Sunday, December 7, 2014

AFP deploys disaster operation units in Bicol

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): AFP deploys disaster operation units in Bicol 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has deployed soldiers specializing on disaster response measures in Biol to ensure the safety of the Bicolanos.

Army Major Gen. Yerson E. Depayso said the Philippine Army in Bicol has committed all its capabilities and assets for emergencies that would be caused by Typhoon "Ruby" to ensure the safety of the Bicolanos with their target of zero casualty.

“Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) is a major effort of the 9ID since this region is frequented by typhoons,” he said.

Depayso said the military is continuing to train its personnel on disaster preparedness, rescue operations, and water and search specialized training to immediately respond in times of disaster.

Army Col. Raul Farnacio, commanding officer of the Army’s 901st Infantry Brigade, said 23 military trucks and three police trucks with 18 disaster response operation units have been mobilized in Albay.

While in Catanduanes, six military trucks were deployed for evacuation of the people threatened by storm surge and landslide.

The AFP in Bicol activated the Task Force Sagip Ruby as Ruby was to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).

Brig.Gen. Felix J Castro Jr., commander of Task Group Sagip Ruby, said all Army units in Bicol under the 9ID were already on the ground to lend a hand to the Bicolanos.

He said a battalion-size rescuers and responders were organized by the 9ID and were deployed across the region before Ruby entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility.

Three rubber boats and water rescue equipment were deployed in flood-prone-areas like Legazpi City, Albay; Camarines Sur and Camarines Norte.

“The three infantry brigades and battalions have prepositioned their personnel with military vehicles and were dispatched for preemptive evacuation at flood-prone, landslide-prone, and mudflow areas.

Army reservists of the 5th Regional Community Defense Group, ARESCOM were also alerted for possible deployment,” Castro said.

At least two million Bicolanos evacuated by disaster responders at the Bicol region were facing complex disaster.

Bernardo “Raffy” Alejandro, Office of Civil Defense regional director, said 500 families or an equivalent of two million people across the region have been evacuated to safety.

The biggest number of evacuees came from Albay and Sorsogon provinces as the complex disaster might occur following the threat of landslides, flashfloods, lahar flows and storm surges.

Ed Laguerta, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology resident volcanologist, warned disaster officials and responders to prepare for a worst-case scenario as complex disaster in Bicol is possible as the restive Mayon might explode while old volcanic materials are expected to go down in low-lying areas in the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon.

“Typhoon Ruby may trigger sudden Mayon explosion, possible upper-level collapse and simultaneous remobilization of lahar from the slopes of the country’s two most active volcanoes, Bulusan in Sorsogon and Mayon in Albay,” Laguerta said.

“Intense rainfall may trigger upper-level collapse of the volcano that could lead to explosion. So we need to be ready and prepare for the worst-case scenario as mudflow may tumble down due to heavy rainfall,” he said.

In Albay province, even before Ruby’s landfall, raging big waves pummelled in the coastal areas of Legazpi City, destroying numerous light material-made houses in the villages of Pigcale, Sabang, San Roque, Bigaa and Rawis on Thursday evening.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the province is bracing for flashfloods, mudflows, storm surges and massive landslides.

“We’re ready for worst and complex scenario. We’re declaring Albay under state of calamity for the local government units to use their calamity fund,” Salceda said.

The provincial government of Albay allocated at least Php15 million for disaster response operations and sought assistance from Department of Social Welfare Department for additional support.

The DSWD allocated 6,000 bags of rice for Albay to support the needs of almost 600,000 Albayanos evacuated to safer grounds.

“Local government units must complete evacuation before darkness. Families not evacuated should complete their family preparedness plan, no extra movement – stay home or stay in evacuation centers. No crossing of rivers, no sail to sea, fix your homes and secure your pets and other domestic animals. Our goal is always zero casualty. Remember our policy is no rescue during the height of typhoon so as not to put the lives of the rescuers into danger,” the Albay governor reiterated.

PA sets up communication equipment in Estancia as alternative for northern Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): PA sets up communication equipment in Estancia as alternative for northern Iloilo

The Philippine Army (PA) has set up its communication equipment in Estancia as an alternative in case all other facilities bogged down in northern Iloilo.

Colonel Eric Uchida, commander of the 301st Brigade of the Philippine Army, said in an interview Sunday morning, they have their radio and communication equipment in Estancia so that reports would not be derailed.

It could be recalled during super typhoon "Yolanda" last year, cell sites and telecommunication posts were toppled down that proved difficulty for local officials to send out request for food and other needs of their constituents. Handheld radio frequency was the only recourse then.

Uchida said their organized four disaster relief task groups have now been mobilized and in their assigned provinces of Iloilo and Guimaras, Capiz, Aklan, and Antique.

”They are ready to provide assistance requested by the LGUs (local government units),” he said.

So far, he said there is still no major incident related to typhoon "Ruby" that has been monitored, but government troops are prepared to support the requirements in terms of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Per PAG-ASA Weather Bulletin, Northern Antique, Aklan, Semirara Group of islands, Capiz and Northern Iloilo are now under storm warning signal.

