Thursday, March 12, 2015

Jeffrey Laude's mom open to P21-M settlement with Pemberton

From GMA News (Mar 12): Jeffrey Laude's mom open to P21-M settlement with Pemberton

The mother of slain Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude is open to a P21-million settlement from American suspect Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton, according to a report on “24 Oras” on Thursday.

“Siyempre, nanay ako. Hinahanap ko rin 'nung buhay 'yung anak ko, kahit papano, sa akin man lang pang-gamot, merong suporta. Nawala yung anak ko, nawala rin yung tulong sa akin. Kahit man lang panggamot,” Julita Laude said in the report.

Citing an unnamed source, the report said that aside from the P21 million, the Laude family is also seeking a confession from Pemberton, who is currently detained at a US facility inside Camp Aguinaldo.
The “24 Oras” report said the family made their demands during a closed-door meeting between the prosecution and defense panels regarding plea bargaining agreement.

It added that the Laude family also wants Pemberton locked up in Olongapo City Jail in case he is found guilty, and for him to issue a letter of apology not only to them but to the Filipino people as well.

Laude was found dead inside a motel in Olongapo City in October 2014. The victim was last seen alive entering the establishment with Pemberton, who was among the many American soldiers who are in the Philippines for joint military trainings.

Rescue operation launched for 2 Sibugay teachers

From the Philippine Star (Mar 13): Rescue operation launched for 2 Sibugay teachers

The police and military have launched an operation to rescue two public school teachers seized by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits in Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay last week.

Senior Superintendent Jose Bayani Gucela, provincial police director, believes that Reynadit Bagonoc-Silvano, 34, and his brother Russel Bagonoc, 22, are still in the province. 

The victims, both of Barangay Tuburan Elementary School, were snatched by six alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf’s urban terror group, as they were heading for school.

Three of the suspects have been identified to be members of the bandit group based in Basilan and Sulu.

Gucela said there was no indicator yet showing that the kidnappers have brought the hostages to other areas.

He confirmed that the kidnappers have contacted the victims’ family to demand P10 million in ransom.

Meanwhile, the police and military have stepped up security for teachers assigned in the island villages and coastal areas in this city.   

Military closes in on Usman; 20 more BIFF fighters slain

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 13): Military closes in on Usman; 20 more BIFF fighters slain

Twenty more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), including three relatives of Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman, were reportedly killed in series of clashes in Maguindanao Wednesday as the government continues its offensive.

The ongoing offensive prompted the military to close in on Usman, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said, who revealed that Usman is still believed to moving around the SPMS (Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano and Salibo (Shariff Aguak) in Maguindanao.

In a press briefing at Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Kakilala identified two of the slain BIFF men in Wednesday’s encounters as Rene Masabpi and Kumidi Simeon, Usman’s nephews.

Another unidentified relative of Usman was also killed in fierce clashes with Marine troops in the swampland of Barangay Pamalian, also in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, Maguindanao.

The bodies of the slain BIFF men were allegedly buried by their retreating comrades in shallow graves in Sitio Ilang, Barangay Tina, Shariff Aguak, Maguindanao.

Civilian informants pinpointed their burial sites to government troops.

“This brought to 116 the total BIFF rebels killed since we launched an all-out offensive, or a third of their estimated strength of 300,” said Kakilala.

He added, however, that members of private armed groups (PAG) have joined the BIFF.

Asked about the whereabouts of Usman, Kakilala denied reports that the wanted terrorist was able to slip out of Maguindanao amid the continuing military offensive.

“The operating troops of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 led by Lt. Col. Willy Manalang are closing in on the group of Usman and five foreign terrorists who are being coddled by BIFF leader Mohammad Ali Tambako,” said Kakilala.

“Accordingly, nasa area pa si Usman, sa SPMS box and its periphery… malabo siya makalusot kasi madami tayong checkpoint,” said the AFP spokesman.

He went on to say that troops are following blood traces left behind by the bandits.


Meanwhile, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) will be spending at least P12 million a week for food packs to support families displaced in the ongoing military offensive in Maguindanao.

ARMM said each food pack, which contains rations of rice, sardines, and noodles, costs P450 and sustains a family for three days.

A family of evacuees needs at least two food packs a week to meet their food requirement for the week. This means that the ARMM government would need to spend at least P12 million on food assistance alone to support 14,517 displaced families.

Police BOI report confirms US role in ‘Oplan Exodus’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 13): Police BOI report confirms US role in ‘Oplan Exodus’

STILL UNDER WRAPS  The much-awaited Mamasapano Report prepared by the board of inquiry has been submitted to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, but there’s no word yet about its release to the public.  MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

STILL UNDER WRAPS The much-awaited Mamasapano Report prepared by the board of inquiry has been submitted to Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, but there’s no word yet about its release to the public. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Six “American nationals” were at the command center of the Special Act ion Force (SAF) in Shariff Aguak town, Maguindanao province, hours before members of the elite police counterterrorism unit swooped down on the lair of wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in nearby Mamasapano town on Jan. 25.

Direct involvement of US forces in the SAF operation is among the findings of a Philippine National Police board of inquiry (BOI) that investigated the mission that cost the lives of 44 elite police commandos.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that it checked reports of US involvement in the SAF operation with the US Embassy in Manila and that the embassy denied the United States had participation in the mission.

The board of inquiry submitted its report to Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, PNP officer in charge, on Thursday.

The board also concluded that resigned PNP Director General Alan Purisima had “no authority” in involving himself in the implementation of “Oplan Exodus,” the SAF operation that killed Marwan but ended in a gun battle between the police commandos and guerrillas from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Besides the 44 SAF commandos, 18 MILF guerrillas and five civilians were also killed in the gun battle.

The board of inquiry report said Purisima, one of President Aquino’s closest friends in the government, had no authority since he was already serving the six-month suspension imposed on him by the Office of the Ombudsman when Oplan Exodus was discussed with the President in January.

Quoting the sworn statement of Director Getulio Napeñas, the sacked SAF commander, the board said the PNP’s “US counterparts had been providing reliable information” about Marwan and his Filipino lieutenant, Basit Usman.

