Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ombudsman raffles off Army chief Irriberi's graft cases

From InterAksyon (Jun 28): Ombudsman raffles off Army chief Irriberi's graft cases

Army chief Lieutenant Hernando DCA Irriberi. FACEBOOK GRAB

The Office of the Ombudsman has raffled off the administrative and criminal cases filed against Army chief Lieutenant Hernando DCA Irriberi which will require him to submit his counter-affidavits for the start of a preliminary investigation.

If investigators find prima facie evidence on the allegations as stated in the complaints, Irriberi might be face preventive suspension to deter him from interfering with the probe.

The filed complaints were docketed as Case No. 15-0328 (criminal) and Case No. 15-0358 (administrative).

Ombudsman Media Affairs Officer Jerry Benedict Rosete told over the phone he has yet to find out about the status of the cases.

Out of running as AFP chief of staff

Although already deemed out of contention from the race of contenders for the top position of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) based on the repeated pronouncements of President Benigno Aquino III that he prefers to appoint a younger AFP chief of staff who will serve beyond his term, Irriberi’s chances further dims because of these graft cases.

Aquino also wants a younger general to replace resigned but still in active duty on a floating status General Alan Purisima who was widely blamed for the botched Oplan Exodus that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir alias Marwan but also led to the massacre of 44 members of the Special Action Force (SAF) by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Maguindano.

The criminal and administrative charges against Irriberi were filed by Roperlynn Cruz Comahig, a representative of Joavi Philippines Corporation (JPC), stemming from at least three ammunition contracts worth P97.8 million. These were filed on May 5 and 10.

Comahig alleged that Irriberi deliberately caused undue delay for delivery of the ammunition by not issuing necessary documents such as Notice to Proceed and End-user Certificate despite the approval of amended contracts and paying the imposed 10% liquidated damages.

The projects include: 1,635 rounds of ctg. (cartridge) 105mm HE (High Explosive) with Fuze under Contract Nr (ORD) 074-10-11 worth P49.050,000, 1,650 rounds of ctg. 105mm HE with Fuze under Contract Nr (ORD) 090-11-11 worth P44,550,000, and 1,862 rounds of ctg. 40mm AGL (Automatic Grenade Launcher) ammunition under Contract Nr (ORD) 098-12-09.

Allegedly, Irriberi prefers ammo projects to be implemented as “emergency purchase” instead despite that JPC won in public biddings from 2010 to 2012.

To reinforce the firm’s legal complaints, Christopher Anthony S. Manaluz, Managing Director of JPC, also filed on June 9 a five-page prayer for preventive suspension against Irriberi.

“Succinctly, the charge involves gross negligence which would warrant respondent Irriberi’s removal from the service. Further, respondent Iriiberi’s continued stay in office will definitely prejudice the complaints filed by JPC considering that the vital documents subject matter of this complaint are all in his possession,” Manaluz said.

“Consequently, there is a great possibility that he could tamper them to conceal his liability and/or influence/restrain possible witnesses from coming forward. Undoubtedly, the need to preventively suspend respondent Irriberi will serve the orderly administration of justice and ensure that the preliminary investigation can proceed without impediment,” he added.

“As a result of respondent Irriberi’s abuse of his authority and arbitrary decision, JPC has suffered financial losses amounting to no less than Twenty Five Million Pesos (P25,000,000.00) which comprise the partial payments for the goods that JPC has paid to the supplier, the cost of warehouse storage, and related expenses,” Manaluz further said.

Farmers press raps vs AFP

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 28): Farmers press raps vs AFP
PALAYAN CITY— Some 200 farmers from five barangays in this city and neighboring Cabanatuan are not about to wish outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. a warm send-off as he retires from the military service next month.

The farmers want Catapang’s retirement benefits withheld pending the resolution of a class suit filed against him and two other military officers for allegedly grabbing portions of their farmlands two years ago.

Catapang, who will reach the mandatory retirement age of 56 on July 11, has been making farewell calls to troops this week. He said he just wants to have some rest after his 38-year military career.

Fourteen of the protesting farmers are the petitioners in a civil case for forcible entry against Catapang and Lieutenant Colonels Benito Doniego Jr. and Alfredo Patarata.

A petition for review of the case has been filed by them before the Court of Appeals.

At the time the suit was filed, Catapang - of Philippine Military Academy class 1981 -  was a major general of the Philippine Army and commanding general of the 7th Infantry Division stationed at the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation here.

The 14 are Julius Bautista, Carmelita Manayan, Rufino Flores, Garvacio Aregando and Arsenio Laranang of Barangay Caballero; Florentina Juan, Bienvenido Baldemor, Elizalde Estigoy, Julio Diaz and Wenceslao Bautista, all of Barangay Ganaderia; Carmelita Valmote of Barangay Caimito, Jose Ginnodela Merced of Barangay Manacnac, all of this city; Dalisay Gadian of Barangay Bangad and Gideon Acosta of Barangay Kapitan Pepe, both of Cabanatuan City.

They faced the media on Thursday night to press for justice in connection with the case.

The petitioners are tilling a 200-hectare farmland in Caballero and Ganaderia for at least 10 years, with other farmers claiming a longer period.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) described the farmlands, a titled property owned by the city government, as a “patrimonial property” or a registered property in the name of the Republic.

