Thursday, December 4, 2014

Marines plant 2,000 mangrove propagules in Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 5): Marines plant 2,000 mangrove propagules in Sulu

Marine soldiers planted some 2,000 mangrove propagules as part of its environmental advocacy in the southern Philippine province of Sulu.

The soldiers, who are members of the 2nd Marine Brigade, planted the propagules on Bangsas Island which is part of Panglima Tahil town. The activity coincided with the 64th anniversary of the 2nd Marine Brigade.

It was also participated by the different military and police units and local stakeholders, including government officials and representatives of different nongovernmental organizations and the provincial government.

The activity is also in support to the government’s National Greening Program and Sulu’s environmental greening campaign.

“The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Provincial Government of Sulu are working closely for the preservation and conservation of the natural resources and delivery of basic services to the community to attain peace and prosperity in the province,” the 2nd Marine Brigade said in a statement sent to the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

4 soldiers killed, 2 captured by NPA in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4): 4 soldiers killed, 2 captured by NPA in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte
The military on Thursday confirmed that four soldiers were killed while two others have been taken captive by communist rebels in Bukidnon and Davao del Norte this week.

First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division based in Camp Panacan here, said soldiers from the 68th Infantry Battalion were conducting security patrol in the borders of Barangays (villages) Bacnotan and Halapitan in San Fernando, Bukidnon on Tuesday–following reports the rebels were to attack a road construction project in a nearby village–when the clash took place.

“The (New People’s Army) rebels detonated an internationally banned landmine, triggering a 30-minute gunfight, which resulted in the deaths of four soldiers and the wounding of three others,” Lacambra said in a media statement.

davao region

He did not identify the slain or wounded soldiers.

He said the “outnumbered” troops fought back and killed a rebel in the process.

The body of the slain rebel was recovered, along with an M653 rifle, Lacambra added.

He said in Davao del Norte, two soldiers were taken captive as they resisted a large NPA force, which raided a plantation of Japanese banana firm Sumitomo Fruits Corp. (Sumifru), in the borders of New Corella and Asuncion towns, also on Tuesday.

Lacambra said Corporal Benjamin Samano and Private First Class Mark Alvin Ricarte of the 60th Infantry Battalion had been posted at the Sumifru farm to help company guards protect the banana firm–which has been a favorite target of the rebels.

“Around 15 NPA rebels posed as workers of the banana plantation and entered the plantation, premises and simultaneously seized the private company guards. The rebels then commandeered the company’s elf truck, which they used to escape toward the direction of Barangay Napunggas in Asuncion, Davao Del Norte, along with the two abducted soldiers. The rebels carted away two M16 rifles, a shotgun, a handheld radio and other personal belongings,” Lacambra said.

He said soldiers were continuing their pursuit of the rebels.

“10th Infantry Division Commander, Major General Eduardo Año, assures the families of the two abducted soldiers in Davao del Norte that the Philippine Army will work double time and exert all efforts to rescue them,” he said.

Año, he said, has already ordered intensified military operations “to immediately rescue the abducted soldiers.”

Ka Aris Francisco, spokesperson of the NPA’s Comval-North Davao South Agusan subregional Command, said the raid was a punitive action against the Japanese company for its long list of violations.

“The NPA punished the Japanese-owned banana exporter Sumifru for its gross violations of rights of its workers. The NPA received complaints from the workers and their families that the company has imposed 16-hour work shifts without overtime pay in padlocked, jail-like building. Arbitrary termination and suspension of workers without due cause are also rampant,” he said in a separate media statement.

Francisco said that to perpetuate its violations, the Japanese banana firm also contracted the 60th IB.

“The rabidly anti-people Japanese firm continues to support the military operations of the 60th IB, the Army unit that is responsible for the illegal logging, extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations of peasants and Lumads in Kapalong and other parts of Davao del Norte,” he said.

Roadside bombing killed 4 soldiers in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 4): Roadside bombing killed 4 soldiers in Southern Philippines

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – Communist rebels set off a roadside bomb on a military truck transporting soldiers sparking a gunbattle that killed one gunman and four soldiers in Bukidnon province in southern Philippines, officials said Thursday.

Officials said three more soldiers were wounded in the attack. The soldiers were heading Wednesday to San Fernando town where New People’s Army rebels were threatening to burn construction equipment in the village of Makalungay when the explosion occurred.

Major Ezra Balagtey, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting lasted 45 minutes. “The skirmish resulted to one NPA killed and recovery of one M653 (Carbine) rifle while the responding troops suffered four killed and three wounded mostly caused by landmine explosion,” he said.

He said Major General Aurelio Baladad, who heads the Eastern Mindanao Command, directed military forces to intensify the operation against the rebel group and for troops to protect vital government projects and civilian communities against the NPA.

“The death of our soldiers securing the project will not be put in vain. This supreme sacrifice they have demonstrated will be the bastion of peace and progress in Eastern Mindanao. While we grieve for their loss, we also remain steadfast in our quest to achieve our mission for secure and progressive communities of the region,’’ Balagtey quoted Baladad as saying.

The NPA is waging a separatist war in the country for the past decades now.

Military to arm 120 new Cafgus in NPA-infested Loreto town

From MindaNews (Dec 5): Military to arm 120 new Cafgus in NPA-infested Loreto town

LORETO, Agusan del Sur – Like the Spartans in the movie “300,” the militiamen yelled “Ahoo! Ahoo!” that rumbled in the hot, concrete gym here, indicating they are ready to fight their enemies in this communist rebel-infested town.

Like in the movie, the militiamen, known also as Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) members, will be given firearms by the government to fight the communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who threaten the town of Loreto.

At least 120 Cafgus and 14 Special Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (SCAA) graduated last Wednesday after surviving a grueling 45-day training supervised by Army Special Forces units.

The SCAA personnel will be guarding an oil palm plantation in Loreto town.
“Puwede na mag gyera. Kabalo name unsaon (We are ready to battle. We already know how to),” Arnold Bulair said, wearing his new military uniform.

Bulair is a resident of Loreto and acknowledged that he has relatives and friends with the NPA rebels.

“Pero lain na kini kay panginabuhi naman ni (This is different because this has now become our livelihood,” Bulair said.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commanding general of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, said that each CAFGU member received from the government a free military uniform, including a combat boots, and entitled to a P2,400 monthly salary—a “princely sum” considering the average family income in Loreto is only P5,458 a month.

Lactao said all of the militiamen would also receive livelihood trainings from government agencies to augment their family income.

“Here, it is not about the ideology that matters. It is livelihood or the means to it that matters most,” Lactao said.

Loreto, which straddles the tri-boundary of Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental provinces, is a first-class municipality now with an annual Internal Revenue Allotment of P200 million.

Based on a 2005 report from the National Statistics Office, nearly 4,700 families out of the town’s 5,836 families were living below the poverty level.

Loreto has become a major stronghold of the NPA rebels, who have set up a shadowy government in the town with its alternative mayor and municipal council.

The military, however, has dismantled the shadowy government after a series of gunfights that resulted to scores of rebels, soldiers and civilians killed.

Lactao said the municipality has only a small police force of about 24 policemen safeguarding its peace and order.