Army blames BIFF for series of grenade attacks in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Army blames BIFF for series of grenade attacks in Maguindanao

The military here blamed the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in the rash of bombings in Shariff Aguak, Maguinanao, the latest of which was Friday morning, an Army general said today.

”All indications point to the BIFF because they would like to get back at us, they really suffered a lot during our previous offensives, they would like to regain their lost grounds,” Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, regional Army commander, said.

Pangilinan said the BIFF through its spokesperson, has repeatedly made public that they will get back at the military but sadly the civilians were involved in the process.

”Sadly the civilians became collateral damages,” he added.

Pangilinan appealed to the public to continue supporting state forces by reporting anyone they see suspiciously moving around town or report any bag or suspicious bags left unattended anywhere in the province.

”The good thing there are people who have been cooperating with the authorities which led to the arrest and neutralization of lawless elements not only in Shariff Aguak but in other areas,” he said.

At least three bombing cases were reported in Shariff Aguak over the week.

On Friday morning, a suspected BIFF member tossed a hand grenade toward members of the Army bomb experts conducting detonation process of a suspected improvised bomb in Barangay Labo-Labo.

Army bomb experts survived the grenade attack but it damaged a parked police patrol car.

Earlier, two hand grenades were hurled toward the residential compound of former Maguindanao board member Yasser Ampatuan, also in Barangay Labo-Labo. The two fragmentation grenades did not explode.

Suspected BIFF members also tossed a hand grenade to a passing military truck in Barangay Dugong, Shariff Aguak but nobody was hurt.

Abu Misry Mama, speaking for the BIFF, said his group will continue harassing Army positions in Maguindanao.

Army and police authorities in Maguindanao remained on alert.

MILF 'settles' infighting among its field commanders

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): MILF 'settles' infighting among its field commanders

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has sent emissaries in at least three areas in Maguindanao and North Cotabato where infighting among its field commanders flared up over the week, an MILF official today said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, admitted there were “misunderstanding” among field commanders of the MILF in the towns of Buldon and Datu Abdullah Sangki in Maguindanao and Alamada, North Cotabato.

”These misunderstanding have been existing for years and we have been addressing that,” Jaafar said in a phone interview.

He admitted the MILF general staff is now investigating these infighting because aside from its negative impact on the organization it will become a major stumbling block in everybody’s desire to attain peace in the countryside.

”If it remained unattended, it may go out of proportion and would affect the civilians,” he said.

The fighting in the hinterlands of Alamada, involving MILF field commanders, left two civilians wounded and was triggered by long standing land dispute.

The conflict in Buldon was triggered by a long standing family feud while the skirmishes involving MILF field commanders in Datu Abdullah Sangki were triggered by territorial dispute.

As of posting, the warring MILF leaders locked in dispute remained quiet and Jaafar hope the mediation, the traditional way of resolving misunderstanding, will succeed.

South Korean Armies offer equipments for emergency response

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): South Korean Armies offer equipments for emergency response

The South Korean Military Joint Support Group or Araw Force also offered their equipment for possible rescue operation and debris clearing in the aftermath of typhoon Ruby.

Col. Chulwon Lee, commander of Araw Force informed members of the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council that their 70 heavy equipment and vehicles can be used for emergency response.

Their equipment are now parked in a vacant lot within the Leyte ICT Park complex in Palo town.

Korean armies provided two quick response units for rescue operation equipped with ambulances, rubber boats and dump trucks.

Some dump trucks are also available for relocation and evacuation purposes. The medical team of Araw Force have stand-by ambulance and buses. Twenty excavators are standby for debris clearing operation, according to Col. Lee.

Although, they have the equipment to assist local government units in debris clearing operations, Col. Lee emphasized that they are only allowed to operate in the towns of Tolosa, Tanauan, Palo and the city of Tacloban.

They are barred to operate in other towns, citing earlier agreements between the two governments.

However, if a local government unit really needs assistance, Col. Lee advises local chief executives to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines that provide security assistance to them.

The 380 South Korean troops evacuated yesterday to the Leyte Academic Center, the command post of the Leyte Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Sulu military units feted for recovery of Swiss birdwatcher in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Sulu military units feted for recovery of Swiss birdwatcher in Sulu

Ranking defense and military officials feted officers and enlisted personnel of Joint Task Force Sulu and the Western Mindanao Command for their successful recovery of Swiss birdwatcher, Lorenzo Vinciguerra, at the hands of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandits at Barangay Timpook, Patikul, Sulu Saturday morning.

First to fete the military units involved in the successful recovery of 49 year-old Vinciguerra was the Commander-in-Chief, President Benigno Aquino III.

"(He) has happily received the news and extends his congratulations to our men and women in uniform who are involved in the operation, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said.

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin has also communicated his profound thanks to the forces for their relentless efforts and is encouraging them to continue on as we work towards achieving total peace for Sulu.

While AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr, also sent his congratulations and is recommending appropriate commendations for those who are involved.

He also told the troops to continue on with their efforts alongside the campaign plan of Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero and Joint Task Group-Sulu under Col. Allan Arrojado.

As this develops, AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padillasaid that Vinciguerra was already flown to Camp Navarro in Zamboanga City from Jolo.

Vinciguerra said he took advantage of the situation by escaping from his abductors while the AFP units are conducting intensified law enforcement operation.