Napeñas said the information given by the US authorities “were considered in covert operations against the high-value targets.”

“This technical intelligence support also facilitated the formulation and execution of the Oplan Exodus,” the report said.

The report said the information about the presence of the Americans at the SAF command post was provided by Supt. Michael John Mangahis, a senior SAF official who was also involved in the daring police mission.

Left index finger

“Mangahis revealed that six American nationals were at the TCP (tactical command post) in Shariff Aguak starting on the eve of the operations to provide real-time information to the SAF troops,” it said.

“Toward the retrieval operations, US forces also helped in the medical evacuation of the besieged and wounded SAF commandos. Mangahis maintained that the ‘pilots of the helicopter who helped in evacuating wounded personnel to the hospital’ were among the identified American nationals at the TCP,” it added.

Napeñas also told the board that he handed Marwan’s left index finger, which the SAF troopers cut off for DNA samples, to two officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in General Santos City three days after the disastrous police operation.

Earlier reports said the SAF commandos cut off Marwan’s right index finger for DNA testing.

“The pictures of Marwan, taken by the (84th Special Action Company) Seaborne immediately after he was killed, were also turned over to the FBI as well as the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government) and the PNP as part of the evidence,” the report said.

The 120-page report noted that Purisima “did not possess any authority and responsibility to perform the functions of his former position and office” when he and Napeñas briefed Aquino about Oplan Exodus in Malacañang on Jan. 9.

The report said Purisima, who was suspended by the Ombudsman over graft charges involving an irregular contract for the delivery of gun licenses, was “not part of the chain of command.”

Chain of command broken

“The chain of command was broken as regard to (Purisima), who could not act with authority by reason of his suspension. Therefore, his orders and directives in whatever form did not produce any legal effects as far as Oplan Exodus was concerned,” it said.

The report said Napeñas “took orders and heeded the advice of (Purisima) in executing Oplan Exodus” and owned “full responsibility and liability” for following Purisima’s instructions.

It stressed that Purisima’s authority as chief of the 150,000-strong police force “ceased to exist on the day his suspension was served” as noted by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago during a Senate hearing.

The report said Purisima set up a “de facto chain of command” when he “communicated and reported directly” to the President and gave orders to Napeñas despite his suspension from office.

“There are indications that (Purisima) was not merely acting in an advisory capacity. For instance, he expressly assumed responsibility for certain aspects of Oplan Exodus such as when he assumed that AFP support would be provided,” the report said.

“Even if Purisima was suspended, his actions indicate that he was asserting and exercising command responsibility in relation to Oplan Exodus,” it added.

Lackadaisical stance

The board of inquiry also slammed the resigned PNP chief for giving “inaccurate and ambiguous information from unreliable sources” during the “crucial stage of the crisis.”

The board’s report said the wrong information fed by Purisima “resulted in the eventual erroneous decisions.”

It said Purisima’s “lackadaisical stance” was evident when he sent a text message to Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the AFP Western Mindanao Command, at 7:07 a.m. of Jan. 25.

The message read: “Baka puede artillery support sa AFP (We request artillery support from the AFP).”

The report said Purisima’s message “does not connote a sense of urgency as its seemingly gave Guerrero a choice to either send support artillery to the battle zone or not.”

“Prudence would have required (Purisima) to take a quick action and give clear, decisive instructions. However, the suspended CPNP (Chief PNP) failed to do the same,” it said.

“Furthermore, the exchanges of text messages between the suspended CPNP Purisima and President Aquino reveal that the former provided inaccurate information,” it said.

‘Exhaustive undertaking’

Director Benjamin Magalong, head of the board and chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), described the seven-volume report on the investigation as a “very exhaustive undertaking and endeavor.”

A smiling Magalong met reporters moments before he and the two members of the board—Chief Supt. John Sosito and Director Catalino Rodriguez—handed the report to Espina at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

The three police officials signed each page of the spiral-bound report titled “Board of Inquiry: The Mamasapano Report.”

“It’s probably the most challenging investigation I have ever done,” Magalong told reporters.

Asked if the President’s speech on Monday blaming Napeñas for the Mamasapano debacle influenced the outcome of the investigation, Magalong replied, “We did not give attention to it.”

Tighter watch up in PMA

From the Sun Star-Baguio (Mar 12): Tighter watch up in PMA

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City -- Heightened security is up for the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).

PMA information chief Farrah Krishna Candelaria said security measures will be in place for the arrival of the Chief Executive during the graduation rites of Sinaglahi Class of 2015 (Sundalong Isinilang na may Angking Galing at Lakas na Handang Ipaglaban ang Bayan.)

Protesters will not be allowed to enter the Academy as a team of the Presidential Security Group, PMA security, police, navy, army and airforce security will be in place for the protection of the President as well as to assure the solemnity of the commencement rites.

The Presidential Security Group will lead the preparations for security backed by the PMA as well as members of the regional police while inspection areas will be put into place within the Academy.

A total of 171 cadets will graduate as part of the PMA Sinaglahi Class of 2015.

Cadet First Class Arwi Chiday Martinez, will receive the Presidential Saber from Aquino III during the Academy’s graduation ceremonies on Sunday, March 15.

Class 2015 is composed of 155 males and 16 females with 82 males and seven females joining the Philippine Army, 39 males and six females joining the Philippine Navy and 31 males and three females joining the Philippine Air Force.

CHURCH OFFICIALS DIVIDED OVER BB: MILF asks religious leaders to help save peace process

From the Manila Times (Mar 11): CHURCH OFFICIALS DIVIDED OVER BB: MILF asks religious leaders to help save peace process

A senior official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Wednesday called on the Catholic Church to help the government unite the people behind efforts to bring peace to Mindanao.

Ghadzali Jafaar, MILF vice chairman for political affairs, said the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is pending in Congress, was a first step to unity and it could make combatants “drop their guns in exchange for shovels, tractors for cannons, fertilizers for bombs and seedlings for bullets.”

“The BBL is the first step to unite the people of Mindanao to forge a common peace for the sake of progress,” Jafaar said in a news forum at the National Press Club.

