Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Military vows no let-up in drive against Abu Sayyaf

From the Gulf News (Dec 17): Military vows no let-up in drive against Abu Sayyaf

There will be no let-up in the ongoing campaign against the Al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants described as “terrorists” in restive Mindanao during the holiday season, a senior military commander vowed on Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Rustico Guerrero, the head of the military’s Western Mindanao Command based in the port city of Zamboanga, explained the Abu Sayyaf was not covered by the government announcement declaring a unilateral month-long ceasefire from Dec.18 to Jan.19, 2015 for the Christmas season and New Year with the communist New People’s Army.

Guerrero (meaning “warrior” in Spanish) emphasised: “There is no ceasefire with the Abu Sayyaf. They are terrorists. Relentless operations will continue until they are all tired and all the remaining hostages are rescued.”
On orders of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, the military launched in late October a campaign known as “Oplan Ultimatum” against the militants particularly on the neighbouring island provinces of Basilan and Sulu where they continued to operate with impunity.

Guerrero reported that the extremists have been on the run since the start of the campaign, which also sharply reduced their capability to stage abductions and in launching terror attacks in Sulu and Basilan.

The military estimates that the extremists are still holding about 10 foreigners as hostages. Recently, a Swiss national, a wildlife photographer, escaped from the Abu Sayyaf by killing one of its sub-commanders in Sulu after being held captive for two years.
 

Southern Philippines key to curbing Islamic State

From The Establishment Post (Dec 17): Southern Philippines key to curbing Islamic State

In a university in Malaysia, two foreign lecturers were conducting secret brainwashing sessions with undergraduates. Each night in a lecture hall, the foreigners who profess to be teachers of Islam would get the students to chant.

“The students would shout out eerie threats like ‘I will kill’ and they were all probably in a trance,” regional maritime security expert Prof Dr Aruna Gopinath tells The Establishment Post. She suspects the lecturers are members of militant groups like Islamic State.

One of the students felt something was not right and reported it to the university authorities. The Special Branch, the intelligence agency under the police force, stormed into the university and apprehended the lecturers. “They were quick to respond. The foreign lecturers were caught and sent back to their home countries which were Bangladesh and an African country,” says the National Defence University of Malaysia senior fellow and desk officer for Southeast Asia Affairs in the Center for International Defence and Strategic Studies.

She says this is one of the ways militant groups like Islamic State recruit members in Malaysia and that the fast-expanding influence of such groups can be checked with tighter screening of those heading for Syria and surrounding countries, and Malaysians and foreigners entering the country from those areas. Professor Gopinath adds: “We need to scrutinise large movements of people to and from overseas and this includes foreign workers. We cannot be lax, our patrols in Sabah waters cannot be lax.”

Boat off the Mindanao Coast in Southern Philippines
Dr.A.Hugentobler
Boat off the Mindanao Coast in Southern Philippines
 
Despite the tight security at the Malaysian borders, former lecturer Dr Mahmud Ahmad (also known as Abu Handzalah) managed to give the enforcement agencies the slip. He is believed to fled to southern Philippines to join the Abu Sayyaf, which has declared its allegiance to Islamic State. The former Islamic Studies lecturer at University of Malaya is believed to be one of the leaders of a militant group that is training and sending members to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Malaysia considers Islamic State a threat to national security because Islamic State is manipulating Islamic teachings to justify their goals to overthrow a democratic government. Since February last year, the Counter Terrorism division has arrested 48 suspected militants, out of which 22 have been charged in court.

Southern Philippines is the key

Situation in southern Philippines and its waters is key to stablising the region in terns of security, according to Prof Gopinath. She feels that once the situation is resolved, there will be little chance of other militant and terror groups surviving for long. The groups in southern Philippines seem to be the lifeline for other groups in the region.

Home Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was reported to have said that threats against Malaysia were constantly evolving as local militants were working with those from southern Thailand, southern Philippines and other parts in the region. On its part, Malaysia is trying to strengthen its surveillance along the waters off Sabah so as to avoid any more Abu Sayyaf kidnappings that only encourage more once ransom is paid.

Prof Gopinath says if there was more concerted effort to have the different ethnic groups in southern Philippines to jointly participate in the distribution of wealth and in power sharing, a lot of anger among the groups can be eliminated. “They all want to participate in the sharing of wealth, and in power sharing. All the groups want to feel like they are part of the development of that region,” she adds.

“Pondok education is also important.” This is the religious schools that are small and community based. Prof Gopinath says the right religious teaching was necessary to make sure deviant teachings do not thrive in that region.

Little regard for non-Arabs

She also says there is little regard for lives of non-Arabs and that they are the lowest in the Islamic State food chain. This is the reason why Malaysians and Indonesians are the ones most likely to be used as suicide bombers. [See: Lone Wolf Terrorism May Rear Its Head In Southeast Asia] “IS has little regard for those outside the region, even if they are Muslims.”

Prof Gopinath was asked to comment on the news that the second Malaysian suicide bomber had been identified. Ahmad Affendi Abdull Manaff, aged 27, is said to have driven a bomb-laden truck into a military installation in Homs, Syria, killing about 50 of Syrian soldiers on Nov 8. He is also known as Abu Zakaria.

Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki, aged 26, was the first suicide bomber from Malaysia. On May 26, he drove a military SUV filled with explosives Iraq’s SWAT headquarters in al-Anbar, killing himself and 25 elite Iraqi soldiers. Six Malaysian militants have died fighting in Syria and Iraq. Police say that, to date, they have identified 100 Malaysians involved in extremist actions.

Prof Gopinath also talks about how young women in Malaysia are being targeted as prospective mates for members of Islamic State and how the social media is the main tool for recruitment.

White Paper to fight Islamic State

On November 25, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak presented the White Paper on terrorism in Parliament and it was telecast live over television. The White Papers says that Malaysian militants returning from fighting for the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq pose a clear danger to the country. There is also the danger that Malaysia could become a hub to finance terror activities and that returning militants could continue their terrorist activities by setting up cells and carrying out attacks.

This is the fourth time a White Paper is presented in Parliament on anti-terrorism measures. The first was on the Memali incident in Baling in 1985, then Ops Lalang in 1987. The government was supposed to present a third paper on militant group Al Ma’unah but decided against it to avoid interference with the court proceedings.

Memali, a remote northern village, was home to 400 or so villages who were followers of a sect led by Ibrahim Mahmud also known as Ibrahim Libya. Police laid siege to the houses. Four policemen and 14 civilians died in the attack that ensued. Ops Lalang was a nationwide swoop against those who opposed the government that saw 106 people arrested. The Al-Ma’unah was a militant group that broke into Malaysian Army Reserve camp on July 2, 2000 and stole weapons from the armoury. The White Paper also says that one of the steps the government plans is to pass an anti-terrorism law that will be preventive in nature and at the same time amend existing laws.

