Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wounded troopers in Kalinga ambush decorated with WPM

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Wounded troopers in Kalinga ambush decorated with WPM

Eight of the 13 troopers wounded in the ambush committed by New People's Army (NPA) bandits in Barangay Limos, Pinukpuk town, Kalinga were awarded the Wounded Personnel Medal (WPM).

This was announced by 5th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Jo Mark Plete in a statement Friday.

The WPM was personally pinned by unit commander Major Gen. Lysander A. Suerte to the wounded soldiers.

Also killed in the July 27 ambush were three troopers of the 51st Division Reconnaissance Company.

The eight soldiers are currently recuperating at Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz Hospital while three others are in V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, one returned to his unit and one in Kalinga Provincial Hospital.

Suerte also ensured that the wounded soldiers will be subjected to a stress debriefing as part of their recovery program while families of those killed in action will receive financial and other forms of assistance from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

NPA rebels abduct, execute 2 fishermen

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): NPA rebels abduct, execute 2 fishermen 

New People's Army (NPA) rebels abducted and shot dead two fishermen who they suspected of being involved in a series of robbery cases in their place in Sitio Colorado, Barangay Tigbao, Aroroy, Masbate Friday morning.

A police report identified the victims as Donel Arizobal, 29, and Roland Tupaz, of legal age -- both fishermen and residents of the village.

Arizobal and Tupaz were reportedly forcibly taken from their respective residences at about 5:30 a.m. by about 20 armed rebels in the presence of their helpless families.

The NPA dissidents tied their hands and took them to a secluded place in the village where they were gunned down.

After the execution, they left a note on one of the dead bodies, explaining why they killed the two fishermen.

The police report said the rebels claimed that they two were involved in robbery incidents in their locality, with Arizobal even facing C. C. No. 16085 before a court for robbery.

Earlier, residents had been complaining of robbery cases in their village whose victims were mostly small fishermen.

The bodies of the two victims were brought to the funeral parlor for autopsy.

Families of soldiers killed-in-action to get new homes

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): Families of soldiers killed-in-action to get new homes

To honor the sacrifices they made in defending the motherland, families of soldiers who have fallen in battle will soon BE getting new homes with the looming implementation of the Killed-In-Action (KIA) Off-Base Housing Program.

Col. Noel Detoyato, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs office chief, said that the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) already confirmed with the AFP that the National Housing Authority Board of Directors, per Resolution No. 5914, approved last March 31, the policy on the granting of housing assistance to the families of the AFP/Philippine National Police personnel killed in operations.

In order for the beneficiaries to avail of this, the AFP directed its Major Services to hereby inform all their respective KIA beneficiaries to get in touch with Beth Campanano of the Housing Management Division at Camp Emilio Aguinaldo, Quezon City for details/processing.

Contact numbers are 911-6001 local 6922/6782 and/or 0917 3909034.

Detoyato said KIA beneficiaries simply have to submit their names, registered mailing address contact numbers and preferred sites among the President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (PBSAIII) Housing sites to the AFP Housing Board for endorsement to the NHA.

AFP chief Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri expressed his thanks to the national government on behalf of all of AFP soldiers who perished in service of the country and their dependents.

"The AFP considers the program as the government’s way of giving importance and honor to the sacrifices of our fallen soldiers who went beyond their call of duty and paid the ultimate price in service of the country and their fellowmen," he added.

114th Police Service Anniversary: A year of stronger police-community relations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 31): 114th Police Service Anniversary: A year of stronger police-community relations

The Philippine National Police (PNP) will host a week-long event to be initiated with a kick-off ceremony on Aug. 3 in line with the commemoration of the 114th Police Service Anniversary on Aug. 7, 2015 with President Benigno S. Aquino III as guest of honor and speaker.

Through its Directorate for Police Community Relations (DPCR) and Police Community Relations Group (PCRG), the PNP will conduct various activities like:

* The Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony for the Regional Products Exhibit at the PNP Heritage Park, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 3, 9 a.m.

* Display of action photos on tourist destinations, and Regional Products Exhibit at the PNP Heritage Park, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 3-6, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

* 23rd PCRG Founding Anniversary at the PNP Multi-Purpose Center, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 3, 9:30 a.m.

* Disaster Preparedness Symposium at the PNP Multi-Purpose Center, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 3, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

* “Pulisteniks,” Arnis Exhibition and Rifle Exercises at the PNP Grandstand, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 4, 4 a.m.

* PNP Mall Tours on Aug. 4 at 10 a.m. in Fisher Mall, Quezon Ave., Quezon City and on Aug. 6 at 10 a.m. in Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth Ave., Quezon City.

* School-Based Activities in Philippine Christian University, Manila and Ramon Magsaysay High School, Quezon City during the first week of August.

* Film Showing at the PNP Multi-Purpose Center, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 5, 9 a.m.

* Entertainment Shows at the PNP Grandstand, Camp Crame, Quezon City, Aug. 5, 4 a.m.

According to Police Director Wilfredo D. Franco, DPCR, the activities desire to exemplify the PNP’s organizational mandate focusing on public safety through crime prevention and disaster preparedness. It also aims to showcase the skills, talents, capability, and expertise of PNP personnel.

Among the highlights of the week-long celebration is the Display of action photos on tourist destination and Regional Products Exhibit. A 6x6-foot booth will be provided for the participating Police Regional Offices by their respective Directorates for Integrated Police Operations (DIPO) and selected National Support Units.

The best booths will receive cash prizes amounting to PhP20,000 for the 1st prize; PhP15,000 for the 2nd prize; and PhP10,000 for the 3rd prize.

The culminating activity on Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. in Ever Gotesco Mall, Commonwealth will be highlighted by a musical festival, exhibition of the PNP Grand Marching Band, dance numbers by PNP Mascots, cultural shows and silent drills to be performed by the PNPA cadets.

Palace claims China dialog won’t result in binding deal

From the Daily Tribune (Jul 31): Palace claims China dialog won’t result in binding deal

The Palace maintained yesterday that President Aquino will not engage in bilateral talks with China saying that it is not the solution to resolve the South China Sea territorial conflict. 

Calls were raised anew for Aquino to engage Chinese officials in a dialog as a result of reports on the latest dredging work in the South China Sea that sought to expand man-made islands in the disputed waters.

“It has been repeatedly expressed by the President that such an idea is not practical. If only two countries will talk about the issue, it won’t be binding to the others and won’t solve the problem,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said.

Coloma was reacting to former Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s suggestion for bilateral talks with China since waiting for the results of the arbitration case in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas (ITLoS) may take years to complete.

The former senator issued the calls following similar positions from legislators including Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who said the Philippines should not shut the door on bilateral talks and other avenues of diplomacy with China.

Coloma, however, said “these positions have long been expressed and the government’s stand remains firm.”

Lacson said the latest reported Chinese dredging work in the disputed waters still needs to be verified.

Using the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (Unclos) as basis, Coloma said, the country hopes to settle the dispute through arbitration.

About 10 South China Sea reefs were reportedly being dredged by China.