Laranang, a retired sergeant, said he has been tilling his three-hectare land since 1984 when he was still a private first class. He took the place of original petitioner Florentina Juan who was already deceased.

Paulo Bautista, 79, who is not a petitioner in the case but is one of the affected farmers, said that they have been tilling their land for at least 78 years, dating back to the time of his father Primitivo and grandfather Basilio.

He showed newsmen a receipt of tax payments for the land made in 1937.

“Bagosana mag-retire si General Catapang, huwag niya kaming kakalimutan (Hopefully before he retires, General Catapang won’t forget us),” he said.

Others, who sought anonymity, said they want President Aquino to temporarily withhold Catapang’s retirement benefits until the suit has been resolved with finality.

Catapang and the other respondents said the subject farmlands form part of the military reservation and that the AFP, through the Army has long been in legal and physical possession de jure of the entire expanse.

He claimed the Army has been occupying and possessing the subject property as far back as 1955 when then-President Ramon Magsaysay issued Presidential Proclamation 237 reserving the area for military purposes and withdrawing them from sale or settlement.

The proclamation was amended on March 13,2006 when then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation 1033 including the 200 hectares among the areas reserved for the off-base housing site for Army soldiers.

Court records showed that sometime in March 2013, Doniego and Patarata - on orders of Catapang and assisted by armed soldiers from Fort Magsaysay - entered their farmlands “by means of threat and intimidation and  without any authority from the Department of Agrarian Reform and the courts” prevented the farmers from possessing and cultivating these lands.

The petitioners claimed that Doniego initially told them that they were putting up a detachment of the paramilitary group Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) supposedly to guard the forests.

Later, however, Doniego told them they would be ejected “whether they liked it or not.”Afterwards, they claimed their farmlands were flattened with the use of bulldozers.

The petitioning farmers then filed a civil case for forcible entry before the municipal trial court in cities (MTCC) which ruled in their favor in a decision issued on October 8,2013.

The case was elevated to the Palayan City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 40 which reversed the MTCC decision in its ruling on December 9,2014.

The farmers assailed the decision and filed a motion for reconsideration but their counsel, Feliciano Buenaventura, suffered an ailment and later withdrew for health reasons.

Later, they filed a petition for review with the Court of Appeals.

In their review petition, the petitioners said the RTC gravely erred in reversing and setting aside the MTCC decision and in ruling on the basis of issues relating to ownership, land registration and recovery of possession instead of forcible entry.

It said that the court also erred in ordering the petitioners to vacate the farmlands in spite of the fact that this relief was not prayed for by the respondents.

China actions like Russian attack — US

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 28): China actions like Russian attack — US

CHINA’S terra-forming in disputed waters in the South China Sea is just like Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula and has become “a threat to peace and stability,” according to a senior United States diplomat.

“In both eastern Ukraine and the South China Sea, we’re witnessing efforts to unilaterally and coercively change the status quo -- transgressions that the United States and our allies stand united against,” Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

Blinken reiterated Washington’s declared policy that the United States took no position on the merits of competing claims in the South China Sea, but it had a strong interest in how those were pursued and in preserving freedom of navigation.

“The way forward is for China, and all claimants, to freeze their reclamation activities and resolve their difference in accordance with the rule of law,” said Blinken, the second highest state department official.

The Department of Foreign Affairs could not comment on Saturday, but MalacaƱang had earlier responded to Beijing’s criticism that Manila was trying to involve other nations in the ongoing disputes in a part of the South China Sea that is called the West Philippine Sea issue.

“We cannot be faulted if other countries have lauded the approach that we have decided to take in resolving this dispute that we have with our neighbor,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told reporters during a press briefing at the Palace.

Valte was asked to comment on the statement made by Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman, Senior Colonel Yang Yujun, during a regular press conference on Thursday that “some regional nations drag countries outside the region to interfere in the South China Sea issue, demonstrate muscles, and intentionally play up regional tensions.”

“This behavior would only bring harm to the situation in the South China Sea,” he said.

Valte noted that the issue concerns countries outside the region since 60 percent to 80 percent of global trade passes through the disputed waters.

Asked about the environmental harm that China’s reclamation works have created, Valte said she wants to leave it to the experts to assess the damage on coral reefs caused by China’s island-building activities.

“More weight should be given to the opinion of experts when it comes to the destruction of marine resources and the coral reefs that are affected. We would defer to their judgment on that,” she said.

The Philippine government has filed a case before the international arbitral tribunal to resolve the dispute despite China’s refusal to participate.

It is also pushing for the crafting of a binding Code of Conduct in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to ease the tension in the contested territory.

Among the nations that has backed the country’s tack in the South China Sea dispute is Japan, whose top military officer said China’s recent moves to build artificial islands had created “very serious potential concerns” for Japan.

Admiral Katsutoshi Kawano, chief of the Joint Staff of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.

“We don’t have any plans to conduct surveillance in the South China Sea currently but depending on the situation, I think there is a chance we could consider doing so,” the admiral was quoted as saying.

Kawano did not specify what actions by China might make the Japanese consider starting patrols, the Journal reported, and any activity by Japan’s military beyond its borders would likely raise concerns at home.

This week Japan and the Philippines flew patrol planes near the disputed South China Sea waters.

