Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Businessmen back palm oil project for NPA stronghold in Davao City

From the Business World (Dec 23): Businessmen back palm oil project for NPA stronghold in Davao City

Businessmen are backing Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte’s attempts to persuade the New People’s Army (NPA) to drop its opposition to a 20,000-hectare oil palm plantation planned for Paquibato District, the city’s poorest area.
Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Incorporated (DCCCII) President Antonio T. Dela Cruz told BusinessWorld the Paquibato community will benefit from the investment, which was proposed by a group from Malaysia, by creating jobs, stimulating the local economy and possibly putting an end to hostilities in the area.

“I think they are much eager to introduce (palm oil) in Mindanao because as you know (Malaysia) brokered the peace initiative between the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and the GRP (government of the Republic of the Philippines),” Mr. Dela Cruz said.

The DCCCII head added that the Malaysians have presumably looked at Mindanao for its potential as a palm oil growing area. He also noted that Malaysia, along with Indonesia, is among the biggest palm oil producers in the world.

The mayor has been holding talks with the NPA to welcome the oil palm proposal in Paquibato, a known NPA stronghold, where placards have been put up against the project.
Mr. Duterte said, “The communist party is against the oil palm industry. I don’t know why but according to them it would dissipate the ground water... Then why has Malaysia become so rich? Malaysia has been planting and replanting in the same land and in the same terrain.”

“Paquibato is the poorest district in our city so the people there must be productive. That is why I am insisting that they make use of the land,” he said.
Mr. Dela Cruz said while the first three years of oil palm farming would not be profitable, the succeeding 25 years are almost guaranteed.

“The hard part is the first three years because the investment is huge. From there on you can start harvesting. Production will continue for 25 years,” he said, quoting the Consul General of Malaysia with whom he had a discussion.

Meanwhile, the NPA released Sunday afternoon two army soldiers they abducted and have been holding captive since Dec. 2 after attacking a banana plantation in Davao del Norte province.

The two soldiers, Corporal Benjamin Enot Samano and Private First Class Alvin Ricarte, were released to Mr. Duterte after he brokered the negotiations.

“I am telling the NPAs now that I would like the soldiers to be with their families on Christmas Day. It could not be any clearer than that,” Mr. Duterte said on Sunday before the release.

Despite the incident, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) noted an increase in the number of NPA rebels who surrendered to the authorities since January this year.

Major Ezra Balagtey, Eastmincom public information officer, said 455 rebels laid down their arms in 2014 compared to 274 last year.
Several local government units in Mindanao, including Davao City, have programs for rebel returnees to help them re-integrate into society.

4 gunmen abduct Comval jail warden - report

From the Philippine Star (Dec 24): 4 gunmen abduct Comval jail warden - report


Four armed men abducted the provincial jail warden of Compostela Valley on Tuesday night.

Initial report said that Jose Mervin Coquilla, Compostela Provincial Jail warden, was forcibly taken by gunmen around 8:10 p.m. while he was keeping watch on his car wash business near his house in Barangay Sto.NiƱo, Panabo City.

The armed men dragged Coquilla to a waiting pick up truck then sped away from the area, the report said.

Authorities are now conducting hot pursuit operations to rescue Coquilla.


‘BIFF factions helped craft Bangsamoro law’

From the Philippine Star (Dec 24): ‘BIFF factions helped craft Bangsamoro law’

Moderate factions of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), were invited to help provide inputs in the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) confirmed Saturday.

OPAPP Undersecretary Joe Lorena said only factions that were considered moderate were invited by the Congressional Committee on the Bangsamoro to help craft the law.

Lorena said those invited were mostly from Lanao and not from the hardline faction of Amir Umbra Kato.

“Even those in the BIFF, they have frictions,” he said.

Lorena said the Committee on the Bangsamoro did not specify any leader, but wanted all who wish to participate to do so.

 “After the consultation, some of the BIFF leaders gave their opinion about the Bangsamoro region. Some were supportive while others had reservations. I think Congress wanted to see an organized position of the BIFF,” Lorena said.

He said the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had no hand in inviting the BIFF.

He said the invitation came from the committee.

Lorena said they have also invited representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under Nur Misuari, through its spokesman, who are not facing criminal cases.

Abu Sayyaf bandits were not invited, being outlaws faction, wanted not only by the government but also by the international community.


