Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Soldiers, Reds clash as ceasefire ends

From the Philippine Star (Jan 21): Soldiers, Reds clash as ceasefire ends 

Government troops and New People’s Army (NPA) rebels engaged in a shootout in Camarines Norte yesterday, hours after the end of a month-long suspension of military operations.

No fatalities were reported on either side.

Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command spokesman Maj. Angelo Guzman said the fighting occurred at Barangay Scout Fuentebella in Goa town at 10:35 a.m.

The troops are still conducting clearing and pursuit operations, according to Col. Amador Tabuga, Army’s 902nd brigade commander.

They recovered an M16 rifle, a rifle grenade, an improvised explosive device and three backpacks from the scene.

The NPA said the government ceasefire was a farce.

Soldiers occupied several parts of Davao City, Compostela Valley, Davao Oriental, Cotabato and Agusan del Sur during the truce, according to the National Democratic Front (NDF)’s Mindanao chapter.

Its spokesman Jorge Madlos said the presence of troops in these areas constituted actual offensive maneuvers within and in the periphery of NPA 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,” he said.

Maj. Ezra Balagtey, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command spokesman, said the NPA planted a landmine and deployed snipers along the San Isidro-Mahaba Road in Surigao del Norte on Dec. 26.

The NPA violated its own truce when it harassed a patrol base in Lupon, Davao Oriental on Jan. 18, Balagtey said.

The ceasefire between the government and communist rebels ended at midnight yesterday.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/01/21/1415104/soldiers-reds-clash-ceasefire-ends

US exec in Manila for bilateral talks

From the Philippine Star (Jan 20): US exec in Manila for bilateral talks

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel is in Manila for bilateral meetings with his counterparts in the government, the US embassy announced yesterday.

Russel, who described China’s activities in the South China Sea as “wholesale reclamation and source of clear anxiety and instability in the region,” came with Assistant Secretary for Defense David Shear.

He will fly today to Kuala Lumpur, then Bangkok and Phnom Penh and return to Washington on Jan. 28.

In a press conference at the New York Foreign Press Center last Sept. 26, Russel said the US had spoken and would continue to speak to each of the claimants, particularly the Chinese, about Washington’s concerns over reclamation work “that means digging up the bottom of the sea, creating landfill to build out what are essentially rocks or shoals into a large enough territory to hold facilities of various types.”

He said “wholesale reclamation is an example of unilateral action that changes the status quo.”

The State Department official said the South China Sea is not a bilateral issue between China and the US. He said Washington takes no position on the merits of sovereignty claims by China or other claimants to particular land features in the disputed waters.

However, Russel said the US holds the South China Sea issue as an important area of conversation in its bilateral talks with China and in the appropriate regional fora, such as the ASEAN context.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/01/21/1415102/us-exec-manila-bilateral-talks

Should the ARMM be replaced by another entity? MNLF factions’ views differ

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 20): Should the ARMM be replaced by another entity? MNLF factions’ views differ
Muslimin Sema. Photo by: Marc Cayabyab/INQUIRER.net

Muslimin Sema. Photo by: Marc Cayabyab/INQUIRER.net
 
While they have a united stand on independence, two factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) differed on their views on several points of the Bangsamoro basic bill (BBL) particularly on the creation of another entity and its leadership.

Much like their conflicting views on the leadership over the Moro separatist group, the MNLF factions Alonto and Sema also disagreed on their stands on the bill that seeks to create a Bangsamoro entity to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

During the Bangsamoro ad hoc committee hearing in the House of Representatives Tuesday, Muslimin Sema, chairman of their MNLF faction, said the Bangsamoro people stand to lose the gains under the ARMM if the law creating the autonomous region is replaced with a new political entity.

While he did not oppose outright the creation of the Bangsamoro bill, he said the current form of the bill will disregard the gains under the ARMM law.

“Despite the bitter branding in our foreheads, we remain firm that we will not set aside all that we have gained in the last 40 years. How can we achieve that in the current order of things?” Sema said.

“Moreover, the idea of repealing the current organic act and putting in place a totally new law means our people will go back to square one, on a system that is totally new to us…” he added.

Sema, however, said their faction was not in the hearing to reject outright the Bangsamoro bill.

“The MNLF did not come here… to register our rejection as well as our acceptance of the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” he said.

Sema clarified though that the Bangsamoro bill “in its current form… is a recipe for disintegration of the current autonomous region unless our perspective on this matter is taken with a grain of salt.”

“The way the BBL is written we are bound to lose what we have gained in the last four decades of our people’s struggle,” Sema said.

For his part, Abul Khayr Alonto, chair of their MNLF faction, said the Aquino administration had earned the Bangsamoro people’s trust for long-lasting peace in Mindanao.

“(The) Aquino government has committed to this peace process and had earned the trust of the Bangsamoro people… BBL can be an instrument of peace,” Alonto said.

He said he hoped his son will not grow up to be where he is now still defending the bill.

“If the House (and the) Senate cannot do this, I pray to God that my son will not be back here talking on the same issue,” he said.

Alonto said their faction supports the bill to finally end the decades of war in Mindanao.

Abul Khayr Alonto. Photo by: Marc Jayson Cayabyab/INQUIRER.net

Abul Khayr Alonto. Photo by: Marc Jayson Cayabyab/INQUIRER.net
“We will fight not with arms but through a peaceful democratic process,” he said.
Alonto even supported amending the 1987 Constitution if need be just so to pass the bill. The Bangsamoro bill is hounded with issues of constitutionality for its intent to give political autonomy in Mindanao.

Former military chief and Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon scored the two MNLF factions for “bickering” on their views.

