Saturday, August 15, 2015

2 faces of BBL emerge

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 16): 2 faces of BBL emerge

Chiz sees passage of Senate version; Rodriguez downplays differences
With the emergence of two versions of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of significant differences, there seems to be a long way to go before the measure will be finally passed into law.
Last week, the Senate, through the Local Government Committee chaired by Sen. Ferdinand “Bong” Marcos Jr., introduced its substitute BBL much different from the version approved by the House Adhoc Committee on the Bangsamoro last May.
The most notable differences of the two versions are the electoral body, civil service office, audit office, human rights body, ombudsman office, and police force.
Under the Senate version, the creation of Bansamoro’s own Philippine National Police (PNP), Commission on Audit (COA), Commission on Elections (Comelec),
Commission on Human Rights (CHR), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and Office of the Ombudsman Philippine were struck out from the original Palace-backed BBL for being inconsistent with the Constitution. Instead, regional offices of these agencies will be set up in the Bangsamoro government. However, creation of these contentious agencies was retained in the House version.
Despite the differences, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said the Marcos version has a good chance of being pass in the Senate. “May laban, pero malayo ang bersyon ng Kamara sa bersyon ng Senado (There’s a chance, but the House version is much different from the Senate’s)”
“Dapat lunukin ng OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), at Malacañang ‘yun mga pagbabago na inilagay ng Senado (OPAPP, MILF, and Malacañang should learn to accept the Senate version),” Escudero added.
Escudero, in a talk with Lucena-Quezon-based newsmen, assured that majority members of the Senate favor on the Marcos version and will fight for it.”
Other key differences of the Senate version are the absence of a preamble and the P17-billion Special Development Fund, both present in the House version.
Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House Adhoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, downplayed the significant differences of the version he sponsored from the Senate’s, saying it only proves that “we have a working and healthy democracy.”
He vowed the Lower Chamber’s readiness to reconcile its version with the Senate’s.
“As legislators with independent minds, different takes on the bill are to be expected,” he said.
“But I think both committees have been working on the same premise that the basic law should be inclusive so as not to alienate any stakeholder in the Bangsamoro. This is a very exciting, yet precarious time for all of us. We want everybody on board the peace process,” he pointed out.
Rodriguez noted that like the House version the substitute bill devised by Senator Marcos’ Committee on Local Government is also called the “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).”
“In my honest recollection and knowledge, I know of no other bill that has undergone a consultative process as exhaustive as what we did in the BLBAR. We know Sen. Marcos’ committee extended the same diligence,” he said.
He said both chambers could iron out the differences in both versions when the bill reaches the bicameral body as the Senate version supposedly weakened the Bangsamoro parliamentary system of government.
“That is the beauty of our democratic system. You have independent minds working on the same thing who will eventually compare notes, as they say, and reach a consensus,” Rodriguez said.
The House leader continued to bat for the immediate passage of the BBL.
“But, as I’ve said, we are at a very important juncture. The consensus I mentioned should be reached very soon. We should pass this now as the Bangsamoro Basic Law is a very important legacy of Congress to ensure peace and development not only in Mindanao, but throughout the country,” Rodriguez said.
He also took opportunity to congratulate Sen. Marcos for shepherding an important bill positioned to end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao. The Senate will begin its plenary debates on the peace measure next week.
“It is without a doubt a difficult task. There are a lot of balancing acts to be done to ensure that the BLBAR remains true both to the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination  and the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” Rodriguez said.
The Rodriguez panel held 24 public hearings, 19 regular meetings, and 8 executive sessions since the original BBL draft was transmitted to Congress by the Office of the President on September last year. The BLBAR, which is the amended version of that draft was endorsed for House plenary debates.
Meanwhile, business leaders stressed the importance of the passage and ratification of the BBL as the “legacy of every Filipino” to future generations.
“We have seen how conflict in Mindanao has been slowing down human and economic development in the region. We now have the opportunity to correct that through the Bangsamoro Basic Law,” Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala said in a statement.
A renowned businessman, Zobel de Ayala is also part of the Citizens’ Peace Council convened last March by President Aquino to thoroughly study the proposed BBL and educate the public on its merits.
Zobel de Ayala said the BBL was crafted to accelerate social justice and human development for Mindanaoans, saying it is “a means to provide social justice and human development for all, whether Lumad, Christian, or Muslim,” and noting that its benefits will not be limited to the Bangsamoro people only.
“We are also certain that the benefits of a peaceful and prosperous Bangsamoro will be felt all over Mindanao and all over the country as well, so we see that the BBL will bring peace and prosperity not only for the Bangsamoro people but for all Filipinos,” he said.
“We are now in an opportune and historic time to correct injustice, enable development, and find peace in Mindanao. This kind of opportunity might not come again,” Zobel de Ayala emphasized.
“But if we are able to do all that through the BBL, it will be the legacy of every Filipino. This generation will be remembered as the one that finally ended the decades-long conflict in Mindanao,” he said.
Rolando Torres, executive director of the Mindanao Business Council, echoed Zobel de Ayala’s sentiment and added that the passage of the BBL is not just the legacy of the Aquino administration nor the lawmakers deliberating on the proposed legislation but of every Filipino.
“The BBL seeks to lay down a strong foundation for peace and development in the Bangsamoro and in Mindanao. The benefits we foresee in terms of economic development are huge, and we expect this to benefit the whole country as well,” Torres explained.
“Through the BBL we see the Bangsamoro region and Mindanao finally catching up and even contributing to the growth of the country as a whole. If we achieve that, it will not just be a legacy of the Aquino administration, it will be the legacy of the entire Filipino nation to all other generations to come,” Torres added.
Various researches have highlighted the economic impact of war. In a 2005 World Bank funded research on the Mindanao conflict, it says that average economic loss during periods of high intensity war, from 1975-1982 was $200 million and the absolute cost estimate from 1997-2001 was the same. Millions were also lost during the “low intensity” period from 1983-1996 with an estimate of $2-$3 billion total economic loss from 1970-2001.
Aside from economic losses, displacement of persons is one of appalling effects of war.  In data provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in their 2012 yearend report, the displacement of persons recorded due to the 2000 all-out war was 982,000 while 600,000 displacements was due to the failure of Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in year 2008.
On the other hand, a study produced by Standard Chartered, a British multinational banking and financial services company, conveyed that forging a peace agreement between the MILF and the Philippine government could boost the economic growth of the ARMM over five years, and that this will spill over to the larger Mindanao island group.
National Economic Development (NEDA) officials said the passage of the BBL will attract more business investors to the region and boost economic growth in the proposed Bangsamoro region by up to 12.8 percent annually, thus reducing the rate of poverty.