Thousands attend MILF's political party launching

From the Philippine Star (Dec 24): Thousands attend MILF's political party launching

Members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. AP file

Thousands of guerillas and supporters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front converged at Camp Darapanan on Wednesday to show force in the launching of the MILF's pioneering United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP).

The MILF already sought accreditation for the UBJP from the Commission on Elections to enable the party to pit candidates for local positions and elective posts in the upcoming Bangsamoro government during the 2016 electoral exercise.

Sammy Al-Mansour, UBJP secretary-general, said the gathering of  "volunteers" at Camp Darapanan is an initial decentralization stride meant to organize community-based partisan blocs that can help educate the public on peace and development objectives of the newly-formed political party.


Military foils bombing of Catholic mass in Sulu

From the Manila Standard Today (Dec 24): Military foils bombing of Catholic mass in Sulu

SECURITY forces foiled a bomb attack by the Abu Sayyaf in a plaza in Jolo at dawn on Tuesday following their discovery of an improvised explosive device shortly after the end of a dawn mass in a Catholic Church.

Col. Allan Arrojado, head of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said the operatives found the bomb in the park hours after the dawn mass and subsequently detonated it.

He said the security forces were on a routine patrol with K9 units when they found the bomb.

“That device could have killed people in the immediate vicinity had it exploded,” Arrojado said.

“Civilians noticed the wiring. We are thankful that it was found and reported to us.”

Arrojado made his statement even as an Army official said Tuesday they were not taking any chances but were getting alert for any eventuality as the Communist Party of the Philippines celebrates its founding anniversary on Dec. 26.

Both the military and the communists have declared ceasefire during the holidays, but AFP spokesman Col Restituto Padilla said the military will remain on alert.

“The AFP will be on the alert but will not launch any kind of offensive,” Padilla said.

He said the military was optimistic the communists would finally realize that their armed struggle would not succeed.

“The government is hopeful that they will reconsider renouncing their armed struggle and instead join the mainstream, participate in the political system without the arms and help bring about a much more peaceful and progressive Philippines for the betterment of all our citizens,” Padilla said.

Arrojado said the bomb containing water, ammonium nitrate and nails was packed in a cellophane plastic containing two 1.5-liter plastic Coke bottles.

He said Abu Sayyaf planted the bomb to divert the military’s attention from the ongoing all-out law enforcement operation in Sulu.

Government forces are still pursuing the Abu Sayyaf to stop them from kidnapping and harassing the civilian population.


PNP to sue Marine for death of military officer

From ABS-CBN (Dec 23): PNP to sue Marine for death of military officer

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to file murder charges against Marine Lt Jr Grade Benjie J. Chico, the officer implicated in the killing of fellow AFP junior officer Lt. Shelina Calumay inside Fort Bonifacio, Taguig.

Calumay was found dead inside her vehicle on the morning of November 28, with a bullet wound to the head.

Eyewitnesses identified Chico as the last person seen with Calumay.

The victim's husband, Sgt. Jeremy Calumay - also a Marine - showed a text message from his wife the night before she was found dead.

In it, the victim said she would go straight home after taking a certain "Chico" back to the Marine headquarters.

Police found Chico's testimony inconsistent with the testimonies of the others.
"Sa statement niya, huli daw nilang pagkikita ni Calumay at 12:30 ng tanghali. Pero may text yung asawa na siya ang kasama ni Calumay nung gabi. Lumalabas na magkaiba yung statement nila," said Chief Inspector Benito Basilio, chief of the Taguig City police investigation division.

"Sa nakikita namin, si Chico ang suspect namin," confirmed Basilio.

The PNP sees treachery in the way Calumay was shot, warranting their decision to charge Chico with murder instead of homicide.

The bullet that killed Calumay entered from the back of the head and exited through her cheek, exiting again through the car's windshield.

"May intensyon siyang patayin," said Basilio.

Chico, however, turned up negative in the parrafin test conducted on him before he fled. There are also no weapons registered to his name, said the PNP.


Prosecutors ask judge in Pemberton case to inhibit

From Rapple (Dec 24): Prosecutors ask judge in Pemberton case to inhibit

Laude prosecutors say RTC judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde was a former classmate of Pemberton's counsel, Rowena Garcia-Flores

Government prosecutors representing the family of slain transgender woman Jennifer Laude have asked Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde to inhibit from the case.