Kawano said he hoped to see more military cooperation with South Korea, an area that has suffered because of disagreements between Tokyo and Seoul over wartime history, the Journal said.

The two neighbors have exchanged warmer words in the past few days as they marked 50 years of ties.

Photos: Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

From DVIDS (Jun 26): Photos: Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

SULU SEA (June 25, 2015) Deputy Naval Forces West, Philippine navy (General Staff Corps) Capt. Ramil B. Enriquez, left, speaks with Cmdr. Rich Jarrett, commanding officer of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), on the bridge of Fort Worth during the at-sea phase of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2015. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joe Bishop/Released)

Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

SULU SEA (June 25, 2015) From left to right, Deputy Naval Forces West, Philippine Navy (General Staff Corps), Capt. Ramil B. Enriquez, Cmdr. Rich Jarrett, commanding officer of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), and Capt. Fred Kacher, commodore, Destroyer Squadron 7, observe an at-sea exercise on the bridge of the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2015. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joe Bishop/Released)

Littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3)

SULU SEA (June 25, 2015) Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Ricky Jones, from Fort Worth, Texas, assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), signals an AgustaWestland AW109 from the Philippine Navy to land on the flight deck of Fort Worth during a deck landing qualification exercise as part of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) Philippines 2015. In its 21st year, CARAT is an annual, bilateral exercise series with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the armed forces of nine partner nations. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joe Bishop/Released)

Palace insists all bilateral means to solve sea row exhausted

From the Philippine Star (Jun 28): Palace insists all bilateral means to solve sea row exhausted

Photo shows Western Command deputy commander Brig. Gen. Guillermo Molina Jr. talking to US Navy officer Patrick Ronan on board a P3 Orion plane during the joint US-Philippines naval exercise dubbed Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2015 in Sulu.  AP   

The Philippines has exhausted all bilateral means to find solutions to the West Philippine Sea dispute and could not be accused of provoking China to go into massive reclamation activities, MalacaƱang said yesterday.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the country has always acted accordingly in addressing the territorial dispute.

“We have been talking to China since this dispute started. You can get the number of (diplomatic) notes, the number of meetings, the number of high-level exchanges that we have had with China from the beginning of this issue,” Valte said.

Valte said the Philippines never shut the door on China for bilateral exchanges despite its position that the dispute must be resolved multilaterally because of the many countries involved.

Aside from the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia  and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the area.

“We will just leave it to our neighbors what they will make of all these international observations, all of these calls from different sectors – from environmentalists, to marine biologists, to marine scientists – to halt the reclamation because for some stakeholders, this is not an issue of disputes, this is an issue of the degradation of marine resources,”  Valte added.

Youth leaders group, partners reach out to remote La Trinidad school

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 25): Youth leaders group, partners  reach out to remote La Trinidad school

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet, - - A  far-flung school in barangay Shilan in this municipality benefited from a community outreach by youth leaders group and partners.

At least 78 elementary pupils and four teachers of the Pagal Elementary School were the beneficiaries  of   a  community outreach program by the Cordillera Youth Leaders on June 22.

CYL President Joshua Bantic said that their group together with the Alpha Company of the 5th Civil Military Operations Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Tactical Operations Group of the Philippine Air Force and the Bookends Bookshop turned over school supplies such as notebooks, pad papers, pens and pencil and other learning materials to the pupils. The teachers also received  books and other teaching materials.

The group also conducted a seminar on good grooming and proper hand washing particularly for the Kindergarten, grades 1 to 3 pupils to promote the importance of health. For  the  Grade 4 to 6 pupils,  a leadership seminar to instill the  value of leadership and  the deeper meaning of service and youth empowerment among the younger generation.

Bantic explained that they picked the Pagal Elementary School as their beneficiary since the school is one of the farthest  in the municipality which cannot be reached by public transport.

Pagal ES teacher in-charge Thelma Lapniten expressed gratitude for the donation and the activities of the CYL and partners . She said  these are  big boost to the students and the teachers.

Meanwhile, the CYL will hold   Araw ng Parangal where the various partners of the CYL will be recognized on Sunday  at the Police Regional Office – Cordillera, Camp Bado Dangwa, here. The new set of  CYL officers  will also  take their oath.

As the name implies, the CYL is composed of  youth  leaders engaged in  the conduct of  trainings and seminars, activities and dissemination of useful information to the Cordilleran youths that may encourage them to develop their innate leadership trait.

Gov’t workers union decries 15 ‘harassment’ cases since April

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 26): Gov’t workers union decries 15 ‘harassment’ cases since April

The government labor union Courage and its allied organizations have again run to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), accusing the military and the police of being behind recent “harassment” cases targeting their officers.

In a press conference on Wednesday, they cited at least five incidents this month where their officers were allegedly “stalked” by persons asking them to quit their movement and “start all over again.”

On Monday morning, for example, Kilusang Mayo Uno’s public information officer Renato Asa was leaving his Quezon City residence when he was approached by a man who introduced himself as a soldier but refused to give his name or unit, according to the labor group.

The man then offered help as he asked Asa to “cooperate before it’s too late,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay added.

On June 19, Erwin Lanuza, president of the Courage chapter in the Quezon City government, said he was on his way back to City Hall after buying food when a man in a ball cap and sunglasses approached him.

