Wednesday, July 8, 2015

US Navy's P3 Orion on PH Navy's wishlist

From Rappler (Jul 8): US Navy's P3 Orion on PH Navy's wish list

[Video: US Navy's P3 Orion on Philippine Navy's wishlist
Rappler tours the US Navy's long-range maritime patrol aircraft]

Rappler tours the US Navy's long-range maritime patrol aircraft

Take a peek inside one of the US Navy's spy plane —the P3 Orion aircraft. The P3 Orions were used during the Cuban missile crisis and the Cold War.

But now, P3 Orions patrol the South China Sea to safeguard the United States' economic interest.
Carmela Fonbuena reports.

We’re inside one of the US Navy’s P3 Orion aircraft. It’s a rare opportunity to see inside this long-range maritime patrol aircraft that has been in the wish list of the Philippine Navy.

Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We’ll take you for a quick tour through the P3 Orion
This so-called “spy plane” is invaluable in maritime patrol.

The US military used the P3 Orions during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War. It provided ground commanders instantaneous information on the location and movement of hostile troops.

The P3 Orion remains a reliable asset to this day. The Japanese Navy also acquired the aircraft.

Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We do regular routine missions in the South China Sea
This particular P3 Orion patrols the South China Sea to protect US economic interest.

How? It makes sure one of the world’s busiest trade routes are open and safe for carriers moving goods across the world.

SOT Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: We have maritime domain awareness. Making sure we know who is where and what everyone is doing primarily to promote safety to avoid collision at sea. It can get to be a tight and very busy space.
The US Navy says it's neutral in the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China.

But one of its planes was spotted flying over a Philippine ship facing a Chinese blockade in 2013.

The Philippines has begun talks to acquire P3 Orions from the US Navy as the superpower moves to upgrade its fleet to the more advanced P8 Poseidon.

It will be a huge step-up for the ill-equipped Philippine navy.

This plane’s most important mission is to detect submarines, a growing concern in the increasingly militarized region.

Patrick Ronan, US Navy officer: Submarine tracking is very difficult, very challenging mission. You have to use a lot of different sensor to listen to different signals to tell exactly where the sub is and where it is going. That is our primary mission.

Analysts believe Chinese submarines are all over the South China Sea undetected and unchecked.

Although it will take time for the Philippines to acquire a P3 Orion, training of the Filipinos by the US navy has already begun.

The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the ‘China Threat’

From The Diplomat (Jul 8): The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the ‘China Threat’

Manila’s ongoing defense buildup needs to be put into perspective.

The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the ‘China Threat’

Image Credit: U.S. Navy Photo
Yesterday, reports surfaced that the Philippine military was “ramping up” its military spending amid a rising threat from China most clearly manifested in the saber-rattling by the two sides in the South China Sea. While the reports provide important updates about the status of Philippine military modernization, it is important to put them in broader perspective because it can otherwise mislead some.

First, the total spending amount recently announced is not a new increase, but an approval of an old request. According to Reuters, Major-General Raul de Rosario, military chief of plans, unveiled that 998 billion pesos ($22.11 billion) has been approved by the government until 2028. That approval was based on plans and funding amounts articulated in the Armed Forces Modernization Act initiated in 2013 and had been pending for the past two years.

That plan, put simply, divided military modernization into three “horizons” or phases – the first from now till 2017; the second from 2018 to 2023; and the third from 2024 to 2028. Under the first horizon, which we are now in, the military had requested around 90 billion pesos, and, according to del Rosario, has been given close to that amount – 83 billion pesos. Beyond the amount, the projects under the first horizon have already been selected for the Air Force, Navy, Army and general headquarters, and they include fighter jets, frigates, helicopters, radars and base upgrades. Indeed, due to the delay in securing approval from the government, some of these projects have already gotten underway. So, to be clear, what is new is the amount that has finally been officially approved, rather than the plan itself or what is already being bought under it.

Second, as I have written about other Southeast Asian states as well, it is wrong to think about military modernization as solely being directed at China (See: “Malaysia’s South China Sea Approach: Playing it Safe“). That’s not just a copout or a diplomatic nicety. The Philippines faces a range of internal and external challenges – including insurgencies, natural disasters, unresolved territorial and sovereignty issues with neighboring states, and a significant lag when it comes to keeping up with the Joneses in Asia more generally.

While Chinese aggression in the South China Sea often grabs the headlines, it is only part of what military planners have to think about. That means Philippine capabilities are directed not only at one threat, but several at one time. Without getting too far down in the weeds, the big picture point to take away from the purpose of military modernization is that it seeks to increase the Philippine military’s ability to counter not only internal threats, but a range of external threats in a more decisive manner. Like other nations, this includes – but is not limited to – China.

Third, even as the Philippines builds up its capabilities over the next few years, it will take a long time for it to catch up to some of neighbors, not to mention China. While Manila’s military modernization efforts under the Aquino administration have been vigorous relative to anemic periods in the past, the fact is that the Philippines is one of Asia’s weakest militaries and is building from a very low base. The U.S.-Philippine alliance has no doubt been a big part of how Manila thinks about its defense, though those familiar with the history of the relationship know full well that the Philippines’ excessive reliance on — and, at times, shaky commitment to — Washington in the past has also been an issue (See: “What’s Next for US-Philippine Defense Ties?“).

Even military officials are quite candid about the long road that lies ahead. The short term goal that defense planners have been talking about is achieving ‘minimum credible deterrence.’ Even further out, as Major General del Rosario so aptly put it, the goal is not to defeat China, but to make any state think twice before attacking and ensure that it “ends up with a bloodied nose” if it does. In terms of specific capabilities to achieve even these limited goals, Manila is only partly there so far. Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo said publicly earlier this year that the fighter jets being acquired under the first horizon are “way below” what is needed by the Air Force, while Defense Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez has said that the Philippine Navy needs at least six frigates to build credible deterrence. Major General del Rosario was also quite honest in saying that the goal once the plan is completed is a rather modest but important one of having complete awareness of what is happening in disputed areas in the South China Sea to enable Manila to respond more quickly.

Fourth, and on a related note, one should maintain a healthy skepticism when it comes to linear projections of military modernization. The ‘three horizons’ conception of Philippine military modernization makes it seem like there is a fixed conception of how this will play out in the coming years. In reality, while there is consensus around the general idea that the Philippines should strengthen its defense capabilities, the outgoing Aquino administration’s commitment to doing so may not be shared to the same degree – or may play out in a different way – under its successors following the 2016 elections.

The extent to which future administrations are able to continue this goal is also dependent not only on their own preferences, but the circumstances that inform them. To take just one simple example, the Aquino administration has been able to earmark growing funds for defense partly because the Philippine economy has been doing quite well over the past few years. While one hopes this trend will continue, there is no guarantee that it will or that a future administration will be committed to shielding defense from cuts should they be required (See: “What’s With the Philippine Economy?“).

All this should not detract from the importance of the Philippines’ ongoing military modernization, which is long overdue. It should also not lead one to consider this trend in isolation rather than in tandem with the other tools of Philippine statecraft and its defense relationships with other allies and partners. But it should temper the expectations of those getting much too excited about Manila’s defense buildup now lest they end up being disappointed further down the line.

2 soldiers, 9 rebels wounded in Compostela Valley clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 8): 2 soldiers, 9 rebels wounded in Compostela Valley clash

Two soldiers and nine communist rebels were wounded during an hour-long clash in Compostela Valley on Tuesday afternoon, according to the military.

In a statement, 1st Lt. Vergel Lacambra of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said the troops were on security patrol when they figured with about 20 members of New People’s Army around 4 p.m. at Campo Uno in Barangay (village) Andap, New Bataan.

The wounded soldiers were immediately brought to Montevista District Hospital for treatment.

They are now on stable condition.

