Friday, December 19, 2014

Sulu checkpoint yields bomb-making materials

From GMA News (Dec 19): Sulu checkpoint yields bomb-making materials

Security forces at a checkpoint in Sulu found materials to make improvised bombs in a pickup used by suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf Group over the weekend.
Joint Task Group Sulu headed by Col. Allan Arrojado in coordination with Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 commander Lt. Col. Enstein Calaoa and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Police Regional Office OIC PSSupt. Noel Armilla conducted checkpoint operations prompted by a tip that alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf were passing through Barangay Bungkaong in Patikul town in a Mitsubishi pickup. 
The authorities found the following materials inside the vehicle:
  • Two 20-gallon containers of ammonium nitrate
  • Three Mk2 hand grenades
  • A plastic bottle filled with TNT
  • Two blasting caps
  • Nylon wire
  • Batteries and wirings
The passengers inside the vehicle were identified as Jumli Pulah, Hassan Jubakal, Ingki Abdula, and Basir Alih. 
The discovery happened a few weeks after a bus exploded in Bukidnon, killing 10 people and injuring several others.

The Philippine National Police linked the incident to an extortion attempt by a member of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. The BIFF has denied it was involved in the bombing.

Kin appeal to NPA for release of 2 abducted Army soldiers

From GMA News (Dec 20): Kin appeal to NPA for release of 2 abducted Army soldiers

Relatives of two Army soldiers abducted last Dec. 2 in Compostela Valley appealed to the New People's Army to release their captives before Christmas.

The wife of Cpl. Benjamin Samano and parents of Pfc. Alvin Ricarte made the appeal at a press conference, Davao-based news site Davao Today reported on Friday.

“We hope the NPA guerrillas are keeping them safe and would return them to us before Christmas. I likewise ask the military to stop its operations so that they would not be put in danger,” said Ruby Samano.

Angelina and Calvin Ricarte made a similar appeal, with Mrs. Ricarte saying their son "only performed his duty and have not even left the area."

Catholic priest Raymond Suela also appealed to the NPA to “let them go home especially now that it is Christmas.”

“To the military, we hope that they stop their operations for the safety of those who will release them (NPA), those who will facilitate for their release and the captured themselves. So the whole process will be faster, easier and orderly,” he said.

Reverend Jurie Jaime, a convener of Exodus for Justice and Peace, a third-party facilitator, also asked the NPA "to hear and answer calls of the families especially as it is Christmas time.”

But Jaime also called on the military to respect protocols the NPA will set for the release.

Davao Today cited an email statement from 1Lt. Vergel Lacamba, chief of the 10th Infantry Division’s Public Affairs Office, saying the two soldiers were “providing security assistance” to security guards “securing the airstrip of Sumifru Banana Plantation.”

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte also called for the release of Samano and Ricarte. “I said to the NPAs that I hope they release the two before Christmas,” he said.

US envoy’s media blitz scored as Pemberton defense

From the pro-CPP Bicol Today Online (Dec 18): US envoy’s media blitz scored as Pemberton defense

 Philip S. Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of
Philip S. Goldberg, U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines. Photo courtesy of

The ILPS Philippines Chapter charged that US Ambassador Philip Goldberg’s visit and live interview at a popular local radio station (DZRH) this morning is “meant for Pembertion’s defense and not for mutual defense.”

Goldberg’s visit followed the serving of an Olongapo City court warrant and widespread demands for Philippine custody of U.S. Marine Private Joseph Scott Pemberton charged for the murder of Filipino civilian Jenifer Laude.

“Pemberton is still in US custody and we demand that he be immediately handed over. Goldberg’s insistence that he is under the joint cooperation of US and Philippine authorities under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is just a cover for Pemberton’s defense and a travesty of Philippine sovereignty,” ILPS-Phils Chair Elmer Labog said.

“The Pemberton case exposes that the VFA has nothing mutual for Filipinos and Americans. The brutal killing of Laude demands justice. The VFA and so-called mutual defense agreements should be abrogated if we are to strive for peace and justice,” he added.

Goldberg paid a media visit to DZRH and was interviewed by veteran broadcast journalists Joe Taruc, Deo Macalma and Milky Rigonan. While he admitted that the US could not establish a direct link between the ISIS and local groups, the US ambassador justified the presence of US troops in the Philippines as part of their “train and assist” missions to the Philippine military commanded by Pres. Aquino.

