Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Day 2 at The Hague: China hit for interfering with fishing in disputed sea

From the Philippine Star (Nov 26): Day 2 at The Hague: China hit for interfering with fishing in disputed sea

Professor Philippe Sands and Paul Reichler represent the Philippines in its arbitration case against China. Official Gazette

During the second day of the hearing on the merits of the case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, the Philippines focused on China's deprivation of fishing and exploration rights.

China's aggressive assertion of exclusive rights in their so-called nine-dash line deprives fishing and exploration in the region.

The Philippine delegation argued that China's construction activities in the region destroy the sea bed.

Counsel Andrew Loewenstein argued that China's claim is "hopeless and indefensible" as none of the three conditions to establish historic rights are present in China's case, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a statement.

He pointed out that China's construction activities in the region violate the sovereign rights of the Philippines in its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.

Meanwhile, Professor Philippe Sands pointed out that the reefs being claimed by China - Mischief Reef, Second Thomas Shoal, Subi Reef, Mckennan Reef and Gaven Reef - are low tide elevations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Under the UNCLOS, these reefs are not entitled to its own territorial sea, EEZ or continental shelf.

Sands added that China's construction activities in the features cannot be the basis of additional maritime entitlements. He also discussed China's interference with the Philippine's exercise of sovereign rights in its EEZ.

"Sands gave as examples several incidents involving service contracts given by the Department of Energy wherein the private companies were prevented from exploration," Valte said.

The fishing ban that China's Ministry of Agriculture implemented in some areas covered by the Philippines's EEZ was also discussed.

Counsel Lawrence Martin stressed the UNCLOS provision that an island must be capable of sustaining human habitation and economic life for it to be considered an island.

The features in the Spratly group of islands are classified as rocks and cannot have maritime entitlements, Martin said.

Martin showed a map which dates to 1784, proving that Bajo de Masinloc or Scarborough Shoal has always been part of the Philippines.

On the other hand, principal counsel Paul Richler proved that no civilian settlements were established on the features in the Spratlys as they are not capable of sustaining human habitation.

The second day of the oral arguments of the hearing on merits was concluded through a video simulation showing the tribunal how a machine used by China in its construction activities destroyed the sea bed.

China still refuses to participate in the arbitration case and maintained that it has indisputable sovereignty over the disputed sea.

"China has expounded on many occasions its position that the Arbitral Tribunal has no jurisdiction over the arbitration unilaterally initiated by the Philippines and that China will neither accept nor participate in the arbitration. This position is clear and consistent," Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press conference on Wednesday.

1 wounded as rebels attack tribal village in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): 1 wounded as rebels attack tribal village in Bukidnon
A villager was wounded as armed men believed to be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) assaulted a tribal village in Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, the military reported Wednesday.

Capt. Norman Tagros, spokesperson of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion based here, identified the wounded as Angelo "Loyloy" Yanggahon, a member of the Umayamnon tribe, who sustained a gunshot wound in his right arm.

Tagros said that Yanggahon has been undergoing treatment in the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Malaybalay City. The victim is now in stable condition, Tagros said.

He said that the NPA rebels believed to belong to the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee fired their guns indiscriminately toward the tribal village of Miaray, in Mandahican, Cabanglasan, Bukidnon Monday evening.

Tagros said that the terrified Lumads of the Umayamnon tribe fled toward the outskirts of the tribal village as the tribe’s cultural guards known “Baganis” could do nothing but witnessed the unfolding terror.

Tagros said that the local authorities are still determining the number of evacuees who have fled to the town proper as the military mounted a combat operation in the area.

In a statement, Lt. Col. Lennon G. Babilonia, commanding officer of the army’s 8IB, accused the NPA rebels of atrocities committed against the tribal communities in the borders of Bukidnon and Agusan Del Sur.

He said that the military is investigating into the motive of the NPA in attacking the tribal communities in Northern Mindanao.

“We assure our people, especially our Lumad brothers, that the military will bring the perpetrators of these atrocities to justice while continuing the service to secure the tribal communities,” Babilonia said.

SAF chief: Grenade attack intentional, not accidental

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): SAF chief: Grenade attack intentional, not accidental

Military authorities have maintained the rifle grenade explosion at the corner of Sinsuat Avenue and Rosales Street on Nov. 14 that hurt two soldiers was not accidental but “clearly” intentional.

“We maintain it was not accidental, it was really intentional,” said Colonel Ranulfo Sevilla, commander of the Army Special Forces Battalion whose unit is helping the Cotabato City police safeguard the city from lawless elements.

“In fairness to Supt. Supiter, my presumption was he was given an incomplete report by police investigators,” Sevilla said on Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, Cotabato City police director, statement that the grenade came from the soldiers and not fired from outside.

“I talked to him and the police chief was retracting that report,” Sevilla added.

Speaking during the Cotabato City Council session Tuesday, Supiter told councilors the blast was accidental.

Supiter said based on witnesses accounts, the 40 mm grenade came from one of the soldiers who accidentally fired his grenade launcher. He added initial investigation showed that no motorcycle riding men fired the rifle grenade in the 6:20 p.m. blast.

But Supiter admitted he based his statement on the testimonies of the witnesses. Police investigators are yet to receive statement from the two wounded soldiers.

He said the soldier carrying an M-79 launcher could have been stunned when the military truck he was riding was bumped by a cargo truck from behind.

Sevilla said it was impossible for his men to have accidentally fired an M-79 grenade launcher since soldiers on patrol do not carry grenade launcher.

Second, he said, the injured soldiers are still recuperating. They will soon issue a statement.

Earlier, Sevilla blamed Ruben Montes alias Black Moro to be behind the attack on his men after the SAF neutralized Montes' followers in a shootout along SK Pendatun Avenue, Cotabato City in September.

He also revealed in media interviews that Montes is being coddled by an elected city official. He did not name the official.

The SF battalion chief stressed there was no truth to reports a gap exists between Special Forces and the Cotabato City PNP.

“No misunderstanding between us...there is only simple miscommunication...and there is a group spreading divisiveness among us,” Sevilla said.

“We are all law enforcers and coordination and cooperation are basic in us,” he added.

“Security responsibility is not the sole job of law enforcers but all, local govt and the public,” he said. “Di lang naman kami ang pwede maging biktima baka kayo ay maging biktima rin....if you know something, alert the police or us so action can be taken immediately effectively,” Sevilla said.

