Saturday, July 16, 2016

Misuari could go unpunished for Zambo siege involvement

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 16): Misuari could go unpunished for Zambo siege involvement

Fugitive Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari could go scot-free for offenses committed in relation to the deadly 2013 Zamboanga siege should he be named to lead the Moro group’s peace negotiating team with the government.

This was the fear expressed by Zamboanga City Legal Officer Jesus Carbon Jr. amid talks that President Duterte was set to have an audience with Misuari in Sulu that could set into motion the resumption of peace talks with the MNLF.

Misuari has been on exile in Sulu since the September 13, 2013 siege here that killed more than 200 MNLF men and government soldiers, and 12 civilians.

Zamboanga City mapZamboanga City map

The nearly three-week siege also displaced more than 50,000 families, some of whom have yet to return to their former homes.

“It is not a good sign for our cases. The prosecution of our cases is under the Department of Justice (DOJ) and we take our orders from DOJ,” Carbon  said of the planned Duterte-Misuari meeting probably next month.

Carbon pointed out that should the Duterte-Misuari meeting push through, “the witnesses will not testify anymore in the reinvestigation of the cases.”

He added that the cases against Misuari might be dissolved if the witnesses will not testify anymore during the reinvestigation.

“(The meeting with Duterte) might lead to the dropping of Misuari from the cases, because he was not physically present during the siege. The evidence against him is by virtue of conspiracy, which should be established beyond reasonable doubt,” the city legal officer said.

“It’s not easy to prove conspiracy,” Carbon, a former regional trial court judge in this city, explained.

As such, Carbon said he was planning to meet with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre to inform him about the charges that the city of Zamboanga has pending against Misuari and his followers.

These charges remain pending with the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City for almost three years now. The Pasig judge has set another hearing on the cases on August 9, 10 and 11. Carbon said.

http://www.mb.com.ph/misuari-could-go-unpunished-for-zambo-siege-involvement/

Westmincom holds Youth Leader Summit

From Sun Star-Zamboanga (Jul 16): Westmincom holds Youth Leader Summit

OVER 50 promising young leaders from Zamboanga City and the nearby provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have converged in an event dubbed as Youth Leadership Summit (YLS).

The summit which kicked off Saturday, July 16, is being held at Camp Navarro that houses the military’s Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom). The activity ends Monday, July 18.

Lieutenant General Mayoralgo Dela Cruz, Westmincom chief, spearheads the conduct of the summit in partnership with the 4th Civil Relations Group of the Civil Relations Service and other stakeholders.

Major Filemon Tan, Jr., Westmincom spokesperson, said the summit is aimed to develop and empower the youth in order to reach their full potentials by engaging and implementing peace and development programs geared towards nation building.

Tan said the activity will not only provide a venue for convergence but will also provide capacity building through skills development.

Tan said the summit would also develop avenues for youth leaders purposely to help them put their aspirations and hopes into action, with the end goal of fostering a more peaceful and productive community.

He said the YLS 2016 Western Mindanao Leg shall also serve as a venue where deserving participants from Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) will be selected to join the National Youth Congress to be held in Cebu City in November this year.

He said the participants will undergo series of lecture-workshops during the summit with invited resource persons from non-government agencies such as Environmental Talk Sibugay, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), and other partner agencies like the Philippine National Police.

He said Westmincom believes that the three-day event will open more opportunities for youth leaders to empower them to become productive members of the society.
“This (summit) will also help them acknowledge their potentials when performing their duties and responsibilities as youth leaders,” he said.

Tan said the summit will open more opportunities for the participants to be empowered and become productive members of the society especially when interacting with various religious and cultural groups.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/zamboanga/local-news/2016/07/16/westmincom-holds-youth-leader-summit-485755

US Navy missile cruiser docks at Subic following WPS patrol

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 14): US Navy missile cruiser docks at Subic following WPS patrol

The USS Shiloh, a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser of the United States Navy, docked at this premier Freeport yesterday after conducting routine operations in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
 
The ship arrived here two days after the release of the United Nations (UN)-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that rejected China’s claims over much of theWPS.
 
 
The USS Shiloh was part of the group of the US Carrier Strike Group 5, including the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
 
The patrolling  US Navy fleet also included the USS Chancellorsville, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON), and aircrafts from Carrier Air Wing (CVW).
 
A report from the US Navy stated that the routine operations in the WPS are conducted to maintain and improve readiness and develop their cohesion as a strike group.
 
Meanwhile, the John C. Stennis Strike Group and the Carrier Strike Group-5 (CSG-5) conducted Dual Carrier operations.
 
According to the Rear Admiral John Alexander, commander of Task Force 70, the Dual Carrier operations is done to maintain interoperability between the ships and aircrafts.
 
He added that these forward-deployed ships are operating in the WPS to maintain the area “open for all to use.”
 
“The U.S. Navy has flown, sailed and operated throughout the Western Pacific in accordance with international law for over a century, and will continue to do so,” Alexander said.
 

Resolution filed to fast-track talks with Reds

From Business World (Jul 16): Resolution filed to fast-track talks with Reds

MEMBERS of the Makabayan bloc filed a resolution urging President Rodrigo R. Duterte to fast-track the peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the release of its detained consultants.
 
House Resolution No. 16, co-authored by incoming House Speaker Pantaleon D. Alvarez, seeks to release the 21 detainees and other Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG)-protected persons.

The JASIG is an agreement between the NDFP and Philippine government signed in 1994 that adopts safety and immunity for those facilitating peace negotiations.

The resolution urges Mr. Duterte to "vigorously pursue" the peace talks, which stalled during the Aquino administration.

The formal peace talks between the Philippine government and NDFP will begin later this month in Olso, Norway. Both parties will tackle the following agenda:

• affirmation of previously signed agreements;
• accelerated process for negotiations, including the timeline for the completion of the talks; socioeconomic reforms; political and institutional reforms; end of hostilities and disposition of forces;
• reconstitution of JASIG list;
• amnesty proclamation for the release of all detained political prisoners subject to the concurrence of Congress; and
• mode of interim cease-fire
 

The House resolution was filed by Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagabi T. Zarate, ACT Teacher Reps. Antonio L. Tinio, France L. Castro, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel B. Casilao, Gabriela Reps. Emmi De Jesus, Arlene D. Brosas, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane I. Elago.
 