Navy ships being built

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 16): Navy ships being built

The two strategic sealift vessels (SSV) the Philippines ordered from Indonesia will be delivered in May 2016 and May 2017.

IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly reported on Friday that Indonesian state-owned shipbuilder PT PAL had determined the right weapons fit for the SSVs as the 76-mm as the main weapon and two stern-facing 25-mm guns, one each on the port and starboard sides. The company said the Philippine Navy may order up to four SSVs “to meet strategic requirements.”

PT PAL was awarded a $92-million contract in June 2014 for the two ships.

Jane’s quoted PT PAL’s SSV project manager Turitan Indaryo as saying the first vessel was 68.39-percent complete, while the other was 42.37-percent complete.

Indaryo said the 11,583-ton SSVs will have a “lift capacity of 500 troops, embark three large helicopters and accommodate 126 crew.”

Fil-Ams on US mercy ship relish homecoming

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 16): Fil-Ams on US mercy ship relish homecoming

 ABOARD USNS MERCY—Some USNS Mercy crew members with Philippine roots were reunited with their relatives in the country during their stay in Subic Bay Freeport last week.

Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Stephanie Madridejo, 21, had a rare opportunity to spend time with some of her relatives from Quezon City.

“I am excited to see my relatives in the Philippines. It’s been years since I last visited them and I have cousins whom I will meet for the first time,” Madridejo told the Inquirer before the reunion.

Madridejo, whose parents are Filipinos, is a medical student and lives in San Diego, California. She is assigned to the intensive care unit on the Mercy during the hospital ship’s Philippine mission.

Mateo de Dios, another Filipino-American crew member, said he visited his relatives in Cabangan, Zambales.

De Dios, 48, has been working as an electrician on the hospital ship for three months. He said his visit with his Filipino relatives was “special,” as the ship’s stay in Subic was for only a few days.

Lt. (jg) Timothy Pietrack, public affairs officer of the USNS Mercy Pacific Partnership 2015, said the Filipino-American personnel on the ship were allowed to debark and spend time with their relatives outside the free port.

The relatives were also allowed to board the ship to meet the Fil-Am crew members, he said.

100 Fil-Ams aboard

Capt. Christopher Engdahl, USNS Mercy Pacific Partnership 2015 mission commander, said there were about 100 Fil-Am personnel on the ship and some of them were on their first humanitarian mission.

The USNS Mercy arrived in this former American naval base on Aug. 4 for the second phase of Pacific Partnership 2015, which aimed to provide multilateral training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions.

Formerly a San Clemente-class supertanker, the hospital ship has a 1,000-patient bed capacity. It has four X-ray rooms, a CT scan unit, a physical therapy suite, a pharmacy, a blood bank and an optometry lab.

The ship deployed a team of military and civilian medical professionals to provide surgical and other treatments to residents of Olongapo City and surrounding areas.

A team from the USNS Mercy went to Pangasinan on Aug. 10 for a three-day humanitarian mission.

‘It’s great to be home’

Lt. Cmdr. Elmer Jimenez, who grew up in Barangay Bued in Calasiao town, said he visited Pangasinan on a sentimental homecoming.

“It feels great to be home. It’s been 25 years since I left my pinablin (beloved) Pangasinan,” said Jimenez, the Mercy’s medical planner for the Philippines and Fiji missions.

The USNS Mercy team conducted a basic life support training on Aug. 5 and 6 at Subic Bay. Medical personnel from the Pangasinan Provincial Health Office joined the training.

Jimenez and 69 other personnel of the hospital ship, led by its deputy mission commander, Capt. Brian Delamont of the Royal Australian Navy, were received in Pangasinan by Gov. Amado Espino Jr. during the flag-raising ceremony at the capitol in Linagayen town.

The team was composed of eight Filipino-Americans, four of them, including Jimenez, hailing from Pangasinan.

“This is my first time to come home in my uniform. So it also feels great that I’m in this capacity to deliver some services here in Pangasinan,” Jimenez said.

On Aug. 10, the team conducted veterinary medical missions in 10 villages of Lingayen and met with disaster response officials.
TB, leprosy, etc.

The team also held a symposium on tuberculosis, leprosy, leptospirosis and dengue, and conducted a mobile blood donation, presurgical screening for patients with cleft palates and demonstration and rapid rabies detection tests in several Pangasinan towns.

Jimenez, 43, said he left Pangasinan when he was 18 and joined the US Navy a few months after arriving in the United States.

“There have been a lot of improvements here. I am impressed that the governor has prioritized health services as one of his programs and it’s very apparent in the capabilities of the health workers,” Jimenez said.

He said hours after his team’s arrival here on Aug. 9, he treated his colleagues to a dinner of Filipino food that included Dagupan bangus (milkfish).

“A lot of them loved the bangus and they enjoyed the puto (glutinous rice cake) and some of them even tried balut (boiled duck embryo),” Jimenez said.

During the flag-raising ceremony, the Pacific Fleet Band surprised the provincial employees when it played “Luyag ko tan Yaman” (My Province and Treasure), the official hymn of the province. They also entertained the employees with jazz numbers.

Lt. Patrick Sweeten, bandmaster, said it took his band three rehearsals to perfect the Pangasinan hymn.

