanding individuals despite cultural differences.”

Singing song of unity

PeaceTech founder Robin Pettyfer spent time with the participants of EPIC: “I like them all! And I am glad that EPIC seems to have the impact we aimed for. But what we are doing here is not difficult. We’re leveraging basic technology to empower those young people who are otherwise separated from one another and excluded from the mainstream. If we can do that—if we can use ICT to reduce ignorance, to show young people that what they are told about the other group is not true—then we can help reduce conflict.”

Jamid and Anapi listened quietly. But when Jamid was asked about his favorite moment during the video conference, he answered without hesitation: “I liked singing the PeaceTech song—it says ‘One Hope, One Dream.’”

His new friend Anapi agreed: “With peace,” he said, “We can dream again.

Sayyaf leader arrested at NAIA

From the Philippine Star (Dec 1): Sayyaf leader arrested at NAIA

A suspected Abu Sayyaf leader has been arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), officials said yesterday.

Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez, director of the Intelligence Group (IG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said Ustadz Burhan Malban Mundos, alias Burhan Mundos, was arrested on Nov. 20 after arriving from Zamboanga City.

Mundos was tagged by police and military intelligence as the solicitor of foreign funds and armaments for the Abu Sayyaf.

Mendez clarified Mundos went to Metro Manila to attend a hearing of one of his bombing cases in Taguig City, not to continue soliciting funds for the Abu Sayyaf from foreign sources.

Senior Superintendent Ronald Lee, head of the PNP-IG’s Counter-Intelligence Division, said Mundos kept silent on his role in the Abu Sayyaf.

“He ignored questions thrown at him by our anti-terrorist investigators,” Lee said.

A local official said the Abu Sayyaf is receiving funds from abroad to support its operation in Basilan.

Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan Vice Mayor Joel Maturan said the Abu Sayyaf group was monitored recruiting new members and promising allowances up to P15,000 each.

“We heard this information that they are receiving financial support from abroad and we are verifying the information,” Maturan said.

Maturan doubted reports that the Abu Sayyaf used talk of foreign support to lure new members. He believes the bandit group is actually sourcing its funds from the ransom paid by people its members kidnapped and the extortion money paid by local officials, business owners and teachers.

Abu Sayyaf financing leader arrested at NAIA

From Ang Malaya (Dec 1): Abu Sayyaf financing leader arrested at NAIA

Ustadz Burhan Malban Mundos, alias Burhan Mundos was arrested at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Sunday, November 20 arriving from Zamboanga City.

Mundos is believed to be a sponsorship operator for the Abu Sayyaf terror group.

The arrest was confirmed by Intelligence Group of the Philippine National Police Director Chief Superintendent Fernando Mendez yesterday November 30. “He ignored questions thrown at him by our anti-terrorist investigators,” the PNP-IG director said.

In late 1990s and early 2000s, Mundos helped construct mosques and Arabic schools and Koranic circles in Basilan, Zamboanga and Sulu through the foundation Ship of Salvation to channel funds for Abu Sayyafs. Said funds were from Saudi Arabian nationals. Funds were used to bomb Central Mindanao and Zamboanga City, as confessed by arrested ASG members.

Burhan Mundos traveled to KSA in late 1997 to take up Islamic propagation course. Burhan Mundos has a brother named Khair. Khair was again arrested early June this year after escaping jail in 2007.

At present, the terror group is sourcing its funds to operate from ransom and extortion money collected from kidnap victims’ families, local officials and businessmen.

UNICEF to orient MILF on ‘child warriors’

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 30): UNICEF to orient MILF on ‘child warriors’

Philippine-based experts from a United Nations agency will orient Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) commanders on the issue of “child warriors” in pursuit of an earlier agreed action plan.

The orientation will be held at the MILF headquarters at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao tomorrow, the UNICEF said in a statement.

The interventions will be conducted by Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF-Philippines representative, and the agency’s five-member panel chaired by Eduard Guerra.

The event is part of “MILF’s commitment to the Action Plan signed with UNICEF in 2009” that calls for a series of orientations on the front’s “role and responsibility to prevent and address the association of children with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF),” agency media liaison Jingjing Romero said.

