Sunday, July 12, 2015

Lacson cites DND's possible violation of procurement laws

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 13): Lacson cites DND's possible violation of procurement laws

The Department of National Defense (DND) may have violated certain procurement laws by not relegating the purchase of 21 ''Huey'' helicopters worth P1.2 billion to its end-user, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), former senator Panfilo Lacson said yesterday.

Lacson said the DND ''centralized'' the creation of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) instead of letting the AFP or the Philippine Air Force create their own bid committees to conduct procurement.

''The DND may have violated certain provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Act, which defines clear exceptions for taking away from the procuring entity the procurement of the said helicopters,'' Lacson said in a statement.

The latest procurement, presently hounded by allegations of corruption, is under investigation by Congress for allegedly being a “supplier-friendly” deal.

Lacson added President Aquino and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin should immediately order a review of the helicopter procurement to preserve the integrity of the entire AFP Modernization Program.

Lacson earlier aired concern over the emerging trend of making government procurement processes supplier-friendly, which ultimately leads to allegations of graft and corruption and the purchase of poor quality equipment.

''In the case of the purchase of UH-1D helicopters for the use of the PAF or the AFP, the DND should explain why it centralized the creation of the Bids and Awards Committee instead of allowing the procuring entity, which in this case is the AFP, to form its own BAC. In the first place, the approved budget for the contract is clearly defined in the General Appropriations Act based on the AFP Modernization Act,'' Lacson said.

Lacson, who authored and sponsored the passage of the amended AFP modernization law (RA 10349) in July 2012, was referring to the DND's controversial purchase contract with the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. and Eagle Copters, Ltd. sometime in December 2013.

The former senator said the revised implementing rules and regulations of RA 9184 provide that special BACs may be organized either according to geographical location of the procuring entity or by the nature of purchase to expedite the procurement process or “where the number and complexity of the items to be procured shall so warrant.”

''Such circumstances were not present in this case,'' Lacson said.

In fact, Lacson said, the law’s implementing rules and regulations also allow, if not encourage, the creation of similar committees at lower level offices when deemed necessary by the head of office.

“Even assuming that no provision of the procurement law was violated, the DND should have allowed the AFP to deal with its own procurement thus limiting their participation to supervision and oversight, unless they have undue interest in such procurement which is apparently the case based on revelations made,” Lacson said.

Palace hoping for progress in talks with Reds

From ABS-CBN (Jul 13): Palace hoping for progress in talks with Reds

Malacañang is hoping for progress in the Philippine government's peace talks with communist leaders following a meeting between House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. and Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison.

''Sana po mula doon sa inisyal na pakikipag-usap ni Speaker Belmonte sa mga lider ng CPP-NPA-NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front) sa The Netherlands ay magkaroon po ng progreso hinggil sa muling pagbubukas ng diyalogo o usapan sa pagitan ng dalawang panig,'' Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a radio interview on Sunday.

Belmote and Sison met in Amsterdam last Thursday. Also present in the meeting was National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel chief Luis Jalandoni.

Sison has been in exile in Utrecht since 1986.

Coloma said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, headed by Teresita Deles, still plays an active role in the government's efforts to talk peace with the Philippine communist leaders, who has been waging one of Asia's longest-running communist insurgencies.

 He added that before the peace talks resume, several issues must be resolved first.

'' Hindi po maipagpatuloy dahil sa hindi pagkakaunawaan tungkol sa susunding mga patakaran, kaya ito po ay kinakailangang pagkasunduan ng dalawang panig, at ‘yan nga po ang gawain ng ating Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process,'' he said.

Peace talks between the Philippine government and the communist leadership have stalled due to several issues, such as the communist party's demand that its detained consultants be released before the two parties resume talks.

Video: ANIMATION: War came to Mindanao

From Rappler (Jul 13): ANIMATION: War came to Mindanao

The history of the armed struggle in Mindanao runs deeper than all the liberation fronts that have championed its cause


[Video: ANIMATION: War came to Mindanao
The history of the armed struggle in Mindanao runs deeper than all the liberation fronts that have championed its cause
The euphoria of peace following last year’s signing of a deal between the Aquino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front gave way to agitated calls for war when a botched police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, in January 2015 ignited public outrage and cast doubt on the peace process.