The soldiers of the 66th Infantry Battalion led by Lt. Col. Gulbert Roy Ruiz recovered nine high-powered firearms: One AK-47 rifle, one M14 rifle, one M4 Carbine, and six M16 rifle from the encounter site.

Nine rebels were critically wounded but they were taken by their comrades who fled, according to civilians.

Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad ordered the search for the wounded rebels.

“We are also concerned about the wounded NPA members,” he said. “We have a brand-new ambulance here at Eastmincom that can help them reach the hospital for their immediate treatment.”

‘Ka Parago’ image painted in Davao City’s freedom wall

Posted to the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Jul 9): ‘Ka Parago’ image painted in Davao City’s freedom wall


DAVAO CITY – Graffiti artists painted images of the late New People’s Army commander Leoncio Pitao, or “Ka Parago,” in the freedom wall along Matina street, Davao City. The artworks depicted Ka Parago as a father and revolutionary.

Parago was on medical leave when he was killed by soldiers in Paquibato district., Davao City on June 28.


One of the artists who identified himself as “Jojo” said he just recently learned about Parago’s life, but has admired how he stood for his principles and fought an unjust system.

“This drawing shows the heroism of Parago who defended the poor, and it serves as a challenge to the people to stand up and fight, and not be daunted,” said Jojo.


He said the artists shared the same ideals of freedom for people, and their artworks reflect the realities of struggles in society.

Parago has been with the revolutionary movement for 37 years, and was the commander of the NPA First Pulang Bagani (Red Warriors) Battalion based in the Southern Mindanao region.

 Photos and text by Kilab Multimedia

AFP tries NPA tactics to stem rebellion

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 9): AFP tries NPA tactics to stem rebellion

CAFGU FORMATION With Mt. Isarog on the backdrop, some of the members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) members take formation at Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur province.  JUAN ESCANDOR JR.

CAFGU FORMATION With Mt. Isarog on the backdrop, some of the members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (Cafgu) members take formation at Camp Elias Angeles in Pili, Camarines Sur province. JUAN ESCANDOR JR.

Life for Ryan Bonite had always been an uphill climb as far as he could remember. His farming parents struggled to eke out a living in a remote village in Tigaon, Camarines Sur province.

Now 22, Bonite believes that he had no way out of a “life of misery” until he became a member of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit in 2012. He was barely out of his teens when he enlisted as Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA).

“Anywhere I turned, it seemed to be that I am on a dead end, and I felt I was cursed to live in abject poverty in my lifetime,” he said. He graduated from high school in their barangay but failed to land a decent job; he could not even raise fare money to go to the town center and apply for work.

Mark Joseph Ronato, 27, another Cafgu member, has the same story. His enlistment, he said, lifted him out of a state of hopelessness.

Nowadays, Bonite, Ronato and the rest of the CAAs look forward to receiving their monthly “allowance” from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which has direct supervision over Cafgus. They work for the military for only 15 days and are free to engage in farming and other productive activities for the rest of the month.

This year, the allowance was raised to P4,500 a month from P2,700.

More importantly, Cafgu members are benefiting from Valor Multi-Purpose Cooperative that the Army’s 22nd Infantry Battalion (IB) has initiated for the CAAs and soldiers belonging to the unit. The organization’s chair, MSgt. Candido Gapac, said Cafgu members were beginning to be empowered.

Ronato said the cooperative had weaned him away from loan sharks, whom he used to run to whenever he was in dire need of cash. With its easy loan interest of only 2.5 percent, he is able to send a sibling to college.

Poor families

Col. Andrew D. Costelo, commanding officer of the 22nd IB and the Cafgu battalion in Bicol, said the Army had been recruiting CAAs from poor farming families in the villages of Bicol, which are prime targets of the communist New People’s Army (NPA). It is giving the rebels a dose of their own medicine, with the Army embracing some of the NPA ways of organizing communities to join the revolutionary movement, he said.

Costelo said the AFP had learned the NPA’s tactics to “arouse, organize and mobilize” in influencing communities and make these work in favor of the government from rebels who had surrendered and after years of studying the documents seized from them. The basic principles, he said, were discussed in military planning sessions of Oplan Bayanihan.

The Army in Bicol has already organized the youths and federated them in a regional structure through leadership training sessions and seminars held at the 9th Infantry Division in Pili, Camarines Sur.

Major Gen. Yerson Depayso, division commander, said the acquired tactics had been effective in checking efforts of leftist groups suspected of having links to the NPA from mass mobilization. From hundreds of people who usually joined rallies sponsored by these groups in Camarines Sur, the number has dwindled to less than a hundred, he said.

Moreover, the NPA troop strength in Bicol has been reduced from more than 1,000 in the 1980s to about 200 scattered in different provinces in the region, Depayso said.

Human rights violations

Karapatan, a militant group, however, charged that the Army’s organizing and mobilization tactics had worsened the situation of human rights violations in Bicol’s rural areas.

According to its regional coordinator, Vince Casilihan, the group has documented 1,708 victims of human rights violations all over the region under the Aquino administration. Sixty cases were victims of extrajudicial killings and 39 were detained for political reasons.

The AFP “style” of community organizing is “deceptive” because it does not address the root causes of the problem why people are poor and oppressed, Casilihan said. It shows the failure of Oplan Bayanihan to win the hearts and minds of the people, he said.

Oplan Bayanihan, he added, had brought more oppression to the civilian population and aimed at obliterating the struggle for genuine reforms to achieve more social services, and against corruption and the sellout of the nation’s sovereignty.

The AFP has been working hard to correct two general impressions about the Cafgu, said Herman Joseph S. Kraft, assistant professor of political science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, in his book “Primed and Purposeful,” which studied armed groups in the Philippines.

“The first involves its relationship with its antecedents (referring to the Integrated Civilian Home Defense Forces [ICHDF] comprised of private citizens armed by the state to help counter the NPA threat during the Marcos era),” he said. “The second has to do with the idea that Cafgu is a paramilitary organization.”

Kraft traced the Marcos-era ICHDF’s control under the defunct Philippine Constabulary—“itself known for human rights abuses”—in an essay “The Foibles of Armed Citizenry: Armed Auxiliaries of the State and Private Armed Groups in the Philippines.”

Because of its notorious reputation as human rights violator, the ICHDF was dissolved when Corazon Aquino came into power in 1986 after the Edsa People Power Revolution, he said. But within a year of dissolution, the Cafgu was born to “confront the growing communist insurgency.”

The concept of Cafgu’s creation was supposed to be based on the “citizen armed force” mandated by the 1987 Constitution and, later, by Republic Act No. 7077, also known as the AFP Reservist Act of 1991, making Cafgu an integral part of the AFP reserve force.

Reserve force

Kraft said the difference between the ICHDF and the Cafgu was that the latter was a regular reserve force and not paramilitary unit convened only for counterinsurgency. Being a regular reserve force, the Cafgu is integrated into the military chain of command and is subject to all applicable military laws, rules and regulation, he added.

All Cafgu members receive reservist serial number, which officially make them part of the AFP and, as such, are entitled to allowances and other AFP benefits. They are “enrolled in a company-sized units referred as CAA and activated through a process of selective mobilization when insurgent activity is high,” Kraft said.

From 1988-2006, he estimated Cafgu strength all over the country to have swelled from 32,360 to 52,748.

“By holding and defending areas cleared of insurgent influence and presence, CAAs free up regular AFP units for the more difficult task of going after armed insurgent forces,” he said.

Costelo said that from lectures, CAA recruits were learning about the socioeconomic and political situation in the country and an analysis of society to raise their consciousness and bring a social dimension to the basic military training they undergo.

“CAAs are composed of courageous civilian volunteers who signified to be part of the territorial forces in securing their local communities against the lawless elements that foster threats in their locality,” Costelo said. They come from among the youths in the locality and must have clean records and be of good standing, he stressed.