“What we heard are bickering statements of interests by different groups,” Biazon said.
The two factions quickly reacted and said they are united in their position for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.

“We have been united. When we talk of independence, it is in every heart of every Moro people,” Sema said.

“There (are) no differing interests. We are united,” he added.

Alonto meanwhile quoted Senator Alauya Alonto who said of “unity in diversity.”
“If unity cannot be achieved in a strictly unity system then let us revert back to unity in diversity. Let us forge that unity,” he said.

“There is no other way for the Bangsamoro people to be united… but through the Bangsamoro bill formula,” Alonto added.

“We are one in the pursuance of the right to self-determination,” he said.

Noticeably absent was MNLF founder Nur Misuari, who was ousted as MNLF chair at the height of leadership problems which divided the Moro separatist group.

Misuari, chair of his own MNLF faction, faces an arrest warrant for leading a failed siege in Zamboanga City on September 2013 in an independence bid. He has since been in hiding.

He led the siege accusing the government of failing to implement and sidelining a 1996 peace pact when government signed another peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. MILF is a breakaway group of the MNLF.

The House is conducting consultations over the bill that seeks to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new Bangsamoro entity and end decades of Muslim secessionist movement in the region.

Once the bill is passed, it would have to go through a plebiscite for ratification.
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/666746/mnlf-factions-clash-amid-differing-stands-on-bangsamoro-bill

MNLF faction suggests Cha-cha to pave way for Bangsamoro law

From GMA News (Jan 20): MNLF faction suggests Cha-cha to pave way for Bangsamoro law

The chairman of one of the factions within the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has backed proposals for Charter Change (Chacha) to pave the way for the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amid questions on the bill’s constitutionality.
 
Datu HJ. Abul Khayr Alonto appealed to lawmakers Tuesday to consider amending the 1987 Constitution to resolve any constitutional infirmities in the Bangsamoro bill.
 
“If there are indeed constitutional infirmities in the BBL, then let us raise and address them now so that our nation may be made aware that the time to amend the Constitution has come,” he said at the hearing of the House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro bill.
 
House ad hoc panel on the BBL chair Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez earlier admitted there are some questionable provisions in the Bangsamoro bill, such as the delegation of the duties of constitutional bodies to the envisioned Bangsamoro political entity. 
 
Alonto expressed support for the creation of a federal parliamentary form of government, saying it will result in the attainment of genuine peace, justice and freedom.
 
“A federation can enhance national unity in diversity, strengthen the mechanism of transparency and accountability in good governance and usher in a truly equitable development, progress and prosperity in the Philippines,” he said.
 
Notably absent from the hearing were representatives from the MNLF faction led by founding chairman Nur Misuari and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), which have opposed the proposed BBL.
 
While Alonto proposed several changes to the Bangsamoro bill, he said he and the entire MNLF Central Committee and Bangsamoro Army Command Staff Conference of Field Commanders are supportive of the proposal to create a new political entity to replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
 
“The immediate passage of the BBL will be in consonance with our inherent and inalienable right to self-determination as a people with a distinct cultural identity,” he said.

Alonto is a founding leader of the MNLF and first vice chairman of the original MNLF Central Committee. Early last year, he was elected chair of one of the four factions of the group by 35 out of the 39 surviving members of the original panel.
 
Also in 2014, he and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim signed a statement of support for the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which served as the basis for drafting the Bangsamoro bill.

The BBL, once passed by Congress and upheld in a plebiscite in the proposed core territory, will formalize the creation of the Bangsamoro political entity that will enjoy an enhanced political and fiscal autonomy.
 

Truce violations: AFP, NPA engage in finger-pointing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Truce violations: AFP, NPA engage in finger-pointing

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Communist Party of the Philippines’ New People’s Army accused each other of violating their ceasefire declarations.

The AFP earlier declared a month-long unilateral ceasefire from Dec. 19 to Jan. 20 for the holidays and the Pope Francis’ visit, while the CPP announced a truce on staggered dates also for the holidays and Pope’s visit: Dec. 24 to 26; Dec. 31 to 1 and Jan. 15 to 19.

The ceasefire ended on Tuesday.

The military in Eastern Mindanao claimed the NPA rebels violated their ceasefire last Sunday after the guerrillas supposedly harassed a patrol base in New Visayas in Lupon, Davao Oriental. A 15-minute firefight ensued.

They also cited that NPA in Surigao del Sur “laid landline and deployed snipers” along the San Isidro-Mahaba Road.

The NPA, meanwhile, has accused the AFP earlier this month that despite the military’s supposed unilateral ceasefire, “military and police units observed no holidays and showed no letup in the conduct of their counter-guerrilla operations and militarization of communities."

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/666857/truce-violations-afp-npa-engage-in-finger-pointing

Gov’t troops clash with NPA rebels in CamSur; soldiers recover enemy guns

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 20): Gov’t troops clash with NPA rebels in CamSur; soldiers recover enemy guns
NAGA CITY, Philippines – A combined team of soldiers and policemen encountered a group of communist rebels in Goa, Camarines Sur, Tuesday morning, an Army official said.

Captain Mardjorie Panesa, public information officer of the 9th Infantry Division, said the soldiers and policemen were on security patrol when they clashed with five suspected New People’s Army rebels in Barangay (village) Scout Fuentebella, Goa, at 10:30 a.m.

She said government troops recovered an M16 rifle with four magazines, a rifle grenade, an improvised explosive device and one blasting cap from the fleeing rebels.

Panesa said the government forces were composed of a squad of nine soldiers with two officers from the 42nd Infantry Battalion under Lt. Col. Delfin Arguelles and two policemen from Goa Municipal Police Office.