New terror law

The government is bent on acting fast against the Islamic State. An emergency sitting may be called for if necessary, according to Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid. He was reported to have said that the government may not wait till March, when the Parliament meets next, to get these laws in tabled and passed.

For now, action can be taken under laws that include the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012, Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorism Financing Act 2001 and Societies Act 1966. “However, we fear the number might increase if preventive measures are not taken. That is why we are also monitoring social media on two fronts: the recruitment of Malaysians and the terror cells getting more donations and funding,” he was reported to have said.

It is likely that the hostage siege in Sydney will further hasten the Malaysian government’s actions, especially since intelligence shows that several venues, like the Carlsberg plant, have been identified by Islamic State militants for attack, and there is a steady movement of Malaysians and foreigners from and to Syria and Iraq. It is clear that the Malaysian government is trying to curb the power and influence of Islamic State in Malaysia and Southeast Asia by formulating laws to make sure there are no loopholes for militants to escape, and scrutinising border movements, keeping an eyeon Sabah and its waters, and monitoring the situation in university campuses.
http://www.establishmentpost.com/southern-philippines-key-curbing-islamic-state/

MILF: Editorial -- Go slow and never presume

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): Go slow and never presume

“Go slow and never presume!”

This is the unsolicited advice of the MILF to would-be-investors in the proposed Bangsamoro region. This region is not yet normal. Conflicting land claims are not absent in many of its parts. It is not wise to presume that when a company deals with powerful people, everything is fine and in order.
  
There are problems that are not seen in the open. It is the nature of human beings that when confronted with insurmountable odds they usually are dumb and deaf, but deep inside they have a revolting heart. In the end, they have their own special way to vent their anger and get justice on the process.

This is not in any way to drive away investors. This is for their protection and for the interests of everybody especially the meek, weak, and faint-hearted. In our previous editorial, we have forewarned companies to be careful in dealing with prospective partners who offer vast tract of lands for pineapple, banana, or palm oil plantations.

The truth is that, except those clearly and cleanly titled, lands in the Bangsamoro are classified as timberlands, alienable and disposable, those sold to the government under its program of “voluntary offer to sale”, and those in the category of the same scheme but most if not all the beneficiaries are fictitious. Usually in the last category, the original owner still holds on to these lands, which they sell willingly or otherwise to the powerful and moneyed --- who are usually armed --- at a very low price.

A case in point is Delinanas Banana Plantation in Datu Abdullah Sangki town in Maguindanao which mulls to close shop after serious security problems are hitting the company. Three weeks ago, unidentified gunmen ambushed a convoy of company officials, wounding the firm’s chief security officer. A week later, masked men, armed with assault rifles, cut hundreds of banana trees in the firm’s plantation.

At this juncture, let it be known as a matter of policy, foreign investments, as long as they are people and environment-friendly, are welcomed in the Bangsamoro. For whose these blessings (rich natural resources) if not for the people’s benefits and disposal? Without doubt, the Bangsamoro Government, once in place, will enter into agreements with investors whether domestic or foreign to tap the natural resources in this region.  Initially, we can start preliminary matters but we wait for the Bangsamoro Government to be in place before formalities or actual work can commence.

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/editorial/item/1408-go-slow-and-never-presume

MILF: Calls for extension of transition period increase

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): Calls for extension of transition period increase



Proposals for extending the expected transition period for the Bangsamoro continued to grow in number in the last leg of the Mindanao consultations made by the Congressional Adhoc Committee on the BBL.
  
On Dec. 10 at Buluan (Maguindanao), a high-ranking official of DepED ARMM suggested that the first regular elections for the Bangsamoro Parliament be made in 2019 instead of May 2016 as contained in the draft BBL.

In the following day at the CAP auditorium in Davao City, no less than Magdalo Partylist Rep. Garry Alejano proposed before his fellow members of the Adhoc committee that the transition period be extended since “a year or less than a year is not enough” to effectively prepare for the regular Bangsamoro government.

Alejano, a former soldier, recounted how his combat experience and their group’s advocacy against corruption in the military have ultimately led him to work harder  for peace and reforms in the bureaucracy.

The Mindanao Peoples Caucus also submitted a formal petition to the Adhoc committee in Davao.

A similar sentiment for lengthening the transition time was also expressed by a punong barangay of Butuan City in the 30th public hearing held at the Caraga State University on Dec 13.

In Article XVI, Section 1 of the draft BBL, the transition period for the establishment of the Bangsamoro shall begin upon the ratification of the BBL and shall end upon the dissolution of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) which shall be the governing body or interim government during the transition period. BTA shall be deemed dissolved immediately upon the qualification of the elected Chief Minister under the first Bangsamoro Parliament in May 2016.

Buluan

Maguindanao Provincial Governor Esmael Mangudadatu reiterated his firm support to the BBL and even dispelled rumor that his fellow governors are against the draft law.

He said that he does not want a repeat of the bunged MOA-AD in 2008 that plunged Maguindanao in a violent war.

Majority of Maguindanao mayors and members of the provincial board attended the hearing that was participated also by more than 5000 people in the jam-packed municipal gymnasium.

Davao

In a crowd composed mostly of professionals, academicians, businessmen, civil society organizations and indigenous peoples, the Davao consultation was marked by deliberations over legal issues on the draft BBL.

Atty. Israelito Torreon, Dean of the Law School of Cor Jesu Colleges in Digos City and former counsel of Cotabato Province in the latter’s petition against the MOA-AD, expressed hope that the proposed law will not suffer the same fate as that of the 2008 agreement.

Law students of the Ateneo de Davao University College of Law also raised questions on aerial domain, natural resources, powers over local governments, conflict of laws and excise taxes that would be collected by the Bangsamoro government.
Most of the legal issues were answered by Adhoc Committee Chairman Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who is also a lawyer and former law school dean of San Sebastian College.

Saying that the draft BBL is an “antidote to independence”, Rodriguez believes that giving more political and fiscal powers to the Bangsamoro would make the latter more attached to the Philippine nation-state, as can be gleaned from the recent referendum in Scotland wherein the latter opted to continue its union with the United Kingdom.

Butuan

Rodriguez reiterated before a very large crowd in the Caraga State University gymnasium his statement in the Davao hearing that the success of the Bangsamoro would open the gate for a federal parliamentary system in the Philippines, something he is openly advocating in several of the congressional hearings.
In assuring the indigenous peoples who dominated the proceedings, Rodriguez said that the BBL respects and protects their rights and provides further additional rights, such as reserved seats in the Bangsamoro Parliament and equitable share in the exploration, utilisation and development of natural resources covered by their native titles.

BTC participation

As in all the public hearings and consultations made by the Adhoc committee, commissioners and legal staff of the BTC were present in the last-leg of the Mindanao sessions.

In Buluan, Maguindanao Commissioners Abdula Camlian, Melanio Ulama and Raissa Jajurie served as resource persons while Comms. Robert Maulana Alonto and Hussein Munoz joined the Adhoc committee in Davao City.

