Saturday, December 13, 2014

Arrested RTMI bus bomers, an Al-Khobar member

From the Philippine Star (Dec 13): Arrested RTMI bus bomers, an Al-Khobar member

One of the suspects in Tuesday’s bus bombing in Maramag, Bukidnon is a member of the Al-Khobar extortion group, local officials and military sources said Saturday.

Ten passengers were killed while more than 20 others were injured in the bombing of a Rural Tours Mindanao, Inc. (RTMI) bus, the firm’s second in a span of just six weeks.

Bombing suspect Macmod Manibpil hails from M'lang town, which is near the 220,000-hectare Liguasan Delta, a known haven of extortionists and kidnappers.

Television reports on Friday showed authorities pointing to Manibpil as one of the suspects in the latest bombing the RTMI bus.

Manibpil was one of four guerilla ordnance experts that a group of heavily-armed Moro rebels rescued from the North Cotabato provincial jail in Kidapawan City on Feb. 2, 2007.

The gunmen also sprung Datu Ali Sultan from the detention facility. The detainee was said to have undergone a training on the fabrication of home-made bombs in Kandahar in Afghanistan in the 1990s, and his two cohorts named Guido and Mundos.

More than 40 other inmates bolted from the cells during the daring attack at the provincial jail.

Manibpil, Sultan, Guido and Mundos were detained at the provincial jail in connection with their alleged involvement in bombings of buses and commercial establishments in Central Mindanao’s adjoining North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao provinces.

M'lang Mayor Joselito Piñol refuted insinuations that Manibpil is a constituent a reported by television and other media outfits.

Senior Inspector Jiselle Lou Longakit, spokesperson of the Bukidnon provincial police, said Manibpil was also involved in the bombing of a bus in North Cotabato’s Kabacan town in 2006.

Longakit said Manibpil is a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a group of rogue rebels led by radical, foreign-trained clerics.

Army and police intelligence sources in Central Mindanao, however, said Manibpil belonged to the Al-Khobar extortion gang, which had been blamed for a spate of bombings in the region between 2003 and 2010.

The Bukidnon provincial police office said extortion could be the likely angle for Tuesday’s bus bombing in Maramag.

The RTMI management has confirmed having received demands for “protection money” from anonymous sources threatening to bomb its buses.

Piñol said Manibpil is a resident of Barangay Nuangan in Kidapawan City.

Security officials in Maguindanao and North Cotabato are convinced that a big extortion ring, not the BIFF, is behind the RTMI bus bombing.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama denied their group's supposed involvement in the attack.

“Most of our men are facing various cases in different courts, mostly trumped up charges, so how can they go out of the towns where we operate?  We have become the convenient `whipping boy’ for all atrocities that we didn’t even get involved with,” Misry said in Maguindanaon dialect.

Authorities in Bukidnon and Davao City announced on Thursday that a BIFF leader named Garnet Lintang and a certain Dawtin Gendang had also been criminally charged in connection with Tuesday’s bus bombing.

Assault rifles seized in Sulu mayor’s resort

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 13): Assault rifles seized in Sulu mayor’s resort

The military seized a cache of firearms during a raid on Wednesday in a resort owned by a mayor of a town in Sulu province and turned this over to the police, triggering allegations from the mayor of a warrantless search of his property.
Colonel Alan Arrojado, head of the police-military anticrime unit Joint Task Group Sulu, said on the  phone that the military wanted the firearms tested as these could have been used in criminal activities.
The weapons were seized from the resort owned by Saripuddin Jikiri, the mayor of    Indanan  town.
Major Edilberto Aramponi, spokesperson for the task group, said the military received a tip that guns were being kept in the resort.
“After we received information that there are firearms in the said property, we conducted the search and we recovered these firearms,” he said.
Aramponi said the cache consisted of M-4, M-203, M-16 and M-14 assault rifles and two handguns.
Senior Superintendent Noel Armilla, officer in charge of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao police office, said the guns had been turned over to the  police.
“There was a chase. The armed men abandoned their weapons,” Armilla said.
He said the mayor denied owning the firearms.
Jikiri, in a separate phone interview, said the guns “belonged to my security personnel” and members of village militias securing projects in his area.
“They (soldiers) took those firearms without proper coordination, there was not even a search warrant,” he said.
Jikiri said the guns were licensed and “the police can vouch for that.”
He said he would sue the military for the raid.

Military wants guns allegedly seized from mayor examined by police

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 12): Military wants guns allegedly seized from mayor examined by police


The military said Friday it has turned over to the police a cache of firearms seized by security forces two days earlier from a resort owned by the mayor of a town in Sulu.

Col. Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Group Sulu, said in a telephone interview that the military wanted the firearms, which a police official said were seized from a resort owned by Indanan Mayor Saripuddin Jikiri, tested as these might have been used in criminal activities.

Senior Supt. Noel Armilla, officer-in-charge of the police in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told the Inquirer by phone that a total of 13 firearms had been turned over by the military to the police.

He said the military told the police these were found inside the resort owned by Jikiri in Indanan’s Barangay Mangis.

He said that as reported by the military, the firearms were discovered during an operation by the Joint Task Group Sulu.

“There was a chase. The armed men abandoned their weapons,” Armilla said, adding, however, that “the mayor denies owning the firearms.”

But Jikiri told the Inquirer in a separate telephone interview that “those firearms belonged to my security personnel, (barangay police action team) members and those securing the projects in Karawan, Mangis and our town hall.”

“They took those firearms without proper coordination; there was not even a search warrant,” he said.

Jikiri said the firearms were licensed, and “the police can vouch for that.”

He also decried what he described as the excessive use of force by the soldiers who raided his resort.

“Some of the houses nearby were damaged when these were hit by their vehicles,” Jikiri said.

He said he was preparing charges against military officials and the soldiers involved in the raid.

BTC-JICA holds Project Cycle Management Seminar-Workshops

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 13): BTC-JICA holds Project Cycle Management Seminar-Workshops

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) through the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CCDP-B) Bangsamoro conducted Project Cycle Management Seminar-Workshop for development practitioners on December 8-9, 2014 held at Nurussalam Hall, Al Nor Convention Center, Cotabato City.
Forty (40) participants from the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), BTC, representatives of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and non-government organizations such as the United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), Mindanao Action for Peace and Development (MAPAD), Moro Women Development and Cultural Center (MWDECC) attended the said activity.

A Japanese expert on Human Resource Development (HRD) Mr Kazuhiro Okamoto, from IC Net Limited facilitated the seminar-workshop.

Prof. Alih Aiyub, the Project Coordinator for Institutional Organizational Building (IOB) of the CCDP-B opened the program and explained the background, purpose and objectives of the PCM before the participants.

He said that one of the main purposes of the activity is to capacitate the Bangsamoro people in preparation for the establishment the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

“I know you are expert in your own, and this PCM training will help in strengthening whatever skills you have”, Prof. Aiyub stressed.