The clash occurred just as the month-long unilateral ceasefire of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the communist rebels ended midnight of Monday.

Major Angelo Guzman, spokesman of Armed Forces of the Philippines Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) based in Lucena City, said there were no casualties on the side of the government forces in the short fire fight.

He said Major General Ricardo Visaya, Solcom commander, believed the rebels encountered by government troops in Goa were remnants of the NPA’s Front 75 operating in the area.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/666823/govt-troops-clash-with-npa-rebels-in-camarines-sur-soldiers-recover-enemy-guns

17,000 troops, 150,000 policemen, 100 snipers, 26 aircraft, armored vehicles, naval vessels return to mother units

From Ang Malaya (Jan 20): 17,000 troops, 150,000 policemen, 100 snipers, 26 aircraft, armored vehicles, naval vessels return to mother units

The Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police have lifted red and full alert status respectively. PNP spokesman Chief Supt. Wilben M. Mayor said “at 6 o’clock in the morning today, we’re back from full alert to normal alert.” While the AFP lifted red alert status two hours after Pope Francis took off on a Philippine Air Lines Airbus 340 yesterday.

17,000 AFP troops 5,000 of which are reservists, 26 aircraft, 100 snipers, dozens of K-9 units and squads of lightly armored vehicles and naval vessels, 150,000 policemen goes back to their home units.

“I know that you all made your own sacrifices in performing your professional duty as police officers to accomplish this mission. This historic visit serves to add greater spiritual and professional experience for the PNP in handling similar major events,” PNP Officer-in-Charge Deputy Director General Leonardo A. Espin told 150,000 policemen.

http://www.angmalaya.net/nation/2015/01/20/7590-17000-troops-150000-policemen-100-snipers-26-aircraft-armored-vehicles-naval-vessels-return-to-mother-units

PMA cadets thrilled to render military honors to Pope Francis (News Feature)

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): PMA cadets thrilled to render military honors to Pope Francis (News Feature)

It was a chance of a lifetime and members of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Gabay-Laya" Class of 2016 were just too happy and thrilled for the chance to render military honors to Pope Francis during the Pontiff's courtesy call on Malacanang Palace last Friday.

This was the feeling of Cadet Denzel Corpuz, 20, and his mistah, Cadet Leoncio Nico De Jesus, 21, when they received the "Warning Order" to render honors for Pope Francis, days before that momentous event.

Corpuz and De Jesus are the incoming PMA Cadet Corps' Brigade Commander and Deputy Brigade Commander, respectively.

The PMA Class of 2015, where the incumbent Brigade Commander belongs, is currently undergoing the Officer Preparatory Course.

From the very start, they considered the job not only as a duty but also as pride and honor.

They were set to make history as the first cadet honor guard unit to render honors to a Pope inside the Malacanang Palace.

"I take pride in representing the PMA in this momentous event. At the same time, I am honored to meet a respected leader," Corpuz, a Roman Catholic, said.

For his part, De Jesus said that saluting the Pontiff was a rare privilege.

"Not all PMA graduates can have the opportunity to salute the Holy Father in a military ceremony. I was very proud of this experience," De Jesus, a Born Again Christian, stressed.

Two distinct military ceremonies awaited the two upcoming top two leaders of the PMA cadet corps during the courtesy call of Pope Francis on President Benigno S. Aquino III at Malacanang Palace on Jan. 16.

Corpuz was assigned to lead the arrival honors while De Jesus was entrusted to spearhead the foyer honors during the Pontiff's departure.

Both cadets felt the pressure that comes with the job of honoring a holy man who is both a Head of State and a Church Leader.

They began thinking about the millions of people who will be watching on TV sets around the world.

They were also worried about the hot Manila weather.

Corpuz said that they are expected to show their best performance.

"Cadets are trained on how to maintain composure despite the pressures. We are not supposed to be adversely affected by external distractions and sacrifice the quality of our performance," Corpuz, an aspiring Army Scout Ranger, said.

To achieve excellent performance, Corpuz prepared himself and his men for the tough job that lie before them.

He wanted everyone to be conditioned mentally and physically so that they can attain perfection in all movements during drills and ceremonies.

"Aside from our routine parade drills, we dedicated one week to practice our movements specifically for the honor ceremonies. We also watched our diet a few days before the D-day," he added.

Meanwhile, De Jesus said that he wanted to showcase the PMA during the ceremonies but he was worried about possible untoward incidents.

"Our tactical officers demanded perfection and we echoed this to our subordinates. However, I was very worried when there were cadets who collapsed due to the hot weather during our drills in Manila," De Jesus revealed.

For one week, they led the members of the Honor Guard in practicing the military honors repeatedly.

During the arrival honors, Corpuz found himself a few steps away from Pope Francis.

He said that he remained focused in order to avoid committing mistakes.

"I couldn't help but stare at him. Seeing him up close and personal inspired me to perform in the best manner I can," he narrated.

While De Jesus revealed that he was only about two steps away from Pope Francis when he led the foyer honors.

He tried his best to stand ramrod straight and crisp.

De Jesus remained almost motionless and held his sword tight.

When the Pope was approaching, he couldn't help but "roll his eyeballs".

He almost forgot to give the right command.

"I was star-struck by his Holiness. I was glancing at him and almost failed to bark my orders," he said.

Both cadets were very glad that they were able to accomplish their assigned mission "with flying" colors.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=10&sid=&nid=10&rid=726651

Local Crisis Management Committee sought for a local 10-day truce extension

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Local Crisis Management Committee sought for a local 10-day truce extension

The Surigao del Norte Provincial Crisis Management Committee (PCMC) has sought a 10-day extension of the ceasefire at the local level through the provincial administrator to pave way for the negotiations for the safe release of the three police personnel who are still in the hands of their captors until this time.