PCG in long-term partnership with Japan to update skills, technology

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 15): PCG in long-term partnership with Japan to update skills, technology

APANESE COAST GUARD IN PH / JULY 11, 2016Japanese Coast Guard  PLH02 Tsugaru docks at the Pier South Harbor to conduct a 3 day joint maritime law enforcement exericse with the Philippine Coast Guard dubbed as 6th Joint Maritime Law Enforcement (MALEN) which will be stage at vicinity waters off Manila Bay. It aims to further enhance the capabilities of Philippine Coast Guard and Japanese Coast Guard to combat piracy and armed robbery at sea and to acquire skill in conducting airlift rescue operations.INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES


JAPANESE COAST GUARD IN PH / JULY 11, 2016 :  Japanese Coast Guard PLH02 Tsugaru docks at the Pier South Harbor to conduct a 3-day joint maritime law enforcement exericse with the Philippine Coast Guard dubbed as the 6th Joint Maritime Law Enforcement (MALEN), which has been staged at vicinity waters off Manila Bay. INQUIRER PHOTO / RICHARD A. REYES

The Philippine Coast Guard is in a long-term partnership with the Japan Coast Guard to update and improve the technical skills of PCG personnel, its technology and interoperability.

This was what the PCG spokesperson, Commander Armand Balilo, told reporters last Wednesday, to emphasize the importance of the drills and exercises jointly conducted by the coast guards on the same day, just a day after the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines’ territorial control of its exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea, or parts of the South China Sea.

“Japan is constantly updating the technical skills of our people. They are monitoring how well we are learning, but there is really a move at enhancing the cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the PCG,” Balilo said.

“There is a constant coordination should there be a development when it comes to technology and we are testing if we are improving our skills and interoperability,” he added.

Japan has helped the PCG in many trainings and will provide the PCG with new vessels for patrol operations in the next two months, according to Balilo.

“Japan has been the partner of PCG in various human resource development projects. In fact, they have assisted us to a lot of trainings, like law enforcement. They will be providing us with vessels for patrol operations and these will be arriving starting this August or September,” he added.

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Japan Coast Guard on Wednesday, conducted mock operations at the vicinity waters off Sangley Point in Cavite, simulating the “arrest” of armed men who tried to hijack a cargo vessel.

But the PCG was quick to say that the joint counter piracy operations exercise had nothing to do with Tuesday’s ruling of the United Nations (UN)-backed arbitral tribunal that the Philippines has exclusive rights over the West Philippine Sea (in the South China Sea) and that China’s “nine-dash line” is invalid.

“This has no relation at all with the international tribunal of the law of the sea. It just so happens that this has already been scheduled and this is a regular exercise conducted between Japan and the Philippines. We’re doing this because we would like to enhance the inter-operability of both participating countries and there will be an exchange of best practices between PCG and JCG personnel,” said  Balilo.

Asked if the PCG would be ready to conduct patrol operations in the disputed area to assist fishermen, Balilo said they would be but stressed that the issue would be matter needing clearance from the chain of command.

“We are ready, but on our own we cannot deploy. We’ll let the Deparment of Foreign Affairs (DFA) thoroughly study what would be the next move. We are ready with whatever order that will be given to us despite of our limited capability. But we have a hierarchy that we need to obey. So we will not, on our own, deploy personnel in the area,” explained Balilo.

The ship of the Japan Coast Guard, PLH02 Tsugaru, arrived in the country Monday for the joint maritime drills with their Philippine counterpart in combating piracy and armed robbery at sea.

The JCG vessel PLH02 Tsugaru docked at Manila South Harbor on Monday morning, two days before its scheduled exercises with the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Japanese ship and its Bell 412 utility helicopter participated in Wednesday’s drills on Manila Bay, the sixth iteration of the Joint Maritime Law Enforcement Exercise.
“The joint exercise focuses on combating piracy and armed robbery at sea, with the PCG’s Security and Law Enforcement Command taking part in it,” Balilo said.

He said the drills aimed to further hone the capabilities of both coast guards in conducting airlift rescue operations and to enhance the mutual cooperation between the two forces.

In the simulation of the maritime law enforcement (Marlen), PLH02 Tsugaru happened to be enroute Manila for a goodwill visit when it received a message that a Panamanian flag cargo vessel had been reported missing.

The Japanese ship launched her helicopter to conduct aerial surveillance until it sighted the subject vessel where heavily armed men were seen onboard.

As the coast guard members’ rescue vessels attacked the hijacked cargo vessel, the PCG sent its anti-terrorist units

 investigating teams to reinforce the two teams.

While enroute to Manila, one of the pirates attempted to escape by jumping off the waters. He was given medical treatment after he sustained head injury when he accidentally hit the freeboard.
 http://globalnation.inquirer.net/141251/pcg-in-long-term-partnership-with-japan-to-update-skills-technology

MILF: MILF Chair gives peace process updates to Bangsamoro people on Eidul Fitre

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 14): MILF Chair gives peace process updates to Bangsamoro people on Eidul Fitre



Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim took the opportunity in giving updates on the status of Bangsamoro people’s struggle for freedom, justice and self-determination in his Eidul Fitre greeting to Bangsamoro people and Muslim global Ummah on Wednesday (July 6).

In a two-page message to the Bangsamoro people, Chairman Murad underscored all efforts of the MILF leadership, peace panel and all its agencies to ensure that the gains of the more than 17 years of peace negotiations with the Philippine government shall be preserved.

He mentioned the MILF’s continued engagement with international community like Malaysia and International Contact Group to possibly sustain their support and engagement to ensure the continuity of their role in the peace process.

The MILF Chair also cited the MILF meeting with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General and other concern officers of the pan-Islamic body both in analysing the situation of the peace process and exploring all avenues to move forward.

He also related the MILF’s attendance to the 13th OIC Islamic Summit in Turkey on April 13-15, 2016 wherein the Summit strongly urged the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF to agree on a clear timeline on the resumption of the CAB implementation in the next administration to avoid prolonged uncertainties and tension on the ground.