He added that PCM will help in planning good project implementation and on how to achieve desired results.

Mr Okamoto emphasized that the PCM was provided to the participants for them to design a plan for their own project.

The specific objectives of this seminar-workshop are to enable the participants to: 1) Analyze problems and objectives logically; 2) Understand the Project Design Matrix (PDM), the structure of project and 3) Acquire capacity to make their own project through workshops.

The participants were able to design five (5) projects during the culminating day of the program. Their identified projects were: Farmers Inputs, Anti-Drugs Campaign in Cotabato City, Education for Children, Flood Control in Cotabato City, and Livelihood Program for the Bangsamoro.  

Mr Aliuddin Haron of the BDA thanked his co-participants for their active participations.

“This activity is very important because we were taught on how to develop our own project in our respective organizations,” Haron said.

The Chief Advisor of JICA-Cotabato Project Office, Mr Shinichi Masuda also extended his gratitude to the different organizations which joined the program.

He said, “PCM is applicable for small or big project and I hope you can use this in designing your project proposals.”

Prof. Norodin Salam, CCDP-B Project Manager closed the program.

“I am very impress with the performance of the participants. I observed that every participant was able to share his/her thoughts and views. Meaning you have now the capacity to develop your own project plan,” he said.

He said further that one will take six (6) months to learn PCM effectively.

“…But now you acquired them; the knowledge on PCM in just two days,” he said.

Prof. Salam recognized the contributions of Mr Okamoto in infusing the technology to the young Bangsamoro who are working for the development of Bangsamoro communities. He recognized the contributions of JICA for the realization of the activity.

The program according to the organizer is under the HRD component of the CCDP-B.

The CCDP-B has four components namely: HRD, Public Service Delivery and there are 20 infrastructures project which will be constructed in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Other components are the IOB that will plan for strengthening of BTA, and the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) by which some of its thematic areas are supported by the CCDP-B.

MILF: Maguindanao hosts congressional public hearing and consultation on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 13): Maguindanao hosts congressional public hearing and consultation on BBL

The Province of Maguindanao led by Governor Datu Esmael “Toto” G. Mangudadatu hosted a public hearing and consultation on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) also known as House Bill No. 4994 at the Buluan Municipal Gymnasium on December 10, 2014. The consultation was conducted by the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on BBL and was presided over by Congressman Tupay T. Loong of Sulu.
Other committee members who were present were Cong. Zajid G. Mangudadatu, Congresswoman Bai Sandra A. Sema, Cong. Silvestre H. Bello III, Cong. Gary C. Alejano, Cong. Jesus N. Sacdalan, Cong. Pangalian M. Balindong, Cong. Ferdinand L. Hernandez, Cong. Rogelio Neil Pepito Roque, and Cong. Wes Gatchalian.

GPH Peace Panel Chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, Senen Bacani, member of the GPH Peace Panel and MILF Peace Panel member Datu Antonio Kinoc were present.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission members present were: Commissioner Raissa Jajurie- Alim, Commissioner Abdulla Camlian and Commissioner Timuay Melanio Ulama.

All LGU employees of Buluan, Maguindanao also participated in the affair.
The gathering was attended by multi-sector groups in Maguindanao and from neighboring provinces. Those that led their respective delegations were Datu Genuine P. Kamaong of Datu Piang, Datu Freddie G. Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu municipality, Bai Julaika P. Langkuno of Paglat, Datu Ramon A. Piang of North Upi, Datu Salik Mamasabulod of Pagalungan, Datu Ibrahim Ibay of Parang and other municipal mayors.

Governor Mangudatatu in his opening remarks said: “The news being spread out that I am opposed to the proposed BBL is a lie”.  “The truth is that I am in favor and supportive to the BBL for the sake of peace and development in Maguindanao”, he continued.

Cong. Mangudadatu of the 2nd District of Maguindanao said: “The most contentious issue in the GPH-MILF Peace Agreement and was incorporated into the BBL is the control of Police Force. The House must look at it carefully”.

 A youth representative in very resonant voice almost filling the gym said: We the youth were the victims of the war for decades and now is the time for us to stop the war by enacting the BBL without diminution”. He emphasized, “tama na” “tuldokan na” “hindi na sana maulit and giyera”.

 A woman speaking for the MNLF on the issues of territory and integration of combatants to the AFP, said, the 1996 Final Peace Agreement was violated in the subsequent agreements (FAB and CAB) and in the BBL because under the former, the territory is wider while in the latter it is smaller. On integration, none had happened. What actually took placed was only absorption of civilians and not MNLF combatants.

It was responded by BTC Commissioner Camlian saying, “We must have a territory where we could readily win in elections. Wider territory is not beneficial for us Moros because during elections we will lose as the settlers in other provinces mentioned in the GRP-MNLF Agreements are the majority”. GPH Peace Panel member Bacani explained that integration was stipulated in the previous agreement but not in the latter agreement (FAB and CAB).              

A teacher representative and another member of the crowd requested that there should be no more plebiscite on the areas of the ARMM because there was one already conducted in the past. The House Committee took note of it.

Two sultanate representatives, namely: Bagoinged and Kabuntalan Sultanates of Mandanawe Darussalam requested the House Committee that their groups be written in the BBL on preservation of culture. The House Committee also took note of it.

Other members of the crowd feared constitutionality issue may hamper the passage of the law but it was answered by GPH Panel Chair Ferrer, saying it is being taken cared of by the BTC, the two peace panels and congress.

CPP/NDF: Video -- Istatus: Panay

NDF propaganda video posted to the CPP  Website (Dec 12): Video -- Istatus: Panay
An interview with Concha Araneta, spokesperson of the CPP and the NDFP in Panay.

CPP/NPA: Isa na namang sibilyan, pinaslang ng military

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 13): Isa na namang sibilyan, pinaslang ng military (Another civilian killed by the military)
Samuel Guerrero
NPA Sorsogon Provincial Operations Command (Celso Minguez Command)
PINASOK ng tatlong sundalo ang isang bahay sa Barangay Bugtong, Barcelona, Sorsogon bandang alas-11:00 kagabi at pinagbabaril hanggang mapatay ang maybahay na si Susan Ernacio Cagalitan, 60 anyos, hiwalay sa asawa.

Ang mga salarin ay dumating sa lugar sakay ng isang motorsiklong laging nakikitang ginagamit ng mga sundalo ng Alpha Company ng 22nd IB na nakabase sa Sityo Bungsaran, Barangay Rizal, Gubat, Sorsogon. May mga nakarinig na tinatanong ng mga sundalo si Cagalitan kung nasaan ang kanyang asawa. Maya-maya pa ay umalingawngaw na ang mga putok ng baril.

