Thursday, April 23, 2015

Photo: Miriam Coronel Ferrer receives Hillary Clinton peace award

From GMA News (Apr 23): Photo: Miriam Coronel Ferrer receives Hillary Clinton peace award

Miriam Coronel Ferrer (left), chief government negotiator for the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the Philippines, receives the Hillary Rodham Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security from former US senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton (center) and Georgetown University President John DeGioia at Georgetown University in Washington, DC, on Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time), April 22. AFP/Saul Loeb

Islamic group head backs BBL, CAB

From the Manila Times (Apr 22): Islamic group head backs BBL, CAB

The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed his backing for the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) during his official visit to the Philippines from April 17 to 20.

Iyad Ameen Madani conveyed the OIC’s support for frameworks and agreements that would ensure lasting peace in Mindanao in southern Philippines.

In a statement o Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Madani commenced his visit with a courtesy call on Secretary Albert del Rosario on April 17.

During the call, el Rosario thanked the OIC and its member-states for the humanitarian missions and assistance that they extended to the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoons Yolanda and Sendong.

He also expressed  his appreciation for the continuing support of the OIC to the Philippine peace process.

The DFA said Madani highlighted “the OIC’s recent thrust to pursue diversified areas of work, such as science and technology, to inspire hope among the youth in its member-states and a way to counter threats of radicalization.”

“He also acknowledged that the OIC shares many common interests with the Philippines, such as combating terrorism and other transnational crimes, and the promotion and protection of human rights in Asia,” it added.

Madani shared the “renewed interest in the OIC to revisit the Philippines’ bid for an observer status this year.”

While in Manila, the secretary-general met with Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the lead agency that hosted the secretary-general’s visit.

This meeting was followed by courtesy calls to Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and other members of Congress.

Madani also sat down with key personalities of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front in Davao and convened a meeting of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum.

The OIC (formerly Organization of the Islamic Conference) is the second-largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations, with 57 member-states spread over four continents.

One of PAF's S-211 aircraft up for maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): One of PAF's S-211 aircraft up for maintenance

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the amount of Php18,930,544,49 for the maintenance of one its SIAI-Marchetti S-211 trainer jets.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for April 28 at 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City while submission and opening is on May 12, at 9 a.m., at the same venue.

Prospective bidders should have an experience in similar project within the last five years.

The PAF operates three to five S-211s and uses it for air defense and attack missions.

MNLF won't attend House deliberations on BBL

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Apr 23): MNLF won't attend House deliberations on BBL

The Moro National Liberation Front has reiterated that the group will not participate in the ongoing House deliberations on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which it said is a ''betrayal'' of the 1996 final peace agreement forged by the government with the MNLF.

MNLF spokesman Absalum Cerveza said he has submitted a memorandum to Iyadf Ameen Madani, secretary- general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during a meeting in Davao City last April 17 that the MNLF is not interested in participating in the House hearings on the BBL.

The draft law seeks the creation of a Bangsamoro territory, part of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

MNLF leaders have claimed that the BBL will practically abrogate the 1996 peace agreement.

Madani had earlier called on all rebel groups in Mindanao to support the incorporation of the BBL with the 1996 peace accord.

The OIC leaders had told lawmakers to consult the MNLF leaders during deliberations on the BBL.

Madani said the BBL should be taken in the context of other peace agreements the government signed with the MNLF.

Cerveza, however, said that synchronizing the BBL with the 1996 peace accord at this point in time is an exercise in futility since the MNLF has revised its struggle to the original political objective of independence for Mindanao.

He said the MNLF petition for self-determination is now pending before the United Nations committee on decolonization.

“The BBL deals with the same agreement, the same territory and the same people that has been forged in the 1996 peace agreement,” Cerveza said.

He said because of the existing peace agreement there is a strong possibility that the Supreme Court will declare the BBL as unconstitutional once it is passed into law.
“The BBL hearings are an exercise in futility because eventually it will be declared unconstitutional,” Cerveza said.

During the meeting with MNLF leaders in Davao City, the OIC manifested support to MNLF founding chairman Nur Misauri as the recognized representative of the Bangsamoro people given permanent observer status during the annual plenary sessions of the Islamic organization, Cerveza said.

Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) renewed yesterday their commitment to the Mindanao peace process as they called for passage of the draft BBL.

The bill is the enabling measure for the creation of a Bangsamoro government, to replace the ARMM.

In a manifesto, ARMM officials led by Gov. Mujiv Hataman said the BBL will usher in lasting peace and development in Mindanao’s Moro-dominated areas.

Philippines liberty policy was decades in the making

From the Navy Times (Apr 23): Philippines liberty policy was decades in the making

[Video report]

With a major joint exercise in the Philippines underway, liberty is all but secured for the more than 6,000 troops involved.

Liberty policy has been tight in the Philippines since the October killing of Jennifer Laude, allegedly at the hands of Marine PFC Joseph Pemberton, who is on trial for the slaying.

The current policy in place for Balikatan 2015 — the name of the exercise means "shoulder-to-shoulder" in Tagalog — limits sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen to eating at restaurants inside their hotels or within easy walking distance.

Bars and nightclubs? Out of the question, according to U.S. Pacific Command, which set and is enforcing the policy.

Experts say that the strict liberty policy during Balikatan isn't just about the Laude slaying, but is only the latest tension point between the former U.S. colony and the U.S. military, both of which are pursuing a closer military alliance. The Philippines was a U.S. territory until 1946 when it was granted independence.