“We still need to verify which locations such activities are taking place because if it is verified, that would add information to bolster our petition,” Coloma said.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in an earlier forum, said China had dredged 10 reefs to extract sand that it uses to reclaim parts of the South China Sea.

The Philippines is awaiting the ruling of the Netherlands-based ITLoS on the maritime entitlements of the country.

China, however, refused to recognize ITLoS’ jurisdiction over the South China Sea dispute.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is investigating reports of new dredging activities of China on the disputed seas and the origin of the buoys or booms recovered by local fishermen in Zambales province near Panatag Shoal, which is now under de facto control of China.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri told reporters the revelation of SC Justice Antonio Carpio during a forum at Camp Agunaldo the other day was the first time he heard about the new Chinese activities.

“This is the first time I’ve heard about it, so we have to check this…we have to check it, we have not yet talked to Justice Carpio,” Iriberri said.

Carpio also warned of the possible arms race in the region if the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is not applied in resolving the Philippines’ case against China.

Iriberri said that the military is also checking on the source of the buoys or booms discovered by fishermen in Zambales recently.

“We are checking on what really were recovered. There have been some reports that it could have been used for dredging but coming from where? That is yet to be established,” said Iriberri.

“We have to check…we are establishing first what kind of buoys, if they are intended for dredging or mere booms. And we should establish also where did they come from,” he added.

No Chinese activity — AFP

The AFP chief said that based on latest military monitoring at Panatag Shoal, there is no ongoing Chinese activity on the shoal, located approximately 124 nautical miles off Masinloc town which is well within the country’s 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone.

“As of now, we have not seen any except there are ships,” replied Iriberri when asked if there were ongoing dredging activities in Panatag or Scarborough Shoal where Chinese ships have been deployed since the April 2012 standoff with the Philippines.

Iriberri stressed that the AFP is performing its mandate of protecting the people and the country’s territorial integrity as he maintained Panatag Shoal is an integral part of the Philippine territory.
“It’s ours, that’s very clear,” said Iriberri.

“Our mandate is to protect our people, secure our sovereignty and the national territory, we will do that. That is our job,” Iriberri said.

“Why is it important to apply Unclos to the South China Sea dispute, because if we don’t apply it then Unclos, the constitution for the ocean and seas of our planet cannot also apply to any maritime dispute in the rest of the oceans and seas of the world, it would be the beginning of the end of Unclos,” Carpio said during the Wednesday forum.

And should this happen, Carpio said the rule of the “naval cannon will prevail in the oceans and seas.”

“Just imagine if the tribunal says we don’t have jurisdiction, the Nine-Dash Line is valid then what will happen, the only way we can protect our ourselves is to acquire warships, warplanes, anti-ship missiles, resources that should go to education, infrastructure, and social services will have to be re-allocated to defense and, no matter how many warships we buy we cannot defeat China, we can only hope to deter China but there is no way we can win in a total war, so its totally useless,” Carpio pointed out.

“(And) if the tribunal says there is no jurisdiction, the Nine-Dash Line prevailed, then there is no law of the sea anymore, everybody will have to arm, every nation will have to arm itself but that’s not enough to resolve the dispute, it will just worsen the dispute, and the judges in the tribunal will be out of job because nobody will follow the law of sea anymore,” he said.

China has grand domination plan on West PHL Sea–Justice Carpio

From the Business Mirror (Jul 29): China has grand domination plan on West PHL Sea–Justice Carpio

CHINA’S ongoing reclamation activities and its encroachment into the maritime territories of countries that lies within the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) has been planned many years ago under a grand design of dominating Southeast Asia’s most important navigational waters, Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the forum for employees of the Department of National Defense, Carpio said the nine-dash line, which delineated Beijing’s maritime boundaries, spawned this expansive claims and encroached into the territories of Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Carpio, who was among the legal minds behind the arbitral case brought by the country against China, said the nine-dash line eats up 85.7 percent of the whole South China Sea and threatened to rob the Philippines of about 80 percent of its exclusive economic zone.

“China does not need to explain the nine-dash line, you just have to see what it is doing in the South China Sea: reclaiming,” he said, referring to the ongoing massive-reclamation activities in the seven reefs that it occupies, but falls within what is considered by Manila as part of its maritime territory.

In its reclamation, China is not only destroying seven reefs, but a total of 17 reefs as it has made 10 other reefs as sources of filling materials for its reclamation.

China has damaged 10 other reefs for filling materials for the seven reefs that China occupies,” Carpio said.

The SC senior magistrate said the nine-dash line moved the boundary of China to 64 km away from Balabac in Palawan, 40 km away from the shoreline of Batanes and 70 km away from Burgos in Ilocos Norte.

He said bringing China to arbitration is the only available means to challenge Beijing’s expanded boundary, as past diplomatic efforts to bring the issue to “satisfactory results proved fruitless.”

The country cannot also challenge China militarily and cannot rely on its existing Mutual Defense Treaty with the US. “The country cannot invoke Mutual Defense Treaty, because disputed territory is out of scope,” Carpio said.

Carpio said the South China Sea was too important and very strategic for China, both economically and militarily.

China want South China Sea as a sanctuary for its nuclear submarines free from the submarine-hunting Poseidon and US attack submarines,” justice said.

Beijing also wanted the international water for its fishing fleet, the largest in the world, and for its gas needs, being the largest importer of petroleum in the world.

Meanwhile, Navy spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo said the government is closely watching China’s reclamation in the seven reefs, including Subi Reef, which has been identified as the “source of air challenges” against Philippine patrols in the West Philippine Sea.

Subi Reef lies the closest to Ayungin Shoal, which is being guarded by Philippine Navy troops housed in the partly sunken BRP Siera Madre.

Arevalo said China has also permanently stationed a Coast Guard vessel in the shoal.

Carpio: China may also reclaim Panatag Shoal

From ABS-CBN (Jul 30): Carpio: China may also reclaim Panatag Shoal

Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Wednesday said China may also reclaim Scarborough Shoal, or Panatag Shoal, off the coast of Zambales, as part of its grand plan to gain full control of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"I think China will soon reclaim Scarborough Shoal, to put up an air and naval base to protect their outlet in the Bashi Channel," said Carpio during a forum on the West Philippine Sea in Camp Aguinaldo.

Carpio was among the officials who attended the oral arguments by an arbitral court at The Hague, where the Philippines has lodged a complaint against China's claim before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea.

"They have to cross the Bashi Channel and they have to protect this because the nuclear arms submarines of China, their missiles have a range of only 7,500 kilometers," Carpio said, adding that Chinese submarines are based in Hainan.

"They have to fire in the mid Pacific to reach the continental USA. They must cross the Bashi Channel. Maybe 10 years from now, the range of their missiles in their submarines will be longer and they can fire it from South China. But as of now, they cannot do that. They have really to protect this (channel)," he explained.

China gained control of the Scarborough Shoal following a standoff with Philippine vessels in April 2012. The shoal used to be a target of bombing drills by US and Filipino aircraft when the Americans still had bases in the Philippines.