Sevilla stressed Ruben Montes aka Black Moro is behind these attacks because he has acts to grind against the soldiers over legitimate police law enforcement.

Montes and three of his men engaged soldiers in a gun battle along SK Pendatun Avenue in October after they allegedly killed a motorist near the spot where soldiers were conducting checkpoints.

Montes’ wife and two followers were killed in the shootout. Arrested for possession of two guns, Montes was detained but was released on Nov. 13 after posting property bond.

Sevilla blamed Montes’ group in the rash of bombings. He said the next day after his release, his group fired rifle grenade at the Cotabato Light compound that triggered city wide brownout followed by a rifle grenade attack on an Army KM-450 truck along Sinsuat Avenue that hurt two soldiers and two civilians.

Another grenade was found in front of Cafe Florencio bingo center.

8 ex-NPA rebels in S. Cotabato get livelihood aid

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): 8 ex-NPA rebels in S. Cotabato get livelihood aid

The national government and the local government of South Cotabato have released around PHP520,000 in grants to eight former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who surrendered in the area earlier this year.

Lailyn Ortiz, Department of the Interior and Local Government-South Cotabato provincial director, said Thursday the grants comprise the approved livelihood and other financial assistance for the returnees under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

She said it includes PHP50,000 each from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and PHP15,000 from the provincial government of South Cotabato.

“These grants will fund the livelihood projects that they proposed under the program,” she said.

Prior to the approval of the livelihood grants, Ortiz said they required the beneficiaries to submit business plans to ensure the sustainability of the projects.

Lt. Col Ronald Jess Alcudia, commanding officer the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion, said the eight rebel returnees surrendered and laid down their firearms several months ago following a series of negotiations.

He said they were formerly under NPA units that operate in the boundaries of South Cotabato and Sarangani provinces.

The official said they immediately enrolled them to the CLIP so they could avail of various livelihood and financial assistance.

Under the program, he said a rebel returnee is assured of PHP50,000 in livelihood assistance and incentive for each firearm that they surrender.

“The returnees are subjected to healing and reconciliation programs and are provided with given legal assistance,” he said.

Alcudia said they also undergo skills training to prepare them for their chosen livelihood projects.

CLIP reintegrates former rebels into the social mainstream and uplifts their socio-economic conditions to enable them to become active partners in the local development.

The program also seeks to contribute towards the achievement of the goal of permanent peaceful closure of all armed conflicts with non-state armed groups.(

Phil. Army to lead youth leadership summit in Nueva Vizcaya

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): Phil. Army to lead youth leadership summit in Nueva Vizcaya

The Philippine Army based in Dupax del Sur town here will conduct a series of Youth Leadership Summits (YLS) to develop the positive potentials of the youth as responsible citizens in their respective communities.

Lt. Colonel Eugene Batarra, commanding officer of the Army’s 5th Infantry Battalion in Dupax del Sur town, said the YLS is part of their Civil Military Operations (CMO) activities in its covered municipalities.

The YLS, he said will be conducted from December 11 to 13 in the towns of Kasibu, Dupax del Norte and Dupax del Sur.The YLS has been reported during the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) meeting yesterday at the provincial capitol here.

Batarra said the YLS will provide significant lectures for the youth ranging from drug abuse prevention and control, environmental protection/climate change adaptation and mitigation activities, health sanitation community development, among others.

“These activities are geared towards molding the character and attitudes of our youth as God–fearing, law abiding and responsible assets of our communities,” he said.

GPH-MILF, PCBL deactivate bomb in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): GPH-MILF, PCBL deactivate bomb in Maguindanao

Government and Moro peace panels as well as the Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), Fondation Suisse de Déminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD), International Monitoring Team (IMT) and elements of Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team, have successfully deactivated a 120 kilogram bomb in Maguindanao Wednesday, officials said Thursday.

An aircraft bomb, called HPGP MK81, was jointly defused by members of the GPH and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) in Barangay Datalpandan, Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

Accompanying the bomb experts in deactivating a highly dangerous bomb were repsentatives from Philippine Campaign to Ban Landmines (PCBL), Fondation Suisse de Déminage (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action or FSD), International Monitoring Team (IMT) and elements of 6th Infantry Division Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team.

Villagers discovered the bomb and alerted police and military authorities in the area.

A bomb expert taking part in the deactivation said the aircraft bomb could demolish a four-storey building.

“That is how powerful this ordnance is,” he said.

He advised villagers in Maguindanao not to tinker with any bomb or explosive that they will find in their farming areas to avoid loss of lives.

The joint government and MILF bomb disarming activities in Mindanao was contained in a normalization annex of the GPH-MILF peace agreement signed in 2014.

According to Fred Lubang, PCBL national coordinator, said the activity was contained in the Annex E on Normalization under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed on January 25, 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

He said the activity is saving lives and it must continue as there could be more similar bombs litter in former battlefields in Maguindanao.

Blast hits Cotabato City, nobody hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): Blast hits Cotabato City, nobody hurt

Another blast rocked Cotabato City Wednesday night, particularly at the sentry of civil-military office, the fourth since November 14, police said.

But no one was hurt in the 6:15 p.m. blast but it partially damaged a bamboo perimeter fence of the 6th Civil Military Battalion headquarters at PC Hill, this city.

The military here has been bracing for grenade attacks since last September when two soldiers of Army Special Forces Battalion manning a detachment at the heart of the city were killed by rifle grenade attack.

Since November 14, four grenade attack was recorded in the city that left four persons injured, including two soldiers.

Senior Supt. Raul Supiter, Cotabato City police director, said the blast at CMO headquarters was believed to have been fired by motorcycle riding men.

“We are following up a lead,” he said.

The CMO headquarters was located along Veterans Avenue which served as detour route from commuters from downtown area to Mabini Street.

Colonel Ranulfo Sevilla, 5th Special Forces Battalion commander, who lost two men in previous rifle grenade attacks, blamed a notorious syndicate who wanted to get back at the military for previous operations.

He named Ruben Montes, a leader of a gang operating in Cotabato City whose three followers, including his wife, were killed in a shootout with SF forces along SK Pendatun Avenue.

Montes was arrested for gun possession and was charged accordingly but was freed on November 13 on court order after posting property bail bond.

The next day, Sevilla said, Montes and his men fired a rifle grenade at the Cotabato Light power firm, triggering city-wide brownout followed by rifle grenade attack on Army KM-450 vehicle that injured two soldiers and two civilians. The following day, a hand grenade was lobbed but did not explode in front of a bingo center along Sinsuat Avenue.