Minsan nang sinadya ng mga sundalo si Cagalitan noong Marso 2014 matapos nilang makasagupa ang isang tim ng NPA sa tapat ng kanyang bahay kung saan napatay ang isang sundalo at nasugatan ang isa pa. Hinahanap din noon ng mga sundalo ang kanyang asawa na pinagbibintangan nilang myembro ng NPA. Ayaw nilang maniwala nang sabihin ni Cagalitan na hiwalay na siya sa asawa.

Nakababahala ang padron ng pagbaling ng reaksyunaryong militar sa mga sibilyan kapag hindi nila matunton ang kanilang kalaban. Noon lamang isang linggo, walang awang pinatay sa bugbog ng mga sundalo si Samuel Dollesin, isang sibilyan, sa Barangay Lapinig, Gubat, Sorsogon. Militar din ang pinaniniwalaang pumaslang kina Federico Erivera, Jinky Estrada at Alan Figueras noong Oktubre.

Nais naming ipahayag ang pinakamariing pagkundena sa pasistang krimeng ito. Nakikiramay naman kami sa mga kaanak ng biktima.

UK reminds nationals vs. travel to parts of Mindanao following bus bombing

From GMA News (Dec 13): UK reminds nationals vs. travel to parts of Mindanao following bus bombing

Following the deadly bombing of a bus in Bukidnon Tuesday, the United Kingdom over the weekend reminded its nationals against travel to parts of Mindanao.
In a Dec. 12 update to its travel advice, UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) said there "remains a threat" of attacks throughout "much of Mindanao."
"Civilian targets in Mindanao have been attacked and there remains a threat of attacks throughout much of Mindanao," it said in its summary.
Last Tuesday, at least 10 people were killed and more than 40 wounded after a bomb exploded aboard a bus in Bukidnon. The bus operator reportedly received threatening text messages before the blast.
Also, FCO said several terrorist groups are still operating in the Philippines that continue to pose a threat.
These include New People’s Army (NPA), the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and other associated groups.
FCO also cited "extreme elements" within the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, including the MILF splinter group Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.
Such extreme elements have been linked to "a number of attacks on the Philippine military and security services over the last year," it added.
FCO advised UK nationals against all travel to southwest Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago "because of on-going terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups."
It advised against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao for the same reasons.

Grenade explodes in house of Maguindanao ex-mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): Grenade explodes in house of Maguindanao ex-mayor

Unidentified men fired a rifle grenade that landed inside the residential compound of Mayor Sahara Upham Ampatuan of Shariff Aguak Friday night, police said.

Senior Inspector Jonathan De Garcia, Shariff Aguak police chief, said nobody was hurt in the blast inside the residence of the former town mayor.

Mayor Upham Ampatuan was not in her home since she no longer runs the affairs of the local government after she went absence without official leave (AWOL).

Her vice mayor, Datu Marop Ampatuan, is now the acting mayor.

De Gracia said the rifle grenade attack occurred around 8:15 while the town was experiencing power outage.

The grenade, fired from a distance, landed in the garage area of the Ampatuan home.

Her daughter, Shariff Aguak town councilor Bai Anhara Ampatuan, was inside the house but unharmed.

De Gracia said investigation is still ongoing.

Mayor Sahara Umpham Ampatuan is the wife of former town Mayor Anwar Ampatuan who is detained in Bicutan along with his father, Maguindanao ex-Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr, his brother Andal Jr. and Zaldy, facing charges on the November 23, 2009 massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao that claimed the lives of 58 people, 32 of them media workers.

Last night's grenade attack was the fourth in seven days.

Three grenade attacks occurred in at least three areas in Shariff Aguak, the bailiwick of the Ampatuan clan.

Politics behind grenade attacks in Maguindanao town, says official

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): Politics behind grenade attacks in Maguindanao town, says official

SHARIFF Aguak, Maguindanao -- The daughter of this town's chief executive on Saturday said the grenade attacks on the family's home was politically motivated.

Anhara Ampatuan, town councilor and serving as acting vice mayor, said a series of gunfire followed by two grenade launcher attacks hit the family home on Friday night.

Anhara was in the house along with other family members but not her mother, Mayor Sahara Upam Ampatuan, who went on absence without official leave after she was linked to the killing of a local government employee.

Anhara, the town's number 1 councilor, assumed as acting vice mayor after Vice Mayor Marop Ampatuan, her uncle, assumed as acting mayor when her mother left.

Anhara said she heard a series of gun fire near her home about 9 p.m. It was followed by grenade explosions.

Senior Inspector Jonathan Degracia, Shariff Aguak town police chief, said nobody was hurt in the attack which occurred in the middle of power outage in Shariff Aguak and nearby areas.

Ampatuan said it was the third time that the family's home was subjected to attacks.

“The motive is politically motivated,” Anhara said.

"Lately, it was not only my mom but including me have received death threats," she said.

"The text messages I received said they will get me at all cost, even if I am inside the house or at the session hall of the Sangguniang Bayan," the 24-year-old local official said.

"It was part of the political package that you have to experience if you are in Maguindanao," she said without naming names behind the attacks.

Anhara vehemently denied the accusations against her mother and insisted it was part of political ploy to oust her.

In a phone interview, Bai Zahara said only time can tell about the truth.

She is saddened the township she is serving has been violent this lately despite her efforts to make it peaceful to everyone.

Last Tuesday, another kin of the Ampatuans, former Datu Salibo Mayor Akmad Ampatuan was ambushed in the boundary of Talayan and Guindulungan town while on their way to Shariff Aguak. He was wounded along with his two companions.

Maguindanao police office has not issued statement whether the two incidents were related.

Ranking USAID official to visit PHL on Dec. 15 to 16

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): Ranking USAID official to visit PHL on Dec. 15 to 16

A ranking United States Agency for International Development (USAID) official will be visiting the Philippines coming Dec. 15 to 16.

Eric G. Postel's visit, USAID Assistant Administrator and Partnership for Growth (PFG), reinforces the American government's commitment to the Philippines' growth, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.

Postel will meet with high-level Government of the Philippines (GPH) officials and representatives from the business sector and civil society organizations to review ongoing programs under the PFG – a bilateral agreement with the Philippines to achieve broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth.

The PFG provides a new framework for deepening and strengthening engagement between the US and the Philippines.

The Philippines is one of only four PFG countries globally where the US government has brought its 15 federal agencies in a whole-of-government effort to advance economic development in the country.

Total PFG assistance to date is more than Php33.3 billion (USD739 million).

Three years into the PFG, the Philippines has achieved significant progress under the PFG Joint Country Action Plan.

The country has had record high GDP growth rates since 2011, including a 7.2 percent increase in 2013 that was second only to China in the region; investment grade sovereign debt ratings from international rating agencies which continue to increase; and a huge leap forward of 33 places in competitiveness rankings from 2010-2014.