On Monday, December 22, public prosecutors said Ginez-Jabalde was a former classmate of Rowena Garcia-Flores, counsel for US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Flores, according to Laude family private counsel Harry Roque, responded in turn by saying Olongapo Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos was in the same school, Manuel L. Quezon University, as the spouse of Ginez-Jabalde.

In a phone interview with Rappler, Roque said that although the Laude family's team of private lawyers supported the motion to inhibit, he personally believed the personality of the sitting judge would not factor into the actual decision.

"We joined the public prosecutors," Roque said, "But we feel the evidence is overwhelming and we don’t really care which judge sits."

The 26-year-old Laude was found on October 11 this year, naked and slumped lifeless in the toilet of the Celzone Lodge, a low-budget hotel in Olongapo City. Her lower body was covered with a blanket, and there were marks of strangulation around her neck. Witnesses said she was last seen in the company of the 19-year-old marine.

Police said the cause of death was “asphyxia by drowning.”

Laude's family filed a murder complaint against Pemberton on October 15 before the prosecutor's office in Olongapo City. A warrant for his arrest was released the next day.

Not enough evidence

A petition filed today by Pemberton's lawyer with the Department of Justice argued that prosecutors did not present enough evidence to charge him with the killing of Jennifer Laude. The petition said evidence linking Pemberton to the killing was "based on nothing but conjectures and speculations."

"There was no evidence presented as to the details of the purported assault during the preliminary investigation other than the surmises and conjectures of the supposed witnesses and the baseless conclusions of the (Olongapo) police," the petition argued.

Although the murder case against Pemberton was filed with the Olongapo RTC, a petition to the justice department is also an option for the accused in such criminal cases.

Pemberton also wanted court hearings suspended pending a decision on his petition. Roque said the prosecution had already formally opposed the petition. Prosecutors argued a suspension would delay proceedings, which under a US-Philippine agreement must be completed in a year.

Roque said Pemberton's petition was "not a basis for suspension, especially for cases like this."

Coverage and custody

The high-profile case has inflamed anti-US sentiment in the Philippines and strained relations between the longtime allies, which both sought custody of the suspect.

Although the murder complaint was heard by the Olongapo RTC, Pemberton is being kept at a US holding facility inside the Philippine military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo. He is still under US custody.

The US denied an official request from the Philippine government for custody over Pemberton. The government said the refusal is allowed under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). Roque said the Laude family will challenge the Philippines' refusal to appeal the US' custody. Detainees on trial are normally housed in Olongapo district jails.

The private prosecutors, said Roque, already filed a motion to move Pemberton to the custody of the local jail.

The private prosecution team also filed an urgent motion for media coverage. Citing the public's right to know, prosecutors requested for permission to allow the media to enter the court room and cover the hearings.

Reporters in Pemberton's earlier hearings were barred from entering the courtroom.


Court suspends US Marine's murder trial

From Rappler (Dec 23): Court suspends US Marine's murder trial

(UPDATED) The Olongapo court also junks motions filed by the counsel of the Laude family to move Joseph Scott Pemberton to a jail in Olongapo City and to allow media to cover his murder trial

MUGSHOT. A handout photo dated 19 December 2014 released on 21 December 2014 by the Olongapo City Police Public Information Office (PIO) shows US Marine Private First Class Joseph Pemberton at the Olongapo police station in Olongapo city, north of Manila, Philippines. Photo from EPA/PNP OLONGAPO-PIO
MUGSHOT. A handout photo dated 19 December 2014 released on 21 December 2014 by the Olongapo City Police Public Information Office (PIO) shows US Marine Private First Class Joseph Pemberton at the Olongapo police station in Olongapo city, north of Manila, Philippines. Photo from EPA/PNP OLONGAPO-PIO

A local trial court granted on Tuesday, December 23, the motion of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton to suspend his murder trial pending the resolution of a petition for review he filed before the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking the dismissal of the case against him.

The suspension will last 60 days. Lawyer Harry Roque, counsel of the family of slain Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, said they will ask the court to reconsider its ruling.

The Olongapo court also junked the family's motion to move Pemberton to a jail in Olongapo City and to allow media to cover his murder trial.