“We believed all these were the works of Montes because he was capable, he has acts to grind against the SF and is protected by a local official,” Sevilla told reporters without naming the official.

San Sebastian town in Samar declared ' Insurgency-Free'

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): San Sebastian town in Samar declared ' Insurgency-Free'

The Municipality of San Sebastian in Samar Province was declared by its Municipal Peace and Order Council (MPOC) an "Insurgency-Free" locality on Monday(Nov. 23).

This was disclosed in a statement forwarded by 8th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Isagani Viernes Wednesday.

The Joint-Declaration was formalized through a covenant signing of the Municipal Resolution No. 39 S-2015 passed by the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of San Sebastian, Samar, publicly presented and signed by Mayor Mayor Antero M. Gaviola Sr., with Col. Perfecto M. Rimando Jr, Commander 801st Brigade, representing the military.

The covenant signing was witnessed by Senior Insp. Edward Gabral Cugtas, Officer-In-Charge San Sebastian Municipal Police Station, Lt. Col. George M. Domingo, Commanding Officer of 87th Infantry Battalion, Vice Mayor Imelda Abalos, SB Members, Nimfa Quirante of Philippine Information Agency Samar, representative from Samar Police Provincial Office and barangay chairpersons from the municipality.

Rimando explained the impact of declaring San Sebastian as insurgency-free to the local economy as well as to the constituents considering its high potentials for growth and development.

“The declaration will definitely attract investors to establish their businesses in the municipality and in return will greatly improve the town’s economic and financial status where the people will be the ultimate beneficiaries,” he added.

PAF, one of the first operators of supersonic F-5 fighter jets

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): PAF, one of the first operators of supersonic F-5 fighter jets

While delivery of the Mach 1.5 (990 miles per hour) capable FA-50PH this Friday will regenerate the supersonic capability of the Philippine Air Force, it is interesting to note that the PAFwas one of the first military units to operate the faster-than-sound Northrop F-5 "Tiger" jet fighter.

The F-5 was acquired to replace the subsonic North American F-86 "Sabrejets" which the country's fighter squadrons was then equipped.

The F-5 has a top speed of Mach 1.6 (roughly 1,060 miles per hour) and a combat range of 760 nautical miles.

The PAF version of the F-5 is armed with two 20mm automatic cannons and wingtip fitted AIM-9s "Sidewinder" heat-seeking missiles.

The F-5 was a very maneuverable fighter and could turn and dogfight well its larger and more capable counterparts.

At the time, the Philippines was one of the largest operator of the aircraft in Southeast Asia.

South Vietnam was also one of the first user of the aircraft.

The F-5A/Bs were used by the PAF's "Blue Diamonds Aerobatic" team, underwent an upgrade which equipped it with surplus AN/APQ-153 with significant overhaul at the end of the 1970s to stretch their service life another 15 years.

The aircraft was used for air and ground attack missions by the PAF.

In 2005, the Philippines decommissioned its remaining F-5A/B fleet, including those received from Taiwan and South Korea, due to lack of funds and airframe attrition.

Its air defense tasking was then passed on the subsonic SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers.

The said aircraft will be doing this mission until the commissioning of the FA-50PH later this year.

The F-5 started life as a privately funded light fighter program by Northrop in the 1950s.

The first-generation F-5A entered service in the 1960s.

During the Cold War, over 800 were produced through 1972 for US allies.

Spain, PHL return to Samar island to help fishers recover with ‘peace boats’

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): Spain, PHL return to Samar island to help fishers recover with ‘peace boats’

Local fisherfolk from three Eastern Samar towns who were among the victims of super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013 received 63 ‘peace boats’ from a joint project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Agencia Española Cooperacion International para el Desarrollo (AECID or Spanish Aid) to help survivors of the disaster get back on their feet.

"We know that the Yolanda experience can never meet our imagination, how hard it was for you, but we are here to extend the kind of help you deserve. We are here to strengthen and build relationships in our pursuit of peace and prosperity,” said OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles during the turnover ceremony held in the town of Hernani, Eastern Samar.

The 63 ‘peace boats’ comprise the latest batch turned over to the Yolanda-devastated fishing communities in Samar island under the joint OPAPP-AECID project. The Boat and Net Livelihood Project dubbed as ‘BangKapayapaan’ (peace boat) was conceptualized right after Yolanda hit vast parts of the country in November 2013. At its end, the project should benefit some 400 fisherfolk from selected coastal communities in Samar island.

Each ‘peace boat’ comes complete with gear, fishnet, and engine.

Those targeted to receive the ‘peace boats’ were prioritized based on the case studies and assessment made by their respective Municipal Social Welfare and Development offices. The communities were identified based on the number of coastal barangays per municipality, and the number of actual fishers severely affected.

This latest batch of 63 ‘peace boats’ benefitted 148 fisherfolk from the fishing communities in the municipalities of Hernani, Lorente, and Gen. MacArthur in Eastern Samar province. To ensure the safety of the fishers in these areas, the boats were made to follow the specifications of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources—making them fit to sail in the Pacific Ocean.

In March 2014, an initial batch of 50 ‘peace boats’ was turned over to fishers from Sta. Rita town in Western Samar province and from the municipalities of Villareal and Marabut in Samar province.

‘BangKapayapaan’ is lodged under the AECID-funded Mainstreaming Peace and Development in Local Governance Project, which seeks to instill conflict-sensitivity and peace promoting principles in local governance.

“Pinatitibay ng aming pagdating ngayon ang ating paniniwala at intensyon sa patuloy na pagtahak ng landas tungo sa kapayapaan at kaunlaran na tunay na mararamdaman ng mga mamamayan at pang-matagalan,” Deles noted. “Ito po ang landas ng Tuwid na Daan na sinasabi dapat walang maiiwan, dapat mas mararamdaman ng mga mamamayan ang reporma.”

(Our presence here today affirms our belief and intent to continue with the path of peace and development that is truly felt by the people and that it would last. This is the path of Tuwid na Daan, where no one is left behind, where reforms are felt by the people.)

Also present to witness the event were delegates from Spain led by Spanish Ambassador H.E. Antonio Calvo; AECID General Coordinator Juan Pita; OPAPP officials, including Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo and Assistant Secretary Jennifer Oreta; Mayors Tito Codoy, Jr of the town of Llorente and Edgar Boco of the town of Hernani, representatives from the provincial government of Eastern Samar, and officials from other regional line agencies.