Memories of U.S. colonization and decades of tension between the Philippines and the U.S. military have laid the groundwork for the dicey political situation and the resulting liberty restrictions, said Jan van Tol, a retired captain and analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

"There was a great deal of tension that built up between the U.S. and various parties in the Philippines," Van Tol said. "There was a sense that U.S. service members were exploiting the locals. … Eventually that led to the U.S. being forced out of Clark and Subic in 1992."

But nerves in the Philippines have remained raw among some, and incidents such as the Laude death renew old resentments, he said.

Bryan Clark, a retired Navy commander also with CSBA, said those sensitivities are still alive and well.

"When we left it was tense, the Philippine people had had enough of the United States," he said. "Today the Philippine people are much more supportive of U.S. forces being there … but the people who were rallying for the United States to leave in 1992 are all still there."

The rise of a more assertive China, which is locked in territorial disputes with the Philippines, has sparked a renewed interest in having U.S. forces back at bases like Clark and Subic Bay.

But it's not just the standoff with China that has prompted the Philippines to soften toward the U.S. A robust U.S. response to Typhoon Haiyan, the 2013 storm that devastated large parts of the Philippines, also helped heal the fractious relationship.

After an agreement last year that allows U.S. forces to use Philippine military facilities, a signature achievement for the Obama administration's pivot to Asia, both sides are treading lightly.

The strict liberty policy, Clark said, means the U.S. is hedging against another high-profile incident that would antagonize Filipinos who oppose a U.S. presence.

"It's to make sure that there are no events that would derail their attempts to increase U.S. presence there," Clark said, "a preventative measure designed to minimize risk when we have these larger strategic goals to pursue."

Exercise Balikatan is coming at a time of rising tension between China and its neighbors over its construction of artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago, which lies off the coasts of Malaysia and the Philippines in the South China Sea. Analysts believe the Chinese government is seeking to expand its exclusive rights to resources, including fisheries and mineral deposits.

About 11,000 U.S., Philippine and Australian forces are participating in the exercise.

U.S. Marines take positions with mortars and an amphibious

228 new soldiers join peacekeeping mission

From the Philippine Star (Apr 21): 228 new soldiers join peacekeeping mission

The Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Monday beefed up with 228 newly trained soldiers its units involved in activities meant to foster Muslim-Christian solidarity.

Officials of the 6th ID, led by Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, on Monday officiated the turnover of the enlisted privates to their assigned units in a symbolic rite at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.

The new privates finished the candidate soldiers’ training last February 13 at the 6th ID’s training unit in Barangay Semba in Datu Odin Sinsuat.

“They were first given orientations on their assignments, given breaks to visit their families after a long, difficult training,” Pangilinan said.

Pangilinan said the 228 new foot soldiers underwent extensive trainings on disaster and emergency management and culture and religion-sensitive peacekeeping missions.

Captain Jo-Ann Petinglay, spokesperson of 6th ID, said the new soldiers will be dispersed to the component-battalions of the division in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato.

Some of them saw action, under the division’s 1st Provisional Battalion, during the February 28 to April 3 face-off between the military and brigand Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in seven towns in the second district of Maguindanao.

No contact, ransom demand from Sibugay mayor’s captors

From the Philippine Star (Apr 23): No contact, ransom demand from Sibugay mayor’s captors

The family of the mayor of Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay has not been contacted by her captors, a security official said yesterday. 

The official, who is close to the family of Gemma Adana, also denied reports that the kidnappers have demanded a P100-million ransom.

“That is a very staggering amount, unimaginable, unrealizable. It’s too much,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.

The official, however, believes Adana is not likely to be released without payment of ransom or “board and lodging fees.”

Police earlier tagged a renegade faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the kidnapping.

The provincial crisis management committee has confirmed that Adana has been moved out of Naga town.

The official cited unconfirmed  reports that Adana has been transferred to either Basilan or Sulu.

Adana was taken from her house in Barangay Taytay Manubo on April 6.

Feuding Maranaw clans end war

From the Philippine Star (Apr 23): Feuding Maranaw clans end war

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines - Leaders of two feuding ethnic Maranaw clans in Malabang town on Thursday swore over the Qur’an to end a deadly two-decade “rido” sparked by political differences and land disputes.

The term rido means clan war for Maranaws, dominant in Lanao del Sur, a province in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which accounts for most number of still unresolved family feuds in ARMM.

In a report to the office of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, the regional police said elders of the rival Montañer and Ali clans signed a covenant putting closure to a conflict that killed more than a dozen people on both sides.

The ARMM police gave credit to local officials, among them Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr., the provincial police office, and ARMM Vice Gov. Haroun Al-Rashid Lucman, for helping resolve the Montaner-Ali clan war.

Lucman had earlier settled more than a dozen rido in Lanao del Sur in the past two years, mostly triggered by political rivalry, affronts on family “maratabat” (pride and honor) and land ownership issues.

Lucman said one reason for the continuing proliferation of clan wars in Lanao del Sur is the lack of courts and presiding judges to handle civil and criminal cases involving big Maranaw families.

Lucman, concurrent social welfare secretary of ARMM, said some commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in different towns in Lanao del Sur and Muslim religious leaders have actively been helping the regional government resolve clan wars in the province.