Further, Vinciguerra was intercepted by Joint Task Group Sulu operating troops and was safely rescued.

He also said that "check wound" sustained by the victim is from a bladed weapon, not a gunshot wound as earlier reported; apparently he only had one guard.

"The decision to have him interviewed by the media there was put on hold because he is still traumatized by what happened," Padilla said.

The ASG bandits have seized Vinciguerra together with Dutchman Ewold Horn, 52, while they were on a bird watching trip in February 2012 in the province of Tawi-Tawi.

The hostages were later moved to the hinterlands of Sulu.

10th Infantry Division downgrades number of rebels killed in Compostela Valley to 4

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): 10th Infantry Division downgrades number of rebels killed in Compostela Valley to 4

The 10th Infantry Division on Saturday assigned a lower number of New People's Army (NPA) fighters killed during an encounter at Purok 3, Tagudyong, Libudon, Mabini, Compostela Valley Friday, from five to four.

"We would like make corrections to the press statement released last night (Friday). Four rebels (bodies) and five firearms were recovered after the encounter with the 71st Infantry Battalion. We apologized for this inconvenience as we uphold truth and facts in informing the public," 10th Infantry Division spokesperson 1st Lt. Vicente Alcambra said in a message to the PNA.

The Firefight erupted around 2 p.m. Friday when the 71st Infantry Battalion, on security patrol, clashed with undetermined number of NPA rebels.

Seized were one M-653 rifle, three M-16 automatic rifles and 1 M1 Garand rifle, five bandoliers, 10 magazines for M-16s, subversive documents and personal belongings. Pursuit operations are now being launched after the fleeing rebels.

“This is part of our intensified efforts to curve the recent series of banditry attacks perpetrated by NPA rebels, we will not allow these lawless armed group from sowing terror in our communities," 10th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Eduardo M Año said.

Over the weekend, the rebels abducted two soldiers securing a banana plantation in New Corella Davao Del Norte.

The rebels also attacked government troops securing an ongoing road construction project in San Fernando town, Bukidnon.

Task Force 'Kalinga' activated for humanitarian assistance deployment in the Visayas

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Task Force 'Kalinga' activated for humanitarian assistance deployment in the Visayas

With typhoon "Ruby" unleashing its ferocious winds over a vast portion of the country, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that the Northern Luzon Command, together with the Civil Relations Service and AFP General Headquarters, has activated its Task Force "Kalinga" for deployment and conduct of humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions in the Visayas.

This was after "Ruby" made landfall in Dolores town, Eastern Samar 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 7th Civil Relations Group commander, said that coordination is now underway with the Office of Civil Defense and the AFP regarding the deployment of the unit.

He added that military personnel and units in the threatened provinces were ordered to make themselves highly visible, aside from coordinating with local government units, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and provincial offices engaged in relief and rescue work.

30 PAF aircraft available for 'Ruby' relief missions

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): 30 PAF aircraft available for 'Ruby' relief missions

Thirty Philippine Air Force (PAF) aircraft will be available for possible disaster relief and rescue missions once the inclement weather caused by typhoon "Ruby" subsides, the military said Sunday.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, 7th Civil Relations Group commander, said that these planes and helicopters will be augmented by 30 naval craft, 130 land transport vehicles and 158 additional ground mobility assets.

For the meantime, aircraft based in "Ruby"-threatened provinces are ordered to fly from the path of the typhoon to avoid damage, he added.

"Ruby" made landfall in Dolores town, Eastern Samar at 9:15 p.m. Saturday.

It is expected to make landfall in Masbate Sunday.

As this develops, the US Embassy in Manila has offered nine Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" cargo aircraft and three Lockheed P-3C "Orion" maritime surveillance planes for air assessment and monitoring.

Medical, relief workers and other support if needed, will also be provided.

"Other foreign armed forces also offering help and coordinating with the MNCC (multi-national coordination center)," Garcia said.

Army troops capture NPA rebels' camp in Davao Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Army troops capture NPA rebels' camp in Davao Oriental

Troopers from the Army's 28th Infantry Battalion captured a New People's Army (NPA) camp Sunday morning at Sitio Sebole, Barangay Maragatas, Lupon, Davao Oriental, aside from inflicting an undetermined number of casualties to the rebel force.

Lt. Col. Benjamin Daniel Tiangco, 28th Infantry Battalion commander, said the location of the rebel base was reported to them by concerned civilians and a 40-minute encounter took place starting at 6 a.m., forcing the rebels to retreat.

Recovered from the encounter site were an AR-18 automatic rifle, electrical wires and other landmine paraphernalia, four backpacks containing personal belongings and subversive documents.

There were no casualties on the government side, while several blood trails were discovered in the jungle, indicative that the rebels had many fighters wounded in the encounter, Tiangco said.

Troops are still conducting pursuit operations as of this posting.

On Saturday night, the NPAs conducted simultaneous atrocities on troops at Barangay New Visayas of Lupon and Barangay Araibo of Pantukan.

In New Visayas, the military said four NPA rebels attempted to hostage the wife of a militiaman.Fortunately, the supposed victim was able to shout for help, alerting the nearby Army detachment.