Church officials, however, remain divided over the constitutionality of the BBL amid increasing unhealthy speculations about the fate of the peace roadmap agreed upon by the government and the MILF in wake of the Mamasapano massacre that left 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troops dead.

The clash of opinions was also expressed on Wednesday by Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo and Fr. Jerome Secillano, executive secretary, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Permanent Committee on Public Affairs.

Ongoing offensive

In Maguindanao and North Cotabato, at least 23 more members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were killed in clashes with government forces, bringing to 97 the number of bandits killed since the military launched an all-out offensive in the two provinces.

In a separate encounter with the Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM) tagged by the military as a breakaway group of the BIFF, two Marines were killed and two other soldiers were wounded in Barangay Pusao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, said Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office.

The JIM led by one Mohhamad Ali Tambako was said to be the group protecting Filipino bomb-maker Abdul Basit Usman and five international terrorists. Both clashes, Cabunoc said, took place in Maguindanao.

Catholic principles

In defending the BBL, Quevedo said the proposed law is constitutional and is even inspired by Catholic moral principles and Christian values.

In a pastoral letter, the Mindanao-based prelate argued that contrary to the opinion of critics, the BBL would not pave the way for disintegration of the Republic because under the proposed law, Bangsamoro self-determination is only within a limited territory that would remain under the control of the central government.

“The overall principle that governs the BBL is the Catholic moral and social principle of subsidiarity, a principle already enshrined in our own Constitution,” he said.

“The principle requires the intervention of the national government and its various entities when the common good of all requires it. Therefore, no entity of the Bangsamoro government, such as a Bangsamoro auditing department or police force, is absolutely independent of their national counterparts,” Quevedo added.

But Secillano did not buy Quevedo’s argument, saying the BBL has many loopholes, pointing to provisions on self-rule and loose financial management.

Secillano expressed apprehension that if these provisions were left as is by Congress, it could sooner lead to the secession of Mindanao from the Republic.

“To make it appear that the powers of the central government are not compromised and the right to self-rule of the Bangsamoro is not jeopardized, the draft BBL came up with the words ‘coordination and cooperation’ on matters that may potentially undermine both,” he said.

“The problem is the extent of coordination and cooperation is not clearly spelled out, hence, there’s a difficulty in determining what really ought to be done and what shouldn’t be,” Secillano added.

“After reading the draft though, I got the impression that the Bangsamoro’s right to self-rule seems to be favored, with the central government maybe consciously and slowly allowing the island of Mindanao to slip from its grip,” he noted.

Congress has given itself until June or after lawmakers return from the Holy Week break to pass the draft law.

The BBL’s enactment into law would pave the way fo the establishment of a new autonomous region that would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM.

Just like in the ARMM, the central government guarantees the flow of funds to the new autonomous region amounting to billions of pesos on top of the region’s revenues from its own taxes, business fees, ports’ collections, mining fees and the cultivation of natural resources, among others.

But Secillano said how the billions of pesos of funds would be managed by the Bangsamoro government is something that is yet to be clarified.

He expressed alarm over how the MILF would treat other armed groups in the South such as the BIFF, JIM, Moro National Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf.

Protracted war

Jaafar, meanwhile, noted that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in Mindanao in “a protracted war” that has been going on for decades. The fighting has been traced to the struggle of Muslim Filipinos for autonomy, he said.

“Muslims and Christians have lived together in peace in the towns and cities, but a secessionist war has sputtered off and on in the past several years. The latest attempt to end the fighting resulted in a peace agreement that opened the way for passage of the BBL,” according to the MILF official.

Jafaar, a widely respected figure among Muslim leaders, said the peace agreement and BBL offered an opportunity to end the war, which “only brought anger and hatred among the people.”

“This is the time to stop firing our guns and start treating one another as equals and brothers,” he added. “It is time to stop seeking revenge and start choosing to forgive the ones, who caused us losses and sufferings.”

Jafaar said the peace that Filipinos are craving was “hanging in the air” and the delay in the passage of BBL would “kill real progress that the whole country is entitled to.”

“Why don’t we just start acting as one people and deliberately plan to utilize and maximize the great natural resources that Mindanao is offering?” he asked.


From the Manila Times (Mar 11): CHOPPER DEAL WHISTLEBLOWER TO TELL ALL: ‘Huge kickbacks’

THE whistleblower in the “defective” P1.2-billion helicopter deal between the Department of National Defense (DND) and a foreign aircraft supplier is raring to blow the lid off the allegedly onerous contract and name top officials who either got or were “promised” huge kickbacks from the deal, involving the supply of 21 refurbished “Hueys.”

“Joey,” a source of The Manila Times who has provided the paper with voluminous documents showing discrepancies and other “violations” of the P1.2-billion supply contract, was meeting a ranking official of Congress on Tuesday to hand over digital copies of the “evidence.”

In an interview, he said he will bare all, including disclosure on the “5-12 percent” kickbacks that allegedly went into the pockets of some unscrupulous Defense officials who were involved in negotiations with Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and its partner, Eagle Copters Ltd of Canada, for the supply of 21 UH-1 helicopters.

“I will disclose all these in an affidavit which I am preparing. I am willing to testify in any credible investigative body about what I know about this deal. I am doing this for the country and not for anything else. I know this is hard but this thing must be stopped for the sake of our pilots and our Armed Forces,” according to “Joey.”

During the meeting with a lawmaker, who earlier vowed to call for an inquiry into the matter, the whistleblower said he would ask for “immunity and protection.” “Even if the Ombudsman would ask me to share what I know, I will. But I will request protection from them and Congress for my family,” the source said.

“Joey” requested that his real identity be kept secret until the affidavit has been signed.

To give The Times a glimpse of the extent of his involvement in the controversial chopper deal, the whistleblower said he was “neck-deep” in it.

“The issue on commissions is a matter of personal knowledge. The DND [Department of national Defense] official even discussed it with me,” The Times source added.

“Joey” said he will reveal the identities of the DND officials soon, including the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) official who acted as “agent” for the helicopter supplier.

The informant claimed that RASI committed “5 percent” of the contract price as the AFP official’s commission. Another “7 percent” was promised to be given to a higher DND official upon conclusion of the project.