Comm. Said Sheik was in Butuan City with MILF Peace Panel member Datu Antonio Kinoc who also attended the Buluan and Davao public hearings.

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/1407-calls-for-extension-of-transition-period-increase

MILF: Rep. Lobregat’s anti-autonomy stance mars committee’s neutrality in 29th BBL Public Hearing

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): Rep. Lobregat’s anti-autonomy stance mars committee’s neutrality in 29th BBL Public Hearing



City representative Celso L. Lobregat advocated for non-autonomous provisions in the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during the 29th Public Hearing held at the Municipal Gymnasium, Midsayap, North Cotabato on December 12, 2014.  Instead of at the consultation stage, he is as if already deliberating and legislating the proposed law in the Chamber of the House of Congress.
  
He said, operational control on the police force, now under the mayors is being transferred to the Chief Minister under the BBL. That, according to many quarters is misleading and untrue.

He refuted the answer of OPAPP representative Atty. Jose Lorena where Intergovernmental mechanism is among those agencies to solve conflict born by ambiguities in laws of the Central Government and the Bangsamoro. He said national law must prevail, without giving regard to the ambiguity. He said, the 10% registered voter that may petition for inclusion of their area in the Bangsamoro will create chaos. He said redistricting power of the parliament is unconstitutional. He also said, power of the Chief Minister to grant recall petition and to appoint a replacement is not proper.

The public hearing was presided by Cong, Rufus B. Rodriguez but later, it was continued by Cong. Jesus N. Sacdalan. Other solons present were: Congresswoman Nancy A. Catamco, Congresswoman Bai Sandra A. Sema, Cong. Jose I. Tejada, Cong. Celso L. Lobregat, Cong. Raymond Democrito C.  Mendoza, and Cong. Rogelio Neil Pepito Roque. Gov. Emmylou “Lala” Talino-Mendoza joined the consultation.

GPH Panel Chairperson Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, OPAPP member Jose Lorena, OPAPP member Senen Bacani and MILF Panel member Datu Antonio Kinoc were also in the public hearing.

Presentations by the audience were:

A representative of the professional sector appealed for support to the BBL, extend the one year term of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority but feared of constitutional obstacles in the future. Barangay Rangeban, Midsayap’s representative requested for inclusion of their barangay in the Bangsamoro territory. He led the crowd in shouting “Allahu Akbbar” many times, meaning Allah is the greatest. The Consortium of Civil Society expressed support to the BBL.

A Midsayap councillor, on the other hand questioned the recall provision in the BBL as an abusive power. Congressman Lobregat supported him. Three representatives of other organizations sounded the same strong support to the BBL.

A representative of the Mindanao Alliance for Peace (MAP), Mr. Duma Mascud, expressed strong support to the BBL having experiences in war as distributor of relief assistance.
   
Five speakers from the tribes of Manobo, Teduray and a nun spoke of inclusion of IP rights in the BBL but they did not categorically oppose the BBL.

A Moro woman, three other speakers representing the farmers, the youth and the women sectors appealed for strong support to the BBL in its original GPH-MILF agreed text without diminution. Another Moro lady said, there should be no stratification of tri-people in the BBL.

One speaker asked for immunity from suit under the BBL. MILF Panel Member Datu Kinoc responded that there is immunity under the Philippine Constitution but there is none in the BBL.

There were five other speakers, one of them belongs to the religious sector who asked the legislators to enact and expedite implementation of the BBL without decreasing the agreed text.

Congresswoman Sema, emotionally affected by the indiscriminate anti-Moro stance of Congressman Lobregat, spoke emotionally, saying: “what we are asking in the BBL is ours, Mindanao is ours but we are only asking for a little portion of it. “Hindi kami dapat at hindi kami luluhod sa paghihingi”- meaning we should and we will not kneel on asking what belongs to us.

http://www.luwaran.com/index.php/welcome/item/1406-rep-lobregat’s-anti-autonomy-stance-mars-committee’s-neutrality-in-29th-bbl-public-hearing

CPP/NPA: NPA punishes COPD units in Agusan del Sur, AFP incurs 10 casualties

NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Dec 15): NPA punishes COPD units in Agusan del Sur, AFP incurs 10 casualties

Omar Ibarra
Spokesperson
Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command (Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-Regional Command)

A Philippine Army officer and two soldiers were killed while seven others were wounded in a series of harassments by Red fighters of the New People’s Army under the Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-regional Command against units of the fascist armed forces’ Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) in the municipalities of La Paz and Talacogon, Agusan del Sur in December 13 and 14, 2014. There were no casualties on the NPA side.

In December 13, around 4:30 AM, an NPA team harassed a platoon-size COPD unit of the 26th and 36th Infantry Battalions stationed in a school in Sitio Libon, Brgy. Leydia, La Paz. Three soldiers were wounded in this incident. Residents of the area have complained of the soldiers’ use of the said school as their barracks. The literacy-numeracy school is run by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines but has been used as barracks by the COPD unit since November.

In December 14, around 5:00 AM, a certain Lt. Meneses was killed while four other soldiers of a COPD unit of the 26th and 36th IBs were wounded when an NPA squad used a CDEx (command detonated explosive) against them in Sitio Min-angkig, Brgy. Angeles, La Paz. The said unit of more than 20 soldiers were supposed to augment the unit already stationed in the village when their main body was harassed more than 700 meters from the village center. Around 1:00 PM, Red fighters fired at the Huey helicopter used to rescue the enemy unit and collect their casualties.

Around 3:30 PM of the same day, another NPA team used a CDEx against a 6×6 truck laden with another COPD unit of the 26th IB in the log pond of Brgy. Zillovia, Talacogon, Agusan del Sur. Two soldiers were killed in this incident. The said area is flat and mostly rice fields and is only around three kilometers away from the battalion headquarters in the town center.

COPD units have been operating since November in 14 barrios in the municipalities of La Paz and San Luis. Their operations serve the Aquino regime’s plan to accommodate the Metro Luxury Mining Corporation which intends to mine the area for gold and copper. In fact, soldiers forced tribal datus to sign in favor of the acquisition by the lumad agent Mario Napungahan of 30,000 hectares of ancestral lands in San Luis and Esperanza through a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). Before the COPD operations in the area, the National Commission of Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), which serves as an active promoter of the company, has failed in its activities.

The organized people faced and opposed not only the planned entry of the mining company but also the launching of psywar and intelligence operations of the COPD in barrio centers. During the celebration of Human Rights Day in December 10, four trucks of protesters from the said municipalities participated in the mass action in Butuan City condemning the militarization of the countryside and calling for the withdrawal of all COPD units. Roads and barrio centers turned red with placards and streamers with the said calls. Even tributaries of Agusan River were dotted with placards and streamers floated on banana stems. The protesters also continued launching dialogues, radio hoppings and other forms of legal struggle.