In an instant, a miscalculated police operation threatened to dismantle a process that was close to two decades in the making.

Lost in the heated discussions were very basic questions: Why do we need to talk peace after all these years? What drove Moro rebels to take up arms, and why does the conflict persist to this day? What injustices need to be corrected? What laws and systems need to be put in place to address the roots of this stubborn war?

The history of the armed struggle in Mindanao runs deeper than all the liberation fronts that have championed its cause.

In Rappler’s 4-minute animation, we capture the highlights and the key moments of the conflict. At the end of the animation, we ask: Are we willing to take the next difficult steps?

The peace agreement with the MILF is in the final stage of deliberations in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The debates in and out of Congress have been acrimonious and prolonged, raising fears that the law implementing the peace accord may not pass at all under this administration. (READ: 4 scenarios if Bangsamoro bill is not passed)

Entitled: "#HearMindanao: Why we should talk peace," this conversation will bring together personalities representing different sides of the BBL debate: experts, advocates, and communities affected by the war.

Apart from tackling the significance of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, the forum will also serve as a venue for dissecting contentious issues and for exploring ways to move forward in the quest for elusive peace.

3 killed in 2 NPA rebel attacks in Quezon province, Gingoog City

From InterAksyon (Jul 13): 3 killed in 2 NPA rebel attacks in Quezon province, Gingoog City

NPA in Visayas join farmers planting. SCREENGRAB

Three persons were killed in two separate rebel attacks by the New People’s Army in Quezon province and in Gingoog City.

In Atimonan, Quezon, a soldier and a suspected rebel were killed while four other soldiers were wounded after a more than 10 NPA rebels attacked a combat patrol operation of the 85th Infantry Battalion Sunday afternoon, Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief Lieutenant General Ricardo Visaya said Monday.

Visayas said the attack resulted in almost two hours of fierce firefight that started at round 4:45 p.m. in Sitio Carinay in Barangay Villa Ibaba.

“Our soldiers composed only of one squad later gained the upper hand in the combat that forced the rebels to withdraw leaving behind a dead comrade with his M16 rifle, bandoloer, and personal things,” Visaya said.

Authorities were still trying to identify the dead rebel.

Visaya identified the dead soldier as Corporal Michael S. Lubian.

Those wounded were Privates First Class Jeffrey C. Morales, Isabelo M. Pascua,  Louie M. Tapiador, and Ronel L. Diorda.

On July 8, three NPA rebels were killed in an encounter with the 85IB in Mauban, Quezon.

According to 201st Infantry Briagade commander Colonel Rhoderick Parayno, the combat patrol operation was responding to a sighting of NPA rebels in the area.

There were also reports that the dead rebel, as claimed by the military, was actually a civilian.

“We launched an operation to counter tactical offensives of the NPA who are desperate to recover lost mass bases,” said Parayno.

He also dismissed reports that the NPA attack was connected with the proposed One Energy Power Plant located in the said place.

“Part of their recovery effort is to sow fear to the community and extort businessmen and big companies. We will not allow this to happen,” he said.

In Gingoog City, about 30 NPA rebels killed a soldier, wounded three others, including two civilians, while they abducted another soldier, Captain Alberto Caber, public affairs chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said Monday.

Apparently, the rebels were in the area for “organizing” when their activity was tipped off by some civilians to the 58th Infantry Battalion that immediately launched a combat operation.

The soldiers were able to enter the area where the rebels were staying; fighting ensued at around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in Barangay Alagatan.

According to Caber, the rebels belonged to the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee of the NPA.

During the firefight, one soldier was killed and another one was wounded.

Caber said two civilians, one of them a minor, was caught in the crossfire.

But Caber alleged that the rebels indiscriminately fired at civilians as they escaped.

He, however, could not give details how one of the soldiers was captured by the rebels in the 20-minute encounter.

“Some civilians together with the abducted soldier were used as human shield by the NPA bandits during their escape. It was also reported by the villagers that the said soldier was kicked and dragged by the [rebels] as they were calling other soldiers to surrender during the firefight,” he said.

Caber said he has yet to get names of the casualties including the soldier who was now a “prisoner of war” by the NPA.

