Wednesday, November 11, 2015

2 farmers mistaken for NPA rebels released

From Malaya Business Insight (Nov 12): 2 farmers mistaken for NPA rebels released

TWO farmers who were mistaken for New People’s Army rebels were released yesterday morning a day after the military clashed with a group of insurgents in Oas town in Albay.

Capt. Mardjorie Panesa, public affairs officer of the Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said the two, Socrates Rempillo, 52, and his nephew, Ronnie Rempillo, 35, were allowed to go free after it was established they are not NPA rebels.

Before the Rempillos were accosted, Panesa said soldiers and policemen clashed with about nine rebels at Barangay Moroponsor around 2:10 p.m. last Tuesday. The 20-minute firefight led to the recovery of two M16 rifles and rebel documents.

Panesa said troops conducted the operations in response after receiving information that the rebels were recruiting civilians.

No one was reported killed or injured on the government side. Panesa said “there were indications of rebels who were wounded in the fighting.”

While the military was holding clearing operations, Panesa said troops apprehended the Rempillos.

“The troops thought that they were NPAs because they were near the encounter site,” Panesa said. “When interviewed, it was established they were merely famers who are residents of the town. They were not harmed.”

Panesa said the two were later turned over to local government officials “for stress debriefing, notification of their immediate family members and further necessary assistance.”

Military’s P68M fuel purchase for ‘Yolanda’ relief irregular: COA

From Malaya Business Insight (Nov 12): Military’s P68M fuel purchase for ‘Yolanda’ relief irregular: COA

THE Commission on Audit has found numerous irregularities in the military’s procurement of “petroleum, oil, and lubricants (POL)” worth P68.65 million in 2013.

The sum was part of the P118.65-million Quick Response Fund (QRF) transferred by the Office of Civil Defense to the Armed Forces supposedly to support to the military’s efforts in “providing rescue, recovery, relief, and rehabilitation to victims of typhoon Yolanda.”

To effect the fund transfer, a memorandum of agreement (MOA) was executed between the OCD and the AFP in November 2013, wherein P50 million was transferred to the military from OCD’s QRF in 2012 and another P68,645,912 from the 2013 QRF.

The OCD issued a check dated Dec. 6, 2013 which the AFP acknowledged by issuing official receipt No. 1589058 dated Jan. 9, 2014, two months after Yolanda struck on Nov. 8, 2013.

From the transferred amount, the AFP released four checks in totaling P68,645,912 -- the exact sum drawn from the OCD’s QRF in 2013. Records showed P58,162,738.18 was paid to Petron Corp. as “payment for POL products” while the balance was listed as “payment of withholding tax in favor of Petron Corp.”

The transaction was approved through Resolution No. 34-2013 of the Government Procurement Policy Board authorizing emergency procurement by all agencies involved in disaster response.

Questions arose, however, after state auditors found that the mode of procurement for the POL was “repeat order.”

“Moreover, it was observed that the contract of agreement for the repeat order was approved on September 30, 2013, which was a month ahead of the approval of the MOA (between AFP and OCD),” the COA pointed out.

Three other supplemental contract agreements were left undated, preventing auditors from ascertaining actual date of approval.

Supporting documents to the original contract were also not submitted including general conditions, special conditions, schedule of requirements, technical specifications, notice of award, and notice to proceed.

COA required explanations from the AFP as to why the repeat order mode of purchase was used instead of emergency procurement; why the approval of the contract anticipated the fund transfer; and the missing supporting documents.

“Until the end of the year, however, no action was taken on the requirements,” auditors said.

Some of the required documents were later turned in to the audit team, during an exit conference on June 17, 2015 but there were still several that remain undelivered including authenticated copies of the notice of award and notice to proceed as well as delivery receipts.

“The regularity of the disbursement of P68,645,912 in the procurement of POL products out of the QRF could not be ascertained since the supporting documents were deficient and the mode of procurement was not in accordance with the memorandum of agreement,” the COA said.

MILF: Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DPWH-12 start construction of FMR in South Cotabato

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 11): Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DPWH-12 start construction of FMR in South Cotabato

Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DPWH-12 start construction of FMR in South Cotabato

With a goal to help uplift the economic condition of the community through provision of paved passage facility, Sajahatra Bangsamoro and the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) Region 12 conducted a groundbreaking ceremony that signals the start of farm to market road construction in Barangay Sumbakil, Polomolok, South Cotabato. 

The event was held on October 28, 2015 and witnessed by representatives of Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Local Government Units of Polomolok, Barangay Officials and constituents of Sumbakil.

The road project connects Purok 1 to Purok 5. It will provide the community members convenience in moving between the two villages.

It will also ease the transport of agricultural products such as corn, copra, rice and vegetables from their farmlands to the market.

DPWH has allotted an amount of P22,830,00.75 for the said project with a target period of completion of 127 days.

The local officials thanked Sajahatra Bangsamoro, DPWH and the OPAPP for having Barangay Sumbakil as the project recipient.

The program has also been providing its target beneficiaries access to PhilHealth services and financial assistance to deserving college students. 

Sajahatra engages with concerned government agencies such as Commission on Higher Education, TESDA, DPWH, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Agriculture, PhilHealth and concerned LGUs in implementing its livelihood, education and health component projects.

It is part of the confidence building initiatives of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the Bangsamoro after the two parties have signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The MILF has been engaged with the state for more than 17 years of peace process in order to achieve a lasting solution to Bangsamoro questions.

The organization accepts development interventions for the Bangsamoro communities which have been succumbed to poverty because of the protracted conflicts and recurrence of displacements in the past.

The Aquino administration and the MILF is bent to establish the Bangsamoro government through the passage of the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law which is adherent to the CAB.

The CAB embodies the mechanisms that shall realize the dream of the Bangsamoro people for a self-governance and address the injustices it has experienced.

MILF: Congress leadership flexes muscles to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 11): Congress leadership flexes muscles to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Congress leadership flexes muscles to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. recently said that the House leadership is flexing its muscles to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law after President Aquino called anew for the lawmakers to pass the measure that will create an autonomous political entity for the Muslims in Mindanao.

In a report by Manila Bulletin on November 10, the leader of the Lower Chamber mentioned that Aquino reminds them about the BBL every time they talk.

Belmonte said they are doing their best now that Congress has 28 session days to approve House Bill 5811 or known as the Basic Law for Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR).

The Speaker disclosed there are still 15 lawmakers have yet to interpellate on the measure.

Peace advocates, diplomats, business communities and various stakeholders have been calling the Congressmen and Senators to pass the BBL in accordance to the signed peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Despite the comments of the surviving crafters of the 1987 Philippine Constitution that the proposed legislation is adherent to the constitution, there are lawmakers that have manifested their opposition to some provisions of the draft BBL for so called questions on its constitutionality.

The MILF leadership has said that it will still go with the peace process and deal with the next administration should there will be no BBL achieved during President Aquino’s stint.

