Monday, December 14, 2015

Flying close to Beijing's new South China Sea islands

From BBC (Dec 15): Flying close to Beijing's new South China Sea islands

Last year the BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes travelled across the South China Sea in a fishing boat and became the first journalist to observe close-up how China is constructing new islands on coral reefs. A few days ago he returned to the area in a small aircraft - provoking a furious and threatening response from the Chinese Navy.
 
The scattered atolls, reefs and sand bars known as the Spratly Islands are a very difficult place to get to. Some are controlled by Vietnam, others by the Philippines, one by Taiwan, and then of course there are those controlled by China.

Don't expect an invitation from Beijing. Believe me, I've tried. Only the Philippines will let you visit a tiny 400m-long scrap of land called Pagasa. It's just about big enough to land a small aircraft on.

Pagasa

After months of planning and negotiation, I was sitting in a hotel room in Manila packed and ready to go when the phone rang. It was my colleague Chika.
"Our permission to land on Pagasa has been revoked!" she announced.
My heart sank. What had happened? Had the Philippine government been threatened? China's President Xi Jinping was about to arrive in town. Perhaps Manila didn't want a scene?

In fact it was worse. Somehow Beijing had found out what we were up to.
Next came a call from my editor in London.

"The Chinese embassy has been on the phone. They're warning of problems if the BBC tries to visit what they say is territory illegally occupied by the Philippines in the South China Sea," he said.

I mentally kicked myself. How had they found out? I should have been more careful.
And so for a week I was forced to sit in my hotel room and watch while President Xi came and went. Then, more frantic negotiation… and finally the Philippine government relented. We could go.
 
At 05:30 five of us gathered on the runway at Puerto Princesa, on the Philippine island of Palawan. Two pilots, an engineer, Jiro my cameraman and me. In front of us sat a tiny single engine Cessna 206.

Cessna on the runway at Pagasan

Jiro and I looked at each other.

"Good God," I thought . "Are we really going to fly more than three hours across open ocean and land on a tiny island in that thing?"

Even the pilots looked nervous. And with good reason - no-one had tried to do what we were about to do.

With the tiny aircraft loaded down with camera equipment and fuel we swayed down the runway and lurched in to the air. Minutes later we cleared the verdant mountains of Palawan, and before us stretched the empty blue waters of the South China Sea.

Map of the South China Sea

Our plan was simple, if daunting. From Palawan we would fly directly to Pagasa, land and refuel. Then we would fly south-west and circle the Chinese-controlled reef called Fiery Cross, where China appears to be building a major air and naval base. We would return to Pagasa and refuel again. Finally we'd fly back to Palawan via Mischief Reef. This is another Chinese-controlled reef, very close to the Philippines, where land reclamation has been going on this year on a huge scale.

Our objective was two-fold. To get as close as possible to the new Chinese-controlled islands in order to film the construction work going on. And just as important, to see how the Chinese would react.

China is bound by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which it has ratified. The law states that sub-sea structures, such as reefs, cannot be claimed as sovereign coastline, and that building artificial structures on top of them does not turn them in to sovereign territory either.

A country that owns a natural island can claim a 12-nautical-mile territorial limit around it, both on the sea and in the air. But artificial structures do not confer any such right. In other words, we would be able to fly our aircraft right up to China's new islands without breaking any international laws, and China should not interfere with our flight.

As our little plane bounced down the gravel runway on Pagasa my heart was beating fast, excited and nervous. Half an hour's flight south of the island I saw a yellow patch of land out of the window. On top of it was a large white blockhouse. I recognised it immediately from satellite photos.

"That's Gaven Reef!" I shouted to Jiro over the din of the engine. "Remember we sailed past it last year. They'd just started construction then."

Gaven Reef

No sooner were the words out of my mouth than a loud and aggressive voice came over the radio.

"Unidentified military aircraft in west of Nanxun Reef, this is the Chinese Navy. You are threatening the security of our station! In order to prevent miscalculation leave this area immediately!"

The pilots of our far-from-military Cessna banked away to the west. But the warnings continued, over and over, in Chinese and in English, getting louder and more agitated.

We flew on south-west towards Fiery Cross Reef (Yongshu in Chinese). After another hour we could see it in the distance, a large expanse of yellow on the ocean surface.



As we closed to 20 nautical miles the radio came alive again.

"Foreign military aircraft to north-west of Yongshu Island, this is the Chinese Navy, you are threatening the security of our station!"

This time the pilots' response was immediate, banking sharply to the north, away from the reef.

"We need to get closer!" I pleaded with the captain. "We need to go back, we can't film anything from this far away!"

It was no use.

"I am sorry," he said. "We have our orders."

The previous warnings had shaken the pilots badly. My heart sank. "We are going to get nothing," I thought.

Back on Pagasa, as the plane was refuelled again, I put my case to the pilots.

"Look," I said. "We are not breaking any laws, the Chinese are not going to shoot us down. You must hold your course, and you must respond to them and tell them we are a civilian aircraft flying in international airspace."

"You must understand, we are civilian pilots, not military," they replied. "We do not know what they might do to us, we have to put safety first."

Finally, after hours of negotiation, they agreed they would give it a try.

We took off for a third time, now heading back towards the Philippines. The tension in my stomach was almost unbearable. Would they hold their course?

Soon, in the distance, a huge yellow crescent appeared below us, the unmistakable shape of Mischief Reef (Meiji in Chinese). The pilots descended to 5,000ft. At 12 nautical miles the warnings began again.

[Video: Rupert Wingfield-Hayes gets a view of a new Chinese runway on Mischief Reef]

"Foreign military aircraft in north-west of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy, you are threatening the security of our station!"

Calmly our captain responded: "Chinese Navy, this is Philippine civilian aircraft en route to Palawan, carrying civilian passengers. We are not a military aircraft, we are a civilian single-engine aircraft."

It made no difference.

"Foreign military aircraft in north of Meiji Reef, this is the Chinese Navy!"

[Video: The Chinese Navy warns the Cessna to leave (in Chinese, then in English) - and the Filipino pilots reply]

On and on the warnings continued.

But this time our pilots held their nerve. At 12 miles we skirted the north of the huge new island.

Below us we could see the lagoon teeming with ships, large and small. On the new land, cement plants and the foundations of new buildings.

Then, as we rounded a cloud, we got the first clear view of the new runway China is building here, just 140 nautical miles from the Philippine coast. I did a quick calculation. A Chinese fighter jet taking off from here could be over the Philippine coast in as little as eight or nine minutes.



As we flew back towards the Philippines we all felt elated. We'd done it! I joked with the captain that we should turn around and take a low pass.

Then over the radio came a very different voice, with a different accent.

"China Navy, China Navy," the voice said. "We are an Australian aircraft exercising international freedom of navigation rights, in international airspace in accordance with the international civil aviation convention, and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - over."

[Audio: Australian pilot warns Chinese Navy of his aircraft's presence]

The US has done several high profile freedom-of-navigation flights and sailings through the South China Sea in recent months, including one by B-52 bombers. But Australia has never publicly announced that it is doing the same - so this felt like a bit of scoop.

We heard the Australian message being repeated several times, but did not catch any response from the Chinese side.

The purpose of such flights is to demonstrate to China that countries like Australia and the US do not recognise its newly manufactured islands.

But they do exist and China is already enforcing a 12-nautical-mile exclusion zone around them, or trying to. At Fiery Cross the warnings began at 20 miles.

China has succeeded in creating new "facts on the ground". It is building new runways, high-powered radar stations and deep-water port facilities. In Manila last month US President Barack Obama said China must "halt all further construction" and "not move to militarise" these new outposts.