“It further urged the GPH to implement development programs despite the non-passage of BBL, the key to the implementation of the CAB and peace in Southern Philippines,” the statement read.

Chairman Murad related further the European Union agencies’ very strong readiness to continue supporting the Bangsamoro peace process especially in normalization aspect.

The MILF leader also cited the MILF’s high optimism of the Bangsamoro people over the victory of President Rodrigo Duterte that finally the injustices against the Bangsamoro people would be ended through the new president whose vein Moro blood runs.

Chairman Murad disclosed his one-on-one meeting with President Duterte where they had substantive discussions towards the way forward in the search for peace and addressing the Bangsamoro Question.

“May the Almighty Allah accept and reward our fasts, prayers and good deeds during this holy month of Ramadhan and grand us His forgiveness and mercy,” Chairman Murad wished for fellow Bangsamoro people.

Eidul Fitre, one of the two Islamic holidays celebrated by Muslims around the  world, is the day after the month of Ramadhan which marks the end of monthlong fasting.

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/20-central-mindanao/806-milf-chair-gives-peace-process-updates-to-bangsamoro-people-on-eidul-fitre

MILF: Zamboanga City Moro Community Leaders, Peace Advocates hold caucus meeting

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 15): Zamboanga City Moro Community Leaders, Peace Advocates hold caucus meeting



The Bangsamoro Community Leaders and Peace Advocates in Zamboanga City held caucus meeting at Barangay Baliwasan, Zamboanga City on July 11, 2016 and discussed various agenda related to Peace Advocacy programs and organizational strengthening.

Strategic planning, pre and post activities evaluations were among the agenda discussed. Progress report and other issues and concerns that occurred in the past months were also brought out during the deliberations.

Tirso Tahir from Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) and Brother “Phix” from United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD) facilitated the meeting and suggested some essential guidelines and provided valuable inputs.

This is a proper venue and time where we can thresh out issues and concerns among ourselves so that we can see other things necessary to be considered in order to meet our desired output one community leader said.

Another community leader said that sustaining the practice of transparency, inclusivity and accountability makes our organization stronger and more functional in serving in attaining its objectives.

Tahir also motivated the community leaders to be mindful of the challenges and failures and should be noted as learning lesson for it is normal in any human undertaking.

He also excerpted some wise saying of well-known Islamic scholar and thinker Ibn Taimiyyah: “This is why those who are in authority are of two groups: The scholars and the rulers. If they are upright, the people will be upright; if they are corrupt, the people will be corrupt.”

In Initiating viable program and activity in your communities, you must first assess the situation in a broader perspective, preparation of resources is one thing to be considered Brother Phix stressed.

After synthesizing the deliberated issues, the participants became clarified and enlightened. A new wave of engagement in promoting the gains of GPH-MILF peace process will be intensified by the Moro Community Leaders, peace advocate groups and other stakeholders.

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/73-westhern-mindanao/809-zamboanga-city-moro-community-leaders-peace-advocates-hold-caucus-meeting

MILF: JICA-BTC Socio-Economic Office facilitates Quick Impact Project Wrap-Up Assessment

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 16): JICA-BTC Socio-Economic Office facilitates Quick Impact Project Wrap-Up Assessment



The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission Socio-Economic Office (BTC-SEO) facilitated the Quick Impact Project Wrap-Up (QIP) Assessment after 20 quick impact projects were turned-over to recipient-communities in Mindanao. The assessment activity was held at Em-Manor Hotel, Cotabato City on July 12, 2016.

Ms. Raessah M. Bantuas, BTC-SEO Field Coordinator for Admin & Project Operation said that the objectives of the workshop were to be able to know the effectiveness of QIP implementation, to identify problems, loopholes, issues and concerns.

The workshop was attended by Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) as part of implementing agency, contractors, projects consultants, the Philkoei, BTC-SEO project coordinators, JICA Cotabato Project Office (CPO) and Manila Office.

JICA CPO Head and Chief Leader Naoyuki Ochiai expressed his deepest thanks and gratitude to all the stakeholders for extending their expertise, assistance, among other things for the success of the project.

Despite the challenges encountered along the implementation of the projects, they were managed accordingly, he said. “To all of you who contributed for the success of these projects, I would like to say congratulations”, Mr. Ochiai also said.

Dr Mohammad Yacob, BDA Executive Director in his message extended his appreciation to JICA for the only partner that has issued statement that whatever may happened to Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) ‘whether there is a BBL or no BBL’ they will continue to lend support to Bangsamoro communities.

Yacob humbly asked for apology for the short comings of his agency during the implementation of the program.

Engineer Mohammad Saud Alon of BDA said that there was twice a-year monitoring done by JICA to the project sites. His team is in charge of the monitoring of JICA-BTC Projects.

The JICA have also awarded certificate of completion to the contractors.

Among the parts of wrap-up workshop was the input of Mr. Datuan “Dats” Magon Jr., the Deputy Secretary General of UNYPAD on “Glimpse on the Bangsamoro Struggle and Milestone of the Peace Process”.

He emphasized that the nature of the conflict in the Bangsamoro homeland is political, hence, it needs a political solution, Magon pointed out.

Magon is hopeful that this new administration will pass the BBL. “I’m hoping that BBL will be passed under President Rodrigo Duterte so that the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people towards Right to Self-Determination shall be finally achieved and the people could return to normal life”.

The QIP are quick projects agreed upon by former JICA President Dr Akihiko Tanaka and MILF Chairman Alhadj Murad Ebrahim after the signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in MalacaƱan Palace in March 2014 to implement development projects in the Bangsamoro communities in order that the people thereat can feel the dividends of peace. This project is under the JICA-BTC’s Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CCDP-B).

http://www.luwaran.com/home/index.php/news/20-central-mindanao/810-jica-btc-socio-economic-office-facilitates-quick-impact-project-wrap-up-assessment

‘Abusive’ tribal chieftain tagged in militarization in Dav Or

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jul 15): ‘Abusive’ tribal chieftain tagged in militarization in Dav Or

Residents scored the alleged abuses of a tribal chieftain in Caraga town, Davao Oriental province which have triggered military offensives and displaced at least 399 families.