In the latest Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International, the Philippines ranked 85th out of 175 countries surveyed, up 20 notches from 2012 and nine notches from 2013.

President Benigno S. Aquino III's reforms have laid the basis for improved governance and competitiveness.

Postel will also witness the signing of a Sisterhood Agreement between the Cities of Batangas, Iloilo and Cagayan De Oro.

The three are the pilot cities of USAID’s Cities Development Initiative (CDI).  

As part of PFG, CDI seeks to advance the development of second-tier cities as engines of growth that is inclusive and environmentally sustainable and resilient through mutual responsibility and collaboration in the areas of economic growth and investment promotion, health, education, and the environment.

Aquino confirms all 12 FA-50 fighter jets in by 2017

From Rappler (Dec 13): Aquino confirms all 12 FA-50 fighter jets in by 2017

What the Philippines has at present are 'very ancient planes like the Nomad' which can do 8-9 hour round trips, Aquino tells reporters in Busan, South Korea

CATCHING UP. The Philippines will have 12 FA-50 fighter jets in 2017. Image from Wikipedia
CATCHING UP. The Philippines will have 12 FA-50 fighter jets in 2017. Image from Wikipedia
President Benigno Aquino III confirmed the poorly equipped Philippine military, known to be one of the weakest in Asia, will get a boost from 12 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea expected to be delivered in 2017.
From zero to 12 fighter jets will clearly enhance the defense capabilities of the Philippines, Aquino said.

By December 2015 at the latest, an initial delivery of two fighter jets will be made.

The last time the Philippine Air Force had fighters that flew in its inventory was 2005, Aquino said. By 2015, it would be a decade since the Air Force retired the last of its US-designed F-5 fighters.

The FA-50 fighter jets will be provided by South Korea’s Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) and will involve a government-to-government contract worth P18.9 billion.

What the Philippines has at present are “very ancient planes like the Nomad” which can do 8-9 hour round trips, Aquino told reporters in Busan, South Korea.

The FA-50 jets will allow air controllers and radar operators to retain abilities to guide the fighter planes which are regarded as “lead-in” fighter trainer aircraft.

Rough seas: Will PH ‘lawfare’ work vs China?

From Rappler (Dec 13): Rough seas: Will PH ‘lawfare’ work vs China?

Legal and foreign affairs experts say the outcome of the Philippines' arbitration case is uncertain, and Manila must work harder on diplomatic and military tracks

 LEGAL GAMBIT. The Philippines takes China to court. Will it get the Asian superpower to comply with a ruling favoring Manila? File photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA

LEGAL GAMBIT. The Philippines takes China to court. Will it get the Asian superpower to comply with a ruling favoring Manila? File photo by Ritchie B. Tongo/EPA
In the so-called David versus Goliath disputes in the South China Sea, China holds the sticks and carrots. From gunboat to money diplomacy, it seizes the upper hand over its smaller neighbors. Yet the Philippines is slinging its own stone: international law. How far will this shot go?
The Philippines made history by being the first country to legally challenge China’s expansive sea claims. A strategy that analysts refer to as “lawfare,” Manila resorted to arbitration as China flexes its military muscle in disputed areas. The argument of Filipino officials goes: international law is “the great equalizer” and “right is might.”

Yet China rejects the case and snubs a December 15 deadline to respond. Its refusal to participate sparks questions on whether Beijing will comply with a decision favorable to the Philippines. If not, will Manila get the “enduring solution” it is after?

“There’s not as much of a benefit as you might imagine. It seems very powerful. It’s a legal case. It’s not futile but it’s hard to imagine the perfect outcome for the Philippines happening – China saying, ‘Oh sorry, we’ll comply,’” said American international law professor Julian Ku of Hofstra University in New York.

Ku and foreign affairs experts tell Rappler that questions on the enforcement of the ruling, and the tribunal’s power to decide the case make the Philippines’ legal gambit uncertain. They say the Philippines must work harder on other channels to make the case effective, and to keep the Asian giant at bay.

CHINA’S RECLAMATION. The Philippines releases this photo in May of China’s alleged reclamation in Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, warning it may be building an airstrip. Photo courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs

CHINA’S RECLAMATION. The Philippines releases this photo in May of China’s alleged reclamation in Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, warning it may be building an airstrip. Photo courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs
‘China oddly disrespectful’

The row over the South China Sea spans decades and successions of leaders. China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan contest the strategic sea where around half of the world’s freight cargo passes, and the site of coveted fishing areas, and potential rich deposits of oil and gas.

NO BASIS. Legal scholars worldwide say China's 9-dash line is ambiguous and has no legal basis. Map courtesy of the US State Department
NO BASIS. Legal scholars worldwide say China's 9-dash line is ambiguous and has no legal basis. Map courtesy of the US State Department
As China rises to superpower status and grows aggressive, the waters are a possible global flashpoint. A Pew Research Center survey released in July showed that most Asians are concerned that the territorial disputes could lead to military conflict, with Filipinos topping the list at 93%.

After protracted negotiations and military skirmishes, the Philippines’ legal case is a novel tack. In January 2013, the Aquino administration brought China to arbitration under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Manila and Beijing are parties to UNCLOS, known as the constitution for oceans and seas.

A lawyer with experience in international litigation and arbitration, Ku said the case was initially a game-changer.

“It’s the first time this process has been used for any topic in relation to the South China Sea. The reason why it’s also important is China has never been involved in any type of international litigation involving sensitive topics like this. It’s a big test for the law of the sea, and also for China,” Ku told Rappler in an interview in Long Island, New York.

Yet the professor said that arbitration works best when both parties agree to have the tribunal settle the dispute. China believes the tribunal has no jurisdiction or power to decide the case.

Ku said China’s stand is “oddly disrespectful.” After all, it opted into the treaty. “Even if the tribunal does not have jurisdiction, they at least have the power to decide whether or not they have the power. It’s a little circular but China agreed to at least that much. But by not participating even in that process, it’s disrespectful.”

Clark Alejandrino, former director of Ateneo de Manila University’s Chinese Studies Program, explained why Beijing is averse to having an international body rule on the dispute.

“China feels no need to seek a third party. It has the ability to assert sovereignty through their military and clearly, we don’t. It also sets a precedent. If they submit to arbitration here, they will have to do so in other territorial disputes and they don’t want that,” said Alejandrino, now a history doctoral student in Georgetown University in Washington DC.

The case also surprised China because President Benigno Aquino III took the “hard line” and challenged its “consistent strategy” to keep its sea claims ambiguous.

“It represents a very distinct break from the past,” Alejandrino said. “This is not what previous administrations did. There have been conflicts but each side would try to minimize the media attention, exchange a few diplomatic barbs, but it would die down. But this one is different, precisely because Aquino has not backed down.”