Like in Asa’s case, Lanuza said, the stranger introduced himself as a military man and told him in Filipino: “I know what you’re doing and you need to stop.” The man then gave him a handwritten note containing a cell phone number and the name “Jed.”

According to Courage national president Ferdinand Gaite, his group has monitored around 15 similar incidents involving its officers in Metro Manila since April.

Three were reported on June 16 alone. That day, the National Housing Authority’s district office in Sta. Mesa, Manila, where Courage secretary Rose Nartates works, got a surprise visit from men who claimed to be from the Manila Police District-Sta. Mesa station.

The men, who were not in uniform, said they came to offer “security education” and started taking pictures of the office, Nartates said at the press conference.

That same day, Benny Angeles, a former union leader at the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, also got a visit from “Joey,” who also gave him a contact number should he decide to “return to the fold.”

Also on June 16, Courage national organizer Bob Reyes was approached by another military man at his Caloocan City home. The visitor accused Reyes of being a communist rebel, gave him a number and told him: “Call me or you’ll blame yourself if something bad happens to you.”

Courage has filed a complaint in the CHR for the incidents reported in April. Another covering “a second batch (of cases)” will be filed next week, Palabay said.

Reached for comment, Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the public affairs office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said “the allegations must be substantiated by the accusers” but that the AFP would punish any member found guilty of human rights violations.

Human rights group told: Sue troops accused of killing civilians

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 27): Human rights group told: Sue troops accused of killing civilians

AN ARMY official has encouraged human rights groups who have accused government troops for allegedly killing civilians, who are suspected members of the New People's Army, to file charges and support their claims.

Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division spokesperson Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra said this in line with the recent killing of Ricky Basig, a member of the Barug Katawhan (People Rise) -- organization of survivors of Typhoon Pablo.

Basig was shot dead by alleged members of the 67th Infantry Battalion (IB) on Thursday evening in Davao Oriental.

"As of now, those are mere allegations. We encouraged them to file appropriate charges and present evidences to support their claims. Rest assured, the 10th Infantry Agila Division will cooperate with any investigating body regarding that matter," Lacambra said.

As a professional organization that strictly adheres to respect for human rights and IHL (International Humanitarian Law), the division will not tolerate erring personnel once proved guilty of any wrongdoings, Lacambra added.

A fact-finding mission initiated by Exodus for Justice and Peace and participated by Karapatan-SMR recently reported human rights violations have been committed by the military against civilian population.

In this report, Basig was found to have had three instances where he was allegedly harassed by the 67th IB, and was also allegedly asked to serve as guide for the 67 IB.

54 improvised explosive devices recovered since January

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 27): 54 improvised explosive devices recovered since January

THE Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) reported on Friday that a total of 54 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were recovered in its areas of responsibilities since January this year.

Eastmincom public information officer Captain Alberto Caber said that 12 of the total figure were planted along national highways by members of the New People's Army (NPA).

"The IEDs were immediately brought to the nearest military detachment for documentation before it was turned over to the personnel from Explosive and Ordnance Detachment," Caber said.

Caber said the continuous manufacture and use of the IEDs is a gross violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

He cited the incident last April 1 in Surigao del Sur where a civilian was killed and seven others were hurt after an IED exploded.

Caber said the armed forces are continuously conducting security patrol in their respective areas to ensure the safety of the people.

Kin of Oro man held captive by Abu Sayyaf plead mercy

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jun 27): Kin of Oro man held captive by Abu Sayyaf plead mercy

THREE-year-old Allaina Pagaling touched the framed photograph of her father and said gently, “Papa, Papa.”

Allaina is named after her father, Seaman 1st Class Rod Allain Pagaling, the tattooed coast guardsman in the viral video blindfolded and kneeling with two others, surrounded by eight Abu Sayyaf bandits brandishing assault rifles and machetes.

“We last spoke on May 23, a day before the video surfaced,” Judith Pradia, Pagaling’s long-time partner and the mother of Allaina, said.

“He was asking for numbers of radio stations here in Cagayan,” Pradia said.

Before he left for the Coast Guard station in Dapitan in the middle of April, Judith said they had made plans to finally marry on May 25, Allaina’s birthday.

Instead, Judith said they were talking two days before their supposed wedding day, finding ways to get through the city’s radio stations to air his appeal for help before it became too late for him and his two companions.

Judith said the Abu Sayyaf bandits had started contacting them on May 11, a week after the abduction, letting them speak to Allain who told them he was with many other kidnap victims aside from his two Aliguay companions.

Judith said the calls would always come from 6 to 8 p.m. and she would ask Allain where he was, noting the sound of crickets and other night-time insects in the background. But Allain would not say anything, telling her instead that he was on loudspeaker.

“He would ask about his Allaina and he would beg me and his sister to find ways to get him out,” Judith said.

Thirty-year-old Pagaling, along with fellow coast guardsman Gringo Villaruz and Aliguay village chairman Robert Bulagao, was abducted at 1:45 a.m. on May 4.

Pagaling and Villaruz are Philippine Coast Guard safety inspectors detailed at Aliguay Island, an island village near the town of Dapitan.

The island is home to white sand beaches and its seas are stocked with tropical fishes and coral reefs. It is popular among foreign and local tourists who often book tours to the island from the Dakak Resort in nearby Dapitan.