“If we include the policemen who are about to retire, and those who are on sick leave, its police force is so small,” he said.

Lactao said the newly graduated Cafgus and SCAAs militiamen would be a welcome addition to the Army soldiers and policemen deployed in Loreto.

“The Cafgus are our force multipliers. We need them to guard the communities and villages,” Lactao said.

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division, whose area of responsibility extends to Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin and Bukidnon provinces, has about 6,400 Cafgu personnel deployed in far-flung towns and villages.

The Army Division estimates the number of heavily armed NPA rebels at 1,200, operating in 17 guerilla fronts, within its jurisdiction.

Last November 30, four civilians were killed while seven others were injured when suspected rebels ambushed a government ambulance they were riding in Sitio Latay, Barangay Marfil in nearby Rosario town in Agusan del Sur.

Preganant mother killed by NPAs in a massacre

From Ang Malaya (Dec 5): Preganant mother killed by NPAs in a massacre

A four-month pregnant mother was among the four civilians killed in a massacre last November 30 perpetrated by New People’s Army in Sitio Latay, Barangay Marfil, Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

The bandits belonging to Guerilla Front 14 of NPA assaulted an ambulance with fourteen passengers coming from a church activity of Wayside Bible Baptist Church at Sitio Latay.

“We cannot imagine the trauma that the survivors and the families of the victims are suffering. It is for this reason that we are appealing to the organizations and persons who are skilled to assist in handling trauma cases,” Lt Col Norman Alcovindas of 75th Infantry Battalion said.

“This is clear evidence that NPAs are more than just criminals but a terrorist group,” 4th Infantry Division Commander MGen Oscar T Lactao said. “These people came from a thanks giving mass and were probably praying for peace in their community but these Godless NPAs attacked them.”

Philippine military reports 18 casualties in fresh clashes with rebels

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 4): Philippine military reports 18 casualties in fresh clashes with rebels

The Philippine military said a total of 7 soldiers were wounded in fierce clashes Thursday with Abu Sayyaf that also left 3 rebels dead in the troubled province of Basilan.

Ensign Ian Chester Ramos, a military spokesman, said 8 rebels were also injured in the fighting that erupted in Tipo-Tipo town earlier in the day. He said one the slain rebel had been identified as Abdullah Kalitot alias Hidzran.
“Ground commanders reported three Abu Sayyaf killed and eight more wounded,” Ramos told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, of the Western Mindanao Command, said six of the wounded soldiers suffered minor wound. “Seven soldiers were wounded in action – six of them suffered minor wounds,” she said in a separate interview.

She said security forces were pursuing Abu Sayyaf leaders, Puruji Indama and Nurhasan Jamiri, in Tipo-Tipo town when troops encountered the rebels and killing 3 of them.

According to Capt. Franco Salvador Suelto, of the 1st Infantry Division, troops were scouring the town’s hinterlands where the group of Indama and Jamiri fled. He said Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, the regional army commander, ordered troops to intensify the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the province.

Ex-military officials launch television program

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 5): Ex-military officials launch television program

Two former military chiefs on Thursday led the launch of a network program to cover state and global security issues.

“We call it DSTV, defense and security television. We came up with this idea not only on the business aspect but to promote patriotism especially among our youth,” said Alxeander Yano, former chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

At the kickoff in Camp Aguinaldo was Victor Ibrado, also former chief of staff along with classmates at the Philippine Military Academy Class 1976 including former police director Abner Cabalquinto.

Yano said the DSTV was airing on a 30-minute slot on ABS-CBN Sports+ Action Channel 23 every Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. with replays every Sunday at 11:30 p.m.

He said the group was discussing plans for block time on TV5 and GMA Channel 7.

According to Ibrado, DSTV will tackle defense and security threat issues within and outside the country, covering global and domestic terrorists such as the Islamic State movement, Abu Sayyaf Group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Jemaah Islamiyah among other factions.

“DSTV will also tackle disaster management and preparedness, AFP modernization, pandemic diseases, and how our military and police have dealt with them. Then later on we will tackle maritime security, up and coming technology in the defense industry and conflict management,” he said.

Cabalquinto said DSTV would serve as a think-tank for inputs to the legislative and executive departments in crafting and promoting sound defense and security programs.

4 Filipino men indicted in 2011 kidnapping

From the Washington Post (Dec 4): 4 Filipino men indicted in 2011 kidnapping

Four Filipino men were indicted Thursday on hostage-taking, conspiracy and weapons charges in the 2011 kidnapping of a 14-year-old Lynchburg, Va., boy and his mother, authorities said.

The two Americans were seized by armed men while vacationing in the Philippines, forced into boats at gunpoint and held hostage for ransom, according to Ronald C. Machen Jr., the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. The men threatened to ­behead the boy more than once, the indictment alleges.

Gerfa Lunsmann was released more than two months later, after ransom money was paid by her family. Her son Kevin Lunsmann remained a hostage for nearly five months until he escaped. The family told The Washington Post that the kidnappers were members of the Islamic militant group Abu Sayyaf.

The men, who are not in custody, are identified as John Does but known as Furuji Indama, Radzmil Jannatul, Muadz and Abu Basim. “We remain focused on apprehending and extraditing these men,” Machen said.

Army needs expert volunteers on trauma

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 4): Army needs expert volunteers on trauma

VOLUNTEERS skilled in dealing with post-traumatic syndrome are needed to assist in counseling and processing the experiences of persons who survived an ambulance ambush allegedly carried out by members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in a village in Agusan del Sur on Sunday, November 30.

Major Christian Uy, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said Wednesday that Major General Oscar Lactao, 4ID commander, is appealing to those skilled in handling traumatic situations to help the military in its efforts to assist the survivors and the families of the slain victims.

Although a 4ID quick response team (QRT) has already been deployed to Sitio Latay, Barangay Marfil, Rosario town, Agusan del Sur, where the ambush took place, to help survivors and families of the deceased cope, they still need help from the experts who can process the trauma the affected individuals are going through, Uy told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone Wednesday.

He said the QRT also assisted the families in taking care of the burial of the casualties and the needs of the surviving families.

In a statement sent by the 4ID to Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro, the attack was believed executed by some 20 members of the NPA’s Guerrilla Front 14 of North Eastern Mindanao Regional Committee.

The military said a group of 14 civilians were on their way home from a thanksgiving celebration in Wayside Baptist Church on board an ambulance when the perpetrators opened fire on the vehicle.

Some of the passengers of the ambulance, said to be owned by the local government of Rosario, were children. Four adults were killed, while four were wounded, one of them a child.

In a separate statement, First Lieutenant Jolito Borces, the 75th Infantry Battalion Civil Military Operations officer, said the church invited Marfil barangay chair Emilio Solidor Jr. to the gathering.

Around 5 p.m., Solidor told Pastor Wenefredo Daguimol, of the Wayside Bible Baptist Church, that they were leaving. With Solidor on board the ambulance were some of the churchgoers.

Borces identified those killed as Neljoy Cerna, 27; Noni Mabong, 51; Alfredo Cerna, 51; Vanessa Sabas, 30. The wounded were Liza Casilla, 47; Elmer Adonis, 37; Solidor Jr., 49; and an eight-year-old girl.