Abu Sayyaf Group releases volunteer teacher in Jolo

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Abu Sayyaf Group releases volunteer teacher in Jolo

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) on Sunday released the volunteer teacher they kidnapped more than four months ago in the province of Zamboanga Sibugay, a top military official disclosed Sunday.

Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the released kidnapped victim as Russel Bagunoc, 22, of Barangay Moalboal, Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Arrojado said Bagunoc was released around 12:10 p.m. Sunday at the town proper of Jolo, the capital of Sulu, “and subsequently turned over by a concerned citizen” to the 2nd Marine Brigade headquarters in Camp Bautista, Barangay Busbus, Jolo.

Arrojado said the release of Bagunoc was due to the continued and intensified law enforcement operation against the ASG, which pressured them freed the hostage volunteer teacher.

He said Bagunoc has immediately undergone medical checkup at the Camp Bautista Station Hospital followed by a debriefing.

Bagunoc is a volunteer kindergarten teacher in Barangay Tuburan, Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

He was kidnapped together with his elder sister, Reynadeth Silvano, 34, also a teacher, in the morning of March 5, 2015 in the vicinity of Moalboal Elementary School.

Bagunoc was driving a motorcycle with Silvano, 34, as back rider en route to Tuburan Elementary School when flagged down and seized by gunmen believed to have ties with the ASG.

Silvano was released on May 14, this year, after the family reportedly paid P350,000 ransom.

Charges poised vs Army soldiers, police officers for death of cop in mis-encounter

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Charges poised vs Army soldiers, police officers for death of cop in mis-encounter

Criminal and administrative charges have been readied against military and police officials behind the botch encounter in an upland village here that recently killed a police officer and seriously injured another.

But relatives of the victims, who declined from being named, have said that no amount of criminal or administrative penalty can bring back the life of the young Philippine National Police (PNP) member who was killed in the incident.

Neither can the posthumous accolade be enough consolation for the family and loved ones of Police Officer (PO) 3 Rene Balaguer, 35, whose death in the hands of Philippine Army (PA) soldiers is casually described as an “unfortunate mis-encounter”.

Not even the fact that heads may roll and charges will be filed will console the grief of his widow, children, siblings, mother and father, especially with facts established that he died not in the hands of the enemy but of fellow uniformed men in government service.

Anyway, they said, it may be nice to hear that the PNP regional headquarters for Bicol based at Camp Gen. Simeon A. Ola here has announced that charges of homicide and frustrated homicide resulting from reckless imprudence were being readied to give justice to the victims.

That incident that took place in the upland Barangay Maslog here in early morning of last May 19 also seriously wounded PO2 Ronald Bondad, another member of the 16-man team from the Albay Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) sent to check on the reported presence in the area of an armed band said to be New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

The village was celebrating its barrio fiesta on the same day.

The Santos-Binamira Command, the local unit of the NPA operating in the Albay-Sorsogon area, has denied its involvement in the clash, saying in a statement released to local media outlets the following day that no NPA operative was around in the village on that day.

On the other hand, Police Senior Supt. Marlo S. Meneses, the PNP Albay provincial director, reported after the incident that the team from the PPSC encountered a group of NPA guerrillas in Sitio (sub-village) San Jose, Barangay Maslog, resulting in a 45-minute exchange of gunfire.

In the same report, Meneses said the NPA rebels were positioned at a vantage point when they fired at the police patrol team, resulting in the death of Balaguer and the wounding of Bondad.

The “rebels”, Meneses added, withdrew on sensing that reinforcing policemen were on their way.

Chief Supt. Victor Deona, PNP Bicol regional director, did not take Meneses’ report hook, line and sinker -- especially that the NPA has denied involvement.

He ordered Meneses to form a police panel to conduct an investigation, whose initial result established that, indeed, it was a mis-encounter between the PPSC team and a PA unit operating in the area.

However, the PNP Bicol chief has expressed that he was not satisfied with the investigation report since, according to him, it failed to come up with “relevant discussions” that would lead to the identification of those who were indeed responsible for the mis-encounter and acceptable recommendations toward the next course of action.

He said it was a sloppy investigation, being one-sided and indecisive as shown by its result that contained testimonies from the PPSC team involved but not from the side of the PA unit.