The Front, as representative of the Bangsamoro people, had earlier said it will not accept a diluted BBL for it will not address the real problems of the Muslims in the country.

MILF: Business community supports the passage of "acceptable and meaningful" BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 10): Business community supports the passage of "acceptable and meaningful" BBL

Business community supports the passage of "acceptable and meaningful" BBL

Prominent business organizations in the country recently issued a statement supporting the swift passage of an acceptable and meaningful Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

They stated their cognizance of the imperative "to ensure lasting peace in Mindanao, allow Muslim Filipinos to exercise their right to genuine autonomy and catch up with the socio-economic development in the rest of the country, and harness the potentials of the Bangsamoro region to be an indispensable part of the country's economic engine, affirm our unwavering support for the swift passage of an acceptable and meaningful BBL."

The business groups stressed, "With the timetable tightening and with the Bill still in the period of interpellations in Congress, we respectfully call on our congressmen and senators to act with urgency to not only quickly enact the BBL, but also to pass a version that is consistent with the Constitution, adheres to the commitments contained in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and truly embodies the dreams and aspirations of Muslim Filipinos."

"The BBL must not diminish what was already given to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)," they said and that "The Expanded ARMM Organic Act should form the baseline from where an acceptable and meaningful BBL is to be crafted."

Some important provisions of the original draft of the measure submitted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) were deleted during the deliberation in the two Houses of Congress.

The businessmen noted that the poorest and least developed provinces are found in the Bangsamoro, thus "the grant of full fiscal autonomy is essential and that the region must have power over inland water and "strategic mineral" within its jurisdiction."

They said, "We believe that there is no other viable path to winning the peace in Mindanao's conflicted areas but the completion of the peace process, and it cannot and will not move forward if the BBL remains stalled in Congress. Never before has the peace process progressed to a stage where we are at the brink of ending decades of armed conflict, which has displaced and killed thousands of persons, mostly civilians."

The business organizations reiterate their "support for the completion of the peace process and vowed to accompany the government towards its fulfillment every step of the way."

"Let the achievement of peace in Mindanao be our enduring legacy for the succeeding generations of Filipinos," they said.

The deliberation of BBL in both Chambers of Congress have been stalled due to lack of quorum. Stakeholders have been calling the legislators to work on the passage of the BBL consistent with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a peace accord signed by the government and the MILF in 2014.

Once the BBL is enacted, the ARMM will be deemed abolished and the new Bangsamoro autonomous region will be created adopting a parliamentary form of government.
There were 15 bus
iness organizations which signed the statement which include the ARMM Business Council Bangsamoro Business Club, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Business for Social Progress, American Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

MILF: MILF bans the use and sale of "Shabu" in Bangsamoro and neighboring areas

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 10): MILF bans the use and sale of "Shabu" in Bangsamoro and neighboring areas

MILF bans the use and sale of "Shabu" in Bangsamoro and neighboring areas

Amidst the growing reported drug-related crimes and proliferation of the prohibited substances involving Moro individuals, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee (CC) has recently issued a resolution banning the use and sale of Shabu in the Bangsamoro.

In a one-page resolution dated October 21, 2015, the MILF leadership has declared its absolute ban of the use Shabu or Methampenamie in the Bangsamoro and neighboring areas.

The Front's central committee is cognizant that the use and sale of said substance is already widespread in the Bangsamoro homeland and the entire country.

"Effective immediately, the MILF will take appropriate action to any person, Bangsamoro or non-Bangsamoro found guilty of using Shabu and those found beyond reasonable doubt of drug pushing or being engaged in the sale and proliferation of Shabu," stated in the resolution.

The MILF-CC also directs the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) Chief of Staff, Sammy Al-Mansour, to implement the resolution "without any exemption."

In the past months, there were reported rape and killing of teenage girls in Tawi-tawi, Lanao and Maguindanao by suspects using drugs. Another mother in Sarangani provice was reportedly raped by a suspected drug addict.

The MILF's action against illegal drugs is drawing positive responses from the Moro netizens. A certain Mucha Shim urged the MILF to implement the resolution as soon as possible suggesting to pilot Sibutu town in Tawi-tawi province.

He disclosed there were small girls raped in broad daylight and murdered thereat and that thievery becomes rampant.

"I have however seen that there is very little effort or effective government intervention that no less than the barangay councils and the local elders and religious are already lamenting," he said.

MILF: Peace process will continue even if there is no BBL: BTC Chair

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 10): Peace process will continue even if there is no BBL: BTC Chair

Peace process will continue even if there is no BBL: BTC Chair

"Even if there is no BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) in the present administration, there will be continuance of the peace process," said Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal in a meeting of Bangsamoro multi-sectoral leaders in General Santos City last Tuesday October 27.

Iqbal, also chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel, oriented the Muslim leaders, which comprise the United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) in General Santos City and neighboring provinces, on the latest updates of the peace process.

The chief peace negotiator said that despite the growing support from stakeholders for the enactment of the BBL there are also growing obstacles as there are those who oppose the passage of the legislation.

The proposed measure still hangs in the two houses of Congress. Once passed into law, the legislative measure will pave way for the establishment of an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

"Now is election period where everyone is already pre-occupied on election campaigns which are posting doubts of the passage of the BBL into law this year," Iqbal said.

He said, "The real issues here are the deceptions, oppression and injustices done to the Bangsamoro despite of the sufficient domestic and international instruments that guarantees right to self-determination of the groups of peoples of the world."

"So the question must not rest on whether we have the capacity but must be laid on the bases of whether you want to advance your rights, trampled or not," the BTC chair added. 

"The Bangsamoro are doing their struggle to restore what they lost in waves' of deceptions and invasions," he elucidated.

Various stakeholders call on the lawmakers for the swift passage of the BBL in consonance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), a peace accord signed by the government and the MILF last year.

The CAB is the negotiated resolution of the two parties aimed to bring realization to the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people for self-determination.

Military ops hampering Then’s release

From the Star Online (Nov 12): Military ops hampering Then’s release

KOTA KINABALU: Ongoing military operations in the southern Philippine island of Jolo are making life very difficult for the remaining Malaysian hostage Bernard Then Ted Fen (pic).

Jolo-based anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said Abu Sayyaf gunmen guarding the 39-year-old hostage were moving him around constantly among the mountainous jungle hideouts on the island.

“They are trying to avoid the military and the order to the gunmen from their leaders is to avoid any engagement with the soldiers,” he said.

However, the worry was that accidents might happen, he said, adding that from what he had heard Then was safe.
“He is tired and weak from the constant moving around in the mountains,” Dinampo added.

He said Then was supposed to have been released together with restauranteur Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, on Sunday.

However, the negotiations for their release hit a snag when an Abu Sayyaf commander, Abu Hambri, suddenly insisted on additional conditions.

Abu is said to be an uncle of Abu Sayyaf sub-commander Idang Susukan, who had been holding Thien and Then captive since their abduction from the Ocean King seafood restaurant in Sandakan on May 14.