Lieutenant Colonel Norman Alcovindas, commanding officer of the 75th IB, immediately coordinated with the Philippine National Police in the area and ordered his troops to rescue the victims while some of the soldiers conducted pursuit operation, the 4ID statement read.

In the same statement, Lactao said: “This is clear evidence that NPAs are more than just criminals but a terrorist group. I strongly condemn this terroristic attack of the NPAs that killed civilians and wounded others on board an ambulance. These people came from a thanks giving mass and were probably praying for peace in their community but these godless NPAs attacked them.”

“I urge the PNP, the Commission on Human Rights, and the Church to investigate on this terroristic attack. These NPAs must be put behind bars. We cannot just let them roam around and threaten the peace-loving people of Mindanao,” he added.

Four soldiers, NPA rebel killed

Meanwhile, four soldiers and an NPA member were killed during an encounter near the villages of Halapitan and Bonacao in San Fernando, Bukidnon, around 7 a.m. Wednesday, a report aired over GMA Network’s 24 Oras in Northern Mindanao said Wednesday.

In a telephone interview with 24 Oras, First Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra, public information of the 10th Infantry Division (10ID) based in Compostela Valley, said they have yet to identify the names of the slain soldiers pending notification of their families.

Ombudsman suspends PNP officials over missing firearms

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4): Ombudsman suspends PNP officials over missing firearms

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Thursday ordered the preventive suspension for six months of ranking officials of the Philippine National Police over the 1,004 missing high-powered AK47 firearms allegedly sold to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Ordered suspended were Chief Superintendents Raul Petrasanta, Regino Catiis, Senior Superintendents Eduardo Acierto and Allan Parreno, Superintendent Nelson Bautista, Chief Insp. Ricky Sumalde, P/CInsp. Ricardo Zapata Jr., P/Chief Inspector Rodrigo Benedicto Sarmiento, Senior Police Officer 1 Eric Tan, SPO1 Randy De Sesto.

Petrasanta, Acierto, Parreno, Bautista and Zapata, along with PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima, were also preventively suspended for their alleged involvement in the questionable WERFAST contract.

PNP Firearms and Explosives Office (PNP-FEO) officials Director Gil Meneses, Dir. Napoleon Estilles, Chief Superintendent Tomas Rentoy II were excluded from the suspension order because they have already retired from service.

The suspension was for the administrative aspect of the case, said Ombudsman Spokesman Asryman Rafanan at a press conference Thursday.
The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices (OMB-MOLEO) initiated the investigation.

Records showed that based on the report by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), four private security agencies and a mining company successfully applied and were issued firearms licenses by the PNP-FEO using falsified and incomplete documentary requirements.

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

Further investigation showed that Caraga Security Agency’s License to Operate had expired on Sept. 30, 2012.

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

BLMI and MILF Political Committee embark on advocacies on BBL in Zamboanga City

From InterAksyon (Dec 4): BLMI and MILF Political Committee embark on advocacies on BBL in Zamboanga City

Military personnel at work in Mindanao. FILE PHOTO BY DENNIS ARCON

The military and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters once again had a skirmish at around 3:25 p.m. Wednesday in Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Elements of the 45th Infantry Battalion were conducting a security patrol in the area when the presence of armed men was reported, resulting in an encounter with an estimated five BIFF members, according to the 6th ID.

BIFF elements quickly fired at the soldiers from the 45th IB, forcing them to fight back.

The bystander caught in the crossfire was identified as Joven Opena. He sustained bullet wounds in both his legs. He was rushed to the integrated provincial health office for treatment.

The military conducted pursuit operations against the armed group who escaped toward Sitio Lambuay, Barangay Labulabu.

In a related development, the BIFF exploded a bomb at a patrol base in Lintukan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao last night. One soldier was injured.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesman, immediately admitted that his group was behind the bombing.

MILF: BLMI and MILF Political Committee embark on advocacies on BBL in Zamboanga City

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 4): BLMI and MILF Political Committee embark on advocacies on BBL in Zamboanga City

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), provincial political committee and community leaders in Zamboanga City recently embarked on massive advocacy programs and fora on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the GPH-MILF Peace Agreements in various villages with the aim to enlighten the people in the grass roots level in far-flung areas and coastal villages.
On November 26, 2014, peace advocates held one-day advocacy on BBL in Barangay Tulungatung, Zamboanga City where non-Moro residents and community leaders attended.

Mr. Tirso Tahir, BLMI Research Unit Officer and member of the institute’s Steering Committee lectured on BBL and focused on proposed bill’s 18 articles and sections through power point presentation for the audiences to comprehend them properly.  

Another peace advocacy on BBL was held in Lustre at Barangay Santa Catalina, same city on November 27 where local residents and community leaders from neighboring villages also attended.

One participant said, “We are hoping that city officials will respect Moro constitutional rights to petition for the inclusion of our village in the plebiscite for the ratification of the BBL”. Such rights are guaranteed by the 1987 Philippines Constitution” “The issue here is not only about contiguity but our rights to participate in a political exercise”, he further said.

Tahir mentioned some vital contents of the BBL by underlining the provision on ‘contiguity’. He also clarified some issues by using layman’s term so it can be easily understood.

In response to fisher folks’ clamor for clear understanding of BBL, community leaders in the island village of Zamboanga City held a separate advocacy in a private compound at Barangay Mampang on November 28 where similar issues were raised. The speakers used Tagalog and local Tau sug and Sama dialects so that their audience can easily grasp what the speakers were talking about.

On November 29, the peace advocates proceeded to Barangay Cawit, Zamboanga City to attend a forum organized for the local residents. Some asked what can an ordinary Moro in Zamboanga City benefit once their village is included into the Bangsamoro?

Mr. Tahir cited the provisions of BBL on Wealth and Power-Sharing where the Bangsamoro Government can enjoy fiscal autonomy and exercise various powers. The Moros be they are in contiguous areas or outside can partake from the benefits that Bangsamoro may derive from the exercise of its powers and wealth gained from its natural resources.  

On December 1, another advocacy on BBL was conducted in Barangay Sangali. The program was held inside a madrasah building where residents willingly attended. Issues on contiguity and plebiscite were once again the concerns of the local folks.

The speaker said that the basic law has said much on such issues. The collective wisdom of Congress shall be guided by the Constitution in conformity with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in the course of enacting the BBL.

The MILF Provincial Political Committee in Zamboanga City,  BLMI and various CSO, NGO’s PO’s had been intensifying advocacies in different ways but similar objectives to ensure a wider acceptability of the BBL for it shall redound to lasting  peace  and development that every Moro is yearning for.

MILF: Bangsamoro vital to 2015 ASEAN integration

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 4): Bangsamoro vital to 2015 ASEAN integration

Pagadian: The passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be crucial to the participation of the Philippines in the anticipated economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015.
“It is important for us to ensure the security and stability of Mindanao, because geographically, it is our gateway to our ASEAN neighbors,” said Undersecretary Jose Lorena of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Lorena was addressing an assembly of local municipal and barangay leaders from Zamboanga del Sur at a public hearing and consultation staged by the House of Representatives' Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL in this city on Friday, November 28.

“The success of the Bangsamoro peace process—through the enactment of the BBL—can bring us closer to that goal,” Lorena said.