From what I saw and heard, it is almost certainly already too late.

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-35031313

House scraps P10-B budget for more fighter jets

From the Philippine Star (Dec 15): House scraps P10-B budget for more fighter jets



Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, House appropriations committee chairman, said instead of the P10-billion appropriation, the conferees agreed to allocate P1 billion for the PAF for the procurement of more air assets. File photo

The House of Representatives has scrapped a P10-billion appropriation recommended by the Senate for the procurement of more fighter planes for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The rejection was made during last week’s bicameral conference on the proposed P3.002-trillion 2016 national budget.

Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, House appropriations committee chairman, told reporters yesterday that House conferees did not accept their Senate counterparts’ recommendation as it would have taken P8 billion from funds for conditional cash transfers (CCT) to poor families.

“We could not accept it because it would have sacrificed the administration’s CCT program,” he said.

He said the House conferees, with support from Sen. Ralph Recto, prevailed in their stand that P8 billion be retained in the CCT program.

Recto was quoted as telling his colleagues in the conference committee that slashing the huge amount from CCT funds would have deprived at least 500,000 poor families of government assistance under the program for one year.

Ungab said instead of the P10-billion appropriation, the conferees agreed to allocate P1 billion for the PAF for the procurement of more air assets.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/12/15/1532787/house-scraps-p10-b-budget-more-fighter-jets

US Gives Philippines 114 Military Vehicles

From The Diplomat (Dec 15): US Gives Philippines 114 Military Vehicles

The Philippine military gets armored personnel carriers from its ally.

This month, the Philippines is receiving 114 armored vehicles from its ally the United States as the Southeast Asian state seeks to modernize its military.

According to a statement by the U.S. embassy in Manila, the U.S. government transferred 77 units of M113A2 Armored Personnel Carriers (APCs) to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on December 9. A second shipment with the remaining units was scheduled to arrive later in the month.

The APCs are being transferred via the Excess Defense Article (EDA) program, which grants excess military equipment from the United States without cost to qualified allied countries. Manila did have to pay 67.5 million pesos ($1.4 million) to cover transport costs, however.

The M113, the embassy statement noted, was developed to provide a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle that allows for troops to be brought forward under armor for dismounted operations. According to The Philippine Star, AFP spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla said that the new PACs would expedite battle steeled movement, fast track accuracy in operation, and help ensure the survivability of troops in the field, especially in buildup areas.

Separately, AFP spokesman Colonel Benjamin Hao also told Agence France-Presse that the transfer would boost the Philippine army’s inventory of armored vehicles by over a third to 455. Though the military still has to install armament and communication equipment on the vehicles, he said they would be deployed soon.

The APCs are also expected to be featured in the upcoming annual military parade that will commemorate the 80th founding anniversary of the AFP on December 21. The parade will be held outside of the AFP’s general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. The centerpiece of that event, though, will be the display of FA-50 fighter jets. As I wrote for The Diplomat earlier this month, Manila had received the first two of a dozen of the jets from South Korea (See: “Philippines Receives 2 Fighter Jets from South Korea”).

http://thediplomat.com/2015/12/us-gives-philippines-114-military-vehicles/

Army to MILF: Let’s join hands vs 'shabu'

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 14): Army to MILF: Let’s join hands vs 'shabu' 

ILIGAN CITY -- A local commander of the Philippine Army has asked the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to make its effort to wipe out illegal drugs in the Bangsamoro areas.

Colonel Gilbert Gapay, commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade, made the call as the expected start of the MILF’s operation against suspected shabu (crystal meth) traders draws near.

MILF has set December 15 as kick off for its ‘law enforcement’ campaign.

Last month, the MILF central committee issued a directive that effectively launched its official campaign against illegal drugs, particularly shabu (metamphetamine hydrochloride), which is widely traded in many Moro communities.

“We have issued this same appeal for us to join hands on this matter since the MILF’s central committee came out with its directive against illegal drugs. We hope we get a positive response soonest,” Gapay explained.

Gapay added that his command also sent a protest to the joint ceasefire committee regarding the possible conduct of any unilateral action on the part of rebel forces supposedly for “law enforcement” as an offshoot of the MILF central committee’s directive.

“Together, we can achieve greater results while preventing kinks in the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and its related protocols,” Gapay stressed.

He cited the “good results” achieved by previous joint law enforcement campaigns launched through the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (Ahjag).

The Ahjag is a mechanism under the ceasefire agreement between the MILF and government. In the past, it was instrumental in the campaign against Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists in central Mindanao as well as in combating the problem of cattle rustling in the hinterlands of Lanao del Norte.

But the mechanism suffered a heavy blow when police commandos skipped utilizing it in the Jan. 25 operation to ferret out Malaysian terrorist Zulkipli bin Hir, known as Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The resulting violation of the ceasefire accord led to the deaths of 44 police commandos, 16 MILF combatants and several civilians.

“We want to cooperate on this common concern (of stopping the proliferation of shabu) within the bounds of the ceasefire accord,” Gapay said.

A source told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro the local leadership of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the MILF’s armed wing, has a list of persons residing in specific places who are the targets of the operation.

Another source said that with the BIAF list as lead, local government officials in Tangkal town in Lanao del Norte already took the initiative of shooing away alleged shabu traders or apprehending them if there is evidence these persons are engaged in the illegal business.

“Probably, they (local officials) do not want to see a potential armed scuffle between these suspected shabu traders and the MILF force,” the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro source explained.

Civil society groups that have been following the peace situation in Lanao del Norte noted that the local governments in Matungao and Pantao-Ragat towns have ordered the taking down of tarpaulin posters announcing the MILF’s impending anti-shabu operations.

What remained now are those containing messages that tell about the dangers of shabu, hence it is “haram” or forbidden.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/cagayan-de-oro/local-news/2015/12/14/army-milf-lets-join-hands-vs-shabu-447012

OIC Issues Statment on Latest Development of the Peace Process in Southern Philippines

From the Saudi Press Agency (Dec 14): OIC Issues Statment on Latest Development of the Peace Process in Southern Philippines

The Secretary General of the organization of Islamic Cooperation Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani has expressed grave concern about latest development of the peace process in the Southern Philippines and about the difficulties facing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Philippines parliament, particularly the substantial amendments to the BBL which constitute drastic modification to the original agreement. These amendments restore the National Government control over many areas and they actually reduce the Bangsamoro Government to an entity similar to an ordinary local government unit.

    The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed on 27th March 2014 and which was described by H. E. President Aquino of the Philippines as a real genuine seal of lasting peace in Mindanao promised to usher in a new era of peace after decades of war, displacement, misery and destitution. This agreement is now being threatened.

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation strongly supports the President of the Philippines in his efforts to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao including the passage of the agreed version of the BBL, and calls upon all concerned to support these efforts.

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation urges the Philippines authorities, in particular the law makers, who share the common goal at working for peace and stability, not to let this historical moment becomes another lost opportunity. The OIC, which has been engaged with the peace process in Southern Philippines since its inception, calls upon all concerned to work hand in hand to ensure that the final BBL will ensure the “concept of exclusivity of the powers of the Bangsamoro political entity” as agreed upon in the CAB. We urge the government of Philippines and the law makers to ensure that the BBL, which is now pending before the parliament, will not come out different from the original BBL.

    On the other hand, we urge the leaders of both the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to consolidate their coordination and cooperation through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) and to engage other stakeholders in order to close ranks and strengthen and consolidate their cooperation and unity and maintain their peaceful struggle for the common cause.
He also called upon the development agencies of the OIC and other International bodies to continue their rehabilitation and development programs in the region.