“It was a special arrangement by one of our members. They are very talented people,” Sweeten said.

The band held a concert featuring American pop music at the Robinsons mall in Calasiao on Aug. 11.

The USNS Mercy left the Philippines on Friday for its next destination, Vietnam.

Chinese naval ships heading to Sea of Japan for joint drills with Russia

From InterAksyon (Aug 16): Chinese naval ships heading to Sea of Japan for joint drills with Russia

Chinese military drill. XINHUA FILE PHOTO

Seven Chinese naval ships set sail on Saturday from the port of Qingdao and headed to the Japanese Sea where joint Russian-Chinese naval drills are scheduled to kick off on August 20.

On August 20-28, Russia and China will hold the Naval Cooperation 2015 (II) military exercises in the waters of Peter the Great Gulf and the Sea of Japan.

The Chinese Defense Ministry earlier underscored that the exercises are aimed to "bolster the comprehensive strategic cooperation and partnership between Russia and China, and to increase the military capabilities of both countries to counter maritime threats."

The Chinese side will be represented by the Shengyang and Taizhou destroyers, the Linyi and Hengyang frigates, Changbaishan and Yunwushan amphibious ships, as well as the Taihu support ship. In addition, six helicopters, five fixed-wing aircraft, and 200 troops will be involved, Xinhua reported.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said a total of 20 warships and support vessels along with naval aviation aircraft will take part in the drills.

On August 20, the Chinese ships are expected to reach Russia’s Vladivostok where a series of sports and cultural events are planned to be held.

Military recovers dead body of NPA rebels in Misamis Oriental

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 16): Military recovers dead body of NPA rebels in Misamis Oriental

Pursuing government troopers recovered a dead body of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) along the rebel withdrawal route in the hinterlands of Misamis Oriental, the military reported Saturday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, the spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said that the relatives identified the slain NPA rebel as Jimmy Almonte Lindayo, 28, of Mat-I, Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

Martinez said the army troopers of the 58th Infantry Battalion retrieved Lindayo’s body in the hinterlands of Aposkahoy in Claveria, Misamis Oriental and turned over the body to the local government unit in Claveria so that the family could provide a decent burial to the slain NPA rebel.

“Unlike the rebels who simply leave the bodies of their comrades, the military has a policy to retrieve and turnover the bodies of the slain NPA rebels to the LGUs for the family to claim and provide a decent burial,” Martinez said.

“The truth is, the military also feels the pain of the loss of every rebel because the NPA rebels are also Filipinos. The military is not happy everytime an NPA rebel is killed in a useless war,” the army spokesperson said.

He said that the military condoled with the family of the young Lindayao and urged the NPA rebels to lay down their arms and live normal lives with their families and love ones.

The military recovered an M-16 rifle with an M 203 grenade launcher beside the body of Lindayao who sustained gunshot wounds on the right upper thigh and other parts of the body, Martinez said.

The firefight in the hinterland village of Aposkahoy in Claveria, Misamis Oriental occurred Thursday morning when the combat patrol of the army’s 58IB chanced on an encampment of about 30 fully armed men.

MILF-led BTC softens, but yet to cave in on Marcos’ BBL

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 16): MILF-led BTC softens, but yet to cave in on Marcos’ BBL

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) sees the substitute bill sponsored by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as a “progress” as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) can now be debated in the Senate plenary level.

The BTC, however, still stands pat with the resolution it adopted on July 29, 2015 that the original form of the BBL is the “most appropriate version” since the provisions of the same are consistent with the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

It also noted that the substitute bill, labeled as Senate Bill 2894, appears to have numerous modifications and even deletions of substantial provisions contained in the original draft BBL filed as Senate Bill 2408. 

The BTC is a body created by President Aquino in 2012 through Executive Order 120, and is mandated to draft the BBL, in line with the peace agreements. All its members were appointed by the President, with seven selected by the government panel, and eight by the MILF.

Marcos has earlier revealed that around 80 percent of the original BBL was amended.

According to the BTC, while it understands the desire of Marcos for wanting a BBL that is inclusive and all-embracing, “yet it does not agree with the senator’s statement that discussions on the BBL and the CAB were done in ‘secret meetings in hotel rooms, far away places.’”

“The negotiations took 17 years, witnessed by international bodies. During the crafting of the BBL we reached as far as Tawi-tawi, partnered with CSOs in conducting consultations with the public and foreign and local experts on different subject matters,” Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the BTC, said in a statement posted on the MILF Web site.

“At least the speculations over the Marcos report are now over and we can now do more work,” he added.

Despite the significant changes in the House and Senate versions, the BTC remains optimistic that changes in the substitute bills can be introduced during the period of amendments.

Iqbal stressed the BTC will “continue to work and engage with the lawmakers as continuous dialog is the best option.”

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House ad hoc committee on the BBL, for his part extended his congratulations to Marcos, saying he knows what it takes to shepherd an important bill positioned to end the decades-long conflict in Mindanao.

“It is without a doubt a difficult task. There are a lot of balancing acts to be done to ensure that the BLBAR (Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) remains true both to the genuine aspirations of the Bangsamoro for self-determination and the 1987 Philippine Constitution,” he stressed.

The House committee held 24 public hearings, 19 regular meetings, and eight executive sessions since the original BBL draft was transmitted to Congress by the Office of the President on September last year.

The BLBAR is the amended version of that draft and was the one endorsed for House plenary debates.

Similarly, the substitute bill devised by Marcos’ committee on local government is also called the BLBAR.

The House and Senate versions of the BLBAR carry significant differences. Among these are the Senate’s removal of the bill’s preamble as well as the deletion of the Special Development Fund amounting to P17 billion designed to speed up infrastructure development in the Bangsamoro during its first five years.

Early reviews of the Senate version also point to the seeming weakened Bangsamoro parliamentary system of government.

Rodriguez commented that the differences are to be expected. “This only proves that we have a working and healthy democracy. As legislators with independent minds, different takes on the bill are to be expected.”