Surrender of MILF members suspects in killing of SAF commandos is premature -- De Lima

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 23): Surrender of MILF members suspects in killing of SAF commandos is premature -- De Lima

Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima on Thursday said that it is premature to compel the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to surrender their members who are suspects in the killing of 35 members of the 55th Special Action Force (SAF) Company of the PNP-SAF.

According to De Lima, there is still no case filed in court and the complaint still needed to undergo the preliminary investigation by the prosecutor.

Once the preliminary investigation starts, De Lima said, a subpoena will be sent to the suspects, but they cannot be compelled to attend the hearing.

Under the process of filing a criminal case, if the suspect or respondent did not cooperate with the preliminary investigation nor file a counter-affidavit, the prosecutor can decide on the case based on the sworn affidavit and evidence submitted to them.

If probable cause is found in the complaint, that will be the time to file the case in court and the court in turn, may issue a warrant of arrest.

Cebu under 3ID control

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 24): Cebu under 3ID control

The island of Cebu is now under the operational control of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division.

Regional Army spokesman, Maj. Rey Tiongson, yesterday said that 3ID has been tasked to sustain the peace and stability campaign of Cebu, which has been declared as peaceful almost a decade ago by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Cebu used to be under the Joint Task Force Central, which is composed of the Philippine Army, Navy and Air Force.

With this development, Task Group Cebu was activated two months ago, with Colonel Christoper Estella as the commander. Majority of its personnel are assigned with the Army Civil Military Operations Battalion.

The peace and development campaign in the islands of Negros and Panay have been delegated to the 3ID.

But the four provinces of Panay, including Iloilo, Capiz, Antique and Aklan, islands of Guimaras and Siquijor, as well as Negros Oriental, have already been declared by the 3ID as peaceful and ready for further development.

Brig. Gen. Jon Aying, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, earlier said that they are targeting to declare Negros Occidental as such by June this year.

Militants to protest against APEC, Aquino

From the Visayan Daily Star (Apr 24): Militants to protest against APEC, Aquino

The tight security to be implemented during the two-day Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bacolod next week will not stop the militants from staging their three-day protest starting Wednesday against the city's hosting of the international summit and the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III.

Christian Tuayon, secretary general of Bayan Negros, said yesterday that the protest is part of their right to expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. He added that the security preparation of the Philippine National Police, the Philippine Army and other law enforcers are “exaggerated”.

More than 2,500 police personnel from police units outside Negros Occidental, are expected to beef up the security of APEC participants from 22 countries.

Tuayon also slammed the government for allotting P4.3 Billion to finance the APEC hosting in Bacolod, which, if distributed to the poor, will enable them to eat three times a day for several months.

He said APEC is dominated by the imperialist United States and is a venue where it can impose its neo-liberal policies that leads to the globalization and liberalization affecting small countries such as the Philippines.

Ireneo Longinos, spokesperson of Kadamay, said they are joining the three-day protest because APEC will not do any good for the urban poor sector.

He also hit the massive demolition of small stores and shanties near the SM City SMX convention center, where the summit will be held calling it a blatant violation of human rights.

For John Lozande, secretary general of the National Federation of Sugar Workers in Negros Occidental said that, instead of giving too much attention to APEC, the government should check on the situation of farmers in the rural areas.


Noly Rosales, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno, meanwhile, said APEC delegates are not welcome in Bacolod because, since its creation in 1993, it had not uplifted the lives of the working class in the Asia Pacific region.

Rosales said they are protesting the APEC policy on contractualization of labor, wage freeze and no union-no strike policy as part of imperialist policy to squeeze the labor to maximize more profit.

The APEC schedule in Bacolod is from April 29 to 30 and will center on the theme “Disaster Risk Finance-APEC Roadmap for Reselient Economies”.


The militants will serve a “Letter of Termination” against Aquino on his arrival in Bacolod on Thursday for what they call the various violations he has committed.

They stated in their termination letter that among the violations Aquino has committed were the trampling of workers rights to just wage and secure jobs, committing “treason by acting as puppet of the US that resulted to the death of 44 Special Action Force members of the Philippine National Police”, for “institutionalizing graft and corruption”, negligence in supporting and rehabilitating the victims of typhoon Yolanda, and for allowing the Balikatan Exercises in the country.

Other violations of Aquino they mentioned in their letter were the “never ending” human rights violations, failure to provide basic services for the poor, failure to uphold social justice, abandonment of education for the people, implementation of anti-driver policies, and high taxes.

Army: ‘Bomb-maker’s’ arrest legitimate

From the Mindanao Times (Apr 22): Army: ‘Bomb-maker’s’ arrest legitimate

AN ARMY officer yesterday insisted that they did nothing wrong in arresting an alleged high-ranking official of the New People’s Army on April 13 in Barangay Tuboran, Mawab, Compostela Valley.

On Monday, the wife of suspect, Jimmy Y. Galacio—tagged by the 10th Infantry Division as a bomb-maker for the underground organization—asked for Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s help as she maintained that her husband is innocent.

“We will just let the wheel of justice take place,” Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año, commander of the 10th ID, said during the AFP-PNP press conference yesterday.

Año earlier said that Galacio was in charge of making improvised explosive devices and supplying the underground organization in Davao Region with bombs and ammunition.

“Galacio has the chance to defend himself on the complaints and warrant of arrest that has been filed against him,” he said.

On Monday, Ruby Mae Galacio and her mother-in-law traveled from Pantukan, Compostela Valley to seek audience with Duterte at the Grand Men Seng hotel. They were assisted by human rights group, Karapatan.