    The preparation for holding a meeting of the Tripartite Review Process on the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement and linking and converging of the two previous peace agreements with the Bangsamoro Basic Law is underway.

    The Organization of Islamic Cooperation will continue its efforts for peace in Mindanao and will continue monitoring the situation closely until our efforts lead us to the real dawn of peace and stability and a final end to the long struggle of the Bangsamoro people.

http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewphotonews.php?id=1429111&pic=

Moro rebel groups may take BBL to UN

From the Manila Times (Dec 14): Moro rebel groups may take BBL to UN

LEADERS of the two mainstream Moro revolutionary fronts in the Southern Philippines are considering bringing the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before a United Nations body, doubting it would be passed under the present Administration.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said they see the need for pressure on the government to implement the peace agreements forged with their groups.

The MILF First Vice Chairman, Ghazali Jaafar, however, said renewal of an armed struggle is not an option, even amid the uncertainty of the bill’s passage and the peace process as a whole.

They pledged to pursue their struggle through peaceful means.

Meanwhile, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expressed grave concern over the BBL fate in Congress.

OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani said the “substantial amendments” to the BBL constitute drastic modification to the original agreement.

“These amendments restore the national government’s control over many areas and they actually reduce the Bangsamoro government to an entity similar to an ordinary local government unit,” he said.

The BBL—a product of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the MILF and the Philippine government on March 27, 2014—“promised to usher in a new era of peace after decades of war, displacement, misery and destitution,” he said.

“This agreement [the CAB] is now being threatened,” he said.

An international bloc of 57-Muslim nations, the OIC is supportive of the peace process in Mindanao, including the passage of the agreed version of the BBL, Madani said.

“We urge the government of the Philippines and the lawmakers to ensure that the BBL, now pending before the parliament, will not come out different from the original BBL,” he added.

Likewise, Madani urged both the MILF and MNLF to consolidate efforts through the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) and engage stakeholders to close ranks in the peaceful struggle for a common cause.

He also called upon the development agencies of the OIC and other international bodies to continue their rehabilitation and development programs in the region.

The OIC has been rallying leaders of the two Moro revolutionary groups and other Muslim sectors to unite and put an end to the decades-long armed struggle for independence. They have been holding separate meetings locally and abroad with leaders of the two Moro fronts and other stakeholders.

“The preparation for holding a meeting of the Tripartite Review Process on the implementation of the 1996 Peace Agreement and the linking and converging of the two previous peace agreements with the Bangsamoro Basic Law is underway,” Madani said.

Meanwhile, the MILF has created a committee to broker the reunification process with the MNLF, from which it broke away.

Last Saturday, Jaafar presided over a meeting in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao with MNLF head Abulkaihr Alonto and former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Assemblyman Romeo Sema.

Alonto, chairman of the original MNLF’s “Top 90,” also known as “the Black Shirt,” said he will pursue the settlement of the MNLF internal problems, saying that their organization remains under one umbrella.

The Alonto and Sema MNLF factions are officially supporting the MILF overtures with the government for the passage of the BBL, which seeks to create a Bangsamoro autonomous entity. But the group of MNLF’s founding chairman Nur Misuari is resenting it.

Misuari, who has a pending arrest warrant in connection with the bloody 2013 Zamboanga City siege, failed to send delegates to the meeting but has expressed an interest in the reunification process, Alonto said.

http://www.manilatimes.net/moro-rebel-groups-may-take-bbl-to-un/234448/

High terror threat warning raised in 19 areas

From the Philippine Star (Dec 14): High terror threat warning raised in 19 areas

Several places including areas with heavy tourist presence in the country were placed under terrorism threat level 3 or high terrorism threat category.

The assessment was based on the security committee meeting last November 26 released by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency to areas with high security concern.

Zamboanga City Police director, Senior Superintendent Angelito Casimiro, said in a press briefing on Monday that the high terrorism threat level was due to the persistent reports of the Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters' plan to attack and engage in kidnap-for-ransom activities.

Casimiro said the areas placed under level 3 were the following: 
  • Palawan
  • Boracay Island in Malay, Aklan
  • Zamboanga City
  • Dipolog, Zamboanga del Norte
  • Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte 
  • Zamboanga Sibugay
  • Cotabato City
  • Palembang, Sultan Kudarat
  • Isulan, Sultan Kudarat
  • Lebak, Sultan Kudarat
  • Kidapawan City
  • Kabakan, North Cotabato 
  • Midsayap, North Cotabato
  • Aleosan, North Cotabato
  • Maguindanao
  • Basilan
  • Sulu
  • Tawi-Tawi
  • Marawi
The report placed Metro Manila under level 2 or moderate terrorism threat level, noting  the convergence of people in the metropolis during the Christmas season.

Casimiro said the other areas under level 2 are Pagadian; Pitogo in Zamboanga del Sur; Lanao del Norte; the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan; Davao City and Samal Island.

The towns of Kalamansig, Esperanza, Pres. Quirino, Tacurong City, all in Sultan Kudarat; towns of Alamada and Mlang in North Cotabato; the towns of Maasin, Kiamba and Maitum in Sarangani; General Santos City and the rest of Lanao del Sur were also assessed under moderate terrorist threat.

In Zamboanga City, Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said the security confidence in the city got a boost with the opening of the KCC Mall, the biggest in Mindanao.
Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar of Isabela City said her place benefited also from the positive impact of the growing investment.

“Gone are the negative image perception projected in our place,” Akbar said.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2015/12/14/1532565/high-terror-threat-warning-raised-19-areas

Malaysian kidnap victim found in Sulu

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 15): Malaysian kidnap victim found in Sulu

MILF condemns beheadings by Abu Sayyaf as acts of terrorism

Soldiers found a headless body in Parang, Sulu, late Monday evening, a military official said Tuesday.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command based here, said that the military believed the headless cadaver belonged to Malaysian Bernard Then Ted Fen.

He said soldiers from the 501st Infantry Brigade were scouring Sitio Lungon-lungon in Barangay Lanao Dakula when they found the body, which was in an advanced state of decomposition, around 11 p.m. Monday.

“(The) alleged decapitated body of Malaysian Chinese Bernard Then Ted Fen is recovered at Sitio Lungon-lungon in Barangay Lanao Dakula, Parang municipality,” Tan said.

“(It) will be subjected to DNA testing to determine if it matches the head recovered last month,” he added, referring to the severed head found on Nov. 17. The head, which was found inside a sack labeled with the name of the Malaysian kidnap victim, was recovered in Barangay Taran in Indanan town.

However, the result of the DNA testing on the head had not been released yet.

Then was abducted, together with restaurant owner Thien Nyuk Fun, from Sandakan on May 14.

Thien was subsequently released after paying ransom but the group led by Abu Sayyaf leaders Alhabsy Misaya and Idang Susukan had demanded P30 million for Then’s freedom.

The Malaysian media reported in August that Then had told his wife, Chan Wai See, that the Abu Sayyaf had planned to kill him if the ransom money was not delivered by November. Then also told her that another hostage, Dapitan village chair Rodolfo Boligao, had been beheaded because of the family’s failure to pay ransom.

Col. Allan Arrojado, commander of the Task Group Sulu, said Then’s family apparently failed to pay the ransom demand too, which was why he was beheaded by the bandits.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), through a statement, said beheadings of kidnapping victims were an “act of terrorism.”

“We join the Malaysian government and people in condemning this dastardly act of terrorism and share the grief and sorrow of the nation. Our hearts go out to the friends and family of the victim of this despicable tragedy,” the MILF said after news that Then had been killed broke.