Using the NPA strategy of giving legal face to their organized groups that bring grievances to the public through mass movement, the Army organized the CAAs and their supporters into a people’s organization registered at the Securities and Exchange Commission on Aug. 11, 2014.

A month later, the Army introduced the cooperative movement to the CAAs, with each of them paying a membership fee of P100, according to 1st Lt. Joash Pramis, civil military operations officer of the 22nd IB.

By November 2014, 3,971 CAAs and 356 Army personnel in the region have joined the cooperative, pooling a total of P598,709 from membership fee, which became the startup capital when it was registered with the Cooperative Development Authority. Now, they have access to cheaper basic commodities and low interest loans, Pramis said.

11 wounded in clash

From Tempo (Jul 9): 11 wounded in clash

Two soldiers and nine New People’s Army rebels were wounded in an encounter in Compostela Valley Tuesday, the military said yesterday. Capt. Alberto Caber, chief, Armed Forces Eastern Mindanao Command public information office, said the encounter occurred at around 4:25 p.m. in Barangay Andap, New Bataan.

Troops from the 66th Infantry Battalion, 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, were conducting security patrol in the area when they clashed with the bandits, Caber said.

 “Civilians reported that at least nine NPA bandits were critically wounded after the firefight but were carried away by their comrades during escape,” said Caber.

Nine high-powered firearms – six M16 rifles, one M4, one AK-47, and one M14 rifle – from the insurgents were recovered after the hour-long encounter.

Caber said that the 66th IB under Lt. Col. Gilbert Roy Ruiz has been receiving reports from civilians about the presence of NPA rebels engaged in extortion activities in the area.

“The people are already fed up with the bandit’s extortion activities. This is another big blow to the CPP/NPA,” Caber, quoting Ruiz, said.

3 NPA guerrillas slain in Quezon clash - Army

From InterAksyon (Jul 9): 3 NPA guerrillas slain in Quezon clash - Army

Three New People’s Army guerrillas were killed in a clash with troops of the Army’s 85th Infantry Battalion in Quezon province Wednesday night.

The troops, led by 1st Lieutenant Harold Bigtas, were on patrol when they chanced on the rebels in Barangay Liwayway, Mauban town around 7:14 p.m. and engaged them in a 30-minute gun battle.

The soldiers, who suffered no casualties, also seized three M16 rifles, a Baby Armalite and a grenade launcher.

The Army and police have launched operations to hunt down the retreating rebels, said to be from a unit that operates in Laguna province.

Catapang cancels farewell visits; Aquino interviews more generals

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 8): Catapang cancels farewell visits; Aquino interviews more generals
Outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr., who is retiring on Friday, has cancelled his farewell visits in major services and area commands on Tuesday and Wednesday due to bad weather.

On Wednesday, the testimonial parade in honor of Catapang by the Philippine Army, Air Force and Navy at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig were cancelled due to intermittent monsoon rains.

His scheduled farewell visits to Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City; Western Command in Palawan; and Eastern Mindanao Command in Davao City on Tuesday were also cancelled due to the rains.

“Because of the very severe rains, he opted to alert the General Headquarters as well as the major services para sa humanitarian assistance and disaster operations,” AFP spokesperon Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala Jr. told reporters at Camp Aguinaldo.
The state weather bureau said the rains will continue until the weekend due to the rains from Typhoon Falcon enhanced by the southwest monsoon.

READ: Luzon, Western Visayas brace for ‘habagat’

If the weather does not improve on Friday, Kakilala said they have a backup plan if the turnover ceremony cannot be held outdoors.

The turnover ceremonies of the AFP change of command are usually done at the General Headquarters Grandstand, but if the rains would not stop on Friday, it would be held indoors at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club.

“With this kind of severe rain may Plan B naman. But so far it’s still Plan A,” Kakilala said.

The venue of the turnover ceremony on Friday, which would be led by President Benigno Aquino III, will be likely determined on Thursday, he added.

Contenders for the AFP leadership include Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar.

Aquino interviews more generals?

A high-ranking military officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Aquino interviewed four Army officers on Wednesday, other than the five contenders for the AFP chief post.

The officer said Aquino met Southern Luzon Command chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, 10th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Ano, 7th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Glorioso Miranda and 3rd Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero.

Asked if this means that Aquino is already looking for replacements for the Army chief post that would be supposedly vacated by Iriberri, the officer said: “I don’t know, maybe this is for a deep selection process.”

In Tawi-Tawi, football is a way to achieve dreams

From Rappler (Jul 8): In Tawi-Tawi, football is a way to achieve dreams

[Video: In Tawi-Tawi, football is a way to achieve dreams
TAWI-TAWI, Philippines - In the remote island-village of Buan, children and their parents learned how to dream because of football. The children want to become either Azkal players or Marines while their parents want them to get scholarships in Manila. This is a far-cry from when their perspectives were only limited to their islands.]

Watch how football inspires the youth of a remote island-village in Tawi-Tawi

TAWI-TAWI, Philippines – The speedboat was docked at a port built from scrap wood. As we disembarked from our boat, we were greeted by Philippine Marines and local leaders. It was 12 noon but our hosts were more than happy to wait under the scorching hot sun to welcome us.
We were in the island-village of Buan in the province of Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost tip of the Philippines. Buan is accessible only by a 30-minute speedboat ride from the provincial capital of Bongao, but the remoteness of the village could not deter the island's youth from dreaming big.
“They are in the school practicing. They are excited,” said the local village chief.
The football team of the island-village of Buan, Tawi-Tawi. Photo by Franz Lopez/ Rappler
The football team of the island-village of Buan, Tawi-Tawi. Photo by Franz Lopez/ Rappler

A few turns around the village and we were at the Buan Elementary School where the village's football team had been waiting, eager to tell their stories. Dressed in their football jerseys, they welcomed us with big smiles.
Buan is one of the communities that the Football for Peace movement handles. Started in 2011 by Philippines Marines assigned in Sulu, the program has now spread to different provinces across the country. (READ: #FootballForPeace: Indestructible balls for indestructible dreams)
Football brings hope
“My boy had a change of attitude when he arrived from Manila," said the school’s principal Haji Ruben Matolo. “Sports is really very helpful to the kids.”
His son Robin Matolo was one of the football team members who were brought by the Marines to Manila for the annual Football for Peace tournament in April.
“They had a change in perspective after they saw the life in Manila; after they rode planes and saw museums,” Matolo said.
The sport instilled discipline among the village youth. It helped them to not only become more obedient children but also to excel in school. Their hobby also made them less vulnerable to the influence of illegal drugs, a common problem in the province.

Golden dreams
Most of the children and their parents learned how to dream because of football.
“I want to play for the Azkals and represent the country. I want to be a part of the Marines so I can help people and teach football,” said Buan football player Rostin Kipli. (READ: How football teaches kids from conflict areas to dream)
“I hope I get a scholarship so I can study in Manila and help my family,” Kipli added.
LIFE GOALS. The football team practice their football skills outside their elementary school. Photo by Franz Lopez/ Rappler
LIFE GOALS. The football team practice their football skills outside their elementary school. Photo by Franz Lopez/ Rappler

His teammates had similar dreams. All of them aspired to become either Azkal players or Marines – a far cry from their pre-football goals limited to their island-village. 
Their parents couldn’t be happier. Their children finally had access to opportunities they never dreamed of having.
“The parents here are really praying that their kids will get scholarships in good universities,” Matolo said.
Watch the full story of the football players of the island-village of Buan in Tawi-Tawi in the video above.
Interested to help the children of Football for Peace? Contact Lt Col Stephen Cabanlet via for more details.