The source, however, doubted that the 7 percent commission would actually go to the “higher” DND official, who is known to be “straight.”

“When [subordinate DND official] told me that [higher DND official] is getting 7 percent, I really doubted it,” “Joey” said. “You can reveal their names once the affidavit is okay,” he added.

One of the officials was key to RASI bagging the P1.2-billion supply contract because Robert Rice, the president of the aircraft firm, had dealings with him in the past. In one transaction, the informant alleged that money was wire-transferred to the bank account of the DND official, who was then serving in one of the branches of the Philippine military.

“Rice even told me that he gave cash amounting to $500,000 to [the official],” “Joey” said. “This can be checked through the AMLC [Anti-Money Laundering Council],” she added.

The previous deal also involved the supply of a helicopter.

Meanwhile, the informant alleged that RASI should have been “blacklisted” as early as the second bidding for the chopper project after Defense officials discovered that the company “faked” some of the documents it submitted to pre-qualify, including a supposed contract with the Tunisian armed forces.

Government inspectors in 2013 found out that RASI violated the terms of the bid when it “lied” about having “completed” the Tunisian supply contract when, in fact, the project was left unfinished and the company remained unpaid.

“Joey” also provided The Times copies of documents pertaining to the supposed Tunisian deal, including an exchange of emails between a representative of RASI and a local military inspector who gave the company “tips” on how to go about the “Tunisian problem.”

The Times withheld publication of the email exchanges as it may be contrary to law.

“Joey” said he would subject the matter to the perusal of future investigators.

Comparing Counterterrorism in Indonesia and the Philippines

From the International Relations and Security Network (Mar 12): Comparing Counterterrorism in Indonesia and the Philippines

Scott McKay and David Webb’s research into Indonesia’s and the Philippines’ counterterrorism (CT) efforts has led them to draw two conclusions – 1) law enforcement-based approaches are more effective than military ones, and 2) the US is most effective when it tailors its CT support.
By Scott McKay and David Webb for Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)
This article was originally published in the February 2015 Edition (Vol. 8, Issue 2) of CTC Sentinel by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.

Terrorism in Southeast Asia predates the American post-9/11 war on terrorism. But since 2001, terrorist groups in Indonesia and the Philippines have emerged as significant security challenges within these states, as well as indirect threats to U.S. national security. The United States has made substantial direct and indirect contributions to the counterterrorism (CT) efforts within these states, with varying returns on investment.

Despite differing responses to terrorism, Indonesia and the Philippines are both commonly viewed as CT success stories, as terrorist groups have been degraded and links to al-Qa’ida have been weakened. But while terrorist operations in Indonesia have declined in the post-9/11 era, attacks have increased in the Philippines. Last month, an operation targeting international terrorists on the southern island of Mindanao resulted in the death of 43 Philippine national police commandos.[1]
Between 2002 and 2013, the U.S. provided $262 million in security assistance funding to Indonesia, and $441 million in security assistance to the Philippines.[2] The U.S. has also provided direct military-to-military support in the Philippines, advising and training Philippine CT forces over the last decade. Due to differences in culture, institutions, capabilities, and U.S. assistance, the Indonesian and Philippine governments have implemented distinctive CT strategies. Indonesia has relied on national police to degrade terrorist networks, while the military has been the primary CT force in the Philippines.

This article evaluates CT efforts in Indonesia and the Philippines in order to compare and contrast host-nation approaches and corresponding U.S. support. This article also highlights American best practices, which may be transferrable to U.S. support for CT in other parts of the world.

Our research has led to two significant conclusions. First, based on several quantitative measures of effectiveness, the law enforcement-based Indonesian CT approach has been more effective than the military-based CT approach of the Philippines, although the multi-faceted nature of terrorism within the Philippines arguably makes the task of CT in the Philippines more difficult. And second, the U.S. can be most effective when providing tailored CT support, based on the nature of the terrorist threat and host nation culture and national capabilities.

Terrorism in Southeast Asia
Prior to 9/11, Southeast Asian states viewed terrorism as low-level, localized threats, with little impact on their national security interests. The United States, meanwhile, was largely preoccupied with Middle Eastern terrorist groups.[3] But following 9/11, as linkages between al-Qaeda and Southeast Asia emerged, the United States started to pay more attention to terrorism in the region—specifically in Indonesia and the Philippines.[4] The Bali bombings on October 12, 2002, however, were a wake up call for Southeast Asia. Ambassador Alfonso T. Yuchengco, the Philippine permanent representative to the United Nations (U.N.), said that “10/12” was to Indonesia and Southeast Asia what 9/11 was to the United States and the West, “awakening Southeast Asia to the threat of Islamist terrorism.”[5]

Three types of terrorist groups exist in Southeast Asia: global, regional, and national.[6] Southeast Asian terrorist groups are interconnected, however, often sharing leaders, members, tactics, and objectives. Global terrorist groups such as al-Qa’ida have recruited and trained operatives throughout the region, and have maintained connections to Southeast Asian terrorist groups since the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan. Regional terrorist groups, such as the Indonesian-based Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), seek to create an Islamic state throughout Southeast Asia. And nationalist groups such as the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)in the Philippines seek an Islamic separatist state in the southern islands of Mindanao. Al-Qa’ida’s persistent presence in Southeast Asia and its connection to regional and nationalist terrorist groups in Indonesia and the Philippines have prompted the U.S. to proactively support Indonesian and Philippine CT efforts over the last decade.[7]

Terrorism and CT in Indonesia
Jemaah Islamiyah—aligned with al-Qa’ida and overlapping in leadership and membership since the 1990s[8]—gained international attention through the Bali nightclub bombings in 2002, which were the most deadly terrorist attacks in the world since 9/11.[9] Among the approximately 500 casualties were Americans, Australians, Canadians, Europeans, Japanese, and Indonesians.[10]

JI followed the Bali bombings with annual high profile bombing attacks in Indonesia over the next three years, to include the bombing of the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Jakarta on August 5, 2004, which killed 11 and wounded 150; the bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta on September 9, 2004, which killed 11 and wounded 160; and another Bali bombing on October 1, 2005 which killed 20 and injured 129.[11]

In the aftermath of the 10/12 attacks, the Indonesian government accepted American and international assistance to combat terrorism, and initiated a thorough reform of the Indonesian national security apparatus.[12] Key aspects of Indonesia’s CT evolution since 2002 include legal reform to enable the prosecution of terrorists, improved domestic CT forces, and the deradicalization of convicted terrorists.