Carpio said China now has air bases in the newly reclaimed Subi and Fiery Cross reefs. The two are among the seven reefs China has reclaimed.

"And they will put one in Scarborough shoal, that's my assessment. So they will have three air bases, triangle of airbases. They will enforce an air defense ID (identification) zone in the South China Sea," he said.

"China's grand design is to control the South China Sea for economic and military purposes. China wants all the fisheries, oil, gas and mineral resources within the nine-dash line (of China)," the official also said.

"China is the largest fishing fleet in the world with 70,000 boats. South China Sea is small for them so they have been going even to the coast of Africa. China is the largest net importer of petroleum in the world. They have to get petroleum, otherwise their economy (will suffer)," Carpio added.

When asked to comment on the issue, AFP chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri said the military will protect the Philippine territory, in keeping with its mandate under the Constitution.

"Our mandate is very clear under the Constitution - to protect our people, secure the sovereignty and the integrity of the national territory. We will do that, that is our job…We will perform hat is mandated of us," he said.

He also noted that that Scarborough Shoal is well within the country's 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

"It's ours, it's very clear," he said.

Last week, fishermen recovered a 1,000-meter buoy, with Chinese markings, about three miles west off Iba, Zambales. Iriberri said the military is trying to find out where the buoy came from.

"We have to check what is that for, was it for dredging or was it a boom. There have been reports that it could have been used for dredging but coming from where? We have yet to establish that," he said.

Iriberri also said they have yet to confirm what Carpio has said regarding the dredging activities of the Chienes.

Meanwhile, Navy Civil Military Operations Group Chief and concurrent spokesman Col. Edgard Arevalo cited the importance of maintaining the Navy's presence at the Ayungin Shoal. Troops occupying the shoal are staying at the grounded BRP Sierra Madre which is now deteriorating.

"Ayungin Shoal marks our last stand in physical terms at the West Philippine Sea. If it should ever (fall) to enemy actions and subsequently occupied, the rest of our islets, including Pagasa Island, would become irrelevant," he said.

DND clears executives in helicopter deal

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 31): DND clears executives in helicopter deal

The Department of National Defense (DND) has cleared the officials accused of rigging the bidding for the procurement of 21 refurbished UH-1H helicopters worth P1.2 billion.

A special investigative panel formed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin found the allegations of corruption to be pure hearsay and uncorroborated, Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino told the House of Representatives committee on national defense and security chaired by Muntinlupa City Rep. Rodolfo Biazon during a hearing Wednesday on the Armed Forces Modernization program.

The investigative panel “dissected” the alleged helicopter scam on three aspects: bidding procedure, technical specifications of the helicopters and corruption allegations, he added.

Batino, who headed the investigative panel, had submitted a copy of their findings to the committee.

Some defense and Air Force officials, including Undersecretary for Finance Fernando Manalo, allegedly tailor-fitted the bidding procedures, as well as the technical specifications, to ensure the P1.2-billion contract would be awarded to the US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and the Canada-based Eagle Copters Ltd., according to reports.

Some of the delivered helicopters were reportedly defective and dangerous to fly.

Manalo used to be an agent of RASI, according to former government employee Rhodora Alvarez, who had participated in meetings with bidding officers.

Manalo denied the allegations before a Senate inquiry into the matter.

The procurement process leading to the grant of a negotiated supply contract to RASI was “compliant” with Republic Act 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act, and its revised implementing rules and regulations, Batino said.

The negotiated supply contract had been awarded to RASI after the three previous biddings for the UH-1 Acquisition Project failed, a procedure allowed under RA 9184, he added.

The DND’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) complied with all publication requirements during the bidding process and issued letters of invitation to many prospective proponents during the negotiation procurement stage, Batino said.

The fact that RASI also failed during the three bidding procedures rebuts allegations the supplier received undue advantage from DND and Armed Forces officials, he added.

Various prospective bidders and observers witnessed the entire bidding process at every stage, as required by law, Batino said.

The investigating committee had thrown out the allegations of Alvarez, who claimed to have been involved in the negotiations, that the helicopters were incompatible with night vision goggles and lacked crash-worthy, self-sealing fuel cells.

Members of the technical working group and the Technical Inspection Acceptance committee of the Air Force had declared the features complained by Alvarez to “comply with the specifications in the (contract’s) Terms of Reference,” Batino said.

“The expert opinions of the PAF officials must be given much greater weight in technical matters versus the accusations of Ms. Alvarez,” he said.

The committee also considered the “presumption of regularity of performance of official functions of the Inspection Committee, absent any evidence of collusion,” he added.

Alvarez failed to substantiate her claims that the deal was tainted with corruption, the investigating panel said.

The “uncorroborated statements” of Alvarez were denied not only by the DND and military officials involved, but also by representatives of RASI, Batino said.

“Moreover, many of her allegations do not have probative value as they fall under the classification of hearsay,” he said.

“The affidavits, which she issued, are marked with inconsistencies, and thus substantially erode her credibility. Her allegation that RASI does not have sufficient facilities was based on a flimsy conjecture,” he added.

The committee had recommended the filing of appropriate criminal or civil charges against Alvarez and RASI’s Thach Nguyen after the company admitted submitting spurious documents during the bidding process, Batino said.

The investigating panel’s report will be referred to the DND-BAC “for consideration of other penalties that can be imposed” against RASI, Batino said.

The Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice will be furnished a copy of the report “even if no irregularities on the acts of the DND and AFP officials were found,” he added.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue will also be given a copy of the report with pertinent affidavits, Batino said.

Bayan USA: More far left than the PH far left

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 30): Bayan USA: More far left than the PH far left

bayan usa 3

Members of Anakbayan USA, Bayan USA and Gabriela USA protesting against “U.S. imperialism” and “corrupt, fascist” Aquino in front of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco July 28. PHOTO BY JOSE RICARDO BONDOC

Just as global Filipinos concerned about China’s massive reclamations in the West Philippine Sea were preparing to hold their third annual Global Day of Protest against China’s imperialism on July 24, a “preemptive counter-demonstration” was held on July 19 in front of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC by Filipino American militants protesting U.S. imperialism in the Philippines.

The demonstration was sponsored by Bayan USA, “an alliance of anti-imperialist and progressive Filipino organizations,” which held its 5th National Congress on July 18-19, at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, following their “International People’s Tribunal on Crimes of the US-Aquino Regime,” which was held in the same venue.

Among the witnesses from the Philippines who testified at the “Tribunal” were Philippine Congress Representative Neri Colmenares of the Bayan Muna Party and Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson Amirah Ladasan.

In the Balitang America report on the group’s demonstration, Amira Ladasan is shown excoriating U.S. imperialism because “They want our land! They want our resources! They want our energy!”

Time warp

Listening to her anti-imperialist speech was like going through a time warp and being transported back to the Manila demonstrations of the 1960s and 1970s when U.S. military bases and U.S. multinational corporations dominated the political and economic life of the Philippines. But after the U.S. military bases were removed from the Philippines in 1991, U.S. influence in the Philippine declined.

un plaza rally2-1

Columnist Rodel Rodis with demonstrators at UN Plaza in San Francisco during Global Day of Protest against China’s sea claims.