MILF: Editorial -- ‘Blessed are the peace-makers’

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jul 8): Editorial -- ‘Blessed are the peace-makers’

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” This is the Christian Bible saying in Matthew, Chapter 5, Verse 9, which every believer of the Christian faith should  follow.
But not to Former Manila mayor and now Buhay Party-list Representative Lito Atienza — along with Representatives Michael Velarde Jr., Irwin Tieng, and Jonathan de la Cruz of Partylist Abakada. They accused government and MILF peace-makers or negotiators of committing sedition and treason, which are very serious crimes. If capital punishment were still enforced in this country today and the accused will be found guilty, death sentences are the sure recompense.

Why did the petitioners defy this fundamental Christian teaching? For what motivation, we don’t know. Will the case succeed, we don’t know either. It is up for the court to decide that. But we believe the judge, if ever the case reaches the court, will use his sound mind to hear an extra-ordinary case, which, perhaps, the first such case in this country.

Clearly, the petitioners are not ordinary personalities. Representative Atienza was mayor of Manila. Representative Michael Velarde Jr. is the son of Mariano "Mike" Zuniega Velarde, better known as Bro. Mike Velarde, who is the founder and "Servant Leader" of a Philippines-based Catholic Charismatic religious group called El Shaddai which has estimated following of three to seven million. He is also the owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation, a real estate company, and DWXI-TV, a UHF television station. Representative Irwin Tieng’s family owns the Solar Group of Companies. How the three congressmen, whom we believe are Christians, came to terms with the Bible’s teachings when they contemplated on filing the case.  We have no way at present to know it.

The case of Jonathan de la Cruz can be seen in another perspective. Reportedly a “former member” of the communist underground movement, this perhaps explains why he seems dismissive of the Bible’s passage, although we are not saying here that all communists are non-believers of god.

In his argument, Atienza also belittled the various administrations from President Fidel Ramos in 1997 to President Benigno Aquino III by accusing government of acquiescing to all the demands of the MILF, to the detriment of the country's interests and that of other indigenous groups in Mindanao.  This is a gross ignorance of the facts of the 17-year negotiations or for any negotiation for that matter. A weaker party in a negotiation cannot force a stronger party to agree to its terms or demands. That is farfetched. The only strengths of the MILF in these negotiations are the legitimacy of its cause which is being supported by the vast majority of the Bangsamoro people and its consistency with all signed agreements, which it stands pat to it no matter the consequence is.

He is also not aware of the fact (or he refused to understand) that the purpose of this negotiation is solving the Bangsamoro Problem or Question. This has been the sole agenda of the peace talks since 1997, which the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) seek to address as contained in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). Stripped the BBL of the essential elements of the FAB and CAB, the consequence would be virtually returning to the state of armed conflict in Mindanao. To the MILF, a no BBL is better than a bad BBL.

Is this the motive of the four congressmen when they filed a treason and sedition case against the peace-makers of government and MILF? Or they simply want instant publicity stunt out of an extraordinary case.

CPP/NDF/NPA: Red salute to Commander Parago

NDF/NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 8): Red salute to Commander Parago

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Central Committee and Military Commission, Communist Party of the Philippines
National Operations Command, New People’s Army
30 June 2015

The entire Central Committe, Military Commission and all cadres and members of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the entire National Operations Command and all Red commanders and Red fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) stand to execute their Red salute to Comrade Leoncio Pitao, the Filipino people’s beloved Commander Parago, commanding officer of the NPA 1st Pulang Bagani Battalion.

Commander Parago, 58, was killed by fascist troops last 27 June in Barangay Panyalom, Paquibato District, Davao City. Up to the last moment, he dedicated his life to the service of the toiling masses and to advancing their revolutionary struggle.

The CPP, NPA and the entire revolutionary movement recognize Commander Parago as a hero of the Filipino people. His four decades long story of struggle is now forever etched in the golden history of the Filipino revolution.

The entire people, especially the peasants and Lumad of Southern Mindanao, grieve over the death of Ka Parago. Affectionately called “Tatay” by the people of Paquibato who knew him, Ka Parago possessed unfailing love for the toiling people. His determination to serve the people’s interests and welfare gave him the courage and strength to tread the difficult road of the people’s war.

Under the leadership of Commander Parago and the assigned organs of the Party and NPA, the unity of the NPA Red fighters and the peasant masses and Lumad people of Paquibato has the strength of steel. Because of this unity, Commander Parago gained prominence in the brilliant and resounding victories of the NPA, including the arrest of AFP high official Gen. Victor Obillo in February 1999 who was detained as a prisoner-of-war.

Ka Parago’s ardent love for the people stand in stark contrast to the intense hatred for him by the ruling classes and their fascist henchmen. He was arrested in November 1999 and was detained under harsh conditions, denied of rights and imprisoned for almost two years. He was released in August 2001 only because of widespread clamor for his freedom.

Ka Parago immediately returned to the path of armed struggle. He was assigned to lead the NPA’s 1st Pulang Bagani Company which covered the Paquibato District and nearby areas in Davao City. The NPA-PBC earnestly served the interests of the peasant masses and Lumad people. Ka Parago’s wisdom, courage and gallantry served the relentless advance of the armed struggle and accumulation of strength of the NPA in Paquibato, in SMR, in the entire Mindanao and country.

In March 2009, the fascist officials of the AFP schemed the abduction, rape and murder of Rebelyn Pitao, Ka Parago’s daughter. A few months earlier (June 2008), the fascists killed Ka Parago’s brother Danilo. These aimed to weaken his revolutionary determination.

In the face of all-out attacks and acts of suppression against him by the fascist enemy, Commander Parago was sheltered by the toiling masses. In their small huts, he renewed his determination and strength to persist in struggle.

There is no letup in the fascist onslaughts of the AFP and its paramilitary groups against the peasant masses in Davao City and other areas in SMR. The aim of the AFP is to suppress the armed resistance of the peasant masses and to silence their clamor against foreign big companies that grab their land for mining and plantations.

There is no measure to the peasant masses’ hatred of the US-Aquino regime and the AFP, especially its Eastern Command and the 10th ID. They are infinitely repugnant of the brutal military operations and violations of human rights violations over the past years.

Ka Parago’s was killed at the heels of the the Paquibato Massacre last June 14 wherein fascist troops of the 69th Infantry Battalion strafed the house of the Seisa family killing three peasants and wounding a 12-year old girl.

The killing of Commander Parago further inflames the peasant masses’ hatred of the fascist AFP. The NPA and the peasant masses are united in the need to intensify their armed struggle not only to punish the fascists behind the killing of Commander Parago, but more importantly, to advance the people’s war in the entire country.

While the Filipino people grieve the death of Ka Parago, they also draw inspiration from his life of selfless service to the Filipino masses.

The Filipino people continue to suffer worsening oppression and exploitation by the US imperialists and the local ruling classes under the semicolonial and semifeudal system. As they wage revolutionary armed struggle, more Commander Paragos are bound to emerge from the ranks of the NPA Red fighters.

Red salute to Commander Parago!

Long live the New People’s Army!

Long live the Communist Party of the Philippines!

Long live the Filipino people!

US and Australian navies to commence Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015

From (Jul 6): US and Australian navies to commence Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015

HMAS Perth

The US and Royal Australian Navies are set to begin Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015, in a bid to test and improve interoperability between both the countries.

The exercise, which is conducted every two years, is designed to incorporate activities at sea, on land, and in the air.

This year, the training activities will be conducted across both North East Queensland and the Northern Territory.

Royal Australian Navy ships have begun to arrive in Darwin to take part in the exercise, including the Anzac class frigate, HMAS Perth.

HMAS Perth commanding officer captain Ivan Ingham said: "This is a terrific exercise in terms of its complexity and size."

"We really value the opportunity to work with the United States and the US Marines in an amphibious construct, both to test our interoperability and also our high end warfighting skills."

The exercise will see the participation of approximately 30,000 sailors and soldiers, as well as airmen and women.

"We really value the opportunity to work with the United States and the US Marines in an amphibious construct,"
In addition, different types of marine ships will be part of the event across the exercise region.