“Human rights violations continue with impunity under this US training and presence. Their own troops, exemplified by Pemberton, are the real killing machines now of US Pres. Obama. They show the real face of the US drive for full spectrum dominance and military aggression. The use of soft power and media offensive of the US embassy could not hide the truth. The US is here solely for US imperialist interests,” the ILPS-Phils stated.

“The Filipino people seek to indict Obama and Aquino for the killings and other crimes in the Philippines. They are set to raise these issues during preparations over the holidays for the Pope’s upcoming visit.”

VIDEO: Celebration of the 79th AFP Day

From the Philippine government's Official Gazette (Dec 8): VIDEO: Celebration of the 79th AFP Day

December 18, 2014: President Benigno S. Aquino III participates in the celebration of the 79th Armed Forces of the Philippines Day. The President will be delivering remarks shortly.

AFP public affairs chief keeps his post, stays away from social media – military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 18): AFP public affairs chief keeps his post, stays away from social media – military

Lt Col Harold “Harry” M Cabunoc (Inf) PA.  CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

 Lt. Col Harold “Harry” M Cabunoc (Inf) PA. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
The beleaguered military public affairs chief, Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, will get to keep his job after all.

The Armed Forces spokesperson, Col. Restituto Padilla, Jr., said on Thursday that Cabunoc has not been relieved contrary to media reports, including a story that came out in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday.

“He’s staying,” Padilla said in an interview. “There’s no truth to reports that Lt. Col. Cabunoc has been relieved of the post. He continues to do the job in the same capacity.”

However, Padilla said Cabunoc himself had said he would “restrain himself from taking part in social media.”

Well-placed sources from the military had told the Inquirer that Cabunoc was on his way out as the chief of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). He was either to return to the Army to head another unit, or go on a study leave abroad starting January.

They maintained that their information was correct but Cabunoc himself texted the Inquirer on Thursday, saying this reporter’s sources were “misinformed.”

Cabunoc became controversial after he engaged netizens in a social media debate over several issues involving the military, particularly the one where the AFP was criticized for appearing to have sided with US Marine Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton when the family of his victim, transgender woman Jeffrey Jennifer Laude, stormed the AFP compound to get to where the American serviceman was being detained.

But even before that, he raised eyebrows after he limited the media and the public’s access to the AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO). The AFP PAO is the most open among all military offices owing to the fact that it serves information disseminated to the public.

Coming under attack from netizens, Cabunoc and even AFP Chief of staff Gregorio Pio Catapang became the subject of memes that made fun of their pronouncements and actions.

Cabunoc had asked for an investigation into the dissemination of the memes, suspecting that military officers themselves created these memes.

Padilla assured the public that the investigation would not cover civilians.

House approves PHL Maritime Zones bill

From the Business Mirror (Dec 19): House approves PHL Maritime Zones bill

THE House of Representatives recently approved on third and final reading a measure defining the country’s territorial waters.
House Bill (HB) 4889, or the “Philippine Maritime Zones Act,” seeks to provide for the necessary flexibility in the enactment of subsequent laws pertinent to the rights and obligations to which the Philippines is entitled and may exercise over its maritime zones in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

HB 4889 also provides for the sovereign rights or jurisdiction over these maritime zones, acquiring for the country the exclusive rights to explore and exploit living and non-living, organic or non-organic resources found in these zones, in accordance with Unclos and other existing laws and treaties.

The bill states “the maritime zones of the country shall be comprised of the internal waters, archipelagic waters, territorial sea, contiguous zone, exclusive economic zone [EEZ] and continental shelf.  All territories of the Philippines shall generate their respective maritime zones in accordance with international law.”

Archipelagic baselines, as used in the bill, shall refer to the baselines as defined under Republic Act (RA) 9522, titled “An Act to Amend Certain Provisions of RA 3046, as Amended by RA 5446, to Define the Archipelagic Baselines of the Philippines and for Other Purposes.”

Archipelagic waters shall refer to the waters on the landward side of the archipelagic baselines, except as provided for under the provisions defining the internal waters of the country.

Territorial sea shall refer “to the belt of sea measured 12 nautical miles from the baselines or from the low-water line, as the case may be.”

The Contiguous Zone shall refer to the “waters beyond and adjacent to the territorial sea and up to the extent of 24 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.” On the other hand, EEZ of the country shall refer to “the waters beyond and adjacent to its territorial sea and up to the extent of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”

Likewise, the bill states that the Continental Shelf of the Philippines shall be “comprised of the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance.”

The authors stressed that the Philippines shall exercise sovereign rights over the mentioned areas, including the right to explore and exploit its resources according to the Unclos and existing laws and treaties.