Comedian Stephen Colbert once said of Pres. George W, Bush: “He believes on Wednesday what he believed on Monday regardless of what happened on Tuesday.” What happened on “Tuesday” was that China became an imperialist power and the top foreign corporations exploiting the Philippines were no longer American ( and the foreign navy that has recently invaded seven Philippine shoals and converted them into militarized man-made islands is also not American. As for “energy,” guess which navy is poised to seize Recto Bank with the 15 billion barrels of oil and quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas underneath it.

Ladasan should listen to what one speaker at a protest rally in front of the Chinese Embassy in Manila said: “China should stop its reclamation activities now and instead just engage us in the international tribunal if indeed they have the legal basis and evidence to do so. As it is China’s expansionist policy based on its 9-dash line theory is without legal, historical and moral basis. Every Filipino should defend our territory and exclusive economic zones, and Pres. Aquino should fortify our positions in the area to counter China’s aggressive acts.”

Who said it?

The speaker? It was not Loida Nicolas-Lewis of U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG), not Roilo Golez of the Movement & Alliance to Resist China Aggression (MARCHA) nor was it Raffy Alunan of the West Philippine Sea Coalition (WPSC).

usp4gg in makati 3

Global Day of Protest participants in Makati demonstration against China’s incursions in West Philippine Sea.

No, those words were uttered by Bayan Muna’s own Neri Colmenares, speaking at his group’s April 15, 2015 rally in front of the Chinese Embassy in Manila with placards that said “No To China’s reclamation of Mischief Reef!,” “China Out of Philippine Seas!” and “Assert Philippine Sovereignty!”

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes added in another Bayan Muna press release that China’s land reclamation activities in the disputed Spratly Islands were an act of “robbery” and “an affront to our sovereignty.” He said: “Filipinos have the patriotic duty to oppose these aggressive actions as well as to call on our own government to defend our territorial integrity.”

As recently as July 23, 2015, Jose Ma. Sison, the founding chairman of the Communist Party of the Philippines, told Raissa Robles of the South China Morning Post that “China is obviously being greedy, claiming 90 percent of the South China Sea.” Sison told Robles that China’s territorial claims were “foolish” and “false” and added that “it would be like India claiming the whole of the Indian Ocean, or Mexico claiming all or most of the Gulf of Mexico.”

So what happened to Colmenares’ anti-China message when he arrived in the U.S. in July to speak to Bayan Muna’s U.S. supporters?

The disconnect

Someone must have informed Colmenares that the local Filipino American leftists do not oppose China’s imperialism. As early as May of 2012, when Balitang America’s Henni Espinosa interviewed Rachel Redondiez, then the national chair of Gabriela USA and former Secretary-General of Bayan USA, about whether her Fil-Am groups would join the protest rallies against China, she said no, because, she said, “It will only worsen the conflict between China and the Philippines.”

In the TV interview that was aired on Balitang America on May 9, 2012, Redondiez said, “When there is a conflict between siblings or friends, you usually want to start talking one-on-one before you bring in other people or mediators. China is not the true bully in this standoff. The China threat is being used by the U.S. to actually further trample on our national sovereignty.”

Rachel Redondiez was not just speaking for herself. Earlier, on April 16, 2012, Bernadette Ellorin, the Chairperson of Bayan USA, released the following statement: “Contrary to Washington’s line, the Chinese government is not flexing its military might to bully other countries in the region in order to expand its economic interests….Decades of U.S. military presence in the Philippines in the name of peace-keeping and anti-terrorism have proven that it is the U.S. troops, not China, that are guilty of pointing their own guns at Filipino civilians, raping Filipino women and children…”

When I asked my Facebook friend, Dante Simbulan, Jr., to explain the disconnect between the varying positions on China of Bayan Muna in the Philippines and its U.S. supporters like Bayan USA, Anakbayan and Gabriela USA, he explained that as far as the opinion of Fil-Am groups about China is concerned, it was “their prerogative.” That explains it all then.

When China invades the Ayungin Reef, Recto Bank and Pag-Asa Island and Filipinos all over the world rise up in righteous anger against China, we know that there will be at least one group of Filipino Americans who will not join the protests because it’s “their prerogative.”

Manifesto of Various Sultanates in the Bangsamoro on The Immediate Passage of the agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to MindaNews (Jul 29): Manifesto of Various Sultanates in the Bangsamoro on The Immediate Passage of the agreed version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law


We, the Traditional Leaders and Royal Ladies of the Bangsamoro, representing the various sultanates such as the Sultanate of Buayan, Sultanate of Kabuntalan, Sultanate of Dikaya, Sultanate of Linatangan Dar us-Salam, Paramount Sultanate of Linantangan Buayan Dar us-Salam, Society of Empowered Royal Ladies in Cotabato Empire, among other principalities in the Bangsamoro core territory, hereby manifest our unequivocal and unconditional support for the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, opened the windows of opportunities for a meaningful development and a dignified peace to reign in our land. It also ushered the advent – at least, to our belief – of a new political entity that is stronger and more autonomous than the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The CAB, a political agreement had to be translated into a legal document. So, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) drafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The BBL Draft was submitted to and reviewed by the Office of the President (OP) and ultimately submitted to the House of Representatives and the Senate for deliberation and passage into law.

We are now worried, however, by the fact that the document crafted by the BTC and agreed upon by the Office of the President is now substituted with another version – HB 5811 – whose provisions are inconsistent with the CAB.



There are also provisions that will inevitably result to a Bangsamoro government that is even less autonomous than the present ARMM.

These amendments are simply unacceptable. We want a basic law that will address the legitimate grievances of – and correct the historical injustices committed against – the Bangsamoro.

We strongly ask the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate for the immediate passage into law of the BBL draft as submitted by the Office of the President.

Signed this 22nd day of July 2015 (5th day of Shawwal 1436) in Cotabato City.

[Signed sheet]

Carpio: PH may need more warships, fighter jets

From ABS-CBN (Jul 29): Carpio: PH may need more warships, fighter jets

The Philippine government may have to allot more funds to the military if the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea does not rule in Manila's favor in its maritime case against China, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Wednesday.

Carpio, in a forum held in Camp Aguinaldo, said the Armed Forces must be prepared if the United Nations tribunal says it doesn't have jurisdiction over the West Philippine Sea dispute.

"What will happen?" he asked military officials in the forum. "The only way we can protect ourselves is to acquire warships, warplanes, anti-ship missiles."

Carpio, however, said the Philippines, on its own, will not win in a shooting war with China.

“No matter how many warships we’d buy, we cannot defeat China. We can only hope to deter China, but there is no way we can win in a total war,” said Carpio. “So it’s totally useless if the tribunal says there is no jurisdiction, the nine-dashed line prevailed, then there is no law of the sea anymore. Every nation will have to arm itself but that’s not enough to resolve the dispute."