The Australian Navy's new MH-60R Romeo Seahawk Helicopter abroad HMAS Perth will also be part of the exercise.

Recently, the US Navy and Marine Corps personnel, along with Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), completed the 21st annual cooperation afloat readiness and training (CARAT) Philippines exercise series.

The US Navy's USS Fort Worth littoral combat ship (LCS 3) participated in training events, including tactical combat casualty care (TCCC), visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS), gunnery exercises, manoeuvring in formation, air defence exercises, and a search and rescue drill.

Image: The crew of HMAS Perth cheer at the Port of Darwin, in preparation for the commencement of Exercise Talisman Sabre 2015. Photo: courtesy of Royal Australian Navy.

Appointment of new AFP chief crucial in PHL’s territorial defense –spokesman

From GMA News (Jul 8): Appointment of new AFP chief crucial in PHL’s territorial defense –spokesman

President Benigno Aquino III's appointment of a new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief is crucial in the implementation of the military's "transformation roadmap," or its shift to territorial defense amid the country's maritime dispute with China.

AFP spokesman Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala said Wednesday that Aquino's choice among the five candidates for the top military post would not only play an important role in the 2016 national elections, but more so on the AFP's transition towards territorial defense in the West Philippine Sea.

"Based sa AFP transformation roadmap namin, we’ll be shifting to territorial defense, importante 'yun, and precision, stability," he said.

Five contenders for the position to be vacated by General Gregorio Catapang, Jr. on Friday were interviewed by Aquino last week.

"The President probably wants to find out 'yung preparedness nila to assume the leadership, 'yung perspective nila so these are the things, 'yung strategic, including yung geopolitical dynamics in the region as well as internal nuances natin dito sa bansa natin," Kakilala said.

Kakilala said it is a tight race among Southern Luzon Command's Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, Central Command's  Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, Western Command commander Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri, and Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado.

"They are all qualified. All their credentials are superb," he said.

The turnover of command will be held on July 10, Friday, a day before Catapang turns 56, the mandatory retirement age for military personnel.

Kakilala said they will not require their personnel to attend the ceremony because of ongoing humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR) in areas affected by the southwest monsoon as well as Typhoon Falcon.

"Saving lives is given more priority... We have to have more warm bodies sa for HADR operations," he said.

Kakilala said the turnover ceremony, which is traditionally held at the Camp Aguinaldo parade grounds, would likely be held indoors at the AFP Commissioned Officers Club House if the heavy rains persist until Friday.

"With this kind of  rain, severe rain, siguro may plan B naman... It will be determined tomorrow siguro, based on the assessment sa weather condition," he said.

Aquino grills candidates for AFP chief

From InterAksyon (Jul 8): Aquino grills candidates for AFP chief

Five generals contending to be chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will face President Benigno Aquino III on Tuesday for a final interview before he makes his choice, which is expected to be announced later in the day or on Wednesday.

The five are: Southern Luzon Command chief Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, Philippine Air Force chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado, Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, Central Command chief Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar, and Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Irriberi.

Visaya and Irriberi belong to Philippine Military Academy “Matikas” Class of 1983, while the rest are members of “Sandigan” Class of 1982.

However, except for Visaya and Vivar, the other aspirants have less than a year before they reach the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Malacanang spokespersons have repeatedly said Aquino prefers younger generals to lead the AFP and Philippine National Police beyond his term, a break from the “revolving door policy” implemented in the past, in which a president would appoint a string of senior officers nearing retirement to head the two organizations.

If Aquino stays true to form, this would give Visaya, who retires in December 2016, and Vivar, in August next year, an edge.

Of the five contenders, Irriberi is saddled with criminal and administrative complaints filed before the Office of the Ombudsman over three ammunition acquisition contractor worth P97.8 million. The complainant, a supplier, has sought his preventive suspension.

Recently, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the dismissal of resigned PNP chief Alan Purisima and former Central Luzon police director Raul Petrasanta, the former for corruption charges over an anomalous courier service contract, the latter over the disappearance of more than a thousand AK-47 assault rifles that ended up in the hands of communist rebels.

Before he was fired, Purisima resigned as head of the PNP after it was learned that he had overseen, despite being suspended at the time, the disastrous January 25 Special Action Force operation that left 44 police commandos, 17 Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters and three civilians dead in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Both Purisima and Petrasanta, said to be a strong contender to be PNP chief, are known to be close friends of Aquino.

DVIDS: CCAD Seabees complete construction at Philippine Elementary School

Posted to DVIDS (Jul 8): CCAD Seabees complete construction at Philippine Elementary School

NMCB 5 Seabees In the Philippines

Courtesy Photo
150610-N-ZZ999-015 PUERTO PRINCESA, Philippines (June 10, 2015) Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Five (NMCB 5) and Philippine Seabees work side by side during a concrete placement during the construction of a multi-purpose assembly hall at the Mangingisda Elementary School. NMCB 5’s Civic Construction Action Detail (CCAD) Philippines are currently constructing a rainwater catchment system and a multi- purpose assembly hall extension for the school. The CCAD's mission is to execute engineering civic assistance projects, conduct skills exchanges with the host nation, and perform community relations events to help enhance shared capabilities and maintain relationships. (U.S. Navy photo by Construction Electrician 3rd Class Quennie May Galarpe/Released)

By Construction Electrician 3rd Class (SCW) Quennie May Galarpe Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 5 Public Affairs

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 5’s Civic Construction Action Detail (CCAD) Palawan celebrated the completion of construction of a multipurpose assembly hall extension and a rainwater catchment system at Mangingisda Elementary School, June 17.

During the turnover ceremony more than 500 people attended including parents, teachers, students, members of the community local government officials and members of the U.S. and Philippine armed forces.

"We are truly grateful and blessed because our school was one of the chosen few to receive this blessing of love from the United States Navy Seabees and the armed forces of the Philippines," said Mercedes Magbanua, the school principal of Mangingisda Elementary School. “The multipurpose hall can already accommodate a large number of participants.”

The multipurpose assembly hall is used not only for the students and staff of the school, but also the surrounding community as well. The construction of the extension will reduce the labor that the community and school staff has to perform in order to install temporary structures when they have large events.

“In fact, this hall has been used annually for medical missions and activities alike,” said Magbanua.

According to Liezl Arosio, a 5th grade teacher, the construction of the multipurpose hall extension is definitely a great blessing to the students and teachers of the school.

The presence of the U.S. and Philippine military in the school grounds greatly impacted the morale of the students.

“As the project is about to be finish, it will never be the same, the atmosphere will totally change," added Arosio.

"We may be saddened by the fact that you guys are leaving, but the great work that you left with us will always be cherished and will be taken care of. We promise that it will benefit the population of Barangay Mangingisda for generations," said Arosio.

Federico Q. Lucena Jr., one of the school’s teachers, said in his opening remarks that the covered hall will help a lot during programs, activities and other occasions.

“It has become more comfortable and will be able to accommodate more people."

Additionally, the fear of the rain and the sun is not a thing to worry about anymore," said Lucena.

The construction of the rainwater catchment system consisted of re-routing and installing new gutter systems, installing two 1,200 liter tanks, manufacturing stands to hold the tanks and create a plumbing system to dispense the water. The system will supply water for cleaning the classrooms and watering the plants in the garden at the school. The installation of the water catchment system reduces the time the students and staff take to get water for these purposes. Before the installation of the water catchment system they would walk half a kilometer to carry five gallon buckets full of water back.

Philippine Seabees, Philippine air force, Philippine marines and NMCB 5 Seabees were awarded with certificates of recognition for their work by the Department of Education. A plaque was presented in recognition of gratitude to Naval Mobile Construction 5 Seabees.

The CCAD's mission is to execute engineering civic assistance projects, conduct skills exchanges with the host nation, and perform community relations events to help enhance shared capabilities and maintain relationships.