Ranking NPA leader in Bicol nabbed in Cavite

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): Ranking NPA leader in Bicol nabbed in Cavite

A ranking leader of the New People's Army (NPA) rebel group in Bicol was arrested by military and police units in a joint operation in Trece Martirez City, Cavite province on Wednesday morning.

Major Angelo Guzman, Southern Luzon Command spokesperson, identified the arrested rebel leader as Andres Hubilla alias "Ka Magno," a member of Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC) and a former secretary of Komiteng Probinsya ng Sorsogon (Komprob Sorsogon).

Hubilla, who has a pending arrest warrant for murder and attempted murder, was arrested at around 9:05 a.m. in Barangay Hugo Perez.

Seized from his possession were several hand grenades, cellphones and documents with high intelligence values.

Hubilla is now at Trece Martirez City Police Station for documentation and filing of appropriate and additional charges.

“With the apprehension of Andres Hubilla or 'Ka Magno', the rebel’s leadership and ranks in Bicol will be paralyzed. In effect, a more peaceful, progressive and prosperous region will soon emerge,” 903rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Cesar Idio said.

“The AFP together with the PNP will proficiently work against these threat groups in order to attain the peace that the Bicolanos desires," he added.

Kabataan Partylist questions constitutionality of ‘No Bio, No Boto’ at SC

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): Kabataan Partylist questions constitutionality of ‘No Bio, No Boto’ at SC

The Kabataan Partylist on Wednesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to assail the constitutionality of the “No Bio, No Boto” policy of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

In a 32-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the Kabataan Partylist sought for the exercise of judicial review to assail the constitutionality of the deactivation of registration of voters without biometrics and enjoin the implementation of provisions of the Republic Act No. 10367 or “An Act Providing for Mandatory Biometrics Voter Registration.”

The Kabataan Partylist also sought for the nullification of Comelec Resolution No. 9721 dated June 26, 2013, Resolution No. 9863 dated April 1, 2014 and Resolution No. 10013, all related to deactivation of voter registration records in the May 9, 2016 National and Local Elections, as directed by the assailed RA No. 10367.

Assisted by legal counsel Atty. Krissy Conti, petitioners include Kabataan Partyist Rep. Terry Ridon and Kabataan Partylist president Marjohara Tucay, who are suing for and in behalf of the youth party, along with Sarah Elago, president of the National Union of Students of the Philippines; Vencer Crisostomo, chairperson of Anakbayan; Marc Lino Abila, national president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines; Einstein Recedes, deputy secretary-general of Anakbayan; Charisse Bañez, chairperson of the League of Filipino Students; and aggrieved parties Arlene Clarisse Julve and Sining Marfori, both of whom stand to lose their right to vote due to the assailed law and implementing regulations.

“Republic Act No. 10367 and its implementing regulations are unconstitutional as these impose an unconstitutional, additional substantive requirement imposed on the exercise of suffrage, thus violating Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution,” the petitioners said.

They noted that the 1987 Constitution explicitly states that “[n]o literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage.”

“In contravention of the above-stated constitutional provision, Republic Act No. 10367 and its implementing regulations imposed an additional substantive requirement for all voters, both old and new registrants, to submit for mandatory biometrics validation or risk being deactivated or removed precinct book of voters, thus effectively barring them from the exercise of their right to vote,” they added.

“Further egregious is the fact that voters with active records according to Republic Act No. 8189, the antecedent Voters Registration Law of 1996, comprise bulk of those who will be deactivated. The deactivation of registered voters qualified under Republic Act No. 8189 is incompatible with the tenet that laws with penal sanctions should apply prospectively and not retrospectively,” they said.

“Secondly, the biometrics validation gravely violates due process as it is an unreasonable deprivation of the constitutional right to vote for millions of Filipinos who have failed to register their biometric information despite existing and active registration – in effect a voter’s re-registration – for various reasons whether personal or institutional,” they added.

The petitioners noted that despite Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” campaign, official data from the Comelec showed that only 3,599,906 registered voters have undergone the mandatory biometrics validation procedure as of Sept. 30, 2015.

The Comelec also revealed that a total of 3,059,601 registered voters remain without biometrics data as of Sept. 30, 2015.

According to the Comelec, this figure is equivalent to 5.86 percent of the total 52,239,488 registered voters for the 2016 national and local elections.

“It is thus apparent that over three million registered voters stand to illegally lose their right of suffrage in the May 9, 2016 national and local elections without the benefit of due process due to the implementation of an additional requirement that is patently unconstitutional,” the petitioners argued.

Just last month, the Kabataan Partylist and several youth groups also filed a petition before the SC to question the Oct. 31, 2015 deadline for voters’ registration set by the Comelec.

The SC has already ordered Comelec to comment on the said petition.

PHL welcomes intl observers to tribunal case vs China

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): PHL welcomes intl observers to tribunal case vs China

The Philippines on Wednesday welcomed the participation of seven countries, which include Australia and two South China Sea claimants, as observers to witness the hearings by the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines’ case that seeks to invalidate China’s massive sea claim.

Judicial proceedings are not open to the public, but the court has allowed Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam to witness the proceedings upon their request.

"The number of observers at the oral hearing reflects the keen interest of the internatioal community in the arbitration case, which is a major contribution of the Philippines to the maintainance of an international order based on the rule of law," Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

The South China Sea - a major shipping route - are contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan. Natural gas, undersea oil deposits and rich mineral reserves were found in several areas.

Manila filed a case against on January 22, 2013.

China has snubbed the proceedings, saying it does not recognize Manila's case, calling it baseless and lacking in legal merit.

The five-member Arbitral Tribunal is chaired by Judge Thomas A. Mensah of Ghana. Other members are Judge Jean-Pierre Cot of France, Judge Stanislaw Pawlak of Poland, Professor Alfred Soons of the Netherlands, and Judge Rüdiger Wolfrum of Germany.

Jose said the hearing will end on or before November 30 and a final decision is expected sometime in 2016.

8th ID joins nationwide VAW campaign

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): 8th ID joins nationwide VAW campaign

The Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army is participating in the 18-day campaign to end Violence Against Women (VAW) from Nov. 25 to Dec. 12, 2015.

The VAW campaign calls for the elimination of all forms of violence, may it be physical or psychological, against women.

The launching of the campaign awakens the soldier’s awareness and reminds everyone on the responsibility and commitment to end violence with the theme: "End VAW, It’s Our Duty; Gains and Ways Forward."