“As an investigating body, its members should have secured the testimonies of the Army soldiers involved in the botched clash,” Deona said.

He said that while the report on the investigation contained a recommendation, it was not decisive for suggesting tentative bases, saying the final decision will be in the hands of the police regional director.

Deona believes that “the report failed to arrive at a logical discussion that will arrive at a logical conclusion” as he turned over the case to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) under instructions of a “no whitewash” probe.

“I really wanted the investigation to determine who were responsible, what were the lapses that resulted in the mis-encounter and the civil and criminal liabilities of those involved as bringing justice to the victims is of paramount importance, although we know that it could no longer bring back the life of our fallen policeman,” he said.

Deona said that on his part, he has called on the PA commanders in the area — Col. Raul Farnacio of the 901st Infantry Brigade based in Barangay Villahermosa, Daraga, Albay, and Lt. Col. Perfecto Peñaredondo of the 21st Infantry Battalion based in Barangay Tula-tula, Ligao City for a case conference.

“In that conference, we arrived at an agreement that each will conduct investigations which will be consolidated and made basis for the filing of criminal and/or administrative charges against those who would be found out responsible,” he said.

Police Senior Insp. Malou Calubaquib, the PNP regional spokesperson, over the weekend said the CIDG has already concluded its investigation which recommended that criminal charges for reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, chaos and serious physical injury be filed against members of the PA.

She declined to name those Army soldiers facing the charges pending the acceptance and confirmation by the PNP-PA joint conference of the investigation report.

On the part of the PNP, Calubaquib said, administrative charges will also be filed against commanders of the police team involved in the incident.

“Certainly, heads will roll once the liabilities of involved officials and personnel are determined through these charges. RD Deona wants to deliver the message that incidents like this mis-encounter resulting from severe lapses cannot be condoned, especially that it caused the loss of a policeman’s precious life,” she added.

Military shifts anti-insurgency focus to Sorsogon, Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): Military shifts anti-insurgency focus to Sorsogon, Masbate

The Philippine Army has set this yearend its schedule to reduce the communist-inspired rebels in the province of Sorsogon to insignificance, an indication that the government is winning the war, the top military commander in the province said yesterday.

Col. Cesar Idio, commanding officer of the 903rd Infantry Brigade which has jurisdiction over Sorsogon and Masbate, said Sorsogon will be declared as “conflict-manageable area and ready for further development (CMARFD)” before 2015 ends as the military focuses its attention to the province.

This means that the anti-insurgency campaign has shifted its focus to the province, he said.

Sorsogon and Masbate are the two remaining Bicol provinces which have not been declared yet as “conflict manageable areas” following the government’s intensified anti-insurgency campaign in the region.

The military has already declared the provinces of Camarines Norte, Catanduanes, Camarines Sur and Albay as CMARFD.

Idio said the four provinces were the priority in previous years, based on the campaign plan of the Southern Luzon Command, which takes into account the strategic significance of the particular area.

Masbate is set to be declared as ”conflict manageable area” by next year, Idio said.

He said the Philippine National Police as well as the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of the concerned province must be prepared to take a more significant role in the anti-insurgency campaign once it is declared as ”conflict manageable area”.

The Army commander said some of the parameters for such declaration are the significant reduction of insurgency-related activities, introduction of more development programs, increase in tourism, and the significant improvement in the security aspect of the area.

“This does not mean, though, that there is zero insurgency,” Idio clarified.

He said insurgency in Sorsogon and Masbate has been reduced significantly and the government campaign has rendered the NPA incapable of launching large-scale tactical operations.

“They’re still there but they are no longer capable of conducting significant military operation,” he said.

The Army official said even the number of cadres and their firearms have also been significantly reduced, forcing the NPA to conduct liquidation instead just “to sow terror in the community”.

“Those are desperate moves in an effort to make their presence felt,” he said, adding that the communities have repudiated the rebel organization.

He said that with the partnership forged by the Army with the Philippine National Police and the community, the total defeat of the insurgency is not far behind.

Idio was one of the guests at the turn-over ceremony of the police provincial command to Senior Supt. Marlon Tejada as the new police provincial director from the out-going director, Senior Supt. Bernard Banac in the middle of this week.