“I just want the mayor to know if he can help us for the freedom of my husband because he violated no law, and the accusations stated here are not true,” she said, while waving a copy of the arrest warrant.

Duterte promised Ruby that he will do what he can, but he needs to talk to the authorities first to get the facts of the case.

British troops also in PH for earthquake drills

From Rappler (Apr 24): British troops also in PH for earthquake drills

'Exercise Civil Bridge is Great Britain’s continuing commitment to working together on disaster risk management, learning and sharing with each other,' says Ambassador Asif Ahmad

COLLABORATION: The 77 Brigade meets with officials of Catholic Relief Services in Manila. Photo by Cpl Mark Larner RY

COLLABORATION: The 77 Brigade meets with officials of Catholic Relief Services in Manila. Photo by Cpl Mark Larner RY

British troops arrived in Manila this week to conduct training exercises on earthquake response in an urban setting like Metro Manila.

Some 40 members of the specialist British military unit 77 Brigade are here for the Philippine-British Exercise Civil Bridge. They have been meeting officials of Malacañang, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), and other humanitarian organizations as part of an annual training exercise in different parts of the world.
“It’s an excellent opportunity for the British Armed Forces to work closely with a broad spectrum of experts from Government departments, non-governmental organizations and local authorities, as well as the Filipino armed forces," said exercise commander Lieutenant Colonel Jem Blades.

The visit will culminate in a tabletop exercise to be held next week, April 28, at the British embassy involving the troops and Filipinos led by the NDRRMC. (WATCH: #TalkThursday: Metro Manila Earthquake scenarios)

Lessons of Yolanda

British Ambasaddor Asif Ahmad said the chaos in the aftermath of a major disaster can be managed if contingency plans are in place.

LESSONS OF YOLANDA. British Ambassador Asif Ahmad says the chaos seen in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiayan can be managed if contingency plans are in place

LESSONS OF YOLANDA. British Ambassador Asif Ahmad says the chaos seen in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiayan can be managed if contingency plans are in place

"Thousands of lives can be saved by effective preparation and coordination in advance of and in the aftermath of disasters. Exercise Civil Bridge is Great Britain’s continuing commitment to working together on disaster risk management, learning and sharing with each other," the ambassador said during a reception dinner for the 77 Brigade on Tuesday, April 21.

The ambassador also highlighted one of the lessons of Super Typhoon Yolanda, the need to secure the responders and their families so they can effectively conduct relief operations without the burden of worrying about their loved ones.
“The effects of Typhoon Yolanda were a real eye opener, not just for the Philippine government but for many others across the world, including our government. We are very much aware of the importance of proper planning in mitigating the worst effects of natural disasters," added the ambassador, who was new in Manila when Yolanda struck.
The British military was among those who rushed to help the Philippines in the aftermath of Yolanda.
Best practices
The British troops have been discusing with the NDRRMC and other groups Manila's existing contingency plans and sharing best practices that the Philippines can adopt to improve its ability to respond to an earthquake in an urban setting. (READ: When an earthquake hits Metro Manila)
“What we learn here in Manila will also enable us to work more effectively with others in different parts of the world," added Blades.
The 77 Brigade is composed of regular and reservist members from the Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, who provide expertise ranging from civil engineering and policing to strategic communications.

“Our teams include individuals who bring specialist knowledge of earthquakes, humanitarian relief and disaster recovery, and we hope to share our experiences, as well as learn from others,” said Blades.

PN hosts WPNS Workshop this April 21 to 24

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 24): PN hosts WPNS Workshop this April 21 to 24

As a prelude to the Western Pacific Naval Symposium that will be held next year in Indonesia, the Philippine Navy (PN) hosted the WPNS Workshop which took place last April 21 to 24.

Participating were 47 delegates from different member countries, PN public affairs office chief Cmdr. Lued Lincuna said.

He added that the activity aims to discuss and develop cooperative initiatives as well as to identify those that merit further development and practice.

Also part of its objectives is to explore and develop new ways of enhancing friendship and professional cooperation at a variety of levels thus building confidence and trust for today and the future.

Moreover, the symposium is a venue for the exchange of information on a broad range of maritime matters of mutual interest and establishment and maintenance of communication lines in order to facilitate continued liaison among delegates outside of workshops and symposia.

During the workshop, Lincuna said delegates discussed about the adoption of Common Navy Protocol on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief which was initiated by the PN to provide common procedures among the Navies as reference for planning, training and conduct of HADR operations in accordance to international standards and principles which will also cover mutually-agreed standard operating procedures including organization, administrative support, planning and communications guide to be used by the participating Navies.

Also was the proposal to enhance the junior officer's interaction through various international multilateral engagements.

The output of the workshop will serve as the talking points for the chief of navies who will be attending the WPNS that will be hosted by Indonesia in 2016.

At present, the WPNS has 21 member countries such as Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, United States and Vietnam, along with Bangladesh, India, Mexico and Pakistan as observers.

No firing occurred, but Chinese ship did shoo Navy patrol planes off Kagitingan Reef

From InterAksyon (Apr 23): No firing occurred, but Chinese ship did shoo Navy patrol planes off Kagitingan Reef

Snapshot of Chinese activity at Kagitingan Reef as of January, 2015.

Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, chief of the Western Command (Westcom), confirmed on Thursday another aggressive action this week by Chinese vessels, believed to be warships, in driving a patrol plane of the Philippine Navy away from Kagitingan (Subi) Reef in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Before lunch on Monday, April 20, two Islander aircraft were conducting a routine sovereignty patrol mission over Kagitingan (Subi) Reef, which has been converted by China into a small artificial islet along with the construction of what appeared to be an airfield and military garrison.

The patrol planes were making their runs over Kagitingan when one of the ships guarding the reclamation activities trained its searchlights on the Philippine planes in an obvious signal to shoo them away.

In addition, the pilots reported monitoring radio transmission in broken English for them to "go away."

"But it’s not true that our Islander was fired upon by the frigate-class Chinese ship," Lopez said in a telephone interview.

"Nagra-radyo pa sila na umalis sa Kagitingan dahil teritoryo daw ito ng China. Yan ang tunay na nangyari sa Kagitingan (They contacted us by radio, telling us to leave and claiming that the place was Chinese territory. That was what actually happened at Kagitingan),' Lopez said.

Lt. Col. Harold M Cabunoc, Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, issued a formal statement on Thursday, saying: "We strongly deny that any of our military planes was fired upon by a Chinese vessel while flying to Pagasa Island to pick up a patient. Supposed firing incidents in the West Philippine Sea is a serious matter that must not be subject to malicious rumors.

"We confirm that Western Command (WESCOM) was requested and scheduled to pick up a patient named Chito Pastor using Nomad plane from Pagasa Island. However, they were not able to provide air assets due to technical problems.

"Instead WESCOM allowed the relatives of the patient to send in a Piper 30 civilian plane to evacuate the patient."

According to the group's leader, Leo Almazan, their mission is "to tell not only the amateur radio world but also the rest of the world that Pagasa is sovereign Philippine territory.'

VIDEO | MILF's Jaafar protests DOJ plan to file criminal raps vs SAF killers

From InterAksyon (Apr 23): VIDEO | MILF's Jaafar protests DOJ plan to file criminal raps vs SAF killers

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is protesting what it deems an unfair report by NBI-NPS investigators who recommended the filing of criminal charges against Moro rebels involved in the January 25 Mamasapano incident.

According to MILF vice chairman Ghazali Jaafar, the act of theire members who shot at the police commandos on a mission to get Malaysian terrorist Marwan in Mamasapano, Maguindanao was purely a reaction to an attack made by the police. Thus, he stressed, such could not warrant the filing of charges of direct assault complexed with murder against the MILF rebels, as recommended by the government probers.

Jaafar repeated the MILF's assertion that it was the police Special Action Force (SAF) teams, deployed to Tukanalipao village to apprehend Marwan (real name Zulkifli bin Hir) and bomb maker Abdul Basit Usman, who shot at the MILF members first.

It remained unclear, however, exactly what steps the MILF will take if the charges are indeed pursued by the government.

On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima made public the report of the National Bureau of Investigation and National Prosecution Service tasked to investigate the outcome of the disastrous SAF mission, where 44 police commandos were killed, along with 18 MILF members and three civilians.

The report concluded that members of the 55th Special Action Force Company fired first at fighters of the MILF, triggering the battle that wiped out the elite police unit in the marshy area of Barangay Tukanalipao.

De Lima also said she has approved charges of direct assault complexed with murder and theft against 90 suspects -- members of the MILF, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups -- in the deaths of 35 members of the 55th SAC, which served as the blocking force during the operation against Marwan.

Only one member of the 55th SAC -- Police Officer 2 Christopher Lalan -- survived.

The investigations into the deaths of nine members of the 84th SAC, or Seaborne, the unit that actually located and subsequently killed Marwan, as well as the killing of four sleeping MILF members, which Lalan is accused of, have yet to be finished for lack of witnesses, De Lima explained.

She has given the NBI-NPS team two more months to complete its probes into these incidents.

De Lima said the NBI-NPS report’s conclusions differ from that of the Senate investigation, which described the Mamasapano incident as a “massacre.”

“It was not a massacre as graphically described by the Senate, nor a simple mis-encounter as clinically suggested by the MILF,” she said. “Rather, the complicated truth is somewhat in between those two extremes.”

Although the report said it was the SAF that initiated hostilities in Tukanalipao, by 8 a.m., the MILF, BIFF and private armed group gunmen who engaged them in a “pintakasi” already knew they were fighting government forces.

It also said a number of the police commandos tried to surrender but were fired on until they could no longer fight back because they were either dead or severely wounded.

After the fighting eased, it added, MILF fighters finished off dying members of the SAF.

[Video report]

Lawmaker blasts govt 'cover-up' of US 'boots on the ground' in Mamasapano

From InterAksyon (Apr 24): Lawmaker blasts govt 'cover-up' of US 'boots on the ground' in Mamasapano

A leftist lawmaker blasted what he called the Aquino administration’s continuing cover-up of alleged American direct involvement in the disastrous January 24 Special Action Force mission to get Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate said on Friday the testimony of an eyewitness on the death of two “Americans” in the clash that broke out between the SAF and gunmen from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups during the Mamasapano mission “proves that the US involvement was more than just advisory and provision of real time intelligence information via its drone operations.”

The testimony of the eyewitness, known only by the codename “Marathon,” is contained in the report of the National Bureau of Investigation-National Prosecution Service special investigation team created by Justice Leila de Lima to investigate what happened in Mamasapano.

Marathon learned that two Americans died at Mamasapano,” the report said. “According to him, these two cadavers did not look like Filipinos; they had white hair and were ‘good looking’.”