“The action plan commits the MILF to concrete, time-bound activities pertaining to the prevention of recruitment, and support for the separation of any children under 18(years old) from the command structure; and unimpeded access for UN verification, and awareness raising on child rights and child protection for its military rank and file, as well as MILF communities,” Romero said.

There is no exact number of minors from among the MILF’s estimated 11,000 combatants even as the UNICEF stressed that “armed conflict (is) a grievous assault on child rights.”

Palace condemns violent protest held in front of Aquino residence

From the Business World (Nov 30): Palace condemns violent protest held in front of Aquino residence

MALACAÑANG YESTERDAY condemned what it described a “violent” protest by militant groups in front of President Benigno S. C. Aquino III’s home in Times Street, Quezon City.
The clash between around 150 protesters and the police occurred Saturday morning, as the militant group protested human rights violations and military actions in rural communities in the wake of the 151st birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio, a revolutionary leader during the Spanish colonial rule over the Philippines. Twelve Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel were injured in the confrontation, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said in a radio interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

An activist leader, identified by the protesters as Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Secretary-General Antonio Flores, was later arrested and is currently being held at Camp Karingal.
“What the rallyists did in terms of vandalism and inflicting injuries on members of the PNP clearly exceeded the maximum limits of the freedom of expression at hindi po pahihintulutan ng pamahalaan na maulit ang kaganapang ‘yan (The government will not allow incidents like this to happen again),” Mr. Coloma said in a radio interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

The Palace spokesman noted that the demonstrators asked that they be allowed to hold their protest for 10 more minutes as their program was winding down, which the PNP allowed. But instead of peacefully conducting their protest, the militant groups “attacked and hurt” the policemen, and vandalized the grounds in front of Mr. Aquino’s house, that of a neighbor’s, and a police vehicle.
The PNP has filed cases against protesters who stormed the President’s home.

“As reported by Police Senior Superintendent Joel D. Pagdilao, Quezon City Police District chief, cases of illegal assembly, direct assault upon an agent or person in authority, serious physical injury and vandalism were filed by the PNP against Antonio Flores, secretary-general of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas and other leaders of the protesters,” Mr. Coloma said.
He added that “after evaluating the evidence presented, Assistant City Prosecutor Pedro Tresvalles, established the existence of probable cause and recommended the filing of several cases.

More than 2,000 soldiers to be deployed for pre-APEC summit meet in Legazpi

From the Business World (Nov 30): More than 2,000 soldiers to be deployed for pre-APEC summit meet in Legazpi

AT LEAST 2,600 government security troops will be deployed for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Informal Senior Officials’ Meeting (ISOM) in Legazpi City, authorities said. The meeting will serve as a prelude to the actual summit to be hosted by the Philippines next year.
A special task force has already been formed for the ISOM, which is expected to be attended by at least 450 delegates from different countries, Brig. Gen. Raul M. Farnacio, commander of the Bicol-based 901st brigade of the Philippine Army, said.
“It’s a joint and interagency task group, all uniformed personnel are included in this to address the emergency preparedness, the peace and order, as well as the security of the APEC-ISOM,” Mr. Farnacio said in an interview.
The ISOM, which will be hosted by the country for the first time, is scheduled on Dec. 8 and 9 at the Oriental Hotel in Legazpi City.

The Philippine Army has committed some 300 troops to the task force, which will also be composed of troops from the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force as well as the Philippine National Police (PNP).

With the security protocols in place, Mr. Farnacio said that the military has not monitored any potential threats that may disrupt the summit, citing that they have been preparing for the event for at least five months.

Gov’t set on creating Bangsamoro entity by 2016 despite delays

From the Business World (Nov 30): Gov’t set on creating Bangsamoro entity by 2016 despite delays

DELAYS in the approval of the Bangsamoro Basic Law will not affect the government’s timetable of establishing a new political entity in Mindanao by 2016, a Palace official said yesterday.
Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. made the announcement as the House of Representatives said it will be unable to meet its self-imposed deadline to pass the measure by yearend.
Based on the government’s timetable, there is still “enough time” to conduct the plebiscite by 2015 and hold elections for the officials that will head the new government by 2016, in sync with the national poll, even if Congress approves the measure in the first quarter of next year, Mr. Coloma said in a radio interview aired over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.