“But I think both committees have been working on the same premise that the basic law should be inclusive so as not to alienate any stakeholder in the Bangsamoro. This is a very exciting, yet precarious time for all of us. We want everybody on board the peace process,” Rodriguez continued.

NPA rebel killed in Misamis Oriental

From ABS-CBN (Aug 15): NPA rebel killed in Misamis Oriental

A suspected member of the New People's Army (NPA) was killed in an encounter with the military in Barangay Aposkahoy, Claveria in Misamis Oriental on Wednesday.

Members of the 58th Infantry Battalion clashed with about 30 rebels, believed to be members of the Sentro De Gravidad (JAGU) of the NPA's guerrilla front 4B of North Central Mindanao Regional Committee under Marvin Lutawan alias "Budo".

The rebels were allegedly operating in the hinterlands of Claveria, Balingasag and Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental.

The firefight lasted for 30 minutes. The body of a rebel, armed with a high-powered firearm, was left behind.

The members of 58IB launched pursuit operations after the NPA attacked Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City in July. The said attack left a soldier dead, two civilians wounded, and another abducted.

Three members of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were also allegedly murdered by the same group of rebels in Barangay Hindangon in Gingoog City on July 19.

Col. Jesse Alvarez, commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, thanked the civilians for helping the Army identify the location of the rebels.

"We would like to thank the civilian populace for helping us identify the locations of the withdrawing NPAs. We will continue our pursuit operations until the NPAs can no longer pose a threat to our communities more so that Claveria is known as the food baskets of Northern Mindanao," he said in a statement released Saturday.

Iqbal rues removal of BBL's 'soul'

From ABS-CBN (Aug 16): Iqbal rues removal of BBL's 'soul'

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said Senator Bongbong Marcos' committee's version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is like a person with no soul.

In an interview on dzMM, Iqbal lamented that Marcos' version of the BBL took away around a hundred provisions, as well as the law's preamble.

"Mas marami po 'yung tinaggal doon kay Bongbong Marcos. 'Yung sa House po, kung ako ang tatanungin, quantity, kung bilangin mo lahat ng provisions... siguro 50 percent ang tinanggal nila. Pero itong kay Bongbong Marcos, sobrang 100 nga ang inalis eh," he said.

"Isa diyan ang preamble. Tinanggal din niya. And so, hindi ko masyadong alam kung ano ba talaga ang ibig sabihin 'nun. Kumbaga sa tao, nawalan ng kaluluwa. Kasi 'yung preamble po, that's the soul of the law," he added.

He said while lawmakers have the power to make amendments to the proposed measure, they must still respect the peace agreement between the government and the MILF.

"Ibig sabihin dahil sa kanila ang plenary power, so siyempre hindi mo sila mapigilan na they will exercise that power. However, 'yun na nga, naka-base ito sa agreement, so it is in essence, legislated agreement po ito. Ibig sabihin, dahil doon, ang paninindigan ng MILF 'yung orginal na BBL, on the basis of the letter and spirit of the FAB and the CAB," Iqbal said, referring to the framework and comprehensive agreements on the Bangsamoro.

Iqbal likewise appealed to the lawmakers to improve the BBL instead of watering down the proposed measure, which will establish an autonomous region in Mindanao.

"We realized that Congress has the plenary power, therefore, what we appeal to them is i-improve nila at i-enhance nila. Huwag i-water down. Kasi kapag iwa-water down po 'yan, wala hong mangyayari doon sa BBL na 'yan at hindi maresolba ang problema sa Mindanao."

Iqbal likened the BBL to a "medicine" for Mindanao's "illness.'' He said changing this will not help cure the illness.

"Kumbaga sa sakit, na-diagnose na ang problema. Seventeen years na 'yung pag-uuusap namin, nagka-pirmahan, and then, dapat eh 'yung magiging gamot dun eh kung ano 'yung sinasabi ng doktor na nag-diagnose. Kung ibang gamot po ang gagamitin natin, eh hindi maso-solve ang problema dito sa Mindanao."

Marcos has said the changes he introduced in his committee's substitute bill will ensure that the measure will stand legal scrutiny. He added his committee's version also addresses complaints that the draft BBL of the MILF and the Palace was not inclusive.

Armed civilians foil Abu Sayyaf attack, kill 2 members in Sulu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 15): Armed civilians foil Abu Sayyaf attack, kill 2 members in Sulu

Armed civilians helping secure construction workers for various government projects in Patikul, Sulu, foiled an Abu Sayyaf attack on Friday and killed two members of the bandit group.

However, three people, including two high school students, were also injured when some 40 Abu Sayyaf gunmen clashed with members of the Barangay Peace Action Team (BPAT) in Barangay Taglibi past 1 p.m.

Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said BPAT members, led by Taglibi village councilor Akam Ajijul, were securing trucks hauling aggregates for use in various government projects in the town when the bandits suddenly arrived and indiscriminately fired their guns.

Arrojado said Ajijul’s group battled and repulsed the bandits, who left behind two of their slain companions.

Among the slain Abu Sayyaf bandits, he said, was Tista Hussien, whose father, Juhurim Hussein, once served as an Abu Sayyaf sub-leader. The other slain bandit was identified as an Apong Kiri.

He said as they withdrew toward neighboring Barangay Kabuntakas, the Abu Sayyaf gunmen fired rifle grenades and injured three villagers.

The three wounded victims who had been sent to hospitals were identified as Nurhaida Jadja, 18; Marni Suhuri, 17, and Hadji Anni Abubayong, 61. Jadja and Suhuri were students of the Taglibi National High School.

Arrojado said the timely response of the BPAT clearly foiled the Abu Sayyaf attack.
“They responded immediately,” he said.

Prior to the Taglibi attack, the same group of bandits under Muammar Askali burned an abandoned military detachment in the village.

They also reportedly fired on an engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways and a BPAT member, who were passing by the area.

The Abu Sayyaf is a ragtag band of self-styled Islamists who have become notorious for its high-profile kidnappings in previous years.