Atty. Premolito Plaza, the provincial administrator of the province has issued a press statement saying that they have continuously exerted efforts for the immediate and safe release of the three PNP personnel in Surigao del Norte, who are still held captive by the New People's Army (NPA) for over two months now, according to the information passed by the Philippine Information Agency 13 to the local media outlets here.

The Provincial Crisis Management Committee, in a resolution, accordingly recommended for a 10-day extension of the ceasefire at the local level, particularly in the areas of Claver, Gigaquit, Bacuag and Alegria, all of the province of Surigao del Norte.

The Christmas ceasefire announced by Malacanang has already expired at the midnight of Jan. 19.

On Monday morning, top military and police officials here in the region said that they were ready to do their mandated normal functions; which included law enforcement, crime prevention and other police operations on the part of the PNP and the focused military operations coupled with the community organizing for peace and development and internal security operations in the part of the military, upon the expiration of the month-long unilateral Christmas truce in the declared by the government.

This will, accordingly include all the necessary effort to effect the safe release of the three abduction victims. Both the military and the police here also said however, that they were favorable to any negotiations and other peaceful means which might result to the immediate and safe release of the captives.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=727151

Alert farmer foils another bombing attempt in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Alert farmer foils another bombing attempt in North Cotabato

PIGCAWAYAN, North Cotabato -- A farmer walking at a road side in a remote village here to bring his cow to the field had the greatest discovery in his life, a deadly improvised explosive device (IED).

Godofredo Piala, purok leader of Barangay South Manuangan, Pigcawayan, found a sack at a road side left by two men riding tandem on a motorbike.

Aware of the bombing threats in North Cotabato, Piala became suspicious of the sack so he took a glimpse of it and found a mortar, a cellphone and electrical wiring inside.

Then he turned around to inform the two men about the thing they left near the quarry site, but the two had sped away.

Again Piala took another look at the sack and told himself it could be a bomb. With his cow following him, Piala reported his discovery to the police detachment some 200 meters away.

Senior Inspector Donald Gabico, Pigcawayan police chief, said the improvised explosive device (IED) was left at a roadside about 6 p.m.

Due to the presence of the explosive at the road linking Cotabato City and Davao City, police shut down the highway until bomb experts detonated the IED at past 8 a.m.

The alert purok (sub-village) leader said he became suspicious of the two men on a motorbike standing across the street where he was to leave his cow.

When asked, the two men told him they were urinating. When the two men appeared to be leaving, Piala informed them of the sack they unloaded in the area.

"They quickly sped away so I became even more suspicious and looked at the suspected bomb again," he said, adding that he quickly alerted the police.

Gabico said the IED could be intended for other areas but the suspects balked after seeing police officers were conducting inspection at a checkpoint about 200 meters away.

"The presence of police officers at the checkpoint forced the suspects to abandon the IED," Gabico told Radio Station DXMS.

It was the fourth bombing attempt in North Cotabato this month. Two of them occurred separately in Pikit town that toppled down two transmission towers and one in Kabacan public market Monday night.

More checkpoints have been set up in North Cotabato, especially along the Cotabato City-Davao national highway to prevent similar incidents.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=726970

IED blast rocks North Cotabato public market, no one hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): IED blast rocks North Cotabato public market, no one hurt

KABACAN, North Cotabato – Another bomb attack occurred in North Cotabato, less than 24 hours after unidentified men set off an improvised explosive device that toppled down a transmission tower, police said.

Senior Insp. Ernor Melgarejo, Kabacan police chief, said an IED fashioned from chemicals, concrete nails and mobile phone exploded at about 6 p.m. Monday while bomb experts were to check it inside the Kabacan public market.

Nobody was hurt in the blast since the market had been evacuated after a restaurant cashier informed the market guard about suspicious cellophane she found left by a man in one of the stalls.

The unidentified cashier alerted market guard Mike Remulta who in turn called the police.

Melgarejo said as the police and Army bomb experts were preparing to disarm the bomb, it went off.

Quoting witnesses, Melgarejo said a man arrived at about 5 p.m. inside the dry goods and fish section of Kabacan market. He left a cellophane containing a kilo of rice, canned goods and other items.

The cashier was suspicious of the man’s action so she took a peek at the cellophane where she saw a blinking light. Convinced it was a bomb, she called Remulta.

No one was injured. No group claimed responsibility.

The Kabacan blast came less than 24 hours after unidentified men set off IEDs at the foot of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) transmission tower No. 42 in Barangay Batulawan, Pikit, North Cotabato that cut power in parts of North Cotabato, the whole of Maguindanao including Cotabato City.

It was the third bombing attempt in North Cotabato since January 13 where an IED also toppled NCGP Tower 26 in Barangay Gilakit, Pikit, North Cotabato.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=726969

401st Brigade chief to vacate post for a higher office

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): 401st Brigade chief to vacate post for a higher office

A top senior official of the army here in the region may soon vacate his post as the regional army commander here to assume a higher post at their national headquarters in Camp Emillio Aguinaldo.

401st Brigade Commander BGen. Gregory M. Cayetano, announced during the Monday Flag-raising rites that he may soon be leaving his post after serving as the chief of his brigade for one year and 11 months. He assumed his post as the top official of the said brigade on February 28, 2013.

In an exclusive post rites interview, Cayetano said he will be assuming a post at the G-8, (at the Assistant Chief of Staff in the Army for Education and Training). “Hopefully, I can contribute something to the said office,” Cayetano said.