“What we’re really looking at in the timetable is the May 2016 date where we target to hold the elections. What we just hope is that there be enough window in the transition between the Bangsamoro Transitional Assembly and the new officials after the elections. Right now, we still have more than a year and a half before 2016 that’s why we’re not really worried that it would affect the whole process,” he said.

Malacañang’s earlier timetable set the approval of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law by yearend, conduct of plebiscite in 2015, and elections, in time for the national polls in 2016.

The Executive had also failed to submit the draft Bangsamoro bill to the House of Representatives as scheduled last May 5 after both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) panels scrambled to iron out the contents of the draft law to come at a “mutually-acceptable” version, which, at the same time, falls within the confines of the 1987 Constitution.

News reports quoted House Majority Leader Neptali M. Gonzales as saying the House could start plenary debates on the proposed Bangsamoro Law in the first quarter of next year, as the draft law “is still with the special committee chaired by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district), which has been conducting public hearings on the proposal and is expected to submit their report in “January or February.”

The Bangsamoro Basic Law -- which will reflect the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro inked between the government and the MILF last March 27 -- will speed up the process of creating the autonomous region as part of a peace process to end decades of fighting that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law will formalize the creation of a new Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

1 wounded in Mindanao blasts

From the Business Mirror (Nov 30): 1 wounded in Mindanao blasts

ONE person was wounded after two explosions rocked Central Mindanao over the weekend as authorities grappled with the continuing series of attacks that were allegedly being carried out by the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, public affairs officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said both the Philippine National Police and the military were still investigating the blasts, which came in eight hours of succession on Saturday.

The first explosion, which bomb experts said was made of a homemade bomb, occurred at Sitio Bagong, Barangay Timbangan, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao, at around 8:10 in the morning.

While no casualty was reported from the blast, it created fear from residents of the area. Petinglay said the blast was initially tagged by bomb experts as the handiwork of the BIFF based on the way it was rigged and its components as shown by the debris that were recovered.

The public affairs officer said the bandit group, which broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is known for its expertise in rigging bombs that were made of mortars and howitzer rounds.

The blast in Maguindanao was followed eight hours later by another explosion in Cotabato City, wherein a hand grenade was used.

According to Petinglay, a suspect hurled the fragmentation grenade into a passing dump truck that was traveling along Sinsuat Avenue, wounding Raismia Angas Baraguir, 22.

She said the green truck, with plate number KCZ-378, was coming from Rosales Street, also in the city, when the perpetrator lobbed the grenade, triggering a loud explosion and sending pedestrians into panic.

While still working on the suspect’s identity, investigators recovered from the scene a safety lever and fragments of grenade.

Earlier, Armed Forces Chief  of   Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang ordered military commanders in Central Mindanao to end the atrocities committed by lawless groups in the region, particularly the BIFF that he dubbed “spoilers of peace.”

Ex-putschists seek probe on P250-M ransom payment to Abu Sayyaf

From the Business Mirror (Nov 30): Ex-putschists seek probe on P250-M ransom payment to Abu Sayyaf

MAGDALO party-list lawmakers have recently  filed a resolution calling for an immediate congressional inquiry into the alleged recent payment of a P250-million ransom to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group for the release of its German hostages.

House Resolution 1679, authored by Party-list Reps. Reps. Gary C. Alejano and Ashley L. Acedillo of Magdalo, directs the appropriate House committee to investigate, in aid of legislation, the said alleged ransom payment for the release of Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55.

“If the payment is indeed true, it has set a terribly troubling precedent that will only serve to encourage the Abu Sayyaf and other kidnap-for-ransom groups to engage in such activities, especially those targeting foreigners,” the lawmakers said.

According to the resolution, “the payment of hundreds of millions of pesos to the said terrorist group will not only motivate them to kidnap more foreigners.”

This would “also allow them to utilize such big funds to procure more firearms and weapons to the detriment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and law-enforcement agencies.”

According to government reports, the two Germans were traveling within Philippine waters using a private yacht in April when they were abducted by the terrorist group. They were held captive for six months and were then scheduled to be executed in October, if the ransom money was not paid.