Dinampo said negotiators were still trying to secure Then’s release based on the original terms.

Thien returned home to Sandakan on Monday following a six-hour boat ride from Jolo.
Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said they were now focusing their efforts on securing Then’s release.

Former NPA rebel surrenders in Negros Oriental

From the Sun Star-Dumaguete (Nov 11): Former NPA rebel surrenders in Negros Oriental

A SELF-PROCLAIMED former member of the New People’s Army (NPA) has surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

The rebel returnee was formally presented to Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo Sunday afternoon at the battalion headquarters in Tanjay City, during the pinning of ranks ceremony and formal handover of newly procured rifles for the said Army unit.

Philippine Army officials identified the surrenderee as alias Kent, Jai, Ryzo and Jacent, 24 years old, and purportedly the vice team leader of Team 3 of the Armadong Yunit Propaganda, South Eastern Front-remnants of the Komiteng Rehiyun-Negros of the NPA.

The man claimed to have spent eight years in the rebel movement and also turned over a calibre .45 pistol upon his surrender.

He is the fifth former rebel to have surrendered to authorities in Negros Oriental this year.

A few months back, Degamo also welcomed four former NPA members who had received cash assistance of P65,000 each, representing P50,000 for livelihood and P15,000 immediate assistance, from the government under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (Clip).

The Clip is a government initiative that offers former rebels the opportunity to return to their families, start fresh in mainstream society and avail of a comprehensive package for livelihood and cash assistance.

Remuneration for surrendered firearms is also part of the said program for former rebels.

Soldiers overrun NPA camp in Albay

From the Manila Times (Nov 11): Soldiers overrun NPA camp in Albay

Composite troops of soldiers and Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Philippine National Police overrun the New People’s Army (NPA) encampment in a remote village of Moroponros in Oas, Albay and captured two of its members, a report said Wednesday.

Lt. Col. Perfecto Peñaredondo, commanding officer of the Army’s 21st Infantry Battalion, said government troopers and rebels engaged in a 20-minute fire fight resulting to the arrest of two guerilla fighters.

The rebels scampered leaving two high-powered firearms, one M16 rifle and one M653 rifle, one cal. 45 pistol, several war paraphernalia, voluminous subversive documents and personal belongings.

No casualty was reported on the government side.

AFP Chief of Staff Gregorio Catapang earlier declared Albay province was declared “under the manageable conflict” including the provinces of Catanduanes and Camarines Sur.

Indonesia says could also take China to court over South China Sea

From ABS-CBN (Nov 11): Indonesia says could also take China to court over South China Sea

Indonesia could take China to the International Criminal Court (ICC) if Beijing's claim to the majority of the South China Sea and part of Indonesian territory is not resolved through dialogue, Indonesia's security chief said on Wednesday.

Beijing's claim to almost the entire South China Sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, including parts of the Indonesian-held Natuna islands.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the waterway. The Philippines has already taken China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague, a case Beijing refuses to recognise.

Indonesia believes China's claim over parts of the Natuna islands has no legal basis.

"We are working very hard on this. We are trying to approach the Chinese," Luhut Panjaitan told reporters. "We would like to see a solution on this in the near future through dialogue, or we could bring it to the International Criminal Court.

"We don't want to see any power projection in this area. We would like a peaceful solution by promoting dialogue. The nine-dash line is a problem we are facing, but not only us. It also directly (impacts) the interests of Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines."

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday the Philippines' case against China had strained relations and that it was up to the Philippines to heal the rift.

Erratic winds, pilot error eyed in UH-1D chopper crash

From ABS-CBN (Nov 11): Erratic winds, pilot error eyed in UH-1D chopper crash

Investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the helicopter crash that injured four members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) and five members of the Philippine Army in Sarangani province last Saturday, November 7.

The UH-1D chopper was on its way to extricate Army soldiers injured in a firefight with the New People's Army (NPA) in Malapatan, Sarangani when it missed its landing zone and tumbled down a ravine at 9:40 a.m.

All nine passengers were injured, with the pilot suffering a leg injury. The five Army soldiers who were supposed to replace their injured comrades became casualties as well.

According to PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya, so far, environmental conditions like erratic wind movement appear to be the cause of the crash since the landing spot was on top of a mountain ridge.

They have also not ruled out the possibility of pilot error contributing to the accident. But so far, Canaya said there has been nothing to indicate that the UH-1D itself was defective thereby causing the crash.

The said chopper is one of the seven refurbished UH-1Ds that the Department of National Defense (DND) recently acquired as part of its modernization program for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The acquisition became controversial when a disgruntled contractor alleged that there was corruption in the procurement process.

The airworthiness of the helicopters was also put to question when a legislator made public initial reviews showing some of the units having engine trouble, with others refusing to start.

The PAF, however, assured the public that defects were corrected before the units were officially turned over by the supplier.

In an effort to prove their airworthiness, the DND conducted a full demonstration of all seven at Camp Aguinaldo, even letting members of the media take quick flights aboard, this news team included.

Canaya asserted that there was nothing wrong with the UH-1D that crashed, and that the PAF saw no reason to ground the rest of the units.

He himself, in full confidence, would ride these choppers anytime, he said. As a matter of fact, Canaya said the soldiers who were on board believed the new full-torso harness system of the UH-1D saved their lives, in comparison to the safety belt of the older UH-1H choppers that only secured the waist.

The injured soldiers are now in hospital, and the soldiers on the ground have been successfully extricated by another helicopter. The body of one soldier killed in battle has also been flown out.

The crashed chopper, unfortunately, has been totally destroyed and can no longer fly again.

The PAF has resorted to stripping it of the parts that can still be salvaged and used, before leaving the rest of it in the mountains.

Bombing suspect arrested in North Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Nov 11): Bombing suspect arrested in North Cotabato

NORTH COTABATO - A bombing suspect was arrested by the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Central Mindanao in Barangay Panatan, Pigkawayan town, North Cotabato Wednesday afternoon.

The suspect, identified as Abdul Manap Mentang, has a warrant of arrest for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, police said.

Based on the information received by the Army's 602nd Brigade commander, Brig. Gen. Noel Clement, Mentang was involved in the Sasa Wharf and Ecoland terminal bombing in Davao City.

The suspect has been brought to Davao.

AFP using paramilitary groups, says probe team

From The Standard (Nov 12): AFP using paramilitary groups, says probe team

The Armed Forces of the Philippines must be held accountable for the creation, arming and continued use of paramilitary groups in military operations in Mindanao, according to an international  fact-finding mission. 

There is adequate basis to compel the AFP to account for the deployment of its troops and conduct of its operations in Surigao del Sur to ascertain its role in incidents leading to the   September 1   massacre of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo and the present crisis of forcible evacuation in the lumad communities,”   the International Fact-Finding Mission said.   

Meanwhile, Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle urged the military and the communist rebels to leave the indigenous peoples alone and make their  community a “peaceful zone.”