Pagaling’s eldest sister Joy said it was perhaps for this reason that the bandits, numbering at least six on board two motorized bancas, came.

Joy said her youngest brother was not yet two weeks on the island when the abduction took place. The assignment was temporary as and Allain used to base in the Coast Guard Station in Dapitan.
Pagaling, along with Villaruz, were the only uniformed state security personnel on the island, Joy said.

Joy added she was out when a Coast Guard officer came to inform them of the abduction at about 8 a.m. on May 4. Joy said she hurried to the Coast Guard District-Northern Mindanao headquarters in Puntod, Cagayan de Oro City.

“They told me the Coast Guard is doing all it can to recover my brother. They also informed me of the government’s no ransom policy” she said.

Speaking to the bandits on the phone, Joy said she told them they have no way of raising the ransom money, pegged initially at P100 million, then to P50 million, then finally to P3 million. The bandits also demanded an advance of P50,000, for “board and lodging,” but even that, Joy said, is almost impossible to produce.

“My father is retired and out of five siblings, Allain is the only one with a regular income,” Joy said, “we are not rich, where will we get the money,” she said she told one of the kidnappers in one of their phone calls.

Joy gestured toward Judith and Allain’s daughter and said, “What about them? Allain is the breadwinner, they are having difficulty putting food on the table as it is. Where will we find money for ransom?”

In hopes that the bandits would show mercy, Joy said she told them about her being a Muslim convert.

“After that, they called me again and told me to just pay the P50,000,” Joy said.

Joy said after the video came out on May 24, there has been no contact. She said they would call the Abu Sayyaf bandit negotiating with them but would get no answer.

Contact with the bandits for the families of Allain’s two companions has also ceased, Joy said with eyes welling up.

“It has been more than a month,” Joy said, “I hope,” she said after a long pause, looking at Allain and Judith.

But Joy never finished her sentence, dreading to say aloud what is in her mind.

Former NPA leader wants to join Army

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 27): Former NPA leader wants to join Army

A former platoon leader of the Guerrilla Front 55 of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Davao region, who recently yielded to authorities, has expressed his intention to join the Philippine Army.

Alias Adrian (not his real name) has already pledged his allegiance to the government and vowed to return to the mainstream society after years of spending his life with the rebels.

He yielded to authorities last June 6 in the town of New Corella in Davao del Norte.

Col. Harold Cabreros, commander of the 1003rd Infantry Brigade of the Army told reporters here that they were already working for the special enlistment of Adrian to the military force.

“Pwede naman silang maging member ng Army (They can become members of the Army).”

He emphasized that the government has no intention of ruining the lives of rebels, especially those who decided to come back to normal lives.

“The government helps the former rebels rebuild their lives in their respective communities through support programs and projects,” he added.

Cabreros also clarified that Adrian’s case was similar to those rebels who pursued their intention to join the Army and were now active members of the organization.

He cited the case of a wounded lady NPA fighter who was captured by the Army after an encounter in Davao region.

“The Army treated her and even supported her schooling. Now she is a member of the military with a rank of Corporal.”

But Cabreros also stressed that Adrian will still have to go through a process and certain qualifications before he can be enlisted in the Army.

“It is possible for him to be enlisted with the Army. When he yielded he also surrendered his M-16 rifle,” Cabreros said.

Operation to save Abu Sayyaf's coast guard captives launched

From the Philippine Star (Jun 28): Operation to save Abu Sayyaf's coast guard captives launched

Ground troops launched operations with police forces to save Philippine Coast Guard captives from possible beheading by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, an official said.

Capt. Maria Rowena Muyuela, spokesperson of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said Saturday the Abu Sayyaf threatened to execute Seaman 2nd Class Gringo Villaruz, and Seaman 1st Class Rod Pagaling and village chairman Roberto Bulagao if the government could not pay their ransom demand.

The victims were taken on May 4 in island resort off Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

The militants paraded their captives half-naked with a bolo planted in one of the victims’ neck in a video clip uploaded in social media on Tuesday.

Muyuela said the Joint Task Group Sulu and the provincial police launched the operations against the militants.

"The Joint Task Forces have exerted all efforts to assist the Philippine National Police (PNP) in the law enforcement operations," Muyuela said.

Muyuela said ground forces have been in close coordination with the police to neutralize members of the Abu Sayyaf and safely recover the hostages.

She said the military also provided support for local government units in the operation.

Muyuela said Dapitan City government convened a crisis management committee to assist the victims' family in coping with the situation.

TALES FROM CHINA | Observatory 'built' on Panatag; astronomer in 2 places at same time - Carpio

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): TALES FROM CHINA | Observatory 'built' on Panatag; astronomer in 2 places at same time - Carpio

Justice Antonio Carpio at the PLM forum on the South China Sea, disputing China's claim that an astronomical observatory was built on the tiny rock on Panatag Shoal in 1279

Could a 13th century Chinese astronomer have built an "observatory" more than 12 meters high and several meters wide, on the Philippines' Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, which juts a mere 1.2 meters above water at high tide?

This was the claim made by the Chinese embassy web site to buttress Beijing's claim on the area it de facto occupied in 2012, and from which it routinely drives away Filipino fishermen.