Although De Lima herself said the charges of direct assault complexed with murder and theft recommended against 90 suspects in the deaths of 35 of the 44 SAF commandos who died in Mamasapano were based mainly on Marathon’s testimony, she made no mention of the witness’ statement about the Americans when she made the NBI-NPS report public.  

Although Marwan was killed in the operation, aside from the SAF commandos, the clash also left 17 MILF fighters and at least three civilians dead.

In its report, the NBI-NPS team also recommended the continued investigation into the extent of US involvement in the Mamasapano operation, arguing that “criminal investigations and national security are not mutually exclusive.”

When she appeared at the last public hearing of the House of Representatives’ inquiry into Mamasapano, De Lima also went into a lengthy “academic discussion” that essentially justified the direct engagement of foreign forces in local military or police operations, so long as the Philippine government retained "absolute control."

Zarate said Marathon’s statement proved American “boot were on the ground in the execution of Oplan Exodus, in clear violations of our laws and Constitution. And, this fact is being covered up by the Aquino administration in like manner that President Aquino is hiding and covering up his direct involvement and accountability.”

Zarate said there could be no justice for the Filipinos who died in Mamasapano “if President Aquino and the US will not be made accountable.”

Palace: Chinese insecurity on Balikatan baseless

From Ang Malaya (Apr 22): Palace: Chinese insecurity on Balikatan baseless

Malacañang responded to an editorial posted in English language Chinese tabloid Global Times that called the Philippines a “cute little submissive” of the United States. The palace also finds no reason for China to be insecured with Philippines.

“We don’t understand where this insecurity of the Chinese towards us is coming from. Where do we have the wherewithal to compete against China as a superpower?” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said today in a press briefing.

“I suppose anytime of the year you conduct the Balikatan exercises, there will always be some comments to make. But the fact is that Balikatan exercises have been done regularly by the Philippines and other countries,” he added. “This is, again, for our interest and also to help in handling human disaster response situations.”

“Despite Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s repeated stresses that the exercise is not intended to be against China, few believe he means it,” the Chinese tabloid said. Global Times is owned by the official newspaper of the Chinese government, People’s Daily.

China told Philippines to educate its fishermen

From Ang Malaya (Apr 23): China told Philippines to educate its fishermen

Chinese government told Philippine government to educate Filipino fishermen after Chinese coast guard personnel fired water cannon against Filipino fishermen in Bajo de Masinloc. “The Chinese side calls on the Philippine side to show earnest respect for China’s territorial sovereignty, step up its regulation and education of the fishermen and stop all actions infringing upon China’s territorial sovereignty, and rights and interests,” China said.

China noted that they “have seen a large number of Philippine fishing boats lingering in the waters off the Huangyan Island (Bajo de Masinloc) with no permission from the Chinese side and disobeying China’s management.”

“Chinese government vessels perform guard duty in waters off the Huangyan Island (Bajo de Masinloc) to maintain the normal order of these waters in accordance with the law,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said.

However, the US government sees Chinese coast guard’s action as provocative. “The use of water cannons against Philippine civilian vessels that have a longstanding practice of fishing in these waters at Scarborough Reef or in other disputed areas of the South China Sea would be a provocative act.”

AFP speaks on reported firing incident in West Philippine Sea

From Ang Malaya (Apr 23): AFP speaks on reported firing incident in West Philippine Sea

The Armed Forces of the Philippines released its official statement regarding the reported incident involving a Philippine Air Force patrol aircraft. Media reports said that evacuating a sick amateur radio enthusiast from Pagasa Island in West Philippine Sea was delayed after a Chinese warship fired an illumination round.

“We strongly deny that any of our military planes was fired upon by a Chinese vessel while flying to Pag-asa Island to pick a patient,” the AFP said in a press statement. “Firing incident in the West Philippine Sea is a serious matter that must not be subject to malicious rumors.”

However, the military confirmed that a Western Command Nomad scheduled to pick up a patient named Chito Pastor from Pag-asa Island today but “they were not able to provide air assets due to technical problems.” A Piper 30 civilian plane was then tasked to evacuate the patient.

“He was successfully evacuated to Puerto Princesa City at 1:00 p.m. today,” AFP said.
The said patient was suffering due to kidney problem after drinking highly saline water after his group’s water ran out, reports. Ham radio Mabuhay DX Group has been in Pagasa Island since April 17 to set up and operate an amateur radio. The group is in the said island “to tell not only the amateur radio world but also the rest of the world that Pag-asa is sovereign Philippine territory,” said Leo Almazan, a Mabuhay DX Group member.

China has no proper response to defend unlawful claims, resorts to name calling

From Ang Malaya (Apr 23): China has no proper response to defend unlawful claims, resorts to name calling

 China is resorting to name calling because it lacks proper response to defend its unlawful claims in West Philippine Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said today.

“Unable to defend their unlawful position both on the core issue which is the nine-dash line claim and their unilateral and aggressive activities, our northern neighbor has reduced its lack of response to name-calling once again,” DFA spokesman Charles Jose said.

It can be recalled that a Chinese tabloid Global Times called Manila a “cute little submissive” of United States. The tabloid also criticized Balikatan 2015. “Despite Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s repeated stresses that the exercise is not intended to be against China, few believe he means it,” the tabloid said in an editorial.
Global Times is owned by the official newspaper of the Chinese government, People’s Daily.