Army general insist no MILF gun-making facility in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): Army general insist no MILF gun-making facility in Maguindanao

The Army's 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao has denied reports about the alleged presence of firearms manufacturing facility of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, 6th ID commander, said his unit has been conducting investigation about this even before the reports and claims about the existence of a gun-manufacturing facility of the MILF in Maguindanao emerged.

Sen. Peter Allan Cayetano, during the hearing on the infamous Mamasapano encounter, declared that the MILF has manufacturing facilities for cal. 50 barret rifle in Maguindanao. He showed some photos provided him by former military commanders in Maguindanao.

But Pangilinan insisted the report has never been validated and confirmed by the Army's intelligence community.

Even Colonel Harold Cabunoc, chief of the AFP public affairs office, told reporters there was no existing MILF gun making facilities in Maguindanao or in Lanao del Sur.

There was one, Cabunoc said, but that was already captured by the military when Camp Abubakar, the MILF's largest camp, fell on government hands in 2000.

He said other than the one in Camp Abubakar in 2000, no other firearms manufacturing facility were found elsewhere in the country.

Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon also dismissed claims the MILF has gun-making facility in Mindanao.

Biazon maintained that even the Armed Forces of the Philippines do not maintain a weapon's facility, much less the MILF.

The decommissioning of 75 MILF firearms as initial part of the annexes on normalization of the GPH-MILF pece agreement raised some doubts from some sectors obviously opposed to the success of the Mindanao peace process.

To show sincerity in the peace process, the MILF agreed to lay down 75 high powered firearms and decommissioned 145 fighters.

After the June 16 decommissioning ceremonies, the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) is keeping the firearms in a safe facility inside Camp Abubakar in Northern Maguinanao.

Ret. Gen. Rey Ardo, an IDB member, said the firearms are safe in a storage facility only the IDB can open.

(Feature) Australian-donated LCHs to be commissioned on July 23

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 12): (Feature) Australian-donated LCHs to be commissioned on July 23

The two "Balikpapan" class landing craft heavy (LCHs), donated by the Australian government to the Philippine Navy early this year, will be formally commissioned into service on July 23.

"The commissioning and handover of the ships will take place on July 23 at Australia," PN flag officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan said in a message to the Philippines News Agency on Sunday.

Millan said that the LCHs will be christened upon their arrival in the Philippine by last week July or early August.

The two ships will be named BRP Ivatan (AT-298) and BRP Batak (AT-299).

They will be joining the five other landing craft units in PN service.

"The two LCHs will be named after indigenous tribes as we follow the PN policy in naming (landing craft) vessels. The Ivatan are from Batanes and the Batak are from Northern Palawan," the PN chief added.

Last June 29, a group of PN personnel was dispatched to Cairns, Australia to act as the LCHs sailing and logistics crew.

The two donated LCHs are formerly named the HMAS Tarakan and HMAS Brunei in the Royal Australian Navy service.

The ships were decommissioned from Australian service at a ceremony in Cairns last Nov. 19, 2014.

LCH is an extremely versatile vessel capable of moving large amounts of cargo, personnel and equipment from larger ships to shore.

A very shallow draft (two meters) allows these ships to deliver personnel and equipment to areas otherwise unreachable, especially during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations.

It is an all-welded twin-screw vessel, able to transship cargo and supplies from ships lying offshore to water terminals or across the beach.

Maximum cargo load is governed by the load-fuel balance and varies between 140 and 180 tons.

A typical load of 175 tons gives the LCHs a range of 1,300 nautical miles, increasing to 2,280 nautical miles for a load of 150 tons.

Up to five shipping containers with HADR supplies and equipment can also be embarked.

LCHs have a draft of two meters, length of 44.5 meters, beam of 10.1 meters and displacement of 364 tons.

It has a speed to 10 to 13 knots and a range of 3,000 nautical miles and a crew of 15.

Biazon dismisses allegations of MILF weapons factory as "hard to believe"

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): Biazon dismisses allegations of MILF weapons factory as "hard to believe"

Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon laughed off allegations that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has been assembling firearms in its own weapons manufacturing factory in the mountains of Mindanao.