"We will move for reconsideration on all 3 orders. We can't afford 60 days of suspension since we only have one year [to complete trial]," Roque told Rappler.

Government prosecutors representing Laude's family also earlier asked Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde to inhibit from the case on the ground that she is a former classmate of Pemberton's counsel Rowena Garcia-Flores.

Delay proceedings?

While the petition filed with the justice department is an option for the accused, Philippine prosecutors argued that this would delay proceedings.

"A party can always go up to the Secretary of Justice to review the resolution of a lower prosecution office," an ABS-CBN news report quoted Olongapo City Prosecutor Emilie Fe delos Santos as saying.

Pemberton filed back-to-back motions in response to the murder case filed by government prosecutors against him with the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court on December 15. First, he filed before the local court a motion to suspend his murder trial. Next, he filed before the Department of Justice a motion to dismiss the murder charge.
Media was barred from entering the Olongapo court when Pemberton appeared on December 19 for a routine booking procedure. His scheduled arraignment did not push through because of his motion to suspend his trial.

In the petition filed with DOJ, Pemberton's lawyer said that prosecutors did not present enough evidence to charge him with the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

The body of Laude, 26, was found at a cheap hotel in the red light district of the northern port of Olongapo in October after she checked in with Pemberton, police in that city said.
Pemberton's lawyers said evidence linking him to the killing was "based on nothing but conjectures and speculations."
"There was no evidence presented as to the details of the purported assault during the preliminary investigation other than the surmises and conjectures of the supposed witnesses and the baseless conclusions of the (Olongapo) police," the petition argued.
The high-profile case has caused anti-US sentiment in the Philippines and strained relations between the longtime allies, which both sought custody of the suspect.
The US government has refused to hand over custody to Philippine authorities even after prosecutors charged Pemberton with murder.
He is currently under US military guard at a Philippine military base in Manila.

NPA rebels torch construction equipment in CamNorte

From Rappler (Dec 24): NPA rebels torch construction equipment in CamNorte

The attack happens before the NPA-declared ceasefire and in the middle of a suspension of military operations by the AFP Southern Luzon Command

Suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) torched construction equipment in Paracale, Camarines Norte, on Monday, December 22.

Four heavy construction equipment were torched at around 10 pm in Barangay Gumaos, where a bridge was being constructed, the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said in a statement.

"A backhoe, a road roller, and two pay loaders of the Varin Construction Company were burned by suspects who introduced themselves as NPA members," said Lt. Col. Medel Aguilar, commander of the 49th Infantry Battalion.

The suspects told Justino Cardenas, assistant foreman of the construction company, that the attack was carried out as punishment to the contractor for not giving in to their extortion demands.

The attack happened before the NPA-declared ceasefire on December 24 to 26, December 31 to January 1, and January 15 to 19, 2015.

The AFP Solcom likewise implemented a suspension of military operations (SOMO) starting midnight of December 18, 2014, until January 19, 2015.

"They took advantage of the SOMO by attacking unarmed civilians and a government project," Aguilar said.

Soldiers have been deployed in Bgy. Gumaos to secure the area, said Aguilar. Despite the burning incident, the AFP Solcom said it will continue the observance of the SOMO.

In addition, a conference for all contractors was scheduled on December 28 by 902nd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Amador Tabuga to coordinate security arrangements for all government projects in Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur.

"We will continue to undertake active security operations and proactive actions to secure civilian communities, government establishments, investment facilities, vital installations, and military bases to ensure the safe and secure celebration of the Yuletide season," said AFP Solcom chief Maj. Gen. Ricardo Visaya.


More ships, choppers arriving in 2015 to enhance PH Navy capability

From InterAksyon (Dec 24): More ships, choppers arriving in 2015 to enhance PH Navy capability

File photo of a strategic sealift vessel. (Photo: angmalaya.net)

Three frigates, three anti-submarine helicopters, and three strategic sealift vessels.

These are just some of the combat-ready vehicles the Philippine Navy is expecting to arrive next year as part of the armed forces modernization program under the Aquino administration.

Col. Edgard Arevalo, spokesman of the Philippine Navy, said the arrival of the ships and helicopters will contribute greatly to enhance the navy’s patrol capability.
Aside from patrolling our shores, the strategic sealift vessels can easily transport a battalion of Marines or Army troopers to different locations of the archipelago, said Arevalo.