The military’s continued operation against the group—which resulted in the killing of its top leaders including founder Abubakar Janjalani since the 1990s—barely affected Abu Sayyaf’s kidnapping and extortion activities.

Recently, the group also beheaded the chair of Aliguay, Dapitan City, whom they kidnapped in May along with two personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard, for reportedly failing to receive the ransom money they demanded.

Rodolfo Boligao’s severed head and body were recovered in Maimbung town on Tuesday.

Photo: Grilled

From the pro-CPP Davao Today (Aug 15): Photo: Grilled

 Officials of the Armed Forces' Eastern Mindanao Command are grilled by the members of the House committee on human rights on alleged abuses perpetrated by their units in the indigenous communities of Southern Mindanao Region during the second day of the committee's public hearing held in Davao City. (Ace R. Morandante/

Officials of the Armed Forces’ Eastern Mindanao Command are grilled by the members of the House committee on human rights on alleged abuses perpetrated by their units in the indigenous communities of Southern Mindanao Region during the second day of the committee’s public hearing held in Davao City. (Ace R. Morandante/

‘State has right to protect self’

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 18): ‘State has right to protect self’

“When the right of life and the security of the state is at stake, the right to telecommunicate takes a back seat.”
Acting Minority Leader Vicente C. Sotto III stressed this to insist on the passage of his Senate Bill 2677 which seeks to eradicate mobile phone-aided terrorism and criminal activities by mandating the ownership registration of all pre-paid sim cards for cellular phones.
Telecommunications corporations, however, rejected the Sotto bill.
Lawyer Rodolfo Salalima, legal counsel of Globe/TM Telecoms, said the United Kingdom and the European Union did not pass a similar measure mandating the registration by buyers of pre-paid sim cards after a study showed that there is no causal connection between sim card registration and the diminution or prevention of crimes.
Sotto maintained that the benefits of having improving technologically-advanced phones does not always work for the betterment of society.
Pedro H. Herrera-Davila, head of the legal affair of the National Security Council (NSC) said the Sotto bill is consistent with the country’s national security requirements.

Palace unruffled by China recruitment video

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 15): Palace unruffled by China recruitment video

Malacañang would rather not fan the flames of a recruitment video from China’s Liberation Army Navy declaring that it is “prepared for war” among other things.
“Obviously, it’s a recruitment video. It’s intended to entice their people to join their organizations,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in an interview over state-run DZRB.
 “But as far as we’re concerned, really, for us we concentrate on the tracks that we have taken and we concentrate on our initiatives,” she said.
The four-minute long recruitment video was released amid the persisting tension that Beijing has with its neighbors over disputed territories at sea. This includes conflicting Maritime claims with the Philippines, whose military might be weak in comparison to China.
Last month, the United Nations (UN) Permanent Court of Arbitration began hearing Manila’s case against the regional giant, which it accused of intruding into the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Valte said the Philippines will stay the course.
“As you can see, we prepared really well for the first round of argumentation before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in The Netherlands, and we would rather continue to prepare for eventualities on our initiatives,” bared the Palace official.
China has a blanket claim over the South China Sea. It has become more active in its reclamation activities the past few years, thus turning the region into a major military flashpoint.
The three-part recruitment video released last week appears to confirm this.
In it, China declared that it has “maintained combat readiness” and is thus “prepared for war.” More forebodingly, it said that it “will not yield an inch of our territory to foreigners”.
Beijing wants no part of international arbitration and instead prefers to settle disputes on a bilateral level.
Despite not seeing eye-to-eye on maritime issues, Valte said that the Philippines and China have a “multifaceted” relationship and thus would continue to work together.
“What I’m saying is that we have always approached the relationship with China on a multilevel scale. It’s a multifaceted relationship that we do not… as much as possible, we… despite the existence of the dispute on one facet, on one level of the relationship, we continue to work with them on the other facets that are already there,” explained Valte.

US, Filipino troops in wrap up war games

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 20): US, Filipino troops in wrap up war games

Army troops of the Philippines and the United States (US) conducted close quarters and urban battle training in Nueva Ecija, with the American soldiers taking lessons from their Filipino counterparts’ experience in the fight against insurgency.
The exercise conducted in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija was part of Operation Lupao, held July 9 to August 8.
“US soldiers from Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment “Cacti,” 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, received a unique opportunity to enhance interoperability with the Philippine Army by executing a “platoon-to-platoon” exchange,” said a statement released by the US Embassy.
Aside from close quarters and urban battle training, troops from the Philippines’ 3rd Infantry Battalion, 7th Infantry Division and the “Cacti” soldiers also held bilateral medical skills training, company-size attack exercises and cultural exchanges.
“The Philippine Army has been facing an insurgency for a long time now, so we have a lot we can learn from them as far as counter-insurgency and how to operate in the jungle,” said Capt. Andrew Garwitz, Bravo Company commander.
“The best way we can do it is by working side-by-side with them,” he added.
Garwitz said the U.S. Army has a lot more in common with the Philippine Army than first meets the eye, pointing out that the twi “share similar doctrine and tactics and they have a welcoming culture that lends itself well with working with another army.”
Although this is the first time the Army has been involved in Operation Lupao, the U.S. and the Philippines have a rich history as allies. Both countries participated in Exercise Balikatan, which just completed its 32nd year, and a testament to the strength of this ongoing partnership.
“There is a brotherhood and a closeness with our Filipino counterparts,” said Sgt. Joseph Forrosuelo, a Bravo Company team leader.
“We work together flawlessly,” added Forrosuela.
The exercise provided an important environment for both sides to teach, learn and grow.

AFP widens rescue ops for 4 tribal leaders, soldier abducted by NPA

From the Manila Bulletin (Aug 14): AFP widens rescue ops for 4 tribal leaders, soldier abducted by NPA

Camp Bancasi, Butuan City – The area command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday widened its search and rescue operations for four tribesmen and Army soldier who were abducted on different occasions in the hinterland borders of Compostela Valley (ComVal), Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental.