Furthermore, the bill provides that other rights not stipulated in this Act shall be exercised by the country in accordance with internal law and the law of the country.

If the maritime zones of the Philippines overlap with the maritime zones claimed by other countries, the Philippines shall delimit these zones and endeavor to resolve the overlaps according to the recognized means under international law,” the authors underscored.

Pemberton escorts cut steel fence to avoid media

From ABS-CBN (Dec 19): Pemberton escorts cut steel fence to avoid media

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton on Friday appeared before the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 three days after the court issued a warrant of arrest against him in connection with the October 11 murder of Filipino Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton was escorted by American and Filipino security forces from his detention facility at the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG) compound in Camp Aguinaldo to the Hall of Justice in Olongapo this morning.

To avoid the media, Pemberton's escorts passed through the back entrance of the Olongapo Hall of Justice where they cut part of the steel fence to pass.

Security guards and policemen also prohibited members of the media to go to the second floor of the building so that they would not be able to take videos and photos of the US Marine suspect.

The only photo and video of Pemberton were provided by the victim's sister, Marilou, and the Laude family's lawyer, Harry Roque.

During the booking process, Pemberton underwent a medical examination and his mugshots and fingerprints were taken.

Pemberton, however, was not arraigned as his lawyers asked for suspension of proceedings pending their appeal with the Department of Justice (DOJ) on its finding of probable cause to indict the American serviceman of murder.

According to the Laude family, they had mixed emotions when they saw Pemberton for the first time.

Marilou and Michelle said they were mad at Pemberton and wanted to ask him why he killed their sister Jennnfer. But they were not given a chance to do that since Pemberton was escorted by several US servicemen.

Nonetheless, they still felt relieved, saying the wheels of justice are now slowly turning in the case of Jennifer.

Their counsel, Virgie Suarez, said they will file several motions this afternoon, among them a motion to have Pemberton detained in a local jail and a motion to allow the media to cover the proceedings.

Suarez lambasted the allegedly VIP treatment being given to Pemberton, who she noted was even allowed to sneak in the rear entrance of the all of justice.

The court said it would hear Pemberton's pleadings on Monday, December 22. No schedule has been set for his arraignment.

Philippine Navy arming multi-purpose assault crafts with missile system

From Ang Malaya (Dec 18): Philippine Navy arming multi-purpose assault crafts with missile system

Philippine Navy Vice-commander Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad said that there will be three missile-armed multi-purpose assault craft (MPACS). “It will be armed with stabilized weapon system with fire control complemented with a short to medium range missile system.”

These MPACs will be used for territorial sea interdiction operations with maritime situational awareness and limited credible deterrence for the protection of the country’s interest at the West Philippine Sea, Taccad said in a modernization briefing.

Three out of six MPACs owned by Philippine Navy were from Taiwan while the other three were from Filipino shipbuilder Propmech Corporation in Subic Bay, Zambales.

Currently, MPACs are armed with a .50 caliber and two 7.62mm machine guns.

PHL Senate President favors Visiting Forces Agreement review

From Ang Malaya (Dec 18): PHL Senate President favors Visiting Forces Agreement review

”I am saddened with the position of the US. Their interpretation of the Visiting Force Agreement is very technical. They did not consider the request of the victim’s family,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.

Government of the United States of America through its Embassy in Manila denied Philippine custody for Private First Class Joseph Scott Pemberton who is charged with murder for killing a Filipino transgender.

Drilon said VFA provisions on custody and detention do not conform with Philippine Revised Penal Code. He added that the current case is a good opportunity to start the review of VFA.

”I’m in favor and in support of proposal to review the VFA,” the Senate President said.

AFP Chief to entire military: Be in defensive alert and avoid too much pork

From Ang Malaya (Dec 19): AFP Chief to entire military: Be in defensive alert and avoid too much pork

“We should be prepared for any eventuality, we need to be proactive to ensure that our patrol bases and our camps are not attacked,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang said.

Catapang noted that though the New People’s Army also declared a Yuletide truce the military should be cautious and be in defensive alert for possible attacks from rebels.

The AFP chief also advised his men not to eat too much lechon. “My command guidance for our troopers this holiday season is that they should be healthy and not to indulge too much lechon de leche as this could lead to the ingestion of too much cholesterol.”

Though their is a suspension for offensive operations against the NPA rebels, defensive operations which include securing of vital installations and infrastructure projects will continue.