Government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said the Bangsamoro aspiration is built around the ideals of peace and progress that is shared and enjoyed by all, regardless of one’s religion, ethnicity, and even political affiliation.

“We—the entire nation—all stand to gain from the peace agreement that our government has forged with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF),” she said. “When we achieve peace in the Bangsamoro, we will accelerate progress in an entire region whose growth has been stunted through four decades by armed conflict.”
This regional development, in turn, will be vital in boosting the national economy, according to Coronel-Ferrer.

The government chief negotiator also explained that collaborative programs and mechanisms are already being created and set in motion in order to support conflict-affected MILF communities towards a smooth transition into the Bangsamoro era.

The Sajahatra Bangsamoro Program (SBP), the socioeconomic development intervention jointly implemented by the government and the MILF, has been mobilized to improve the delivery of basic services (through health, education, and livelihood programs) to MILF communities.

The SBP is an initial dividend of peace launched in 2013 after the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. However, under the ‎Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed this year, socioeconomic development has been identified as a major component of the normalization process and will be undertaken for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of the Bangsamoro. In particular, socioeconomic programs will be instituted to address the needs of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces members, internally displaced persons and poverty-stricken communities.

CPP/NPA: NPA-NCMR launches 28 military actions in November

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 2): NPA- NCMR launches 28 military actions in November

Alan Juanito
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command (Julito Tiro Command)
Sub-regional commands and guerilla fronts of the New People’s Army-North Central Mindanao Region strongly resisted attacks by the 4th ID-PA in month of November.

Twenty-eight military actions were launched, inflicting more than 40 casualties (more than 30 killed and more than 10 wounded) on 4th ID-PA troops and PNP operatives in the provinces of Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Western Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur. In these actions, a Red fighter, Francisco “Ka Kevin” Mansiguiao, heroically offered his life.

Under the pretext of rescuing the two 8th IB soldiers held by the NPA as POWs, the 403rd Bde launched military operations in the quad-boundary of Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Norte and Sur, and Bukidnon since the end of October.

From November 15 to 22, the NPA launched 11 harassment operations against troops of the 8th IB, 58th IB, two Scout Ranger companies, Airborne, CAFGU and lumad paramilitary groups. The AFP incurred 20 casualties in these successive encounters where the enemy fired 22 howitzer shells for combat support. This resulted in the forced evacuation of more than 300 residents of the villages of Lakbangan, Impadiding and Calhaan, all in Brgy. Minalwang, Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

At the same time, the 402nd Bde launched military operations in certain towns of Agusan del Norte and Sur. COPD teams of the AFP operated in 14 barangays of San Luis and La Paz, Agusan del Sur. Since November 9, the NPA under Western Agusan del Norte-Agusan del Sur Sub-regional Command launched eight military actions, killing seven and wounding five enemy soldiers.

With these developments, other sub-regions and guerrilla fronts, whose areas are relatively free of enemy focus, quickly responded.

The NPA under Mt. Kitanglad Sub-regional Command launched five harassment operations from November 12 to 22, killing four and wounding eighth enemy soldiers. The NPA in eastern Misamis Oriental also launched three successive harassment operations against three CAFGU detachments in November.

The NPA in NCMR will continue to foil the intensified military operations of the 4th ID-PA. As the people’s army, it cannot allow the anti-people Oplan Bayanihan to spoil the victories achieved by the masses in their struggle against langrabbing, for genuine agrarian reform, the right to self-determination, and in defense of their ancestral lands.

CPP/NPA: NPA’s punitive action in Sumifru captures two POWs, seizes seven firearms

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 3): NPA’s punitive action in Sumifru captures two POWs, seizes seven firearms

Aris Francisco
NPA Comval-North Davao-South Agusan Sub-region Sub-regional Command
The New People’s Army Guerrilla Front 33 under the Comval North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command raided the compound of the Sumitomo Fruits Corp. (Sumifru) and captured Cpl. Benjamin Enot Samano (serial no. 833269), 37, and Pfc. Alvin Ricarte (serial no. 901744), 23, who are members of the 60th Infantry Battalion in New Corrella, Davao del Norte, December 2, at 3:45am to 4:00am. The NPA also confiscated from them and from the company guards two M16 high powered rifles, one shotgun, four rifle grenades, one icom radio and two vests of ammunitions.

The NPA punished the Japanese-owned banana exporter Sumifru for its gross violations of rights of its workers. The NPA received complaints from the workers and their families that the company has imposed 16-work hour shifts without overtime pay in padlocked, jail-like building. Arbitrary termination and suspension of workers without due cause are also rampant.

The company employed as its most trusted company guards the fascist personnel of the 60th IB. The rabidly anti-people Japanese firm continues to support the military operations of the 60th IB, the Army unit that is responsible for the illegal logging, extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations of peasants and Lumads in Kapalong and other parts of Davao del Norte.

The Sumifru-60th IB tandem continues to heap criminal acts against the people, thus making it legitimate target of the NPA.

For as long as guerrilla conditions warrant and notwithstanding enemy operations that imperil the safety of the two Prisoners of War (POWs), the NPA custodial unit strictly observes the NPA’s Rules of Discipline and the International Humanitarian Law pertaining to captured enemy personnel.

CPP-NPA looks forward to Pope Francis’ visit

From Ang Malaya (Dec 4): CPP-NPA looks forward to Pope Francis’ visit

Armed Forces of the Philippines Central Command keeps an eye on New People’s Army in Cebu and Leyte as the visit of Roman Catholic’s Pope Francis draws near.

“In our area of responsibility, we still have the NPA. That is the group we’re looking into that may sow violence – we hope they will not. There’s going to be a big problem if they sow violence,” said Central Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jim Alagao said.

However Communist Party of Philippines downplayed the said NPA-threat. “Together with the rest of the Filipino people, the CPP, the NPA and all revolutionary forces look forward to Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines.”

“Through his visit, the Filipino people hope to draw attention to the outstanding problems of poverty, exploitation of workers, land monopolies and feudal oppression, the wide gap between the super-rich ruling elite and the rest of the toiling people, human rights violations and the widespread use of state terror against the people,” CPP added.

It added that the said threat just wants to “justify the deployment of large numbers of troops and the imposition of repressive policies against the people, especially in Samar and Leyte and other areas to be visited by the Pope.”

PH eyes final bidding for 2 new warships

From Rappler (Dec 3): PH eyes final bidding for 2 new warships

The warships will be the Philippine military's biggest and most capable

MOST CAPABLE: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler
MOST CAPABLE: Philippine Navy's BRP Ramon Alcaraz. Photo by Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler

The Philippine defense department is confident it can award the contract for the already delayed 2 brand new frigates worth P18.9 billion early next year.

"We may not be able to open it (final bidding) this year but early next year we will be able to award the contract," said Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo in a recent interview.

Manalo said he is confident that the bidding will be successful and the project will not be further delayed. "We have more than enough (bidders) to give us the confidence that it is really a competitive bidding," he said.

Six firms have qualified for the contract: Spanish firm Navantia Sepi (RTR Ventures) and South Korean firms STX Offshore & Shipbuilding; Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering Co Ltd, and Hyundai Heavy Industries Inc; India's Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd of India And Europe's STX France SA.