The senior army official also disclosed that he will be replaced by Col. Alexander Macario, whom he described as “my teammate who is equally efficient and effective officer. I believe he can do more and (even) improve the systems upon his assumption."

The general was the guest of honor and speaker during the Monday flag-raising rites. He was welcomed by Caraga Acting PNP Director CSupt. David Y. Ombao and other regional senior police officials, and was afforded an arrival honors upon his arrival at Camp Rafael C. Rodriguez.

During his message, Cayetano cited the various joint and cooperative peace and security efforts between the AFP and the PNP which he described as “at its best in this particular time.”

He also cited the police provincial and field officials whom he and his brigade had worked with in implementing the various projects, programs and thrusts, particularly in the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Suigao del Sur.

He mentioned the successful joint AFP and PNP project of the community organizing for peace and development (COPD) in the municipalities of Loreto, Veruela and San Luis in the province of Agusan del Sur which he said have “strengthened the bond between the police, the military and the community sending a positive signal to the people even to the grassroots level.”

He also cited other military-PNP successful joint ventures such as the “Joint Plan Halalan” in 2013 which had contributed greatly to the success and peacefulness of the said electoral exercise, the “Plan Alalay Kalakal,” the “Movement and Visit Protocol,” the “Common Network Open Line Protocol24/7” the assistance from the PNP Special and Legal Teams, the PNP SOCO, the Joint Peace and Security Coordinating Councils.

Cayetano also said that he is privileged to be working with three PNP Regional Directors during his term, with then PCSupt. Getulio Napenas, PCSupt. Dominador E. Aquino and presently with PCSupt. David Y. Ombao.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=726886

Military, police bewail terrorist threat in Northern Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Military, police bewail terrorist threat in Northern Mindanao

The top brasses of the military and police in Northern Mindanao on Tuesday bewailed reports about imminent terrorist threat in the region.

Pol. Chief Supt. Agrimero Cruz, regional director of the Philippine National Police (PNP) here, downplayed the capabilities of the Philippine-based extremist in sowing terror beyond the areas they presumed to be under their control.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the army’s 4th Infantry Division at Camp Evangelista here, said that the terror attacks in France and Nigeria that have killed more than 2,000 persons is unlikely to take place in Northern Mindanao.

The military and police officials said that the Philippine-based terror groups are simply proclaiming allegiance to either the Islamic State or Al Qaeda as part of the propaganda.

“In reality, the local terrorists cannot penetrate our well secured borders in the region,” Cruz said.Both the police and the military, however, urged the public to observe a heightened vigilance.

“The cooperation of the citizenry is highly important for us police officers in deterring crime. That’s why we value and take action on all the reports coming from the public,” Cruz said.

Lactao said that the military is also pursuing a concerted effort among national government agencies to install projects, especially in heavily infested villages by the communist New People’s Army (NPA).

He said that the military is adopting “Bayanihan” as an effective strategy to win the hearts and minds of the people into supporting all government programs intended to alleviate the lives of the marginal sectors in the region.“Bayanihan addresses the root cause of the insurgency. We can do that by extending the much needed government projects in the hinterlands.

It is a shared responsibility among all the stakeholders in society, including the residents of these villages. We certainly cannot afford to lose to communist insurgency,” Lactao said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=727102

Soldier in comrade’s slay faces homicide charges in Davao prosecutor’s office

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Soldier in comrade’s slay faces homicide charges in Davao prosecutor’s office

The Army soldier who shot his comrade inside their detachment in Barangay Paquibato Proper, this city is now facing homicide charges before the City Prosecutors Office (CPO) here.

Named respondent in a complaint forwarded before the CPO was Private First Class (PFC) Angel Quedding, 34, a resident of Kabacan, North Cotabato.

Quedding was brought before assistant city prosecutor Faizal Padate for inquest proceedings on Monday.

Quedding was tagged as responsible in the fatal shooting of PFC John Ryan dela Cruz, 28, a resident of Guimba, Nueva Ecija.

Police investigation revealed that Quedding and dela Cruz, both of the Army’s 69th Infantry Battalion, have a heated altercation involving their subsistence allowance and re-enlistment or promotion.

At first, their differences were amicably settled by their team leader Sgt. NiƱo Ladan but last Jan. 17, particularly at around 9:40 p.m., Quedding who was on duty during that time suddenly shoot dela Cruz hitting him fatally in the eye and left arm.

After the incident, Quedding was immediately arrested by other soldiers and brought to the 69th IB headquarters in Barangay Dalisay, Panabo City which later turned over to Paquibato Police Station.

Their respective issued firearms were also subjected for ballistics examination.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=727170

Southern Luzon Command to intensify security operations to neutralize rebel threat

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Southern Luzon Command to intensify security operations to neutralize rebel threat

The Southern Luzon Command said on Tuesday it will further intensify its security operations to neutralize rebel threat and ensure peace and development in the Southern Tagalog region.

This was stressed by Major Angelo Guzman, Southern Luzon Command spokesperson, who said that their Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO) efforts in 2014 had stalled the growth of the Communist Party Party (CPP) and New People's Army (NPA) in the region.

"In fact, there was a continuous decrease in the number of NPA's firearms and number of influenced or affected barangays. With this, Southern Luzon Command intends to accelerate the pace this year," Guzman said.

This was seconded by Southern Luzon Command chief Major Gen. Ricardo Visaya who said that "what they accomplished last year would form part of our campaign planning for 2015."

As such, he said that the Southern Luzon Command will intensify its combat operations and massive Civil-Military Operations this year.

Last year’s campaign plan yielded positive results for the Command.

Combat operations resulted in the neutralization of 124 (12 killed, 33 captured, 79 surrendered) regular members of the CPP-NPA.