“The Philippine government denied that payment of ransom money was involved to secure the release of the two German nationals,” Alejano and Acedillo’s resolution said.

According to the lawmakers, the terrorist group uploaded this month a video on the Internet showing it arranging and counting a very visible big stash of money.

It was also visible in the video the money was composed of bundles of P1,000 bills.
“Such payment, if true, means that more than P100 million in thousand-peso bills will leave a paper trail involving Philippine banks that facilitated the transfer of such huge amounts of money,” the lawmakers said.

MILF: House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL holds consultation in Pagadian City.

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 1): House Ad Hoc Committee on BBL holds consultation in Pagadian City.

The Ad Hoc Committee on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) conducted held consultation on House Bill No. 4994 at the Executive Function Hall of Pagadian City capitol building.
The public hearing was presided over by Ad Hoc Committee chairman Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan De Oro. With his group were representatives from Zamboanga Del Norte, Tawi-Tawi, a partylist representative, and others.

GPH Peace Panel Chair Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Atty. Leo Lorena of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Atty. Lanang T. Ali Jr. of Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) were the resource persons.

Majority of the participants in the public hearing were from the local government units (LGUs). Those that were not in the list were not allowed to attend the public hearing.

The local government unit of Pagadian City is not part of the Bangsamoro core territory and is lukewarm on BBL. Some participants raised the following questions on:

1.    Why do we need Bangsamoro government when it will only divide the Filipino people?
2.    Why do we have to create a government within the government?
3.    How are we assured that the MILF surrender their firearms to the government?
4.    If the MILF party does not win in the election, will they not engage in rebellion again?
5.    Why is Bangsamoro authorized to have their flag, anthem, and seal?
6.    What will happen to MILF combatants who are not professionals, will they be integrated in the Bangsamoro Police?

The participants who support the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) were not be given a chance to join in the discussions and air their statements to the Ad Hoc Committee on BBL.

MILF: Iqbal says the future of Cotabato City is in the Bangsamoro

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 30): Iqbal says the future of Cotabato City is in the Bangsamoro

BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal appealed on November 24 to officials of Cotabato City’s 37 barangays to become a part of the Bangsamoro because their “future is in the Bangsamoro.”
In his message read for him by BTC Commissioner Peter Eisma, Iqbal mentioned both economic and social reasons that serve as “our golden opportunity that may not present itself again if we miss it.”

“Surely, with its financial institutions and service economy, Cotabato City stands to gain a lot, as it has over the past 25 years in spite of its being temporary seat of the ARMM,” Iqbal said.

He added that “more than the economics of it, the Bangsamoro is a remedy to social problems like peace and order. The normalization process will set into motion, among other things, the joint efforts of the AFP, PNP and BIAF in disbanding private armies and other armed groups that have been the scourge of our communities.”

“It has everything to gain and nothing to lose if it decides to join the new political entity,” Iqbal emphasized.

In an event dubbed as “LGU Roundtable Discussion on the Proposed BBL” held at Southseas Mall of Cotabato City, barangay chairpersons and kagawads took turns in raising question to the panel of discussants led by Commissioners Eisma, Froilyn Mendoza and Timway Melanio Ulama.

Professor Raby Angkal of the MILF Political Committee and Atty. Haron Meling of the Office of the Chairman (BTC) also served as resource persons.

The gathering, organized by the United Youth of the Philippines (UnYPhil) –Women and supported by Giz (Deutsche Gesellchaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Zfd (Ziviler Friedensdient) or Civil Peace Service, was a culmination of the community dialogues held in 20 of the 37 barangays.

The forum tried to generate the perspective of the elected barangay officials as distinguished from the issues and concerns raised by their constituents during the two-month series of dialogues conducted in the barangays.

Main resource persons to the 20 community dialogues were BTC Comm. Mendoza, BTC Communications Group Head Abdullah Cusain, Prof. Angkal and Duma Mascud as alternate to Angkal.