Grace Curso, council member of the Pasaka Confederation of Lumads Compostela-Davao Oriental said the residents are blaming tribal chieftain Cupertino Banugan for the military offensives in Barangay Pichon, Caraga town, on Friday, July 8.

Curso, who joined the fact-finding mission on Tuesday, said the Banugan collects royalty fees and other dues out of the residents’ falcatta logs sale and other businesses for the last 31 years.

She said that if a villager builds a house, he would be asked to pay P10,000 to Banugan. Curso said Banugan  would also ask for a percentage of the villager’s produce of cash crops like abaca or livestock.

Banugan is an appointed tribal chieftain by the National Commission on the Indigenous Peoples.

“They also said that when they asked for help from the government no action was taken because Banugan is very influential,” she said.

“So it is only now that the residents has asked for the help of the NPA whom they believe will help them,” Curso added.

She said that is the reason why the NPAs arrived at the area this June.

NPA’s ultimatum

Lt. Miguel Diorda of the 67th IB told Davao Today that the NPA has given an ultimatum that they will attack Sitio Sangab, one of the 18 sitios in Barangay Pichon, if Banugan will not surrender.

Diorda said they even received a letter about the ultimatum urging the Army to surrender Banugan. He said they received the letter on June 24. But Diorda said he was not sure of the date on the letter.

“They gave us a letter which says that we have to surrender Cuper (Banugan),” Diorda said.

He said the NPA’s arrived in the area on June 22.

He said the NPA has threatened to attack Sitio Sangab, a known stronghold of anti-communist paramilitary forces, if Banugan will not surrender.

Captain Eliseo Marcolino also told Davao Today on Monday, July 11  that the Army’s presence was to drive out the NPAs.

He said they were aware of the land disputes in the area but said that it is “an internal problem between the natives.”

“Kaya mi niaksyon mi diha, kay nidako ang problema sa presensya sa NPA kay ilahang gi-claim ang kinabuhi daw ni Cupertino Banugan, ni tribal chieftain (We only responded because of the presence of the NPAs who are claiming for the life of Banugan),” Marcolino said.

He said until a case is filed against Banugan in court, “he is innocent”.

‘Coddled by the military’

In a statement, Rubi Del Mundo, spokesperson of the National Democratic Front in Southern Mindanao said the Army “has coddled and deputized its paramilitary Mandaya Ancestral Defense Unit (Manadu) to commit rights violations against Lumads in Caraga and Baganga in the Davao Oriental” for decades.

Del Mundo said that the armed paramilitary is headed both by Banugan and his brother Ramon.

Del Mundo said the Manadu militia killed Romeo Mapando in April 2011 following a land dispute against Banugan.

“They also killed Mali Lagungan and Roque Banagan. In 2013, the same men strafed the house of brothers Roming and Espiditio Justo in Sitio Kaliongan, tied their hands together and threatened to kill them when Banugan suspected the farmers of selling their own abaca hemp without his knowledge,” he said.

Del Mundo said the Mandaya residents in Barangay Pichon “lived in virtual martial law” under Banugan and the Manadu since mid-1980s.

“The Manadu, like the Alamara and other paramilitaries proliferating in the region, is being used by the AFP to conduct counter-revolutionary war and sow terror against Lumads and other civilians. The AFP, especially during Oplan Bayanihan, employs psywar tactics to disunite the Lumads, foments anti-revolutionary sentiment and recruits paramilitaries as mercenaries to commit the most heinous war crimes,” said Del Mundo.

Davao Today is still trying to get the side of Banugan as of press time.

http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/abusive-tribal-chieftain-tagged-in-militarization-in-dav-or/

NPA probes politicians, cops on its drugs watch list

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 15): NPA probes politicians, cops on its drugs watch list

The New People’s Army (NPA) operating in Surigao del Sur is investigating the alleged involvement of several politicians and police officers in illegal drugs trade in the province.

Sandara Sidlakan, spokesperson of the NPA’s Guerilla Front 21, said the NPA has also made up its illegal drugs watch list which include several politicians and about a dozen of police officers who are allegedly linked in illegal drugs trade in the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, Lanuza, Cortes and San Miguel in Surigao del Sur.

The NPA spokesperson said their action on the illegal drugs campaign has been going on for years, but it has recently been intensified with the present administration’s fight against it.

“We have our own eyes and ears in the community. So, we know those who are using and selling drugs. If they will present themselves and surrender with the intent of stopping and true to changing their lives then, we will not do anything to them. But if we catch them with illegal drugs in their possession, we will not think twice and execute them,” said Sidlakan.

The NPA said their action as they justified the abduction of PO1 Richard Yu Jr.

“We abducted Yu to investigate him and seek additional information that would lead to other bigger drug personalities. The family and friends of the police officer should not worry because we will let him go after we get satisfied with our ongoing investigation. So far, he is secure and well-taken care of,” said Sidlakan.

Police Senior Inspector Charity Galvez, officer in charge, public information officer of the Police Regional Office-Northern Mindanao said the Philippine National Police (PNP) has addressed the issues properly.

“For us, the proper way to address the issue on police officers using illegal drugs would be through random drug tests. The PNP here in Caraga Region has been conducting these tests to ensure that we will weed out those involved based on scientific data. So far, we still don’t have the final results on the drug tests conducted. Rest assured, we will release the result as soon as we get it,” said Galvez.

Galvez revealed that Police Chief Superintendent Rolando Felix, PRO-Caraga regional director, ordered a surprise drug test to about 300 commissioned and non-commissioned police personnel in the region.

“Right now we are in the process of conducting an unannounced drug test. All the officers from the region and province were only given an instruction that there would be an assembly and meeting. Not one of them knew, that a surprise drug test had been prepared, but this is not the first time, we’d done similar tests in the past weeks already. So, I think this is a clear sign of our efforts toward cleaning our ranks,” said Galvez.

Last month, the regional director disclosed that three police officers had been caught in the act of using drugs, but result of their administrative case is yet to come.

As of Friday, PRO-Caraga has yet to reveal the exact number of those found using drugs and involved in the illegal drugs trade.

http://www.sunstar.com.ph/davao/local-news/2016/07/15/npa-probes-politicians-cops-its-drugs-watch-list-485591

MILF, MNLF join anti-drugs fight, agree on info sharing with gov't

From InterAksyon (Jul 15): MILF, MNLF join anti-drugs fight, agree on info sharing with gov't

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) are fighting another war -- the war on illegal drugs, and this time they will be working alongside the government's law enforcers by sharing information on drug activities in their respective areas.