Among these, 18 were high-ranking. It also prevented the recruitment for their armed component.

Civil-military operations efforts of "Bayanihan" teams led to the clearing of 40 barangays from enemy influence and affectation.

“Our focused military operations in 2014 gained headway in diminishing mass-based support on the Communist Party and the NPA,” Visaya said.

He added that their community-based peace and development efforts in partnership with various stakeholders effectively complemented their focused military operations.

Most of the "Bayanihan" projects were integral part in the conduct of peace and development operations in the barangays.

A total of 9,443 various projects and activities with stakeholders were conducted such as community services – 4,332; medical assistance – 259; landscaping para sa "kalikasan at kaunlaran" – 1,382; cleanliness and beautification 2,116; feeding programs – 114; sports festivities – 352; visits to camp facilities – 14; religious activities – 726; free haircut – 106; and activities with reservists – 42.

The campaign was able to help establish the conditions for the creation of an environment conducive for sustainable economic development.

"Through peace efforts, business firms, vital installations and major projects were shielded from enemy depredations. There was also no record of enemy major sabotage activities that might bear impact on the economic environment," Visaya pointed out.

There was also sustained peace and harmony in the industrial zones of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas and Quezon.

Likewise, there were improvements in rural productivity and vibrant rural economy based on government records and booming local tourism as evidenced by the continued development of large theme parks and high-end tourist destinations.

On Nov. 25, 2014, the island province of Catanduanes was declared "Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development."

In humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR), the Southern Luzon Command, as the lead search, rescue and retrieval (SRR) component of the Armed Forces in Southern Luzon, had effectively responded to the different types of disasters in the area of responsibility (AOR).

"Operating through the two infantry divisions, naval and air force components, the Command had significantly integrated these units in collaboration with other stakeholders to help mitigate the effects of disasters by saving lives, facilitating the evacuation to safer grounds through transportation assistance, providing communication and information assistance and other essential support before, during and after any disaster," Visaya stressed.

He also said that in times of calamities, Southern Luzon Command disaster tasked units have been in the forefront conducting various disaster response and relief operations.

"Though heavily affected, Southern Luzon Command forces were involved in HADR-related activities when typhoon 'Glenda' ravaged the AOR on 15 July 2014 and typhoon 'Ruby' on 7-9 December 2014. The command also conducted month-long HADR operations during the forced evacuation in preparation for the eruption of Mayon Volcano sometime in September 2014," Visaya said.

“We will pursue with vigor the declaration of programmed areas for Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development,” he added.

Visaya said that they will continually sharpen the command's tools of war and improve its fighting capabilities. Also, it will continue to adapt to the ever changing operational environment, sustain pressure and keep the enemy on the run.

“We will be doing these while we transform to a more credible force,” he added.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=727066

MNLF pledges full support to BBL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): MNLF pledges full support to BBL

House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Tuesday welcomed the full support of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) group led by Chairman Datu Abul Khayr Alonto to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the BBL as its legal iteration.

The panel chairman and Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said that a statement signed by Alonto and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim expressed a reiteration of MNLF's support to the "full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro particularly the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and all its annexes as published in the MNLF Declaration of Unity at Lama Mardeka published on March 18, 2014."

Alonto is a founding leader of the MNLF and first vice chairman of the original MNLF Central Committee. Early last year, he was elected by 35 out of the 39 surviving members of the original Central Committee as their head, and represents one of the three groups of the MNLF.

He said that the statement of support of the MNLF comes ahead of a scheduled public hearing of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL tomorrow [Jan. 21] in which MNLF members were invited to attend to ensure that their concerns are heard and serve as inputs to the drafting of an inclusive law.

“We welcome the support of the MNLF-Chairman Alonto group,” Rodriguez said. “It has always been our position that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is not only for the MILF, but is for all Bangsamoro, all Muslims, Christians and Lumads, and all other groups and sectors.”

Meanwhile, Rodriguez said the statement also cited that both Moro fronts agree to "continue working together to foster strong Unity, Solidarity and Brotherhood as one Bangsamoro people."

Just last year, the MILF and MNLF, under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, formally activated the Bangsamoro Cooperation Forum, a mechanism for coordination between the two fronts "towards achieving the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people towards just and lasting peace and peaceful resolution of their problems."

The statement, he said also called on the rest of the Filipino nation to “rally behind the President and Congress… for the immediate passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the establishment of the Bangsamoro government.”

The BBL is expected to be passed by Congress by March 15, followed by a plebiscite in the envisioned core territory towards the entrenchment of the Bangsamoro political entity.

Also present during the signing of the statement were members of the MNLF pioneer Top 90 group with their four succeeding batches, and members of the Bangsa Bae Women Medical Corps.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=727108

Army units recovered assorted NPA weapons in Camarines Sur clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Army units recovered assorted NPA weapons in Camarines Sur clash

Patrolling elements of the 42nd Infantry Battalion have recovered assorted weapons and explosives following a clash with five New People's Army (NPA) fighters at Barangay Scout Fuentebella, Goa town, Camarines Sur Tuesday morning.

The incident took place at 10: 35 a.m. Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman told the PNA.

He said that the two squads of the 42nd Infantry Battalion were on security patrol when they encountered the five rebels.

This triggered a short firefight which caused the rebels to retreat in different directions, leaving behind an M-16 automatic rifle, a rifle grenade, an improvised explosive device, and three backpacks.

