Monday, January 12, 2015

In case ITLOS favors PHL: China will stop or lose face

Ang Malaya (Jan 13): In case ITLOS favors PHL: China will stop or lose face

“We have case at International Tribunal for the law of the Sea and once the body rules in our favor, we expect that this will restrain China from conducting any activities in the region or they will lose face before the international community,” Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said as quoted by

The AFP is currently limited on monitoring disputed territories in West Philippine Sea. Philippine government is expecting a decision within the first quarter of 2016.
Amid China’s aggressive behavior in West Philippine Sea, the AFP is shifting its focus from insurgents to territorial defense.

“We are expecting the delivery of several equipment. The main reason they were acquired is territorial defense,” Colonel Padilla said before 2014 ends. “We will use them as we gradually transition so we can include them in our doctrine. That will be our focus next year (2015).”

China comments on General Catapang’s statement regarding West PHL Sea

From Ang Malaya (Jan 13): China comments on General Catapang’s statement regarding West PHL Sea

The Chinese government issues a comment on Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief-of-Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang’s statement regarding the ongoing reclamation within West Philippine Sea. “China asserts indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and the affiliate waters. China’s action on the Nansha Islands is entirely within China’s sovereignty,” Chinese Foreign Ministry said.

General Catapang said that reclamation in disputed territory is at least fifty percent completed. He also added that the project is alarming.

“Alarming in the sense that it could be used for other purposes other than for peaceful use,” General Catapang noted.

In line with China’s aggressive behavior, Philippine military is shifting focus to territorial defense.

Framers of Constitution back Bangsamoro autonomous region

From Rappler (Jan 13): Framers of Constitution back Bangsamoro autonomous region

Public discussions on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law must be about people, not semantics, the surviving members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission say

Surviving members of the commission that drafted the post- Edsa Revolution 1987 Philippine Constitution have come out to declare their support for the establishment of a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

In their statement, the original members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (ConCom) stressed that public discussions on the proposed law must be about the welfare of the people, not semantics.

The signatories to the statement are:

Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo

Adolfo S. Azcuna

Teodoro C. Bacani

Joaquin G. Bernas

Florangel Rosario Braid

Hilario G. Davide Jr.

Edmundo G. Garcia

Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon

Christian S. Monsod

Ricardo J. Romulo

Rene V. Sarmiento

Jaime S.L. Tadeo

Wilfrido V. Villacorta

Bernardo M. Villegas

The rest of the surviving ConCom members – Ponciano Bennagen, Teresa Nieva, Florenz Regalado, and Napoleon Rama – are "bedridden or could not be reached," the statement said.

In their statement, the original framers of the Constitution did not scrutinize the specifics of the law nor categorically state that the entirety of the proposed law is constitutional.

Instead, they underscored the "vision, spirit and the core principles" behind the Constitution, which they said "constitute the essential constitutionality of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law."

"We fully support the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region," they said.

They added: "We believe that a new organic law is necessary to fulfill the vision and spirit that guided the constitutional provisions on autonomous regions since Republic Act 6734 and Republic Act 9054 have clearly not gone far enough to give life to the concept of autonomy for Muslim Mindanao as envisioned by the Constitution."

Congress is presently deliberating the proposed law that seeks to create a parliamentary form of autonomous government in Mindanao, with greater fiscal and political powers than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It will be called the "Bangsamoro" or land of the Moros. (DOCUMENT: Bangsamoro Basic Law Primer)

This marks the second phase of the peace process in Mindanao after the government and the largest organized armed group in the Philippines – the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – signed a peace deal in March 2014 that aims to end more than 4 decades of war in the South.

At the top of concerns is whether the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is constitutional as it creates a parliamentary form of government, a departure from the presidential form that the central government now has.

In Congress hearings, questions on how power will be shared between the central government and the Bangsamoro on various aspects, including auditing and electricity, have been raised repeatedly. (READ: Authority over Lake Lanao: Bangsamoro bill has to be clear)

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has called the proposed law unconstitutional for creating what she said was a substate instead of an autonomous region.

In the House of Representatives, Isabela 1st district Representative Rodolfo Albano recently issued a statement appealing to his colleagues not to "cave in to political pressure" or "fears on the resumption of armed conflicts in Mindanao" to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law without scrutinizing its questionable provisions.

Albano also warned against passing a law that was based on a peace agreement signed with only one rebel group in Mindanao.

The MILF broke away from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in the 1970s at the height of the conflict between rebels and government forces.

In 1996, the MNLF signed a peace deal with the government. Close to two decades later, the group maintains that the government has yet to fully implement the pact. With the government pushing for the peace accord with the MILF, a faction of the MNLF led by its founding chairman Nur Misuari staged a siege of Zamboanga in November 2013 to dramatize its exclusion from the peace process.

Change in perspective

The original framers of the Constitution called for a change in perspective in public discussions on the law – stressing that deliberations should be about people rather than semantics.

"Social justice that calls for genuine social change is the central theme of the 1987 Constitution; and here, it is broader in scope and intent than in the 1973 and the 1935 Constitutions. An interpretation of any relevant provision of the Constitution that results in war and abject poverty would be contrary to its intention," they said.

They reminded lawmakers that the ultimate decision on the Bangsamoro lies in the people – during the plebiscite to be held once the law is passed in Congress.

To get to this point, "courageous statesmanship from our leaders and the generosity of spirit of a united nation" is needed, the ConCom members said.

"The challenge of the BBL presents to us another chance at national incandescence. It is within our reach. Let us set aside partisan politics and stop the urge to exhibit our ability to find nuances of legalism that can delay, or worse, derail the process, feeding on the cynicism and playing on the fears in the national psyche that are more reflex action than reasoned response," the statement said.

Before signing an initial peace framework with the government, the MILF was a separatist group that has been engaged in a decades-long struggle for independence.

During the peace negotiations, the MILF was adamant in its position that the Constitution needs to be revised in order to give Muslim Mindanao full autonomy.

But the Aquino administration also stood firm in its position to negotiate a workable peace deal that is within the confines of the Constitution.

Both sides were able to keep talks going after the MILF decided to drop its demand for independence in exchange for full autonomy as the government peace panel agreed to explore the flexibilities of the Constitution.

Since the final draft of the bill was submitted to Congress, consultations not only in the core territories but also in nearby Mindanao provinces, and key provinces in Luzon and Visayas, have been conducted.

Congress aims to pass the basic law by March, with the plebiscite targeted to come soon after to give the MILF at least one year to lead the transition towards the Bangsamoro.

The ad-hoc committee on the Bangsamoro in the House is expected to wrap up discussions on the proposed law in January.

The Senate, meanwhile, is set to conduct two more hearings on January 26 and February 2 on the constitutional issues surrounding the law.