The U.S. has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in security funding to support CT in Indonesia, but little direct support in the form of military training and advising. The Australian government—motivated by the Bali bombings, Jakarta embassy bombing, and persistent terrorist threats throughout the region—has provided trainers and advisors to Indonesian CT forces. American funds and Australian direct support enabled the creation of the Indonesian national CT force, known as Detachment 88, in 2003. Detachment 88 is responsible for investigations, intelligence, and hostage rescue, in addition to traditional CT operations, and has distinguished itself as an elite CT force. It has had success in targeting and dismantling terrorist organizations throughout Indonesia.[13]

The evolution of the CT apparatus in Indonesia has yielded tangible results, including the detention and prosecution of a significant percentage of JI leadership, and a successful start to a deradicalization program and legal reforms. However, governmental corruption, prison over-crowding, and a recent wave of ISIS propaganda will lead to future terrorism challenges, despite the short-term successes against JI. Continued progress is required to maintain the success that Indonesian CT forces have achieved in the past decade.

Terrorism and CT in the Philippines
January’s tragic clash between members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) and members of the Islamic separatist group, known as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), highlights several notable security trends in the Philippines. The 12-hour firefight ensued during a raid to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, a Malaysian-born operational leader and bomb maker within Jemaah Islamiyah, who had reportedly been in the Philippines since 2003 training ASG bomb makers. This incident highlights the long-standing connections between Southeast Asian terrorist groups, the continuing instability in the southern Philippines, and the new and increasing role of the Philippine National Police in the CT mission that had been dominated by the Philippine military until 2010.

The Philippines is confronted with the most diverse set of internal security challenges in Southeast Asia.[14] The Philippine communist insurgency, known as the New People’s Army (NPA), has existed since 1968,[15] and is—in the eyes of the Philippine government—the most significant internal security threat, because of the NPA’s dispersed disposition and ability to influence the Philippine capital region on the island of Luzon.[16] But in recent years, the most newsworthy security challenge within the Philippines has emerged in the southern island region of Mindanao, where Muslim separatist groups have sought autonomy for centuries.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has transitioned from separatist terrorist group to political party, as the peace process has achieved fragile autonomy for the MILF.  But radical factions such as ASG and BIFF seek a completely independent Islamic state under Sharia law. ASG has proven to be the most nihilistic terrorist group in the Philippines, conducting a bombing at the Davao International airport on March 5, 2003, which killed 21 and injured 148; and conducting a bombing on a Philippine super-ferry on February 27, 2004, which killed 116 and injured 300, the worst terrorist attack in Asia since the 2002 Bali bombings.[17]

In contrast to Indonesia, the Philippine government had been in conflict with terrorist groups for decades before the start of the so-called global war on terrorism. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has the structure, the aptitude, and support of both the government and the populace to pursue the terrorist groups. Philippine law enforcement forces, however, lack capacity and public support, based on a history of ineptitude and corruption.[18]

CT in the Philippines, therefore, has been traditionally a military responsibility, and while the military CT forces can effectively clear terrorist safe havens, weak local governments and law enforcement units are incapable, and often unwilling, to hold and build in isolate areas such as Mindanao.[19] Since 2010, the Philippine government has made an effort to pass the domestic CT mission from the military to the national police, but the transition has been slow and beleaguered by distrust and competition between the two organizations.[20]

American CT support has arrived in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars of security funding, as well as the continual deployment of U.S. troops to the Philippines to train and advise the Philippine CT forces. Due to the links between Abu Sayyaf Group and al-Qa’ida, ASG has been the primary focus of Operation Enduring Freedom-Philippines (OEF-P) for the United States. Through OEF-P,American advisors have enabled the Philippine security forces to contain and severely disrupt ASG to the point where the group no longer poses a significant threat to the Philippine capital region in Luzon. But despite the commitment of the Philippine government and the support of the United States, ASG and other Islamic separatists groups remain persistent security challenge within the Philippines.

Effectiveness of CT Responses
Two quantitative measures can help explain the CT effectiveness of these two states from 2002-2013. The first is an assessment of the trends in terrorist attacks according to the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) Global Terrorism Database (GTD).[21] The data clearly indicates that terrorist attacks have declined in Indonesia while increasing in the Philippines.

From 2002-2007 the relative number of attacks for the two countries are similar, with the Philippines experiencing slightly more attacks throughout this period, which is understandable due to the diversity of Philippine terrorist groups. In 2002, Indonesia suffered 43 terrorist attacks compared to 48 attacks in the Philippines. In 2007, terrorist incidents in the Philippines spiked upward to 65 attacks, while attacks in Indonesia fell to only two attacks.

Attacks increased in both countries over the next six years, but overall, attacks in the Philippines increased 13-fold between 2002 and 2013 (from 48 attacks to 652) and fell by 26 percent in Indonesia during the same time period (from 43 attacks in 2002 to 32 in 2013). Although one could argue that the uptick in the Philippine attacks is due to the relative strength of the various terrorist groups that operate there, another plausible argument is that Indonesian CT has been more effective than Philippine CT.

The second quantitative measure of effectiveness is an analytic tool that measures national responses to terrorist activity. This tool was first featured in a 2014 article that evaluated the relative effectiveness of CT operations in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailan.[22] The model determined the average time between CT operation and a subsequent terrorist attack to be eleven days in Indonesia, as compared to eight days in the Philippines. Thus, a CT intervention such as an arrest, indictment, or imprisonment had a larger magnitude of effectiveness in Indonesia.[23] Although there are several factors that could explain the lag in a terrorist group’s ability to operationally respond in these cases, this model provides a second quantitative indication that Indonesian CT efforts may have been more effective than Philippine CT efforts.