Danilo Angcomog, Laris Landakay, Jovanie Angcomog, and Kalumpot Dalon were in Sitio Bulo, Barangay Dagohoy, Talaingod town, Davao del Norte to help in settling a tribal feud when they were seized by heavily armed men.

The abduction of these tribal leaders had been blamed by the AFP on the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), the New People’s Army (NPA).

On other hand, Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba was also taken by the communist insurgents when the rebels attacked a team of soldiers belonging to the 58th Infantry Battalion (58th IB) in the mountain barangay of Alagatan in Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental on July 11.

Church leaders in Northern Mindanao have already issued an appeal to President Aquino to order the suspension of military, police operations (SOMO, SOPO) to facilitate the safe release of the abducted Army soldier held captive by the NPA after field commanders of the AFP said their search and rescue operations will continue without let up.

The military yesterday vowed to help rescue the four tribal leaders and the abducted Army soldier by suspected communist rebels.

“Our ground troops will continue their search and rescue operation and we are determined to get back the victims from the hands of the NPA bandits,” stressed regional Army spokesman of the Northeastern and Northern Mindanao 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division (4th ID).

Police still clueless on North Cotabato ambush

From the Philippine Star (Aug 15): Police still clueless on North Cotabato ambush

Investigators are still facing a blank wall on Thursday’s fatal ambush of a barangay chairman and his bodyguard in a secluded district in Pikit, North Cotabato.

Senior Inspector Sindatu Karim, chief of the Pikit municipal police, on Saturday said there is a possibility that an old grudge may have led to the murder of Dhatz Simon, chairman of Barangay Bulol, and his security escort, Akmad Bantas,

Simon and Bantas, both ethnic Maguindanaons, are related to each other by blood.

“We are also not discounting the possibility that the slain barangay chairman and his ambushers were locked in a rido (clan war) triggered either by a land dispute or political rivalry,” Karim said.

The victims were riding a motorcycle together on their way home from the town proper of Pikit when their attackers, positioned along the road, flagged them down and opened fire with assault rifles.

Relatives told reporters that Simon had earlier asked the local police and military units in Pikit to allow him carry firearm whenever he goes around the municipality due to threats to his life.

Karim said the ambushers took with them the handguns of the victims as they escaped after sensing that responding barangay officials and community watchmen from nearby areas were closing in.

DND’s Gazmin says Navy, PAF to open base in Subic even sans US

From the Daily Tribune (Aug 15): DND’s Gazmin says Navy, PAF to open base in Subic even sans US

President Aquino and his military appear to be angling for a shooting war with military power China as the country’s Defense Chief, Voltaire Gazmin, yesterday announced that the the Philippines’ Air Force and Navy will go ahead full speed with their plan to open camps in the Subic Freeport which camps will be facing the disputed South China Sea, even if the proposed American presence does not happen, since a constitutional challenge has been lodged before the Supreme Court over the issue of the Enchanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) which would allow the American forces to stay in military bases all over the archipelago.

Gazmin, in a report by Associated Press, said that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), particularly the Navy and the Air Force, will go ahead with the establishment of military facilities inside the Subic Bay Freeport which used to be a US naval base.

Gazmin said that the plan which involves the opening of Air Force and Navy facilities in Subic will proceed even without the presence of US forces. It is certain however, that the American forces and nuclear ships will likely be making use of the Subic base for probable military action.

The Philippines has already been allowing the US warships into the country, justifying these visits as US forces’ “R and R.”

The plan was unveiled two years ago to open air force and navy camps at the Subic Bay Freeport so fighter jets and frigates can respond faster to any contingency in the disputed waters.

The Philippines signed an accord last year to allow allied American forces to temporarily station in camps, including Subic, but the pact became uncertain after its constitutionality was questioned.

The Philippine and US government signed the EDCA in April 2014 to allow US troops to use military facilities in Manila.

However, several groups questioned the constitutionality of the agreement before the Supreme Court. The petition is currently pending resolution.

Among the areas considered for US use under EDCA are Subic, Clark, a former airbase of the Americans, Fort Magsaysay, Naval Station Carlito Cunanan in Ulugan Bay and Antonio Bautista Air Base both in Palawan.

During previous interviews, DND spokesman Peter Paul Galvez cited the location and the existence of a deep port that make Subic strategic.

Subic is really one of those most suited for increased capability of our Air Force, there is no question about that,” Galvez said.

“It’s location is very strategic…if we need to go to West Philippine Sea, it’s there already we don’t deny that. Then it’s port and is a deepwater port,” Galvez also said.

This announcement done by Gazmin on the opening of bases in Subic and Clark will definitely serve as yet another irritant in the China-Philippines relationship whih has alredy been soured.

The DND, also yesterday branded as “militarization” China’s plan to put up structures on reclaimed areas in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Spokesman Galvez warned that China’s continued “violation” of the Declaration of Conduct on South China Sea or West Philippine Sea could trigger more crisis in the region.

“This is the worst stage of all, this is the militarization stage, and it must be stopped, otherwise, it will be the tipping point that will plunge the entire region including the peace loving Chinese communities into a deeper and irreversible crisis,” said Galvez.

China has said it halted its reclamation activities on disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea but announced it would also put up structures in the reclaimed islands in support of activities such as search and rescue operations.

The AFP has accused China of conducting massive reclamation activities on at least seven reefs and islets under the Kalayaan Islands Group (KIGs) or the Spratlys in the West Philippine Sea.

One of the developed areas, Subi Reef, has been the origin of at least six cases of harassments against Philippine patrol in the area, with China claiming the Filipino pilots were entering a Chinese territory.

China has built a runway within the reef, which military officials said could accommodate Chinese aircraft that could strike deeper into the country’s territory.

“For whom are those search and rescue facilities for? Is it for our ships and installations that they are threatening to destroy?” asked Galvez.