China builds ports, helipads on Spratly islands

From the Philippine Star (Jan 12): China builds ports, helipads on Spratly islands

Aerial surveillance images obtained by The STAR show Ma- bini Reef in March last year (left), with only one building that served as a temporary shelter for workers. The image on the right, taken recently, shows more structures and trees planted on the reef.

China’s reef reclamation and development projects in the disputed Spratly islands in the West Philippine Sea last year have progressed by leaps and bounds, and security officials expect them to be turned into man-made islets ready for occupation by Chinese military personnel and civilians.

Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Pio Gregorio Catapang confirmed the massive development projects of the Chinese in the disputed region.

“It’s 50 percent complete. It’s alarming in the sense that it could be used for purposes other than peaceful,” Catapang said last week during the AFP-sponsored media gathering at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

He assured the public that the military is well apprised of the situation in the West Philippine Sea through sustained air and maritime patrols.

Military aerial surveillance of the area last October and November showed that the Chinese have constructed buildings, ports and a soon to be completed circumferential road at the reclaimed portion of Mabini Reef.

“It is just a matter of time before these Chinese reclaimed features will be ready for occupancy,” a security official said.

China claims the entire disputed region as an integral part of its maritime domain and embarked on reclamation projects early last year on Mabini Reef, Chigua Reef, Cuarteron Reef and Burgos Reef.

Known to local sailors as Luli (for Lulubog, Lilitaw) depending on sea conditions, these reclaimed reefs, if not within the country’s 200-nautical exclusive economic zone (EEZ), are part of the Phiippine-occupied Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) based on Presidential Decree 1596 that former President Ferdinand Marcos issued in 1978.

In the case of Mabini Reef – also known as Johnson South Reef – the area is within the country’s maritime domain as it is located 194 nautical miles from mainland Palawan and well within the country’s 200-nautical mile EEZ.

In March last year, the military spotted only a single rectangular structure that serves as temporary shelter of workers in the man-made islet that prompted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to file a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

Beijing rejected the DFA protest, maintaining that it has sovereignty over almost 80 percent of the West Philippine Sea.

The Chinese have completed a building and even planted tropical trees in the building’s front yard at the reclaimed Mabini Reef.

They have also started construction of a three-story building on the reef.

At the Kagitingan Reef (Fiery Cross Reef) China is reportedly planning to build an airstrip that could accommodate wide-bodied aircraft as well as jet fighters.

At least five giant barges and ships were spotted last November, apparently to connect an already reclaimed and heavily fortified area to an adjacent atoll in line with China’s air and naval base projects.

The Chinese have also started infrastructure development at the reclaimed Chigua Reef (Kennan Reef).

From a J-shaped reclaimed area monitored in April last year, Chigua reef – located 167 nautical miles from mainland Palawan – now has helipads and ports.

The area now looks like a modern resort facility rather than a military feature. It was gathered that aside from military facilities, China is developing tourist destinations in the Spratlys.

At the reclaimed Burgos Reef, the Chinese have also built ports and roads.

Eyes on the Prize? The Philippines-US Alliance and Defense Modernization

From the Asia Pacific Bulletin (Jan 10): Eyes on the Prize? The Philippines-US Alliance and Defense Modernization (by Julio Amador for East-West Center)

Julio Amador III believes that those who oppose sustained defense cooperation between the United States and Philippines are missing the point. It’s a longstanding alliance that will further enable Manila to meet its defense and security needs in an increasingly volatile region of the world.

 The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the United States of America and the Republic of the Philippines is under challenge in the Philippines’ Supreme Court on constitutional grounds. Petitioners against the EDCA argue that the agreement violates the Philippines’ prohibition against foreign bases unless the Senate concurs with the agreement. The government’s reply is that the EDCA is an executive agreement, not a treaty, and thus, there is no need for the Senate’s concurrence.
Beyond the legal context, the strategic and policy considerations loom large in the Supreme Court hearings.

The EDCA, signed on April 2014 by National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the Philippines, and Ambassador Philip Goldberg for the US, revitalizes the Philippine‐US bilateral security alliance to help the Philippines attain a minimum credible defense posture to respond to regional and global security challenges. The agreement implements the need to develop the Philippines and the US’ defense capabilities in the Asia Pacific region as agreed upon in the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). The EDCA permits and regulates the access and use of some facilities of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) by the US military. This allows both sides to undertake high‐impact and high‐value security cooperation exercises, joint and combined training activities that promote interoperability, and capacity building. The experience of the Philippines with the destructive typhoon, Haiyan, also showed the importance of having immediate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) capabilities, which the US was able to provide.

Opponents of EDCA argue that the EDCA violates the Philippines’ territorial integrity and sovereignty. Critics also claim the agreement is one‐sided because it advances only the US’ interests. An important angle raised in the Supreme Court hearings is the strategic concerns in the West Philippine Sea, particularly the maritime disputes involving the Philippines and China. The Supreme Court hearings brought out the continuing inadequacy of the AFP to provide minimum credible defense in light of the challenges in an uncertain regional strategic environment.

While the legal questions are very important, particularly because they touch on sensitive issues for a lot of Filipinos, the problem of defense modernization and credibility is going to be a continuing problem that needs to be addressed.

Under President Benigno S. Aquino III, the Philippines has been seriously engaging in defense modernization. The first phase of this was to re‐orient the AFP from focusing on internal security to concentrating on external security. Under the US security umbrella, which was in place since the colonial period, and strengthened during the Cold War, the Philippines chose to tackle internal security issues, such as responding to a continuing communist insurgency and confronting secessionist issues in the Southern Philippines. Now, driven by an uncertain regional strategic environment, the government has devoted resources to a much‐needed modernization. The AFP instituted the Long‐Term Capability Development Program which saw the acquisition of multi‐purpose attack vessels, naval helicopters, patrol aircraft and frigates. From the US, the Philippines purchased two decommissioned Hamilton‐class cutters, the BRP Gregorio Del Pilar and the BRP Ramon Alcaraz. From South Korea, the Philippines acquired 12 TA‐50 Golden Eagle light attack aircraft built by Korea Aerospace Industries. The Philippines is also looking at Italy as a source of military assets and there are plans to procure three AW‐ 109 naval helicopters and two Mistral frigates. The Philippines’ defense budget, which had been set at US$1.9 billion since 2002, rose to US$2.5 billion in 2012.

In the 2015 budget of the AFP, several key assets were included for procurement:  lead‐ in fighter trainer jet ammunition, long‐range patrol aircraft, multi‐purpose attack craft, rocket launchers, and base upgrades. The AFP was given a budget of around US$553 million for these defense projects. As of September 2014, 37 military upgrade projects costing US$206 million were completed. Other projects are due for completion by the end of 2015.