The NPA will continue to punish the COPD units and the whole reactionary armed forces not only to protect the rights of the people against the extractive interests of foreigners in cahoots with the US-Aquino regime but also to serve revolutionary justice to all victims of continuing state terrorism. Only through the people’s democratic revolution can the people gradually assert the genuine interests and development of all the oppressed and exploited.

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/statements/20141215_npa-punishes-copd-units-in-agusan-del-sur-afp-incurs-10-casualties

Joma Sison denies NPA out to harm Pope Francis during PH visit

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 16): Joma Sison denies NPA out to harm Pope Francis during PH visit



For the third straight year, activists led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan held a year-end forum with International League of Peoples' Struggles (ILPS) chairperson Prof. Jose Maria Sison as resource person via webstreaming. This year's forum was held at Tanghalang PUP (Polytechinic University of the Philippines) in Sta. Mesa, Manila last December 13.

The forum followed a special screening of the biofilm "A Guerilla is Like a Poet" based on Sison's life up to the time he was released from prison after nine years of imprisonment by the Marcos dictatorship.

In this short video clip, Prof. Sison shares his thoughts on Pope Francis' forthcoming visit to the Philippines next month.

[Video: Sison welcomes Pope's visit to the Philippines
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nk7skXbfvJECommunist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison has expressed support for Pope Francis and his visit to the Philippines in January next year.

“Pope Francis was chosen to solve the problems within the Church. The church people know this very well. They know he is progressive-minded,” Sison said during a web conference at a forum held at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Manila on Saturday (Dec. 13).

jose maria sison
Joma Sison. FILE PHOTO

“He (Pope Francis) is critical and is able to mobilize against the evils of the capitalist system,” he added.

Sison, who currently lives in exile in The Netherlands, also dismissed rumors that the New People’s Army, the military arm of the CPP, was threatening the pontiff’s visit to the country.

He called it “propaganda” of the military.

“They are just inventing things to demonize the revolutionary movement. The revolutionary movement has good relations with the people of the Church,” the International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS) chairperson said.

Sison said he recognizes the Pope’s concern and his willingness to visit the survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan).

He added that Pope Francis also speaks against “supertyphoons created by man,” those “exploited and oppressed by the powerful and the rich.”

In his video message, Sison called on the people to support and “spread all the Pope’s statements that are beneficial to the Filipino people.”

He further said that the Pope’s visit next year is “safeguarded and valued” by the CPP, especially since it has good relations with the Church.

“Inside the Church, there remain bad practices by reactionary priests but there are progressive and patriotic priests as well,” he said.

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/115697/joma-sison-calls-pope-francis-progressive-dismisses-papal-visit-threats/

BIFF admits role in latest attacks in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Dec 15): BIFF admits role in latest attacks in Maguindanao

The brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) on Monday claimed responsibility for the attacks on strategic Army positions including the attempt to bomb a roadside detachment in the province in the past three days.

Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of BIFF, said their fighters were behind the atrocities. He said the attacks were in retaliation for the military’s offensives two weeks ago that flushed bandits out of their lairs along riverbanks at the border of Pikit, North Cotabato and Datu Piang, Maguindanao.

“There will be a counter-attack for every attack by the military,” Mama told reporters.

Captain Joan Petinglay, public affairs chief of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said military units in Maguindanao have imposed tighter security measures to restrain the BIFF.

The group is comprised of rouge guerillas, mostly wanted for various criminal offenses.
Three soldiers were slightly wounded when BIFF bandits on Friday night fired assault rifles and 40 millimeter grenade projectiles at an Army detachment in Mamasapano town in the second district of the province.

The bandits scampered away carrying six wounded companions when the soldiers returned fire, preventing them from breaching through the fence encircling the detachment.

Two more Army combatants were wounded Saturday night when BIFF gunmen attacked a detachment of the 2nd Mechanized Battalion in Datu Saudi town, also in the second district of Maguindanao.

The bandits retreated to a nearby hinterland when soldiers inside the detachment simultaneously fired .50 caliber machineguns to prevent them from closing in.

Another group of BIFF bandits on Sunday night attempted to set off fragmentation grenades inside a roadside Army outpost in Datu Salibo town in southwest of the province.

The blasting contraption of the rusty grenades the bandits hurled inside the fenced detachment malfunctioned, preventing what could have been deadly explosions.

http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/12/15/1402936/biff-admits-role-latest-attacks-maguindanao

BCDA eyes sale of remaining BGC property

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 15): BCDA eyes sale of remaining BGC property

60 ha occupied by Army, Navy may fetch P36B

The state-controlled Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) seeks to unlock more values out of the local property boom by putting on the auction block before the end of President Aquino’s term about 60 hectares of remaining land in the sprawling Bonifacio Global City.

At an estimated minimum value of P60,000 a square meter at current prices, this suggests at least P36 billion worth of property within what is now a key central business district in the metropolis may be monetized by the BCDA.

“We’re working on the approval of the President for [the sale of] the remaining lots here in BGC,” BCDA president Arnel Casanova told reporters at the sidelines of the ground-breaking ceremonies for Robinsons Land Corp.’s office tower Bonifacio Summit Center in BGC.

The Philippine Navy has about 29.5 hectares of land that could be privatized while the Philippine Army has almost the same size of disposable landbank, Casanova said.

“We’re only waiting for the President to approve the disposition and BCDA will proceed immediately,” Casanova said.

Asked about the potential value of these property assets for sale, Casanova said the BCDA would need to come up with a new appraisal. “But basically, looking at the [market] pricing here, it should not be lower than P60,000 per sq m. These are the remaining prime lots in Global City,” he said.

Vested with corporate powers under Republic Act (RA) 7227 (Bases Conversion and Development Act of 1992), which was signed into law by former President Corazon Aquino in 1992 (amended in 1995 and 2007), BCDA is mandated to transform former military bases into alternative productive civilian use. It also engages in public-private partnerships to push forward vital public infrastructure such as tollways, airports and seaports as well as major real estate developments.

Since its creation in 1992, the BCDA has generated P62.78 billion from the disposition of former Metro Manila camps, out of which P26.96 billion benefited the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

On the legal dispute with the SM group, which had submitted an unsolicited proposal for the 33-hectare Bonifacio South property, Casanova said the BCDA had petitioned the Supreme Court to take jurisdiction over the case on the en banc level.

BCDA was set to bid out the property but SM Land was able to get a temporary restraining order from a division of the Supreme Court.

“What’s at stake here is the validity of the presidential order to have it bid out so under the Constitution and the rules of the SC, any question on the legitimacy or validity of the order of the President must be taken up en banc,” Casanova said.

Apart from being issued only by a division within the high tribunal, Casanova said the TRO was “questionable” because there were three versions of the same order. BCDA has filed a petition for the justice who issued the ruling to inhibit from the case.

“We believe that what’s at stake here is not just the property but billions in pesos in losses to the Philippines in terms of the [army] modernization,” Casanova said.