Manalo said they have completed the pre-bid conference for the second and final stage of bidding for the biggest project under the Armed Forces of the Philippines Revised Modernization Program. (READ: State of PH Navy Modernization: 'Golden days will return')

The frigates project was delayed by the department's failure to immediately finalize the Terms of Reference (TOR), which contains the technical specifications of the project, including the ship design and weapons system.

The two frigates are going to be the country's biggest and most capable warships. The package includes capabilities such as primary and secondary guns, missile system, anti-submarine warfare weapon system, and electronic warfare system.

The frigates should also be able to accommodate a helicopter and rigid hull inflatable boats.

It's a much needed upgrade from the refurbished cutters from US, BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio Del Pilar.

In the recent pre-bid conference, the bidders were able to comment and recommend changes to the TOR.

"We are just waiting for the submission of the Technical Working Group on the final comments and recommendations," Manalo said.

The Philippine Navy earlier said it needs at least 6 warships to patrol the country's waters.

The other big ticket project is the squadron of fighter jets worth P18 billion. It was awarded to South Korea's Aerospace Industry.

4 soldiers killed in NPA attack in Bukidnon

From Rappler (Dec 4): 4 soldiers killed in NPA attack in Bukidnon

The soldiers were trying to prevent New People's Army fighters from burning heavy equipment in a road project in San Fernando town


Four soldiers were killed at around 5am Wednesday, December 3, while trying to prevent New People's Army (NPA) fighters from burning and sabotaging heavy equipment in an ongoing road construction project in Barangay Magkalungay, San Fernando, Bukidnon.

According to information gathered by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the army's 68th infantry battalion patrolled the roads connecting barangays Bacnotan and Halapitan after receiving reports of armed men in the community.

A 30-minute gunfight – resulting in the death of 4 soldiers and wounding 3 more – ensued after the rebels reportedly detonated an internationally-banned landmine.

The outnumbered and disadvantaged government troops fought back, killing a still unidentified rebel who was found with an M653 rifle.

The soldiers recovered dozens of backpacks from the retreating rebels.

On November 30, NPA rebels also allegedly killed 4 civilians and wounded 7 others in Rosario, Agusan del Sur.

Major General Eduardo Año, commander of the 10th Infantry Division based in Davao City, already ordered the pursuit of the rebels behind the incident and filed criminal charges against the leaders.

"The Agila Troopers will continue to work round the clock to ensure the safety and security of the people from the threats of these lawless armed group," Año said.

Rajah Solaiman Movement members gathering in Bataan - intel report

From InterAksyon (Dec 4): Rajah Solaiman Movement members gathering in Bataan - intel report

Militants belonging to the Rajah Solaiman Movement, which has been tagged in past terrorist activity, have been monitored gathering in Bataan province, a month before Pope Francis’ visit to the country in January, an intelligence report said.

The report, a copy of which was seen by, indicated that members of the RSM, which is composed of Muslim converts, could be planning a major operation in the coming weeks.

"RSM members have gathered and may be planning something big," the report reports, although it did not say if the gathering is connected to Pope Francis’ January 15-19 visit to the country.

Last September, the Islamic State was reported to have threatened to assassinate the pontiff on one of his foreign trips. However, police say they have not monitored any specific threat against the pontiff at this time.

The Philippine National Police has formed Task Force Papal Visit 2015, headed by Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, chief of operations, to provide security to the Pope.

The RSM, founded in the mid-90s, is among the local militant groups that have pledged allegiance to IS.

Members of the group have been linked to the 2004 bombing of the Superferry 14 in Manila Bay, in which more than a hundred persons died, and the 2005 Valentine’s Day bombings.

Several members of the group, including founder Ahmed Santos, have been captured by government forces. In October, RSM member and two companions were arrested for a traffic violation in Quezon City.

Iqbal on federalism: ‘MILF will neither endorse nor reject it’

From MindaNews (Dec 4): Iqbal on federalism: ‘MILF will neither endorse nor reject it’

Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal on Wednesday said the MILF will neither endorse nor reject proposals for a shift to a federal form of government.

MindaNews sought Iqbal’s reaction to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncement on several occasions that he prefers federalism to help address the unrest in Mindanao rather than the proposed establishment of the Bangsamoro.

“I respect their view. But the MILF will not endorse it nor reject it,” said Iqbal, who also chairs the Bangsamoro Transition Commission.

On Monday, Duterte reiterated his call for federalism in the country, saying it could be a more suitable solution to the unrest in Mindanao.

At least 300 participants attended the Mindanao Leaders’ Summit on Federalism here, a move which organizers said was fueled by the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

In a forum organized by the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) in the city on Thursday, a participant asked Iqbal if the BBL is a template for federalism.

Iqbal clarified that the BBL is not a move towards federalism, saying it is an entirely different movement.

“BBL is not a template towards federalism in the Philippines because that would require a major tinkering of the constitution. And I don’t think that is forthcoming,” he told members of CODE-NGO who came from different parts of the country.

He acknowledged that there had been a long history of movement for federalism in the country, in the Bicol region, Cordillera Autonomous Region, Bohol, Negros and even Caraga region in Mindanao.

“For the Bangsamoro people, I think they deserve this kind of movement as far as granting of autonomy because we have a very, very long history of independence.  Besides, we have fought for this for 42 years. So much blood has been spilled because of this one,” the MILF official said.

Secretary Teresita Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process further explained that the BBL only talks about autonomy in a particular region.

“But I know that many federalism advocates are hoping to use this (BBL) as a stepping stone to turn into a federalist state, but that is still a different level of struggle,”  Deles added.

Becoming a federal state needs charter change, she said.

But she admitted that a positive experience in the Bangsamoro might convince more people to adopt the same system in other regions of the country. “But that will require a different struggle.”

Zamboanga seeks justice for last year’s deadly siege

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 3): Zamboanga seeks justice for last year’s deadly siege 

A village burns in Zamboanga City where troops and rebels fight since September 9, 2013 following simultaneous attacks by Moro National Liberation Front members. And alleged MNLF leader Commander Usong Ugong and his followers and their weapons shortly after their surrender to the police. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)
ZAMBOANGA CITY – Government officials and residents in Zamboanga City were shocked to learn that dozens of arrested members of the Moro National Liberation Front who had been implicated in last year’s deadly attack here may be freed despite mounting evidence against them.
This came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) recommended the dismissal of the criminal charges against them. It said at least 59 of over 279 people arrested and charged in connection with the attack are likely to be released.

According to reports, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the DOJ came up with the recommendation after the Pasig court handling the rebellion case ordered the prosecution to undertake a re-investigation.

GMA News also quoted De Lima as saying “sa tingin ng court, may mga akusado na hindi na-establish ang role”, adding, it is up to the court whether or not to approve the prosecution panel's recommendation.