The MILF also called on the Abu Sayyaf to stop its “un-Islamic” activities of kidnapping.

“We call upon the Abu Sayyaf Group to abandon their kidnapping activities, being against Islam and human dignity and civility. Kidnapping will bring your group to nowhere,” the MILF said.

The rebel group also appealed to the key stakeholders in the area including its former comrades in the Moro National Liberation Front to help in ending the kidnapping scourge.

“We also call upon the leaders of the Sulu Province, including the politicians, MNLF and the claimants to the Sultanate of Sulu to pool their efforts together to stop or at least neutralize these kidnapping activities,” the MILF said.

Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the time has come for the government, especially the local government of Sulu, to act and end the atrocities being perpetrated by armed groups in that province.

“The local government should act on this. It should be on the front line in the campaign against these armed groups,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in an interview.

Hataman said although the military has been conducting operations against the Abu Sayyaf, “the local government should also (make) concerted effort to address the problem.”

“It is not enough that we condemn this atrocity, we should act on it,” he added.
http://globalnation.inquirer.net/133829/133829

NPA declares 12-day Yuletide ceasefire

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 15): NPA declares 12-day Yuletide ceasefire

The New People’s Army (NPA) across the country will observe a 12-day holiday ceasefire with government forces, according to a statement of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) Tuesday.

In an email statement, the CPP Central Committee has declared that all NPA units and their militias will observe a ceasefire from December 23, 2015 to January 3, 2016 in solidarity with the traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year of the Filipinos.

The CPP declaration was authenticated by Luis Jalandoni, chairman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace negotiating panel, based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

However, the CPP urged the NPA rebels to maintain its vigilance against any “hostile actions or movements” of the government forces inside their so-called territories including “surveillance and other offensive operations including so-called peace and development, civil-military or peace and order operations.”

The ceasefire order will also allow local communists and their allies to join mass celebrations to mark the 47th anniversary of the CPP on December 26, according to the CPP Central Committee statement.

After an ideological split with a 1930s era pro-Soviet communist party that was defeated by the military in the 1950s, former University of the Philippines professor Jose Maria Sison set up on Dec. 26, 1968, the revitalized CPP with a Maoist-oriented ideology.

Four months later, the new CPP established the NPA in a remote village in Central Luzon. The first ragtag guerrilla unit was armed with automatic rifles, single-shot rifles and handguns.

The CPP said the ceasefire order was also issued in support of the efforts of peace advocates for the resumption of the on-and-off peace negotiations with the government.

During the ceasefire period, all communist rebels shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against any members of the state security forces, according to the CPP.

The CPP has stated that any members of the military and police “who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units” will not be arrested or subjected to punitive actions.

“They may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends,” the CPP said.

Last year, the communist rebels observed a truce on staggered dates also for the holidays : Dec. 24 to 26 and from Dec. 31, 2014 to Jan 1, 2015; and also during Pope Francis’ visit in the country from January 15-19, 2015.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines observed a month-long unilateral ceasefire from Dec. 19 to Jan. 20.

After the ceasefire period, both sides accused each other of violating their ceasefire declarations.

The NPA rebels has been waging a Maoist-inspired war against the government for the past 46 years, considered one of the world’s longest-running communist rebellion.
The armed conflict has claimed more than 40,000 lives, according to government figures.

The NDFP, the political arm of communist insurgents, has been engaged in on-and-off negotiations with the government for the past 27 years but peace remains elusive.
The peace negotiations have been stalled since February 2011.

The communist leadership has been demanding the release of detained comrades before the resumption of the negotiation based on the provisions of the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (Jasig) signed by both parties in 1995.
However, the government rejected the pre-condition.  
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/747724/npa-declares-12-day-yuletide-ceasefire

Army reports 21 casualties in NPA attacks in Davao region

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Dec 14): Army reports 21 casualties in NPA attacks in Davao region

The New People’s Army on weekend launched separate attacks in Davao region injuring 19 individuals and killing four others.

The Army on Sunday reported that the first incident happened in Sitio Kialaw, Barangay Malabog, Paquibato district where soldiers from the 69th Infantry Battalion sustained two casualties after they were ambushed by the NPA with its command detonated explosives at around 12:00 noon.

Private First Class Johnhill Victor Alarcon was killed  and Corporal Ramil Aquino was wounded.

Soldiers also engaged the NPA in Sitio Bal-ong, Barangay Malabog, Paquibato District around 4:30 in the afternoon, Saturday where three soldiers including an officer and two enlisted personnel were hit by gunshots and shrapnel wounds.

2nd Lieutenant Earl Jun Atucha, Sargeant Maynard de Guzman and Cpl Allan Paul Salvador are now being treated at the hospital.

The NPAs reportedly belong to Guerilla Front 56 and Pulang Bagani Company 1 (PBC 1) of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee (SMRC) in Paquibato District.

Meanwhile, the NPAs also exploded explosives along Kilometer 11, Barangay Cabuyoan, Mabini town in Compostela Valley around 6:30 pm on Saturday.

The army said a soldier and a member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit Active Auxiliary (CAA) were killed, while 14 soldiers were slightly injured after the blast.

http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/army-reports-21-casualties-in-npa-attacks-in-davao-region/

Military pulls out; Bukidnon IP evacuees return home

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Dec 14): Military pulls out; Bukidnon IP evacuees return home

A total of 120 Manobo evacuees from Bukidnon returned to their homes Sunday after military forces were reported to have pulled-out from their communities in the past weeks.

Jimboy Mandaguit, leader of lumad organization Kasilo in a statement said their return to their province “is a small victory gained over five months of evacuation and protest here in the city.”

However, he said, “We bear no illusions that the military have changed. We know that they will return and commit atrocities again.”

“We bear in mind that there are thousands more evacuees all over Mindanao. As long as the military has not left other lumad communities in the countryside, then us lumads will continue to protest and struggle against them,” Mandaguit said.

Mandaguit was among the 700 indigenous peoples who joined the month-long human rights caravan protest, Manilakbayan in Metro Manila.

“We also urge the resumption of the peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front,” he said.

He said over 600 Manobos from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte remain in UCCP Haran in Davao City, while 3,000 Manobos are also in the Tandag City Sports Complex, Surigao del Sur province.

The Manobos in Surigao del Sur evacuated after the killing of three indigenous people’s leaders, including a school director in Lianga town last September 1.

Residents have already filed criminal charges against the members of the Magahat paramilitary unit who allegedly perpetrated the killings.

The military in previous statements have denied their hand in the operations of the paramilitary groups. Not one suspect has been prosecuted as of present time.

http://davaotoday.com/main/human-rights/military-pulls-out-bukidnon-ip-evacuees-return-home/

CPP/NDF: Declaration of Ceasefire from 23 December 2015 to 03 January 2016

From the National Democratic Front Website (Dec 14): Declaration of Ceasefire from 23 December 2015 to 03 January 2016

CENTRAL COMMITTEE
COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE PHILIPPINES
15 December 2015

Upon the recommendation of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines hereby declares to all commands and units of the New People’s Army (NPA) and the people’s militias a ceasefire order that will take effect from 00:01H of 23 December 2015 to 23:59 H of 03 January 2016.

This ceasefire order is being issued in solidarity with the Filipino people’s traditional celebrations of Christmas and New Year holidays. This will also enable the revolutionary forces to carry out mass assemblies and public demonstrations to mark the 47th anniversary of the CPP and celebrate revolutionary victories of the past year.
This ceasefire order is also being issued in support of efforts of peace advocates to foster the resumption of GPH-NDFP peace negotiations on the basis of The Hague Joint Declaration, the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL). The revolutionary movement calls for the release of all political prisoners including 17 NDFP consultants in accordance with the CARHRIHL and the JASIG.