This developed after the MILF signed on Tuesday an agreement of cooperation with the government on suppressing the proliferation of illegal drugs throughout the country.

The MILF’s concern over the illegal drugs problem prompted its Central Committee to pass a resolution to take immediate action.

In a press conference here in Davao City on Wednesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ismael Sueno said, “We saw the willingness of the MILF in eradicating drug problems in their area. They saw how drugs affected their lives.”

Both the government and the MILF formalized five provisions in conducting anti-illegal drug operations in respect to all existing protocols under Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002 and all agreements signed between the GPH and the MILF.

But Sueno clarified that the cooperation is limited only to information sharing on the illegal drug trade within the MILF’s jurisdiction.

The cooperation was sealed between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) on the campaign against illegal drugs in MILF affected areas.

It was signed by the chair of the MILF CCCH Butch Malang, MILF AHJAG chair lawyer Abdul Dataya, and their counterparts in the GPH, Brig. Gen. Glenn Macasero and Brig. Gen. Arnel De La Vega.

Sueno said the MILF will help law enforcement authorities in identifying drug peddlers or pushers operating within their area.

“The MILF will operate in their area in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). The MILF and the government forces will have a sharing of notes on the alleged drug personalities,” Sueno told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday morning.

Under the agreement, the parties agreed that all government anti-illegal drug units shall coordinate with the AHJAG and CCCH.

“Information exchange/sharing, which includes, but not limited to, the submission of the MILF of a list of drug personalities identified in its area subject to validation of the law enforcement agencies,” the agreement states.

It is also agreed that the MILF can conduct an information drive on the ill-effects of illegal drugs in the MILF affected areas as part of its demand reduction activities and such information drive may be conducted in coordination with the barangay, municipal, city, or provincial anti-drug abuse councils.

For its part, the MNLF offered to join the campaign but wanted that their members should be trained first in gathering evidence.

MNLF chief negotiator Randolph Parcasio recalled that they joined the anti-drugs operations in Davao, particularly in Barangay 23-C, but the cases filed against suspects were dismissed due to failure of providing evidence.

http://interaksyon.com/article/130398/milf-mnlf-join-anti-drugs-fight-agree-on-info-sharing-with-govt

1 killed, 1 Bagobo tribal chief injured in assassination plot in Davao City

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 16): 1 killed, 1 Bagobo tribal chief injured in assassination plot in Davao City

A son of an assassinated tribal leader is fighting for his life after he was shot here on Friday afternoon.

Jay Apiag, spokesperson of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said that Datu Danny Diarog and Hermie Alegre were on their way home from a meeting with the National Commission on Indigenous People when they were attacked by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Sitio Kahusayan, Barangay Manuel Guianga at around 2 p.m. Friday.

Diarog is the Bagobo tribal chieftain of Sitio Kahusayan while Alegre is an officer of the Parents- Teachers Association of the Salugpungan Lumad school in the village.

“They were rushed to the nearest hospital, but Hermie Alegre was declared dead on arrival while Danny Diarog is in critical condition,” Apiag said.

Diarog’s father, Datu Dominador, was killed by armed men in 2008 after he allegedly refused to sell his ancestral land.

Human rights group earlier tagged the Kingdom of Jesus, The Name Above Any Name headed by Pastor Apollo Quiboloy as responsible behind the attack against Datu Dominador.

Quiboloy’s residence and massive property called Prayer Mountain is located near the tribal community.

Lumad in the area got displaced several times since the death of Diarog after reported incidents of massing up of armed men in the area.

 The religious sect repeatedly denied the accusations.
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/796319/v-2

Tribal chieftain hurt, 1 other dead in Davao attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 16): Tribal chieftain hurt, 1 other dead in Davao attack

DAVAO CITY–A son of an assassinated tribal leader is now fighting for his life after he and another companion were shot by still unidentified armed men here on Friday afternoon.

Jay Apiag, spokesman of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao, said that Datu Danny Diarog and Hermie Alegre were on their way home from a meeting with the National Commission on Indigenous People when they were attacked by motorcycle-riding gunmen in Sitio Kahusayan in Barangay Manuel Guianga in Tugbok district around 2 p.m.

Diarog is the Bagobo tribal chieftain of Sitio Kahusayan while Alegre is an officer of the Parents-Teachers Association of the Salugpungan Lumad school in the village.
“They were rushed to the nearest hospital but Hermie Alegre was declared dead on arrival. Diarog remains in critical condition,” Apiag said.

Diarog’s father, Datu Dominador, was killed by armed men in 2008.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/796378/tribal-chieftain-hurt-1-other-dead-in-davao-attack


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Family claims slain tribal leader innocent

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jul 15): Family claims slain tribal leader innocent

GUARDS. Two soldiers sit on both sides of the slain tribal leader, Ruben Labawan's coffin in the latter's last day of wake on Thursday, July 14.  (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)

GUARDS. Two soldiers sit on both sides of the slain tribal leader, Ruben Labawan’s coffin in the latter’s last day of wake on Thursday, July 14. (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)
 
The family of slain anti-Communist Ata tribal leader Ruben Labawan insisted on his innocence to the accusations hurled by the New People’s Army (NPA), who owned responsibility to the killing.
 
During the wake of Labawan at Almendras Gym here, Cencia Manuyog, sister of Ruben Labawan belied the NPA’s allegations that Labawan was responsible for the threats, harassment, and killing of indigenous peoples in Davao City and some parts of North Cotabato province.

“Buotan man akong kuya, dili man siya daotan, maayo man gani na siya sa akoang pamilya (My brother is kind, he is not bad, he is even good to my family),”she said. Manuyog lives in Paquibato, a remote northern district here.

Manuyog said that Labawan would even go to their area every three months to check the status of the IPs in Paquibato.

“Kadtong May 30 mi last nagkita didto sa among bukid sa Paquibato, naa man gud siyay balay diri sa Davao (We last saw each other on May 30 at our farm in Paquibato since he has his own house here in Davao),” she said.