MILF: International and local Peace Builders visit Mindanao’s premier university, support BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 30): International and local Peace Builders visit Mindanao’s premier university, support BBL

A delegation of International and local peace builders visited the Institute of Middle East and Asian Studies (IMEAS) of the University of Southern Mindanao (USM) in Kabacan, Cotabato and held dialogue with the faculty and students in the afternoon of November 19, 2014. USM is a premier university in Southern part of the Philippines.
IMEAS faculty members and more than three hundred students of Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Studies (BAIS) and Bachelor of Science in International Relations joined the dialogue. Professor Badrodin S. Abdulkadir, Dean of IMEAS welcomed their guests and expressed his profound gratitude to their guests for making the visit and the conduct of forum on BBL. Dr. Abdulkadir said that IMEAS is very supportive to any program that may lead to peace and development.

The visitors led by Prof. Danniel “Dann” Pantoja, Executive Director of the Peace Builders Community based in Davao City expressed their full support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the Bangsamoro Government.The members of the delegation include Arthur Block from Canada, Salome Haldeman of France and Jonathan Cranston from the United States.

The students were so impressed and happy with the visit of the international peacebuilders.’s-premier-university-support-bbl

MILF: UNICEF conducts orientation for MILF-BIAF Commanders

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 29): UNICEF conducts orientation for MILF-BIAF Commanders

The United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) conducted orientation for Commanders of the MILF- Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) on November 18, 2014 at Camp Rajamuda, Pikit, North Cotabato.
There were Five Hundred (500) BIAF Commanders from the 108th Base Command, 109th Base Command and 110th Base Command of the Western Mindanao Front based at Camp Rajamuda that attended the orientation.

The orientation focused on the UN-MILF Action Plan for Non recruitment and Use of Children in Armed Conflict. Four (4) Modules were presented and discussed with Module-I pertaining to “The Children in Armed Conflict”.  It was presented by Nor-Ayn Makakena from Plan International. She stressed the international definition of children as “18 years old below” and they should not be recruited and involved in armed conflict.  

Second Module was on “Framework for Child Protection”, presented and discussed by Sittie Rajabia Morato, UNICEF Consultant. Her inputs include the basic rights of children. Third Module was on “Monitoring and Reporting in the Philippines”. The last module was on “Action Plan Implementation” presented by Shree Nadarajah from the UNICEF.

Ms. Nadarajah mentioned that only the MILF has an agreement with United Nation on non-recruitment, non-admission and non-use of children in armed conflict.

She also said that, Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim and BIAF Chief Sammy Al-Mansur signed the agreement.  After several presentations, questions and answers followed.  Several clarifications were raised by the participants.

During the closing program, the three base commanders expressed their commitments in the implementation of the general order issued to them. One commander said, they are abiding with what have been stipulated in the general order signed by UN and MILF.

CPP: Video -- Buhay Komunista 2

Propaganda video posted to the CPP Website (Nov 29): Video -- Buhay Komunista 2 

[Video: Buhay Komunista 2]

Part II of the video Buhay Komunista 1, released last December 24, 2013. Buhay Komunista 2 deals with the revolutionary urban mass movement.

The overall socio-economic conditions, as well as the particular conditions confronting the people continue to be exceedingly favorable for arousing, organizing and mobilizing large numbers of people in a mass movement that advances the cause of national and social liberation.

Skeletal remains of suspected NPA retrieved in Bukidnon

From GMA News (Nov 30): Skeletal remains of suspected NPA retrieved in Bukidnon

The skeletal remains of a suspected New People's Army rebel found in a mountainous area in Bukidnon were brought to a town in the province to be buried over the weekend.

Military authorities have turned over to the Libona police the investigation into the individual's death, GMA Northern Mindanao reported.

For now, the rebel's remains were buried at the Sil-ipon public cemetery.

Lt. Col. Naser Lindasan, commander of the Army's 4th Infantry Division's first Special Force, theorized the rebel may have died as early as four months ago, the report said.

The military said the NPA member may have been a member of the 68th Front Committee.

Initial investigation showed the skeletal remains were seen by patrolling soldiers at Sitio Alawon in Barangay Sil-ipon last week.

Lidasan said the person may have died four months ago, but the decomposition was slow due to the cold weather.

The fatality was wearing an NPA uniform.

Also recovered from the area were items including soap, mobile phone cards, eight rosaries and a high school ID.