The soldiers were able to fire at the NPAs, forcing the latter to retreat.

In Barangay Araibo, four NPA guerrillas aboard two motorcycles indiscriminately fired at the soldiers.

The troops were conducting security operations after civilians complained of NPAs roaming in the area. The same group of rebels attacked nearby Tagugpo detachment.

Military conducts road, airport clearing operations in Eastern, Northern Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Military conducts road, airport clearing operations in Eastern, Northern Samar

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang on Sunday said that military units in Eastern and Northern Samar, areas first battered by Typhoon "Ruby", are now conducting road and airport clearing operations.

"Military units are now conducting MSR (main supply route) clearing operations North to South of Borongan City (Eastern Samar) and East to West of Catarman City (Northern Samar)," he added.

Catapang said this is being done to facilitate access to the airports located in two areas.

The AFP chief said the Cebu-based Central Command is deploying Air Force units, to assess whether these airports are undamaged and could accommodate rescue and relief aircraft.

Plans are afoot to transport these airports as the hubs for relief operations in the two provinces.

Catapang added that the BRP Benguet (LT-507), a Navy transport laden with relief supplies, will be immediately deployed to provide assistance to Leyte and Samar once the weather clears.

He also said that the Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division, commanded by Major Gen. Jet Velarmino, is now assessing the status of all road nets in his area of operation, to determine which of these are in need of clearing and repair.

China says it will not join the PHL in South China Sea arbitration case

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): China says it will not join the PHL in South China Sea arbitration case

A week before a court-appointed deadline to challenge the Philippine government’s case, China on Sunday said it will not join the arbitration proceedings on the South China Sea row that was initiated by the Philippines.

Citing a Chinese government “position paper,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said China “will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration.”

The Philippine government has reserved comment on the matter.

“We’re studying it and will issue a statement in due course, if warranted and appropriate,” said Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose in a text message.

A five-man tribunal based in The Hague, Netherlands operating under the ambit of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gave China until December 15 to respond to the complaint filed by the Philippines, which sought clarification of its maritime entitlements over parts of the waters within its territory, but is being claimed by China.

Manila on March 30, 2014 submitted a 4,000-page legal document, called in international arbitration parlance as the memorial that contained a package of evidence and maps to bolster its case in a bid to declare as illegal China’s sweeping claim over the resource-rich waters.

In its position paper, China said the nature of the Philippines' case is outside the mandate of the tribunal because it can not rule on territorial disputes or maritime delineation.

But the Philippines said it is not asking the court to grant ownership of the disputed territories but is merely seeking “clarification” of China’s claim of “indisputable sovereignty over nearly the entire South China Sea.”

China noted that its rejection or non-participation in the legal proceedings “stand on solid ground in international law” as it pointed out a declaration it signed in 2006 that excludes it from participating in arbitration process concerning maritime delimitation, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Philippines said it has exhausted all efforts, including bilateral negotiations, to reach a settlement with China on their maritime row, but Philippine officials said Chinese incursions over the country’s territories have persisted, prompting it to seek legal recourse.

Tensions in the South China Sea -- one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes -- spiked anew amid China’s increasingly aggressive behavior by beefing up its military and paramilitary presence and engaging in reclamation activities in contested features.

China’s actions have alarmed foreign governments, such as the United States and Japan.

Defying international calls to halt its ongoing expansion activities, Beijing insists it has “indisputable” sovereignty over the waters, citing ancient maps and historical records to back its claims.

China's massive claim also encroaches on the territories of its smaller Asian neighbors with less military power like Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Taiwan, a self-ruling democratic state that separated from China in 1949, is also a claimant to the South China Sea territories.

Army units in Western Visayas alerted for possible 'Ruby' humanitarian efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Army units in Western Visayas alerted for possible 'Ruby' humanitarian efforts

With Typhoon Ruby" still threatening a huge part of the country, Army units in Western Visayas were alerted for possible humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) missions that may be needed during the aftermath of the howler.

Major Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commander of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division, said their disaster response task units are already forward deployed for any eventualities.

"Our forces are in close coordination with the local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils in order to synchronize our plans and actions for any eventualities that may happen brought by Typhoon Ruby," he said.

For better reporting and communication among tasked units, a communication center has been established last Dec. 5 at the Office of Civil Defense, Region 6 in Iloilo City that connect all the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils to the Regional Council utilizing the Harris radios, a very reliable communication equipment that were used during Supertyphoon "Yolanda."

Beefing-up the manpower for HADR operations are the 272 new soldiers of 3rd Infantry Division that graduated last Dec. 4.

Guerrero said that these troops were immediately assigned to the field units for them to be utilized for emergency response, search and rescue, and retrieval efforts.

He added that transportation assets of the military are also on standby for delivery of relief assistance to the people in areas which will be highly affected by the typhoon.

Soldiers wounded defending gov't road project in Bukidnon, honored

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 7): Soldiers wounded defending gov't road project in Bukidnon, honored

Eastern Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad honored the four soldiers wounded while defending a ongoing government road project at Barangay Makalungay, San Fernando town, Bukidnon against rebel attack last Dec. 3.

Awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal were Sgt. Samuel M. Mapo, Pfc. Rex A. Palma, Pvt. Gezer G. Pelonio and Pvt. Robert R. Zamora, all members of the Army's 68th Infantry Battalion.

Baladad personally pinned the medals to the soldiers during an awarding ceremonies at the Heroes Ward of Naval Station Felix Apolinario Station Hospital in Panacan, Davao City Saturday.

The action of the four and their other companions prevented the rebels from torching heavy equipment that are being used for the road project, which will connect San Fernando town, Bukidnon to Talaingod town, Davao Del Norte, upon completion.

“Because of their gallantry, they were able to outmaneuever and inflict casualties to the New People Army (NPA) bandits despite being outnumbered and wounded; as a result they were able to prevent the burning of equipment. The gallantry in action beyond the call of duty exemplified by our soldiers deserve no less than a military award for their individual acts as their demonstrated exemplary actions against overwhelming enemies," Baladad said.

Ex-underground activists surface for reunion

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 6): Ex-underground activists surface for reunion

Several decades ago, they were hiding behind pseudonyms and holding clandestine meetings.

On Sunday, they were laughing out loud, recalling the dangerous times when they challenged martial law on the streets and in campuses.

Former members of the underground youth group Kabataang Makabayan (KM) gathered at the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus here in a reunion that many of them would not have thought was possible during the times they hid from authorities.

“There were jokes that since we had this streamer of ‘Serve the People’ we might as well put up a barricade at the [UPLB] gates,” said Pio Mijares, 45.

To Bayani Cambronero, 54, the gathering was “euphoric.”

Mijares and Cambronero, along with 70 others, recalled their time as activists as they commemorated the anniversary of Kabataang Makabayan (KM-Nationalist Youth).

KM is an activist youth group that went underground after the declaration of martial law. The group, advocating the so-called National Democratic line, has also been closely associated with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP). It still is underground.

On Sunday, the alumni, some with their children in tow, gathered around the campus with streamers and flags of the youth movement.

“Our purpose is to reconnect and build a network that will help the families of the martyrs and those who went full-time (in activism),” Mijares said.

The event was a rare assembly of those who remained active in the movement and those who opted to pursue various professions. There was Teddy Casiño, former party-list representative, and others who later became lawyers and ranking government employees or local government officials.

Some, like Yolly Catalla, now in her 70s, came in memory of her younger sister Cristina. Cristina was studying economics at UPLB when she disappeared, believed to have been abducted by state forces during martial rule.

There were also “victims” of the CPP’s internal purging and were suspected of being government agents in the 90s. “But even then, there was no animosity (during the homecoming),” Cambronero said.

The group plans to put up a marker on campus that would bear the roster of UPLB activists killed, abducted or who died as members of the New People’s Army, the CPP’s armed guerrilla force, from martial law until recently.

“So far we have 20 (names) that we initially plan to publish online,” Mijares said. He said they also planned to raise funds for political prisoners who formerly studied at UPLB.

“There is still a need for activism as this affirms that nothing much has really changed over the years,” Mijares said.

Appeals Court affirms ruling on trial of Pestaño murder case

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 5): Appeals Court affirms ruling on trial of Pestaño murder case

The Court of Appeals (CA) on Friday affirmed its June 2014 ruling allowing the Manila Regional Trial Court to proceed with the trial of the murder case against 10 Navy officers and enlisted personnel linked to the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño in September 1995.

In a two-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Ramon Bato Jr., the appeals court said the petition filed by accused in the case failed to raise new arguments to warrant the reversal of its June 2014 ruling.

“Acting on the motion for reconsideration…against the resolution of this Court dated June 17, 2014 which denied outright the petition for certiorari on the grounds stated therein, the arguments advanced by the petitioners are the very same arguments in their petition for certiorari, all of which had been duly considered and resolved by the Court. It would be an exercise in futility to be repeating our discussion thereof,” the appeals court said.

The Court of Appeals building in Ermita, Manila. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/COURT OF APPEALS WEBSITE
The Court of Appeals. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Last June, the appeals court ordered the transfer of all the accused from the military custody to the Manila City Jail, saying the court could not find merit to the claim of the navy officers that the lower court committed grave abuse of discretion in ordering their transfer.

The court explained that their order to transfer the accused at the Manila City Jail was in compliance with Republic Act No. 7055, a law that strengthens civilian supremacy over the military by transferring to the civil courts the jurisdiction over certain offenses committed by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Among those charged by the Ombudsman for Pestaño’s death were Navy Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez, Commander Reynaldo Lopez, Commander Alfrederick Alba, Lt. Commander Luidegar Casis, Lt. Commander Joselito Colico, Lt. Commander Ruben Roque, Machinery Repairman 2nd Class Sandy Miranda, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Welmenio Aquino, Petty Officer 1st Class Carlito Amoroso and Petty Officer 2nd Class Mil Leonor Y. Igacasan.

Records of the case showed that BRP Bacolod City, a Philippine Navy cargo ship, left Tawi-Tawi on September 20, 1995.

After seven days, the ship made a last stop-over in Sangley Point and departed the same day for its final destination, the Navy headquarters in Manila.

Before the ship reached Manila, Pestaño was found dead inside his cabin, lying on the bed with a single gunshot wound on his right temple with a purported suicide note to his family.