“Their (SM’s) proposal is about P39,000 per sq m. The fair market value now is P75,000 to P100,000. So you can imagine the disparity of the price. Even if we allow a Swiss challenge (pricing challenge wherein original proponent has the right to match the best bid), you are already proceeding at a loss. Any challenge must be pegged, at the minimum, on the fair value price,” Casanova said.

http://business.inquirer.net/183575/bcda-eyes-sale-of-remaining-bgc-property

OPAPP namahagi ng study grant at Philhealth membership sa MNLF beneficiaries

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 16): OPAPP namahagi ng study grant at Philhealth membership sa MNLF beneficiaries

MIDSAYAP, North Cotabato, Dis 16 (PIA) -- Pinangunahan ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) ang pamamahagi ng education and health support services para sa pamilya ng mga dating kasapi ng Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) sa Distrito Uno ng North Cotabato.

Ginanap ang awarding ceremony sa Kapayapaan Hall ng tanggapan ni North Cotabato First District Rep. Jesus Sacdalansa Midsayap, North Cotabato  nitong nakaraang Sabado, ika- 13 ng Disyembre.

Kabilang sa ipinamahagi ang study grant notice mula sa Commission on Higher Education na ibinigay sa sampung iskolars. Nabatid na nag- aaral sa ilang state universities sa North Cotabato, Cotabato City at Maguindanao ang mga benepisyaryo ng nasabing study grant.

Nagsagawa rin ng orientation ang mga kinatawan ng PhilHealth sa mga identified beneficiaries kung saan inilatag ang mga serbisyong medikal na maaring pakinabangan ng mga benepisyaryo sa ilalim ng Primary Care Benefit Package ng PhilHealt.

Sinabi ni OPAPP Central Mindanao Area Manager Jhoniel Raneses na ang education and health support services na ito ay bahagi ng kanilang mga aksyon na maipaabot sa conflict affected areas ang mga serbisyo ng gobyerno.

Nilinaw rin ni Raneses na ang OPAPP ay facilitator lamang ng programa at hindi implementing agency.Nakikipag- ugnayan umano sila sa iba’t- ibang ahensya ng gobyerno upang masigurong matututukan ang implementasyon ng basic services na ito sa conflict affected areas.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/2411418700522/tagalog-news-opapp-namahagi-ng-study-grant-at-philhealth-membership-sa-mnlf-beneficiaries

Zambo del Norte declared Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready province

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 15): Zambo del Norte declared Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready province

The province of Zamboanga del Norte has been declared Conflict-Manageable and Development-Ready province following the signing of a joint resolution by the military, police and local elective officials in a simple ceremony held last Dec. 11 at the Zamboanga del Norte Convention and Sports Center this city.

The signing was led 1st Infantry Tabak Division Commander, BGen. Gerardo Barrientos Jr., Western Mindanao Command chief, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, Philippine National Police (PNP)-9 regional director, Chief Supt. Edgar O. Basbas, and Zamboanga del Norte Governor Roberto Y. Uy and attended by other AFP, PNP and local government officials.

Dipolog City Mayor Evelyn Uy, PNP provincial director, SSupt. Juanito Enguerra and other provincial, city and municipal officials also came to witness the event.

In his welcome message, Vice Governor Senen O. Angeles called upon the local populace to support the effort of the military and police in sustaining the maintenance of peace and order in the province, as it will open up the avenue for development of the people’s lives.

Except for some minor adjustments, Barrientos said the military personnel presently assigned here will remain here and will support the local police in the maintenance of peace and order.

Governor Roberto Uy also vowed to implement development projects and address the poverty problems in the province, as he also thanked the military and the police for their support in the maintenance of peace and order.

Chief Supt. Basbas said “peace and order is a universal concern and everyone is duty-bound to play his respective role.” He further assured that “the police will continue to enforce law and order and will never lower their guard, so as not to allow lawless elements any opportunity to strike.”
                                                         
101st Infantry Brigade Commander, BGen. Apolinario Alobba said that insurgency incidence has tremendously (decreased) in the past years. Though, he admitted that there are still insurgents in the province, but are now on the run and operating in the remote areas only.

Apart from thanking the leadership of the provincial government for providing the long-needed projects by the people, the top military and police officials assured the public of their commitment to serve and protect the people in the province.

Other witnesses to signing activity were city officials  and employees , barangay officials, judiciary, academe, religious sector, business sector, civic organizations and the local media.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/1441418627948/zambo-del-norte-declared-conflict-manageable-and-development-ready-province

238 new soldiers join army command

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): 238 new soldiers join army command

CAMP MELCHOR DELA CRUZ, GAMU, Isabela -- At least 238 new soldiers who have undergone rigid training on jungle warfare and mountain operation course officially joined the Philippine Army today.


The soldiers have sworn allegiance before 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army commanding general Major General Lysander Suerte held at the camp’s grandstand.

Newly-installed 5ID commander Suerte said that the graduation of 147 candidate soldiers of the CSC Class 358 – 2014 and 91 candidate soldiers of CSC – 359 – 2014 is an important event as the there will again be added peacekeepers of the country.

Suerte expressed thanks to the families and love ones of the new soldiers for giving the opportunity of the soldiers to join the soldiery to maintain peace and prosperity in the area of operation of the army division.

The new soldiers, after taking the oath of allegiance were entrusted to them their respective firearms to be used in maintaining peace and order.

Private First Class Albert Orquiano topped the Class 358 and Private First CLass Rickson Aggarao topped the CSC class 359.

The new soldiers of 5ID Class 358 and 359 have undergone a six-month rigorous training and honed their skills on jungle warfare and mountain operations.

The soldiers will be deployed in the different units of the 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army whose jurisdiction includes Regions 2, Cordillera Administrative Region and some parts of region 1.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716649

Korean Armed Forces assure program sustainability after Leyte mission

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Korean Armed Forces assure program sustainability after Leyte mission

The South Korean Military Joint Support Group will leave Leyte next week, but some of their projects in the province will continue.

Col. Lee Chul Won, the group’s commander, said they have turned over several equipment and supply to the Philippine government today to support some of their projects.

“There are three projects that will continue even after our contingents leave,” said Lee.

First, is the heavy equipment vocational school that is now underway. Second is an agricultural leadership structure training institution in Sacme village in Tanauan, Leyte.

Third is the training institution where Korean armed forces will be supporting 50 scholars from poor families.

Last week Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Korean Armed Forces for the Scholar Institution that will kick off next year.

The Araw Forces arrived in Leyte on Dec. 9, 2013 and will leave on Dec 21, 2014 after one year of reconstruction works.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716715

Leyte town confers recognition to Korean army official

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Leyte town confers recognition to Korean army official

The local government of Tanauan, Leyte recognized Col. Lee Chul Won, commander of the South Korean Military Joint Support Group – Araw Force as “honorary son of the municipality of Tanauan.”