The highlights of the opening program were the reading of messages by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri and Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin.

Iriberri conveyed that the AFP strongly supports this laudable cause and gladly joins the Philippine Commission for Women in promoting the awareness advancement of this advocacy.

The AFP is one and in unity with the DND in the widest promotion of this movement and will commit its active participation in all activities lined up in the succeeding weeks as the AFP’s way of showing solidarity with the rest of the nation.

In his message, Gazmin urged "all AFP members to learn about VAW, and why it must be condemned; to respect women and treat them with respect, whether they’re eight or 88, and regardless if they’re our partners, our co-workers, part of our peer group or total strangers."

Soldiers were also reminded to keep in mind that masculinity does not include degrading or abusing women and to never remain silent when an act of violence against women happens.

Marquez says PNP still in heightened alert

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 25): Marquez says PNP still in heightened alert

Even without the United States worldwide travel alert, the Philippine National Police (PNP) has announced that its forces remain in heightened alert.

This was stressed by the PNP chief, Director General Ricardo Marquez, on Wednesday.

"Our alert level remains in heightened alert, even without the travel alert from the US government. It is due to the coming Christmas season and our focus to ensure that nothing untoward will happen during the Yuletide," he added in Filipino.

The US travel alert was issued in the wake of continued attacks by terrorist groups worldwide.

Marquez also said all security preparations for the coming Christmas season and other contingencies are now in place.

"Our security preparations have been in place. These have been templated before and we are working very closely with the Armed Forces of the Philippines because they are the lead agency in some areas," the PNP chief pointed out.

Marquez said they are still to detect any security threats.

FA-50PH arrival re-scheduled to Saturday due to bad weather in SoKor

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 26): FA-50PH arrival re-scheduled to Saturday due to bad weather in SoKor

The scheduled arrival Friday of the country's first two FA-50PHs was moved to Saturday due to prevailing bad weather over South Korea.

The first two of 12 units of the fighter aircraft were scheduled to arrive at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga.

This was disclosed by Department of National Defense Public Affair Service media officer Prime Berunia in an advisory Thursday.

"Arrival of FA-50PH tomorrrow (Friday) was re-scheduled to Saturday, same time and venue, due to bad weather in (South) Korea," he added.

The F/A-50 (the other designation for the FA-50PH) has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.

It will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.

The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.

KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.

The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.

The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.

There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.

An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.

Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.

The F/A-50 uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and Korean Aerospace Industries.

The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.

Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.

The Philippine Left and the 2016 elections

From the Asian Correspondent (Nov 25): The Philippine Left and the 2016 elections

Hyun Jung-hwa

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte is throwing his hat into the presidential derby and he is making the 5-corenered race a close call.Pic by Edwin Espejo

THE Philippine Left has always considered elections as a panacea and a cosmetic political exercise to address the basic ills of society. It sees the election as a non-violent means to resolve contradictions among the ruling elite.

As a matter of principle and policy, the Underground Left – meaning the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front – will never participate in a ‘bourgeois’ election.

But the tactical error in the 1986 snap presidential election that the CPP-NPA-NDF boycotted led to the chagrin of their leaders in the open mass movement. The boycott proved to be costly as it was left in the fringes of government immediately after the Marcos dictatorship.

With the opening up of the democratic space as a result of the EDSA popular uprising, the Left supported, if not organized, a political party and fielded progressive candidates from the ranks of its allies and leaders in the legal front.

Officially however, the CPP-NPA-NDF still did participate as it was still an illegal organization trying to strike a peace deal with the Corazon Aquino administration.

The results of the 1987 elections for the revived Philippine Congress proved to be less encouraging for the Left. It lost all its candidates that ran for the Philippine Senate under Partido ng Bayan while winning only two seats at the House of Representatives.

The Partido ng Bayan has since been dissolved and the Left continued to ignore the Philippine elections until 2001 when its allies first ran for party list representatives in Congress and won the maximum three seats allowed by garnering over 1.7 million votes.

Buoyed by the success of Bayan Muna, the progressive Left expanded its party-list base to include Anakpawis in 2003. It further widened to include Gabriela, Kabataan and Alliance of Concerned Teachers and improved the number of its party list representatives to seven in the 2013 elections.

In between, Bayan Muna and the coalition of allied party list organizations – the Makabayan – attempted to forge formal alliance with mainstream political parties and there had been informal tactical cooperation with individual candidates for national posts.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres

Senators Grace Poe (left) and Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero are front runners in next year’s general election. Pic: Edwin Espejo.
In 2010, Satur Ocampo and Lisa Maza were included in the line-up of the Nacionalista Party which fielded Manny Villar as its presidential candidate despite sharing the same slate with Ferdinand Marcos Jr who won as a senator.

Ocampo and Maza landed nowhere near the top 12 and lost, as did Villar.

Humbled by the failed experiment in forging formal alliance with established and mainstream political parties, then outgoing Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño decided to run for senator as an independent in 2013.

Casiño however also lost although he scored high in the emerging social media community.

Close call

The 2016 elections will probably go down as the closest presidential race in the post-Marcos era.

With five viable candidates vying for the country’s top position, a plurality of 30 percent of the total votes cast for the president could mean victory, in which case, the Philippines will again have a ‘minority’ president.

The entry of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the presidential race to crowd Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Aquino cabinet secretary Mar Roxas, senators Grace Poe and Miriam Santiago is giving the Left opportunity as well as debate where and how it should conduct its alliance work.

The Left has, at one point or another, had and continues to have tactical alliance and political relationship with Binay, Poe and Duterte. Roxas’ father, the late Senator Gerardo Roxas, was also a known ally during the anti-dictatorship struggle.

His son Mar Roxas however has not manifested the same attitude towards the Left. On the contrary, his political base and operators are known to be rabid anti-Left. Only Santiago did not have known and established relationship with the Left – both above ground and underground.

If the left were not so successful in forging tactical and working alliance with presidential candidates in the past, they seem to be the unintended beneficiaries of next year’s election.

With last term Bayan Muna party list Rep. Neri Colmenares the first to be announced as part of the senatorial line-up of the Grace Poe-Chiz Escudero tandem, it gives the impression that Makabayan will give its all-out support to the leading pair.

But Binay’s past relations with Bayan Muna and its allied organizations in Makati is something also worth looking into. Bear in mind that Binay has not issued any statement that would indicate he has beef with the Left.