In a statement he issued  after visiting the lumad  members at Liwasang Bonifacio in Manila, Tagle urged the Aquino administration to provide water, medicine, compassion and understanding to the displaced lumad who  have taken shelter in evacuation centers in Mindanao.

A copy of the full report of the International Fact Finding Mission, an independent probe commissioned through  “ecumenical efforts” by church-led groups, was obtained by The Standard  through Bishop Rhee Timbang of the Aglipay Diocese of Tandag. The report was  released Tuesday.   

The IFFM report scored the military’s continuing incursions to areas formerly occupied by lumad  who fled to evacuation centers, adding that human rights violations continue to plague indigenous peoples  despite earlier calls by residents to leave their communities amid  attacks of paramilitary groups in the area.   

“According to police and military statements, PNP and the Alpha Coy of the 75th IB have been in Han-ayan and surrounding communities since September 2, 2015 to secure and protect the property of the evacuees who left their communities. Despite their presence however, the destruction, burning, divestment and defacement of property still occurred, proof of their failure to do their task in safeguarding the communities,” the report read.

“Despite   these, there is continuing presence of the regular troops deployed in the communities that are currently forcibly evacuated. This situation persist despite the repeated calls to pull out troops from areas that have been affected by forcible evacuation because of heavy troops deployment in communities.”

While agencies such as  the PNP, SOCO, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), Joint NBI-National Prosecutorial Service(NPS) and the Senate have all conducted investigations to seek justice against perpetrators of the September 1   Lianga killings and related cases, the IFFM report noted that “no result has been released to date by any of these agencies to resolve the major issue of identifying and arresting the perpetrators.”

The report also confirmed the existence of alleged “historical and present connection between the AFP and armed paramilitary groups of Marcos Bocales-Calpet Egua-Marcial Belandres,” leaders of paramilitary groups who were behind the atrocities against the  Lumad  in Surigao del Sur, adding that members of the 75th IB have full knowledge “of forming, arming and using these armed groups, [such as the newly-formed Bangon Lumad] in their counter-insurgency operations.”

The IFFM report added that the Hasmin Acebedo group of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur continues to harass and extort from communities with impunity” despite the “full knowledge of local authorities.”

The report disproved claims by the military during the Senate inquiry in Tandag held last September that alternative schools ALCADEV or the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development and the Han-ayan Tribal Community School ran by church-backed TRIFPSS were cohorts of leftist elements.   

“There were no signs whatsoever of ideological conditioning nor indoctrination and political propaganda in the structuring of the classrooms, textbooks and other learning materials and lesson plans found in the schools.”

The  report also took note of the health, sanitation and psychosocial situation in the evacuation centers at the Marihatag Gym and Surigao del Sur Sports Complex in Tandag City wherein “vulnerable evacuees are all suffering from infectious diseases,” i.e. upper respiratory tract infections, acute conjunctivitis and diarrhea, because of the apparent “overcrowding, low quality and limited quantities of food, poor water supply and other sanitation facilities to maintain personal and household hygiene, inadequate health services and overall unhealthy living conditions in the centers.”

“The present ratio of toilet bowl in portalets to family is   1:24, hardly adequate for the evacuees’ needs. Solid and human waste collection is done daily but there is still the buildup of human waste in the center because of this disproportion,” the report read. “Potable water supply has been erratic depending on the availability of the government firetruck and supplemented by socio-civic organizations that provide additional household water. However, its potability is not always guaranteed.”

The IFFM report called for the Philippine government to “take definitive action” to resolve the issue of forcible evacuation of Lumads and “seriously pursue the perpetrators of the crimes committed in Lianga, San

Miguel and other communities that are still being threatened and coerced with impunity by known armed paramilitary groups,” adding that the government must take “steps to disband and disarm these armed paramilitary bandit groups” to ensure the safety of the civilian communities from paramilitary attacks.   

The Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division based in Cagayan de Oro City had earlier questioned the motive and credibility of the IFFM report, expressing its reservations on the church-led investigations.   

“First, we are questioning the legality of its mandate of investigating. Does this body have the authority for this inquiry? More particularly, have the representatives from other countries or international organizations who will take part in this body sought clearance or gained approval from the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Army Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao said in a statement.

Lactao added that the AFP supports the PNP’s Joint Task Foce Bangkaw on apprehending perpetrators of the atrocties against Lumads, adding that they are “doing everything to give justice to the victims,” hence “questioning the intent of the International Fact Finding Mission.”

The UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) had earlier criticized the murders and involuntary evacuation of thousands of lumad communities from their home villages, citing that the “lack of government protection” has exacerbated the exodus of lumad communities from their homes.

Guv pushes for PAMANA funds release

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 11): Guv pushes for PAMANA funds release

Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. yesterday asked the Department of Interior and Local Government to fast-track the release of the PAyapa at MAsaganang PAmayanan (PAMANA) Program funds under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process for Negros Occidental.

This is in support of the government closure agreement with the Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/ Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade Tabara-Paduano Group, Marañon told DILG Undersecretary Austere Panadero.

Marañon, who led a Negros Occidental provincial government group at a meeting with Panadero at the DILG yesterday, said the OPAPP and the province of Negros Occidental had entered into a Memorandum of Agreement that would cover PAMANA projects and interventions as part of the peace agreement.

He said the full PAMANA-DILG fund has not yet been released to the DILG in Negros Occidental. If the funds are not released they will revert to the General Fund by the end of December, he added.

The funds are needed for the setting up of resettlement areas for RPA-ABB communities in Barangay Celestino Villacin in Cadiz City, Barangay Locoton in Kabankalan City, and Barangay Bagongon in San Carlos City, all in Negros Occidental, Provincial Consultant Rafael Coscolluela, who was at the meeting, said.

Negros Occidental Provincial Planning and Development Officer Marlin Sanogal said Panadero agreed to fast-track the downloading of the PAMANA funds care of the DILG from year 2012, 2013 to 2014.

The provincial government needs to submit some minimum requirements and funds should be downloaded before the end of the year so it will not revert back to the national treasury, she added.

A request will also be made to the Commission on Elections to exempt the implementation of PAMANA projects from the election ban so they can be fast tracked in the first quarter of 2016, she said.

79th IB gets award, new rifles

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 11): 79th IB gets award, new rifles

The 79 th Infantry “Masaligan” Battalion, based in Camp Leon Kilat in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, received the Battalion of Excellence Award as well as newly procured carbine 5.56 mm R4 A3 rifles.

The ceremonial handover of the guns Sunday was led by Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commanding officer of the 3 rd Infantry Division, in the presence of 303 rd Brigade commander, Col. Francisco Delfin, 79 th IB commanding officer, Lt Col Harold Anthony Pascua,  and Gov. Roel Degamo.

Guerrero said the activity marked the fulfilment of one of the major thrusts of the Philippine Army to professionalize the organization, in terms of the competence of their men and upgrade their capability.

He said the new equipment will boost the firepower capability of the battalion in security-challenged areas of southern Negros.

During the program, 169 enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers also received their readiness badge and promotions, that Guerrero said were long overdue.