While his predecessors agreed to joint exploration, Aquino insists it is high time to settle the row. The President ordered the filing of the case after China seized Scarborough Shoal following a tense standoff in 2012. That same year, his government renamed the parts of the sea it claims as the “West Philippine Sea.”

This problem has been put on the back burner for far too long and that’s why in the Philippines’ case, we want a resolution for this,” Aquino said.

CASE TRIGGER. The Philippines’ counsel Paul Reichler says China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 was ‘the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back’ which led to the filing of the case. 1997 AFP photo of Scarborough Shoal

CASE TRIGGER. The Philippines’ counsel Paul Reichler says China’s seizure of Scarborough Shoal in 2012 was ‘the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back’ which led to the filing of the case. 1997 AFP photo of Scarborough Shoal
Rocks or islands? But who owns them?

The Philippines is banking on arbitration to resolve the dispute. To win, it has to convince the tribunal on two fronts: jurisdiction and merits. What are the odds?
Sean Mirski, Supreme Court Chair of the Harvard Law Review, summarized the Philippines’ claims as follows in an article in the journal The National Interest:
  1. That China’s 9-dash line is unlawful under UNCLOS
  2. That many maritime features claimed by China do not generate a 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) as Beijing asserts
  3. That China repeatedly violated the Philippines’ rights under UNCLOS
In the second claim, the Philippines wants the tribunal to declare that the maritime features are merely rocks, not islands. The distinction has practical implications.
Unable to support human or economic life, rocks only generate a 12-mile territorial sea under UNCLOS. Above water at high tide, islands generate an EEZ where a state has the exclusive right to explore and exploit resources like fish, oil, and gas.

China argues that the Philippines cannot ask the tribunal to decide on the nature of the features without first determining who owns them. The catch is that territorial sovereignty is beyond the scope of the sea treaty.

Another Chinese argument on jurisdiction is that asking the court to recognize the maritime features as part of the Philippines’ EEZ is tantamount to what is called maritime boundary delimitation. When it ratified the treaty in 1996, China identified maritime delimitation as an exception to dispute settlement.

Ku said that sovereignty and maritime delimitation are Manila’s main obstacles.
“The weakness with the Philippines’ position is that everyone knows and the Philippine government itself sometimes calls this essentially a sovereignty or territorial dispute. At the heart of this is ultimately, does China or the Philippines have sovereign rights to these different features in the South China Sea? Those kinds of questions cannot be heard by the tribunal,” Ku said.

While jurisdiction is under question, the Philippines has a strong case on the merits of its focal claim: China’s 9-dash line. Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio brands the line “utterly without basis in international law.” This is the consensus of legal experts worldwide, which the US asserted in a recent study.

China’s absence does not mean the process is faulty or one-sided. UNCLOS requires the tribunal to study Beijing’s position, detailed in books, journals, and a position paper whose release it timed right before the deadline. Unlike in US cases, a party cannot win by default.

The tribunal is expected to decide in early 2016. Ku foresees 3 scenarios for the arbitral award or ruling: no jurisdiction, full jurisdiction, and a split decision.

“The worst case scenario is the Philippines will lose on jurisdiction. This shouldn’t affect the merits of their claims, though. For China, the worst case scenario is that it loses on the merits and would have to face the decision of whether to comply with the tribunal.”

10 Navy couples tie knots at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 13): 10 Navy couples tie knots at Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown

As part of the of the Philippine Navy's traditional month-long celebration of Christmas and other religious activities, 10 navy personnel simultaneously tied the knots with their partners during a mass wedding ceremony held at Holy Child Chapel, Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Taguig City on Saturday.

Coming from different units of the PN, the couples uttered their vows, witnessed by Navy Chief, Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan; Vice Commander, Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad, Philippine Fleet Commander; Rear Admiral Jaime S. Bernardino, Philippine Marine Corps Commandant; Major Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Deputy Commandant; Brigadier Gen. Jose Johriel Cenabre, Naval Combat Engineering Brigade Commander; Commodore Elmer C. Carrillo and members of Headquarters, Philippine Navy (HPN) Staff who also stood as principal sponsors.

This activity aims to sustain the religious consciousness as regards to the importance and sanctity of marriage among PN personnel and their dependents.

A month earlier, the Navy received the Family Values Award from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (CJCLDS) in recognition of the command’s programs in advancing the standard of morality and values of its personnel.

The programs included mass weddings, marriage enrichment seminars and spiritual enhancement seminars that were regularly being conducted by the PN through the Office of the Naval Chief Chaplain under the leadership of Col. Benifranco M. Rada.

Why Specks of Land in the South China Sea Are Fueling Tensions Between Beijing and Its Neighbors

From the Book Talk section of the National Geographic (Dec 11): Why Specks of Land in the South China Sea Are Fueling Tensions Between Beijing and Its Neighbors

New book reveals that Beijing's claims to the South China Sea are a recent invention.

A photo of a Vietnamese Coast Guard looking at a Chinese Coast Guard ship

An officer looks on as his Vietnamese Coast Guard vessel is flanked in May 2014 by a Chinese Coast Guard ship in disputed waters west of the Paracel islands. Vietnam sought support from neighboring nations to force China to withdraw an oil rig it had set up in waters claimed by both nations. Photograph by Oanh Ha, Bloomberg via Getty Images

 A photo of the cover of The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia by Bill Hayton

They have names like Pigeon Reef, West Sand, Taisho-To, and Scarborough Shoal. Most are no more than outcrops of rock poking out of the sea. Most have never been inhabited. Few have any direct economic value. If not for the perceived fish and oil wealth in the waters around them, the spat over these specks in the South China Sea would read like the bizarre disputes between Lilliput and Blefuscu in Gulliver's Travels.

But for Beijing, the battle for these remote islands is part of a wider geopolitical aim: control over the entire South China Sea and its potential resource wealth. Tensions are rising. In August a Chinese Navy fighter plane buzzed a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon, narrowly missing it. Two months earlier, an armed Chinese vessel chased and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat. China is also at loggerheads with Japan and the Philippines, which the U.S. is obligated under treaty to defend.
Speaking from his home in London, Bill Hayton, author of The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia, explains how China is a victim of its own propaganda, why the South China Sea is also crucial to American interests, and how "peace parks" could save collapsing fish stocks and defuse military tensions.
The Nanhai, as the South China Sea is known, has always had a deep meaning to the Chinese. Explain its significance.
Its meaning has been projected backwards. One of the things I learned researching the book was how the southern part of China related to Southeast Asia in a way that other parts of China didn't.
For a long time it was seen as a frontier place, from which only bad things came. For the first few thousand years of the South China Sea trade, it was Malays and Indians and Arabs who did most of the trading. It was only relatively late, roughly after the tenth century, that the Chinese got in on the act.
But it was always seen with ambivalence by the imperial court. The idea that the South China Sea belongs to China only emerges as a nationalist idea in the 20th century and has been projected backwards in history.
You write about the Arab dhow found off Belitung Island in Indonesia, which National Geographic covered in 2009. How did it change our understanding of historical trade along the Maritime Silk Route?
It shows how specialized and sophisticated the trade between China and the Middle East already was by then. You have pottery with Islamic motifs being custom made for markets separated by thousands of miles of dangerous sea. It's not just the province of explorers. This is a maritime trade. And we can tell from the different products and where they were distributed in the boat that this ship must have visited several ports, picking up different cargoes along the way. So we get a sense of how these places were connected in a thriving trade more than a thousand years ago.