Manuyog said she has no idea why the NPA ambushed him.

“Ambot lang unsa ilang gusto mahitabo nganong iambush man akong magulang (I have no idea why they have to ambush my brother),” Manuyog said.

Hours before the ambush in Panabo City, Minda Torotoro, Labawan’s wife, said she advised him to be vigilant saying “the city is not safe for him”.

“Nananghid siya sa akoa na magattend siya ug meeting sa Panabo, ana ko na Panabo na sad ka kabalo ka na delikado ng lugara pero ana siya na sige lang daw kay naa man siyay kauban (He asked permission from me that he will attend a meeting in Panabo, I told him that Panabo is not a safe place for him, but he insisted because there is someone who will accompany him),” she said.

Torotoro said Labawan left odn Wednesday July 6 at 7:00 am.

“He didn’t say anything even a hint that he will be gone on that day,” she said.

Torotoro said that the meeting was about National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) summit.

“He said that the meeting is important because he will submit a final resolution,” she said.

Prior to the incident, Torotoro said that Labawan received “three threats” already.

“Dili nana bag-o para sa akoa, kabalo nami ana, ikatulo nani niya (That is not new to me, we already knew about the threats he received, this is the third time),” she said.

Torotoro said that she does not believe there is truth on the NPA’s accusations against her husband.

“Super bait na siya, pati ang tribu niya apil na sa pagmahal niya, maski mawad an na siyag time namo pero okay lang kay naanad nako sa ilaha ug sa iyaha, God-fearing na siya kay kung wala mi naguban, magpastor na siya (He’s so kind.  His tribe is part of his love already. Even if he doesn’t have time for us already, it’s okay because we are used to it. He is God-fearing, if the two of us didn’t end up together, he is a church pastor by now),” she said.

The NPA released a statement on July 8 owning up to the killing as it also described the Lumad and peasant masses as “rejoicing on the revolutionary justice” meted out to the Datu.

Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesman of the NPA Southern Mindanao Operations Command said Labawan was an active organizer of the AFP’s Alamara “and threatened hapless Lumads of violent retaliation in order to force them to enlist in the paramilitary group.”

“He conspired with the AFP’s 69th IB in the 2015 Paquibato massacre that killed Datu Ruben Enlog and farmers Randy Carnasa and Oligario Quimbo,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said that along with the AFP troops, Labawan’s  Alamara and other paramilitaries “have committed the most fanatic and barbaric acts of war crimes around the region, such as the cold-murder of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio.”

The NPA also claimed that most recently, Labawan and his troops were “responsible for the rape and summary killing of two NPA hors de combat in Paquibato and the mutilation of a Red fighter in Magpet, North Cotabato.”

The NPA said that “human rights violators and other enemies of the people must no longer be allowed to inflict further harm against innocent civilians”.

“In the exercise of revolutionary justice, Labawan has been made accountable for the heinous crimes he has committed against the Filipino people,” Sanchez said.

Resumption of peace talks urged

Acting Mayor Paolo Z. Duterte has called on the public to support the immediate resumption of peace talks between the NDF and the government.

Duterte who also condoled with the Labawan family said the tribal leader’s death shows the “urgent need for us to be united against violence and to support the quest for justice and calls for the immediate resumption of peace talks.”

http://davaotoday.com/main/human-rights/family-claims-slain-tribal-leader-innocent/

Army warns threat of ‘pangayaw’ for Labawan’s killing

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (Jul 15): Army warns threat of ‘pangayaw’ for Labawan’s killing

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Battalion denies Army's air strike wounded a civilian following an encounter with the New People's Army in Davao Oriental. (Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com)
(Paulo C. Rizal/davaotoday.com file photo)

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesman of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said some tribal leaders are approaching them for advice on what to do after Labawan’s death.

Labawan, is a tribal leader of the Ata in Paquibato district here who took an active role in the government’s anti-insurgency campaign. He was killed by the New People’s Army on July 6 in Panabo City. Labawan was buried on Thursday, July 8.

“We have some tribal leaders going to the division and asking for advises. There are several tribal leaders going to the Division to ask what will they do,” Batchar said.

He said the 1003rd Brigade is now conducting “peace dialogues” among the groups of the Lumad “to avoid further bloodshed.”

“We cannot control it already. All we can do right now, is to talk to them, to prevent (it), because sooner or later they will face criminal charges if they still pursue with the pangayaw,” said Batchar.

Batchar said Labawan was “a very active member of the Ata Manobo tribe, who is helping his fellow Lumad in Paquibato district to alleviate their way of living.”

However, the NPA in a statement said “Labawan was guilty of blood debts and thereby meted with the death penalty for serious crimes against the people, especially the Lumads and peasant settlers of Davao City and North Cotabato.”

“He was also guilty of grave acts of collusion in the reactionary regime’s campaign of duplicity and disunity among Lumads,” said Rigoberto Sanchez, spokesperson of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Command.

Sanchez said Labawan was enlisted as an intelligence operative for the Intelligence Service of the AFP (ISAFP) since 2001.

http://davaotoday.com/main/politics/army-warns-pangayaw-for-labawans-death-imminent/

Sustained campaign vs ASG operation needed in Basilan

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 15): Sustained campaign vs ASG operation needed in Basilan


Basilan location (Photo from Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons

ISABELA, Basilan Province – Basilan Governor Jim Saliman called on the military to sustain their campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) operating in the province.

He said the campaign against the ASG, which  started on July 3, must be sustained in order for the people to experienced peace and development.

Saliman  also asked the police to continue their drive against drug users and pushers in the province as ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Saliman added that the provincial government could not bring total peace and development to the province unless a total cooperation of local chief executives of the two cities and nine town can be achieved.

“Cooperation of the nine town mayors and two city mayors must be achieved, in order for the provincial government can bring peace and development to the entire province,” Saliman emphasized in his message for peace held at the Basilan State College, last Saturday morning.

http://www.mb.com.ph/sustained-campaign-vs-asg-operation-needed-in-basilan/

ASG and captive Indon sailors spotted in Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 15): ASG and captive Indon sailors spotted in Sulu

Fifty-five members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and seven Indonesian sailors they abducted  in the Sulu Sea last June 24 have been spotted in a remote sitio in Luuk, Sulu where the bandit group is believed to be getting aid from some local politicians.