Mayor Pelagio Tecson, Jr. and members of the town council conferred the honor during the recent “Pasasalamat,” a program hosted by the provincial government to show gratitude to the foreign military humanitarian group who stayed in Leyte for a year to help in rebuilding damaged government facilities.

The commander of Araw Force was surprised with the distinction given and thanked the local government of Tanauan for such recognition.

In his message, Col. Lee described his stay in Leyte like a “first kiss” which is “sweet, lovely and memorable.”

He first arrived in Leyte few weeks after typhoon Yolanda to check areas affected by the super typhoon in this province. Seeing the suffering of survivors pushed them to immediately start the rehabilitation works.

They will never forget their experience in Leyte, said Col. Lee and promised that members of contingents will regularly visit Leyte. The story of their stay in the province will be pass-on to their children and grand children.

Col. Lee is also expected to receive a commendation from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday at Fort Bonifacio during the AFP Day celebration.

Local chief executives in the towns of Palo, Tanauan and Tolosa and the provincial government of Leyte expressed their appreciation to the contribution of Korean armed forces in rebuilding Leyte.

“There is not enough words to say how much we appreciate you for being with us, for being part of our life for one year, you have been part of us,” said Mayor Remedios Petilla of Palo town.

“I know you miss your family, parents and friends... there is nothing like when going home again and be with your family and old friends. Thank you for being with us. We value your presence and we thank of you for coming and helping us in times of our need,” she added.

The presence of Araw Contigents lifted up the spirit and heart of people of Leyte after super typhoon Yolanda, said Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla.

The governor assured the contingent that they are always welcome to visit Leyte.

Araw Force arrived in the country December 2013 and started their work through clearing operation in areas severely devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

Their projects include rehabilitation of damaged local government unit facilities and public school buildings. Their stories are compiled in two books written by Col. Lee.

The foreign troops have repaired more than 60 public structures in their one year stay in Leyte.

The troops also fixed damage houses of Filipino war veterans that helped them during Korean War.

Araw Force also opens the Araw Heavy Equipment Operation Vocational Training Center in Palo, Araw Agriculture Training Center in Tanauan and Korean Language Class in the town of Palo.

The foreign troops also constructed Araw Memorial Park, which depicts the works that they did in the province since they arrive and a statue that symbolizes Filipino bravery during Korean War which is slated to be inaugurated today.

The Korean armies also built a scholar house for poor families in Leyte. The Korean international humanitarian organization Food for the Hungry will run the facility.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716711

Korean Army highlights prepositioning of equipment in disaster preparedness

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Korean Army highlights prepositioning of equipment in disaster preparedness

If there would be one post-Yolanda lesson the Korean Armed Forces would like to impart to the Philippine government, it is the prepositioning of heavy equipment to make sure that road are cleared from debris.

Col. Lee Chul Won, commander of the South Korean Military Joint Support Group, said that no organization would be able to deliver aids to affected communities if roads are blocked with debris.

“It is really important for the Philippines to develop a certain positioning of heavy equipment to the different island especially that Philippines consist of more than 7,000 islands,” he said.

“You will have to locate the heavy equipment for the disaster management, and also coordinate with the navy ships which can transport the equipment faster to other regions” said Col. Lee.

The contingent is leaving this week, but they will leave their heavy equipment from Korea to the Philippine government's Department of National Defense to help in future disaster response.

The troops will culminate their humanitarian mission in the Philippines December 21, 2014, after a year of reconstruction works.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716713

Military lauds initiatives of Negros Occidental peace and development unit

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Military lauds initiatives of Negros Occidental peace and development unit

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) lauded the Provincial Peace, Integration and Development Unit (Pro-PIDU) of Negros Occidental for being an “indispensable partner” of the military in attaining just and lasting peace in the province.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, AFP chief of staff, said in his report that the more than two-year-old Pro-PIDU, of which the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) is a member, is spearheading the campaign on the root causes of insurgency in the province by adopting a system approach towards sustainable peace building through the transformation of communities in different dimensions of conflict – personal, relational, structural and cultural.

“It has become a very important network in the aspect of institutionalizing dialogue spaces where local stakeholders in the province meet and collaborate to confer, peace, integration and development programs or initiatives of the provincial government,” Catapang added.

The programs of Pro-PIDU, chaired by Gov. Alfredo MaraƱon Jr., include the “marching for peace, serving the countryside,” with conflict affected communities in the first and fifth districts of Negros Occidental as beneficiaries, and the Negros First-Army Wellmess Program of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, which helps rebel returnees and their families.

The provincial government provided Php 5 million to the Wellness Program that adopts an integrated organic farming system, produces organic vegetables, and raises poultry and livestock.

The Negros First-Army Wellness Farm, with the 2.5-hectare pilot area first established within a military camp in Murcia, is now being replicated in Toboso town.

A similar farm will also be established soon in the fifth and sixth districts of Negros Occidental, said Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd IB.

Aying said the wellness farm is one of the non-traditional innovations implemented by the 303rd IB to win the peace in Negros Occidental, with former rebels among its primary beneficiaries.

In his report, Catapang also said that in order to deliver the final decisive blow against armed insurgents, they have utterly shifted their strategy from the traditional dimension of combat operations giving equal emphasis to combat and non-combat aspects of their military operations.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716769

Army scores rebels for stalling development by burning equipment for road works

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Army scores rebels for stalling development by burning equipment for road works

The Philippine Army in Western Visayas scored the New People’s Army (NPA) for its latest atrocity in southern Negros Occidental.

On Sunday night, about 30 suspected NPA rebels torched the equipment owned by International Builders Corp. (IBC) in Barangay Gil Montilla, Sipalay City.

“The government is working hard on developmental projects that will benefit the people and in return, the NPA destroyed the equipment to stall development,” said Col. Allan Martin, commander of Army’s 302nd Brigade.

Damaged were a grader, a payloader, and a vibratory roller, all worth about Php5 million, at the batching plant of IBC owned by Alfonso Tan of Iloilo City.

Lt. Col. Pompeyo Jason Almagro, commanding Officer of 47th Infantry Battalion, said the IBC is the contractor for the construction and rehabilitation of national road that could boost trade and economic development in Sipalay City.

Martin said the 302nd Brigade has intensified its security operations in the area while tracking the rebels.

“Our soldiers are working closely with the Philippine National Police and we are optimistic that the NPA group behind this atrocity would be cornered soon,” he added.

Chief Insp. Luisito Acebuche, Sipalay city police chief, said the rebels set the construction equipment using gasoline at about 8:30 p.m. while the workers were resting.

The rebels stayed in the area for about five minutes before fleeing towards the mountains, he added.

Acebuche said the security guards told the police that the suspects were carrying high-powered firearms and identified themselves as NPA rebels.

Col. Jon Aying, commander of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, said the rebels are members of the NPA’s Armando Sumayang Extortion Group.