With these developments, the Philippines is on a path of slow but deliberate defense modernization. Institutional challenges will continue to hamper the process. Corruption in the military is still a concern but there are strong efforts to address it. Defense spending is also low and not on par with its regional neighbors. The ASEAN average for defense spending is around 3 percent of GDP while the Philippines spends only about 1 percent. An important reason for this is the constitutionally mandated proviso that defense spending should not exceed expenditures on the education sector.

The Philippines‐US alliance is going to be necessary for the foreseeable future even as defense modernization is being undertaken. Only Filipinos will, in the end, be willing to defend the country’s borders and its territories. Nevertheless, the long and shared history of the two countries indicates the desire to continue working as allies in an ever‐changing regional order.

The Philippines must not lose sight of the fact that the goal is to achieve credible defense and a sustainable modern military at par with its regional neighbors in ASEAN. The Philippines cannot afford to completely rely on the American security umbrella, which is continuously being rained upon by the Chinese, who seem determined to change the regional security order. Self‐help remains the name of the game in international security, but assistance from allies and other partners should not be rejected, but used judiciously while defense modernization is underway.

Hypothetical questions such as whether the US will come to the defense of the Philippines if the latter is attacked by an external party may make for good conversation but they miss out on the real objective: a strong, capable, and modern AFP that can exert a defensive shield over the Philippines’ maritime boundaries and territories.

Whether the EDCA is rendered unconstitutional or whether other agreements in the future may face rough sailing in the political and legal contexts of the Philippines, the fact of the matter is that the Philippines will still need to attain minimum defense credibility and build its external security capability. The Philippines‐US alliance, through the MDT, the VFA, and the EDCA as an implementing agreement, is only a means to that necessary end.

[Julio S. Amador III is the Deputy Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute of the Philippines. The opinions expressed in this essay belong to the author alone and do not represent the official position of the FSI, the Department of Foreign Affairs, or of the Government of the Philippines.]

MILF: BTC urges Senate and House of Representatives to hasten passage of BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 13): BTC urges Senate and House of Representatives to hasten passage of BBL

In a special session held in Davao City last January 9, 2014, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) passed Resolution No. 01, Series of 2015, urging the leaders of both the House of Senate and House of Representative to hasten the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law Law (BBL).
In said resolution, the BTC mentioned the circumstances related to the BBL that it submitted to President Benigno Aquino III and turned over to the leadership of both Houses of Congress in a formal ceremony at Malacañan Palace on September 10, 2014

The purpose of the BBL according to the said resolution are to establish an effective and efficient autonomous government in the Bangsamoro, and to undertake the processes of normalization, participation in the affairs of government and nation building, and the formation of genuinely principled political parties, in time for synchronization with the 2016 Presidential elections;

The proposed BBL when enacted by Congress shall address the needs and aspirations of the people in the Bangsamoro and consonant to the letter and spirit of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

MILF: BBL should not be viewed as perfect law: GPH and MILF Chief Negotiators

Posted to the MILF Website (Jan 12): BBL should not be viewed as perfect law: GPH and MILF Chief Negotiators

In a forum organized in Davao City by Mindanews last Thursday, January 8, Prof. Miriam Coronel- Ferrer, Chairman of the Government of the Philippines Peace panel and Mohagher Iqbal, Chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace panel both said that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will entrench the new political entity called Bangsamoro should not be viewed as a “perfect law”.
“The law when enacted will not solve all the problems besetting the proposed region, they said”.  

Chairman Iqbal said in a roundtable discussion on BBL that the bill is only one element that will help achieve lasting peace in Mindanao adding that it requires good governance and leadership and good implementation of the law to make groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Abu Sayyaf irrelevant.

On the other hand, Chairman Ferrer said “it would be unfair to pin all hopes on the BBL since there are other factors to consider, for example, how to deal with the splintered Moro National Liberation Front”.

She commended both the House of Representatives and the Senate for having held several consultations on the BBL.

Iqbal, also the chair the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), said they are hoping for a “resounding endorsement” of the BBL, citing their “trust in the collective wisdom to pass the BBL.”  Similar statement by Chairman Iqbal was repeatedly said in his previous statements on BBL.

“Let us not waste the opportunity to establish peace in Mindanao,” he said as he appealed to media to push Congress to do its job. He added that media, for sure, is interested in stories other than war.

Both panels are expecting Congress to pass the BBL within the quarter to achieve the timetable of having the Bangsamoro government set up by 2016.

On unity in the Bangsamoro, Ferrer said that would be the task of the regional government.

For his part, Iqbal said they “hope for the best” in reaching out to their constituents.
Ferrer said the feats achieved by the peace process in 2014 reflected the trust and confidence that was built, reciprocated and sustained through the years of negotiations.

“We want that trust and confidence should be stronger as we move along…and ensure that all the elements of the comprehensive agreement will be put in place,” she added, citing that such trust and confidence showed in the statements and actions of both panels in different aspects of the agreement.

On decommissioning, Ferrer noted that the MILF decommissioning process has been hampered by the lack of guidelines.

Iqbal said the decommissioning process would follow the Irish Republican Army model, that is, MILF weapons will not be surrendered but merely deposited to a third party. He added the pace of the process will depend on the progress of implementation of political reforms and other terms of the peace agreement.

The Embassy of Canada, BTC, Conciliation Resources, European Union and Philippine Information Agency supported the conduct of the forum.

CPP/NDF: Paggamit ng “drone” ng imperyalismong US upang maniktik sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan, ilantad at itakwil!

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 8): Paggamit ng “drone” ng imperyalismong US upang maniktik sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan, ilantad at itakwil! (Expose and oppose the use of a US "drone" to spy on the revolutionary movement)

Geronimo Sakay (Ka Geron)
NDFP Mt. Sierra Madre Chapter
Mariing kinokondena ng NDFP-Sierra Madre-Timog Katagalugan ang patuloy na pagyurak ng Imperyalismong Estados Unidos (USA) sa soberanya ng Pilipinas at ang pagiging sunud-sunuran ng rehimeng BS Aquino sa kagustuhan nito. Ang tuloy-tuloy na iligal na pagpasok ng mga eroplanong Amerikano sa himpapawid ng Pilipinas para maniktik laban sa rebolusyonaryong kilusan ay malinaw na halimbawa nito.

Ang pagbagsak ng eroplano ng US sa paniktik o “unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV)” na mas kilala sa tawag na “drone” sa tabing dagat ng bayan ng Patnanungan, Quezon noong nakaraang Linggo ng hapon ay malinaw na katibayan na panghihimasok ng US at paglabag sa soberanya ng Pilipinas. Ang nasabing AUV na isang BQM-74E na may lapad na 1.76 metro at may taas na .71 metro ay nakarehistro sa United States Navy. Ang nasabing AUV ay may “camera, sensors” at kagamitan sa komunikasyon at malaganap na ginagamit ng mga sundalong Amerikano sa kanilang operasyon paniktik.