It said De Lima clarified that MNLF chieftain Nur Misuari, who was accused as the brains behind the attack, is still among those facing charges of rebellion and violation of the Philippine Act on Crimes against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes against Humanity which were filed in two batches in October and December 2013.
GMA said some of Misuari’s commanders, including his top leader Ustadz Khabir Malik, have been charged on October 7 at the Zamboanga City Regional Trial Court, but remain at large. The DOJ said the attack on Zamboanga resulted in several casualties and extensive damage within the city, particularly in the villages of Mariki, Rio Hondo, Santa Barbara, Santa Catalina, Kasanyangan, Talon-Talon and Mampang.
The report said Misuari and his men were charged with rebellion for taking up arms and attacking government security forces and civilians, and by committing “acts of murder, pillage, disorder, looting, arson, and destruction of private and public properties." They were also charged for their acts of violence against residents who did not take an active part in the armed hostilities, and for taking non-combatant civilians as hostages during the fighting.
Commander Usong Ugong

It was unknown whether among those who would be freed include the 23 MNLF gunmen led by Commander Usong Ugong that yielded to the police during the rebel siege. Ugong’s group surrendered to Senior Superintendent Jose Chiquito Malayo, then the local police chief, in the village of Mampang in exchange for a safe passage back to Basilan province.
Malayo was initially reported to have been taken hostage by Ugong’s group, but this had been denied by the police officer who admitted he went to the village to negotiate for the surrender of the rebels. Ugong claimed that Misuari misled them into believing they would attend a peace rally in Zamboanga, but ended up hiding in the village when fighting erupted.

But other reports claimed Ugong’s group was allegedly paid or working for an unidentified politician who sent the gunmen to Zamboanga to pose as surrenderees to demoralize the ranks of the rebel group and as a media propaganda. Assorted automatic and high-power weapons were also seized by the police from Ugong’s group.

Rebel forces from Basilan and Sulu provinces under the command of Malik stormed Zamboanga on September 9 and took over 200 people hostage and used them as shield against pursuing soldiers and policemen. More than 400 people were killed and wounded in the fighting that lasted three weeks. The battle displaced over 120,000 residents.
Misuari, who signed a peace accord with Manila in 1996, accused the Aquino government of reneging on the peal deal and launched a new rebellion, the second in more than a decade. In 2001, loyal forces of Misuari also attacked military bases in Zamboanga City and Jolo town in Sulu province and the clashes killed over 100 people. Misuari, who fled to Malaysia after the siege failed, was arrested and jailed, but eventually released by then President Gloria Arroyo after he pledged loyalty and support to the politician.
OPAPP held accountable

Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabella Salazar said she will not allow the rebels to go unpunished. Even residents have aired their concerns to different radio stations here after hearing about the reports.
Salazar said she has conferred with the City Legal Office and the City Prosecutor’s Office to find ways and means on how to address the issue. “As I reiterated before, we stand by the rule of law and we expect our pillars of justice to do what is incumbent upon them. We already conferred with the City Legal Officer lawyer Jesus Carbon and the City Prosecutor Peter Medalle and we will study if we can pursue any remedy,” she said.

A copy of the DOJ resolution was furnished to the City Legal Office and its legal team has already met with representatives from the City Prosecutor's Office to discuss the matter and possible remedies. The City Legal Office is also expected to file a motion for reconsideration with the DOJ.

Salazar has blamed the Office of the Presidential Assistant on the Peace Process for failing to address concerns raised by the MNLF prior to the siege of Zamboanga.
OPAPP is headed by former Arroyo loyalist Teresita Deles.

“I still hold them (OPAPP) accountable. Looking at the situation, the OPPAP should really intensify its tasks and mission because I cannot give what Chairman Nur Misuari was asking me (and that is) to (fully) implement the 1996 peace accord (with the MNLF).
“It should be the agencies of government, particularly OPPAP that has to be responsive to that. With that, as it may have to move on. Ya kaba ya se. (sic) Ya supri ya kita (Ya está hecho. Ya hemos sufrido. It’s done. We have suffered already). We’re victims of the siege. Then perhaps, we ask them also that this time, do their mission, do their task because we, in the City Government of Zamboanga, will be left to take care on the victims of the siege,” Salazar said.

Misuari has been opposing to the government’s peace talks with rival Moro Islamic Liberation Front which signed a peace accord with Aquino in 2012, saying it violated the September 1996 agreement with the MNLF. He also wrote a letter to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation about it and sent a communication to OPAPP, but was ignored.

Salazar also said that OPAPP neglected local government’s request for guidance on how to deal with the MNLF. “We already aired our request for guidance from national government how to deal with the MNLF if ever they are seen in the city in uniform. But sad to know that from the time that we asked that question way back in July (last year and) up to even in (time of) the siege, there was no guidance and response. The accountability of this (OPAPP) agency should be responsive to the peace process and should have done its task in guiding local government units on how to react and what to do,” she said.

She said the siege lasted long because there was a failure in communication between the OPAPP and MNLF.
“Sad to say that as a consequence, Chairman Nur Misuari proved his worth, and we all end up victims of the siege and so in a sense, Zamboanga City just became a victim of circumstance because of lack of communication,” Salazar said.

And rubbing salt into the wound, Salazar said some OPAPP officials abandoned Zamboanga at the height of the siege only to attend to their budget hearing in Congress in Manila.
“Where was OPAPP during the siege?,” she asked. “So I really feel that the budget of a government agency (OPAPP) was more important than the people of Zamboanga who suffered in the siege,” Salazar said.

Troops, rebels clash in Maguindanao town

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 4): Troops, rebels clash in Maguindanao town

One civilian was injured after he was hit with a stray bullet during a firefight Wednesday between army soldiers and rebels in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region in the southern Philippines.

The soldiers were patrolling the village of Labu-labu in the town of Shariff Aguak when they encountered a small group of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The rebels opened fire on the soldiers, but hit a villager, according to Capt. Jo Ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division.

She identified the wounded civilian as Joven Opena. Troops from the 45th Infantry Battalion rushed the injured to hospital as other soldiers pursued the rebels.

“The 6th Infantry Division ensures that the safety of the public will be the utmost priority and we gravely condemn this incident in which the BIFF terror actions resulted to the wounding of an innocent civilian,” Petinglay said as she also praised the active support of the villagers who reported the presence of gunmen in the area.

The BIFF, which has pledged allegiance to the Sunni jihadist group ISIS, is fighting for Muslim independence in the South.

3 Sayyaf killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Basilan clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 4): 3 Sayyaf killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Basilan clash

Three Abu Sayyaf rebels were killed and two army soldiers wounded in a clash that erupted Thursday in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region in Mindanao, officials said.

Officials said security forces were pursuing two of the Abu Sayyaf most notorious leaders, Puruji Indama and Nurhasan Jamiri, in Tipo-Tipo town when it encountered the rebels and killing 3 of them, but the fighting also injured two soldiers.

“At least three Abu Sayyaf members were killed and two soldiers wounded in the clash in Tipo-Tipo and the operation is continuing in Basilan province,” Marine Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

According to Capt. Franco Salvador Suelto, of the 1st Infantry Division, troops were scouring the town’s hinterlands where the group of Indama and Jamiri fled. He said Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, the regional army commander, ordered troops to intensify the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the province.

Ensign Chester Ian Ramos said the Naval Forces South under Commo. Reynaldo Yoma also alerted patrol commanders in an effort to prevent the Abu Sayyaf rebels from escaping out of Basilan. The Abu Sayyaf has been largely blamed by authorities for the series of terrorism and ransom kidnappings in the Muslim region.