American Lessons Learned
There are several lessons to be learned from American CT support in Indonesia and the Philippines. These conclusions, though germane to the terrorism threats and responses within these specific states, may also be applicable to other international situations where the United States must assist a host-nation with CT efforts.

1. When planning a CT strategy, the United States must consider the unique history, culture, and capabilities of the host nation. These factors, combined with effectiveness of the host-nation’s military, law enforcement, judicial system, and local governance, must be understood to properly tailor CT strategy. The Indonesian law enforcement-based CT approach has been more effective than the military-based Philippine CT approach, but Philippine culture and national capabilities would not have supported an Indonesian-style CT program in the Philippines in 2002. So the United States was wise to tailor support through the Philippine military, while concurrently working with Indonesian law enforcement for CT purposes. Properly tailored American CT support will best contribute to the effectiveness of the collective CT strategy.

2. Local governance, to include effective legislative and judicial systems are prerequisite ingredients if the host-nation military is to be the leading CT force. The Philippine military-led CT model had effective results against the terrorist groups, but weak local governments and law enforcement were not prepared to follow up on the security gains achieved by the military. If an initial military-based CT response is required, then the host nation should employ a dual-track approach to develop the capacity of the host-nation’s civil institutions. Transitioning the CT mission from the military to the police requires national support, and the military must be willing to share intelligence and tactics, techniques, and procedures with law enforcement. Friction remains between Philippine military and law enforcement, due to many years of military-led CT in the Philippines.

3. Technical and tactical training to support CT functions such as investigation, intelligence, and targeting are more helpful than blindly-sent financial aid. For example, in Indonesia, the investigative and forensic training provided to Detachment 88 greatly enhanced its targeting effectiveness in recent years, and the training of a cyber investigation team led to a new means of gathering intelligence and prosecution of terrorists that otherwise would have been unavailable.[24] Cyber team training and integrated targeting methods for Indonesian CT practitioners provided more of an impact than purchased equipment alone.

4. The U.S. should seek to capitalize on the capabilities, expertise, and positive reputation of allies in the host-nation’s region to assist in CT efforts. In Indonesia, Australia took an active role in providing aid and training to Indonesian CT forces, complementing the financial aid from the United States. Australia provided specialized law enforcement training for Detachment 88 as well as funding for its training facilities.[25]

Additionally, Australia still provides forensic assistance to support Indonesian CT operations, enabling Detachment 88 to successfully prosecute the insurgents that are captured.

 Australian involvement was also more palatable to the Indonesian population than American involvement. In Indonesia, direct American support would have likely been negatively perceived, while direct support from Australia was not seen as threatening to the Muslim majority. In future situations, the United States should encourage direct support from allies who have similar interests within the host-nation, but might be perceived in a more positive light than Americans.

5. A form of de-radicalization or reintegration should be considered as a part of the legal and judicial reforms within the host-nation. Both Indonesia and the Philippines incorporated de-radicalization programs with varying degrees of success. The host-nation will have to develop such a program based on its cultural norms and national goals, but the United States can assist in this process by providing funding and infrastructure. Deradicalization is essential to reintegrate captured terrorists into the host-nation society.

The United States has made significant direct and indirect contributions to CT efforts in Indonesia and the Philippines, with varying returns on investment. The United States seems to have received a better return on CT investment in Indonesia as terrorist attacks have declined since 9/11, while attacks have increased dramatically in the Philippines during the same time period. It is difficult, however, to determine whether these trends should be attributed to Indonesian CT efforts, or the efficacy and resilience of Philippine terrorist groups (or a combination of both). The United States can learn many lessons, however, from its CT support in Indonesia and the Philippines, and these lessons should be applied to future CT assistance efforts.

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[1] Arlene Samson-Espiritu and Tim Hume, “43 Philippine police killed by Muslim rebels while hunting bomb makers” CNN, January 27, 2015.
[2] Aid data was compiled from the U.S. State Department FY Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations..FY data was taken from the FY +2 request for 2002-2013.  INCLE, FMF, IMET, and NADR funds were included in these figures.
[3] Rommel Banlaoi, Counter Terrorism Measure in Southeast Asia: How Effective Are They? (Philippines: Yuchengco Center, 2009), pp. 23-24.
[4] Banlaoi, p. 24.
[5] Alfonso Yuchengco, “Islamist Terrorism in Southeast Asia,” Issues and Insights, no. 1-03 (Honolulu: Pacific Forum CSIS, January, 2003), p. 1.
[6] Banlaoi, p. 23.
[7] Bruce Vaughn, “Terrorism in Southeast Asia,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, February 7, 2005, pp. 4-5.
[8] Vaughn, pp. 6-7.
[9] Ibid., p. 11.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Banlaoi, p. 20.
[12] Peter Chalk, “The Evolving Terrorist Threat to Southeast Asia: A Net Assessment,” Rand National Defense Research Institute (United States: 2005), p. 152.
[13] Ibid., p. 154.
[14] Ibid., p. 33.
[15] Chalk, p. 36.
[16] Virginia Bacay-Watson, interview August 2014, at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies in Honolulu, Hawaii.
[17] Banlaoi, p. 64.
[18] Gentry White, Lorraine Mazerolle, Michael Porter, and Peter Chalk. “Modeling the Effectiveness of Counter-terrorism Interventions.” Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice No. 475 (2014), p. 472.
[19] Chalk, p. 144.
[20] Dennis Haney, interview, February 2015, at Stanford University.
[21] National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), University of Maryland, Website accessed on December 1, 2014.Number of attacks were documented for each year in both Indonesia and the Philippines.
[22] White, p. 461.
[23] White, p. 468.
[24] Kristen E. Schulze, interview, November 2014, London School of Economics, London, U.K.
[25] Chalk, p. 154.

[Major Scott McKay is currently a Wayne A. Downing Fellows pursuing Masters of Arts Degrees at Stanford University in International Policy Studies. He has served in a variety of conventional and special operations assignments including and most recently with the 75th Ranger Regiment.
Major David Webb is currently a Wayne A. Downing Fellows pursuing Masters of Arts Degrees at Stanford University in International Policy Studies. He has served in a variety of conventional and special operations assignments including and most recently with the 75th Ranger Regiment.]