 A photo of Filipino and US army soldiers examining used ammunition during a mock assault scenario in the Philippines.

Filipino and U.S. soldiers taking part in joint military exercises in the Philippines examine spent ammunition during a mock assault scenario, as regional tensions rise over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Photograph by Dennis M. Sabangan, EPA

The focus of your book is the disputes over a number of islands, many of them barely more than outcrops of rock. Give us a brief tour of the hot spots.
There are three main areas. There are the Paracel Islands, which are disputed between China and Vietnam. China now occupies all of them. Then there are the Spratly Islands in the south, which are disputed between China and Vietnam, but also Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, and to a degree Indonesia. The third layer is the Scarborough Shoal, which is disputed between China and the Philippines.
The problem is that no one is actually willing to clarify their claims and say, We were the first ones to stick our flag on this island—because they don't have the evidence. The first time a Chinese official set foot on the Paracel Islands was probably June 6, 1909, the first time on the Spratly Islands was December 12, 1946. The Vietnamese probably stuck their flag in the Spratly Islands as an independent country in 1956, although the French had been there before them. The Philippines came much later, in the 1970s. (Learn more about a local Vietnamese ethnic group known as the Cham, whose members remain wary of taking sides in the South China Sea dispute.)
But it's not so much the islands that are valuable. It's the spaces in between them. That's where the fish and possible oil reserves might lie. So there's no incentive for the countries to try to limit their claims. They're at the stage where they want to make their claims as expansive as possible.
Deng Xiaoping famously said that the islands of the South China Sea "have belonged to China since ancient times." Is there any merit to that claim?
As late as the 1890s Chinese officials in Guangdong Province were denying responsibility for the islands. There was a case in 1898 where two British ships got wrecked on the Paracel Islands, and pirates looted the wreck. The British complained. But the governor of Guangdong Province denied all knowledge of the islands. Maps of that period don't mention the islands either.
Everything changes in 1909, when a Japanese merchant is discovered digging up guano on Pratas Island, between Hong Kong and Taiwan. Because of the negative feeling toward foreign exploitation in China in the wake of the Boxer Rebellion, this provoked a huge nationalist backlash, leading to boycotts of Japanese products and the decision to make the Japanese merchants leave.
And it's only in 1909 that the Chinese authorities start taking an interest in the South China Sea. If one looks at the names of the islands in Chinese, it's clear many of them are simply translations of the British names. So, for example, Jinyin Dao in the Paracels is the Chinese for "Money Island." The word "Money" actually comes from William Taylor Money, chief superintendent to the Bombay Marine, the navy of the English East India Company.
A photo of a Vietnam Marine Guard ship and a Chinese Coast Guard ship in the South China Sea.
Vietnamese and Chinese ships shadow each other in the South China Sea off Vietnam, where China had installed a deepwater drilling rig that Vietnam condemned as illegal.
Photograph by Nguyen Minh, Reuters/Corbis
China has recently embarked on a major underwater archaeology program aimed at identifying the 2,000 or so shipwrecks off its coasts. How is maritime history being exploited to bolster territorial claims?
The director of the Underwater Archaeological Research Centre has been pretty open that what he's doing is intended primarily to bolster China's claims to the islands. This is not disinterested scholarship. He sees his purpose as a nationalistic one. So there's an unfortunate but mutually beneficial arrangement between the government, which wants to bolster its claims to islands, and the archaeologists, who are looking to increase their ability to do underwater excavations. But if the archaeology becomes subject to a political agenda, then the scholarship won't be reliable.
Tell us about the Selden Map—and how cartography has shaped the present conflicts.
The Selden Map is fascinating because its history tells us an awful lot about the links between Southeast Asia and Europe at the time. It's a Chinese-made map, although where it was actually made is still not settled. It was called the Selden Map because it was bequeathed to the Bodleian Library in Oxford by John Selden, who was also one of the founders of international maritime law.
Quite how it came into his possession is not yet known. Selden was connected to the English East India Tea Company, and he may well have known the person who stole the map—we assume it was stolen or raided from the Chinese owners. The map itself is richly decorated in the Chinese style, with images of landscapes and trees and plants. But what's also clear is that it contains navigational instructions.
Is this the origin of the so-called U-shaped line?
The U-shaped line, or Nine-Dotted Line, as it is also known, emerges much later, out of the nationalist anxiety of the early 20th century, when the old empire is overthrown by the modern Chinese republic. Up to then, China's borders had never been clearly delineated.
Then in the early decades of the 20th century, Chinese cartographers attempted to show where the rightful boundaries of China should lie, which were, incidentally, well beyond its current boundaries. You can see this in a whole series of maps produced by the Shanghai Cartographic Society. And this is the origin of the U-shaped line.
You say that the battle for these islands represents "psychology and perception trumping any practical benefits." Can you expand on that?
The islands themselves are not worth exploiting. Once upon a time merchants mined guano as agricultural fertilizer. But those deposits have long since gone. What is at stake is the fisheries and perceived oil wealth. There are some oil prospects in part of the disputed areas. But the idea that this is some vast new Saudi Arabia waiting to be tapped is not borne out by the evidence.
A photo of members of the Philippine Marine Corps monitoring ships in the Spratly Islands in the Philippines.
Philippine Marines monitor the Spratly Islands in August 2014, watching for surveillance by Chinese patrol vessels. China, Vietnam, the Philippines, and several other countries have claimed sovereignty over the islands. Photograph by The Asahi Shimbun, Getty
So it's all about nationalism?
China has convinced itself that it's the rightful owner of the South China Sea and that anybody else's claim is invented, and secondary. From that basic belief, we get a whole series of actions, which have alarmed the region. Like installing oil rigs off the coast of Vietnam. These actions are all predicated on the idea that the South China Sea belongs to China.
What I try to show in the book is how this sentiment only emerged in the first part of the 20th century. Nonetheless, it's clear that it's deeply held. Chinese school textbooks tell children that China has three million square nautical miles of maritime territory.
The official map of the country has also been changed to show the U-shaped line in its entirety. Basically, the Chinese government is believing its own propaganda.
The U.S. has recently beefed up its presence in the South China Sea, and there have been repeated near collisions with Chinese fighter planes. How close are we to a regional war?
I think we're a long way away from that. But it's clear the Chinese don't want the Americans as close to their coast as they are. The American position is that the Law of the Sea gives them a perfect right to sail up to within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese coast and do whatever they like. That includes listening to submarines or flying surveillance missions along the coast. The Chinese are trying to stop this, which is why we've had confrontations in the air as recently as August.
The South China Sea is vital to the U.S. as a military power and also in terms of commercial shipping. It's vital that the seaways are open for energy shipments and all the products of world trade that go backwards and forwards. The U.S. Navy can't just abandon them and trust that the Chinese are going to look after them. And this is where America's desire to be a world power bumps up against China's desire to be a regional power and control what it sees as its maritime backyard.
You end the book with an alternative vision of mutual cooperation in the South China Sea. Imagine it for us.
If the islands weren't there, everybody could agree to draw up zones where, according to the Law of the Sea, they were beneficiaries of the oil and fishing rights. The Philippines could get access to much needed energy sources. And the different countries could talk about managing fish stocks. Fish stocks face a potential catastrophic decline from overfishing. But since no country is willing to recognize the other countries' authority to regulate fishing, there's no overall body taking control.
John McManus, who works for the American Coral Reef Center, has suggested the idea of a peace park, which could both demilitarize the area and be a place where fish stocks could recover. But it's not getting anywhere, because that would mean everybody would have to take a step back from their nationalist positions.