“Regardless of what supposedly good details the Chinese leadership informs the peace-focused and rules-based international community, they illegally and blatantly continue with their aggression as these are mere elements of their island-building militarization which needs to stop and be dismantled,” Galvez added.

“Again, this is what we’ve been warning the international community about. It has become all too evident that the Chinese leadership had no intention of honoring its commitment to the Asean Declaration of Conduct all along. They’ve said one thing and have done another,” Galvez added.

Relatedly, Galvez said that Japan has expressed interest in conducting more exercises with the Philippines in the future, particularly on amphibious landing exercises and amphibious operations.

“Admiral Kawano also expressed interest in conducting more exercises with the PH in the future, particularly amphibious landing exercises and amphibious operations,” said Galvez.

“The SND (secretary of national defense) has welcomed Admiral Kawano’s interest in more activities with the PH, emphasizing that with regard to conducting such activities, a VFA (visiting forces agreement) with Japan would be needed,” added Galvez.

For his part, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri said that the Japanese Diet must pass laws that would allow Tokyo to sell or extend assistance in terms of assets and equipment to the Philippine military.

Kawano paid a courtesy call to Iriberri on Wednesday in Camp Aguinaldo.

“We discussed how we can further strengthen our military to military relationship based on the Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges,” said Iriberri.

The Philippine Navy has submitted a “wish list” to Japan that contains the assets and equipment that they want to obtain from Tokyo. The list is already being looked into.

Palace downplays Chinese navy's recruitment video

From ABS-CBN (Aug 15): Palace downplays Chinese navy's recruitment video

Malacañang on Saturday downplayed the recruitment video released by China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

In a radio interview, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the release of such a video is normal as it is intended to entice more Chinese to join the military.

She added that the Philippines' focus is on the arbitration case it filed against China.

"Well, obviously, it's a recruitment video. It's intended to entice their people to join their organizations. But as far as we're concerned, really, for us we concentrate on the tracks that we have taken and we concentrate on our initiatives. As you can see, we prepared really well for the first round of argumentation before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in The Netherlands, and we would rather continue to prepare for eventualities on our initiatives," Valte said.

The Chinese navy last week released a four-minute, 16-second recruitment video, wherein it included all the islands being claimed and reclaimed by China plus a show of its firepower during war games in disputed seas, according to an article on The National Interest magazine’s website. The original article came out on the Lowry Interpreter website.

The accompanying text in a second part of the video, titled “Call of Duty,” said “71 percent of the globe we depend on is blue water... wherever there is blue water, we will be there to secure navigation... China’s oceanic and overseas interests are expanding rapidly... our land is vast but we will not yield an inch of our territory to foreigners.”

The video was released amid the ongoing tension between China and other South China Sea claimant states.

Valte reiterated the Aquino administration's position that the maritime dispute should not affect the trade and diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

"You know, what we've always said about our relationship with China, is that iba-iba hong level 'yan, yet it is multifaceted. And just because we have an issue with them in terms of the maritime dispute does not mean that we will not work with them on other levels. For example, 'yung sa trade po natin, 'yung people-to-people exchanges natin, 'yung ibang diplomatic initiatives natin. So we do not let that go because we have a dispute, but rather we continue to work on these initiatives with them," she said.

For Valte, the country's trade relations with China is different from the issue of territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

"What I'm saying is that we have always approached the relationship with China on a multilevel scale. It's a multifaceted relationship that we do not… As much as possible, we… Despite the existence of the dispute on one facet, on one level of the relationship, we continue to work with them on the other facets that are already there," she said.

Army reports 1 rebel killed in Claveria encounter

From InterAksyon (Aug 15): Army reports 1 rebel killed in Claveria encounter

A belated military report received in Manila indicated that fighting broke out between government troops and communist guerillas on Wednesday morning in a remote village at Claveria town in Misamis Oriental.

The report reaching Camp Aguinaldo on Saturday informed military general headquarters that the encounter took place at around 10am Wednesday at Sitio Ilaja in Brgy. Aposkahoy.

Troops from the Philippine Army's 58th Infantry Battalion (IB) reportedly encountered 30 armed men believed to belong to the Sentro De Gravidad unit of the New People's Army (NPA) guerilla front 4B, part of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the army's 4th Infantry Division (ID), reported that this rebel front is believed headed by a certain Marvin Lutawan (nom de guerre Budo), operating in the hinter villages of Claveria, Balingasag and Gingoog City, all in Misamis Oriental.

Martinez said that a firefight between troops of the 58th IB and the rebels lasting for about 30 minutes resulted in one rebel dead and the rest escaping from the encounter site.

The government forces recovered the remains of the still unidentified rebel his firearm, an M-16 rifle with an attached M-203 grenade launcher.

Martinez said that the 58th IB forms part of the ongoing pursuit operations launched by the 403rd Infantry Brigade, dubbed as the "peace maker" against a group of communist guerrillas behind the attack of Brgy. Alagatan of Gingoog City.

That rebel attack last July resulted in the death of one soldier and the abduction of another, and the wounding of two innocent civilians.

About a week after that incident, unarmed and off-duty government militiamen were reportedly killed by the same rebel group after they attacked a militia patrol base in Brgy. Hindangon in Gingoog City last July 19.

The commander of the 403rd Infantry Brigade, Colonel Jesse Alvarez said civilians played a part in relaying information about the locations of the withdrawing NPA. "We will continue our pursuit operations until the NPA can no longer pose a threat to our communities, more so that Claveria is known as the food basket of Northern Mindanao."

Major General Oscar Lactao, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, remarked: "Another life has been wasted due to the neglect and inhumane practices of the NPA ... For the families of these NPA, we are sorry for your loss. They were all victims of deceptions of the NPA leaders in Misamis Oriental and their deceptive strategy of recruiting indigenous people to join this nonsense armed struggle. Your sons and daughters should have been alive if the NPA cadres in Misamis Oriental allowed them to live and enjoy normal lives."