He said the mark of distinction given to the soldiers is a symbol of their professional competence in marksmanship, physical fitness, performance, financial standing, and overall accomplishment of their mission.

Guerrero explained the division was recently given a big quota for promotion so more than 1,000 of its personnel had their pinning of ranks.

“Let us not fail our leaders, let us not fail our countrymen and most especially, do not fail yourselves,” he told the newly-promoted Army troopers.

He said the bearer of the readiness badge symbolizes a transformed Army truly qualified and imbued with the values of honor, discipline, and service to God, country and people.

He said he is truly proud of the Masaligan battalion for being one of the very few Army units that is 100 percent compliant.

Guerrero also said the 79 th IB is one of only two battalions in his division that is equipped with the new rifles, the other one is the 15 th IB.

Degamo said he is happy with the promotion of the personnel and, as governor, he is all-out in supporting the mission of the Army in Negros. He thanked the Army for the declaration of Negros Oriental as conflict manageable and development ready province early last year, and is optimistic that the dream of having a zero insurgency will be achieved this year, with everybody's cooperation.

He reiterated that insurgency has no place in Negros Oriental.

ALCADEV head killed for 'poisoning' lumad, House hearing told

From InterAksyon (Nov 11): ALCADEV head killed for 'poisoning' lumad, House hearing told

Soldiers at a shed outside the ALCADEV tribal school in Lianga, Surigao del Sur a day before the administrator, Emerito Samarca, was murdered by the Magahat militia

Emerito Samarca, the administrator of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, was killed because he was “poisoning” the minds of the lumad, Manobo “datu,” or chieftains, told a hearing Wednesday of the House of Representatives’ committee on indigenous communities.

However, neither they nor representatives of the National Commission on Indigenous People could say if the murder of Samarca, who was hogtied, stabbed and his throat slit in a room of the tribal school in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1, was a “magahat,” or an act sanctioned by tribal leaders through rituals.

Samarca and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo were killed on the same day by a military-backed militia calling itself the “Magahat Bagani” while, as the military has acknowledged, an Army unit that had preceded their arrival in the community did nothing to intervene.

The hearing was called by the committee chair, North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, herself a Manobo, who has accused lumad who have fled their communities due to atrocities they blame on soldiers and militiamen of being “manipulated” by communist rebels and their “front organizations.”

Catamco has also echoed the military’s open accusation that schools set up by the tribes and nongovernmental organizations teach their students support for the rebels or, in ALCADEV’s case, supposedly double as “training” centers for rebel recruits.

The hearing was attended by Datus Jumar Bucales of San Isidro, Lianga and Rico Maca of San Miguel town, also in Surigao del Sur, and other tribal leaders who share Catamco’s conviction, and military and police officers.

However, it was shunned by the hundreds of lumad who trekked from Mindanao to Manila to press government to act on the atrocities committed against their communities, which have driven more than 6,000 indigenous people from their homes, the bulk of them in Surigao del Sur after the Lianga killings.

Lawmakers from the Makabayan bloc also did not attend the hearing, calling it “farcical and hypocritical.”

Catamco’s questioning revolved around the accusations against ALCADEV as a rebel breeding ground.

“Why was Samarca killed? Was he killed through the magahat?” Catamco asked during the hearing. To which Bucales replied: “Siya ang naglalason sa mga tao (He poisoned the people).”

Catamco then asked him: “Iyan ba ang rason, dahil siya ay may nagawang kasalanan sa tribo, dahil inapakan niya ang kultura ng tribo sa pagtuturo ng isang ideolohiya (Is that the reason, because he committed a sin against the tribe, because he trampled on tribal culture by teaching an ideology)?"

Iyan ang rason (That is the reason),” Bucales answered, “kasi iyong mga graduate ng ALCADEV pumupunta sa kilusan (because the graduates of ALCADEV go to the movement).”

Catamco then surmised that the decision to kill Samarca murder was not made by only one person, “ito ay dumaan sa ritwal.”

However, Bucales said: “Hindi nagdaan sa ritwal.”

Dominador Gomez, director for the Caraga region of the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, also said he could “not understand” how Samarca’s murder could have been sanctioned by tribal leaders through their rituals.

Lawyer Ruben Lingating, former NCIP chairman, who was also at the hearing, claimed to have received information that former rebels among the lumad who had kept their weapons after surrendering to government “took it upon themselves” to take steps against the New People’s Army and took it upon themselves to undertake the ritual for the “magahat.”

He claimed these former rebels warned the community to stop supporting the rebels but “the warnings were not heeded,” thus the killings.

His statement echoed military claims that they had nothing to do with the Magahat Bagani and that the Lianga killings and other atrocities attributed to the militia were the offshoot of a “tribal war” between Manobo factions sympathetic to or against the NPA.

However, Surigao del Sur Representative Philip Pichay said he agreed with Governor Johnny Pimentel’s assertion that the militias were a “monster” created by the military “because they are the ones killing the” indigenous people.

When Catamco suggested that the word “bagani,” or warrior, had been exploited and twisted from its original meaning of defenders of the people and culture of the Manobo, Pichay agreed but added, “it just so happens that in our place they (the militias) are called bagani (but) if they are not, then they should not be called bagani.”

“In our place they’re being called also bagani and they are being armed … they are responsible for the killing,” he said. “In our place, it’s the bagani who are harassing the lumad, they should be removed.”

Explaining why they snubbed the inquiry called by Catamco, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Carlos Zarate said: "How can the lumad bakwits (evacuees) expect an impartial hearing in an atmosphere where Representative Catamco is the principal accuser, witness and the judge rolled into one?"

He noted that the inquiry was based on a resolution authored by Catamco to probe the issue of 700 lumad who sought refuge at the Haran Mission House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines in Davao City.

In late August, Catamco, who had been invited to a congressional fact-finding mission to probe why the lumad from Talaingod, Davao del Norte fled to Haran, showed up with military officials and berated the refugees, accusing them of being misled by leftist groups and insisting they return home without addressing their demands that the soldiers and militias who occupied their villages and schools pull out first.

Catamco was also accused of instigating a violent attempt to evict the Haran refugees.

"We believe that this farcical hearing will not fairly represent the situation of the lumad bakwits, Zarate said. “It is a ploy to whitewash, dilute, and blur the issue of militarization and human rights violations that is driving the lumad away from their homes."

Cristina Palabay of the human rights group Karapatan,Lorena Santos of Desaparecidos, and Piya Macliing Malayao, of the indigenous people’s party-list Katribu cited Catamco’s role in the attempt to force the Haran refugees home as proof she could not be expected to conduct an impartial inquiry.

At the hearing, Maca claimed he and the tribes folk he leads were the real bakwit because they cannot move freely in their communities for fear of the NPA who, he said, require them to pay “taxes” such as a percentage of the logs they harvest from the forests.