Based on the investigation conducted by the Senate and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it was ruled out that Pestaño committed suicide.

It was also discovered that Pestaño had knowledge of illegal activities in BRP Bacolod City which posed as a possible motive behind his death.

Reds mobilize for 'Hagupit'

From InterAksyon (Dec 6): Reds mobilize for 'Hagupit'

An image grabbed from a video shows New People's Army guerrillas in the Visayas helping a farmer replant his crops in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda last year. (video from

Communist rebels said their forces are “mobilizing all possible resources to secure the people and carry out all necessary operations” in the face of typhoon “Hagupit” (local name: “Ruby”).

“All units of the New People’s Army (NPA) operating in areas in the path of typhoon Ruby, specifically those in Eastern Visayas, Panay, Central Visayas, Negros, Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions, are on alert to immediately respond to possible emergencies that may arise as a result of the typhoon,” the Communist Party of the Philippines said in a statement.

“In geologically hazardous areas where there is danger of floods, mudflows, sea surges and other natural disasters, barrio revolutionary committees and standing organs of political power acting as agencies of the people’s government are in the process of mobilizing the people to carry out preventive evacuation to ensure their safety,” it added.

The CPP said rebel militias, which are often deployed as “civil defense units,” have been assigned “to assist the people in preparing evacuation areas, securing their homes, properties, work animals, fields and sources of livelihood,” with special attention given “to the elderly, children, pregnant women, single parents and others requiring special assistance in times of emergencies.”

It added that, “barrio revolutionary authorities must be able to account for the village population before and after the storm and carry out rescue operations when necessary.”

US Embassy offers planes, personnel as AFP continues preparations for Ruby

From GMA News (Dec 6): US Embassy offers planes, personnel as AFP continues preparations for Ruby

The US Embassy has offered the use of some American aircraft and personnel to help with Typhoon Ruby even as the Armed Forces of the Philippines continues to prepare for Typhoon Ruby.
According to Maj. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the 7th Civil Relations Group of the AFP Civil Relations Service, the embassy has offered the use of nine C-130 transport aircraft and three P-3C Orion surveillance planes for air assessment and monitoring.
It has also offered "medical and relief workers and other suport if needed," Garcia said, adding other foreign armed forces are also offering help.
AFP continues to prepare for typhoon
In the meantime, soldiers and police officers have been deployed to secure National Food Authority warehouses, Garcia said.
Water sanitation teams are also on standby while additional troops have been sent to Department of Social Welfare and Development repacking centers to help prepare relief goods.
Trucks have already been stationed in major service headquarters, with 12 of 45 trucks assigned to Joint Task Force National Capital Region. 
Soldiers from the AFP Central Command have also been conducting security patrols in Leyte and Samar with the 8th Infantry Division deploying 1,171 personnel for rescue and relief operations along with 638 reservists.
Another 6,601 soldiers are on standby with 604 reservists.
Troops have also been deployed in Bicol to deter looting and crime and more Southern Luzon Command troops are ready to deploy to Romblon, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate, and Catanduanes, Garcia said. 
Ships at the ready
Meanwhile, AFP Western Command in Palawan has already preloaded relief goods in two Navy, two Coast Guard, and two Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels for immediate deployment.
Soldiers and police are also securing food outlets and accounting for tourists.
AFP personnel in Central and North Luzon are also ready to deploy to Masbate, Marinduque, Romblon, or the Visayas as needed.

HAGUPIT | Soldiers deployed to 'prevent looting' - AFP

From InterAksyon (Dec 6): HAGUPIT | Soldiers deployed to 'prevent looting' - AFP

 The Armed Forces of the Philippines confirmed on Saturday that the deployment of soldiers to urban centers, particularly “critical areas” like Tacloban City, is as much to “prevent looting” as to assist with preemptive evacuations ahead of typhoon “Hagupit” (local name: “Ruby”).

AFP chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. “has directed the area commanders to augment the police (who) are securing urban centers. The soldiers will help our police counterparts in maintaining peace and order, and prevent looting incidents,” military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla Jr. said in a statement.

The statement was issued following a military briefing for National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council executive director Alexander Pama on the military’s disaster response operations Saturday morning.

On Friday, soldiers and at least one armored personnel carrier were deployed to downtown Tacloban, where they stood guard at a shopping mall.

“We advise the public not to be alarmed by the presence of military vehicles and personnel in their areas. They are deployed to help in preparations for typhoon Ruby, particularly in helping people who need to be evacuated to safer places,” Padilla said.

After Tacloban was devastated by super typhoon Yolanda last year, with no government relief immediately available, desperate residents of the city began to take food and other essential items from commercial establishments to survive.

Major Emmanuel Garcia, Commander of the AFP Civil Relations Service, added that National Food Authority warehouses will be secured by soldiers and police, even as the AFP has additional water sanitation teams on standby and additional troops have been sent to DSWD repacking centers to assist with the logistics.

Central Command based in Cebu City reported that its troops are conducting security patrols to protect business establishments in Leyte and Samar, with the Philippine Army 8th Infantry Division (Leyte-Samar area) dedicating 1,171 personnel and 638 reservists for rescue and relief operations, plus 6,601 "follow-on" forces plus 604 reservists on standby status.