NMCB 5 is homeported in Port Hueneme, California, and is currently deployed to Okinawa, Japan, supporting Navy and joint forces throughout the U.S. Pacific Command with construction projects and humanitarian missions in more than 13 different geographical locations.

Shore-based missile system to be pursued in next stage of AFP Modernization

From Ang Malaya (Jul 8): Shore-based missile system to be pursued in next stage of AFP Modernization

The Department of National Defense clarifies that it did not realign the PhP6.5 billion budget for the shore-based missile system (SBMS) project. “The SBMS project is merely a proposal at this time, and as such, there is no ‘realignment’ but rather a re-prioritization of the said project in favor of the urgent need of our PA (Philippine Army) troops for individual force protection equipment,” DND Public Affairs Office Chief Arsenio Andolong said.

The SBMS acquisition project will be pursued in the next horizon of Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization (2018 to 2022).

Andolong said the re-prioritization was a collective decision by Defense senior leaders, which was submitted to the President after going through the required processes in the Defense System of Management (DSOM), which took into consideration the dynamics of the country’s ever developing security environment.

“We reiterate that Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin will never be a party to nor condone graft and corruption in the AFP Modernization Program as insinuated in the report,” Andolong said.

Vietnam, United States top leaders discuss maritime disputes

From Ang Malaya (Jul 8): Vietnam, United States top leaders discuss maritime disputes

United States President Obama welcomed General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong of Vietnam’s Communist Party at the White House Tuesday, July 7. Obama welcomed the Vietnamese leader to the Oval Office for his first visit to US during the 20th year anniversary of the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam.

“We discussed the importance of resolving maritime disputes in the South China Sea and throughout the Asia Pacific in accordance with international law,” Obama said after their meeting.

This is “to ensure that the prosperity and freedom of navigation that has underwritten the enormous economic growth that’s taken place in the region continues for decades to come.”

After Obama’s speech, Nguyen Phu Trong said “we discussed and shared our views on the recent developments in the South China Sea, and also shared our concern about the recent activities that are not in accordance with international law that may complicate the situation.”

The two leaders also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, climate change and Vietnamese-Americans exchanges.

Bayan Muna solon eyeing Senate seat: Angel Locsin gives support

From Ang Malaya (Jul 8): Bayan Muna solon eyeing Senate seat: Angel Locsin gives support

Bayan Muna Party-list Representative Neri Colmenares is considering to run for a higher post in government in the upcoming 2016 elections. He said he “is now seriously considering the challenge but a senatorial run requires a lot of resources and we do not have that.”

However, Colmenares said they have learned from the experience of Teddy Casiño during the 2013 elections when Casiño made a bid to Senate and failed. They saw “the difficulty of a senatorial run without the resources and the support of a slate.”

Various groups and individuals, including Angel Locsin (Angelica Locsin Colmenares), have expressed support and urged Bayan Muna Representative Colmenares to run for senator.

“Tangkililin po natin ang bagong politika para sa bagong pag-asa,” the actress said in a statement read by her sister Ella Colmenares-Sabino during an event yesterday, July 7.

“I thank the groups that encourage me to run in the Senate and I am glad that I am acceptable to diverse groups with diverse political persuasions,” Representative Colmenares said.

“Many believe that I can make a difference because of my track record in advocating against corruption, pork barrel, high prices of electricity and other pro-people issues.

Unlike the other candidates I have actually pre-empted the electricity rate hike through the Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order (TRO), and actually battled against the pork barrel system,” he added.

Colmenares is representing Bayan Muna part of Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives and is under the bigger Communist-affiliated political party and alliance of leftist militant organizations known as Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan.

New AFP chief on Friday: Aquino, Gazmin ex-aides contenders

From Rappler (Jul 8): New AFP chief on Friday: Aquino, Gazmin ex-aides contenders

Should the next military chief come from the Air Force or the Army?

 ARMY OR AIR FORCE? Army chief Hernando Iriberri and Air Force chief Jeffrey Delgado lead the contenders for the top AFP post

ARMY OR AIR FORCE? Army chief Hernando Iriberri and Air Force chief Jeffrey Delgado lead the contenders for the top AFP post

Who will President Benigno Aquino III appoint as the next chief of staff of the 120,000-strong Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)?

A high-ranking Malacañang official told Rappler it's a choice between Air Force chief Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado and Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri.

"He's considering others, but it's really basically the two," the source said.

The change of command and turnover ceremony is scheduled on Friday, July 10, or a day before AFP chief General Gregorio Catapang Jr of the Philippine Military Class (PMA) 1981 reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Delgado and Iriberri are members of the PMA classes of 1982 and 1983, respectively. The two classes have been battling for top military posts since most of PMA '81 bowed out of the military. (READ: PMA '81: The class that rules the Philippines)

Young officers supporting so-called dark horse candidates have presented arguments against the appointment of either Delgado and Iriberri: The two generals are both retiring before the May 2016 presidential elections.

Delgado and Iriberri will reach their retirement age at the height of the campaign period. Delgado will turn 56 in March 2016; Iriberri, in April 2016.

Former aide vs former aide

The President usually interviews contenders to top military posts before he makes an appointment. But as of Tuesday, July 7, no advice was sent to them.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who is known to have a huge influence on Aquino's military appointments, is at The Hague to join government officials in a show of force at the oral arguments on the country's case against China.

Aquino has known Delgado since he was a young presidential son.

Delgado was a member of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) that battled coup attempts against Aquino's mother, the late President Corazon Aquino. A PSG stint in the Cory Aquino years is a common denominator among many Aquino appointees in the security sector.

SENIOR MILITARY ASSISTANT. President Benigno Aquino III and Lieutenant General Jeffrey Delgado during the 68th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force. Malacañang photo
SENIOR MILITARY ASSISTANT. President Benigno Aquino III and Lieutenant General Jeffrey Degado during the 68th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force. Malacañang photo  

After winning the presidency in 2010, Aquino brought Delgado to Malacañang as his senior military assistant. He later climbed his way up in the military hierarchy to become the commanding general of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Iriberri doesn't enjoy the same closeness to Aquino. But he is the fair-haired boy of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, commander of the PSG during Mrs Aquino's presidency who has served as President Aquino's father figure.

Iriberri was Gazmin's spokesman when Gazmin was Army chief.

When Gazmin became defense secretary, Iriberri became his senior miltiary adviser and spokesman before he also rose in the military hierarchy.

In his rise, Iriberri overtook generals more senior than him.

He stirred some controversy in military circles in February 2013 when he – then the commander of the 7th Infantry Division – bested his own commander at the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) for the Army chief post.

That Nolcom chief was months later appointed as AFP chief, General Gregorio Catapang Jr, who is a member of PMA Class 1981. (READ: A general's long wait: General Gregorio Catapang Jr)

FAVORED. File photo of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin pinning the third star of Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri
FAVORED. File photo of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin pinning the third star of Army chief Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri

The next chief of staff is expected to further push the shift of the Philippine military from its focus on internal security to external defense at a time that the country risks losing territories to China.

It offers an argument in favor of Delgado's appointment especially at a time when the military is anticipating the delivery of its first two fighter jets late this year, a mark of the Air Force's return to the supersonic age.

But the next chief of staff will also deal with the upcoming 2016 presidential polls, offering an argument in favor of Iriberri. Army officers argued the situation in Mindanao also requires an Army officer at the helm.

Dark horse for 2016 polls?

Still, Aquino is known to have changed his mind on his appontments at the last minute.

The Board of Generals has recommended 5 names as contenders to the post. Aside from Delgado and Iriberri, they are Southern Luzon Command chief Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya, Western Command chief Navy Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, and Cental Command chief Air Force Lieutenant General Nicanor Vivar.

Visaya is Army commander in Bicol. He is a mistah (PMA classmate) of Iribberi.