During the ceasefire period, all NPA units and people’s militias shall cease and desist from carrying out offensive military operations against the armed units and personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and other paramilitary and armed groups attached to the Government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Personnel of the AFP and PNP who have no serious liabilities other than their membership in their armed units shall not be subjected to arrest or punitive actions. They may be allowed individually to enter the territory of the people’s democratic government to make personal visits to relatives and friends.

While all units of the NPA and the people’s militias shall be on defensive mode at both the strategic and tactical levels, they shall nonetheless maintain a high degree of militancy and vigilance against any hostile actions or movements of the enemy armed forces including encroachment on the territory of the people’s democratic government, surveillance and other offensive operations including so-called “peace and development”, “civil-military” or “peace and order” operations. Active-defense operations shall be undertaken only in the face of clear and imminent danger and actual armed attack by the enemy forces.

All branches and committees of the CPP, units of the NPA and people’s militias and revolutionary mass organizations should closely monitor any hostile actions being carried out by the enemy armed forces. Such information should be reported to the concerned commands of the New People’s Army and leadership of the Communist Party of the Philippines. #

Authenticated by: Luis G. Jalandoni
Chairperson, Negotiating Panel
National Democratic Front of the Philippines

http://www.ndfp.org/declaration-of-ceasefire-from-23-december-2015-to-03-january-2016/

AFP pursues rebels over landmine blasts

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 14): AFP pursues rebels over landmine blasts

Pursuit operations go on as soldiers belonging to the 69th Infantry Battalion scour the rebels’ lair in Sitio Kialaw, Barangay Malabog, Paquibato District following a series of encounters last Friday and Saturday.

A report from the 10th Infantry Division based in Mawab, Compostela Valley revealed that members of the 69th IB engaged the rebels belonging to the guerrilla front 56 and Pulang Bagani Command 1 of the Southern Mindanao Regional Committee resulting to the killing of one soldier and the wounding of another.

The report said the first incident happened while soldiers from Bravo Company, 69IB were checking the reported presence of the rebels under alias Ka Jiares at Sitio Kialaw, Brgy Malabog of Paquibato District.

The rebels detonated an improvised explosive device that killed Pfc Johnhill Victor Alarcon and wounded Cpl Ramil Aquino.

Alarcon’s wake is at a funeral home in Panabo City.  He hailed from Iloilo City.

Aquino is undergoing medical treatment at Camp Panacan Station Hospital.

Three other soldiers were wounded in a separate encounter on December 12.

They were identified as 2Lt Earl Jun Atucha, Sgt Maynard de Guzman and Cpl Allan Paul Salvador who are now given medical treatment.

The soldiers recovered live ammunitions for M14 and M16 rifles, empty shells of assorted high-powered firearms, 150-meter electrical wire and several personal belongings from the rebels who immediately fled.

Major General Rafael Valencia, commander of the 10th ID expressed his grief to the family of Alarcon.

"We share the grief of the family of Pfc Alarcon who paid the ultimate sacrifice in serving our country and people. We will continue our efforts against the rebels who exploit their  surroundings while they sow terror against the people," he stressed.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/2381450056697/afp-pursues-rebels-over-landmine-blasts

DFA, PIA conduct West Philippine Sea Information and Advocacy Campaign in Batanes

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 15): DFA, PIA conduct West Philippine Sea Information and Advocacy Campaign in Batanes



The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), brought the information and advocacy campaign on the West Philippine Sea issue to Basco, Batanes last week.

Located at the northernmost part of the Philippines, Batanes was chosen as one of the venues for the multisectoral forums due to the islands’ geographic proximity to Taiwan and China, and in recognition of the local community’s long historical, cultural and economic ties to the sea.

Immediately upon arrival, DFA Spokesperson and Assistant Secretary Charles Jose called on Batanes Governor Vicente S. Gato at the provincial office to talk about the conduct of the multisectoral forum and other related activities in Batanes as well as on the latest developments in the arbitration case.

Assistant Secretary Jose was then invited as a guest in Radyo Kayvayvanan, where he extensively discussed the West Philippine Sea issue with the radio host. He said the DFA and PIA aim to increase the level of awareness of the local communities in Batanes through the conduct of briefings, focus group discussions and media engagements throughout its four-day visit.

He also told the radio host that he will discuss the Philippine narrative during the lectures and invited the local audience to listen to his briefings and support the Philippine government’s position in the West Philippine Sea issue.

The DFA and PIA held a multisectoral forum on the West Philippine Sea at the Batanes State College in Basco.  Assistant Secretary Jose discussed the Philippine narrative of the West Philippine Sea issue before an audience composed of students, faculty members, fisherfolk, local government representatives, members of the uniformed services, and members of the media.

He explained that the Philippine Government’s position is based on two principles: the primacy of the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes, and added that the arbitration case is a vital step in reaching a durable solution to a complex international issue.

He expressed appreciation to the Batanes State College for hosting the event and thanked the audience for their presence and interest in the issue. He wrapped up his talk by issuing a challenge to everyone to keep their interest high and maintain their support on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“We ask for your help in spreading our message on the South China Sea issue. We hope that you will discuss what you’ve learned here with your families and communities,” he stated.

During the open forum, the Assistant Secretary was joined by Governor Gato and representatives from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. Several members of the audience expressed concern over China and Taiwan’s assertive actions in the South China Sea, pointing out that these acts have prevented their local fishermen from going to their traditional fishing grounds to fish, thereby depriving them of their livelihood.

Jose assured the audience that the Philippine government is well aware of their particular concerns and has in fact included them in the pleadings submitted by the Philippine legal team to the arbitral tribunal. Other panel members also assured the audience of their agencies’ commitment to peacefully defend the country’s interests and to help them cope with their concerns.

The DFA and PIA also held a workshop where they assessed the consolidated reports from several regions who already hosted the West Philippine Sea information and advocacy campaign. The PIA team presented the initial results from the focus group discussions, and discussed the strengths and weaknesses in the implementation of the campaign. The workshop also included a brainstorming session wherein they explored plans for the continuation of the campaign.

Jose thanked the PIA for a meaningful partnership and expressed satisfaction over the positive results of the campaign, and added that he looks forward to receiving the final results.

Since the information and advocacy campaign on the West Philippine Sea issue was launched in early 2015, the DFA and PIA have conducted forums, campus tours, and press conferences in Cebu City, Cagayan de Oro City, Subic, Olongapo, Laoag City, Vigan city, Puerto Princesa City, Tuguegarao City, Dumaguete City, Iloilo City, Davao City, Bicol Region, General Santos City, and Zamboanga City. Briefings and talks were also conducted in various campuses and agencies within Metro Manila throughout the year. Several information and advocacy campaigns are scheduled to be held next year.

http://news.pia.gov.ph/article/view/3001450088397/dfa-pia-conduct-west-philippine-sea-information-and-advocacy-campaign-in-batanes

Resume chopper probe, Senate asked

From the Manila Times (Dec 13): Resume chopper probe, Senate asked

THE whistleblower in the controversial P1.2-billion UH-1D second-hand chopper deal has requested that the Senate blue ribbon committee resume its investigation of the transaction in light of recent incidents involving the questionable helicopters.

In a two-page letter sent by Rhodora Alvarez, an employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who claimed that the multibillion helicopter deal was rigged, recently asked Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, committee chairman, for continuation of hearings for her to provide vital information about a helicopter crash in November and the acceptance of additional units that have been disallowed by Department of National Defense (DND).