Magdalo solons seek probe into alleged P250-M ransom paid to Abu Sayyaf group

From GMA News (Nov 30): Magdalo solons seek probe into alleged P250-M ransom paid to Abu Sayyaf group

Magdalo party-list Reps. Gary Alejano and Francisco Ashley Acedillo have called for an immediate congressional inquiry into the alleged payment of a P250-million ransom to the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group for the release of their two German hostages last October.

“If the payment is indeed true, it has set a terribly troubling precedent that will only serve to encourage the Abu Sayyaf and other kidnap-for-ransom groups to engage in such activities, especially those targeting foreigners,” Alejano and Acedillo said in filing House Resolution 1679.

The measure directs the appropriate House committee to investigate the reported ransom payment for the release of Dr. Stefan Viktor Okonek, 71, and Henrike Diesen, 55.

The two Germans were released by the Abu Sayyaf group on October 17 after being held for six months on a remote island south of Jolo in Mindanao. The Al-Qaeda linked terrorist group had earlier threatened to execute the foreigners if ransom money was not paid.

While German and Filipino authorities have refused to disclose whether a ransom was paid to secure the two hostages, the terrorist group reportedly uploaded a video online earlier this month showing its members posing with several stacks of P1,000 bills.

In the video, Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Rami claimed the money on display in a jungle setting was the full P250 million ($5.7 million) they demanded for the release of the captives.

The Magdalo party-list lawmakers said that if the ransom payment to the Abu Sayyaf indeed took place, it would leave a paper trail involving Philippine banks that facilitated the transfer of huge amounts of money.

They added that the release and transportation of large sums of money should alert the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) and other agencies of the Philippine government, which may be in a position to look into such transfers.

“The payment of hundreds of millions of pesos to the said terrorist group will not only motivate them to kidnap more foreigners but will also allow them to utilize such big funds to procure more firearms and weapons to the detriment of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and law enforcement agencies,” the lawmakers said.

Alejano and Acedillo urged Congress to probe the reports of  ransom payments to the Abu Sayyaf to protect national and public interest.

“There is an urgent need to ascertain the truth to these allegations vis-à-vis government’s ‘no-ransom policy,’ so that the safety of the public – including local and foreign tourists – are assured and that government is able to protect its soldiers and law enforcers as well,” they said.

China leader vows to protect territorial interests

From InterAksyon (Nov 30): China leader vows to protect territorial interests

Chinese President Xi Jinping. REUTERS/Files

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a key foreign policy speech that the rising Asian nation would protect its sovereign territory, the Xinhua news agency reported, as it faces maritime disputes with several neighbors.

"We should firmly uphold China's territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and interests and national unity," Xi told a Communist Party meeting on foreign affairs held on Friday and Saturday, according to excerpts of his speech released by Xinhua on Sunday.

Ties between China and Japan have been strained over the past two years after Tokyo nationalized the Senkaku islands -- which it already administered -- in the East China Sea. Beijing also claims the chain, which it calls the Diaoyu islands.

China and Southeast Asian countries -- including Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei -- also have competing claims for the Spratly islands in the South China Sea. Taiwan, which China considers part of its sovereign territory, also has a claim to part of the Spratlys.

Xi, both China's president and Communist Party secretary, added his country would "properly handle territorial and island disputes" but did not name them.

Relations between China and Japan have improved after Xi and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met on November 10, but Chinese coastguard ships have continued to patrol waters around the disputed islands.

On a more conciliatory note, Xi told officials at the meeting that China sought "peaceful development" and opposed the "willful use or threat of force".

The leaders of the United States, Australia and Japan earlier this month called for peaceful resolutions of maritime disputes, after US President Barack Obama warned of the dangers of outright conflict in Asia as China contests disputed territory.

China views the US foreign policy "pivot" to the Asia-Pacific region as an attempt to contain it.

The Chinese leader made no direct reference to the United States in the portions of his speech released by Xinhua, other than saying Beijing should "manage well" relations with other major countries.

"We should fully recognize the uncertainty in China's neighboring environment, but we should also realize that the general trend of prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region will not change," Xi said.