Military says Dinagat Islands 'insurgency-free'

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 12): Military says Dinagat Islands 'insurgency-free'

SAN JOSE, Dinagat Islands – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has declared the province of Dinagat Islands as rebel-free.

The announcement was made during the recently held Provincial Peace and Order Council Meeting here.

402nd Brigade commander B/Gen. Jonathan Ponce explained that the province was declared as “insurgency-free province” due to zero presence of elements from the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Fronts (CPP-NPA-NDF) in the province.

Ponce also declared the province as "Ready for Development Status" which means that the province has now the privilege to receive developmental assistance from the national government through the Philippine Army.

In relation to this, the province was already allocated P3 billion from the national government for road network project and soon to be downloaded to the province to be undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

Gov’t troops seize 13 guns of Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu

From the Zamboanga Today (Dec 13): Gov’t troops seize 13 guns of Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu

Government troops have seized firearms from the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militan group in a law enforcement operatios in Indanan town in the southern island province of Sulu.

Capt. Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of the military’s Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), said the Joint Task Group Sulu, while conducting law enforcement operations, recovered in plain view 13 firearms, assorted magazines, ammunitions and bandoleers in Barangay Mangis.
The recovery of firearms of the Abu Sayyaf comes amid of intensifying search and rescue operation for the remaining foreign and Filipino hostages believed being held captive in Sulu.
Last Saturday morning, Dec. 6, a Swiss birdwatcher Lorezon Vinciguerra held captive by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu for more than two years escaped after taking advantage of the confusion caused by a government bombardment of Abu Sayyaf positions in the village of Kulambu in Talipao town to spring his escape.
Vinciguerra had been on a bird watching expedition with Dutchman Ewold Horn and Filipino Ivan Sarenas when they were abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi in February 2012.
Sarenas, at the onset of their captivity had been able to escape by jumping off the motor-outrigger that was taking them to Sulu from Tawi-Tawi.
The military said in the light of the successful escape of Vinciguerra, the operations by the military in Sulu will continue until Horn, is released.
Also Tuesday, Abu Sayyaf freed one of their Malaysian captives, Chinese fish breeder Kun Mun Hua, alias Chan Sai Chuin, in Sitio Timahu, Barangay Tubig Dakula in Indanan town.
Prior to his release, Hua, 32, abducted by the Abu Sayyaf from his fish farm in Sapong Kunak, Malaysia, on June 16, had been taken by captors to Sulu and held captive for 177 days in the province.
“According to Colonel Alan Arrojado, Commander, Joint Task Group Sulu, military troops recovered one M14 with M203 attached, one 9MM, one Caliber .45 pistol, four M16 and three M14 rifles, one AK 47; one Barrett rifle, and one M4 rifle,” Muyuela said in a press statement.
The troops continue to cordon the area to prevent extrication of lawless elements operating in Indanan, Sulu, said Lieutenant General Rustico O. Guerrero, Commander, Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom).
“AFP closely works with Philippine National Police (PNP) and Local Government Unit (LGU) in the conduct of relentless law enforcement operations in the province of Sulu, Guerrero said.

‘Payoff eyed in Bukidnon blast’

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 12): ‘Payoff eyed in Bukidnon blast’

Rural Transit Mindanao bus line hit a second time

MARAMAG, Bukidnon—Governor Jose Maria Zubiri on Wednesday said extortion was likely behind Tuesday’s bombing of a Rural Transit Mindanao bus at the front gate of the Central Mindanao University here.

Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri
In a security briefing with police and military officials, he said the attack that killed at least 10 people and injured 41 others had the footprint of the RTM bus blasted an improvised explosive device last November 6 on the national highway in Maramag town.

Citing bomb squad reports, Zubiri said the IED was a mortar round that used a mobile phone to trigger detonation.

Major Christian Uy, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, said investigation was on going even as the social media had postings of a group named Kalifa Islamiya Mindanao (KIM) claiming to have masterminded the assault.

Zubiri said the latest bombing could not be faulted on the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which has denied any involvement.
Students from Central Mindanao University call for a stop to violence in a
rally on December 11, 2014 at the school’s main gate where a bomb
exploded inside a bus a day earlier, leaving at least 10 people dead and
41 others injured. LANCE BACONGUIS
We cannot believe that the BIFF could do such thing, we just celebrated our 100 years as a province and during the month long celebration where thousands of visitors came, if it was their intention to harm people, they could have done that at that time,” he said, absolving the New People’s Army.

“It is not the handiwork of the NPA. It is not their style to harm people.” Regional Police Director Isagani Genabe also told a local radio station that findings were still inconclusive.

While RTM management denied being fleeced, Zubiri said the first bombing appeared to indicate otherwise.

“The November 6 bombing could have been a warning to RTMI, where four people were injured in the early evening attack,” he said.

Added public safety measures include permanent checkpoints with K-9 units including the civilian militia at entry points of Davao, Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro and Agusan provinces.

“We have been voted for three times as the most peaceful province across the country and this (bombing) has totally changed that,” he said, adding that he has asked the bus firm to extend financial assistance the victims.

Military asked to investigate ‘anti-AFP’ memes

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 12): Military asked to investigate ‘anti-AFP’ memes

Note by Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc of the AFP Public Affairs Office addressed to a certain Cassandra Pod.

Military correspondence from Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc of the AFP Public Affairs Office leaked on Facebook.

Military correspondence from Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc of the AFP Public Affairs Office leaked on Facebook.

Military correspondence from Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc of the AFP Public Affairs Office leaked on Facebook.