Sa ulat na nakuha ng rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa Mt. Sierra Madre-TK mula sa mga mamamayan ng Hilagang Quezon at Polilio Group of Islands ay may napapansin silang kakaibang eroplano na nagpapabalik-balik sa himpapawid ng nasabing mga lugar bago pa ito bumagsak sa karagatan hanggang sa maanod at mapadpad sa Sitio Katakian, Barangay Busdak, Patnanungan, Quezon. Sa ganito ay malinaw na ginamit ng Gobyerno ng US ang nasabing AUV upang tiktikan ang kabundukan ng Sierra Madre sa presensya ng armadong rebolusyonaryong kilusan. Matatandaan na ang Serra Madre ay may mahabang kasaysayan na naging kanlungan ng mga rebolusyonaryo mula pa sa panahon nina Gat. Andres Bonifacio hanggang sa kasalukuyang panahon.

Ang pahayag ng US Embassy sa Pilipinas na hindi ginagamit sa paniktik ang nasabing AUV ay malinaw na isang malaking kasinungalingan at pakonswelo de bobo ng gobyernong Amerikano. Nilalayon ng nasabing pahayag na linlangin ang sambayanang Pilipino at itago ang katotohanan na patuloy na niyuyurakan ng Imperyalismong US ang soberanya at kasarinlan ng Pilipinas. Nakakabingi din ang katahimikan ng Gobyernong BS Aquino sa usapin. Tulad ng kanilang katahimikan sa usapin ng pagpatay ng sundalong Amerikano na si PFC. Scott Pemberton kay Jennifer Laude ay kinukunsinte din ng Rehimeng BS Aquino ang pagyurak sa soberanya ng Pilipinas. Sagad-sarin ang pagkatuta ng Rehimeng BS Aquino sa Imeryalismong US. Balewala sa rehimeng Aquino na maghirap at patuloy na pagsamantalahan ng mga Amerikano ang Sambayanang Pilipino. Sa halip na ipagtanggol ay ibinibenta pa nito ang mamamayang Pilipino para pagsamantalahan ng imperyalismong US.

Ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan sa Sierra Madre-Timog Katagalugan patuloy na lalabanan ang panghihimasok ng imperyalismong US sa lipunang Pilipino. Patuloy itong magtatanggol sa interes ng sambayanan para ipagtanggol ang pambansang soberanya at kalayaan ng Pilipinas. Nakahanda rin ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan para labanan ang armadong panghihimasok ng Imperyalismong US. Anumang oras na salakayin ng mga sundalong Amerikano ang teritoryo ng Demokratikong Gobyernong Bayan na pinamumunuan ng CPP-NPA-NDFP ay nakahanda ang rebolusyonaryong kilusan na armadong magtanggol at gapiin ang pananalakay ng mga sundalong Amerikano.

Nananawagan din kami sa lahat ng makabayan at patriyotikong Pilipino na ilantad at tutulan ang patuloy na pagyurak ng Imperyalismong US sa soberanya ng Pilipinas at itakwil ang pangangayupapa ng Rehimeng BS Aquino sa kagustuhan ng imperyalistang amo nito. Dapat na payabungin ang diwang makabayan at itaguyod ang interes ng sambayanang Pilipino.


CPP/NDF: Panayam kay Jose Maria Sison (Interview with Jose Maria Sison)

Propaganda interview posted to the CPP Website (Jan 12): Panayam kay Jose Maria Sison (Interview with Jose Maria Sison)

Prof. Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Panayam kay Jose Maria Sison
Chief Political Consultant ng NDFP Negotiating Panel
Ng Kodao
Enero 12, 2015

1. Quoted kayo dati na okay lang si former AFP chief of staff Emmanuel Bautista na maging bagong chairman ng GPH negotiating panel dahil sa retired military officer na siya. Pero marami naman ang nagsasabi na kung siya ang i-appoint ni Aquino sa ganoong posisyon bale binabastos niya ang NDFP at buong kilusang rebolusyonaryo dahil nagmamalaki siya na siya ang utak o designer ng Oplan Bayanihan. Sa tingin niyo ba ay wala nang ibang mapipili ni Aquino na maging chairman ng kanyang panel. Siya na ba ang pinakamagaling o pinakaangkop kahit na mastermind siya ng Oplan Bayanihan?

JMS: Prerogative ni Aquino na piliin ang kahit sinumang sibilyan na maging chairman ng GPH negotiating panel. Technically, si General Bautista ay civilian dahil retired na. Pero totoo rin na marami ang nagsasabi na insulto sa NDFP at buong kilusang rebolusyonaryo kung siya ang gagawin ni Aquino na panel chairman niya sa punto na self-proclaimed na utak siya ng Oplan Bayanihan. Hindi baleng retired military officer siya kung katulad siya ni former General Fidel Ramos na marunong sa peace negotiations.

Pero umaabot din sa NDFP ang mga ulat na garapal na militar ang mentalidad niya at wala siyang gusto kundi ipataw daw niya ang pagsurender ng NPA dahil sa natatalo na raw ito at kung hindi payag ang NPA tuloy pa rin ang balasik ng kanyang Oplan Bayanihan. Palpak naman itong Oplan Bayanihan, lalong lumakas ang NPA. Sa tingin ko, kung seryoso si Aquino sa peace negotiations, makakapili siya ng mas angkop at mas magaling na chairman ng kanyang panel. Baka naman hindi interesado si Aquino sa pag-usad ng peace negotiations.

2. Maraming naguguluhan sa pagpapatakbo ni Aquino sa peace negototations sa NDFP. Si Aquino ba mismo ang dahilan ng gulo o si Deles? Ang balitang nasagap namin ay lusaw na ang GPH negotiating dahil sa pagresign ni Alex Padilla bilang chairman at may pag-aatubili pa si Aquino tungkol sa appointment ni General Bautista bilang Chairman o member na lang ng panel? Sa kabila ng kaguluhan sa panig ni Aquino, makakaasa kaya ang mga political prisoner na ma-release kaugnay ng bisita ng Papa at mga panawagan ng mga religious at human rights organizations?

JMS: Sa tingin ko, parehong magulo si Aquino at Deles. Pero mas magulo si Deles. Nakita na ng NDFP ang panggugulo ni Deles magmula pa noong 2004 sa panahon ni Arroyo. Ika nga ng ilang observer, magulo ang utak ni Aquino pero si Deles sadyang nanggugulo. Ang balita ng NDFP hindi nabubuo agad ang GPH negotiating panel dahil gusto ni Deles na isaksak sa panel ang mga katulad niyang rabid anti-communist at mga uto-uto niya.