Maca was one of the tribal leaders who gave a press conference at military headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo soon after the Lianga murders. With him was Marcial Belandres, one of the suspects in last year’s murder of another Manobo leader in Lianga.

VIDEO | China says Philippines must heal rift over South China Sea as Indonesia speaks out

From InterAksyon (Nov 12): VIDEO | China says Philippines must heal rift over South China Sea as Indonesia speaks out

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting in KL. REUTERS

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Philippines' case against China at an arbitration tribunal over rival claims in the South China Sea had strained relations and that it was up to the Philippines to heal the rift.

Beijing's claim to almost the entire South China Sea is shown on Chinese maps with a nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claim parts of the resource-rich waterway.

The arbitration case against China in the Hague "is a knot that has impeded the improvement and development of Sino-Philippine relations", a statement on the Foreign Ministry's website cited Wang as saying in Manila.

"We do not want this knot to become tighter and tighter, so that it even becomes a dead knot," Wang told reporters. "As for how to loosen or open the knot, (we'll) have to look at the Philippines."

Indonesia’s threat

The nine-dash line also includes parts of the Indonesian-held Natuna islands and Jakarta, which has kept a low profile in the dispute, could take China to the "International Criminal Court" if Beijing's claim was not resolved through dialogue, Indonesia's security chief, Luhut Panjaitan, told reporters on Wednesday.

Although he specified the International Criminal Court, which deals with war crimes, it would appear he meant an international tribunal such as the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

[Read related story: Indonesia says could also take China to court over South China Sea]

For years, China has insisted that disputes with rival claimants be handled bilaterally.

Arbitration case

In a legal setback for Beijing, the arbitration court ruled last month that it had jurisdiction to hear some territorial claims the Philippines had filed against China.

The Philippines has welcomed the decision and its Foreign Affairs Department said on Wednesday it would pursue the case "to its logical conclusion".

The Philippines on Wednesday said it is determined to see through the conclusion of its arbitration case that seeks to invalidate China’s huge sea claim amid Wang’s accusation that Manila’s legal challenge has strained ties between the two countries.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose maintained that arbitration, "a universally-recognized dispute settlement mechanism," is “a peaceful and enduring solution” to the overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

“We are determined to pursue the arbitration case to its logical conclusion,” Jose said in a statement.
"China's nine-dash line claim is expansive, excessive and has no basis under international law," Jose said.

"If left unchallenged, we could lose about 80 percent of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone)," Jose warned.

“China's unilateral, aggressive and provocative actions to assert her claims in South China Sea affect our ability to exercise our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our maritime entitlements,” Jose said. “To address these, we have resorted to arbitration.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, which has jurisdiction over Manila’s case, will begin its hearing on the merits of the Philippine complaint on Nov. 24 and will conclude it on Nov. 30.

China has boycotted the legal proceedings and rejects the court's authority in the case.

Manila filed the case in 2013 to seek a ruling on its right to explore, exploit and manage areas within its 200-nautical mile EEZ as allowed under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

"The person who caused the problem should solve it," Wang, speaking to Manila-based Chinese journalists, said hours after his bilateral meeting with counterpart Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and a courtesy call to President Benigno S. Aquino III in Malacanang on Tuesday. "We hope that the Philippines can make a more sensible choice."

Tensions flared after China beefed up its reclamation activities in disputed areas and transformed seven previously submerged features into artificial islands with buildings several stories high with at least two runways.

Several countries, including the US and Japan, have raised concerns over China’s rapid island-building.

Next week, Manila hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, an event at which the United States says the South China Sea will likely come up on the sidelines.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said China hoped "sensitive political topics" would not be discussed there.

"We hope all sides can uphold the economic trade essence of the APEC forum," he told reporters in Beijing.



EDCA, South China Sea likely part of Obama-Aquino bilateral talks - US envoy

From InterAksyon (Nov 12): EDCA, South China Sea likely part of Obama-Aquino bilateral talks - US envoy

US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg is seen in December 2013 file photo in a Senate event. JOSEPH VIDAL, SENATE PRIB

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is a "very good" accord and will likely be part of the agenda in bilateral talks between President Barack Obama and President Benigno Aquino III when Manila hosts the APEC Leaders Meeting next week, the US ambassador said Wednesday.

Ambassador Philip S. Goldberg said this in an ambush interview a day after the Philippine Senate adopted Resolution No. 1414, expressing its "strong sense" that the EDCA falls in the category of a "prohibited treaty" under the 1987 Constitution unless it is ratified by the Senate.

Also on Tuesday, as senators tackled Resolution 1414 authored by Foreign Affairs committee chair Miriam Santiago, the Supreme Court en banc met but deferred handing down a ruling on four petitions assailing EDCA's validity.

Goldberg said Manila’s maritime row with Beijing in the South China Sea will also likely be tackled in the Obama-Aquino bilaterals. Washington has recently been drawn into the matter after it deployed - as part of safeguarding, the US said, freedom of navigation - a naval destroyer near where China had built controversial artificial islands.

Manila and Beijing on Tuesday agreed not to tackle the issue in the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Summit 2015 - a request reportedly made by  Foreign Minister Wang Yi when he met Philippine officials in Manila.

But on Wednesday, Mr. Wang caused consternation among Filipino diplomats after he said that the strained relations between the two Asian neighbors resulted from Manila's filing a case with the UN arbitral tribunal, and it's up to the Philippines to take steps to heal the rupture.

Goldberg, meanwhile, told reporters in an ambush interview Wednesday, “I would imagine they will [tackle the South China Sea-related issues] when the two presidents [Obama and Aquino] get together. Those are issues of mutual concern.”

Referring to the pending cases in the SC against EDCA, Goldberg added: “We, of course, are waiting for a very important Supreme Court decision as is the government here. We have a very good EDCA and we’re looking forward to implementing it when the time is right, when all of the decisions have been made on this side.”

EDCA, a new agreement which is an added feature of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), was conceived in the wake of China’s increasing expansion into disputed territories in the South China Sea, including a large portion of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) where Beijing destroyed coral reefs and reclaimed hundreds of hectares of territory, building artificial islands for future military purposes.

The petitioners against EDCA insist it is a new treaty requiring Senate concurrence, and not just an executive agreement building on the early Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951 and the VFA.

The EDCA was forged as the US made a pivot to Asia to contain growing Chinese aggressiveness,  amid concern Beijing would control - with its unilateral imposition of the so-called “nine-dash line” - a vital sea lane where 40 percent of global trade commerce passes.

EDCA allows the US to conduct more joint exercises and station their military hardware and troops in designated camps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Philippine Cardinal calls for troop withdrawal from tribal lands

From MindaNews (nov 11): Philippine Cardinal calls for troop withdrawal from tribal lands

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila has called on the Philippine government to withdraw troops from tribal communities after thousands of indigenous people in the southern region of Mindanao fled their homes because of alleged atrocities committed by soldiers.

“We call on our government leaders to let peace reign. It means the pullout of troops from the community of our tribal people,” Cardinal Tagle said in a statement he read out before some 700 indigenous people holding a month-long protest in the national capital.