The sealift vessels, also known as landing platform docks, can also be used to transport relief goods, medical personnel and even vehicles, logistics and equipment for relief and rescue operations in places ravaged by calamities such as typhoons.

The anti-submarine helicopters can be loaded onto the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and the BRP Artemio Ricarte to enhance the maritime forces guarding our territorial waters, particularly the islands in the West Philippine Sea, Arevalo added.

The Philippine Navy also plans to install a missile system in the Jacinto-class patrol ships PS 35 and PS 37.


AFP on rights story: Old issue

From the Philippine Star (Dec 23): AFP on rights story: Old issue

A report from North Carolina that the Armed Forces lost more than $13 million in US aid since 2008 for failing to improve its human rights record is a rehash of old issues, the military said yesterday.

Armed Forces spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla said the issues contained in the report of North Carolina-based human rights watchdog Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP) have been addressed a long time ago.

“We are also not aware of any aid that has been put on hold,” he said.
Padilla said the US has vowed to help the Philippines improve its security capabilities.

“The Philippines and US defense and military alliance remains strong, with the US affirming its commitment to assist the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its capability development the way the AFP may desire to and in a manner consistent with US laws,” he said.

“The alliance also remains relevant and cooperation between the two countries has never been this good.”

Padilla said the Armed Forces is stepping up measures to promote respect for human rights among its ranks.

“The AFP is among the best in the world that has adopted within its professional military training and education system a consistent and responsive human rights awareness and training regimen,” he said.

These trainings are given to recruits from the point of entry into the service and throughout their training courses, Padilla said.

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) spokesman Marc Titus Cebreros said the Philippines has a better human rights climate under President Aquino.

“However, the government must do more in terms of ending impunity,” he said.

Cebreros said the recent US Senate committee report on enhanced interrogation techniques of the Central Intelligence Agency has put a lot of pressure on the US government to reaffirm its human rights commitments, especially concerning its relationships with allies like the Philippines.

“We hope that this development would further convince the administration of President Aquino, along with the security sector, of the need to invest more time and resources on concrete human rights deliverables,” he said.

The government must arrest and convict human rights violators and eliminate torture and hazing, Cebreros said.

Speaking during the commemoration of International Human Rights Day,
CHR Chairman Loretta Ann Rosales noted a “gawking chasm” between human rights aspirations and the reality on the ground.

“Even today people still complain of insecurity and fear within their communities against abuse of authority by state actors, including local government officials, prison officials, the police and the military,” she said.

“While enforced disappearances are much reduced from the past, they still remain a threat. The same holds true for arbitrary killings that victimize not only the critics of government but with greater frequency to petty criminal offenders, many of them minors or living on the street.”

In its report, EANP said the US Congress has expressed “serious concerns” about the military’s lack of progress on human rights.

US lawmakers were also reluctant to approve the $1.1-trillion US budget for 2015 allocating $50 million in credits for the Armed Forces to buy firearms, EANP added.

The funding can only be released if the AFP prosecutes soldiers involved in human rights violation, implements a policy that promotes professionalism and respect for human rights, and ensures that its troops are not intimidating and harming journalists and human rights defenders.

EANP said 152 activists have been killed, while 18 others have disappeared since Aquino assumed office in 2010.

Not one mastermind has been convicted, EANP added.


Sulu bomb attack foiled

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 24): Sulu bomb attack foiled

Government troops foiled an attempt by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to bomb a public park in Sulu where an improvised explosive device (IED) was discovered.

Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, said that joint elements of the Jolo Internal Defense Force (JIDF), Explosives and Ordnance Division (EOD) of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) and Jolo police recovered the IED at the Jolo Plaza Park at around 10:30 a.m.

The place was near a Catholic church where the traditional “Simbang Gabi” are being held.

With the aid of K9 units, the authorities found the IED and subsequently detonated the bomb.

Arrojado said that the IED was found packed in a cellophane plastic containing two 1.5 liter Coke and mineral water with ammonium nitrate. The IED was also packed with nails as shrapnel.

“This can inflict (harm) and can kill in the immediate vicinity if exploded. We are thankful that it was found and reported to us,” Arrojado said.

Arrojado cited the timely information provided by concerned citizens in the area.

“The civilians noticed the wiring,” he added.