 Hyun Jung-hwa

Erstwhile presidential front runner and Vice president Jejomar Binay has slipped down in the survey. Pic: Edwin Espejo.
The Duterte ‘problem’

Then there is Duterte. Duterte is one of the very few local government officials who openly flaunted his ‘friendship’ with the Communist Party of the Philippines, offering slots to his slate in the election to known mass leaders in Davao City with leftist orientation.

It began in 1992 when the late Erasto ‘Nonoy’ Librado, then the Mindanao secretary general of Kilusang Mayo Uno, and Gabriela’s Nenen Orcullo were included in former Lakas ng Dabaw slate for the city council. Both won.

That tradition continued until 2013 and it appears it will go on again next year.

In all likelihood, the Left will have space in any of Binay, Poe or Duterte presidency.

Should Roxas win and his core of ‘yellow brigade’ continuing to hold sway in the political front, the allies of the Left could be marginalized.

But Roxas’ impetuous character and unabashed defense of his class origin could play into the CPP-NPA-NDF’s recruitment campaign.

Unlike Binay, Poe and Duterte, Roxas may not be in the mood to pursue peace negotiations and the war in the countryside could escalate, further polarizing the country. His indecisiveness will likewise give rise to the hawks in government who see the crushing of the communist insurgents as the ultimate objective of governance.

It could turn bloody but it will galvanize the position of the Left that the only viable option for all encompassing change in the Philippine society is armed struggle.

The Left attraction

What makes the Left attractive to all presidential candidates with a good shot at winning is its base of 4.3 million command votes which, in a close election, could become a decisive factor.

By accumulating and consolidating its electoral base over the years, the Left, while still incapable of winning a Senate seat let alone the presidency by itself, is now in the position of being able to sway and tilt the balance in the expected close presidential race next year.

No wonder Poe pulled the gun first by recruiting Colmenares into her Senate slate. In 2013, both Poe and Escudero courted the Left vote, running as independents but accepting guest roles in the coalition party led by Aquino’s Liberal Party.

Poe’s adoption of Colmenares came when Duterte had just announced he was then not running for president.

But with Duterte throwing his lot into the presidential race, the Left may be facing a dilemma in coalition building and alliance work.

Between Poe and Duterte, the latter has proven his consistency and has a long track record of accommodating the Left. He has in fact taken up issues propounded by the militants as his own.

His open support for negotiated political settlement with the communist insurgents is hard to dismiss as against Poe’s adoption of Colmenares and their very brief but still untested ties.

But it will not appear good if the Left will urge its forces and allies who have already made commitment to Poe. On the other hand, neither is it appealing not to support Duterte with whom it has a long history of political and personal links.

But with Duterte, the Left could extend its coalition and alliance work far beyond its political ties with the Davao City mayor.

It can revive and solidify its alliance with Manny Villar and the Nacionalista Party to add to Duterte’s PDP-Laban. Duterte is himself expected to get support from the majority of the Nationalist People’s Coalition. And if he can prove his ability to win, former President Joseph Estrada may decide to shift support for him.

If that happens, Poe and Escudero could end up without a political machinery. Nobody has won the Philippine presidency while running as independent.

Duterte, who in the 1st week of September before he first announced he is not running reportedly only has P60 million in campaign funds, is also not lacking in financial supporters.

He has admitted that aside from Villar, also expressing their willingness to give financial support to his p[residential bid are billionaire Enrique Razon of ICTSI, Lucio Tan of Philippine Airlines, Lucio Co of Puregold and even Gabby Lopez of ABS-CBN.

The possibility of being able to become a formidable and tilting force in the presidential election is both appealing and challenging for the Left.

The Poe-Duterte debate aside, the Left is in the best position to be a major factor in the presidential election for the first time ever.

Lumads tell NPA to leave them alone

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 25): Lumads tell NPA to leave them alone

Lumads, or indigenous peoples of Mindanao, want the New People’s Army (NPA) to leave them alone.

This was the stand made by Lumad leaders at a recent dialogue with local government officials on the occasion of the “Peace Walk” held at the Provincial Capitol of Sarangani province last week.

According to the organizers, the Lumad leaders “demanded that the communist NPAs be driven out of their ancestral lands.”

The Lumads also said the NPA and other organizations should even be made to ask their permission before they enter their ancestral land.

They also condemned the recent attack staged by NPAs at Sitio Akbual, Barangay Upper Suyan when they disrupted the construction of a school building donated by Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao by assaulting troopers of the 73th Infantry Battalion and barangay officials who were guarding the project.

In a separate statement, 102nd Brigade Commander Colonel Ronald Villanueva said that the communist insurgents did not want a school building to be built in the area because they wanted the Lumads to remain uneducated.

“They can be easily recruited if they are uneducated,” Villanueva pointed out.

But this was very much against the wishes of the elderly Lumads, he added, saying that they wanted their children to have access to quality education that is duly recognized and accredited with the Department of Education (DepEd).

Villanueva said that the construction of the school building must continue without the distraction from the NPA.

Tenth Infantry Division (10th ID) commander Maj. Gen. Rafael Villanueva also expressed his support for the Lumads in Sarangani.

“Our Lumad brothers and sisters want their voices heard. They are the ones truly affected by the attacks of the NPAs. We want them to benefit from the services that the government can provide them. Thus, we cannot allow the NPAs to terrorize the Lumads,” he said.

B’laan tribesmen joined the “Peace Walk” and came from their villages located in Upper Suyan in Malapatan town and from sitios Lower Kilotong, Balataan, Basyawan of Barangay Pagasa in Alabel.

“The Lumad walk started from the sitios until they reached the covered court of Brgy. Tuyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province,” said Capt. Ryan Batchar, Army spokesman in the region.

Ex-Red warriors live life as ‘marked men’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): Ex-Red warriors live life as ‘marked men’

Ellen Carandang lives a life in constant fear and there is no getting used to it.

Her anxiety level skyrocketed when communist guerrillas abducted and killed Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur province, a rebel-turned-peace advocate, and his son Daryl last month. Their bodies were found in a village in Butuan City.

“I’m afraid. Most rebel returnees are also in fear when we heard the  news of the killings,” Carandang, who once roamed the hills and forests of Southern Tagalog as a New People’s Army (NPA) fighter, told the Inquirer.

Carandang, along with 42 other purported health workers, was captured by policemen and Army soldiers in a controversial raid in Morong, Rizal province, on Feb. 6, 2010. They were accused of being NPA members undergoing training for bomb-making and were later dubbed “Morong 43” by media.