MILF: Privilege Speech of House DS Balindong on BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 11): Privilege Speech of House DS Balindong on BBL

Hereunder is the full text of the Privilege Speech of House of Representatives’ Deputy Speaker Pangalian M. Balindong of the 2nd District of Lanao Del Sur on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), delivered on February 10, 2015:


A privilege speech, February 10, 2015, by


   Representative, 2nd District of Lanao del Sur                           

Mr. Speaker, distinguished Colleagues,

I rise to speak for peace and support the policy of the President to push for peace without let up, and call for this August Chamber of Congress to deliberate on the Bangsamoro Basic Law with urgency and pass it in opportune time.

Mr. Speaker, distinguished Colleagues, the Bangsamoro Basic Law is a product of peace negotiation, and the MILF and the Government worked for 17 years to put it together.

 No doubt, it is a political resolution to the secessionist struggle of the Bangsamoro. 

As we all know, obstacles littered the way.

But the parties were able to surmount them. 

For peace, to borrow from George Bernard Shaw, is not only better than war, but more infinitely arduous. 

That cannot be gainsaid.

 But I’m afraid I’m hearing the drumbeats of war within this August Chamber in the wake of the Mamasapano Incident.

Mr. Speaker, at this time and without a thorough investigation as yet, I do not wish to locate responsibility for the incident.

 But I understand that it is a foison of an earthquake, and some of our colleagues were stirred into antipathy at the BBL and are pushing for the suspension of its deliberation. 

I too felt the shock.

But instead of antipathy, I was moved with greater resolve to work for peace and mend fences.

I know war and it is cruel. 

Many kin and friends, more than the figure of 44, died in the struggle of the Bangsamoro for self-determination. 

According to literature, more than 100,000 of our people, most of whom were innocent civilians, lost their lives, their graves mostly unmarked and the whole of Moroland their graveyard.

 And how they were done in and abused were much horrendous. 

Many were killed in the masjids and while in prayers, their villages and masjids looted and burned, crops destroyed, draft animals either killed for meals or carted away, the bodies mutilated, pregnant women disemboweled, children left to survive without ears. 

Moroland was a warren for soldiers and the Bangsamoro were the game.

 Let me highlight instances that flash me red even to this day. 

In Manili, Carmen, 70 Muslims were killed inside a mosque including 29 women and 13 children, one of whom was a 3-month-old infant suckling his mother’s breast when they were both felled.

In Siocon, Zamboanga Del Norte, Muslim women were herded in a school building and openly molested and later killed.

In the towns of Lebak and Kalamansig, Muslim women were dried naked under the heat of the sun and made to do striptease act, the pretty ones frequently taken to naval boats to satisfy the lust of its officers and crewmen.

 Every night at least four to seven men took turns to divest every woman of her dignity.

Many professionals with promising careers have left the comforts of life and preferred a difficult existence in the care of rebellion to vent their pent-up emotions.

         In economic terms, the war is a deadweight on the progress of the country. In a 26-year period, the Philippine military spent 73 billion pesos, or an average of 40 percent of its annual budget.

          Mr. Speaker, distinguished Colleagues, I want this war to end now.

 I am afraid time will come when I have no more tears to shed for empathy. 

I am now old and I know when that time comes, my legs will not carry me to the warfort of rebellion.

But many of my descendants and kin will.

The Muslims persevere and their armed champions have entered into peace agreements with the government and observed ceasefire holidays.

We Muslims love peace, its pursuit an injunction of our faith. 

One of the names of God is Peace. 

Our salutation is an expression of peace. 

Our formalistic prayers end with words of peace. The Qur’an says 

 “If your enemy is inclined to peace, Muslims should also be inclined.”

Mr. Speaker, the Bangsamoro have taken wounds for peace. 

The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 between the MNLF and the Government were violated by the latter and went on to create an Autonomous Region for the Bangsamoro sans the participation of the MNLF and the Organization of the Islamic Conference. 

The 1996 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the same parties were not implemented fully, and until Misuari’s Zamboanga’s show off, it was a subject of discussion between them under the auspices of Indonesia.  

The 2008 Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain between the MILF and the Government was scrapped off by the latter despite having initialed it. 

Autonomy for the Bangsamoro was treated by Government as a political experiment and only half-heartedly passed an emasculated autonomy law, Republic Act 6734 and its amendatory law, Republic Act 9054.

Mr. Speaker, at this juncture, let me pose the question: What is bothering some of us as to be unwilling to take wounds for peace?

The voice of the first woman legislator in the U.S. House of Representatives and human rights activist Jeanette Rankin brattles in my ears. 

She said, “You can never win a war than you can win an earthquake.”

Even Napoleon Bonaparte himself, the first emperor of France and one of the greatest military generals in history, puts premium on peace. 

He said, “If nations want peace, they should avoid pinpricks that precede cannon shots.”

I emphasize, however one slices it, war is cruelty. 

Earnest Hemingway says it is a crime. 

It dehumanizes warring parties.

To borrow from John F. Kennedy, war ensues because of failure of wisdom. And in the Mindanao Conflict whose failure of wisdom is it?

Mr. Speaker, Just asking, and I have no intention to dwell on the issue.

 What I am concerned about is our state of affairs in relation to the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

 Do we stall its passage in view of the Mamasapano Incident and wait for what eternity will bring and miss altogether the bus of peace? 

A great medieval bard wrote an eternal verity, a font of wisdom that should guide our action on the issues before us today. And I quote him: 

           “As peace is of the nature of conquest, for then both parties

       nobly are subdued and neither party loses” 

The pursuit of peace is not only a divine injunction to Muslims. 

It’s a mandate on Christians as well. In the 1st Epistle to the Corinthians, St. Paul wrote: 

           “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the

        children of God.”

          Mr. Speaker, distinguished Colleagues,

In conclusion, I urge the Leadership to resume our review of the BBL, and not to equate the bill with the Mamasapano incident, or else, those who want the armed struggle to continue will have won.  