This was disclosed by a military source, who said that the ASG, led by Alhabsi Misaya and with the seven hostages, were seen holding camp in Luuk town around 5 p.m. Thursday.

The source, who asked anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media, added that the Misaya’s group was being supported by local residents, as well as some politicians who have been providing them with logistical and intelligence requirements.


According to the source, the  group and their captives were now encamped at  Sitio Bulagsih in Luuk town.

The military is currently on high-level campaign against the ASG in the province that puts more pressure on the bandit group to free the hostages.

This developed as three personnel of the Field Artillery Battalion attached to the Marine Battalion Landing Team-10 (MBLT-10) were shot to death, Thursday morning  by suspected members of the ASG in Indanan, Sulu.

Maj Filemon Tan Jr.,  spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Western Mindanao Command (AFP-WesMinCom) said the three soldiers were procuring provisions in Barangay Manilop, Indanan when they were waylaid and shot by the suspects.

Tan said members of the MBLT-10 rushed to the area  but failed  to catch  the suspects who immediately fled after the incident.

According to Tan, the bodies of the victims were immediately transported by soldiers  to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu. Their names were not released pending notification of their next of kin.

Meanwhile, in Basilan province, about 40 rogue members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and lawless elements from the municipalities of Olutanga, Talusan and Mabuhay, all in Sibugay province, have reportedly traveled to Al-Barka, Basilan using a commercial vessel to reinforce the groups of relatives belonging to the ASG led Isnilon Hapilon and Furuji Indama.

The group Hapilon and Indama has sporadically engaged in armed confrontation  with government forces in the municipalities of Tipo-Tipo, Al-Barka and Unkaya Pukan, all in Basilan province since July 3.

To reinforce the ASG leaders’ forces, a group under Mansul Urang and Ogis Jakaria was reportedly able to leave this city and was headed to Lamitan City in Basilan onboard different ferries from July 11 to 13.

Some were able to get to Basilan onboard a fishing boat, bringing with them ammunition, medical kits, and other logistical supplies.

Tan said the  all-out Focus Military Operations in the two province will continue until they can neutralize the ASG in the two provinces.

http://www.mb.com.ph/asg-and-captive-indon-sailors-spotted-in-sulu/

8 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clash

From the Philippine Star (Jul 16): 8 BIFF members killed in Maguindanao clash



The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters reportedly provoked the hostilities, which displaced more than 500 ethnic Maguindanaon families. Philstar.com/File photo 

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - Eight bandits were killed while seven soldiers were wounded in hostilities this week in the province, sparked by an attack  last Wednesday on an Army team studying Moro culture in Mamasapano town.

Senior members of the municipal security councils in the  neighboring Mamasapano, Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns on Saturday said there are talks spreading around purporting that the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) are now preparing for retaliations, angered by the deaths of eight members in the encounters.

The sources, among them elected officials, identified the BIFF fatalities as Monib, a certain “Boy ISIS,” Odin, Bansil, Bohari, Nasif, Badrudin and an adolescent named Salik.

The local officials also confirmed that 10 bandits, Tuwah, Runi, Omar, Tanser, Kasim, Kamar, Kahirudin, Ibrahim, Moctar, and Odih, were wounded in the gunfights.

They told reporters it was the BIFF that provoked the hostilities, which erupted early Wednesday and waned late Thursday, displacing more than 500 ethnic Maguindanaon families.

The BIFF, led by fanatical clerics, among them graduates of religious universities in the Middle East and North Africa, boasts of its loyalty to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
The skirmishes last Wednesday escalated when BIFF members fired at soldiers patrolling in nearby Barangay Meta in Datu Unsay to avenge the deaths of three bandits killed in their incursions earlier the same day in Barangay Kuloy in Mamasapano.

Seven soldiers, Privates 1st Class Dan Antiporta, Glen Villanueva, Jason Ojanola, Manolito Tero and Ronnie Angel and Corporals Mike Encarnacion and Kim Tablasan were wounded in the two-day running firefights.

Evacuees told reporters the BIFF started the trouble before dawn Wednesday with an attack on Visayan personnel of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) dispatched to Barangay Kuloy to study the culture and religious practices of villagers.

The 19th IB, comprised largely of non-Muslim soldiers from provinces in the Visayas, arrived in Central Mindanao just before the May 9 synchronized local and national elections.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID), which has jurisdiction over military units in Maguindanao, said the community immersion activity of the soldiers from Visayas was only meant to educate them on the social and religious norms of Maguindanaons.

“It was never a tactical activity. It was purely an educational engagement parallel with the religious and cultural sensitivity policy of 6th ID,” Petinglay said.

The BIFF’s latest attacks at Barangay Kuloy fanned undue apprehensions among villagers on their safety, worried that the group might persecute them for helping in the educational program of the soldiers, now suspended indefinitely.

“The BIFF is known for harassing and even executing villagers on mere suspicion of conniving with the military,” Samad Kusin, a 45-year-old farmer, said in the Maguindanaon dialect.

http://www.philstar.com/nation/2016/07/16/1603462/8-biff-members-killed-maguindanao-clash

ISIS recruits Southeast Asians through newspaper

From the Asian Journal (Jul 14): ISIS recruits Southeast Asians through newspaper

ISIS recruits Southeast Asians through newspaper

THE Extremist group Islamic State (ISIS) has launched a new Malay-language publication in an effort to gain support among jihadists in Southeast Asia, according to Malaysian newspaper Berita Harian.

Called Al-Fahitin (Arabic for “The Conqueror”), the newspaper was launched in the southern Philippines on June 20 and has been distributed to Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, southern Thailand and in parts of Mindanao where many of the Filipino Muslims there speak the Malay language.

CNN Indonesia reported that ISIS has its own sector of Malay-speaking correspondents from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines called Katiba Nusantara.

Jasminder Singh and Muhammad Haziq Jani, terrorism analysts at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, co-authored a research paper last month called “Al-Fatihin: Islamic State’s First Malay-Language Newspaper”, which detailed the purposes of the newspaper, which were to serve Southeast Asian jihadists and recruit new ones.