President Aquino has ordered the charges against them withdrawn. They were freed before Christmas that year, but Carandang and four others chose to remain with their military captors.

“Once an NPA leaves the movement then cooperate with the government and the military, he or she will be a target for liquidation regardless of the passage of time,” Carandang, 36, said in an interview arranged by Lt. Col. Randolf Cabangbang, spokesperson of the Army’s 2nd Infantry Division based in Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal.

“That’s the scary reality that we’re facing every day,” she said.

The woman now stays in Capinpin with her five children and tends a sari-sari store as a livelihood project. Though she and her family feel secure inside the military camp, she lives the reality that she is markado (marked for liquidation) by her former comrades.

“I want to give my children quiet and peaceful lives. But the rest of my comrades went back and rejoined the movement,” said Carandang, who joined the NPA in 2009 as a member of its armed propaganda unit operating in Quezon province. Her former husband is still with the rebel movement.

The circumstance behind the murders of Otaza and son and the manner of the killings bore marks of an NPA assassination, Carandang said. “He left the movement and cooperated with the military against the NPA, he is really a target,” she said.

Otaza and his son were abducted by men wearing shirts with the letters “NBI” and pretending to be agents of the National Bureau of Investigation on a mission to arrest the mayor. The next day, they were found dead in a mountainous area. Their hog-tied bodies were riddled with bullets.

Otaza, a rebel returnee and later became mayor of Loreto, became an outspoken critic of the NPA. He helped convince fellow indigenous people who joined the rebels to surrender to the government.

She urged all rebel returnees to always observe safety measures in all their movements. “The NPA would just let time pass but they will eventually return and kill us,” she said.

Aside from those staying inside Camp Capinpin, she said other former rebels had chosen to remain with the military in different parts of Southern Tagalog.

Cabangbang, the veteran spokesperson of Mindanao-based military commands before his current assignment in Camp Capinpin, said the executions of Otaza and his son signified one message—that candidates for the May 2016 elections all over the country should be ready to pay the NPA the so-called “permit to campaign” (PTC) fees should they want to campaign unharmed in rebel-controlled areas.

He noted that the victims and the manner of killings had attracted media attention nationwide.
“That’s the intention of the NPA killers—to gain widest attention to bring the message across. That they are still a force to reckon with and capable to inflict violence against anyone, particularly politicians, who will not give in to their demands,” Cabangbang said in a phone interview.

Candidates should not hesitate to ask for government protection during their campaign sorties, he said.

Last month, five suspected rebels were killed in an encounter with government troops in Nasugbu, Batangas province. According to the military, they belonged to an NPA unit from Mindoro island which moved to Batangas to start preparations for collecting PTC fees.

Three days later, the guerrillas retaliated and killed two Army soldiers in an ambush in Calaca town, also in Batangas.

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, commander of the Armed Forces Southern Luzon Command (Solcom), said the military would deploy more soldiers to Batangas to stop the insurgents from regaining their base and to maintain peace and order.

Visaya said Solcom was also ready to provide security to candidates against harassment and extortion by NPA rebels. He advised them not to give in to rebel demands for PTC fees.

Philippine Air Force receiving South Korean FA-50 jets

From UPI (Nov 25): Philippine Air Force receiving South Korean FA-50 jets

The Philippine Air Force is receiving the first two jet aircraft ordered from Korea Aerospace Industries as part of its aircraft modernization program.

The FA-50 fighter and trainer ordered by the Philippines from South Korea. Photo courtesy KAI

The Philippines will receive on Friday the first two of 12 FA-50 Golden Eagle jets from Korea Aerospace Industries.

The planes, lead-in fighter trainers, will arrive at Clark Air Base, a former U.S. facility of the Philippine Air Force, as part of the PAF's modernization effort, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported.

The FA-50, built by the Korean company with assistance from Lockheed Martin, has a maximum speed of 1,020 miles per hour and range of 1,150 miles. It can be fitted with air-to-air missiles, heat-seeking missiles, and light automatic cannons. It can also carry a variety of bombs.

"This is the first time that we will have supersonic capability since 2005 when our (F-5) jets were decommissioned, said PAF spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya. "This is the revival of the supersonic jet age."

The newspaper said the remaining 10 aircraft from South Korea are to be delivered by 2017.

The Philippines earlier this year sent three PAF pilots to South Korea to undergo training in operating the aircraft.

The delivery of the aircraft comes amid continuing tension between the Philippines and China over ownership of small islands off the Philippines and Chinese military construction in the area.

4 drown, 3 rescued in Bulacan river

From the Manila Times (Nov 25): 4 drown, 3 rescued in Bulacan river

Four teenagers died while three of their companions were rescued from a raging flash flood while swimming in a river in Barangay Matictic of this town Tuesday afternoon.

Bulacan Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (PDRRMO) head Liz Mungcal identified the drowned victims as 18-year-old Lovely Lacaba and Nelson Godin; 14-year-old Butch Harold Nario and 16-year-old Christian Palen, all students and residents of Barangay Citrus, City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan.

Rescued were Daryll Aglosolos, 15; Lucrisiano Palen, 18 and Luigi Manaay, 17.

A report by Bulacan PDRRMO said the seven students were having fun swimming in Pugpog Bakas River located at Sitio Kanyakan at around 2:45 p.m., when raging waters swept them away.

The flash flood was reportedly caused by heavy volume of water from the mountains following heavy downpour on Tuesday.

The four victims were recovered lifeless at different deeper areas of the river.

Rescue teams from Norzagaray, San Jose Del Monte City and 48th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army Rescue Squad responded and managed to rescue only the three victims.

Enrile wants to beef up defense budget by P20B

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 26): Enrile wants to beef up defense budget by P20B

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile yesterday sought an additional P20-billion appropriation for the Department of National Defense (DND) in the wake of global terrorism affecting other countries.

Enrile made the suggestion even after the Senate agreed to raise the budget of the DND.

Senator Loren Legarda, Senate Finance Committee chair, admitted that the P116.2-billion proposed DND budget for 2016 is not enough despite a P250-million augmentation fund to the Office of the Secretary of the DND for its quick response fund (QRF).

The senator said there is a possibility the Philippines may find itself facing terrorism threats that European communities and other countries are dealing with right now.

“The strategic situation in the world and this region is not very encouraging for the country,” Enrile told reporters in an interview at the sidelines of the budget hearing.