Cardinal Tagle also called for the “dismantling and disarming of paramilitary groups” that have been repeatedly accused of committing atrocities against tribal communities in the southern part of the country.

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle visits Lumads at the Kampuhan sa Liwasan in Manila morning of November 11 to express solidarity with the Lumads. Photo courtesy of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle visits the Kampuhan sa Liwasan in Manila morning of November 11 to express solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples from Mindanao who joined the Manilakbayan (Journey to Manila) to create national awareness on the plight of the Lumads.  Photo courtesy of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao

The cardinal made a surprise visit early Nov. 11 to the cluster of tents in the heart of Manila, less than a kilometer from the archbishop’s residence, that serves as a makeshift camp for protesting indigenous people from Mindanao.

“What happened to our indigenous brothers and sisters in Mindanao is sad and worrisome,” Cardinal Tagle said. “Some of them have already died and [been] killed. Many were forced to flee and abandon their homes and ancestral lands.”

Some 700 tribal people from Mindanao, collectively known as lumad, arrived in Manila Oct. 26 in a protest caravan to dramatize their demand for the withdrawal of troops in tribal communities.

The month-long march, dubbed Manilakbayan, or “Journey to Manila,” aimed to create national awareness on the plight of indigenous peoples.

Data from an indigenous peoples’ group, Katribu, shows that at least 53 lumads have been killed since 2010 when President Benigno Aquino came to power. Katribu’s documentation shows that the killings intensified in 2015, claiming 13 lives as of Sept. 1.

Tribal leaders in Mindanao earlier called on the country’s Catholic bishops to “actively intervene to end the militarization of areas where tribal communities live.”

In his statement, Cardinal Tagle called on the Philippine military and the rebel National Democratic Front, which has been fighting the government for more than four decades, to create “peace zones” in tribal communities.

The prelate also appealed for help for indigenous people who have fled their homes and continue to stay in evacuation centers. “They need food, water, medicine, care and understanding,” Cardinal Tagle said.

In a symbolic gesture of solidarity, the Manila archbishop handed an envelope containing 10,000 pesos (about US$212) to the protesting tribal people.

“Let us help them. Let us do our best to help them return to their homes and land, and live there in safety and peace,” the cardinal said. “Let justice prevail, and those guilty of killing tribal leaders should be made accountable.”

Some 3,000 indigenous people continue to live in makeshift shelters in Surigao del Sur province after fleeing their villages on Sept. 1 when paramilitary troops shot and killed two tribal leaders and the director of a tribal school.

Tagalog news: OrMin, idineklarang 'Conflict-Manageable and Ready for Further Development’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 11): Tagalog news: OrMin, idineklarang 'Conflict-Manageable and Ready for Further Development’

Idineklara ang lalawigan ng Oriental Mindoro sbilang ‘Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development’ ng Philippine Army (PA) kamakailan lamang.

Kaugnay nito, lumagda sina Gob. Alfonso V. Umali, Jr. at 2nd Infantry Division Commander Major General Romeo G. Gan ng Philippine Army sa Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) hinggil sa nabanggit na deklarasyon sa seremonyang ginanap sa Tamaraw Hall ng Kapitolyo.

Sumaksi sa paglagda sina Bise-Gob. Humerlito A. Dolor, Southern Luzon Command Commander Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya, Police Regional Office-Mimaropa Regional Director Police Chief Superintendent Dennis J. Peña, 203rd Infantry Brigade Commander Col. Gavin D. Edjawan, Provincial Director Maria Victoria J. del Rosario ng Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) at Bishop Warlito Cajandig ng Apostolic Vicariate of Calapan.

Nakasaad sa naturang memorandum na  dahilan sa maayos na implementasyon ng internal peace at security operations ng Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) na kinakatawan ng 2nd Iinfantry Division, sa pakikipagtulungan ng Pamahalaang Panlalawigan at ng iba pang sektor, bumaba na ang bilang at maging ng kakayahan ng mga armadong rebelde na maglunsad ng mga mararahas na gawain sa lalawigan.

Nakapaloob din sa kasunduan ang mahahalagang papel ng dalawang partidong lumagda sa kasunduan.  Pangunahing tungkulin ng Pamahalaang Panlalawigan ang pagpapatupad ng mga programang pangkabuhayan ng mamamayan, patatagin ang Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) upang matulungan ang mga dating myembro ng New People’s Army (NPA) na nagdesisyong magbalik-loob sa pamahalaan at kunin ang kooperasyon ng lahat ng sektor sa mga programang pangkapayapaan sa lalawigan. Aktibong pagsuporta sa programang pangkabuhayan ng pamahalaan, pakikipagtulungan sa lahat ng law enforcement agencies, pagmamantina ng sapat na pwersang militar at pagpapaigting sa mga programang pangseguridad naman ang bahagi ng 2nd ID ng Philippine Army.

Bukod pa rito, nauna nang idineklara ng Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) ang lalawigan bilang “conflict manageable and ready for further development” sa pagpupulong ng konseho noong nakaraang buwan ng Setyembre.

Inihayag naman ni Bise-Gobernador Dolor na ipinasa rin ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan ang Resolution No. 2756-2015 kamakailan na nagbibigay kapangyarihan kay Gob. Umali na lumagda sa kasunduan sa pagitan ng 2nd ID ng Philippine Army para sa nabanggit na deklarasyon.

Naging tampok din sa gawain ang pagkakaloob ng mementos kay Gob. Umali sa kanyang buong suporta sa Philippine Army na nakabase sa lalawigan.

Samantala, plake ng pagkilala naman sa kanilang masigasig na pagpapatupad ng mga programang pangkapayapaan sa lalawigan at paglahok sa mga pangunahing program ng Pamahalaang Panlalawigan  ang iginawad naman ni Gob. Umali kina Col. Edjawan ng 203rd IB; Lt. Col. Divino Ariel S. Mabagos ng 4th Infantry Division; Lt. Col. Michael D. Licyayao ng 76th Infantry Division at Philippine National Police (PNP) Provincial Director Police Senior Superintendent Florendo C. Quibuyen.

Kaalinsabay na gawain din sa paglagda ang pagkakaroon ng peace caravan sa ilalim ng Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan o PAMANA Program, isang peace-building program na ipinatutupad ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) na nagsagawa ng programa na ginanap sa Bulwagang Panlalawigan.

Pasasalamat sa mga lider ng lalawigan at sa mga mamamayan ng Oriental Mindoro na bukas-palad na sumuporta upang maging matagumpay ang mga programang pangkapayapaan ang pahayag nina SOLCOM Chief Lt. Gen.Visaya at Mimaropa Regional Director Peña.

Lubos naman ang kagalakan ni Gob. Umali sapagkat ang pagkakadeklara sa lalawigan na ‘conflict manageable and ready for further development’ aniya ay kongkretong manipestasyon na ang sama-samang pagtutulungan ng lahat ang tunay na susi sa tagumpay ng anumang programang may kinalaman sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran ng lalawigan.