3 Abu Sayyaf brigands killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Basilan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): 3 Abu Sayyaf brigands killed, 2 soldiers wounded in Basilan clash

Three members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were killed while two soldiers were wounded in a clash Thursday in the hinterlands of Basilan province, a military official disclosed.

Capt. Ma. Rowena Muyuela, Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the clash broke out around 6:55 a.m. Thursday while the troops were conducting law enforcement operations in Tipo-Tipo town, Basilan.

Muyuela did not release the identities of the wounded soldiers except to say they belong to the Army’s 18th Infantry Battalion.

She said the bodies of the killed ASG members were brought by their companions.

She said the slain Abu Sayyaf brigands were followers of ASG leaders Furudji Indama and Nurhassan Jamiri.

“The firefight is still ongoing,” she added.

Success of GPH-MILF peace negotiations contributes to reforms in ARMM --Hataman

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): Success of GPH-MILF peace negotiations contributes to reforms in ARMM --Hataman

Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Mujiv S. Hataman recognizes that the success of the peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is one of the important contributing factors to the achievement of socioeconomic reforms in ARMM under his stewardship.

“Ito po ay bunga ng matagumpay na usapang pangkapayapaan sa pagitan ng GPH at MILF (This is the fruit of the successful peace negotiations between the GPH and the MILF),” said Hataman during his second State-of-the-Region Address (SORA) held at the Shariff Kabunsuan Complex in Cotabato City on Dec. 1.

Hataman related that the dreadful peace and order situation in the region before the success of the peace negotiations prevented economic investments from coming in.

“Ngayon, dahil sa ating inayos na burukrasya at pamamalakad sa ARMM, kasabay ang matagumpay na usapang pangkapayapaan, tumaas ang kumpyansa ng mga negosyante (Now, because of the reforms in the bureaucracy and governance of ARMM, together with the success of the peace negotiations, investor confidence has improved)," he said.

“Sa third quarter pa lang ngayong taon, pumalo sa mataas na record na Php3.372 billion ang halaga ng investments, higit doble pa ito sa naitala nating investments sa nakaraang taon (As of the third quarter of this year, investments in the region has reached a significantly high record of Php3.372 billion, which is more than double compared to investments in the previous year),” Hataman said.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles affirmed that Hataman was indeed able to deliver the reforms needed in ARMM, saying that he's proven that he's worthy of the trust and confidence of President Benigno Aquino III who appointed him to serve as officer-in-charge of the ARMM in 2011 prior to being elected to the post in 2013.

"Masaya talaga tayo na itong term ni Regional Governor Hataman... naitawid niya ng husto ang ARMM doon sa inaasam-asam na Bangsamoro (We are very happy that during Regional Governor Hataman's term... he was able to steer the region towards the right direction in preparation for the envisioned Bangsamoro)," Deles said.

Improved services in conflict-affected areas through PAMANA

Hataman also gave credit to Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA), which is the Philippine government’s program for peace and development in conflict-affected areas.

“Patuloy ang ating pagsusumikap na makapaghatid ng serbisyo, lalong-lalo na sa mga conflict-affected areas sa pamamagitan ng programang Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan o PAMANA (We continue to strive in delivering basic services, especially to the conflict-affected areas through the PAMANA program,” he said.

He presented the successful projects under the PAMANA program such as the “roads to peace” and livelihood projects which also benefited Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) communities.

“Ang PAMANA ay namamahagi din ng mga suporta sa pangkabuhayan, partikular na sa mga communities ng mga kapatid nating MNLF (PAMANA is also providing livelihood support, particularly in the communities of our MNLF brothers and sisters,” said Hataman.

More opportunities for reforms in Bangsamoro

Hataman said that despite the current positive changes in ARMM through the reforms initiated under his leadership, “mas malaki ang opportunity for reforms kung maipapasa ang Bangsamoro Bill (There will be bigger opportunities for reform if the Bangsamoro Bill will be passed into law).”

“Ibibigay sa atin ng itatayong Bangsamoro ang pagkakataong pag-ibayuhin ang mga tagumpay na ating nakamit ngayon (The establishment of the Bangsamoro will give us the chance to cultivate the successes that we have achieved now),” the ARMM governor said.

Believing that the “Bangsamoro will be the realization of the Bangsamoro people’s dream,” Hataman urged the people of ARMM to support it. “Salubungin natin ito. Yakapin natin ito ng buong puso (Let us welcome this [Bangsamoro]. Let us embrace this [Bangsamoro] with all our hearts),” said Hataman.

'Ruby' now a super typhoon

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): 'Ruby' now a super typhoon

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) on Thursday went on red alert as Typhoon "Ruby" (international name: Hagupit), which entered the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR), has been declared a super typhoon.

According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), "Ruby" was estimated at 860 km east of Surigao City as of 10 a.m., packing maximum winds of 195 kph near the center and gustiness of up to 230 kph.

The NDRRMC said provincial and regional disaster management councils are ready to undertake evacuations and other emergency response measures.

Local government units (LGUs) and the Department of Education (DepEd) have suspended classes Thursday and Friday in Naval, Culaba, Almeria, Cabucgayan, and Caibiran, all in Biliran, Leyte; Southern Leyte, Tacloban City, and Catbalogan (Samar) -- areas projected to be in Ruby’s path.

The University of the Philippines (UP) Tacloban, Visayas State University and Naval State University have also announced the suspension of classes at all levels.

Meanwhile, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said, "It would help a lot if the people, including local government units, take the information we are providing seriously as they prepare. Let us take all the necessary precautions without having to panic."

As of 11 a.m., nine areas were placed under Storm Signal No. 1 as Typhoon "Ruby" intensified further and may make landfall over Samar Saturday morning, PAGASA said.

"Ruby" is forecast to move west-northwest at 20 kph and is expected to be at 395 km east-southeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar Friday morning.

By Saturday morning, it is expected to be at 30 km northeast of Borongan, Eastern Samar and will make landfall over the Samar area before noon.

On Sunday morning, it is expected to be at 20 km south-southwest of Romblon.

(Update) All AFP units now on 'red alert' for 'Ruby' landfall

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): (Update) All AFP units now on 'red alert' for 'Ruby' landfall

All units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were placed on "red alert" starting 12 noon Thursday, in preparation for possible humanitarian assistance disaster relief (HADR) missions that may be needed once typhoon "Ruby" (international name 'Hagupit') makes landfall over the weekend.

"All AFP forces (have been placed) on red alert by 12 noon today (Thursday),"newly-appointed AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.

"Red alert" means that all available units and assets are ready for instant deployment if needed.

It also means that all units on the direct path of the typhoon are on stand-by for HADR or preventive/force evacuations of people in coordination with local government units, Department of Social Welfare and Development and other government agencies as need arises, 7th Civil Relations Group commander Major Emmanuel Garcia said.

All units in adjacent areas are also on alert to assist troops in the affected areas.

Severe weather brought by typhoon "Ruby" is expected to affect the Eastern Visayas, Bicol province and Northern Mindanao.

The AFP placed all its units on "blue alert" 8 a.m. Thursday in anticipation of relief missions for "Ruby".

Under the "blue alert" status, the military can easily mobilize 50 percent of its strength should the need arises.