The answer to whether that claim is at all possible is "No," on two counts - on sheer physical impossibility, and on China's own conflicting accounts - according to Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who cited in a recent lecture the absurdity of Beijing's claims.

It's just one of many, Carpio said, that Beijing has been using to boost its "baseless' nine-dashed line claim, the anchor of its steady expansion in the South China Sea.

First, there's the sheer physical impossibility, granting astronomer Guo Shoujing, indeed, visited Panatag (Scarborough) in 1279 and erected an observatory there.

Here's why. In his lecture at a forum organized by the nationalist group P1NAS at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila on June 25, Carpio flashed onscreen an image of a 12.6-meter high stone observatory situated in Henan Province, which, he said, is "the only extant astronomical observatory among the 27 that Guo Shoujing built during the Yuan Dynasty."

Image below is that of the Gaocheng Observatory:

Subsequently, Carpio reminded his audience of that iconic photo - with a solitary Philippine flag standing - of South Rock, already the biggest rock on Scarborough Shoal, and yet is just 1.2 meters above water at high tide.

"No more than 6 to 10 people could stand on it," Carpio said of South Rock.

"To be operated, the observatories of Guo Shoujing have had to be manned everyday, since measurements have to be taken everyday. It was physically impossible to erect, or operate, such an observatory on Scarborough Shoal," Carpio argued.

Certainly, he added, "the massive astronomical observatories that Guo Shoujing erected in other places in China could not possibly fit on the tiny rocks of Scarborough Shoal."

To prove the physical impossibility of that, he showed this hypothetical image of a huge observatory balancing itself on a tiny rock:

Was Guo Shoujing in Paracels or Scarborough?

Even if one were to suspend judgment on the physical ludicrousness of an observatory on Panatag's (Scarborough) South Rock, Beijing itself had sent out two conflicting claims about where the famed astronomer really went, Carpio pointed out.

In its Embassy web site in Manila, "China claims Scarborough Shoal because the shoal is allegedly the Nanhai Island that Guo Shoujing visited in 1279 and where he erected an astronomical observatory," Carpio told his PLM audience.

The web site states: "Huangyan Island was first discovered and drew [sic] into China's map in China's Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AD). In 1279, Chinese astronomer Guo Shoujing performed surveying of the seas around China for Kublai Khan, and Huangyan Island was chosen as the point in the South
China Sea."

And yet, Carpio continued, "in a document entitled 'China's Sovereignty Over Xisha and Zhongsha Islands Is Indisputable' issued on January 30, 1980, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs officially declared that the Nanhai island that Guo Shoujing visited in 1279 was in Xisha or what is internationally called the Paracels, a group of islands more than 380 NM from Scarborough Shoal."

China issued this official document, Carpio explained, to "bolster its claim to the Paracels and to counter Vietnam's strong historical claims to the same islands."

Here are the exact words from this Chinese official document, published in Beijing Review, Issue No. 7 dated February 18, 1980: "Early in the Yuan Dynasty, an astronomical observation was carried out at 27 places throughout the country. xxx According to the official History of the Yuan Dynasty,
Nanhai, Gou's observation point, was "to the south of Zhuya" and "the result of the survey showed that the latitude of Nanhai is 15°N." The astronomical observation point Nanhai was today's Xisha Islands. It shows that Xisha Islands were within the bounds of China at the time of the Yuan dynasty."

In all, Gou Shoujing was supposed to have built 27 astronomical observatories, 26 on the mainland and one on an island in the South Sea (Nanhai), Carpio said, quoting official reports, but the problem is, China cannot seem to make up its mind on which island that was: the Paracels claimed by Vietnam, or the Philippines' Scarborough (Panatag) Shoal.

When it needed to box out Vietnam from the Paracels, it claimed the astronomer had gone to Xisha (Paracels). But, more recently, Beijing claims the astronomer went to the Philippines' Scarborough Shoal, where he did the impossible feat of erecting a massive observatory on a slender, 1-meter tall rock.

Carpio -- who has done decades-long extensive research on the law of the seas and the South China Sea issues, and stresses in all lectures that his views are his own and do not reflect the Philippine government's -- said that "China cannot now claim that Scarborough Shoal is the South Sea island that Guo Shoujing visited in 1279, because China had already declared in 1980 that Gou Shoujing visited the Paracels where he erected that astronomical observatory."

US encourages South China Sea claimants to freeze all reclamation

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): US encourages South China Sea claimants to freeze all reclamation

The US continues to insist all contesting parties in the South China Sea should halt reclamation activities, US Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said at the 2015 Center for New American Security conference.

The United States has no territorial claims in the South China Sea, but the White House has stated its interest in upholding so-called international maritime norms. The United States is notably one of the few countries in the United Nations that has not signed onto the UN Law of the Sea convention.

“What we have suggested to all of them [claimants in the South China Sea] is a freeze on reclamation activities,” Blinken said in a Friday speech.

Blinken continued that the United States recommended to all claimants, including China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, Taiwan, and the Philippines, to freeze construction on the islands in the South China Sea, and halt any militarization going on for defensive or other purposes.

“If you do that, you create the time and space actually to solve the differences that exist through peaceful means,” Blinken explained.

China and its neighbors have been increasingly at odds over maritime claims in the shared waters of the South China Sea. The United States has also raised concern over freedom of navigation for US military vessels in the Beijing’s defined exclusive economic zone.