Opinion: Insurgency Wars

From the Tight Rope opinion column by Modesto P. Sa-Onoy in the Visayan Daily Star (Aug 15): Insurgency Wars
For some time, I had wanted to write the history of the communist insurgency in Negros considering that this rebellion or revolution, depending from what perspective one looks at the conflict is what scientists call the critical juncture in the development or deterioration of a nation or of society. But getting the facts posed as the major tumbling block. True there are many newspapers available that chronicled the events but the most important are official documents especially in the custody of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

I had been asking retired General Raymundo Jarque for his documents and his memories of a particular period particularly of “Operation Thunderbolt” that he conceptualized and launched as the commander of the Negros Island Command. From an initial look this operation broke the backbone of communist insurgency. Finally early this month I was able to sit down with him and two retired colonels who were his junior officers – Colonels Eladio Parcon and Edwin Recabe.

Our meeting was fruitful in that they volunteered to secure copies of official reports - post operation, intelligence, operation plans and implementation, etc. We also agreed that they will write their own recollections of those days. Recabe has already written part of the insurgency war in his book, “I Was There, Under the Sun”.

To guide the research I proposed a preliminary title “Thunderbolt: History of Communist Insurgency in Negros Island”. However after I conducted initial research I realized that the communist rebellion is just a continuation of earlier people's uprising and that the causes of their revolt remain the same. In fact they relate closely to the issues of the present insurgency. There is then more than what we see at the surface.
I decided to expand the work under a new title, “Thunderbolt: History of Insurgency Wars in Negros”. My working outline so far is seven chapters but this can increase depending on the volume of documents and personal experiences that the players of this period 1975-1990 will share.

This book then traces the roots of the present insurgency to over 300 years of our history which has been pockmarked by uprising of the masses and the subsequent revolt. Our insurgency problem is a continuum but many never realized this as I also did until I went deeper into the history of armed conflict in this island.

When I was writing “Against the Rising Sun: History of World War II in Negros” my initial outline was for one volume but after I got the declassified documents from the US Military Archives in Maryland, USA, after two trips there, the number of documents forced me to write two instead of one volume. This may happen with this insurgency history.

Many of those who are still alive – military officers and enlisted personnel, policemen of all grades, civilians and government officials and public servants – have had personal experience during this period. There are families of victims that might like to share their personal loss.

Of course we have many sugarcane planters and businessmen who contributed to the military effort as well and gave in to demands of revolutionary taxes. Members of media had their hands full covering this conflict and perhaps they have their records or compilation and collection of photographs. They can write down their memories.

I invite all to share a part of their memories to be included in this book so that these memories will continue to live long after we are gone. Perchance the future generation will have a glimpse of our lives and times and learn from the lessons that our experience and understand why things happened as they did.

This invitation includes those who fought the government. I have invited Commander Iko Demafelis and Macao Gallardo for their experiences in the mountain. I already have information from the Negros clergy although I know there are much more out there.

I will welcome and be grateful if those who are still fighting the cause of our forefathers will send in the narratives. Ka Frank and Louie Jalandoni should be in this book so that we can have a fairly balanced narration of our history.

I am using the word “insurgency” rather than rebellion which connotes a crime or revolution which is justification itself so that the book will not be judgmental or tainted with smudges of propaganda as the Americans and other Filipinos did to cast our revolutionary leaders in bad light to this day. Let it not be said you were not invited.

Mercy departs Subic Bay, Philippines

DVIDS (Aug 14): Mercy departs Subic Bay, Philippines

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Subic Bay, Philippines, Aug. 14 after completing a 10-day mission stop for Pacific Partnership 2015.

During the second stop of the Philippines mission, U.S., partner nation and host nation service members and non-governmental organizations conducted subject matter expert exchanges, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief symposiums, veterinary engagements and medical personnel provided direct medical care in Subic Bay, Olongapo, Pangasinan and Manila.

The non-governmental organization Operation Smile played a significant role for Pacific Partnership in the Philippines; in Subic Bay alone the organization screened 150 patients and performed and 81 operations.

"It’s an incredible partnership," said Victoria Stabile, the Operations Smile coordinator aboard Mercy. “There is such a strong tie between the Philippines and the United States ... it's been really wonderful for us to join with the U.S. Navy and show the strength of that bond together."

Filipino first responders from the Olongapo City Urban Search and Rescue Team and U.S. Soldiers from the 84th Civil Affairs Battalion also trained together during a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness-training seminar.

"The training has gone extremely well," said Capt. John Karlsson, the civil affairs team lead. "This team (of Filipino first responders) go out to other regions in the Philippines and teach these life saving techniques to others ... It makes them a lot more versatile and have the ability to save more lives.”

Karlsson said the exchange of techniques and ideas made the training useful for everyone. "We have been able to learn from each other, and provide something that will have direct impact and meaning.”

A U.S. Army veterinary team embarked aboard Mercy also made site visits to Manila and Pangasinan where they taught Armed Forces of the Philippines and provincial veterinarians how to use chemical castration and rapid rabies detection kits. The Army veterinary team taught classes on animal dental health and surgery, as well as military working dog kennel care and sanitation, and they performed rabies vaccinations and gave deworming medicine to more than 500 cattle, 200 dogs and 30 cats.

The mission in Subic Bay was bittersweet for some as personnel from several partner nations involved in the mission, including Malaysia, Republic of Korea and Australia, returned to their home stations at its conclusion.

“It was an awesome time and a great experience working with different militaries,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Ko Naluai. “It was interesting to see how they do things and learn from them.”

Naluai said the day-to-day interaction provided him a chance to build relationships on both a personal and professional level - creating bonds that won’t soon be forgotten.

Mercy is currently underway, continuing to its final mission port in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Pacific Partnership is the largest annual multilateral humanitarian assistance and disaster relief preparedness mission conducted in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While training for crisis conditions, Pacific Partnership missions to date have provided medical care to approximately 270,000 patients and veterinary services to more than 38,000 animals. Additionally, PP15 has provided critical infrastructure development to host nations through the completion of more than 180 engineering projects.