Alvarez, in a letter dated December 7, 2015, stated that the crash involving a UH-1D helicopter with tail number 8502 at Sitio Lamsalo, Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan in Sarangani province proves that the refurbished helicopters procured by the DND were “profoundly defective.”

“They [helicopters] were not refurbished in accordance with the standards required by the law,” she said in her letter.

Nine people were reportedly hurt in the crash of the UH-1D helicopter because of strong winds in the area.

The pilot and crew on board the helicopter were transporting remains of a soldier as well as five other soldiers from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion who were wounded in a clash with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels when it crash-landed.

The chopper was part of the 21 combat utility helicopters in the controversial P1.2- billion procurement deal between the DND and the joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters Inc., represented by Robert Rice.

Of the 21 helicopters, the Defense department accepted eight units despite alleged defects of the units and failure of the supplier to comply with specifications stated in the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the project.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, one of the three senators who filed a resolution asking the blue ribbon committee to investigate the “anomalous” procurement, said the crash has validated his concern against buying old and dilapidated second-hand military equipment that could put lives of soldiers at risk.

Ejercito noted that the DND and other government agencies should make a priority quality rather than quantity especially if the safety of the soldiers is at stake.

Instead of buying brand new items as stated in the AFP modernization program, he said, the Defense department opted to buy second-hand equipment that most countries consider as “unfit” for the use of their soldiers.

Alvarez also informed the Guingona committee about allegedly atrocious move made by the Philippine Air Force (PAF), with instructions from the DND, to accept some UH-1D helicopter last September despite the contract expiring on April 6, 2016.

She was referring to Notice of the Decision signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin dated April 16, 2015, informing RASI that the contract has been terminated.

But despite the notice, the PAF reportedly still inspected and accepted several UH-1D helicopters in ceremony held at Clark Field in Pampanga province.

“To these developments, I profusely request the continuation of investigation relating to this rigged bidding process of defective 21 UH-1D helicopters in order to disclose vital information relating to this incident,” Alvarez said, referring to the recent UH-1D crash.

The last hearing conducted by the blue ribbon committee on the chopper deal was on July 7.

http://www.manilatimes.net/resume-chopper-probe-senate-asked/234227/

Military train 100 new Cafgu in Zambo Sur

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (Dec 14): Military train 100 new Cafgu in Zambo Sur

THE military trained 100 new members of the Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu) to boost its campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Zamboanga del Sur, an official said Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion (IB), said the newly-recruited militiamen have just completed a 15-day combat training conducted by the 5th IB, which is in charge of the militiamen in the province.

The training was held at Camp Major David Sabido that houses the headquarters of the 53rd IB in the town of Guipos, Zamboanga del Sur.

Luzon said the newly-trained militiamen have recently rendered combat duty before they were deployed back to their respective places.
 
“They were sent to the field to apply the theories they’ve learned in the classroom,” Luzon said.
He said the militiamen will assist them in the counter insurgency operations in their respective places of assignments.

He said that the militiamen, being territorial forces, are of big help to the military in the campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/zamboanga/local-news/2015/12/14/military-train-100-new-cafgu-zambo-sur-446949

NPA rebels strike twice in Iloilo

From the Business Mirror (Dec 15): NPA rebels strike twice in Iloilo

SIX soldiers and a civilian were wounded on Monday after members of the New People’s Army (NPA) detonated an improvised explosive device that struck a military truck in Iloilo. The rebels also attacked a construction company also in the province and burned millions worth of heavy equipment.

Lt. Col. Enriqueto Deocadez Jr., commander of the Army’s 82nd Infantry Battalion, said his troops were aboard two military trucks going to Antique when the NPA detonated a homemade bomb along the highway in San Juan, Iloilo, at about 3:50 a.m.
 
Deocadez said that the troops managed to disembark from the trucks and engaged more or less 10 NPA rebels.
 
However, six Army soldiers and a civilian identified as Bryan Servano, suffered from shrapnel wounds.
 

Abu Misri Mama of Moro splinter group BIFF admits illness

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 14): Abu Misri Mama of Moro splinter group BIFF admits illness

COTABATO CITY, Philippines — The spokesperson of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), suffered a stroke and his health is deteriorating.

Abu Misri Mama, BIFF spokesperson, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that his complicated health condition led to the stroke on November 11.

“I have high blood pressure and hypertensive heart disease but with the help of Almighty, I will be okay,” Mama said, adding he has been regaining his strength.

Earlier this year, BIFF founder Ustadz Ameril Umra Kato suffered stroke in 2012 and he died early this year.

The BIFF broke away from the MILF in 2008 and has vowed to continue the uprising, claiming that the Malaysian-brokered talks would not lead to a separate Bangsamoro homeland in Mindanao.

Kato (then commander of the MILF’s 105th Base Command), his cousin, Wahid Tundok, and Aleem Sulayman Pangalian led MILF units in bloody attacks in North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte in August 2008, after the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order against the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain.

The MOA-AD was the peace agreement signed between the Philippine government led by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the MILF.
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/747603/abu-misri-mama-of-moro-splinter-group-biff-admits-illness

Court rejects bail for Jovito Palparan

From the Sun Star-Manila (Dec 14): Court rejects bail for Jovito Palparan

A BULACAN judge denied Monday the petition for bail of retired military general Jovito Palparan, who is facing cases for the disappearance of two University of the Philippines (UP) in 2006.

Judge Alexander Tamayo of Malolos Regional Trial Court branch 15 said that the evidence against Palparan in his kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases is strong.

The court noted that Palparan "exercises direct authority, full control and responsibility of command over all uniformed men and civilian personnel stationed at the 7th Infantry Division."

The court even believes that the evidence to say Palparan's role and complicity in the case is sufficient.

On June 6, 2006, UP students Karen EmpeƱo and Sherlyn Cadapan, together with farmer Manuel Merino, were abducted in a farmhouse in Hagonoy, Bulacan for being suspected members of the New People's Army.

Palparan was commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' 7th Infantry Division at the time of the abduction.

Palparan was arrested in August 2014 nearly three years after the court released a warrant of arrest against him in December 2011.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/manila/local-news/2015/12/14/palparans-bail-petition-denied-bulacan-court-446922

Laude family wants VFA exec cited for indirect contempt

From ABS-CBN (Dec 14): Laude family wants VFA exec cited for indirect contempt

The family of slain transgender Jennifer Laude wants Undersecretary Eduardo Oban, executive director of the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), be cited for indirect contempt.

Laude's mother Marilou, through lawyer Harry Roque, told the Olongapo Regional Trial Court (RTC) that Oban must be held liable for allegedly not following a court order on where Pemberton must be detained.

Olongapo RTC Judge Roline Ginez Jabalde initially ordered that Pemberton be committed to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa after the latter was found guilty for killing Laude.

However, Pemberton's counsel made a motion for clarification, asking for the confinement of Pemberton at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Jabalde then ordered the Presidential Commission on Visiting Forces to produce in five days a memorandum of agreement between the US and the Philippines indicating Pemberton's detention facility mutual agreed upon by the two sides.

The court said Pemberton must be detained at the AFP Custodial Center pending the release of the MOA.

But instead of being brought to the AFP Custodial Center, Pemberton was allegedly brought to the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), located also in Camp Aguinaldo.

''These actions are in clear disobedience and violation of the lawful order of the Court to temporarily detain him at the AFP Custodial Center under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections,'' Laude's petition read.