Blinken accused China of attempting to “coercively change the status quo” and making territorial claims that are a “risk to the stability” of the Pacific region.

Hundreds benefit from Ramadan humanitarian mission in Maguindanao

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 26): Hundreds benefit from Ramadan humanitarian mission in Maguindanao 

Hundreds of villagers have benefitted from a humanitarian mission launched by US and Philippine soldiers and participated by various civilian groups in the province of Maguindanao in the Muslim autonomous region.

Dubbed as “Ramadan Relief Operation,” members of the Philippines’ 6th Infantry Division CMO, the 40th Infantry Battalion; and Civil Affairs Team 736 of the US Army, and supported by Karancho, ABinc., South Seas and Workshop@ibapa charities distributed hundreds of hygiene kits to mostly war evacuees from Datu Kilay in Shariff Saidona Mustapha town.

Hundreds of packs of school supplies were also distributed to students of Mamasapano Central Elementary School. The humanitarian mission was headed by Col. Joel Mamon, commander of the 40th Infantry Battalion, and Mamasapano town Mayor Benzar Ampatuan.

Philippine military launches operations to rescue 3 Sayyaf hostages lined up for beheading

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 27): Philippine military launches operations to rescue 3 Sayyaf hostages lined up for beheading

The Philippine military has launched an operation to rescue three people – two of them members of the Coast Guard – being held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf in the restive region of Mindanao, officials said Saturday.

The rebel group said it would behead the hostages, Gringo Villaruz and Rodlyn Pagaling; and village chieftain Roberto Buligao, if the Aquino government fails to pay their ransom demand.

The rebels have reportedly demanded P10 million in exchange for the safe release of the trio – abducted in May 4 on Aliguay Island in Dapitan City in Zamboanga del Norte.

Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said it has already coordinated with police authorities to rescue the hostages.

“The Western Mindanao Command, through our Task Forces on the ground, is in close coordination with the local police and local government unit to expedite arrest of the perpetrators and facilitate the safe release of the kidnap victims,” Muyuela said.

Muyuela also condemned the latest Abu Sayyaf kidnappings. “We condemn the continuous criminal acts perpetrated by these threat groups to innocent civilians in the provinces of Mindanao.”

“From the start, Western Mindanao Command Joint Task Forces have exerted all efforts to assist the Philippine National Police in the law enforcement operations matter in the same way that we are providing support to the local government units. The city government of Dapitan had already convened the City Crisis Management Committee to look into the incidents,” she said.

A video posted on Facebook showed the hostages – their eyes covered with handkerchief and hands tied behind their back – begging to the Aquino government to help them, saying their captors have threatened to decapitate all of them if their demands were not met.

The Coast Guard has confirmed the two men in the video were Villaruz and Pagaling, and said it will not pay ransom to the kidnappers.

One of the armed men in the video, who was clad in a police uniform, read a message from his cell phone and said: “Kami ay nakabihag ng dalawang Coast Guard at isang barangay captain, nanawagan kami na maibigay ninyo ang hinihingi namin sa lalong madaling panahon kung hindi ninyo maibigay ang hinihingi namin ay pupugutan namin ang ulo ng isa sa mga bihag na ito o lahat sila.” (We are holding two Coast Guard and a village chieftain, we are calling (on the government) to give us our demand soon and if you will not heed to our demand, we shall behead one of the hostages, or all of them.)

“Bayanihan” inilunsad sa kabundukan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 27): “Bayanihan” inilunsad sa kabundukan ("Bayanihan" launched in the mountains)

VIGAN CITY – Patuloy na ipinapatupad ng Philippine Army (PA) at Philippine National Police (PNP) ang bayanihan sa mga bulubunduking lugar sa lalawigan para hindi makaimpluwensya ang mga rebelde sa mga naninirahan sa barangay, ayon sa isang opisyal.

Sa pamamagitan ng bayanihan mapupulsuhan ang mga pangangailangan at karaingan ng mga residente sa mga depressed areas para maiparating sa mga ahensya ng pamahalaan, ayon kay Lt. Col. Jason Bajet, Commanding Officer ng 81st Infantry Battalion ng PA na naka-base sa Sta. Cruz, sa naganap na Provincial Peace and Order Council Meeting na dinaluhan ng mga hepe ng iba’t-ibang sangay ng pamahalaan sa  Kapitolyo noong Hunyo 24.

Inihayag ng opisyal na problema pa rin ang insurhensya sa Ilocos Sur na itinuturing na Primera Klaseng Probinsya lalo na sa mga liblib na barangay sa makasaysayang bayan ng Cervantes, Sta. Cruz at Suyo bagama’t kontrolado ang situwasyon.

Sinabi ni Bajet na anumang pagkakataon ay maaaring maglunsad ang mga remnants ng mga insurgents ng atrocities at harassment sa mga barangay  kaya patuloy ding naka-alerto ang grupo.

Sinabi pa ng opisyal ng Army na kailangan ding mabuo ang “territorial defense” para mapalakas ang grupo ng mga CAFGU at Barangay Tanod sa pagpapatrolya upang mapanatili ang kaayusan at katahimikan.