Biazon expressed disbelief over the claim of Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on the existence of the alleged MILF weapons factory, pointing out that even the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which has the legal status and funding to produce weapons, could not do it.

“That is very difficult to believe. Why? [Because] even our own arsenal cannot produce their weapons, especially sophisticated weapons. Puwede silang mag-manufacture niyan pero iyong pugakang (crude shotgun),” said Biazon, a former Marine general and former Armed Forces chief before becoming a senator for three terms.

He added: “If the Armed Forces have to buy their firearms and ammunition, how can the MILF produce something that our own arsenals cannot?”

On Thursday, Marcos insisted that a substitute Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is necessary to strengthen the decommissioning of MILF arms and weapons, which he alleged were made locally in the Moro group’s weapons manufacturing factory.

But Biazon said that for practical reasons, he could not agree with Marcos, who is chair of the Senate Committee on Local Governments that is tackling the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

“I don’t know, maybe Senator Marcos is receiving information from someone. But to me, my position on the manufacturing of weapons is simply practicality. If your arsenal cannot produce the weapon, how can the MILF produce it?” he stressed.

The MILF on June 16 turned over some 75 high-powered and crew-serve weapons and decommissioned 145 of its combatants to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) as concrete proof of their sincerity to end conflict and bring lasting peace in Mindanao.

At the same time, Biazon said he would ask Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the adhoc committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law of the House of Representatives, to allow discussions on issues that need to be explained further about the proposed law when Congress resumes sessions on July 27.

“I think this debate is important to be followed by media so that the issues can be explained to the people. Ano bang pinag-uusapan diyan kasi ang problema sa debate na iyan may kani-kaniyang posisyon diyan. And these differing positions need to be developed into a consensus so that a law can be passed,” he explained.

The HOR will continue its plenary deliberations on the BBL, a priority agenda of the Aquino administration, when Congress resumes session on July 27.

2 killed, 4 hurt in Atimonan clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): 2 killed, 4 hurt in Atimonan clash

An Army soldier and a suspected New People's Army (NPA) rebel were killed in a clash in Sitio Carinay, Barangay Villa Ibaba, Atimonan town, Quezon Sunday afternoon.

In the engagement that took place 4: 45 p.m., four troopers were also wounded, Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman said.

He added that firefight lasted for two hours and resulted in the death of Cpl. Michael S. Lubian and a still unidentified rebel.

Wounded in action were Privates First Class Jeffrey C. Morales, Isabelo M. Pascua, Louie M. Tapiador and Ronel L. Diorda.

A NPA M-16 automatic rifle was also recovered.

According to 201st Infantry Brigade commander Col. Rhoderick Parayno, the encounter is a result of an ongoing battalion operations of the 85th Infantry Battalion.

"We launched an operation to counter tactical offensives of the NPA who are desperate to recover lost mass bases," he added.

Parayno said the encounter happened near the vicinity of a proposed One Energy Power Plant.

"Part of their recovery effort is to sow fear to the community and extort from businessmen and big companies. We will not allow this to happen," he stressed.

Two years ago, the Southern Luzon Command cleared Atimonan of NPA influence and one of SOLCOM head Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya's marching orders to ground commanders is not to allow resurgence of NPAs in cleared areas.

"We will preserve our gains in the peace and security in Quezon. The recent encounters we had in the province are temporary as we are determined in realizing our shared goal of developing a culture of peace in the province," he added.

Last July 8, three NPAs were killed in an encounter with the 85th Infantry Battalion in Mauban, Quezon.

4ID pursuing rebels who indiscriminately fired at civilian community

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 13): 4ID pursuing rebels who indiscriminately fired at civilian community

Units from the Cagayan De Oro-based 4th Infantry Division are now pursuing the New People's Army (NPA) bandits who abducted a soldier after indiscriminately firing at Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City killing one trooper and wounding two civilians last Saturday (July 11).

Reports forwarded Monday by 4th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez said that the rebel atrocity occurred at 5:30 p.m.

He said that the NPAs who fired indiscriminately are from Guerrilla Front-4B.

Martinez said the incident stemmed from Barangay Alagatan officials request for assistance regarding the presence of rebels in their community.