He said the Philippines' case and the UN tribunal's decision will have a global impact, particularly on the United Nations Convention for the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

He said if the tribunal rules in favor of China, "it will just worsen the dispute and the judges in the tribunal will be out of job because nobody will follow the law of the sea anymore."

“Why is it important to apply UNCLOS to the South China Sea dispute? Because if we don’t apply it, then UNCLOS – the constitution for the ocean and seas of our planet - cannot also apply to any maritime dispute in the rest of the oceans and seas of the world,” he explained.

“It would be the beginning of the end of UNCLOS. The rule of the naval canon will prevail in the ocean and seas, no longer the rule of law. There will be a naval arms race among coastal countries,” Carpio said.

The Philippines is expecting the tribunal to decide on the jurisdiction over the case either in August or September.


During the forum, Carpio revealed that China destroyed a total of 16 reefs in the disputed waters.
“China has damaged 10 other reefs for filling material for the seven reefs (where it built seven man-made islands). They actually destroyed a total of 17 reefs,” he said.

Navy civil military operations group chief Col. Edgar Arevalo, who also spoke during the forum, said Chinese work on the artificial islands were ongoing as of May 28.

I don’t have any information whether its going on but so far that was reported during the routine patrol that we took (last May 28),” he said.

He added that Chinese maritime forces have harassed at least 6 Philippine missions to resupply military forces in the West Philippine Sea since last years.

MILF wants BBL passed without revision

From the Philippine Star (Jul 30): MILF wants BBL passed without revision

Muhaquer Iqbal, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF peace panel, said there is no basis for cynics to claim that the lack of openness is reason enough to stop the passage of the proposal.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) yesterday reiterated there was transparency in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that it wants approved by Congress without revisions.

Muhaquer Iqbal, chairman of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission and the MILF peace panel, also said there is no basis for cynics to claim that the lack of openness is reason enough to stop the passage of the proposal.

President Aquino made his pitch for BBL approval in his last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, wanting to make it his main legacy before he steps down on June 30, 2016. He said time is running out for lasting peace in Mindanao.

The draft BBL aims to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with a new MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity.

It suffered a setback in January after MILF members, along with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, murdered 44 members of the police Special Action Force (SAF) tasked to serve subpoenas on two international terrorists hiding within MILF-controlled areas.

The government agencies, which investigated the killings, are yet to charge those involved in the carnage. Aquino was also criticized by relatives of the Fallen 44 for his failure to acknowledge the bravery of the troopers during his speech on Monday.

Even given these, the third party monitoring team (TPMT) encouraged Congress to continue working on the BBL and seal the peace agreements.

“Decades of violent conflict have wracked Mindanao, blighted the lives of generations of civilians and led to the deaths of so many combatants (whether on the side of the MILF or of government forces),” said the TPMT in an official statement.

It added that the normalization process continues despite the delay in the legislative process.

“Deliberations on the BBL continue in Congress, though it remains uncertain when this work will be completed and how far the law to be adopted will hew to the agreements painstakingly negotiated since 1997. Nevertheless, the first stage of MILF decommissioning was successfully completed on June 16, with the ceremonial turnover to the IDB (Independent Decommissioning Body) of 75 crew-serve and high-powered firearms, and the return to civilian life of 145 former MILF combatants,” the TPMT said.

Iqbal said there is no truth to assertions that there was no transparency in the peace talks because the sessions held in Malaysia were attended by officials from Mindanao, some congressmen and other government and civil society organization officers.

“The MILF wants a BBL based on the version agreed bilaterally by the government and the MILF. We cannot accept a weak BBL,” he said.

Iqbal stressed they will reject a BBL that is different from the parameters of the Oct. 15, 2013 Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and the March 27, 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro.

He claims some Catholic and Christian religious leaders, including Orlando Cardinal Quevedo of Cotabato, are supporting the draft BBL.

Quevedo, member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation, called for support to the Mindanao process in last week’s Mindanao Media Forum in Cotabato City. 
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the interim House committee handling the draft BBL, also said Aquino’s pitch for the proposed law would hasten its passage.

AFP asks Congress to ease procurement guidelines for defense equipment

From GMA News (Jul 29): AFP asks Congress to ease procurement guidelines for defense equipment

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) asked Congress Wednesday to craft specialized rules for the purchase of defense equipments to resolve the bottlenecks in the upgrade of its gear stemming from existing government procurement laws.
AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans Brig. Gen. Guillermo A. Molina, Jr. told lawmakers at the initial review of the AFP modernization program that the stringent guidelines of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act have slowed the agency down in procuring additional military equipment in recent years. 
Of the 30 planned projects under Republic Act 10349 or the Revised AFP Modernization Act signed in 2012, only two are currently being implemented while 28 are still in the procurement stage, a status report presented by the AFP at the hearing showed.
Half of the projects under the older modernization law, RA 7898 signed 20 years ago, have also yet to be implemented.
"RA 9184 seems not to be fully responsive of the needs of the AFP," added Department of National Defense (DND) Asst. Secretary Patrick Velez.
The slowdown in the upgrade of defense articles and gadgets occur even as P82.48 billion has been allocated for the AFP modernization program. 
With suppliers of defense equipment finding the rules set by the procurement law “impossible” to meet, Velez asked Congress to either amend the country’s procurement law to address specific issues on defense purchases.
One of the changes that the AFP proposed is the extension of the 30-day period for bid submissions since it has proven to be realistic. Velez said the procurement of defense equipment usually takes a longer time since it is sourced overseas. 
In addition, the preference for lowest calculated bids and local producers should be relaxed since the highly advanced systems available abroad can be tailor-fit to meet specific requirements. 
Velez said it might also be better if a separate procurement entity for defense agencies or uniformed personnel services be established since the recent trend in defense procurement remove the responsibility of purchasing equipment from the armed forces. 
“[That] would now result to professionalization of defense procurement and correct certain deficiencies,” he said.

MILF: MILF Committee on Information holds General Meeting

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 30): MILF Committee on Information holds General Meeting

MILF Committee on Information holds General Meeting

The Committee on Information of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held its 21st General Meeting/Assembly in two separate venues. On July 25, a program was held at a gymnasium in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. The succeeding program on July 26 was held at Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) Training Center at Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The theme of the gathering was “INFORMATION: A catalyst for change”. It was attended by MILF Information Officers from all over Mindanao. Delegates from Western Mindanao and remote provinces arrived on July 24 with representative from Metro Manila also attended.

The number of participants was 332 comprising male and female information officers excluding officers of the Central Committee on Information that organized and facilitated the program.

Day one program was held at Darapanan Gymnasium and was attended by MILF Executive hierarchies headed by MILF Chairman Murad Ebrahim, BTC Chair and Information Committee Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and others Senior Officials of the MILF Central Committee.

The dynamic team of secretariat, working committees and technical working group from energetic volunteers were headed by Mr. Kris T. Yano, Information OIC- Secretary and Sheikh Mahmod S. Ahmad, BLMI Executive Director. Mr. Khaled Omar and Ali Anso.