Lopez is responsible for operations in the entire West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Vivar is commander of the typhoon-battered provinces in the Visayas. They are mistahs of Delgado.

The 3 have been referred to as the "dark horse" candidates.

The retirement of the two generals during the 2016 election campaign period gave rise to the idea of the President appointing any of the 3 "dark horse" bets.

But there is an option to extend the term of the AFP chief, the route taken by then President Fidel Ramos in the case of General Arturo Enrile who reached his retirement age as the country was preparing for the APEC meeting in Subic in 1996.

The appointment ban during the election period is not applicable to this government post.

The President may also appoint a new AFP chief of staff who will serve beyond his term.

This happened in the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who appointed her loyalist General Delfin Bangit in 2010 to serve beyond her term as president.

But this created problems under Aquino; Bangit was the first Arroyo appointee to be forced out of government.

Bangit initially fought to stay until his retirement age in July 2011. But he was eventually forced to retire early. He submitted his early retirement before Aquino's inauguration on June 30, 2010.

FULL TEXT: The Philippines' opening salvo at The Hague

From Rappler (Jul 8): FULL TEXT: The Philippines' opening salvo at The Hague

TOP DIPLOMAT. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario gives a statement about the South China Sea during a news conference in Manila on March 30, 2014. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

TOP DIPLOMAT. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario gives a statement about the South China Sea during a news conference in Manila on March 30, 2014. File photo by Noel Celis/AFP

Below is the full text of Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario's statement before an arbitral tribunal at The Hague, The Netherlands, on the Philippines' case against China. Del Rosario delivered this speech – originally titled "Why the Philippines Brought This Case to Arbitration and Its Importance to the Region and the World" – on July 7, the first day of oral hearings at The Hague. 

1. Mr President, distinguished Members of the Tribunal, it is a great honor to respectfully appear before you on behalf of my country, the Republic of the Philippines. It is indeed a special privilege to do so in a case that has such importance to all Filipinos and – if I may add – to the rule of law in international relations.

2. Mr President, the Philippines has long placed its faith in the rules and institutions that the international community has created to regulate relations among States. We are proud to have been a founding member of the United Nations, and an active participant in that indispensable institution.

3. Its organs, coupled with the power of international law, serve as the great equalizer among States, allowing countries, such as my own, to stand on an equal footing with wealthier, more powerful States.

4. Nowhere is this more true, Mr President, than with respect to the progressive development of the law of the sea, which culminated in the adoption of the Law of the Sea Convention in 1982. That instrument, which has rightly been called a “Constitution for the Oceans,” counts among its most important achievements the establishment of clear rules regarding the peaceful use of the seas, freedom of navigation, protection of the maritime environment and, perhaps most importantly, clearly defined limits on the maritime areas in which States are entitled to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction.

5. These are all matters of central significance to the Philippines. Indeed, given our lengthy coastline, our status as an archipelagic state, and our seafaring tradition, the rules codified in the law of the sea have always had particular importance for the Philippines. The Philippines is justifiably proud of the fact that it signed the Convention on the day it was opened for signature, on December 10, 1982, and was one of the first States to submit its instrument of ratification, which it did on May 8, 1984.

6. The Philippines has respected and implemented its rights and obligations under the Convention in good faith. This can be seen in the amendment of our national legislation to bring the Philippines’ maritime claims into compliance with the Convention, by converting our prior straight baselines into archipelagic baselines in conformity with Articles 46 and 47, and by providing that the maritime zones of the Kalayaan Island Group and Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea would be consistent with Article 121.

7. The Philippines took these important steps, Mr President, because we understand, and accept, that compliance with the rules of the Convention is required of all States Parties.

8. I mentioned a moment ago the equalizing power of international law. Perhaps no provisions of the Convention are as vital to achieving this critical objective than Part XV. It is these dispute resolution provisions that allow the weak to challenge the powerful on an equal footing, confident in the conviction that principles trump power; that law triumphs over force; and that right prevails over might.

9. Mr President, allow me to respectfully make it clear: in submitting this case, the Philippines is NOT asking the Tribunal to rule on the territorial sovereignty aspect of its disputes with China.

10. We are here because we wish to clarify our maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, a question over which the Tribunal has jurisdiction. This is a matter that is most important not only to the Philippines, but also to all coastal States that border the South China Sea, and even to all the States Parties to UNCLOS. It is a dispute that goes to the very heart of UNCLOS itself. Our very able counsel will have much more to say about this legal dispute over the interpretation of the Convention during the course of these oral hearings. But in my humble layman’s view, the central legal dispute in this case can be expressed as follows:

11. For the Philippines, the maritime entitlements of coastal States – to a territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf, and the rights and obligations of the States Parties within these respective zones – are established, defined, and limited by the express terms of the Convention. Those express terms do not allow for – in fact they preclude – claims to broader entitlements, or sovereign rights, or jurisdiction, over maritime areas beyond the limits of the EEZ or continental shelf. In particular, the Convention does not recognize, or permit the exercise of, so-called “historic rights” in areas beyond the limits of the maritime zones that are recognized or established by UNCLOS.

12. Sadly, China disputes this, Mr President, in both word and deed. It claims that it is entitled to exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction, including the exclusive right to the resources of the sea and seabed, far beyond the limits established by the Convention, based on so-called “historic rights” to these areas. Whether these alleged “historic rights” extend to the limits generally established by China’s so-called “9-dash line,” as appears to be China’s claim, or whether they encompass a greater or a narrower portion of the South China Sea, the indisputable fact, and the central element of the legal dispute between the Parties, is that China has asserted a claim of “historic rights” to vast areas of the sea and seabed that lie far beyond the limits of its EEZ and continental shelf entitlements under the Convention.

13. In fact, China has done much more, Mr President, than to simply claim these alleged “historic rights.” It has acted forcefully to assert them, by exploiting the living and non-living resources in the areas beyond the UNCLOS limits while forcibly preventing other coastal States, including the Philippines, from exploiting the resources in the same areas – even though the areas lie well within 200 M of the Philippines’ coast and, in many cases, hundreds of miles beyond any EEZ or continental shelf that China could plausibly claim under the Convention.

14. The legal dispute between the Philippines and China over China’s claim to and exercise of alleged “historic rights” is a matter falling under the Convention, and particularly Part XV, regardless of whether China is claiming that “historic rights” are recognized under the Convention, or allowable under the Convention because they are not precluded by it. China has made both arguments in its public statements. But it makes no difference for purposes of the characterization of this dispute as one calling for the interpretation or application of the Convention. The question raised by the conflicting positions of the Philippines and China boils down to this: Are maritime entitlements to be governed strictly by UNCLOS, thus precluding claims of maritime entitlements based on “historic rights”? Or does the UNCLOS allow a State to claim entitlements based on “historic” or other rights even beyond those provided for in the Convention itself?

15. As our counsel will explain, Mr President, any recognition of such “historic rights” conflicts with the very character of UNCLOS and its express provisions concerning the maritime entitlements of coastal States. This calls indisputably for the proper interpretation of the fundamental nature of the Convention.

16. China’s assertion and exercise of its alleged rights in areas beyond its entitlements under UNCLOS have created significant uncertainty and instability in our relations with China and in the broader region. In this respect, I note the presence here today of representatives of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan to observe these critical proceedings.

17. Mr President, China has claimed “historic rights” in areas that are beyond 200 M from its mainland coasts, or any land feature over which it claims sovereignty, and within 200 M of the coasts of the Philippines’ main islands, and exploited the resources in these areas while preventing the Philippines from doing so. It has therefore, in the Philippines’ view, breached the Convention by violating Philippine sovereign rights and jurisdiction. China has pursued its activities in these disputed maritime areas with overwhelming force. The Philippines can only counter by invoking international law. That is why it is of fundamental importance to the Philippines, and we would submit, for the rule of law in general, for the Tribunal to decide where and to what limit China has maritime entitlements in the South China Sea; where and to what limit the Philippines has maritime entitlements; where and to what extent the Parties’ respective entitlements overlap and where they do not. None of this requires or even invites the Tribunal to make any determinations on questions of land sovereignty, or delimitation of maritime boundaries.