First to respond was Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. He said “we don’t understand where this insecurity of the Chinese towards us is coming from. Where do we have the wherewithal to compete against China as a superpower?”

Ranking NPA leader falls in Surigao

From MindaNews (Apr 22): Ranking NPA leader falls in Surigao

A ranking New People’s Army (NPA) leader was arrested here Sunday by joint elements of the Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion and the police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), military reports said.

In a press statement, Maj. Christian Uy, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division, said Bonifacio Mausisa Platil alias “Ka Thaddeus Anob Uray/Tado/Tansyong/Jeffrey,” was arrested by virtue of a warrant of arrest supposedly for murder, multiple attempted murder and attempted murder.

He said that Platil, the second deputy secretary of Sub-Regional Command Sentro De Grabidad “Westland” (SRC Westland) under the North Eastern Mindanao Committee, was arrested around 4:40 p.m. Sunday in Barangay Luna here.

Uy said that Platil was responsible for killings, economic sabotages, and land mine explosions in Sibagat and Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur, RT Romualdez and Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte, and in the eastern part of Butuan City.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, 4ID commander, congratulated the soldiers and the CIDG personnel for Platil’s arrest.

The general refers to Platil as “a fugitive of the law and destroyer of hopes in Caraga.”

“For those who were victimized, especially those who were killed by this criminal, we are one step closer in achieving justice,” he said.

Lactao thanked the people “for giving us timely and relevant information on the whereabouts of this criminal.”

Platil was brought to the CIDG in Butuan City for proper disposition.

Retirees await billions in unpaid pensions (Part 2)

From CNN (Apr 23): Retirees await billions in unpaid pensions (Part 2)

[Video report]

Military personnel and the police, tasked with protecting citizens from lawlessness, are sometimes called to the front lines of battlefields, for example during the siege of Zamboanga City in 2013.

But despite the risks they face, many like SPO1 Ahmad Sali, are not properly rewarded.

He retired from the police service in 2006.

He got a salary loan worth almost P197,000 some 15 years ago.

Despite deductions in his salary, his loan balance has ballooned to P11.45 million.

He also owes P3.31 million from another lending company, and about P599,470 from yet another lending firm.

Sali's loans now total P 15.36 million — mainly because of nonpayment and interest charges.

His monthly pension is only P19,000.

Sali's case is not an isolated one.

Renato Buentipo served in the Army for 20 years. He died of cancer in 2007.

His widow, Lina, receives a monthly pension.

She claims the lending system is pushing pensioners like her deeper into debt.

She got a loan of P56,000, for which she is being charged P80,000 — because of interest

Lenders say borrowers are fully informed

In a statement sent to CNN Philippines, the Association of Credit Providers for PNP Pensioners say they fully assist pensioners and provide all documents for transparency:

"As mentioned earlier, when a loan is granted, the borrower is given full information about the loan and its terms —  there is a strong emphasis in ensuring that borrowers understand the loan they are taking. During the life of the loan, the borrower may request for additional information from a lender and lenders will provide copies of the borrower's ledger which sets out all the payments made and the fees that apply.

"Lenders take borrower education seriously. The loan documents will include detailed written disclosures setting out the interest rate, fees and associated charges. The loan application process also starts with alender's personnel explaining the offered interest rate, monthly payments, the amount of the loan that will be released to the borrower and other details of the loan. This information is explained in Tagalog or, as necessary, in the local dialect."

Aside from written disclosures on the interest rates, fees, and other charges, lenders also explain these terms to the borrowers, so they can ask questions.
Related: Billions in unpaid pensions

In debt before getting pension

But at least two police retirees interviewed by CNN Philippines say loan documents are not easy to obtain.

This leaves them in the dark, not knowing the status of their loans.
Out of the more than 120,000 retirees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, about 78,000, or 64%, have their pensions remitted directly to financial institutions.

CNN Philippines got a copy of a list supposedly listing retirees and pensioners of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

One pensioner, retired Maj. Alfonso Besario, says lending companies have access to the list.

Besario is the national president and chairman of the Conference-Assembly for Unity and Solidarity of Associations in the Armed Forces and Police Retirees, Veterans Pensioners Inc. (CAUSA-AFPRVPI)

"Hindi ko pa natanggap ang old age pension ko, may pumupunta na dito mga feelers: Sir, mag-loan kayo sa amin, ganito, ganito. Ang ibabayad niyo, ang inyong old age pension," he said.

[Translation: "I have not even received my old age pension and yet someone comes to me with feelers: Sir, apply for a loan from us, and this and that. You can pay with your old age pension."]

"Nakakatawa. Hindi mo pa nga natanggap yung pension mo, may utang ka na," he added.

[Translation: "It's funny. You haven't even received your pension and you're already in debt."]

Accredited lenders
To date, the AFP has accredited more than 30 financial institutions, mostly headed by retired military officers.

The AFP allows authorized lenders to directly collect monthly payments from the pensioners' funds.

This way, the AFP says, it can monitor the lending companies and protect pensioners from unfair interest rates and penalty fees.

Col. Rizaldo B. Limoso, chief of the AFP Finance Centers, explains the system: "Ang ginagawa namin, pag nag-billing sila at hindi makumpleto yung documentation required, hindi namin pinapasok... binabalik namin sa kanila. They have to comply [with] and satisfy the requirements na kailangan namin sa kanila."

[Translation: "What we do when they send a billing is we send back the bill if they cannot complete the required documentation. They have to comply with and satisfy the requirements that we need from them."]