The first resource person was Grand Mufti Sheikh Abuhuraira Udasan of the Darul Ifta (House of Opinion). His topic centered on “The Role of Islam in the MILF Struggle” Mufti Udasan stressed the importance of Unity, understanding and respect for one another which were the elements of early Muslims Ummah (Community) source of strength and splendidness.

He also elaborated on the various scenarios by quoting various verses from Noble Qur’an and Hadiths (Tradition and Practices) of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as the fundamental sources of Muslim Unity and antidote to societal degeneracy.

Mr. Sammy Al- Mansour, Chief of Staff of BIAF-MILF gave inspirational message by underlining the inevitable problems that every family, organizations and countries are experiencing today. He underscored the importance of having a positive outlook to overcome negative perceptions by taking a further look at the circumstances instead of taking precipitous judgments and conclusions.

Another inspirational message was delivered by Commissioner Sheikh Ibrahim Ali, Head of MILF Daw’ah and member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). Sheikh Ali emphasized the important role of information which is correlated to Daw’ah (Islamic propagation).

“Changes for better preferences must be operationalized first inwardly” Sheikh Ali added by quoting various Qur’anic verses and Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in signifying the concepts and practice on how to attain ones objective through effective delivery of information and propagation.

The keynote address was delivered by MILF Chairman, Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. He accentuated on the concept of people’s struggle that the Bangsamoro people have been relentlessly undergoing and aspiring for genuine autonomy in the Bangsamoro homeland.

The role of the information officers in providing right information and guiding the people is like a guiding star where the primitive sailors relied on during their journey under darkness; and now you are like a Global Position System (GPS) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

After a comprehensive speech delivered by the resource persons; question and answer followed where the information officers were able to grasp firsthand information from the MILF Senior officials which were primarily concerned on the aspects of Bangsamoro legitimate struggle, the GPH-MILF Peace process and the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in congress.
In afternoon program, BTC Chair and Committee on Information head and Chair of MILF Peace Panel, Mohagher Iqbal gave updates on the GPH-MILF Peace process and the status of BBL.

Chair Iqbal stressed the nature and the history of GPH-MILF protracted peace negotiations that reached about 17 years that paved the way for the signing of two major agreements, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

During the open forum, Chairman Iqbal candidly answered the questions raised by some participants concerning the GPH-MILF Peace process and the status of BBL.

During the evening program, Ustadz Hadi Daguit, Islamic Studies Instructor at the University of the Philippines (UP) and employee of National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) lectured on the importance of Halal.

The participants enjoyed in watching a video showing of late MILF founding Chairman Sheikh Hashim Salamat and the History of Moro Struggle.
On the second-day of the program, annual reports by provincial information directors were submitted to Chairman Iqbal.

Iqbal himself made an evaluation and assessment of the annual reports.

A contest portion highlighted the program where twenty two (22) selected participants mostly Provincial Information Directors and Municipal Information Officers from Bangsamoro areas participated.

Those who won the contest were awarded personally by Chairman Iqbal being the chair of of the board of judges and assisted by members of secretariat.

The 21st General Meeting/ Assembly of the MILF Committee on Information Assembly succeeded through the joint efforts and active participation of organizers and participants.

China writes to New York Times, says West Philippine Sea editorial ‘not fair’

From Ang Malaya (Jul 30): China writes to New York Times, says West Philippine Sea editorial ‘not fair’

The Chinese Embassy in United States, July 28, wrote a letter to the editor of The New York Times’ editorial page regarding to the paper’s July 17 editorial on West Philippine Sea entitled “The South China Sea, in Court”. Press Counselor and Spokesman of the Chinese Embassy in the US Zhu Haiquan said in the letter that NYT’s “editorial “The South China Sea, in Court,” about the arbitration case raised by the Philippines over rights to the South China Sea, is not fair.”

The said editorial appeared in NYT’s print and website July 17.

“China, a latecomer to land reclamation, has been exercising utmost restraint. But the status quo has long been broken by the Philippines and some other claimants, which built facilities, including military ones, on the reefs owned by China,” Zhu Haiquan further said.

He added that China’s approach toward solving the South China Sea issue is to have direct dialogue and negotiation between claimants, which is more effective and sustainable. Zhu Haiquan also said China and the Philippines had tried such talks before, but the Philippine side unilaterally stopped them in 2012.

The NYT editorial written by its “The Editorial Board” said “previous efforts to resolve the contested claims diplomatically, either through bilateral discussions between China and the various claimants or in a regional process, failed. That is because the status quo suits China just fine, allowing it considerable freedom to expand its control.”

The NYT editorial further said that Philippines going to The Hague to pursue its maritime claims is “far wiser than confronting China on the high seas and deserves the support of the United States and countries in that region.”

It added that if China wants to be recognized as a leader in a world that values the resolution of disputes within a legal framework.

China turning tiny coral specks into substantial artificial islands to assert jurisdiction, expelling Filipino fishermen from Ayungin shoal and preventing the Philippines from carrying out oil and gas explorations in some areas that Manila considers its territorial waters were also noted in the said editorial.

AFP deploys drone, helicopters in today’s Metro Manila-wide drill

From Ang Malaya (Jul 30): AFP deploys drone, helicopters in today’s Metro Manila-wide drill

The Armed Forces of the Philippines participated in the Metro Manila-wide earthquake drill at 10 am today spearheaded by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA). The earthquake drill was dubbed as “Shake Drill” which seeks to prevent panic in case a magnitude 7.2 quake hits the metropolis.

AFP chief General Hernando DCA Iriberri made sure that the drill was properly executed in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo. The military also tested a drone that would be used for surveying areas after an earthquake.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) deployed two UH-IHs from the Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom), two UH-IHs from the Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), and two W-3A “Sokol” from Villamor Air Base which conducted “aerial rapid damage assessment and needs analysis” over different areas in Metro Manila.

National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Administrator Alexander Pama said once the “duck, cover, and hold” mentality takes effect it is very probable that injuries and deaths that would result in a major earthquake will be greatly reduced.

Navy chief installs new commander for Western Mindanao

From the Philippine Star (Jul 30): Navy chief installs new commander for Western Mindanao

Cmdre. Primitivo Gopo is the new chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao. File photo

Navy chief Vice Admiral Jesus Milan installed a new commander Thursday who will lead the navy campaign in western Mindanao.

Milan placed Cmdre. Primitivo Gopo as the new chief of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), replacing Vice Rear Admiral Reynaldo Yoma during a simple ceremony inside the Romulo Espaldon Naval Station.

Yoma, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class of 1983, was replaced by his mistah as he has reached 56 years old, the mandatory age of retirement.

Yoma was credited for leading the military and naval forces in the war against the Abu Sayyaf group and its foreign terrorist cohorts in southern Philippines as also commander of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta.

His stewardship in the NFWM also saw the interception of thousands sacks of smuggled rice being slipped by smugglers.

Milan in his speech told the new NFWM chief to continue the legacy Yoma left behind.