No casualties were incurred by government security forces who are now pursuing the rebels.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=727129

Military units in Zambasulta alerted in wake of foiled jail break

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Military units in Zambasulta alerted in wake of foiled jail break

Military units deployed at the so-called Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) are still on "red alert" following the botched escape attempt of Abu Sayyaf leader Furuji Indama's brother at the Zamboanga Zamboanga City Reformatory Center on Monday.

Indama is one of the ranking leaders of the bandit group.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said the escape try of Bensar Indama was foiled by Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) guards keeping watch on the facility.

This happened after one of the guards discovered a .45 caliber pistol inside the jail.

Padilla said the guards learned that something was in the wind when several of the inmates made a request to stockpile rocks in the jail facility.

Bensar Indama is charged with kidnapping and several high profile crimes.

Padilla said that there is now a possibility that all "high profile" inmates be transferred to a more secure facility in Metro Manila as a result of the escape attempt.

He declined to comment further on the matter as the incident is now being handled by the police.

However, in an event that the AFP will be requested to aid the Philippine National Police, the military is more than willing to extend its support, he said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=727190

Military pursuing ASG band following Basilan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 20): Military pursuing ASG band following Basilan clash

Troopers from the military's Joint Task Group Basilan are now pursuing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) band led by sub-leaders Juhaibel Alamsirul, and Pasil Bayali following an encounter at Barangay Pamatsaken, Sumisip, Basilan Tuesday morning.

Government security forces were conducting routine law enforcement operations when they encountered the ASG bandits at around 11 a.m.

A sharp firefight lasted for 15 minutes and the bandits immediately retreated after sensing that military reinforcements were on the way.

The group of Alamsirul, alias "Abu Kik," retreated in a northeast direction, Joint Task Group Basilan public affairs officer Capt. Eugene G. Espino said.

No casualties were incurred by the government while those on the ASG are still being determined.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=1&sid=&nid=1&rid=727204

Past peace pacts haunt proposed Bangsamoro law

From Rappler (Jan 20): Past peace pacts haunt proposed Bangsamoro law

The ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro hears the concerns of Moro National Liberation Front in their 35th hearing on the proposed law



The House of Representatives opened the first day of session for 2015, Tuesday, January 20, with a committee hearing on the proposed law creating a new autonomous region in Mindanao.

It was the 35th public hearing conducted by the special committee created to tackle the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, and the 2nd to the last public hearing to be conducted before lawmakers hold a series of executive sessions to finalize the bill.
 
The hearings brought committee members not just to the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao but also other provinces such as Davao and Zamboanga and even provinces outside Mindanao – from Cebu to as far as Ilocos Norte – in what Cagayan Representative and commitee chairman Rufus Rodriguez described as one of the most comprehensive set of hearings conducted in the history of the House of Representatives.
 
This shows the level of effort that Congress has undertaken to seek and build a national consensus on the bill that seeks to create a new region with more political and fiscal autonomy than the ARMM.
 
The Aquino government wants the law passed first quarter of the year so that a plebiscite is held and leaders of the new region could be elected before President Benigno Aquino III steps down in 2016. (READ: Bangsamoro law Aquino's 2015 priority)
 
Yet proceedings during the 2nd to the last public hearing on the measure do not indicate consensus. The same issues that were at the center of the 2013 siege of Zamboanga that threatened to derail the peace process continued to be raised.
 
Leaders of two factions of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and heads of traditional sultanates in Mindanao faced the House ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law on Tuesday, January 20.
 
Abul Khayr Alonto, who represents 35 of the 39 surviving members of the original MNLF central committee, reiterated his strong support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
But Muslimin Sema, former Cotabato City vice mayor, maintained his stance that he neither supports nor rejects the bill.
 
Two other factions – the "Misuari Breakway Group" led by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari and Habib Mujahab "Boghdadi" Hashim, chairman of another MNLF breakaway faction, the Islamic Command Council, were not present. Both factions are against the peace process.
 
Also absent from Tuesday's hearing was the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters - a splinter group of the MILF who have reportedly pledged allegiance to the radical Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
 
Misuari is facing criminal charges over the Zamboanga siege that killed closed to 200 during the conflict. (READ: Zamboanga still under siege)
 
It was the MNLF, under Misuari's leadership, that led the Muslim rebellion in the 1970s. The MNLF signed the peace pact with the Ramos administration in 1996.
 
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which signed a peace agreement with the government that is now the basis for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, separated from the MNLF in the 1970s at the height of tensions between government and rebel forces due to leadership differences.
 
The MNLF signed two peace accords with the government - the 1976 Tripoli Agreement and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement - years before the MILF signed a peace pact with the government in March 2014. (READ: The MILF, the MNLF and 2 peace agreements)
After signing the pact with the Ramos government, Misuari rose to power to become the governor of the ARMM.
 
VARYING OPINIONS. Fomer Cotabato City vice mayor and Moro National Liberation Front leader Muslimin Sema faces the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Rappler
 
VARYING OPINIONS. Fomer Cotabato City vice mayor and Moro National Liberation Front leader Muslimin Sema faces the ad hoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Rappler
 