Maigting ang ipinapatupad na  kampanya ng Army para  mapuksa ang anumang “terroristic acts” ng mga insurgents  at mapahina ang kanilang political-military structure sa lalawigan, idiniin niya.

Layunin din ng bayanihan na maiparating ang programa ng pamahalaan para sa kapayapaan  at kaunlaran sa mga liblib na pook bagama’t  hinikayat ni Col Bajet ang iba’t-ibang sangay ng gobyerno na paigtingin pa ang kanilang serbisyo para sa mga kababayang itinuturing na Indigeneous Peoples

Bilang chairman ng PPOC, iniutos ni Gob. Ryan Luis Singson sa mga national government agencies lalo na ang Department of Agriculture, National Irrigation Administration, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development,  Department of Labor and Employment at TESDA na iparating nila ang kanilang serbisyo at programa sa mga itinuturing na “poorest of the poor.”

Samantala, iniulat ni Pol. Supt. Nestor Felix, PNP Provincial Director, na nakikipagtulongan ang Kapolisan sa Army para masugpo ang insurhensya sa Suyo, Cervantes at Sta. Cruz bagama’t may sightings din sa Primero Distrito tulad sa liblib na mga  barangay sa Sinait, San Juan at Cabugao.

DND: Big contracts still on stream

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 27): DND: Big contracts still on stream

The Department of National Defense on Friday said the Commission on Audit has not stopped the implementation of three multi-billion, big-ticket modernization projects.

“For the information of the general public, the Commission on Audit has not ‘suspended’ the acquisition projects for the 12 jet aircraft from South Korea, the eight Bell 412EP Helicopters from Canada, and the 21 UH-1 helicopters,” the DND said in a statement.

“The COA merely suspended their scheduled audit pending the submission of additional requirements and data from the Department of National Defense. Thus, the acquisition of the Bell 412 helicopters and the FA-50 jets are ongoing,” it added.

It further said COA Supervising Auditor Lucena D. Gana wrote the DND to say “the existence of the Notice of Suspension does not prevent or hinder management in the performance of its responsibilities under the contract.”

“We assure the Filipino public that all transactions in the Department are aboveboard, transparent, and in compliance with the rules and regulations as prescribed by law,” DND said.

Particularly on the jets, the project acquisition is for the Philippine Air Force and will get at least 12 lead-in jet fighters through government-to-government negotiated deal with South Korea’s Air Force. The project is worth P18.9 billion from manufacturer Korean Aerospace Inc.

The first two jets are expected to be delivered to the PAF early next year. The full delivery of the aircrafts is scheduled to be completed in 2017.

This coming August, two of the 8 Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters are scheduled to be delivered.

The project is worth P4.8 billion the government signed in March 2014 with the Canadian Commercial Corporation through the Canadian government in a government-to-government deal.

The statement stressed that the contract for 21 second-hand Huey helicopters has already been scrapped by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

 Whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez, a director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue who publicly admitted to helping the supplier prepare necessary documents, has accused several defense officials of allegedly asking for commissions from the deal, but the officials denied the charge.

Abus now holding 2 PCG men, village chief as captives

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 27): Abus now holding 2 PCG men, village chief as captives

An Abu Sayyaf band is now holding the two Coast Guard personnel and a barangay chairman as captives on the outskirts of Sulu province.

A security official said that the ASG band of Al Habsy Misaya are now keeping SM2 Gringo Villaruz, SM1 Allan Pagaling and Robert Bulagao as hostages in Sulu.

“They are now with the group of Al Habsy Misaya…they highly mobile, moving from one place to another,” the official said.

Misaya’s stronghold is in Mt. Taran, Indanan in Sulu.

Misaya’s group was tagged in the 2014 abduction of a Chinese and Filipino from Sabah.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is mum on a video of the three — blindfolded and kneeling with their hands tied behind their backs and pleading for help, circulated recently.

“I ordered it (video) checked…I think it should be the Coast Guard who should confirm if they are indeed their personnel who were captured,” said AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.

The victims were abducted by armed men last May 4 in Barangay Aliguay, Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte.

Cmdr. Armand Balilo, spokesman of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), said that the kidnappers initially demanded P100-million ransom for the freedom of the three hostages.

Balilio said that the last demand was at P3 million.

He, however, stressed the government’s no-ransom policy.

Balilo said that the PCG is doing everything for the safe rescue of the two PCG personnel and the local official.

The PCG spokesman said that they are in close coordination with the AFP and the Philippine National Police in addressing the abduction.

NPA camp, 2 weapons seized in Negros Oriental

Posted to the Daily Tribune (Jun 28): NPA camp, 2 weapons seized in Negros Oriental

A New People’s Army (NPA) camp was captured along with two weapons during an encounter with rebel units and troopers of the 11th Infantry Battalion in Negros Oriental last Friday morning.

The clash, which lasted for 20 minutes, took place at Sitio Tabunan, Barangay Imelda, Guihulngan City.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said that government troopers were conducting routine security patrols when fired upon by an estimated 20 NPA fighters, forcing the soldiers to retaliate.

The rebels eventually retreated leaving behind an M-1 Garand rifle and a carbine.

Pursuing troops latter located the NPA base, which consists of a classroom, makeshift structures, a kitchen, and observation posts.

Also recovered from the scene of encounter and encampment were subversive documents, food stuffs, and personal belongings.