Arrojado said that the IED was planted by the Abu Sayyaf terrorists to divert government attention from the ongoing all-out law enforcement operation in Sulu.
“Of course the ASG,” replied Arrojado when asked who could be behind the foiled bombing, adding “to divert the ongoing law enforcement operation which is ongoing until now,” Arrojado said.


MNLF: MILF propaganda ‘moronic’

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 24): MNLF: MILF propaganda ‘moronic’

The Moro National Liberation Front has branded as “moronic propaganda” the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s pronouncement that the silence of MNLF Chairman Nur Misuari on the government and MILF proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) means “greatness in the offing.”

Lawyer Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman for the MNLF faction of Misuari, stressed that they are silent not because they agree with the BBL, which is currently undergoing congressional scrutiny both by the Senate and the House of Representatives.

In an editorial posted over its website, the MILF cited the silence of Misuari on the BBL. It said that while the MILF, which broke away from Misuari’s MNLF in the 1990s, does not expect Misuari to come out openly for BBL, his silence signals greatness in the offing.

The MILF also claimed that Moros in the island-provinces of the Tawi Tawi, Basilan and Sulu – all known to be strongholds of Misuari’s MNLF, have expressed overwhelming support for the BBL.

“That’s the most weird statement from somebody. We are silent because we do not recognize the process. It is the most moronic propaganda,” Fontanilla told The Tribune.

Fontanilla stressed that the MNLF, most especially Misuari, has not recognized the government-MILF peace agreement.

On the other hand, Fontanilla expressed no surprise over MILF’s citing of the significance of Misuari as MNLF chairman.

“That’s the undisputed truth. Nobody can deny it. Even the government deals with the MNLF,” said Fontanilla.

In fact, Misuari established the Bangsamoro Republik in protest of the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) between the government of the Philippine (GPH) and the MILF which paved the way for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and eventually the BBL.

The BBL, if signed into law, would create a new Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which was a result of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between the MNLF and the government.

In August 2013, Misuari and his supporters declared independence from the Philippine government and formally launched the Bangsamoro Republik. A month later, around 300 MNLF fighters laid sieged on Zamboanga City that led to a 20-day armed confrontation with government security forces.

The siege resulted in the killing of more than 200 individuals –mostly MNLF fighters, while more than 100,000 persons were displaced.

The government filed rebellion and genocide charges Misuari and four other MNLF commanders, including Ustadz Habier Malik.

Fontanilla pointed out that the MNLF would only get involved in a process facilitated by the powerful Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC).

Meanwhile, the political director of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Southern Mindanao has accused the military of violating its own ceasefire by deploying more troops in the region and hamletting civilian communities.

Simon Santiago of the Southern Mindanao Regional Political Department under the NPA-Merardo Arce Command (NPA-MAC) said “reports from the field reveal the duplicity of the US-Aquino regime’s one-month Suspension of Military Operations (SOMO) and Suspension and Police Operations (SOPO.)”

Santiago stressed that before the start of its own supposed SOMO and SOPO on Dec. 18 and up to this day, combat forces under the Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continue to occupy and operate in many towns and provinces in Southern Mindanao and nearby regions.

These areas are:
Davao City –Mapula, Lumiad, Paquibato Proper and Malabog in Paquibato district; Dominga in Calinan district; Marilog; Salaysay and Tambobong in Baguio district;
Compostela Valley- Kingking, Napnapan, Tibagon and Las Arenas in Pantukan town; Panamin and Anitapan in Mabini town; Nuevo, Nueva, Andili and Sta. Monica in Mawab town; Cabandianan and Mainit in Nabunturan town; Palok, Mahayahay, Parasanun and Tandik in Maragusan town; Tagibo in Mati city; Kauswagan and Maputi in Banaybanay town; San Isidro, New Visayas, Don Mariano, Maragatas, Kalapagan and Marayag in Lupon town; Lapu-lapu and San Jose in San Isidro town; Casoon in Monkayo; Montevista; Sangab, New Visayas, Lapulapu, Teresa, Masara, Mainit, Panuraon, Elizalde and Malamudaw in Maco; Ngan in Compostela town, and Manurigao in New Bataan town;
Davao Oriental- Tigbawan, Binondo and Mahan-ub in Baganga town; Taytayan, Malibago, Bangas, Mainit in Cateel town; Catihan in Boston town;
North Cotabato- Panaca, Linabo, Kinarum, Bangkal, Amabel, Noa, Binay, Bagumbayan, Balete, Basak, Mahungkog, Manitbesa, Mamaling and Bongulanon in Magpet town;
Agusan del Sur area- towns of Dona Josefa, Veruela, Sabud and Kauswagan in Loreto town, and; Salvacion and New Visayas in Trento town.
The continued troop deployment, build-up and hamletting in these areas belie the claim made by the US-Aquino regime in declaring a ceasefire during the traditional Christmas season. The presence of the troops in these areas does not appear to be risk-free, undisruptive or inoffensive, but comprises actual offensive manoeuvres within and in the periphery of guerrilla territories. Their blatant occupation of civilian areas while supposedly in suspended military operations is highly provocative and increases the risk of armed engagements with the Red fighters amid civilian-populated areas,” Santiago stressed.