We must not fail to take the chance to make our nation right, or the lives lost for the sake of peace, like those of the fallen in Mamasapano, shall have died in vain.

It is NOW, or it may be NEVER.

Thank you.

MILF: JICA to continue supporting the Bangsamoro inspite delays of the BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 11): JICA to continue supporting the Bangsamoro inspite delays of the BBL

JICA to continue supporting the Bangsamoro inspite delays of the BBL

On March 7, 2015, Mr. Toshiyuki Koruyanagi visited for the third time the islands of Mindanao as JICA’s Vice President. He recalled his first visit to the island was 40 years ago and he was deployed in Pagadian City as an Agriculture Expert.

He narrates his experience in working in this part of the Philippines was challenging and yet so beautiful. His second visit was 5 years ago as the Director General of JICA Headquarters and still found Mindanao as beautiful as even before.

He visited the office of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and pays a courtesy call to the Chairman, Mr. Mohagher Iqbal, and several Commissioners who received and welcomed him. As the Vice President of JICA, he conveyed his organizations’ condolences to the bereaved of the January 25th Mamasapano incident and that the Japanese Government is hoping that it will not impact a major dissolution to the Proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law. He said that JICA have been with the Bangsamoro for a long time and will always be with them to assist their effort in the peace making.

BTC Chairman shared to JICA’s Mission that everywhere they go the cry of the people is peace and for the honorable settlement of the conflict, but there are situations that are beyond the control of the MILF just like what happened in Mamasapano.

 The said incident was something a matter of a priority of the government for counter terrorism and at the same time a conflict resolution. Chair Iqbal further explained to the Japanese Officials that the binding document between the MILF and the GPH was the signed document and not on the issue of the application of the national laws.

He added that if the national laws of the Philippine will be applied, then necessarily the consequences will be that MILF will be treated as criminals as what many lawmakers were trying to propose. The incident of the Mamasapano was treated by the MILF as a violation of the signed Ceasefire Agreement between the Government and the MILF. It is also a violation of the Terms of Reference of the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) and also a complete departure from the policy of the government in the primacy of the peace process which was also violated there. The PNP SAF Commanders set aside completely that primacy of the government, as BTC Chairman continues.

Ms. Mary Ann Bakisan, Senior Program Officer of JICA Philippine Office, about what specific provisions of the BBL that may be amenable to MILF if Congress and Senate would change or open for improvement. BTC Chairman explained to the delegation that the issues there that were treated as contentious were the constitutional bodies namely, the Commission on Civil Service, Commission on Election, Human Rights Commission, and the Commission on Audit. All these constitutional bodies and all the offices that to be established in the Bangsamoro are part of the constitutional bodies, they are not distinct and separate. BTC knows that those commissions that will be establish are pursuant to the Constitution and what they will be establishing are offices like the Bangsaoro Electoral Office is still and always be a part of the COMELEC. Chair Iqbal clarifies that on the matter of formulation, for improvement, we are amenable to that but if watered down; they cannot accept it, that’s the strong position of the MILF.

MILF commander denies Cayetano claim he protected Marwan

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 12): MILF commander denies Cayetano claim he protected Marwan

Wahid Tundok

MILF field commander Wahid Tundok. PHOTO

COTABATO CITY – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) field commander, whom Senator Alan Peter Cayetano accused of having protected Zulkifli Bin Hir alias Marwan said he never shielded the Malaysian terrorist.

Wahid Tundok, commander of the MILF’s 118th Base Command, told the Inquirer by phone he even never met Marwan and branded Cayetano’s revelation as fabrication.

“I wouldn’t even recognize him if I had the chance to meet him,” he said.

Cayetano mentioned e-mail exchanges between Marwan and his brother Rahmat, where Tundok was allegedly mentioned as the former’s protector. The e-mails were part of the US government’s charge sheet against the brothers in 2007.

Tundok, among the most senior MILF leaders, said it was unfair for him to be accused of having protected the slain Malaysian terrorist.

Maps, charts to back up PH case vs China

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 12): Maps, charts to back up PH case vs China

The Philippines will be submitting a “voluminous” amount of documents containing arguments, maps and charts to the United Nations arbitration tribunal to bolster its case in its South China Sea territorial dispute with China.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the supplemental submission to be sent to the tribunal in the Hague between Friday and March 16 answers all the questions raised by the tribunal on behalf of China.

“There were 26 questions and we answered all of them and we included maps and charts… It’s voluminous,” Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario has left for the United States to meet with the country’s legal counsel in the arbitration case and to make sure that the submission has completely answered the tribunal’s questions.

The document must reach the tribunal by March 16 as stipulated by the arbitration body. China, on the other hand, has until June 16, to respond to the Philippines’ written comments.

According to Del Rosario, oral hearings will then be scheduled between July 8 and July 20.

“After that, we hope that six to 8 months later, the decision will come down,” he said.

The UN tribunal made the queries to the Philippines despite China’s refusal to participate in the proceedings.

China snubbed the deadline set by the tribunal on Dec. 15, 2014, for it to submit its counter-memorial and defend its nine-dash-line claim over the entire South China Sea.

The Philippines earlier submitted a 4,000-page memorial on its position that it has the right to exploit waters and resources within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

Instead, China issued a position paper on Dec. 7, 2014, accusing the Philippines of having violated international law when it went directly to the United Nations as both sides earlier agreed to settle disputes bilaterally.

It also argued that the arbitral tribunal has no jurisdiction over the claims of the Philippines.

But Philippine officials have expressed optimism that the UN tribunal will render a ruling favorable to the country.

Meanwhile, the DFA on Wednesday launched a nationwide information, education and communication campaign on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) issue in Cebu City.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), partnering with the Philippine Information Agency, led the multi-sectoral forum in Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu City.

DFA spokesman and assistant secretary Charles Jose conducted a briefing on the South China Sea territorial disputes before more than 80 students, national and local government officials, uniformed personnel, and members of the Cebu media, business and academic communities.

Jose presented the core issues, the principles that guide Philippine response to the issues, and the steps that are being undertaken by the government to address the dispute.