AFP appreciates President Aquino’s commitment to military modernization

From Ang Malaya (Dec 19): AFP appreciates President Aquino’s commitment to military modernization

“I am confident that the direction that we are undertaking will make the AFP more responsive and responsible as a modern armed force,” Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang said as the military celebrates its 79th founding anniversary.

“We in the AFP publicly thank and praise our President, our Commander in Chief, Benigno S. Aquino III for his strong commitment and support to the AFP modernization program,” General Catapang expressed.

In 2015, the Philippine military is expecting for the delivery of 28 armored vehicles, three medium lift and two light lift aircraft, eight combat utility helicopters, eight attack and two naval helicopters, 10 amphibious vehicles and two fighter planes, the AFP Chief-of-Staff said.

“We have identified the capability gaps and have laid down the capability requirements for the three horizons of the AFP modernization. We came up with some approaches on how our funding requirements will be addressed,” he added.

US Marine Pemberton surrenders in Olongapo court

From Rappler (Dec 19): US Marine Pemberton surrenders in Olongapo court

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton surrenders

[Video report: US Marine Pemberton surrenders in Olongapo court]

In a much-awaited public appearance, the US serviceman suspected of murdering a transgender Filipino woman voluntarily surrenders Friday.

Buena Bernal files this video blog.

 Photo courtesy of Marilou Laude
Photo courtesy of Marilou Laude

It was a quick voluntary surrender here in Olongapo City for US visiting soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton, suspect in the murder of transgender Filipina Jennifer Laude.

The Laude camp describes Pemberton in a gray suit and in handcuffs escorted by US Marines in white polo long sleeves. This is his first public appearance after the tragic death of the 26-year-old transgender Visayan native that shook the LGBT community and reignited calls to end US military drills on Philippine soil.

Security was tight. Small crowds gathered to support the Laude family. Members of the press were barred from entering the court room - a rule slammed by private counsel for the Laude family, who also said the marine must be detained in a local jail.

Instead, clerk of court Gerry Gruspe says the court has ordered Pemberton's detention still inside the Philippine military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Laude's sister Marilou – still reeling from the loss of Jennifer – finds this unfair.

MARILOU LAUDE, SISTER OF JENNIFER: No special treatment. Equal treatment. Kung ano yung mga nangyari, kung ano yung mga ginagawa, o kung ano yung trinatrato ng mga ordinaryong nakakulong, ganon din ang trato sa kanya. (No special treatment. Equal treatment. Whatever is happening, whatever is being done, or whatever is the treatment for ordinary detainees, that is how he should be treated.)

Marilou vows to attend every hearing no matter how long it takes.

Witnesses said Pemberton arrived quietly through a cut-down portion of the metal fence here in the back exit of the justice hall at around 5 am. He left before 10 am, hidden from the glaring eyes of the media.

China lodges protest after Obama approves Taiwan frigate sale

From InterAksyon (Dec 19): China lodges protest after Obama approves Taiwan frigate sale

China said on Friday it had lodged a protest with the United States after President Barack Obama signed into law legislation authorizing the sale of up to four Perry-class guided missile frigates to Taiwan.

Foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said the Taiwan issue was one of China's core interests and remained the most important and most sensitive issue in Sino-U.S. ties.

"China firmly opposes the arms sale to Taiwan by the U.S. This position is resolute, clear and consistent," Qin told a daily news briefing.

"It is a crude interference of China's internal affairs, damages China's sovereignty and security interests and goes against the trend of peaceful development in cross-strait relations," he added.

"China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to this and has lodged solemn representations with the United States both in Beijing and Washington. We reserve the right to take further action."

Taiwan's defense ministry, which plans initially to buy two of the ships, expressed its thanks to the United States for approving the sale, saying it was in keeping with the U.S. commitment in the Taiwan Relations Act to support Taiwan's security.

Under the Taiwan Relations Act, enacted in 1979 when Washington severed formal ties with the island in favor of recognizing the People's Republic of China in Beijing, the United States is obligated to help Taiwan defend.

U.S. weapons sales in recent years to Taiwan have attracted strong condemnation in China, but have not caused lasting damage to Beijing's relations with either Washington or Taipei.

China and Taiwan have been ruled separately since defeated Nationalist forces fled to the island at the end of a civil war with the Communists in 1949. China has never renounced the use of force to bring Taiwan under its control.

Four suspected ASG men arrested in Sulu, bomb components confiscated

From InterAksyon (Dec 19): Four suspected ASG men arrested in Sulu, bomb components confiscated

Four suspected members of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) were arrested and a cache of paraphernalia for making bombs, including three hand grenades, were confiscated from them at a military checkpoint Thursday in Sitio Nangka, Barangay Bongkaong, Patikul, Sulu, the top military commander in the island province said Friday.