Kalinga gets P55M PAMANA projects

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 10): Kalinga gets P55M PAMANA  projects

This province received an additional assistance of P55 million worth of Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) projects under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) this  year.

Provincial Director Francisco Gamatero of the  Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG)  reported during a recent Provincial Peace and Order Council special meeting, that  these projects  are all located in  the municipality of Tinglayan.

“This is part of the gains derived from the peace accord forged between the government and the former Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army to connect the mountain barangays of Tinglayan to the national highway and boost agricultural production in the area,” Gamatero  explained.

Tinglayan Municipal Engineer Basilio Chulsi Jr. reported that seven PAMANA projects  are funded out of the  P55M,  of which one is already  completed, five on-going and one is yet to start.

Completed he said is the P1M rehabilitation of the Bugnay footbridge. On-going are the concreting of the Bugnay-Buscalan road which has the biggest in allocation costing P48M,  construction of Maswa-Basao potable water, improvement of Naadchil, Patungngay and Arong communal irrigation systems (CIS) in Bugnay, and  another CIS  in Bugnay.

Gamatero also bared that other project proposals submitted  for OPAPP consideration are the concreting and improvement of Balinciagao-Amdalao road with bridge costing P52M; construction of Cagaluan, Pasil-Liglig, Tanglag, Lubuagan access road worth P20M,  and concreting of the P64M Catabbogan-Wagod road in Pinukpuk.

The provision of  community development  projects  under the PAMANA  aims to bring progress to areas  particularly in  conflict-affected or vulnerable areas.

AFP does not support IP armed groups

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 11): AFP does not support IP armed groups

The military vehemently denied the claim of progressive groups that it is supporting the Alamara, allegedly an anti-communist group of the indigenous peoples.

Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th Infantry Battalion told reporters at the Biz Talk at Big 8 Hotel press briefing that the military supports primarily the indigenous peoples who are members of the Citizens Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

He stressed that these men are controlled by the Philippine Army through the cadres up to the chain of command.

Valencia said the lumad ceased to become a member of any group once he becomes a member of the civilian active auxiliary, where he works in a detachment and takes orders from his higher ups.

He said before an IP member becomes a militia, he works as the triber’s warrior or bagani.

“Once he becomes a civilian active auxiliary, he ceases to be a bagani and works with the armed forces.

Valencia stressed the military does not know about the Alamara group which allegedly moves on its own.

He said the military would even work for the disbandment of this group especially if they are armed, once we get the information.

Valencia also welcomed the call for the soldiers to leave Talaingod, Davao del Norte.
He said there are places in the region where the soldiers are more welcome and needed by the people.

“We are willing to pull out, especially if the local government would require us to leave the place,” Valencia said.

However, he stressed that before leaving Talaingod, other sectors must be consulted to avoid accusing the soldiers of abandonment of assignment.

Valencia said they will pull out of the area if it is the desire of the majority of the people in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Maguindanao political leaders call on legislators anew to pass substantive BBL

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 11): Maguindanao political leaders call on legislators anew to pass substantive BBL

Political leaders from Maguindanao have called on members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to “pass a basic law for the Bangsamoro that faithfully complies with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bansgsamoro (CAB) and not the one that will result to a government that is even less than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

In a petition signed by mayors of the different municipalities of Maguindanao and their representatives during the Peace Dialogue with Maguindanao Political Leaders conducted at BBGM Restaurant, Buluan, Maguindanao yesterday, Nov. 10, the Maguindanao local officials manifested their conviction that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, in its original form submitted by the Office of the President and filed in the House of Representatives as House Bill No. 4994 and the Senate as Senate Bill 2408, “can address the various forms of injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and thus can bring forth dignified peace, meaningful development, and unity and reconciliation in the entire country.”

Maguindanao Deputy Governor Ramil Dilangalen, who attended the dialogue in behalf of Gov. Ismael “Toto” Mangudadatu, said the Maguindanao local officials held a new Peace Dialogue despite several similar activities in the past because of the need to continue their campaign to get “our voices to be heard.”

Sammy Al-Mansour, Secretary General of the United Bangsamoro for Justice Party (UBJP), the official political party of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), stressed the mandate of Maguindanao political leaders to secure peace in their province for their people.

Ako, ikaw, tayo, sa mga susunod na taon ay kailangan ng peace. Lahat tayo kailangan natin ng peace. (You, me, all of us, need this peace in the coming years),” said Al-Mansour.

Al-Mansour reiterated the MILF’s continued commitment to peace and the Bangsamoro peace process despite delays in the passage of the BBL.

He said “this has already been manifested when we started the decommissioning process,” which the MILF wants to complete.

“We are governed by the word commensurate or parallel. If the BBL will be passed, we will decommission. If not, we will not decommission,” said Al-Mansour.

On the other hand, MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, in a statement, urged the Bangsamoro people to remain strong and united whatever happens to the BBL.

“BBL or No BBL or Bad BBL, we need to be strong, we need to consolidate the Bangsamoro people. We should rely on our strength and [the] unity of our people. We need to build on the political capacity of our people. We, as a Bangsamoro, need to strengthen our movement towards self-determination,” said Iqbal.

The Peace Dialogue with Maguindanao Political Leaders was conducted as part of the B-BANGON Project with the theme “Building Autonomous and Stable Institution and Communities for Bangsamoro Advancement and through National-level and Grassroots Organization and Networks” which aims to protect the gains of the peace process, conducted by The Asia Foundation in cooperation with other international organizations such as the Australian Aid, Nonviolent Peace Force, Swiss Foundation for Mine Action, the International Monitoring Team and other local civil society organizations.

Dr. Steven Rood, Country Representative of The Asia Foundation and member of the Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) to the GPH-MILF peace process, said that despite the major delays in the passage of the BBL, the TPMT will stay and remain committed to the Bangsamoro peace process.

“You are not alone in this process. You have friends in the international community. And we are all working together to make this peace process happen,” said Dr. Rood.

For her part, GPH Peace Panel Chairperson Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer advocated unity and solidarity among the Bangsamoro people, especially among Maguindanao’s political leaders.

“Sana sama-sama tayong magtulungan," she said.

“Kailangan nating ipakita sa buong mundo na ang Bangsamoro ay may kakayahan basta mabigyan ng sapat na political autonomy at sapat na resources. Na kaya niyang paunlarin ang Bangsamoro, kaya niyang paunlarin ang buong Pilipinas dahil ang kaunlaran ng Bangsamoro ay kaunlaran ng buong Pilipinas. Ang tagumpay ng Bangsamoro ay tagumpay ng bawat Pilipino (We need to show the world that the Bangsamoro is capable as long as it will be given adequate political autonomy and resources. That it can bring progress and development to the Bangsamoro people and that it can contribute to the development of the entire Philippines because the improvement of the Bangsamoro benefits the entire country. The success of the Bangsamoro is the success of every Filipino),” Ferrer added.