MNLF position
Up to now, the MNLF maintains that the government reneged on agreements made in the 1976 and 1996 peace accords.
"The last 3 years have been very difficult for the MNLF. The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2012, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014 and the crafting of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law may have been great and historic achievements but they caused discord as well," Sema said.
"The current contrast further enhanced the friction that divided the MNLF in 1976 whether or not to pursue independence or autonomy. And after the MNLF accepted autonomy in 1976 and 1996, we are divided further and subjected to the more difficult question whether or not to cling to the 1976 and 1996 agreements or go back to the original demand," Sema said.
The discord was dramatized during the siege of Zamboanga in 2013, carried out after Misuari once again declared he is pursuing independence after feeling left out of the current peace process.
What does the MNLF want?
For Sema, the Bangsamoro Basic Law should not repeal Republic Act No. 9054 but only amend it.
Sema said this will allow current provinces under the ARMM to be automatically included in the proposed Bangsamoro region.
"In its current form, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is a recipe for disintegration of the current autonomous region unless our perspective on this matter is taken with a grain of salt. Moreover, this will be the third plebiscite on the region and the way the BBL is written, we are bound to lose what we have gained in the last 4 decades of our people's struggle," Sema said.
Sema said one of the key components that was left unimplemented in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement was the guarantee that the plebiscite to establish an autonomous government should be conducted in 13 provinces and 9 cities in Mindanao and Palawan.
Sema wants Congress to include this provision in the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
The government, meanwhile, is of the position that the MNLF's aspiration to increase the ARMM's territory is already embodied in the bill. In an ambush interview, Rodriguez said he shares the same view.
Under the proposed law, local government units outside the core territory – upon a resolution or a petition of 10% of voters – may ask for their inclusion in the plebiscite.
 
PRO-BANGSAMORO. Abul Khayr Alonto, who represents 35 out of the 39 surviving members of the original Moro National Liberation Front central committee, supports the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Rappler
 
PRO-BANGSAMORO. Abul Khayr Alonto, who represents 35 out of the 39 surviving members of the original Moro National Liberation Front central committee, supports the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. Photo by Rappler
Alonto, who signed a communique with MILF chairman Murad Ebrahim expressing his support for the Bangsamoro, has the same position.
He said the Bangsamoro bill should "enhance" rather than abolish the ARMM so it may build on past agreements.
Alonto is not part of the Jeddah formula. He was elected as chairman of the 35 out of 39 surviving members of the MNLF central committee just before the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed.
Again, the same question that have been raised many times in the past is raised by Sema: "Where is the MNLF in all these considering it is the MNLF who negotiated for our people the principles of autonomy laid down in the 1976 Tripoli Agreement?"
Sema said there are "insinuations" from the government to make the MNLF part of the transition body for the Bangsamoro but this has not been discussed with the MILF through the OIC-sponsored Bangsamoro Coordination Forum.
Instead of focusing on the transition, government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer urged parties to focus on preparing for the election of the first set of Bangsamoro officials in 2016.
Challenge before Congress
During the hearing, Muntinlupa Representative Rodolfo Biazon asked Congress: Is it possible within the community of our Muslim brothers to have a convention of sorts to reconcile the differing statements of interests?
MILF chairman Mohagher Iqbal said the MILF and the MNLF have, in fact, moved to reconcile their difference through an OIC-sponsored forum.
Sema, for his part, threw the question back to legislators, who after all, had been to blame for crafting a law back in the late 90s that fell short of what the 1996 peace pact had promised.
"We have accepted autonomy. It is in the Constitution. But why is it so difficult to deliver it? And why is it now that it is our fault, the faults are thrown to us - that it's because we are not united? No, we are united. We have accepted autonomy. But it must be the kind of autonomy that is comprehensive, and provides just and lasting solution," Sema said.
When members of the ad hoc committee go into executive sessions from January 26 to 29 and February 2 to 4, Sulu Representative Tupay Loong said this is one of the key issues that should be resolved:
"This is the main issue facing us now - how to integrate the gains of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 Final Peace Agreement into the BBL."
He added: "The word "abolishing" must be looked into because if you abolish the ARMM, it is tantamount to rejecting the gains of the 1976 and 1996 peace accords."
Constitutional issues
But for the chairman of the committee, the more pressing issue is ensuring that the bill is constitutional. (READ: Two schools of thought on the Bangsamoro bill)
"There is support in general of the general structure of the bill. The main points of the bill are political autonomy - that's the power-sharing, and then the fiscal autonomy. All the rest are just trimmings," Rodriguez said.
"We would like to say that, in general, there is vast support for the bill. So we are looking at some provisions that may be in conflict with the Constitution. So it will not affect too much the meat of the bill," he added.
The last public hearing on the Bangsamoro bill in the House on Wednesday, January 21, will feature constitutional experts as speakers.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago will hold another round of hearings focusing on constituitonal issues on January 26.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate hopes to pass the law in plenary by March but Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr said there is no deadline to pass the law.

Top US envoy for East Asia in Manila for PH-US talks

From Rappler (Jan 20): Top US envoy for East Asia in Manila for PH-US talks

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel is in Manila for bilateral talks likely to touch on the South China Sea dispute

PH-US DIALOGUE. America's top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel is in Manila for talks likely to touch on China and Manila's military agreements with Washington. File photo courtesy: Yonhap/EPA
PH-US DIALOGUE. America's top diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel is in Manila for talks likely to touch on China and Manila's military agreements with Washington. File photo courtesy: Yonhap/EPA

A top US diplomat known for criticizing China’s controversial 9-dash line is in the Philippines for annual talks between Manila and Washington.

US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel met with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on the first day of the Fifth Philippines-United States Bilateral Strategic Dialogue in Manila on Tuesday, January 20.

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EAP Bureau
@USAsiaPacific    
A/S Russel & SFA del Rosario built on legacy of close US-PHL consultation & collaboration. @usembassymanila
The DFA, and the Philippines’ departments of defense, trade and industry, and justice are part of the working groups.

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EAP Bureau
@USAsiaPacific   
Wide-ranging dialogue on US-PHL partnership graciously hosted by SFA del Rosario. Salamat po!
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EAP Bureau 
@USAsiaPacific      
A/S Russel & Sec'y of Nat'l Defense Gazmin focused on keeping US-PHL Alliance strong & modern.