18. The Philippines understands that the jurisdiction of this tribunal convened under UNCLOS is limited to questions that concern the law of the sea. With this in mind, we have taken great care to place before you only claims that arise directly under the Convention. As counsel for the Philippines will discuss at length in the coming days, we have, in essence, presented five (5) principal claims. They are:

– First, that China is not entitled to exercise what it refers to as “historic rights” over the waters, seabed, and subsoil beyond the limits of its entitlements under the Convention;

– Second, that the so-called 9-dash line has no basis whatsoever under international law insofar as it purports to define the limits of China’s claim to “historic rights”;

– Third, that the various maritime features relied upon by China as a basis upon which to assert its claims in the South China Sea are not islands that generate entitlement to an exclusive economic zone or continental shelf. Rather, some are “rocks” within the meaning of Article 121, paragraph 3; others are low-tide elevations; and still others are permanently submerged. As a result, none are capable of generating entitlements beyond 12M, and some generate no entitlements at all. China’s recent massive reclamation activities cannot lawfully change the original nature and character of these features;

– Fourth, that China has breached the Convention by interfering with the Philippines’ exercise of its sovereign rights and jurisdiction; and

– Fifth, that China has irreversibly damaged the regional marine environment, in breach of UNCLOS, by its destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ EEZ, by its destructive and hazardous fishing practices, and by its harvesting of endangered species.

19. Mr President, the Philippines is committed to resolving its disputes with China peacefully and in accordance with international law. For over two decades, we diligently pursued that objective bilaterally, regionally, and multilaterally. I will not here take this Tribunal through the Philippines’ painstaking and exhaustive diplomatic efforts, which are set out in detail in our written pleadings. I will, however, mention a few representative examples, if I may.

20. As far back as August 1995, after China seized and built structures on Mischief Reef – a low-tide elevation located 126 nautical miles from the Philippine island of Palawan and more than 600 nautical miles from the closest point on China’s Hainan Island – the Philippines sought to address China’s violation of its maritime rights diplomatically. During those exchanges, the Philippines and China agreed that the dispute should be resolved in accordance with UNCLOS. As the then Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Tang Jiaxuan, stated two years later during bilateral negotiations, China and the Philippines should “approach the disputes on the basis of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, particularly its provisions on the maritime regimes like the exclusive economic zone.”

21. The mutual acceptance that the Philippines’ disputes with China must be resolved in accordance with UNCLOS was also reflected in a Joint Communiqué issued in July 1998 upon completion of bilateral discussions between my predecessor, Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon, and China’s Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan. The Communiqué recorded that, and I quote, “The two sides exchanged views on the question of the South China Sea and reaffirmed their commitment that the relevant disputes shall be settled peacefully in accordance with the established principles of international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.” (End of quote)

22. Regrettably, neither the bilateral exchanges I have mentioned, nor any of the great many subsequent exchanges, proved capable of resolving the impasse caused by China’s intransigent insistence that China alone possesses maritime rights in virtually the entirety of the South China Sea, and that the Philippines must recognize and accept China’s sovereignty before meaningful discussion of other issues could take place.

23. The Philippines has also been persistent in seeking a diplomatic solution under the auspices of ASEAN. This has proven no more successful than our bilateral efforts. In fact, China has insisted that ASEAN cannot be used to resolve any territorial or maritime disputes concerning the South China Sea, and that such issues can only be dealt with in bilateral negotiations. ASEAN and China have yet to conclude a binding code of conduct in the South China Sea. The most that has been achieved was the issuance, in 2002, of a “Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.” Although that document recorded the parties’ commitment to work toward the “eventual” establishment of a code of conduct in the South China Sea, China’s intransigence in the 13 years of subsequent multilateral negotiations has made that goal nearly unattainable.

24. Nonetheless, Mr President, the 2002 DOC is significant in at least one important respect: the ASEAN Member States and China undertook therein to “resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means, without resorting to the threat or use of force, through friendly consultations and negotiations by sovereign states directly concerned, in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.” In so doing, the Declaration encouraged those States, should they prove unable to resolve their disputes through consultations or negotiations, to do so in accordance with the Convention, which includes, of course, the dispute resolution procedures under Part XV.

25. Mr President, over the years, China’s positions and behavior have become progressively more aggressive and disconcerting. Outside observers have referred to this as China’s “salami-slicing” strategy: that is, taking little steps over time, none of which individually is enough to provoke a crisis. Chinese military officials themselves have referred to this as its “cabbage” strategy: peeling one layer off at a time. When these small steps are taken together, however, they reflect China’s efforts to slowly consolidate de facto control throughout the South China Sea.

26. Two more recent incremental steps caused the Philippines to conclude that it had no alternative other than to invoke compulsory procedures entailing a binding decision. The first was China’s transmittal of its 9-dash line claim to the United Nations in 2009, after which, it prevented the Philippines from carrying out long-standing oil and gas development projects in areas that are well inside the Philippines’ 200 M EEZ and continental shelf.

27. Secondly, in 2012, China forcibly expelled Philippine fishermen from the maritime areas around Scarborough Shoal where the Filipino fishermen have for generations been fishing without so much as a protest from China.

28. These and other acts by China caused the Philippines to conclude that continued diplomatic efforts, whether bilateral or multilateral, would be futile, and that the only way to resolve our maritime disputes was to commence the present arbitration.

29. Subsequent events, including China’s acceleration of massive land reclamation activities, which it has undertaken – and continues to undertake – in blatant disregard of the Philippines rights’ in its EEZ and continental shelf, and at tremendous cost to the marine environment in violation of UNCLOS – only serve to reconfirm the need for judicial intervention.

30. Mr President, I would like to conclude by conveying my country’s deepest appreciation for the considerable time and attention you have devoted to these proceedings. The case before you is of the utmost importance to the Philippines, to the region, and to the world. In our view, it is also of utmost significance to the integrity of the Convention, and to the very fabric of the “legal order for the seas and oceans” that the international community so painstakingly crafted over many years.

31. If China can defy the limits placed by the Convention on its maritime entitlements in the South China Sea, and disregard the entitlements of the Philippines under the Convention, then what value is there in the Convention for small States Parties as regards their bigger, more powerful and better armed neighbors? Can the Philippines not invoke Part XV to challenge China’s activities as violations of its obligations and the Philippines’ rights, considering that the Philippines’ claims call for a mere interpretation and application of the Convention and do not fall within any of the jurisdictional exclusions of Articles 297 or 298?

32. Mr President, if the Philippines cannot invoke Part XV, then what remains of the obligation regarding judicial settlement of disputes that was such a key element of the comprehensive package that made the Convention acceptable to all State Parties?

33. We understand, Mr President, that in the exercise of its collective wisdom and judgment, this body has decided to bifurcate the proceedings and to limit these current hearings to the issue of jurisdiction. In this respect, we shall explain in full how our case falls squarely within the jurisdiction of this Tribunal, to the end that justice and fair play may prevail and the Tribunal would recognize its jurisdiction over the case and allow the Philippines to present the actual merits of our position.

34. In the Philippines’ view, it is not just the Philippines’ claims against China that rest in your capable hands. Mr. President, it is the spirit of UNCLOS itself. That is why, we submit, these proceedings have attracted so much interest and attention. We call on the Tribunal to kindly uphold the Convention and enable the rule of law to prevail.

35. I humbly thank you, Mr President, and distinguished Members of the Tribunal. May I now ask that Philippines’ counsel, Mr. Paul Reichler, be called to the podium.