MILF preparing lay down guns in initial decommissioning process

From InterAksyon (Dec 1): MILF preparing lay down guns in initial decommissioning process

Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator at a House hearing on Bangsamoro Basic Law. FILE PHOTO BY LIRA FERNANDEZ

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Sunday said it is already preparing its firearms for decommissioning, which is to take place in January next year in compliance with the peace accord it negotiated with the Philippine government.

"It's all systems go for the symbolic decommissioning of our firearms," Mohaqher Iqbal, MILF chief negotiator, said as he stressed the MILF's determination to attain peace in its homeland.

As clearly stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and MILF in March, the MILF will decommission its forces.

The Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB), composed of representative from foreign countries, has already completed an initial inventory of firearms that the MILF will turn over to the IDB.

However, Igbal speaking to reporters, refused to reveal how many firearms, its make, and caliber will be turned over by the MILF combatants.

"The IDB has put up the documents that would provide the terms of reference for the decommissioning of the MILF combatants,” Iqbal said.

In previous interviews, Iqbal said 75 firearms will form part of the initial decommissioning process, 25 of which are high powered guns, and the rest were medium-powered. He assured the firearms are well maintained, serviceable, and not defective as some sectors are claiming.

Describing the upcoming turn-over of firearms as "emotional and sentimental," Iqbal added the "MILF is doing sacrifice for the sake of peace in our homeland."

Iqbal said after the initial decommissioning process to take place late January next year, more firearms will be turned over to the IDB and will be stored in an area he refused to divulge.

4 civilians killed on the spot, 8-year-old girl, 3 others wounded in NPA ambush in Agusan Sur

From InterAksyon (Dec 1): 4 civilians killed on the spot, 8-year-old girl, 3 others wounded in NPA ambush in Agusan Sur

Four civilians were killed and four others, including an 8-year-old  girl, were wounded when a band of New People's Army (NPA) rebels opened fire at an ambulance vehicle in Sitio Latay, Barangay Marfil, Rosario, Agusan del Sur Sunday afternoon.

First Lieutenant Jolito Borces, civil military operations officer of the 75th Infantry Battalion, said the ambush happened at around 5:30 p.m. while the passengers, including a barangay chairman, were on their way home from attending a church activity.

"Two died in the spot and two others declared dead on arrival at the hospital. Four others, including an 8-year-old girl, were wounded in the ambush," Borces said.

Dead on the spot were Neljoy Cerna, 27, and Noni Mabong, 51. Dead on arrival at the hospital were Alfredo Cerna, 51, and Vanessa Sabas, 30.

The wounded were identifed as Liza Casilla, 47, Elmer Adonis, 37, Mae Roselyn Adonis, 8, and Barangay Chairman Emillio Solidor Jr., 49.

Borces said the perpetrators were members of the NPA-Guerilla Front 14 operating in the area of Agusan and Surigao del Sur.

Prior to the incident, Borces said Solidor was invited to attend the thanksgiving celebration of Wayside Bible Baptist at around 11 a.m.

At 5 p.m., Solidor left the place together with other civilians who requested to hitch a ride with him in the ambulance.

"While on their way back home at about two kilometers from the church, they were suddenly ambushed by more or less 20 NPA rebels," Borces said.

He said the rebels were allegedly under the command of Leonida Belarmino Sanchez alias Monik/Susay, Front Secretary; Randy Subla alias Nice; Ariel Conejar Ornales alias Charlie/Jorlan/Brylle; and Renato Sayasat alias Friday.

Philippine military erred in report of Sayyaf's arrest

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 1): Philippine military erred in report of Sayyaf's arrest

The Philippine military has corrected its report on a captured Abu Sayyaf militant in Zamboanga City, saying, the prime suspect in two previous kidnappings here had eluded arrest.

The Western Mindanao Command on Friday said security forces captured Wahid Pingli, alias Gafur, and that an automatic rifle was recovered from his hideout on Sacol Island just several nautical miles off Zamboanga.

Pingli was linked to the kidnappings of a local businessman Inocente Bautista in May 27, 2008 and Vicente Barrios on June 17, 2010. Police identified the suspect as Gafur Pingli.

The Abu Sayyaf previously bombed a karaoke bar in Zamboanga City that injured a policeman.