Kabado rin siya kay General Bautista dahil baka hindi niya kayang utus-utusan kahit magkahawig sila sa pagiging pusakal na anti-komunista. Tungkol naman sa pagrelease ng mga political prisoners, may mga umaasa na baka magrelease ang marami si Aquino dahil sa posibleng paggalang niya sa Papa at sa mga religious at human rights organizations na nanawagan ng pag release sa mga political prisoner.

Pero sa karanasan ng NDFP, matigas, walang puso at walang awa si Aquino sa mga political prisoner. Wala siyang respeto sa JASIG na nagbabawal sa pagkulong at pagpatay sa mga NDFP consultants. Wala rin siyang respeto sa CARHRIHL na nagbabawal sa pagkulong sa mga political prisoner dahil sa mga sabay-sabay na charges of rebellion at common crimes o kaya common crimes sa halip na rebellion.

CPP: CPP joins condemnation of Paris armed attack on magazine office

Propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jan 12): CPP joins condemnation of Paris armed attack on magazine office

Communist Party of the Philippines
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) joins widespread condemnation of the armed attack last January 7 against the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Three men armed with automatic weapons attacked and opened fire at the magazine office, killing at least 12 people, including its editor, writers and cartoonists. Several others were wounded. The CPP and the Filipino people extend their sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of the victims of this atrocious crime.

Shooting down people working in a magazine or newsroom is completely unacceptable. The victims of the massacre were unarmed and defenseless and should not have been made targets of an armed attack, however offensive, insulting and provoking it was to Islam and other religious, political and philosophical beliefs.
The attack against Charlie Hebdo highlights the dangers confronted by journalists around the world. But however reprehensible the killings were, they should not be invoked as pretext for heightened repression.

At the same time, the killings further underscore the overarching problem of worsening intolerance, bigotry and fascism against religious and political beliefs, race and gender, especially in the centers of global capitalism. As the international crisis of the capitalist system worsens and protracts, the monopoly bourgeoisie and big finance promote such reactionary currents to divide the people.

The reactionaries seek to blind the people and prevent them from seeing the systemic roots of the crisis and the need to wage revolutionary struggle against capitalism and imperialism.

The CPP censures the imperialist US, French, German and UK governments and their puppet Israeli government for hypocritically sidling up to the cause of tolerance and media freedom. They conveniently omit the fact that its so-called “war against terror” of the past 15 years has been at the core of racial profiling, torture and the mass killing of civilians from Afghanistan to Iraq, Nigeria to Palestine. They have promoted militarism, national aggression and interventionism in a desperate bid to revive the capitalist system through war production.

The people must repudiate such reactionary trends and oppose these with progressive, scientific, pro-people and revolutionary ideas. The CPP calls on the promotion of the democratic, social and national interests and views of the workers and other exploited classes and oppressed peoples. The CPP calls on the people to unite and advance the struggle against imperialism and achieve social and national liberation.

Major in lodge slay surrenders

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jan 13): Major in lodge slay surrenders

AN ARMY major implicated in the killing of a woman in Tagum City was arrested by police on Saturday.

Investigators are trying to determine the involvement of Major Abdillah Dimao Pangcutan, who is detailed at the 10th Infantry Division, in the death of Richelle Anne Austero, 27, of Barangay San Jose, New Corella town in Davao del Norte.

Pangcutan was arrested in his house in Barangay Mankilam, Tagum.

Police said Austero had jumped off the motorcycle the major was driving on the night of January 8.

Police said Pangcutan was about to enter Border's Inn, a lodging house, when Austero jumped off.

Quoting witnesses, the police said the major chased the woman and shot her.

The police report did not indicate the relationship between Pangcutan and Austero.

In a text message, 10th ID spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Llewellyn Binasoy said the incident was a personal matter and not service or work-related.

"With respect to lawful process of justice, we have facilitated the surrender of Major Pangcutan to shed light on the incident in coordination with the Tagum City police," Binasoy said.

Video: Why gov't funds are heading for Abu Sayyaf stronghold

Posted to ABS-CBN (Jan 13): Video: Why gov't funds are heading for Abu Sayyaf stronghold

[Video report]

Government will be pouring funds into a town in Basilan believed to be a stronghold of the bandit group Abu Sayyaf. This comes as government forces met with Moro leaders involved in the peace process. - ANC, The World Tonight, January 12, 2015

AFP welcomes Bangsamoro decommissioning process

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 12): AFP welcomes Bangsamoro decommissioning process

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday branded as a welcome development the scheduled symbolic decommissioning of weapons by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) next month as part of the peace agreement with the government of the Philippines (GPH).

Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the AFP, said that the military also hopes that the move would lead to decommissioning of all weapons and other war materials in Mindanao so that long lasting peace would be achieved.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said that the decommissioning of MILF firearms scheduled next month would only be symbolic since the process is in reality not that simple but a very “sentimental, sensitive and emotional” act.

“We strongly believe that decommissioning of weapons is a delicate and difficult component of any peace settlement,” Padilla said.

“It is an affirmative support to the normalization process and will contribute to advancing collective security in the future Bangsamoro region and the country as a whole,” he added.

Iqbal said decommissioning of firearms “has to be parallel and commensurate to the implementation of other agreements.”

The MILF official stressed that the decommissioning process should never be equated to surrender nor should there be “a destruction of weapons, but that a third-party monitor, called the International Decommissioning Body (IDB), would be responsible for the storage of said weapons.”

The symbolic decommissioning was initially set last December but “it has to relate to other tracks in Phase 1” of the implementation schedule, Iqbal added.

Nonetheless, Padilla expressed hopes that the MILF move would lead to decommissioning of all “instruments of destruction” in the name of peace.

“This we also hope and pray will eventually lend fruition to the realization of turning all weapons, instruments of destruction into plowshares for peace and prosperity,” Padilla said.

Iqbal, however, has stressed that the decommissioning of MILF weapons would come in four phases and in parallel with eight processes or “tracks” for the disarmament of its troops under a peace pact with the government.

A supposed matrix detailing the program for normalization in the Bangsamoro has been attached to the annex on normalization signed among members of the government and MILF peace panels last Jan. 25, 2014 at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Iqbal said the matrix shows four phases of implementation with eight dimensions or tracks, including decommissioning, that have to be parallel and commensurate to each other.

“The rest are transitional components of normalization, socio-economic programs, confidence-building measures, redeployment of AFP, policing, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups, transitional justice and reconciliation,” he added.

Iqbal said he had written Ambassador Haydar Berk of Turkey, who heads the IDB, about the number of MILF weapons and combatants that would be decommissioned.
The IDB is made up of Norway, Turkey and Brunei and four other local experts jointly nominated by the parties.

It is expected to meet in Manila this month.

400 troops from Southern Luzon Command to secure Pope Francis in Tacloban City

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 13): 400 troops from Southern Luzon Command to secure Pope Francis in Tacloban City

The Southern Luzon Command will be deploying 400 soldiers to augment the security cordon for Pope Francis in Tacloban City.