Milan was confident of Gopo to lead the Navy in the south as the former was assigned as commander of the Naval Reserved Command and later assigned as the Armed Forces internal audit chief before his current designation.

DND turns tables on 'chopper scam' whistle blower, recommends criminal, civil raps

From InterAksyon (Jul 30): DND turns tables on 'chopper scam' whistle blower, recommends criminal, civil raps

A Philippine Air Force Huey helicopter ( file)

The Department of National Defense has recommended criminal or civil charges against the Bureau of Internal Revenue employee who blew the whistle on the allegedly irregular P1.2-billion purchase of military helicopters, recommending criminal or civil charges against her.

At the same time, the investigation committee created by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to look into the allegations, found the deal aboveboard and “no irregularities” had been committed by officials from the DND and Armed Forces of the Philippines in the purchase of the Huey helicopters.

A summary of the findings of the panel headed by Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino was released Thursday on Gazmin’s orders.

The controversial deal had also been the subject of separate inquiries by the Senate and House of Representatives.

The alleged scam came to light after the BIR’s Rhodora Alvarez claimed the chopper acquisition contract had been “tailor-fitted” to accommodate the winning bidder, a joint venture of US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc. or RASI and Eagle Copter of Canada.

During the Senate probe, Alvarez said RASI won the bid even after having been disqualified thrice, twice for failing to meet documentary requirements and, during the second bidding, alleged “falsification.”

She also said changes in the contract and RASI’s alleged violations of procurement laws were all done with the knowledge of Defense officials including Gazmin.

The summary of the Batino panel said it had invited Alvarez to participate in its investigation but that she “declined to submit her affidavit to the Investigating Committee or attend clarificatory hearings,” which officials of the DND, AFP and RASI attended, leaving the committee to depend on the affidavit and other documents she submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

The committee noted that after the three failed biddings for the “UH-1 Acquisition Project,” the DND’s Special Bids and Awards Committee 1 decided to conduct a negotiated procurement and that only RASI submitted a bid and was awarded the contract “after passing the Post Qualification Evaluation.”

“The entire bidding procedure was witnessed at every stage, by the various prospective bidders, and observers as required by law,” it said.

The fact that RASI had failed in the first three biddings “rebut the allegations of Ms. Alvarez that RASI received undue advantage from DND-AFP officials,” the committee added.

It also noted that the Philippine Air Force’s Technical Working Group and Technical Inspection Acceptance Committee “expressly declare that the features complained by Ms. Alvarez … comply with the specifications” of the contract.

“The expert opinions of the PAF officials must be given much greater weight in technical matters vis-à-vis the accusations of Ms. Alvarez,” it added.

But more damning to Alvarez, the committee said “as admitted by RASI, Thach Nguyen assisted by Rhodora Alvarez, submitted spurious documents during the bidding process, as discovered in the course of the investigation,” and recommended that “the DND to file the appropriate criminal or civil charges against them with the proper offices.”

Thach was the RASI’s former Philippine representative who company owner Robert Rice confirmed to the Senate is detained in the US for allegedly misrepresenting himself as a State Department official.

Alvarez, too, told the Senate she ended up “coordinating” the chopper procurement project after Thach, who she said she got to know when he sought her help seeking clearance from the BIR, had gone into hiding.

The DND committee also asked the BAC to consider “other penalties that can be imposed, in relation to” the alleged submission of the spurious documents by Thach and Alvarez.

[Read the attached summary of the DND investigating committee]

China says U.S. 'militarizing' South China Sea

Posted to InterAksyon (Jul 30): China says U.S. 'militarizing' South China Sea

China's Defense Ministry on Thursday accused the United States of "militarizing" the South China Sea by staging patrols and joint military drills there, ramping up the rhetoric ahead of a key regional security meeting in Malaysia next week.

China has repeatedly urged Washington not to take sides in the escalating maritime dispute over the area, where the Asian giant last year stepped up its creation of artificial islands, alarming neighbors and provoking U.S. criticism.

Washington has demanded China halt land reclamation and militarization of the disputed area and pursue a peaceful resolution according to international law.

China has been angered by U.S. navy and air force forays through waters it claims as its own, especially this month, when U.S. Navy Admiral Scott Swift said he joined a routine surveillance flight.

The United States has also stepped up military contacts, including drills, with regional allies such as the Philippines, which also has claims in the South China Sea.

The United States was hyping up the "China threat" and attempting to sow discord between China and other claimant countries, Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a news briefing.

"China is extremely concerned at the United States' pushing of the militarization of the South China Sea region," he said.

"What they are doing can't help but make people wonder whether they want nothing better than chaos."

For a long time, the United States had carried out frequent, widespread, close-in surveillance of China, by sending ships and aircraft to the region, he added.

"Recently they have further increased military alliances and their military presence, frequently holding joint drills."

But if certain U.S. officials wanted to take civilian flights over the South China Sea to "enjoy its beauty", China had no problem with that, he said.

China's own drills there were a normal part of its routine military exercises and not aimed at any third party, Yang said.

But he expressed concern at reports that Filipino fishermen had found buoys with Chinese markings near the disputed Scarborough Shoal and towed them back to shore northwest of Manila.

"If these reports are correct, then certain people have elbowed their way into somebody else's home, and taken others' possessions."

On Thursday, the head of Philippine military, General Hernando Iriberri, told journalists in Manila it was investigating reports China had reclaimed three more reefs in the South China Sea as well as activities in Scarborough Shoal.

The South China Sea is likely to feature prominently at next week's security meeting in Malaysia, attended by Southeast Asia and Chinese foreign ministers and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

Beijing claims most of the South China Sea, but Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and others have overlapping claims.

Beyond Mamasapano: Tough road still ahead for Bangsamoro peace

From MindaNews (Jul 30): Beyond Mamasapano: Tough road still ahead for Bangsamoro peace

TUKANALIPAO, Mamasapano, Maguindanao — The skeleton of a new bridge, concrete, now stands close to the old wood one made iconic by the bloody incident six months ago.

A sign of further development is a poster, next to the new bridge, announcing a P50 million irrigation system project.

Panoramic shot of Mamasapano, showing the new bridge on the left and the old one on the right. Photo by JAKE SORIANO / Vera FIles
Panoramic shot of Mamasapano, showing the new bridge on the left and the old one on the right. Photo by JAKE SORIANO / Vera FIles

The old wood bridge still stands, wobbly, held together by seemingly brittle strings. Crossing it leads one to the cornfield, site of the encounter that claimed the lives of 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Armed Forces (PNP-SAF), 18 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.

Behind the cornfield stands a lone house, and in it lives alone farmer Kusalim Kusain, 40 years old.
When he heard the gunfire early morning of Jan. 25, he thought it was “rido,” a sporadic but familiar outburst of violence between feuding families.

He tried getting back to sleep but could not. Then a bullet hit a part of his house. He realized what was happening was not “rido.” He fled.

Kusain lost his corn and cattle in the firefight, and had to take a loan to plant again. Now the corn is ripening. The once-rough road to town is now a bit paved. He says this will be helpful for transporting the harvest.