Souther Luzon Command in the Bicol region has deployed troops to reinforce measures aimed at preventing looting and other crime and more troops ready to be dispatched to the island provinces of Romblon, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Catanduanes.

Western Command in Palawan, for its part, reported that pre-loaded relief goods are on board two Navy, two Coast Guard and two Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources vessels for deployment to affected areas after the storm passes. Additionally, its soldiers and local police units are securing food outlets and accounting tourists for safety purposes.

Northern Luzon Command, based in Central and Northern Luzon, meanwhile, stands ready to reinforce troops in the Visayas and the island provinces.

The US embassy has offered nine C-130 transport aircraft, three P-3C Orion planes for air assessment and monitoring, medical and relief workers and other support if needed. Other foreign armed forces also offering help, said the AFP.

Two C-130 planes will head to Samar after Ruby

From Rappler (Dec 6): Two C-130 planes will head to Samar after Ruby

'We want to tell our people that relief goods will be coming. There's no need to loot or take the law into their own hands. We will immediately provide the needed relief goods as soon as the weather clears,' says AFP Chief Gregorio Catapang Jr

MILITARY PLANES: File photo of a C130 aircraft in Villamor Airbase
MILITARY PLANES: File photo of a C130 aircraft in Villamor Airbase

The Philippine military has prepared to fly two C-130 cargo planes to Samar immediately after Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) leaves the Philippines.

Once cleared to fly, military aircraft will proceed to Samar to bring relief goods and provide the necessary services, Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr said in a briefing less than 24 hours before the typhoon was expected to hit land.
"Two C-130 planes will come in from Villamor Airbase and Clark Airbase. They will go initially to Samar to assess the situation and bring in relief goods and services for the people of Samar," Catapang said.

Catapang added this is assurance that relief will come. "We want to tell our people that relief goods will be coming. There's no need to loot or take the law into their own hands. We will immediately provide the needed relief goods as soon as the weather clears," Catapang said.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas is now in Borongan, Samar as part of the government's advance party in the province where Ruby is projected to make landfall. Catapang said the military will follow the cue of Roxas, who will be "orchestrating things to be done in the area."

Cebu was also identified as the operational hub for Typhoon Ruby. It will be faster to move relief goods from Cebu to nearby provinces in the Visayas.

No more looting

Government preparations are focused on the vulnerable provinces of Eastern Visayas on the same path of Typhoon Yolanda, the world's most powerful typhoon to hit land. It flattened parts of Central Visayas and killed more than 6,000 people. 
Catapang also assured businessmen that the ugly incidents of looting that happened in the aftermath of Yolanda because of slow government response will not happen again.

Catapang said troops and military trucks, V-150s in particular, have been roaming to assure businessmen that no looting will happen.

The AFP raised the red alert status on Thursday. "We are on red alert. The entire armed forces is being mobilized for this typhoon," Catapang said.

Areas outside the center of the typhoon path – including Tarlac-based Northern Luzon Command, Palawan-based Western Command, and Metro Manila's Joint Task Force NCR – were also ordered to "prepare for the worst," said Catapang.

"I told them to prepare a plan, a worst case scenario plan, just in case doon dumaan sa AOR (area of operations) nila," he said.

Foreign militaries, int'l donors pledge post-Ruby response

From Rappler (Dec 7): Foreign militaries, int'l donors pledge post-Ruby response

So far, the United States, Singapore, and UNOCHA have offered help for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations

TYPHOON YOLANDA: File photo of US Marines boarding a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, moments before departing for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission to the Philippines. Photo by AFP/USMC/Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey
TYPHOON YOLANDA: File photo of US Marines boarding a KC-130J Hercules aircraft at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, Okinawa, Japan, moments before departing for a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief mission to the Philippines. Photo by AFP/USMC/Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey

Foreign militaries and international aid organizations pledged to help the Philippines in the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby (international name: Hagupit).

The United States offered several aircraft for initial assessment and response, according to Major Emmanuel Garcia of the military's 7th Civil Relations Group, which assists the Office of the Civil Defense in linking with troops nationwide.
"The US Embassy offered 9 C130 transport aircraft, 3 P-3C Orion for air assessment and monitoring, medical and relief workers, and other support, if needed," Garcia said.
The US, a treaty ally of the Philippines, was among the first responders in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in November 2013, the world's strongest recorded typhoon to make landfall. (READ: VFA allowed US troops to rush to aid of Yolanda victims – US)
Garcia said other foreign armed forces also offered help and are already coordinating with the Multinational Coordinating Council (MNCC).
"We are grateful for the offer and outpouring of help from the US and other countries and individuals," Garcia said.

Singapore offered to help, too. Permanent Secretary for Defence Chan Yeng Kit made a phone call to Philippine Undersecretary for Defense Honorio Azcueta to assure him of assistance, according to a report of Singapore-based Channel News Asia.

"A needs assessment team of up to 10 officers is ready to be deployed from Singapore to the Philippines to provide a comprehensive assessment of the situation in the affected areas and enhance information-sharing. This will in turn help facilitate decision-making by militaries, for instance, by showing them areas most in need of assistance," the report read.