Major Angelo Guzman, Southern Luzon Command spokesman, said the troopers will be flown to Tacloban City via Air Force C-130 cargo planes by Tuesday and Wednesday.

He said these soldiers will reinforce the security cordon for Pope Francis' visit on Saturday (Jan. 17) to the "Yolanda" ravaged community.

The soldiers are from Army units in Southern Tagalog and Bicol Regions, Guzman said.

A patrol ship from Naval Forces Southern Luzon will be pre-positioned at Matnog Port while additional UH-1H helicopters will also be deployed in Legazpi City to guard security and safety of people who are travelling to see Pope Francis during his visit to the country.

“We expect influx of commuters especially at Matnog Port and we hope nothing untoward happens,” said Southern Luzon Command head Major Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya.

He added that the pre-positioning of naval and air assets to Bicol will enable the military to react immediately to any eventuality.

Earlier, Visaya directed all units to beef up security measures along national roads and major ports in the region in coordination with the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard to ensure safe passage of people traveling for the Papal visit on Jan. 15-19.

“We are preparing well for the security of the Pope, pilgrims and devotees as well as for those who just want to see him so that all undertakings shall go unhampered,” he said.

Aquino: PH monitoring ISIS watch lists

From Rappler (Jan 12): Aquino: PH monitoring ISIS watch lists

President Benigno Aquino III says the government is coordinating with Interpol and ASEAN

Just 3 days before the visit of Pope Francis, President Benigno Aquino III said the government has its eyes on terrorist watch lists.

Aquino acknowledged the general threat posed by a large crowd to the Pope’s safety but gave assurances nothing is serious at this point.

The President also said the Philippines is coordinating with “various mechanisms and organizations that we belong to” such as Interpol and ASEAN, in monitoring watch lists of people who have ties with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“We are maximizing all of these efforts and we’re touching base with so many allies to try and see, to identify any threat whatsoever coming from any direction,” he said on Monday, January 12.

“Plus we have our own ongoing operations to deal with our own domestic terrorist threats.”

Asked whether the terrorist attacks in France prompted the government to increase security, the President said he was deploying more security than he uses as head of state.

“The number is between 25 to 50,000 of our security forces. 50,000 represent 20% of all our soldiers and police... And I don’t think I’ve ever utilized that particular number, not even as a plan."

The President also said the government is studying all potential and possible scenarios and making a systemic plan to decrease the danger.

“We are doing everything we possibly can,” he said.

Up to 6 million are expected to come to Quirino Grandstand on Sunday, January 18 where the Pope is scheduled to hold mass.

Pro-IS hackers take over US Centcom social media accounts

From InterAksyon (Jan 12): Pro-IS hackers take over US Centcom social media accounts

A group declaring support for Islamic State jihadists hacked US Central Command's social media accounts on Monday, forcing the military to take down the command's Twitter feed.

In an embarrassing propaganda setback for the US military, a black-and-white banner with the words "CyberCaliphate" and "I love you ISIS" replaced Central Command's usual logo on Twitter and YouTube before the pages were suspended.

But the military downplayed the effect of the hacking, saying no sensitive computer networks were penetrated and no state secrets were revealed.

"Our initial assessment is that no classified information was posted and that none of the information posted came from CENTCOM's server or social media sites," the command said in a statement.

The command has notified law enforcement agencies about "the potential release of personally identifiable information and will take appropriate steps to ensure any individuals potentially affected are notified as quickly as possible," it said.

The hacked Twitter feed posted what appeared to be an office phone directory of officers that was slightly out of date.

The Pentagon, which devotes a great deal of effort to its social media accounts, said the incident amounted to mere digital "vandalism."

"Centcom didn't get hacked. Twitter got hacked," Colonel Steven Warren told reporters.

"It's important to keep this whole thing in perspective. This is little more than a cyber-prank. It's an annoyance," he said. "It in no way compromises our operations."

Before the Twitter feed was suspended, the hackers wrote on the seized account that the self-styled CyberCaliphate "is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base."

Another post said: "American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back."

Central Command, based in Tampa, Florida, oversees the US-led air war against the group in Iraq and Syria, as well as other American operations in the Middle East and Horn of Africa. 

No major data breach

In another embarrassing twist, the hack came as President Barack Obama was delivering a speech on cyber security.

The White House said there was no sign that sensitive data had been exposed.  

"It's a pretty significant difference between what is a large data breach and the hacking of a Twitter account," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. 

"We're examining and investigating the extent of this incident."

The hacked Twitter feed posted various documents, but officials said much of the information was openly available online.

The hackers appeared to have used screen shots on defense-related topics from other websites, giving the impression that they had stolen secret documents, officials said.

Some of the documents were labeled "FOU," or for office use only, which refers to
Defense Department documents that are not top secret or classified but usually treated as confidential.

Some PowerPoint slides related to North Korea and China were also posted, but there was no sign of classified information there.

One image showing North Korea's nuclear facilities had appeared previously on the website of the Federation of American Scientists, a Washington-based non-profit organization dedicated to preventing nuclear war.

A similar digital disruption of social media accounts from local media outlets in the United States took place last week, The Washington Post reported.

Similar black-and-white images replaced the banners for the Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico and the WBOC television station in Maryland, it said.

US commanders and senior officials have previously said the IS group has shown a great acumen for propaganda and for promoting itself to potential jihadist recruits.

The US government has been preoccupied with another, more serious cyber-attack on the Hollywood studio Sony Pictures, which suffered a massive data breach in late November.

Hackers stole and posted online information from Sony employees, unreleased films and a trove of emails between top company executives -- some of them with embarrassing comments.

A group calling itself Guardians of Peace claimed credit for the attack and issued threats against Sony over the planned release of the comedy film "The Interview," which depicts a fictional CIA plot to kill North Korea's leader.

After an investigation, the FBI blamed North Korea for the attack and Washington has imposed fresh sanctions on Pyongyang over the intrusion.

Reds postpone release of 3 cops in Surigao Norte; cite continuing military drive

From MindaNews (Jan 12): Reds postpone release of 3 cops in Surigao Norte; cite continuing military drive

The New People’s Army last week announced it has put on hold the planned release of three policemen in Surigao del Norte it has held captive since November last year with the rebel group accusing the military and local officials for refusing to agree to conditions for their freedom.

Communist rebels snatched PO1 Democrito Bondoc Polvorosa and PO1 Marichel Unclara Contemplo of the Alegria Police Station on Nov. 12, and PO1 Junrie Amper of Malimono Police Station on Nov. 16 last year.

National Democratic Front-Mindanao spokepersons Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos said the military and the provincial crisis committee headed by Surigao del Norte Gov. Sol F. Matugas failed to reciprocate their own unilateral ceasefire.