When troopers from the 58th Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the 4th Infantry Division, went to investigate, the NPAs fired at them, despite the presence of civilians, killing one soldier and wounding two civilians.

During the confusion, the rebels abducted one trooper and escaped 20 minutes later.

Martinez said the wounded civilians and soldier were brought to the nearest hospital.

This latest atrocity, the NPAs have violated Article 4, Section 4, Part 4 of Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) when they indiscriminately opened fire inside the community and inflicted casualties on the civilians, he added.

“Civilian population and civilians shall be distinguished from combatants and, together with their property, shall not be the object of attack. They shall likewise be protected against indiscriminate strafing,”

CARHIHL was signed and agreed by GPH and NDFP in March 16, 1998 at The Hague, The Netherlands.

With fingers crossed on PCA jurisdiction, Manila eyes temporary restraint on Chinese reclamation

From InterAksyon (Jul 12): With fingers crossed on PCA jurisdiction, Manila eyes temporary restraint on Chinese reclamation

Aerial view of Mischief Reef, which China occupied in 1995, shows Chinese dredgers in a reclamation frenzy in this May 2015 file photo. REUUTERS

 The Philippine government may seek provisional measures against Beijing's reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea once the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) now hearing Manila's complaint decides that it has jurisdiction over the case.
According to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, this is one of the steps being studied by the legal team headed by Solicitor General Florin Hilbay. De Lima is part of the country’s delegation to the PCA at The Hague, which opened oral arguments last week. It deliberated Friday following two days of presentations by the Philippine side (China has totally snubbed the proceedings) and announced a second round of hearings on Monday, July 13.

At the weekend, De Lima said, "If the arbitral tribunal rules favorably that it has jurisdiction on the case, then that could be one of the measures that we might ask for.”

At present, the legal team, which includes American lawyers from the law firm Foley and Hoag LLP, is focused on the hearings on the jurisdiction issue.

The notion of seeking provisional measures, if only to mitigate the damage caused by China's relentless reclamation on seven reefs in the South China Sea, was broached recently by Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Carpio, who has delivered lectures here and abroad to demolish China’s 9-dash line claim on virtually the entire South China Sea, said the reclamation activities are destroying the marine environment in the area, including reefs that take thousands of years to restore. 

There is basis for a provisional measure under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea or UNCLOS, in Carpio's view.

According to De Lima, the arbitral tribunal at The Hague recognizes the significance of the widely-watched case. The PCA's decision to hold another round of hearings on Monday is a good sign, she said. “The decision of the tribunal to hold another hearing means they’re really very interested to know more about the position of the Philippines on the issue of jurisdiction.”

De Lima said the country is confident of its case and the whole world is watching the proceedings at the PCA.

“We are aware that this is being closely watched by the rest of the world, so our heads are really held high on this one," she added.
Observers from Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan were also present during last week's oral arguments, added De Lima, although the Philippine team did not discuss the issue with them.

“The presence of the observers from these countries was taken note of by the tribunal from the opening statement of the presiding officer of the tribunal and we also recognized that in the opening remarks of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. So that means a lot to us that they are there, observing the proceedings since these countries have also their own claims so they are really keenly observing the proceedings; and the fact that they are there is a boost psychologically to our position,” she added. 

Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam are the three other ASEAN members besides the Philippines that have overlapping claims in the South China Sea. The fifth claimant is Taiwan. For its part, Japan has a maritime dispute with China over a small string of islands called Senkakus (Diaoyus to Beijing) in the East China Sea.

While the case at The Hague is not meant to settle sovereignty issues but to define clearly the maritime entitlements of nations under UNCLOS, many of the countries in the region closely watch it because their respective fisheries sectors frequently encounter each other in the rich fishing grounds of the SCS.

Duterte on Parago burial: ‘He was no robber’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 12): Duterte on Parago burial: ‘He was no robber’

MAYOR Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the last day of the wake for slain New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao, alias Commander Parago, at the Almendras Gym in Davao City. He pledged he won’t wage war on the Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples Army and if, by chance, gets elected as President, the NPA would have one foot set in Malacanang. DENNIS JAY SANTOS/INQUIRER MINDANAO

MAYOR Rodrigo Duterte speaks at the last day of the wake for slain New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao, alias Commander Parago, at the Almendras Gym in Davao City. He pledged he won’t wage war on the Communist Party of the Philippines and New Peoples Army and if, by chance, gets elected as President, the NPA would have one foot set in Malacanang. DENNIS JAY SANTOS/INQUIRER MINDANAO

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte defended his decision to allow a hero’s burial for slain New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao here on Friday, saying there was nothing wrong with it.