The MNCC was established in 2013 to coordinate the assistance offered by various foreign militaries in the aftermath of Yolanda. Armed Forces chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr announced earlier the re-activation of the MNCC.

International donor organizations, including the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), also met with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman on Friday to discuss how they would coordinate in the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby.

“We are standing by and fully prepared to assist the Government in the response, should they require it,” said UN resident and humanitarian coordinator Terence Jones.

UNOCHA committed to assist the Philippine government in terms fo stocks of food, medical supplies, and non-food items.

"Shelter and protection issues concerning women and children will be a priority in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon," UNOCHA added.

Community leader hurt as grenade launcher bombs his house in Pikit

From InterAksyon (Dec 7): Community leader hurt as grenade launcher bombs his house in Pikit

A sub-village leader (purok president) of Pikit town, Cotabato was injured after his house was bombed by a grenade launcher 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

Pikit police chief Sins Sindatun Karim said the target of still unknown perpetrators was identified as Mantol Mustapha Mamulindas, 43, who sustained knee injuries.

Mamulindas was outside in his yard in Purok Sunrise, Sitio Pogpog, Barangay Poblacion when his house was bombed and destroyed.

The bombing happened while the area had a power outage.

Recovered from the crime scene was a bullet from a 40-mm firearm.

Authorities believe that a family dispute was the reason for the attempt to kill Mamulindas.

Escaped Abu Sayyaf hostage Vinciguerra now in Manila

From InterAksyon (Dec 7): Escaped Abu Sayyaf hostage Vinciguerra now in Manila

Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber welcomes Lorenzo Vinciguerra at Villamor Airbase (Armed Forces of the Philippines Handout Photo)

Escaped Abu Sayyaf captive Lorenzo Vinciguerra is in an undisclosed hospital in Manila where he is being treated, officials said Sunday. The Swiss birdwatcher, who was in captivity for nearly three years, was airlifted from Zamboanga City late Saturday afternoon, the military said.

Swiss embassy officials led by Ambassador Ivo Sieber and military officials led by Armed Forces chief of staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. welcomed Vinciguerra at Villamor Airbase.

Vinciguerra and fellow birdwatcher Elwold Horn, 52, were kidnapped on February 1, 2012 in Tawi-Tawi. The Dutchman Horn remains in captivity.

Earlier, the military said Vinciguerra had suffered a “minor wound from a bladed weapon on his left cheek” during his escape.

Filipino troops wounded in Sayyaf clash get medals

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 6): Filipino troops wounded in Sayyaf clash get medals

Military photos show Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command; and Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of an anti-terror joint task force, lead the awarding of medals Saturday, December 6, 2014 to soldiers wounded in a recent clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels in the restive province of Basilan in the Muslim autonomous region. (Text: Mindanao Examiner)

The Philippine military on Saturday awarded medals to government soldiers who were wounded in a recent clash with Abu Sayyaf rebels in the restive province of Basilan just several nautical miles south of Zamboanga, officials said.

Officials said Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, chief of the Western Mindanao Command; and Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma, commander of an anti-terror joint task force, led the awarding of the medals held at a military hospital here.

Officials said a total of 7 soldiers were wounded in the battle December 3 with Abu Sayyaf that also left 11 rebel casualties in Tipo-Tipo town.

Ensign Ian Chester Ramos, a military spokesman, said one the slain rebel had been identified as Abdullah Kalitot alias Hidzran.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, of the Western Mindanao Command, 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 and wounding 8 more.

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.

Filipino troops capture NPA rebel in clash

From the Mindanao Examiner BlogSpot site (Dec 7): Filipino troops capture NPA rebel in clash

Government troops captured a communist rebel following a clash Sunday in the southern Filipino province of Davao Oriental, an army spokesman said.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, of the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the fighting broke out in the village called Maragatas in Lupon town after patrolling soldiers ran into a group of New People’s Army rebels.

He said troops recovered an M16 automatic rifle, an anti-tank landmine, personal belongings and subversive documents left behind by fleeing rebels after a 30-minute running gunbattle in the area where troops captured the 28-year old Joaquin Linma.

Balagtey said there were no casualties on their side. He said the rebels were reportedly extorting money from villagers.

He said Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command, condemned the extortion and atrocities of the NPA and ordered troops to strengthen security in villages and intensify the campaign against the rebel group, and at the same time urged the communist fighters to surrender peacefully.

“The community is tired of this felonious activity of these bandits that while they are busy on their extortion more information coming from the community that led the troops to locate them. It is for this reason that we are calling on our deceived brothers to lay down their arms and return to the folds of the law and live peacefully with their families,” Balagtey quoted Baladad as saying.

Just recently, four soldiers were killed in Bukidnon province after rebels detonated a roadside bomb on a passing military truck. And communist rebels are still holding four government soldiers - Pfc. Alvin Ricarte, Cpl. Benjamin Enot Samano, Pvts. Marnel Cinches and Jerrel Yurong - and three policemen PO3 Democrito Polvorosa, PO1 Marichel Contemplo and PO1 Junrie as prisoners of war in the restive region.

The NPA, armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, has been waging separatist war for many decades now.