Madlos alleged that military operations have continued despite the government’s declaration of suspension of both military and police operations from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19, the last day of Pope Francis’ visit in the country.

The government issued a unilateral declaration of ceasefire, from Dec. 19 to Jan. 19.

The NDF responded by declaring a truce covering the periods Dec. 24 to 26, Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, and Jan. 15 to 19.

The rebel group however announced it was observing a supplemental ceasefire for Surigao del Norte, from Jan. 6 to 19, for the safe release of the three policemen.

But the group accused the military of not reciprocating the move by continuing to launch operations.

The NDF responded by announcing last Wednesday it was postponing the release of the captives.

Madlos did not give a specific date but said the policemen might be freed after the Pope’s visit.

The Pope will be in the country from January 15-19.

Matugas had written the Army to request a lull in operations to facilitate the release, but the group Third Party Facilitators (3PF) called such move “too little, too late.”

Bishop Rhee Timbang, a member of 3PF said both the military and Matugas should take the blame for acting too late and for not showing enough sincerity to the agreed release plan.

Timbang, whose group was instrumental in the release of four kidnapped policemen late last year, noted that the abductions took place as early as November, and hardly a word was heard from the capitol.

Former Surigao del Norte provincial board member Victor Bernal, another 3PF member, pointed out that had the military suspended operations and had the governor’s crisis team acted decisively, the captives would have long been released.

“In short, the Provincial Crisis Management Committee and the military which is always pursuing the captors are the ones who don’t want the release [of the captives]. If possible, Governor [Sol] Matugas should ask the Philippine Army in Bad-as to stop the military operations,” Bernal said in Cebuano.

He urged Matugas to convene the committee to convince the military to stop their operations.

The governor did not reply when asked to comment.

On Friday, MindaNews received a compact disk from the NPA containing videos of the captives in an undisclosed location.

Polvorosa, Contemplo and Amper asked the military to withdraw from the hinterlands just for their safe release.

The captives also called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to help expedite their release.

Ka Maria Malaya, spokesperson of NDF-Northeastern Mindanao Region, earlier warned the ceasefire would only take effect once all police, military and paramilitary units cease all offensive actions, including the Community Organizing for Peace and Development .

The ceasefire, she said, covered four towns in Surigao del Norte – Claver, Bacuag, Alegria, and Gigaquit – and Kitcharao town in Agusan del Norte.

“This is a supplemental ceasefire to the 10-day ceasefire declared by the NDFP at the national level,” Malaya said.

She explained this would provide security and safety for the families of the “prisoners of war,” 3PF members and others who will attend the actual release.

In a separate letter, the NDF-North Eastern Mindanao also issued an order of release for the three captives.

“Heeding the request of the family and loved ones of the POWs, the NDFP-NEMR deemed it necessary not to proceed with the preliminary investigation and trial proper, and thus ordered their immediate release,” Malaya said.

“This local ceasefire declaration and the eventual release of the prisoners of war in Surigao del Norte form part of the confidence building measures of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines for the resumption of the peace talks,” she said.

She warned that if government forces “remain adamant in their position, and in effect jeopardize the security of the NPA custodial force and the POWs themselves, the NDF-NEMR shall have no other recourse but to cancel the release.”

Only the three policemen from Surigao del Norte have remained in the hands of the NPA, Madlos said.

Six other captives were released in December last year.

The policemen were supposed to be freed before Christmas Day last year but the rebels said continuing military operations in Surigao del Norte prevented their release.

China slams Philippines for criticizing island project

From ABS-CBN (Jan 12): China slams Philippines for criticizing island project

BEIJING - China on Monday hit back at the Philippines for criticizing Beijing's ongoing reclamation project in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), saying that its actions were within the scope of Chinese sovereignty.

China lays claim to almost all of the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich with minerals and oil-and-gas deposits. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims.

The United States has called on China to stop the land reclamation project that could be large enough to accommodate an airstrip. Beijing has called those remarks "irresponsible", signaling that it would firmly reject proposals by any country to freeze any activity that may raise tension.

Last week, Philippines General Gregorio Catapang told reporters that China's reclamation in the area is "50 percent complete".

"It is alarming in the sense that it could be used for other purposes other than for peaceful means," he said.

China reiterated that Beijing had "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands, where most of the overlapping claims lie, especially between China and the Philippines.

"China's actions on the relevant islands and reefs are all matters within the scope of China's sovereignty," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing.

Aerial images from the Philippines military and a leading U.S. defence publication show China is developing an airstrip on one of the islands.

The construction has stoked concern that China may be converting disputed territory in the archipelago into military installations.

Blast rocks Cotabato City, mortar found in NorCot

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Blast rocks Cotabato City, mortar found in NorCot

Cotabato City -- Unidentified men fired rifle grenade in a residential area here Sunday night, sending residents into panic, police said Monday.

Police said nobody was hurt and no one has claimed responsibility in the 9:30 p.m. blast.

Quoting witnesses, police said two men riding tandem on a motorbike passed by followed by a loud explosion.

Bomb experts recovered components of an M-203 rifle grenade.

In Midsayap, North Cotabato police recovered Sunday an 81 mm mortar and other bomb components abandoned in a hut.

Supt. Reynante delos Santos, Midsayap police chief, said his office has received a report about bombing attempt in town as it prepares for the January 17-18 patronal fiesta celebration.

“We recovered the mortar round, yet to be composed into an IED in a vacant lot, the suspects fled as the police arrived at about 18 p.m.,” delos Santos said in Filipino.

The IED was found in a hut, known among villagers as "purok" near a road leading to the residential home of Mayor Romeo Arania.

Police are still investigating the incident.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has plotted to set off in various communities to get back after its major camp fell into government hands.

North Cotabato to host forum to understand BBL better

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): North Cotabato to host forum to understand BBL better

To help the people of North Cotabato understand the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the provincial government is hosting a forum Tuesday at the provincial capitol here.

Dubbed as provincial information, education and communication on the BBL, the forum will be at the rooftop of the provincial capitol building in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City from 9 a.m. to 12 noon.

Members of the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panels as well as representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process will be around to explain the draft BBL and entertain questions and inquiry about the proposed bill that will help bring about peace in Mindanao.

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza said the draft BBL has noble intention-- that is to bring peace in troubled Mindanao region.

However, there are issues that need to be clarified and explained fully, thus the forum is the best venue to air these issues, she added.

She said the forum will be the best venue for local officials of villages which will form part of the Bangsamoro core territory.

She added the issue on human rights, economy and the kind of peace that will take place once the new political entity comes in should be clarified.

The BBL will be the enabling law that will be the legal basis of a new political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

It is a result of the 17-year-long peace process between the government and the MILF aimed at giving the Bangsamoro people the right to self-determination.