In Barangay Catihan, Boston, 14 soldiers belonging of the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) occupy the multipurpose gym, houses, and videoke bars, ad they intensify intelligence activities.

Members of the Bravo Company stay in civilian houses in Sitio Bangas, Barangay Mainit, Cateel.


‘Bangsamoro is open to foreign investments’

From the Business World (Dec 23): ‘Bangsamoro is open to foreign investments’

THE MORO Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is open to the idea of letting foreign investors in the proposed Bangsamoro territory once it is formally established to drive the economic growth and development in the region.

However, the group is only prepared to participate in “exploratory talks” for now, MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said last week.

“We are open to foreign investments, although at this point in time, it is not yet timely to be giving go signals and entering into deals. For now, there can be exploratory talks just to start things,” Mr. Iqbal told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.

Mr. Iqbal also clarified points raised in an editorial on the group’s Web site cautioning would-be investors in the Bangsamoro Region, reminding them that the current business climate in the area is “not yet normal.”

“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,” the MILF Web site luwaran.com said in an editorial published Tuesday.

The MILF piece warned companies to be careful in dealing with prospective partners who offer vast tract of lands for their plantation farms.

“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,” the editorial said.

Meanwhile, pressed on the issue of letting extractive industries in, such as mining companies, Mr. Iqbal said that such issues must be studied first due to the potential environmental degradation it would create.

“We are cautious about those but it’s not to say that we are not open to it. We want industries that are environment-friendly. So, in those cases, there should be clear parameters,” Mr. Iqbal explained.

Political analyst and executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform Ramon C. Casiple believes that the MILF commentary holds water and that prudence dictates that investors should wait on the fate of the Bangsamoro Basic Law first before embarking on new ventures.

“That warning has basis because the matter of the development of the resources in the area as well as the other economic activities will have to go through the new Bangsamoro entity,” Mr. Casiple told BusinessWorld in a phone interview.

“Of course, it won’t apply to businesses which are already established there -- because it’s already there. Though it may be subject to some policies that will come out after the establishment of the new [Bangsamoro] entity,” he added.

Business entities that can’t afford to wait on making investments in the proposed autonomous region should first seek concurrence of both the national government and the MILF to avoid difficulties and complications in the future, Mr. Casiple said.

The proposed Bangsamoro territories include the present areas of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, composed of the five provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Also included in the planned core territories are the cities of Cotabato and Isabela as well as 78 barangays located in 12 municipalities in Mindanao.


THANKS, FAREWELL | Korean volunteers for Yolanda victims exit PH, leave P200-M gear to AFP

From InterAksyon (Dec 23): THANKS, FAREWELL | Korean volunteers for Yolanda victims exit PH, leave P200-M gear to AFP

Following a successful humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) mission in typhoon-stricken areas of Leyte, military volunteers from South Korea flew home Monday, leaving over P200 million worth of HADR equipment to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.Among the equipment turned over to the AFP are excavators, forklifts, dump trucks, tractors, pay loaders and backhoes. Other equipment for administrative purposes such as buses, fumigation vehicle, medical supplies and container vans were also turned over to the AFP.

A simple send-off ceremony for the Republic of Korea Armed Forces (ROKAF) Contingent to Leyte was held at Mactan Air Base in Lapu-lapu City, Cebu. this was attended by senior military officers led by Major General Eusaquito P Manalo, Commander of the 2nd Air Division, Philippine Air Force; and Mr Ki-seog Lee, the Korean Consul General based in Cebu City.