Colonel Allan Arrojado of the Joint Task Group Sulu identified the suspects as Jumli S. Pulah, Hassan I. Jubakal, Ingki H. Abdula, and Basir Alih.

The four were turned over to the police for further investigation after their arrest at around 8:30 p.m. by elements of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 9 (MBLT9).

"While the troops were manning the checkpoint, they received a tip from an informant about alleged ASG members traveling along the main supply route Latih-Bungkaong on board a Mitsubishi Triton Strada. Ours troops stopped the vehicle when it reached the checkpoint and ordered the passengers to step down from the car," Arrojado said.

During search, the car yielded two 20-gallon containers of ammonium nitrate, three MK2 hand grenades, a bottle with TNT, two blasting cups, nylon wire, batteries and wires, two cellular phone batteries, a black bag, face mask, and papers bearing mobile numbers, among others.

Philippines to get frigates, gunboats, helicopters as South China Sea tension simmers

From InterAksyon (Dec 19): Philippines to get frigates, gunboats, helicopters as South China Sea tension simmers


The Philippines aims to buy two frigates, two helicopters, and three gunboats for deployment in the South China Sea where a territorial dispute with China has lent urgency to the need to bolster forces, a Philippine navy officer said earlier this week.

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea, rejecting claims to parts of it by the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

The confrontation between the Philippines and China has been particularly tense since April 2012 when China seized a rocky outcrop known as the Scarborough Shoal which is believed to be rich in oil and natural gas as well as fisheries resources.

"The events in the West Philippine Sea actually gave some urgency on the acquisition," Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, head of the Philippine Navy's weapons system, told reporters Wednesday.

The Philippines has embarked on a 15-year, 90-billion peso ($2 billion) modernization program to improve its capability to defend its maritime borders.

The procurement list announced on Wednesday will be bought with 39 billion pesos from that budget.

The government aimed to sign contracts early next year for the new warships, Taccad said on board the navy's most powerful warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, a former US coastguard cutter.

China has been reclaiming land in various parts of the Spratlys islands and appears to be constructing airstrips and ports in five reefs to gain full control of them.

The Philippines, a close US ally, has brought an international arbitration case against China, seeking clarification on its entitlements under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has refused to take part in the arbitration. A ruling is expected late next year.

Vietnam recently submitted its position to the arbitration tribunal, drawing an angry response from China.

South Korea, Spain, and France had submitted tenders for two stealth, missile-guided frigates worth 18 billion pesos while Italy and Indonesia are bidding for two anti-submarine warfare helicopters, Taccad said.

Indonesia won contracts for two strategic sealift vessels and will deliver the first ship in early 2016. Taiwan and five other shipyards are competing for three missile-capable multi-purpose attack craft.

Coastal radars will be supplied by the United States.

($1 = 44.7200 pesos)

7 wounded in grenade explosion, gunfight in Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 19): 7 wounded in grenade explosion, gunfight in Philippines

Seven people were wounded in a grenade explosion and gun fight between warring families that erupted late Friday afternoon at a public market in the restive province of Maguindanao in the Muslim autonomous region in southern Philippines, the army said.

It said troops and policemen were pursuing one of the protagonists, Sauto Giti, of Campo Uno village in Maguindanao’s Matanog town who escaped following the violence in Parang town.

It was not immediately known what triggered the attack, but police were investigating the incident which is connected to clan war, according to Capt. Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division.

She said at least 5 bullet casings of 9mm pistol and the grenade’s safety lever were recovered in the area. “There is an ongoing operation to track down the perpetrator of this attack,” Petinglay told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

Petinglay said the wounded were rushed to hospital. She identified the wounded as Jamila Tomas, Abdullah Tomas, Saima Raoro, Salahodin Tomas, Camlon Raoro, Sirikit Magayan and another individual who name is only Locman.

Clan war or locally known as “rido” is common in many parts of the Muslim autonomous region and the U.S. Agency for International Development and think-tank Asia Foundation said that more than 3,000 people had been killed in over the past seven decades in family feuds.

Rido can involve disputes among family members or among two or more rival families, pitting neighbors or different ethnic groups against each other. The disputes center on issues of land, money, marriage or political power and involve revenge killings.

The violence increases with each act of retaliation, broadening to include those not directly involved in the dispute, including women and children, according to the Asia Foundation, adding, some feuds lasted for decades.