Asked if has become quieter in Tukanalipao after the encounter, he answers in Maguindanao, “Same old.”

His house still carries that hole from where the bullet hit six months ago, mirroring it would seem the lingering aftermath of the incident that reopened old wounds and created new ones.

Mamasapano underscored the need for a lasting solution to conflict in the deadliest of areas in the country, but it also altered the course of that possible solution.

Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was further delayed.

In his final State of the Nation Address (SONA) President Benigno Simeon Aquino III urged Congress to pass the BBL within his term.

He did not mention, however, a crucial issue: that the law be consistent with the peace deal his administration signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The FAB, the CAB, and a meaningful BBL

The BBL finally came up an hour and 30 minutes into the President’s last SONA.

May ilang mga batas na nais kong ilapit upang sanay maipasa sa loob ng kasalukuyang Kongreso,” he began. “Pangunahin siyempre po dito ang Bangsamoro Basic Law.”

He challenged opponents of the law to themselves offer a better solution.

Kung wala kayong alternatibo, ginagarantiya lang ninyong hindi maaabot ang pagbabago. Ilang buhay pa ang kailangang ibuwis para magising ang lahat sa obligasyong baguhin ang sirang status quo sa Muslim Mindanao?” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, in his speech opening the third and last regular session of the 16th Congress, also mentioned the BBL briefly.

“We will continue to promote lasting peace and sustainable development in Mindanao through a Bangsamoro Basic Law that is consistent with our Constitution,” Drilon said.

If these pronouncements are an indication, then a Bangsamoro law would have been passed before the Aquino administration ends.

Yet advocates say the bill pending in the House of Representatives, HB 5811, is already too far away from the essence of what was agreed on by the MILF and the Philippine government in both the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Signed after 17 years of negotiations on Oct. 15, 2012 and on March 27, 2014, respectively, the FAB and the CAB had as cornerstones the recognition of the Bangsamoro identity; respect for the Bangsamoro people’s right to self-determination; and addressing legitimate grievances of and historical injustices against the Bangsamoro people.

A paper by a joint team of Tulay Kalinaw Mindanao, Balay Mindanao Foundation and the Mindanao Civil Society Organizations Platform for Peace lists the deviations of HB 5811 from the essence of the FAB and the CAB.

Revisions of key phrases carry significant implications.

The term “territory” was changed to “geographic area” or simply “area,” “central government” to “national government,” and “Bangsamoro” to “Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.”

“The change in nomenclature changes the framework and certain key principles that went into the process of designing the relationship between the autonomous entity,” the paper read.

HB 5811, the paper says, has also reduced the exclusive powers of the Bangsamoro over natural resources by expanding exceptions.

Other provisions of the bill, more than curtail the proposed autonomy of the Bangsamoro, go as far as diminish powers already presently enjoyed by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The paper also notes “the ‘overkill’ repetition of phrases” that constantly refer to the Constitution, despite the Preamble already mentioning so.

It attributes this to “a very pervasive fear that the BBL would become a platform for eventual secession of the Bangsamoro from the Philippines.”

On the surface, this “ridiculous” fear of secession is “premised on the unfortunate incident in Mamasapano,” the paper reads.

But it notes that the matter runs deeper than Mamasapano.

“Rather, it is about how deep-seated bias, prejudice, and distrust against the Moros” which according to the paper have roots that go “a long way back into history.”

‘You are more likely to die when you go to Maguindanao’

Mamasapano is the “M” in the “SPMS box,” an area in Maguindanao that used to be designated as no man’s land, along with Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Pagatin and Datu Salibo.

Throughout history, the majority of conflict incidents in the province have happened in this area.
Deaths because of conflict are also condensed in the “SPMS box.”

Among the provinces of the ARMM, Lanao del Sur has more incidents of conflict, but conflicts in Maguindanao have led to more deaths.

“You are more likely to die when you go to Maguindanao and there’s an occurrence of violent incident,” said lawyer Laisa Alamia, executive secretary of the ARMM Office of the Regional Governor.

The history of conflict has led to massive displacement.

“Displacement has affected four out of five households in Maguindanao,” Alamia said, citing the findings of a research by the World Bank’s Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System.

Some 125,000 persons were displaced at the height of the military operations after Mamasapano against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Before this, close to a million persons were displaced during the 2000 all-out-war of former president Joseph Estrada.

Operations in the Buliok Complex in 2003 displaced about 400,000.

The 2008 conflict in the aftermath of the aborted Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) displaced more than 700,000.

Lahat, may sugat,” said Alamia.

“Developmental challenges [have been] exacerbated by intergenerational cycles of conflict.”
In the “SPMS box” in particular, very little development has happened until only recently, Alamia said.

She cites the efforts of the administration of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, but concedes that structural defects within the region continue to hurt development.

One such defect is that while line agencies have been devolved to the region, national agencies still hold the program funds.

Release of these funds from national line agencies are often delayed, Alamia said.

“So by the time that the project needs to be implemented, it’s already Dec. 31 of the year.”

The present structure also deprives ARMM residents of program activities and projects that residents elsewhere in the country are able to enjoy.

“There are structural infirmities in the ARMM that can only be resolved by a law,” she said.

She was referring to the BBL, calling it “a huge step” in solving the peace and development problems in what remains the country’s poorest region.

Ideal and worst case scenarios

From Mamasapano, it takes an hour and a half to reach Cotabato City, and from there around another hour to get to Camp Darapanan.

There, in the Central Committee Convention Hall, before an audience of journalists from Mindanao and Manila, MILF Chair Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim politely deflects questions about the group’s choice of president in 2016.

But the question keeps coming up, and Murad himself has acknowledged the significance of the issue this late in the Aquino administration.

“What is ideal is that the BBL will be passed as it is now, because we do not want to fail the hopes of our people,” he said.

The worst scenario, meanwhile, according to him, is “a BBL that is not in compliance with the CAB and the FAB.”

If the BBL is not passed within Aquino’s term, the MILF will continue to demand that the FAB and the CAB be implemented by the next president, Murad said.

“We hope that the next president will also not be anti-peace.”

Unless the BBL is passed accordingly, organic members of the MILF, he said, “will not participate in the elections, and will not participate in the government.”

The dialogue with the media goes on for over an hour. Mindanao’s only cardinal, Orlando Quevedo, moderates and himself also engages in a conversation with the MILF chair.

“Delay of the BBL also means delay of decommissioning,” Quevedo said.

 MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim carries Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim, the 8th of his nine grandchildren. Photo by JAKE SORIANO / Vera Files
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim carries Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim, the 8th of his nine grandchildren. Photo by JAKE SORIANO / Vera Files

Near the end of the event, a little girl runs onstage toward Murad. It is his 4-year-old granddaughter.
“I have nine grandchildren and they are very close to me,” Murad tells the room, when asked asked what kind of civilian life he sees for himself, in case the peace process is completed soon.

“I want to retire already, but it still depends on the situation,” he said. “As part of the MILF organization, we are bound by the decision of the group.” (Jake Soriano / VERA Files)