''More importantly, the act of placing Pemberton at the Joint US Military Assistance Group facility in Camp Aguinaldo is a blatant and disgusting attempt to rob the Philippine Government of jurisdiction over a convicted felon. By bringing Pemberton to the premises of JUSMAG, which is effectively under the control of the Government of the United States of America, the Philippine Government was deprived of its authority to supervise and control the manner of his detention and to make sure that he is treated in the same manner as an ordinary convicted felon."

Aside from Oban, Laude is also asking the court to cite for contempt 11 John Does who ''refused to hand him (Pemberton) over to the [Philippine National Police] to be brought to Bilibid while his lawyers quickly filed a motion asking the court to clarify where he should be detained under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)."

https://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/12/14/15/laude-family-wants-vfa-exec-cited-for-indirect-contempt

PNP chief: Protect Negros vital installations from rebels

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 14): PNP chief: Protect Negros vital installations from rebels

PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) Director General Ricardo Marquez directed Chief Superintendent Conrado Capa, officer-in-charge of Police Regional Office-Negros Island Region, to conduct preventive measures to protect vital installations in Negros Island.

The directive came after a group of New People’s Army (NPA) abducted a member of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), or Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (KPP), when they ransacked a fighting cock farm at Hacienda Jamandre, Barangay Robles in La Castellana Thursday night.

On Friday morning, two rebels and a soldier were killed during an encounter in Hinoba-an.

Marquez, who was in Bacolod City Saturday for the launching of the Department of Interior and Local Government-Negros Island Region offices, told Capa to check the areas were the crime incidents happened.

Marquez said Capa should coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to make sure that vital installations are protected against the possible attacks of the NPA.

“It is normal for them that every December, they (rebels) will make noise,” the PNP chief said.

On December 26, the Communist Party of the Philippines-NPA will celebrate its 47th founding anniversary.

Although Thursday’s incident was not alarming, Marquez said the PNP should protect the community and the public structures.

Senior Superintendent Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said the La Castellana Municipal Police Station together with the Regional Public Safety Company are still conducting follow-up operations to rescue Cirilo Bagnuran.

Bagnuran, 42, was captured even as he and farm owner, RPA-ABB leader Rene Europa, 42, tried to fight the rebels.

Nacion said they have not received any information or proposed negotiation for the release Bagnuran.

He said that since Bagnuran is a former NPA member, there could be a grudge between him and his former comrades.

Policemen are still gathering evidences for the filing of abduction and threat charges against the NPA.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/bacolod/local-news/2015/12/14/pnp-chief-protect-negros-vital-installations-rebels-446900

2 slain in encounter buried: Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 14): 2 slain in encounter buried: Army

The two suspected New People's Army rebels, who were killed in a recent encounter with government troopers in Brgy. Damutan, Hinobaan, Negros Occidental, were buried Saturday, after examinations by police Scene Of the Crime Operatives.

Senior Inspector Robert Indiape, Hinobaan police chief, however, said that one of the slain rebels was identified by a barangay kagawad but his identity had been withheld, as Joemar Alperto, 28, of Sitio Bugtong Lubi, Brgy. Damutan, where the encounter took place.

Indiape said Mayor Ernesto Estrao decided to bury the cadavers, since no relatives had come out to claim them.

Lt. Col. Harold Pascua, 79th Infantry Battalion commander, yesterday denied claims that those killed were a barangay official and a member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade.

Those are manufactured allegations, Pascua said.

He thanked the residents of Sitio Bugtong Lubi for timely information they relayed to 79IB troopers, who were being targeted for an ambush.

The 15-minute gunbattle between 12 suspected NPA rebels and 79IB troops headed by 2Lt. Alex Bunagan, claimed the lives of two insurgents, and led to the recovery of an M-653 baby armalite rifle with a magazine containing ammunition, two rifle grenades, personal belongings and subversive documents.

An Army soldier was also killed in the firefight, and his colleague sustained injuries.

Pascua said the planned ambush of his men, that was foiled, may also be part of the tactical operations of the NPA remnants, in line with the 47th founding anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26.

Last week, the NPA Leonardo Panaligan Command claimed responsibility for the raid of a cock farm in La Castellana, and the abduction of a member of the RPA-ABB.

Pascua said there will no let-up in the operations against the armed NPA members.

On Saturday PNP chief Director General Ricardo Marquez reminded Chief Supt. Conrado Capa, regional police director of Negros Island Region, to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines in securing vital installations, with the celebration of the CPP founding anniversary.

“It is normal for them, that during their anniversary, they make some noise and attack some stations and facilities,” Marquez said.

Asked if such incidents are alarming, he replied “The best judge will be the community and how the PNP is able to protect the community, and installations in Negros Occidental.”*

http://www.visayandailystar.com/2015/December/14/topstory6.htm

Piston: Continuing to fight for the transport sector

From CNN Philippines (Dec 14): Piston: Continuing to fight for the transport sector



Since its creation, Piston has staged many protests through various means

Hundreds of jeepney drivers and operators on Monday (December 14) held protests in different parts of the country to oppose the government's plan to phase out old jeepneys.

The government is eying to phase out jeepneys that are over 15 years old. Though there is no date yet when the the policy would be implemented, protesters said about 600,000 drivers and 250,000 operators would be affected if it pushes through.

Related: Drivers, operators protest against jeepney phaseout

One of the transport groups that participated was Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).

Piston conducted a protest caravan that ran from Elliptical Road in Quezon City to Mendiola in Manila. Its members in Baguio, Cebu, Tacloban and Davao also joined the protest and held a noise barrage in their respective areas.

What is Piston?

Established in 1981, Piston is an organization - headed by George San Mateo - that focuses on the public transportation sector.

It is known for fighting the genuine rights of drivers and operators of public utility vehicles (PUVs), such as jeepneys, taxi, vans, multicabs, tricycles, pedicabs and buses.

Piston will participate in the 2016 elections as a party-list. The following are its principles:
  • Kailangang isulong ang kapakanan sa ekonomiya, pulitika, at lipunan nating mga drayber, maliliit na operator at mga manggagawa sa pampublikong transportasyon.
  • Upang higit na mapabuti ang gating kalagayan, kailangang itaguyod ng sector ang sama-samang pag-aaral, pagbubuo ng organisasyon, at pagkilos.
  • Malulutas ang mga problema ng sector sa pakikipagkaisa sa mga manggagawa, magsasaka at iba pang inaaping sector para magkaroon ng tunay na pagbabago sa bansa.
  • Kailangang ipaglaban ang karapatan ng mga manggagawa, magsasaka at mamamayan. Tampok ditto ang disenteng trabaho, reporma sa lupa, nakabubuhay na sahod, disente at ligtas na paninirahan, at abot-kaya kung hindi man libreng mga serbisyong panlipunan.
  • Para maiangat ang kalagayan ng buong sambayanan, kailangan ang pambansang industriyalisasyon at tunay na repormang agraryo.
Piston's past protests

Since its creation, Piston has staged many protests through various means.

In 2012, Piston, aside from opposing oil price hikes, launched a protest caravan against Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board's (LTFRB) policy to impose a mandatory UV Express model-year phase out. That same year, the transport group called for justice regarding alleged political killings under the Aquino administration.

The following year, Piston began a party-list campaign set to condemn an oil price hike. It went to the three big oil companies - Petron, Shell, and Chevron - held a motorcade from Taft Avenue to Monumento. Also in 2013, Piston started a campaign on Twibbon to fight oil cartel and corrupt government officials.

In March 2015, Piston held a nationwide protest, calling for the resignation of President Benigno Aquino III for his "sins" against the transport sector. San Mateo, the group's president, said "overpricing" in oil products is prevalent under Aquino's administration, which also refused to scrap the Oil Deregulation Law.