An investigation is being sought to track down an anonymous Facebook account that has been posting memes supposedly mocking the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

A letter reportedly from Lieutenant Colonel Harold Cabunoc of the AFP Public Affairs Office and requesting a formal investigation into the matter was recently leaked online. The letter, dated November 27, also asked that active military officers and personnel caught liking, sharing and commenting on Facebook posts created by Cassandra Pod and Choly Abila Cabanban be subjected to an investigation. Sources at Camp Aguinaldo have confirmed the authenticity of the letter.
Pod and Cabanban posted the memes, or text or images designed to go viral on social media, on Facebook.
Leaked Cabunoc correspondence
A certain Jose Gatsby posted a copy of the AFP letter at the “This is the true Anti-corruption page” Facebook page last December 10.
“How to use government resources to do your bidding when someone attacks you on Facebook: 1.) Build up a case and make it sound really bad 2.) Cite the rules and regulations so your people cannot comment or like. 3.) Mention the names of those who you want to be targeted. Send a letter to the AFP chief to let the [Intelligence Service AFP] investigate and build a case. 5.) Sit back and let events unfold,” Gatsby said in his Facebook post.
The letter from Cabunoc was addressed to AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr.
According to the leaked copy, Catapang acknowledged receiving the letter last November 29.
“The memes circulating in the internet are purposely circulated as a public mockery to the [AFP chief and Chief PAO] and the AFP as an institution. Some of the messages are deceiving and intended to generate reactions from netizens,” part of the letter read.
The document said the AFP also wants to investigate whether Pod is an organic member of the AFP. If she is, legal sanctions may be pursued.
“In her posts, Cassandra Pod is also portraying herself as ‘defending the cause’ of ordinary soldiers by orchestrating noble projects such as Christmas Cards for Soldiers. However, she has also demonized the AFP, the organization where these soldiers belong, through her discriminating and humiliating memes. It is believed that she intentionally pursues these ‘pro-soldier’ projects to portray herself as a true friend of the soldiers and to gain ‘followers’ whom he/she can use to attack the AFP as an institution. It is believed that this person is either an active military personnel or a dependent,” the letter said.
Cabunoc recommended “a thorough investigation”  to identify the officers who have liked, shared and commented the posts and be sanctioned with appropriate punishments.
“As active members of the organization, soldiers are duty-bound to follow military rules and regulations whether in person or in social media,” he wrote.
In recent months, Cabunoc has engaged in heated exchanges with some netizens on Twitter over Marc Sueselbeck, the fiancé of slain transgender Jennifer Laude.
Sueselbeck tried to enter the detention center of Joseph Scott Pemberton, the suspected killer of Laude, by climbing the fence of the highly guarded facility at Camp Aguinaldo.
No comment
Sought for reaction, Cabunoc declined to comment but instead said that an official statement would be released once the results of the investigation are out.
In Cabunoc’s office, notes supposedly intended for Pod were seen posted on a wall.
“I was so surprised why you hate me so much and you are using all your power and connections to destroy me and my family. I did my best to find you and ask for your forgiveness for whatever sins I committed to you but I failed,” Cabunoc said in a note titled, “Victory jump, Dr. Cassandra Pod!”
“I don’t know you and we have not met but you did everything so that I will notice you. You want me to feel so sorry about myself because I’m not good looking like you and your husband….I have already forgiven you both, doctor. The mighty Allah has his own ways of serving justice in his own design. Oh, please don’t forget the golden rule: Do not do unto others what you don’t want done unto you,” the note said.
In the note, Cabunoc also hinted that he would be relieved of his post.
“You have succeeded in getting rid of me here, Mr. and Ms. Beautiful couple, but you won’t succeed in derailing my pursuit to institute reforms in the Armed Forces. No matter what the obstacles are, I will always fight for what is right,” Cabunoc said.

Bukidnon bus bombing suspect linked to previous bombings in North Cotabato

From the Manila Times (Dec 13): Bukidnon bus bombing suspect linked to previous bombings in North Cotabato

KIDAPAWAN CITY: The suspect in the Bukidnon bus bombing was previously involved in bombing attacks in North Cotabato, arrested but escaped.

Police authorities in Bukidnon has identified a man who allegedly planted an improvised bomb in a Rural Transit Bus and set it off on Dec. 9 that left 10 dead and 42 others wounded.

Macmod Manibpil, who was linked to previous bus bombings in North Cotabato, was earlier reported to be from Mlang town.

But Mayor Joselito Pinol denied Manibpil was from his town.

Senior Inspector Jiselle Lou Longakit, Bukidnon police spokesperson, said Manibpil was linked to the Kabacan bus bombing in 2006, arrested but managed to escape from North Cotabato jail. After his escape, he joined the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a ragtag bandits that broke out with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MMILF).

Longakit said Manibpil and Dawtin Gendang, suspect in the Nov. 6 bombing of another Rural Bus, also in Bukidnon, remain at large. Four persons were wounded in the Nov. 6 blast.

The police spokesperson said police special tracker team had been sent to locate the two suspects.

As in previous bombing incidents, the BIFF, through Abu Misry Mama, earlier denied involvement in the bus bombing.

Longakit said the motive could be extortion since the Rural Transit Mindanao Incorporated, operator of Rural Bus, admitted to authorities they have been receiving extortion demand and received threats that one of its units will be bombed for refusal to provide “protection money.”

Pinol said Macmod Manibpil is a resident of Barangay Nuangan, Kidapawan City and not the town of Mlang.

Mayor Pinol said Manibpil was arrested due to his alleged participation in the Kidapawan Bus Terminal and LBC bombings in October of 2003.

The twin Kidapawan bombings claimed at least a dozen lives and hurt several passengers and bystanders.Mayor Pinol said that his source told him that Manibpil was facing multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder and multiple attempted murder cases filed in Kidapawan City Regional Trial Court.

“I’ve asks my barangay chairmen but they don’t know this man. But when I ask my sources from the authorities they confirmed to me that Manibpil is from Kidapawan City,” Mayor Pinol said.

The Bukdinon police said Manibpil was tagged in the bombing after two witnesses confirmed a man with the same features as Manibpil, seen with a bull cap, was seen boarding the bus carrying a backpack but later left.

The mayor added that Manibpil was detained at the Cotabato Provincial Jail, in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan but was able to escape when armed men stormed the jail facility in February 2, 2007.

At least 47 inmates bolted the jail, including three high-profile inmates involved in series of bombing activities in North Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao.

The three suspected bombers were identified as Datu Ali Sultan, Guido and Mundos.
At least 25 armed men believed to be members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stormed the jail and fired M-203 grenade launcher, destroying the concrete wall of the jail facility to bolt out companions.

Police are also trying to link the two suspects in the Kabacan and Mlang bombings last month that left four dead and 45 others wounded.