They also analyzed the underlying effects of introducing such a publication to the region.

“Al-Fatihin’s tagline (“The newspaper for Malay-speaking migrants in the Islamic State”) drives the point that, no matter the differences and nuances in language, identity and origins, Southeast Asian jihadists have [a] common logos and as such, all Malay-speaking jihadists should act as one,” said Singh and Jani.

The paper detailed the first issue of the newspaper, which was 20 pages long and focused on the month of Ramadan and the act of jihad, also known as the “holy struggle.”

The issue also included a three-page message from the late Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Egyptian insurgent and former al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, encouraging insurgents to “continue their jihadist activities, search for martyrdom and kill and crucify the polytheists, disbelievers, oppressors and transgressors.”

The use of the Malay language was an effective strategy for recruitment because it allows for the organization to “disseminate [ISIS] propaganda” to a broader audience in an effort to unify the jihadist population in the region.

“Al-Fatihin buttresses [ISIS] messages calling on militant groups in Indonesia and the Philippines to unite and pledge their allegiance to Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi,” the paper read.

An anonymous security expert told Berita Harian that the newspaper can be seen as a warning that Malay-speaking territories are in ISIS’s sight.

“This psychological campaign means that the terrorists have a big objective, which is to expand their influence among people who understand the Malay language,” said the expert.

The source added that based on the way that the language is being used, the writer(s) and/or editor(s) may be from Southeast Asia.

Two days after Al-Fahitin was launched, ISIS released a video claiming the Philippines as its territory and told its supporters in Southeast Asia to travel to the country   if they can’t make it to Syria, according to Singaporean newspaper Strait Times.

The Philippine military reportedly dismissed the video as “mere propaganda,” according to Strait Times.

Over the last few years, there has been growing speculation that the Philippines is ISIS’s next target. Southeast Asian militant groups have already pledged allegiance to ISIS, like the Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao and Mujahideen in eastern Indonesia. An upsurge of jihadist activity from Abu Sayyaf, has raised concern over ISIS’ influence in the country.

http://asianjournal.com/news/isis-recruits-southeast-asians-through-newspaper/

Lorenzana: Improving PH territorial defense now a priority

From Rappler (Jul 16): Lorenzana: Improving PH territorial defense now a priority
 
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana hopes that China eventually respects the ruling so they can 'devote more resources to pressing problems at home'   

Improving the Philippines’ territorial defense is one of the priorities aligned with the recent ruling on a historic case against China, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Thursday, July 14.

In an interview with Rappler, the newly-installed head of the Department of National Defense (DND) said that beefing up the nation's capacity to defend its territories is now necessary more than ever. (READ: Highlights of the ruling: China violated Philippine sovereign rights)

“That’s very important because now we can clearly delineate our territorial waters over by the exclusive economic zone (EEC),” he said.

On July 12, the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) announced that an arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines in a case involving the West Philippine Sea. (READ: Philippines wins case vs China)

China, according to the tribunal, does not have any legal basis to “claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided by the Convention, within the seas falling within the ‘9-dash line.’”

The ruling comes after 3 years since the Philippines filed the case against China in 2013. (TIMELINE: The Philippines-China maritime dispute)

Lorenzana, however, hopes that China eventually honors and respects the decision of the tribunal as it will lessen the external threat the Philippines is facing.

“If we can only get China to respect the ruling, it would be a big load from our back,” he said. “We could probably devote more of our resources to pressing problems at home. “

Thankful for Aquino’s AFP modernization

Improving territorial defense will go hand-in-hand with the 15-year modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) approved during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, according to Lorenzana.

At least P60 billion ($2.8 billion) was allocated for AFP modernization during Aquino’s presidency. This equates to 68 completed projects – higher than the 45 projects during the terms of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and Fidel V. Ramos. (READ: Aquino and the PH military: Toys for the big boys)

“If you look at the funds that were given by the previous administration, it’s actually almost 3 times the funds given by the past 3 administrations before it,” he emphasized. “It’s big, it’s huge, and we are very thankful to President Aquino for this.”

The second phase of the modernization program which starts in 2017 or early 2018 will be pursued as planned.

Adjustments, however, will be made in line with the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

“We may have to tweak it a little so that we can address the priority of the new president,” he explained. “He said in his pronouncement a couple of weeks ago that we need more helicopters and night flying capabilities so that we can pursue these mandates, criminals, and terrorists that are trying to create trouble in the South.”

Drugs, crime, Abu Sayyaff

Dealing with territorial disputes is not only the job the AFP needs to do, according to Lorenzana, as they have been tasked by Duterte to assist the Philippine National Police (PNP). Eradicating drugs and criminality is part of the marching orders given by the new president.

“We stand ready to support and assist the PNP,” Lorenzana explained. “If it is needed by the PNP or the drug enforcement agency, we will select people who are knowledgeable about this.”

The unit will not be permanent and its composition will be a mix of army and other specialized forces. He also emphasized that it will not be “very big.”

“On a need basis lang naman (only on a need basis) because when they conduct these operations it will be surgical operations on a small area,” Lorenzana explained. “If they need warm bodies for support, or war troops, we can provide them.”

Aside from drugs and criminality, ending the operations of the Abu Sayyaf is also one of the “marching orders” of Duterte.

According to Lorenzana, they are now in the process of implementing some plans which include beefing maritime assets and talking with counterparts in nearby countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Talking to other countries is important because “the border is so porous and wide” and the Abu Sayyaf have shifted to kidnapping passengers of fishing boats.

“We are going to hammer out all the details of how we will implement the border patrols, hot pursuit, and control of border, so that we can check who is coming in and out of the country, and from what sides,” he explained.

Operations, however, will be more of a holistic approach as Lorenzana plans to bring other agencies that can provide livelihood and build infrastructure to uplift the lives of people and communities that support the Abu Sayyaf. After all, the solution to the problem “is not only military.”

“We will bring in the whole government there especially those agencies that are concerned with these things,” he said. “Without the support, it would be very difficult for us to eradicate the Abu Sayaff.”

“When they put their support behind you, then the job becomes easier.”

http://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/rich-media/139836-delfin-lorenzana-philippine-territorial-defense-priority