Bid opening for DND CASA program rescheduled for Feb. 11

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Bid opening for DND CASA program rescheduled for Feb. 11

The Department of National Defense (DND), in a supplemental bid bulletin, announced that bid opening and submission for its Php4,968,000,000 million close-air support aircraft (CASA) project has been reset to Feb. 11.

It was earlier scheduled for Jan. 14.

No reasons were given for the reset, which was posted on the supplemental bid bulletin, posted at the DND website.

Bid opening and submission will be held at DND Bidding and Awards Committee conference room, basement right wing, DND Building, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City at 10 a.m.

The DND is planning to acquire six CAS aircraft to replace or beef up the Air Force's existing Rockwell OV-10 "Bronco" turboprop attack planes.

CAS refers to capability to provide air support to infantry and naval units in contact with the enemy.

Funding for this weapon system will be sourced from the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program.

The contract includes integrated logistic support system.

Winning bidders must be able to deliver the aircraft within 540 calendar days from contract effectivity.

Participants in the DND's CAS project must have completed a similar program within the last 10 years.

The CAS aircraft must be used by the countries offering and manufacturing them.

Laude family asks Olongapo RTC to reconsider plea for Pemberton’s transfer to regular jail

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Laude family asks Olongapo RTC to reconsider plea for Pemberton’s transfer to regular jail

The family of slain Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude has asked the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) to reconsider its Dec. 23, 2014 ruling dismissing their bid for the transfer of accused United States Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton to a regular jail.

In their motion for reconsideration (MR), Marilou S. Laude, sister of the victim, also asked the Olongapo RTC to allow media coverage of the trial.

Laude, through her lawyer Harry Roque, said that the “rationale” behind the “three-day notice rule” was not violated in this case because the Pemberton camp had the opportunity to be given their side on their motion.

Roque said that Atty. Felimon Ray Javier, collaborating counsel for Pemberton, as well as Olongapo City Chief Prosecutor Emilie Fe Delos Santos were both present during the hearing of the motions and even made their comments.

Under the Rules of Court, the three-day notice rule requires every written motion required to be heard to be served upon the adverse party at least three days before the date of hearing.

Such rule imposes upon the movant the burden of making sure that the other party actually receives his motion at least three days before the hearing so that the adverse party may have ample time to prepare.

Roque added that the rule is not “absolute”.

He said that non-observance of the rule is allowed as long as the rights of the other party were not prejudiced.

He cited Marilou's “right to access to justice” under international human rights law which exempts her from the requirement that a public prosecutor must conforme to the motion that she will file in court.

"Under international human rights law, the private complainant and her family members have the right to access to justice, a right that is separate and distinct from the power of the Public Prosecutors to prosecute the criminal case," he said.

He added that the issues raised in their motions "are issues of transcendental importance and of primordial public interest. Hence, it is essential that the honorable court resolve the two motions on its substantive merits."

In their MR filed last December, they asked the Olongapo City RTC to order the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to transfer the detention of Pemberton to the Olongapo City Jail.

In the said MR, Roque reiterated their position that Pemberton should be with Philippine authorities citing Article V, Paragraph 3 (b) of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which states that “within the scope of their legal competence, the authorities of the Philippines and the US shall assist each other in the arrest of US personnel in the Philippines and in handing them over to authorities who are to exercise jurisdiction in accordance with the provisions of this article.”

They also cited the DOJ Opinion No.94 issued by then Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas which stated that in cases of particular importance and extraordinary cases, the Philippine government may refuse a US request for custody.

On their bid to allow media coverage, Roque said that they have the right under international human rights law to know and be informed about the proceedings through the media, including what is happening inside the courtroom.

They cited the fact that Laude’s mother, Julita, and other members of the family reside in a far-flung area in Leyte making her unable to attend to all the proceedings in the case, aside from financial constraints, making her and the rest of the family dependent on the media for news on the case.

They also said that barring the media from the courtroom during the proceedings is tantamount to violation of the right to free speech and of the press.

“Barring the press from the courtroom might partake of a serious limitation on the rights to free speech and of the press. The so-called fourth estate has the constitutionally guaranteed protection to report on matters of great public interest, including criminal proceedings in this case,” their seven-page MR said.

Still no threat for Pope Francis visit -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): Still no threat for Pope Francis visit -- AFP

He said what they are more worried about is the crowd which could get a little out of hand once they see the Pontiff in the flesh.

Padilla said they also have prepared measures to deal with these contingencies.

And when questioned again, he said that security threats for the five-day Apostolic visit is still "zero".

Padilla made this comment after noting even the New People's Army (NPA) declared a truce with the military while the Abu Sayyay Group (ASG) is off-balance as law enforcement operations are still ongoing in their bailiwicks in Sulu and Basilan.

However, despite this, he said they are making security provisions so that they will not be caught flat-footed by any surprises.

"There is always some degrees of capability remaining but we have made provision for that," Padilla pointed out.

The AFP spokesman said they are still to detect any threats even from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

"They (BIFF) are now focusing on their stand (argument) against the Bangsamoro Basic Law," he added.

And with these developments, Padilla said they are praying that the five-day visit will conclude peacefully.

"We are praying (that) it become like that and the outcome will be peaceful and successful," the AFP spokesman stressed.

President Aquino: PHL coordinating with allies to prevent terror threats during Papal visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): President Aquino: PHL coordinating with allies to prevent terror threats during Papal visit
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday said the Philippines is closely coordinating with allies from other countries, including ASEAN, to prevent terror threats when Pope Francis visits the country this week.

“...We are maximizing all of these efforts and we’re touching base with so many allies to try and see, parang identify any threat whatsoever coming from any direction,” he said in a media interview.

President Aquino said the country is collaborating with various mechanisms and organizations which it belongs, such as Interpol, in tracking watch lists of people who have flocked to Syria and Iraq to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“Tapos ASEAN brother states that have some of their citizens suspected of wanting to join IS(IS). Plus we have our own ongoing operations to deal with our own domestic terrorist threats,” he said.

The President said the tight security to be provided for the Pope is comparable to those for the various heads of governments and states who will come to the country this year for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit.

Pope Francis is scheduled to visit the country on Jan. 15 to 19.

(Update) Man, child killed, 15 hurt in Capiz blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 12): (Update) Man, child killed, 15 hurt in Capiz blast

A still unidentified man and a child was killed following a blast which also wounded 15 others inside an elementary school in Pontevedra, Capiz, Monday noon, a disaster official said.

Both victims were declared dead at the hospital where they were taken after the blast, Capiz Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office executive officer Espidiron Pelaez said.

Initial reports indicated the unidentified man was the one who detonated the explosive which went off beside the Lantangan Elementary School along the national highway in Barangay Lantangan around 12 p.m.

Most of the wounded are elementary school students. Local police are now at the scene to determine the circumstances of the blast and what type of explosive went off, Pelaez said.