“There is no perceptible threat now but it is possible, probable that as a part of the planet, we will be involved in the problems that are now occurring in Europe and in other parts of the world,” he stressed.

“You know these things, you cannot plan just tomorrow; you have to plan it within a certain frame of time,” said the veteran lawmaker.

He cited the downing of a Russian plane by the Turkish government straining relations between Russia and Turkey.

Add to that is the United States’ global travel warning due to the increased terrorist threats following ISIS attacks in Paris, France.

The Philippines, itself is, is trying to defuse tensions with China amid its aggressive reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“That is just the problem of terrorism, but this morning, Turkey shot down a jet of the Russians,” he said.

Asked how much augmentation should be given, he said it must be around “P10 to P20 billion.”

During interpellations on the DND’s budget, Legarda said she is open to augmenting the DND’s budget given that apart from the P250 million, the Philippine Army has put forward additional fund requests.

According to Legarda, the DND proposed a budget of P202.3 billion but the House of Representatives slashed their budget to P115.8 billion.

She said the Senate finance panel approved a higher budget of P116.2 billion.

“The chair is open within the limits of the P3.002-trillion budget to augment the budget of the Defense (department),” Legarda said in response to Enrile’s queries.

Enrile said there is a need to scrutinize the entire budget and “sacrifice some in order to protect ourselves.”

Military in Eastern Visayas vows not to tag some journalists as propagandists for rebels

From InterAksyon (Nov 25): Military in Eastern Visayas vows not to tag some journalists as propagandists for rebels

Army commanders inspect NPA paraphernalia,7 November 2014. FILE PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

The Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas has vowed to treat all media practitioners fairly, including those who it identified as helping the rebels spread propaganda.

The military made the commitment after some journalists raised their concern that government troops are branding them as allies of New People’s Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

Army’s 8th Infantry Division assistant commander Lt. Gen. Remy Tejeras said that media practitioners are strong partners of the military in its campaign against insurgency. This is the reason why they shouldn’t be branded as NPA supporters.

“As media practitioners it is in their nature to always (seek) balance and (to) report the views of those against the government,” Tejeras added.

He also recognized that media is a strong partner of military programs as they provide information that helps familiarize the public on the military task of ensuring national security.

Tejeras said that his office is also educating the soldiers to be careful about branding progressive groups as fronts of insurgents.

‘Shoebox’ aims to bring out a soldier’s smile

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 26): ‘Shoebox’ aims to bring out a soldier’s smile
CHILDREN of indigenous people in the Sierra Madre in northern Quezon province receive shoeboxes filled with emergency kits. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.
CHILDREN of indigenous people in the Sierra Madre in northern Quezon province receive shoeboxes filled with emergency kits. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR.

Organizers of Project Shoebox, a gift-giving campaign of a college sorority and the Philippine Army that has so far benefited nearly a quarter million public schoolchildren, have decided that they will be reaching out next to those outside of the box but close enough to it.

Members of Sigma Alpha (SA) sorority based in the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) intend to honor and give recognition to their longtime partners—the Army soldiers—for their service to the nation and the people even in the midst of criticisms against men in uniform over lumad (indigenous peoples) killings in Mindanao.


“We think it’s time that we have to also look at the welfare of our soldiers,” says Terry de Jesus, a UPLB-SA alumna and one of the original proponents of the project. “The idea is showing them that we don’t have to look far …. We wanted them to feel our appreciation for the heroism and unconditional support when they are needed wherever they are.”

Project Shoebox was started three years ago by the sorority, in partnership with the Philippine Army, in Camp Nakar in Lucena City. Its name was derived from solicited shoeboxes filled with basic school supplies and personal care items and distributed among poor students in remote areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

On Nov. 4, SA members launched Project Shoebox: “Bayanihan para sa mga Bayani ng Bayan” (PS Bayanihan) in Los Baños, Laguna.

De Jesus brushed aside criticisms against the Armed Forces of the Philippines for allegedly organizing paramilitary groups which were reportedly behind the killings of lumad leaders and human rights abuses in indigenous communities in September.

Though no one from among the donors have brought up the issues against their intended beneficiaries, she said the group was “ready with our answer that in organizations anywhere and everywhere, there would always be imperfections and flaws, strengths and weaknesses, and maybe because we do not give our military its due attention.”

“That is why we thought of turning our attention to them. Everyone needs to do their share in making a change,” she added.

So far, the project has benefited 219,000 students in 693 public schools nationwide, De Jesus said.

ts volunteers had also brought boxfuls of donations to students who survived Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan) and Agta children in the Sierra Madre mountain ranges.

In 2012, soldiers and sorority members lifted the Christmas spirit of more than 5,000 poor families through the “Noche Buena Mo, Nasa Shoebox Ko,” distributing boxes full of traditional holiday goods, such as spaghetti and ham.

Two years later, they repurposed the humanitarian mission and filled up shoeboxes with emergency kits given to communities in disaster-prone areas in northern Quezon.

Big businesses, such as National Bookstore and SM malls, supported the project. The cargo firm 2GO Express volunteered to transport the shoeboxes to the places of beneficiaries.

The project was conceptualized by Col. Thomas Sedano Jr., then commander of the Army’s 4th Light Armor Battalion based in Camp Nakar, in partnership with SA members after the sorority found that it had collected enough school supplies to donate to poor children but did not have the means to give these out.

Sedano, now deputy head of the Army’s civil military operations based in Fort Bonifacio, thought of the PS concept from a charity event he had seen while in the United States for his military schooling in 2007.

For PS Bayanihan, the proponents aim to fill the boxes with personal care and clothing items, reading materials and other stuff that the soldiers may need while on field assignments in Mindanao, especially those assigned to Sulu and Basilan. These could also be “personal notes of appreciation” to motivate them while they are far from their families.


Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año, Army commander, expressed gratitude to the sorority for giving extra attention to the men in the field. He invited other sectors to support the project.

“In the spirit of Bayanihan, our simple act of kindness and generosity will surely ripple in magnitude, awakening heroism within ourselves and inspiring others to become heroes that our country need,” Año said in a statement.

De Jesus said donations would be turned over to their Army partners in February next year for distribution on March 22 in time for the celebration of the 119th anniversary of the Philippine Army.

(Donations are received at Sigma Alpha office, DMST/Vanguards barracks in UPLB, any 2GO. [] outlet nationwide, and McDonald’s branch at Fisher Mall [] in Quezon City. Project sponsors may be contacted at 0906-7871807 or 0933-5609175.)