They ordered their assets to tell the public that around 80 of their members attacked the area when only about 25 to 30 rebels carried out the arson, Aying said.

“They want to project that they are still strong and they still have the number when they only fought against those heavy equipment and the civilians," the Army official said.
 

NDRRMC confers “Bakas Bayaning Likas Parangal” to Korean Armed Forces

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): NDRRMC confers “Bakas Bayaning Likas Parangal” to Korean Armed Forces

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) conferred the “Bakas Bayaning Likas Parangal” to the Republic of Korea Armed Forces Joint Support Group for their selfless service in reconstructing this typhoon-ravaged province.

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin, secretary of National Defense and NDRRMC chairperson bestowed the recognition of merit and token of thanksgiving for the exemplary service rendered by the contingent in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda.

"Thank you for your noble service, exemplary heroism extraordinary act of bravery and kindness that you have given to the people," Gazmin said in his message during Tuesday's ceremony at the South Korean base camp in this town.

Other award subcategories given were the Lakas Parangal sa Dakila, Lakas Parangal ng Kabayanihan, and Lakas Parangal ng Kagitingin.

These recognitions were conferred to Col. Lee Chul Won, commander of Korean Military Support Group and other top officials leading the hundreds of military support group.

Since Jan. 3, 2014, the troop has repaired 66 public infrastructure, which included 37 education facilities and 25 public facilities.

Aside from reconstruction works, the South Korean Armies also conducted medical missions that benefited more than 40,000 patients.

"Assistance was very much appreciated by our grateful citizens and communities who were the unfortunate victims of that natural disaster," Gazmin said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716799

Donated equipments by South Korean army to boost disaster response – Sec. Gazmin

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Donated equipments by South Korean army to boost disaster response – Sec. Gazmin

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the Php 300 million newly-donated equipment from South Korean Armed Forces will boost the country’s capacity to respond to future natural disasters.

Defense officials from two countries signed the deed of donations today during the completion of mission ceremony.

Turned over were 8,310 heavy equipment, medical supplies, hand tools, maintenance tools and communication equipment supplies.

“These will be a great help to our soldiers in addressing the consequences and ill effects of disasters and calamities in our communities,” Gazmin said.

“This allows the Armed Forces of the Philippines to have it as theY used THEM for the enhancement in disaster response operations,” Gazmin said.

The NDRRMC, chaired by Gazmin, will maintain the Korean Army contingent base camp at the Government Center in Palo town.

He also said that today's morning occasion is not just an awarding but also a celebration for long friendship between the Philippine and South Korea.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716831

AFP says they’re on track in reducing rebel threats

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): AFP says they’re on track in reducing rebel threats
 
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Jr. said the government is optimistic of minimizing threats of the New People’s Army (NPA) by next year.

Briefly speaking to reporters during the Korean Armed Forces completion of mission ceremony, Catapang said they would not be able to completely eliminate the communist rebel, but they are positive of significantly reducing its force .

“The country will be more peaceful, but there are still NPA remnants. We have about one year to do that,” Catapang added.

The AFP chief said the recent declaration of Samar provinces as peace and development ready province (PDRP) ahead of the 2016 timetable is a manifestation that anti-insurgency efforts are gaining headway. Samar Island has been known as haven of armed rebels for decades.

The Samar provincial government and the Philippine Army’s 8th infantry division, 801st infantry brigade spearheaded the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) formally declaring Samar as PDRP. It was held on Dec. 10 at the provincial capitol in Catbalogan City.

On Dec. 4, the provincial government of Northern Samar and Philippine Army formally declared the minimized threat of NPA activities in province through a signing of a deal at the Farmer’s Training Center, University of Eastern Visayas campus, Catarman, Northern Samar.

“The declaration of Northern Samar as PDRP is the latest milestone in the successful implementation of the peace and development efforts in the Eastern Visayas region,” the army said in a statement

Northern Samar is the last of the six provinces in Eastern Visayas placed under the PDRP status.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716798

Japan NGO to turn over classroom buildings to conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Japan NGO to turn over classroom buildings to conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato

The International Children’s Action Network (ICAN), a Japanese non-government organization in cooperation with the Department of Education and the local government will turn over school buildings in three remote villages here on Thursday (Dec. 18).

Koji Matsuura, project coordinator of the peace building project, said in a statement the program will be highlighted by the turnover of two-classroom school buildings and the declaration of schools of peace of Nabundas Elementary School, Gokotan Elementary School and Malik Memorial Elementary School.

There would also be ceremonies in two other elementary schools and two high schools in Barangays Gokotan and Balungis.

These efforts are part of the Peace-Building Project currently implemented by the ICAN and funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Pikit, particularly in the villages called “M7 Barangays” of Tinutulan, Balatikan, Nunguan, Balabak, Nabundas, Gokotan and Balungis.

The ceremonies are expected to be attended by stakeholders and partners from the Japan Embassy, International Monitoring Team (IMT), Joint Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (J-CCCH), Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and Department of Education in North Cotabato.

Matsuura considers the activity as another milestone in achieving peace for the people of Mindanao.

Peace Building Project through Education in Conflict-Affected Areas of Pikit, North Cotabato (Phase 3)” is funded by the Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) through ICAN, covering the M7 Barangays initially for 12 months, the third year plan of the 3 year-project.

The project aims to improve infrastructure and quality of primary and secondary education for children affected by armed conflict and to establish peace at the grass-roots level in Pikit-Maridagao river basin.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=716851

Deles: Extended holiday truce with communist rebels gives way to a hopeful year ahead

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Deles: Extended holiday truce with communist rebels gives way to a hopeful year ahead

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles welcomed the joint suspension of military and police operations (SOMO-SOPO) announced by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) noting “more reasons for an extended Christmas ceasefire” this year with the Communist Party of the Philippines/National Peoples' Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF).

“The SOMO-SOPO covering the period 19 December (from midnight of 18th) 2014 to 19 January 2015 is in line with government’s Christmas tradition, as we have always wished to provide for our people's peaceful and joyful celebration of this holy season and a hope-filled welcome to a new year.”

Citing more reasons, the peace adviser also underscored that the “cessation of hostilities will allow unhampered rehabilitation of calamity-affected communities, many of which are also conflict-affected, and sustain the goodwill generated from the positive results of the collective disaster preparedness undertaken by government and communities.”

The unilateral ceasefire also puts in mind the much-anticipated Papal Visit in the Philippines early next year.

“With the silencing of guns, our preparations for and celebration of Pope Francis' visit may be carried out with undistracted reflection and prayers and deep hope for abundant blessings to be showered on our people,” said Deles.

The AFP and PNP, on the other hand, assured that the security forces will continue to perform their functions in ensuring the safety and welfare of the people for the duration of the SOMO-SOPO, covering the country's Christmas and New Year's celebration.