Criticisms against Duterte flooded social media with some posts accusing him of being a communist, too, for allowing NPA members and supporters to hold a funeral march for Pitao, known in the underground movement as Commander Parago, in the city.

Among the critics was Pastor Alcover, an anticommunist leader, who wrote on his Facebook page that Duterte should be condemned.

“Parago is dead. Death is permanent. But to me when the person is dead it is all even,” Duterte retorted.

The mayor said while Parago was a communist leader, he should be respected for his ideology.

“After all, that guy is not an ugly guy,” said Duterte of Parago. “He was not a robber. He did not sell drugs. He was there dreaming of a different setup for the Philippines. That is all his sin,” the feisty mayor said.

Duterte said there was nothing wrong in his talks with the NPA either because, as a mayor, one of his jobs is to ensure the city is peaceful and free from communist-led violence.

“I cannot seal my door. I need a window to talk to the CPP-NPA,” he said.

Still on allowing the funeral march for the slain NPA leader, during which red-shirted NPA supporters and suspected members waved communist flags on the streets of the city, Duterte said he told security officials to allow it.

“We should not be contrasting on death. I’m your mayor. It’s not my job to do the fighting,” he said.

Duterte also openly admitted that he was not against the NPA and its quest for social equality.

“I am not against you. I will not fight against you. We have the same view of the government and politics,” he said.

But he immediately added that he did not subscribe to an armed struggle.

“What is not with me is the armed struggle,” he added.

Duterte then went on to say that much of the problem that brought the NPA’s armed struggle was rooted in dire poverty and that many people had been marginalized.

“The NPA is pursuing a kind of democracy based on socialism,” he said.

“(But) I don’t believe in killing fellow Filipinos,” he said, adding that he preferred negotiations or elections to bring about social change.

Asked anew if he would seek the presidency to bring about the social change he had in mind, Duterte said: “That would be the joy of the NPA.”

“They would be able to set foot on Malacañang. One foot of the NPA would be in Malacañang,” he said.

“But I am not a candidate. I am just a mayor,” he said.

FULL TEXT: Iriberri’s ‘Letter to the Filipino Soldier’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 10): FULL TEXT: Iriberri’s ‘Letter to the Filipino Soldier’

10 July 2016
My dear soldiers:

I could not answer the call of duty to be the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines without writing down my immense gratitude and deep appreciation for the untiring, selfless dedication that has become the hallmark of the Filipino soldier. Through the years as an officer on the field and in the frontlines, and in the last 17 months as your Commanding General of the Philippine Army, I have been humbled by your sacrifice and your commitment.

You take on the wind and the rain, the sun and the heat, without complaint or respite, as you go about your perilous duty. You leav your family for days even months on end, to secure the families in your assigned area of operation. You face threats and foes, be that of the barrel of the gun or the wrath of a supertyphoon, so that communities need not know fear nor worry. You are a teacher, builder, engineer, farmer, forester, protector, defender and most of all, a soldier.

Some of us have given the ultimate sacrifice, and we remember them every day, not only for their bravery, but for their humanity. And the rest of us take heart and gain strength from their courage and their patriotism. We are better because of their sacrifice, we are stronger for their service.

I have asked you often enough, as I visited your camp in the mountains or checked your newly assigned quarters, what you need to do a better job or what else your family needs. And most of the time, you answer with a smile, and say, “OK na po ako, Sir. Basta may naiaabot sa misis. Basta meron para sa mga bata.” Simple hopes indeed, and it has been my priority to fulfill those hopes and meet those basic needs.

I write this letter of thanks to you, my dear soldier, because it has not been said often enough, it has not been shown nearly enough. I write to say thank you for doing a good job, and to say forward march and fight on; win the peace, secure the future.

Your brother in service,
Dodo Iriberri