Ombudsman suspends PNP chief for 6 months

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): Ombudsman suspends PNP chief for 6 months

The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) on Thursday ordered a six-month suspension against Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Director General Alan Purisima in connection with the alleged anomalous contract between the Philippine National Police (PNP) and a courier service in 2011.

Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan said that the suspension imposed against Purisima will last for a period of six months while he is being investigated.

Rafanan said that Purisima will not receive his salary within a period of six months.

According to the Ombudsman, after receipt of the order, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should immediately implement the suspension against Purisima.

PAF readies equipment, personnel for possible disaster response for 'Hagupit'

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): PAF readies equipment, personnel for possible disaster response for 'Hagupit'

With typhoon Ruby (international name 'Hagupit') expected to make a landfall in the weekend, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) on Thursday alerted all available aircraft and crew for possible disaster response missions that may be needed during the aftermath of the storm.

Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo planes, Fokker F-27 "Friendship" and W-3A "Sokol" and UH-IH "Huey" II helicopters, communication vans with satellite phone, rubber Boats, ambulance and engineering equipment are now being prepared for this eventuality.

PAF chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado also ordered the accounting of personnel and completeness of equipment at the Grandstand of the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

Delgado said the PAF disaster response unit is composed of search-and-rescue teams, aviation engineers, medical teams, communication, security and support teams.

He said that Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft could serve as first responders in a large scale humanitarian assistance and disaster (HADR) relief operations.

Other major Air Force bases in Clark, Mactan, Zamboanga and Palawan are also prepared as staging areas by the disaster response teams.

AFP awards UN Service Medals to peacekeepers from Liberia

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 4): AFP awards UN Service Medals to peacekeepers from Liberia

After completing their 21-day quarantine period in Caballo Island, officers and enlisted personnel of the 18th Philippine Contingent to Liberia (PCL) were given their well-deserved Heroes' Welcome Thursday afternoon.

The 110 members of the 18th PCL were formally welcomed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang.

Catapang also led the awarding of the United Nation Service Medals to the peacekeepers.

Defense Secretary Honorable Voltaire T. Gazmin graced the occasion.

“These peacekeepers showed once again the heroism, bravery, and commitment of our soldiers. I am happy for them that they can now formally join their families after their long tour in Liberia and the quarantine period they had in Caballo Island,” Catapang said.

After their Heroes’ Welcome, Catapang gave the order allowing the peacekeepers to spend the coming Christmas holidays with their loved ones.

They will be reporting back to the AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center after celebrating Christmas and New Year.

The country started providing a peacekeeping contingent to Liberia in accordance with the UN Resolution 1509 in September 2003 that established the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

It is tasked to assist in the maintenance of law and order in the country following a ceasefire that ended the Second Liberian Civil War.

The Filipino peacekeepers unit was tasked to provide force security to the headquarters and UNMIL leadership and in providing administrative services to the force headquarters.

One of the senior officers of the 18th PCL is Lt. Col. Samuel Villacrusis, the unit's deputy commander.

According to him, the primary challenge of the Filipino peacekeepers in Liberia is to secure UN VIPs amid the volatile security situation in that country.

“Our peacekeepers enjoy the trust of the UN leadership, which is why they chose us to be part of force security,” Villacrusis said.

During that time, the peacekeepers had enough freedom to visit popular places near their headquarters in Bushrod Island in Monrovia, particularly the Riverview and Caesar Beach, Royal Hotel, and Firestone, a rubber plantation in Liberia.

The situation, however, changed when the Ebola Virus Disease first broke out in February and again in May.

Since then, the movements of the peacekeepers were restricted to mission-essential areas, like their office and official itineraries of VIPs.

As medical non-commissioned officer of the 18th PCL, Technical Sgt. Vicente Alcoy was among those in charge of ensuring that the peacekeepers abide by the protocol laid out by UNMIL to prevent acquiring the dreaded disease.

“After our contingent commander ordered us to stay away from populated areas, my everyday duties included ensuring that our peacekeepers follow preventive measures like wearing surgical gloves, goggles, and masks,” Alcoy said.

The lives of peacekeepers inside their barracks did not change much, however, as they continued to be in touch with their loved ones in the country.

Alcoy used his free time talking to his family in Cavite via cellphone, particularly in checking the condition of his wife, Rachel, who had undergone a kidney operation before his deployment to Liberia.

“I only get to call her on the phone but because of that, I learned that her condition got better. The additional compensation from the UN also helped in sustaining her medication,” Alcoy said.

Despite the threat of Ebola, the Filipino peacekeepers remained relatively safe from infection.

This is because the nature of their mission did not entail direct contact with the locals, particularly patients infected with Ebola.

“Even after the first outbreak of Ebola in February this year, we remained focused on our mission of providing security to the force headquarters and commanders and in providing administrative duties,” Villacrusis stressed.

The peacekeepers remained in Liberia until the end of their extended tour of duty, which was supposedly for nine months at the maximum.

The peacekeepers were deployed for 11 months in Liberia to facilitate also the permanent pull-out of the contingent.

“We received news from the Department of National Defense that we will have to pull out. Eventually, we were warned of our imminent repatriation in November, so we had to pack-up not only our personal belongings but also the equipment and facilities of the entire contingent,” Villacrusis said.

The peacekeepers informed their families of their repatriation and the 21-day quarantine that will further delay their meeting.

They both said that the peacekeepers and their families understood the necessity of the quarantine.

Members of the 18th PCL along with some staff officers and military observers of UNMIL were immediately brought to Caballo Island shortly after their arrival in Nov. 12.

The quarantine was a measure implemented to ensure that the country will remain Ebola-free.

Catapang ensured the peacekeepers of a fun, productive, and relaxing stay in Caballo Island.

Joint Task Group-Liberia, a special unit activated to supervise the quarantine, prepared games and activities for the peacekeepers.

Air-conditioned, wifi-ready, and cable TV-equipped billeting areas were also prepared.

Prior to their arrival at Caballo Island, some peacekeepers were worried of the situation they will be in during the quarantine.

However, their fears were allayed upon arrival there.

“Our misconceptions suddenly shifted to amazement. I felt that the efforts of the Task Group Liberia (TGL) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) should be commended,” Technical Sgt. Orlando B. Harion, a force engineer clerk of UNMIL, said.

Catapang also wanted to ensure that the peacekeepers could freely communicate with their families, which was important in keeping their morale high while in the island.

“They gave us everything we needed. We have internet connection and strong phone signal so we could talk to our families as much as we want. We felt at home because we could also see our family over the internet,” Alcoy said.

Apart from their daily body temperature monitoring, the peacekeepers were also subjected to physical and mental conditioning through sports and board games.

“Daily activities were set so that the peacekeepers will be occupied. The day usually starts with the cleaning of our surroundings, physical exercises followed by some sports activities where we compete with the other teams from other Igloos,” Harion added.

According to Villacrusis, Caballo Island was more than they expected.

“We were generally happy and in high-morale. As officer-in-charge and on behalf of the peacekeepers in Caballo Island, I want to extend our gratitude to our top leadership, especially to General Catapang, for making our quarantine a truly memorable experience,” Villacrusis concluded.