But the AFP says not one of the lending companies has ever been sanctioned or blacklisted.

The military has yet to respond to an audit report in 2013, stating that there are no existing formal deals between the AFP and financial institutions.

Retirees await billions in unpaid pensions (Part 1)

From CNN (Apr 23): Retirees await billions in unpaid pensions (Part 1)

[Video report]
(CNN Philippines) — Former soldiers and policemen are recognized every year in events like the Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, their contributions to making us secure glorified in a ceremony.
Last April 9, at the Araw ng Kagitingan commemoration, President Benigno Aquino III said: "Marapat lang po na kayong nagpamalas ng malasakit sa kapwa at bansa ay maaruga at maitaguyod ang mga karapatan."
[Tranlsation: "It's only fitting that you who served other people and the country should be cared for and have your rights recognized."]
Meager pensions
Army Master Sgt. Henry Mamauag retired from the service almost a decade ago.
But he frequents the Armed Forces main headquarters almost every day.
He and other military retirees like him await for word on the status of their pensions.
"Wala na po kami magawa dahil sa kakulangan ng aming pensyon," he told CNN Philippines.
[Translation: "There's nothing we could do because of the meagerness of our pension."]
Mamauag would still get emotional whenever he would recall his dangerous assignments in Mindanao.
"Ang hirap ng aming dinanas doon," he said. "Sa araw at gabi, operation lagi."
[Translation: "We had a hard time there. Day and night, there was always an operation."]
Presidential Decree No. 1638, issued in 1979 by President Ferdinand Marcos, established a new system of retirement and separation for military personnel.
Under that decree, a member of the military may get retirement pay by going for optional retirement after 20 years of service or by reaching the mandatory age of retirement of 56 with at least 15 years of service.
The monthly pension ranges from P11,125.50 to P86,062.50, depending on rank and length of service.
When the pensioner dies, the spouse will get 75% of the monthly pension.
Huge backlog in payments
As of March 2015, there are 123,471 military pensioners.
The law also states that whenever active members get a pay raise, pensioners will also receive a corresponding increase.
The full implementation of the Salary Standardization Law was seen as a major blow to the AFP pension system.
This led to the accumulation of a huge P18 billion in unpaid pensions since 2000.  
The last tranche was released in 2011, the last increase, which is why there is a deficit, according to Col. Virgilio de Guzman of the Office of the J1, deputy chief of staff for AFP personnel.
In fact, since 2000, even before the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, there was already a pension differential, according to Col. Librado Moog, chief of the AFP Pension and Gratuity Management Center.
The deficit is mounting.
In 2013, the AFP withheld payments for thousands of pensioners.
This was after the Budget Department ordered a cleansing of the AFP pensioner list.
The DBM questioned the records of more than 12,527 pensioners. This resulted in the suspension of 9,767 pension payments.
As the review continues, the number of retirees increases, and the backlog piles up.
Between 2013 and 2014 alone, the AFP pension fund posted a deficit of P1.6 billion.
But the AFP continues to talk with the Department of Budget and Management so that records can be set straight, Colonel De Guzman said.
The government has failed to properly allocate funds to wipe out the shortfall.
Even the Philippine National Police is facing problems with its pensioner records.
In 2013, the Commission on Audit (COA) asked the PNP to refund close to P8 million pesos in claims paid to 19 fake pensioners.
COA also wants Camp Crame to hold its personnel accountable for the alleged anomaly.
Widows in waiting
Back in Camp Aguinaldo, military pensioners await for word on the status of their pension claims.
Some widows of dead pensioner stake out near Camp Aguinaldo, braving the daytime heat.
When night falls, they are forced to sleep on the street.
They have traveled from the provinces.
Among them is Gemma Angos who lost her husband, an Army enlisted man, in 1991 because of an illness.
She's supposed to be getting a monthly pension of more than P8,000.
But she barely receives the money.
The entire pension pays for several loans, from legitimate to shady money lenders.
Pensioners like Gemma and Sergeant Mamauag, as well as many others like them, are hoping government will soon release unpaid balances in their claims for the last 10 years. 
That money, they say, they will be used mostly to pay off their loans.

US troops lose belongings to thieves during Balikatan

From the Philippine Star (Apr 23): US troops lose belongings to thieves during Balikatan

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Palayan City – Four US soldiers participating in the ongoing 31st joint Balikatan war exercises inside this military reservation lost their personal belongings to thieves, police reported yesterday.

The four soldiers were identified as Sgts. Scotty Wilson and Dwayne Massey and Lts. Patrick Tierney and Thomas Dunne.

Palayan police chief Supt. Leandro Novilla said the military police company (MPC) inside the 7th Infantry Division headquarters has confirmed that the robbery incident transpired at around 1 a.m. on April 9 at the Exercise Relation Construction (ERC) building of the Southern Command (SoCom).

According to the MPC report, unidentified suspects gained entry by digging a hole beneath a perimeter fence. They carted away army boots and a wallet containing $2,000 and an undetermined amount of pesos, among other items.

Novilla said the police report came in late because the military “conducted their own investigation and did not inform us.”

“It’s mysterious how the burglars could just go inside with ease. You can’t just break in since it’s a military camp,” he said.

Supt. Ronald Joseph Ocaya, deputy provincial director for administration, said intelligence operatives are scouring nearby barangays to identify possible witnesses who could provide information on the incident.