“After the difficult trials of the past Christmas seasons, we pray for a peaceful, happy and hopeful season for everyone—a chance for all families and communities to come together in celebration and steadfast hope,” wished Deles.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=716639

Military hands over Php12.1M reward money to informants

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): Military hands over Php12.1M reward money to informants

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it has distributed Php12.1 million reward money to four military informants who provided crucial information which led to the arrest of wanted criminals.

Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the valuable information provided by the informants led to the successful arrest of an NPA leader and three members of the Abu Sayyaf Group.

One of them is notorious NPA bandit leader, Loida Magpatoc who carries a reward money of Php5.6 million.

She was put on the wanted list of criminals for serious offenses such as robbery, double homicide and damage to properties in several occasions.

Her bandit group perpetrated violent attacks against peaceful communities and government installations in both South Cotabato and North Cotabato from 2008 to 2010.

Also known as "Gwen" and "Bebyang", Magpatoc was captured by combined elements of the Army and the Police somewhere in Davao Del Sur on July 28, 2013.

The members of the Abu Sayyaf bandit group who were also arrested include Basal Talb Sali also known as "Gong-Gong Sali" and "Abu Husni" who carried a total of Php5.3 million bounty on their heads.

Another Abu Sayyaf bandits named Muktar Ladjaperma and Jailanl Basirul carried Php600,000.00 as cash reward for their arrest.

Sali was captured during law enforcement operations conducted by joint army and police elements in Payatas, Quezon City on July 25, 2012.

Ladjaperma was arrested during law enforcement operations conducted by joint elements of the Army, Task Force Zamboanga and PNP at Zamboanga City International Airport on June 3, 2013.

Basirul on the other hand, was captured by joint Army and PNP personnel in Zamboanga City on March 15, 2013.

They are granted cash rewards based on the DND-DILG Joint Order on Rewards that was promulgated in November 2012.

The reward program is orchestrated by the AFP thru the AFP-PNP Joint Rewards Valuation Committee (JRVC), which is co-chaired by the AFP Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, J2, and Philippine National Police.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=716674

3rd Infantry Division to comply with gov't SOMO initiatives

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): 3rd Infantry Division to comply with gov't SOMO initiatives

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division on Tuesday announced that it is committed to observing the rules and regulations set forth by the government's Suspension of Offensive Military Operations (SOMO).

The SOMO will become effective starting Dec. 18 and end on January 19.

With this development, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson Major Ray Tiongson said they will be suspending all deliberate offensive military operations in Western Visayas.

However, they will continue maintaining their presence in communities by conducting security patrols to maintain peace and security in these areas.

"Your Army remains committed and sincere in its resolve to peace especially during this Christmas Season. Our people deserve to celebrate the Yuletide peacefully," 3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.

Likewise, the 3rd Infantry Division will also maintain its activities supporting the government and civil authorities’ peace, development, law enforcement operations and humanitarian assistance programs.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) will continue with its proactive defense counter measures taking into consideration the transgressions of the New People's Army (NPA) in the past during a ceasefire.

Guerrero also instructed the units in the field to remain vigilant especially in protecting the civilian communities.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=716694

ROKAF contingent in Leyte feted for 'Yolanda' rehabilitation efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): ROKAF contingent in Leyte feted for 'Yolanda' rehabilitation efforts

For their exemplary role in stabilizing "Yolanda"-battered Palo, Leyte last year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Department of National Defense has expressed its appreciation to the 500 officers and enlisted personnel of the Republic of Korean Armed Forces (ROKAF) contingent in Eastern Visayas.

Awarding took place at 10 a.m. at Joint Support Group headquarters in Barangay Candahug, Leyte, AFP spokesperson Col Restituto Padilla said.

AFP chief-of-staff Gregorio Pio Catapang awarded the AFP Command Plaque and Commendation Medals to the mission commander Col. Lee Chul Won and the Korean contingent.

“The Korean disaster response contingent has been with us since Super Typhoon 'Yolanda' struck last year. They were among the first countries to respond and offer us aid. Without your help, our rebuilding efforts will not go on as smooth and as swiftly,” Catapang said.

Also present in the awarding ceremony were Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin and Office of Civil Defense administrator and incumbent National Risk Reduction and Management Council chief Undersecretary Alexander Pama.

Both cited the valuable role the ROKAF played in stabilizing the situation in "Yolanda"-battered Palo, Leyte.

Gazmin and Pama along with Korean dignitaries also facilitated the ribbon cutting ceremony at Araw Park to honor the ROKAF’s more than a year of aid to "Yolanda" survivors and support to the rehabilitation of Leyte.

Prior to their departure, which is estimated to be before the end of December, Padilla said that the ROKAF contingent will turnover to the Philippines some of their equipment, which include their field kitchens.

The AFP spokesperson said that they cannot give a more detailed list of the equipment to be donated as they are still waiting for a formal inventory.

He added that the pull out will be done as the ROKAF has already achieved its rehabilitation mission.

"(The ROKAF) will be leaving the Philippines after completion of their 'Yolanda' mission which calls for rehabilitation of areas battered by the supertyphoon. They (have) constructed a lot of houses and touched the lives of a lot of families , they have been doing feeding programs, they have been doing medical missions, they have been helping rebuild communities, they have helped build some roads, and done a lot of things," Padilla said

He attributes this to the gratitude of the South Koreans to the Philippines who helped them in their time of need during the Korean War.

"The Koreans felt a great sense of obligations to pay back what our veterans have done during the Korean War," Padilla said.

The South Korean contingent arrived in Tacloban City last Dec. 28.

They were aboard two of the South Korean Navy's landing ship tanks.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=716791

AFP to transfer Pemberton to another jail if ordered

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 16): AFP to transfer Pemberton to another jail if ordered

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday said it has no role in the trial of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton saved to secure the latter and if needed and ordered to, transfer the American prisoner to another jail facility.

The AFP made this statement after noting that prosecutors have already recommended that Pemberton be charged with murder in connection with the death of transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude last Oct. 11.

"The case of Pemberton is already in the hands of the prosecutors and the courts that is trying it and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Visiting Forces Commission," said AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.

He added that their role for the moment is to secure the suspect in their facility and to ensure that Pemberton is available for the courts once schedule for trials have been made.

"Whatever we are told to perform, we will readily comply. If he is asked to be placed in another facility and we are asked for our assistance, we will readily extend that," he added.

As this develops, the US, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), asserted custody over Pemberton.

"In accordance with the US-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the United States has a right to retain custody of a suspect from the commission of the alleged offense until the completion of all judicial proceedings," the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement posted on its website.

It added that "the United States will continue to cooperate with Philippine authorities in this case."

"The United States will continue to work closely with the Philippine government to help ensure justice is served and the rights of all persons are protected," it said.

"We again express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased," it added.

During investigation of the case, Pemberton was detained aboard US warship USS Peleliu in Subic Bay.

On Oct. 22, the suspect was flown from the USS Peleliu to Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo "where he will be held under US custody."

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=716897