Recognition from AFP top brass

Just recently, the ROKAF contingent to Leyte was recognized by the AFP leadership for their invaluable and selfless efforts in aiding victims of Typhoon Yolanda since last year.

In a Mission Completion Ceremony held on December 16 at the ROKAF Joint Support Group headquarters in Brgy Candahug, AFP Chief of Staff, General Gregorio Pio P. Catapang Jr. - along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Undersecretary Alexander Pama, chief of the Office of Civil Defense - awarded the AFP Command Plaque and Commendation Medals to the mission commander, Col. Lee Chul Won and the Korean contingent.

The military volunteers from the ROKAF were among the first to render HADR and clearing operations in places hard-hit by Typhoon Yolanda, particularly in the provinces of Eastern Samar, Eastern Leyte and in Ormoc City.

The Korean military personnel, in cooperation with the AFP, national government agencies and other local government units, were deployed all over the affected areas and participated in the delivery of relief goods and other humanitarian services even in inaccessible areas which were isolated for days without food and water.

Decades-long alliance

The Republic of Korea and the Philippines share more than 60 years of partnership which is deeply rooted in the sacrifices of Filipino soldiers from the Philippine Expeditionary Force to Korea (PEFTOK) who fought and died alongside South Koreans during the Korean War in the 1950s.

Among the most famous Filipinos who saw action in South Korea are former president and then 1Lt. Fidel V. Ramos who led the assault on Hill Eerie on May 21, 1952; Colonel Nicanor Jimenez who commanded the 14thBattalion Combat Team; and then Lt. Col. Teodolfo Bautista, the late father of former AFP Chief of Staff, Retired General Emmanuel Bautista.

A total of 112 Filipino soldiers perished in battle while defending South Korea against the communist North Korea and China; 313 were wounded and 16 men remain officially missing-in-action to this day.

The Philippines was one of the first countries that extended help to the South Korean government against the invasion of the communist North Korea. It also helped South Korea rebuild itself after the war in 1953.

Since the deployment of PEFTOK, both countries have deepened their relations, with South Korea becoming one of the Philippines’ most important bilateral partners.

Major supplier of PH defense hardware

South Korea is one of the major suppliers of the Philippines’ military equipment such as vehicles, light machine guns and assorted ammunitions.

In the near future, the AFP will also be procuring 12 FA-50 fighter jets from South Korea as part of the military’s modernization and capability upgrade program. The first few units are expected to be delivered in 2015.

South Korea also offers various programs to benefit PEFTOK veterans and their dependents in the Philippines. This includes the "Korea Revisit Program" where PEFTOK veterans and some of their dependents are invited to revisit Korea for a week with free air fare and hotel accommodation. The Korean Government also supports PEFTOK scholars studying in South Korea.


MILF convenes caucus today

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 22): MILF convenes caucus today

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is intensifying its entry into the world of Philippine politics with a huge meeting scheduled on December 23 to 24 in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

An MILF official told the Manila Bulletin yesterday that at least 26,000 participants coming from the areas where the new Bangsamoro entity will be established are expected to attend the caucus.

The huge turnout was assured after key MILF officials pledged to bring their followers and supporters to the event.

This will not include those who will be coming on their own to see for themselves the revolutionary group’s transformation into a political party in preparation for the proposed Bangsamoro new political entity (NPE) which, if the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-MILF peace process roadmap is fulfilled, should have its first election in 2016, the source said.

The MILF has just registered with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) its United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP), also headed by MILF Chairman Al-Haji Murad Ebrahim.
Sammy Al-Mansour, the chief of staff of the MILFs Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), is UBJP secretary general.

House Bill 4994, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is currently being threshed out through public hearings to get the sentiment of Filipinos, including those in various parts of the country, not just in Mindanao.

When passed into law, the BBL will implement the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), which covers the establishment of the proposed Bangsamoro Government under the MILF.

As this developed, the leadership of the National Commission of Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) visited the MILF chairman recently in Camp Darapanan, the Secretariat office for the MILF’s peace talks with GPH.

NCMF Secretary Bai Yasmin Busran-Lao led the courtesy call. She is also a member of the GPH peace panel.