The group also complained about the increase of fares in the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and Light Rail Transit (LRT) despite trains of both systems experiencing glitches and accidents.

http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2015/12/14/piston-protests-continuing-to-fight-for-transport-sector.html

Soldiers hold Christmas party for ‘Lumads’ in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): Soldiers hold Christmas party for ‘Lumads’ in Bukidnon

The Lumads (Indigenous People) in this “Lumad Capital” town of Bukidnon attended a Christmas they won’t forget for a long time, a military official said Monday.

Capt. Norman Tagros, spokesperson of the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion here, said that for the first time, the Lumads and their children joined the military in a symbolic Christmas celebration here Sunday.

“After seven years (the 8IB established the battalion camp in Impasug-ong in 2008). For the first time, the military also holds the Christmas bonding with the Lumads in Impasug-0ng,” Tagros said.

He said that the Lumads and their children joined a day of fun, games, and merriment as the Christmas celebration unfolded a show of unity and mutual respect at the 8IB headquarters here.

For the last seven years, the 8IB has been a revered partner in peace building, especially that the battalion has maintained a reputation of respecting local Lumad customs and traditions, Tagros said.

Earlier this year, Lt. Col. Lennon G. Babilonia, 8IB commanding officer, was included in the list of the Lumads’ respected leaders.

Tagros said that Lumads ordained Babilonia as “Datu Impaman” (Protector of the Lumads) last July 27.

The event was held through sacred rituals that depicted the Lumads' great respect for and trust in the soldiers of the 8IB, Tagros said.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=837975

Military destroys 186 loose firearms in Cagayan De Oro City

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): Military destroys 186 loose firearms in Cagayan De Oro City

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City -– The military “demilitarized” 186 firearms during a ceremony here Monday morning.

Maj. Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, led the destruction of the loose firearms witnessed by local officials.

Members of the Army’s general staff also joined the destruction of the firearms, most of them assault rifles.The military used iron cutters to cut the firearms and render them unserviceable.

Lactao said that the military here conducts the “demilitarization” of firearms twice a year.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=837967

Iloilo top cop directs personnel to be vigilant amid CPP-NPA- NDF harassment

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): Iloilo top cop directs personnel to be vigilant amid CPP-NPA- NDF harassment

Chiefs of police and unit commanders of the Iloilo Police Provincial Office (IPPO) were ordered to be vigilant in light of the series of harassments by alleged members of CPP-NPA- NDF (CNN) in Capiz and Iloilo.

IPPO director Senior Superintendent Roderick Augustus Alba ordered the active defense through enhancement of police presence and conduct of law enforcement activities.

He further ordered the maintenance of 100 percent personnel strength in offices and police stations, mobilization of all force multipliers, enhancement of intelligence gathering and improvement of police community relations especially in insurgency affected areas in Iloilo.

Earlier, Alba conducted an onsite inspection and had a dialogue with Mayor James Escorpion of Igbaras and Lt. Col. Enrequieto Deocadez of the 82nd IB Philippine Army regarding the attack of alleged members of New People’s Army at Brgys. Passi and Igcabugao, all of Igbaras, Iloilo.

Reports disclosed that around 100 armed men and women barged into Chinese-owned Century Peak mini hydro power plant and hogtied the guards, burned 13 various heavy and personal equipment amounting to Php100 million evening of Sunday.

They left after allegedly identifying themselves as members of CNN and when hot pursuit was conducted by the Philippine Army, they were blasted with a roadside IED in Brgy. Tiolas, San Joaquin, Iloilo which injured five responding members of the Philippine Army.

The management of the power plant disclosed that it has previously received three extortion letters from a certain Ruben Llorca of the Central Front Committee. It was not certain however if they gave in to the demands of the alleged sender.

IPPO continues to coordinate with the Philippine Army regarding target hardening measures at other vital installations.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=837851

Military train militiamen to assist in counterinsurgency campaign

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): Military train militiamen to assist in counterinsurgency campaign

PAGADIAN CITY, Zamboanga del Sur –- The military have boosted its strength by recruiting 100 militiamen to assist them in the peace-keeping missions in this province.

The newly recruited militiamen have undergone 15-day training at Camp Major David Sabido that houses the headquarters of the 53rd Infantry Battalion in the nearby town of Guipos.

They were trained by the 5th Infantry Battalion personnel, which is in charge of the militiamen in this province.

Lt. Col. Alvin Luzon, 53rd Infantry Battalion, on Monday told the Philippines News Agency that the newly-trained militiamen have recently rendered combat duty before they were deployed back to their respective places.

“They were sent to the field to apply the theories they’ve learned in the classroom,” Luzon said.

Luzon said the militiamen will assist them in the counter insurgency operations in their respective places of assignments.

He said that the militiamen, being territorial forces, are of big help to the military in the campaign against the New People’s Army (NPA) rebels.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=837791

DILG director shot, wounded critically in Laguna

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 14): DILG director shot, wounded critically in Laguna

CALAMBA CITY - At least two unidentified armed men shot and critically wounded Director Renato Brion of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) CALABARZON shortly after alighting his car in front of DILG CALABARZON office at Anderson Building along a national highway in Barangay (village) Parian, this city Monday morning.

Brion sustained four gunshot wounds - two in the head, one grazed his waist and another bullet grazed the back of his neck .

Initial investigation by Calamba police showed that around 7:40 a.m. Monday, the victim with his wife aboard their service Toyota Innova, with plate number SLC 963 and driven by Medel Ange Saturno, headed to DILG office at Andenson Bldg.

Brion alighted the vehicle, stood near his vehicle and about to enter the said building when the suspects, who were near the area fired several shots to the victim and then fled.

Brion was rushed to nearby Calamba Medical Center at Barangay Crossing, where he underwent an a operation at the hospital's Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

Calamba police immediately responded in the area and continuously conducting Checkpoint/Chokepoint, dragnet operation while units from Police Regional Office 4A with Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) are now conducting operation relative the incident.

Police Regional Office Calabarzon (PRO IV-A) Regional Director Richard A. Albano organized Special Investigation Task Force (SITF) "Brion."

Calamba City Chief of Police Supt. Fernando Ortega said there were at least two suspects who waited for Brion at the parking area of Andenson Building and used caliber 45 and 9 mm pistols in shooting Brion.

Deputy Regional Director for Operations (DRDO) Police Sr. Supt. Romulo Sapitula said in an interview that they would be checking the Close Circuit Television (CCTV) to identify the suspects.

“We have also witnesses who are undergoing interrogation,” Sapitula said. “We asked other eye witnesses to cooperate with Calamba police to resolve immediately the case.” Sapitula added.

DILG Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento proceeded to the hospital and condemned the shooting incident.

Sarmiento said that Brion had been receiving death threats in the past before he assumed as DILG IV-A Regional Director.

” Brion is one of the respected leaders in the Department who is a known expert in the field of local governance. The DILG is deeply saddened by this violent act perpetrated against a loyal and dedicated public servant who is due to retire in the next few months after several years of committed service to the people,” Sarmiento said.

”Rest assured that the DILG will leave no stone unturned until the perpetrators will be brought to justice. We would like to assure our countrymen that the DILG will not be fazed by this challenge and we shall continue to put the interests of our people on top of our priorities,” he said.

Brion, whose family roots are in San Pablo City in this province assumed office as director for DILG IV-A CALABARZON last May 21, 2015 . He also served regional director in Region II, Region III and NCR.

http://www.pna.gov.ph/index.php?idn=2&sid=&nid=2&rid=837845