Tuesday, January 3, 2017

War on drugs also used vs leftists, says NDF lawyer

From ABS-CBN (Jan 3): War on drugs also used vs leftists, says NDF lawyer

The administration's war against illegal drugs is also being used to run after leftists in certain areas, a lawyer for the communists said on Tuesday.

In an interview with ANC's Headstart, senior legal consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) Rachel Pastores said they have received reports the drug campaign is being used to "even attack who are involved in political activities.

She said there was an incident in Bulacan where farmer-leaders were arrested on suspicion they were involved in drugs.

"It is actually now being used as a reason to go after even those who are involved in political activities, and even go into communities and conduct surveillance on progressive leaders or leaders of progressive organizations," she added.

She also said the campaign is also being used to go into far-flung areas controlled by the New People's Army (NPA) to conduct surveillance in that area.

"The danger is, in the guise of the war against drugs, it is being used in effect to curtail political activities, and in effect, the rights of the people," she said.

Pastores could not say how rampant these cases are, but that these have been reported to them.

In December, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), a militant labor organization, also berated authorities for allegedly using Oplan Tokhang, the police operation of knocking at the doors of drug suspects to urge them to surrender, to go after militant demonstrators.

“Oplan Tokhang is also being abused by police and military to target other groups, individuals and communities who have legitimate demands,” CTUHR Executive Director Daisy Arago said in a statement.

Pastores was also not definite if these or the drug-related killings would be raised in the third round of talks between leftist leaders and the government of the Philippines.


What happens to NPA after peace pact is signed?

From ABS-CBN (Jan 3): What happens to NPA after peace pact is signed?

Representatives from the Philippine government and the Nationa Democratic Front of the Philippines meet during the 2nd day of peace talks at the Holmenkollen Park Hotel's "Nobel" room in Oslo, Norway. Danny Buenafe, ABS-CBN News/File Photo

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) will not automatically disband its armed wing, the New People's Army (NPA), when it signs a peace agreement with the government, one of the left's lawyer-consultants said Tuesday.

Atty. Rachel Pastores, senior legal consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), told ANC's Headstart she sees no reason for the NPA to disband, unless the root causes of their armed struggle are resolved.

She said, although the government and communist rebels may agree on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER) and the Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR), "there’s a need to see to it that these agreements are really implemented."

"Meaning, that these agreements would really make the country move to [being] an economically developed country because that is the only way that the armed struggle would be resolved, because the root cause of the armed struggle would be resolved through economic development," she added.

"Until that happens, I think that there is no reason for the NPA to really lay down their arms if the root cause of the armed conflict is not yet resolved even though there is already an agreement," she said.

She added, the armed communist rebels may be given a role in the implementation of the agreement on socio-economic reforms.

"I think the NPA could be given a role in the implementation or [they can] see to it that the CASER is really implemented and brings about genuine economic development in our country because in that way, the root cause of the armed conflict would be resolved, which is ending poverty," she said.

Pastores underscored that if the government is "really willing" after signing the agreements, "they should implement it, and if they’re willing to implement it, then it must not be that tedious."

"The signing of the peace agreement itself will not automatically solve the root cause of the armed conflict because there’s another step, which is the implementation," she said.


Suspected Muslim extremists storm Mindanao jail, free more than 130 inmates including alleged bombmakers

From the Straits Times (Jan 4): Suspected Muslim extremists storm Mindanao jail, free more than 130 inmates including alleged bombmakers

The North Cotabato District Jail in Kidapawan City.


Suspected Muslim extremists stormed a provincial jail in the war-torn southern Philippine island group of Mindanao early Wednesday (Jan 4), freeing over 130 inmates including suspected bombmakers from a secessionist group.

Reports received by radio stations here said at least 132 inmates escaped, and one jail guard was killed when about 100 armed men attacked the jail in Armas district in Kidapawan city, North Cotabato province, at around 1am on Wednesday.

Felix Capalla, one of the leaders of the inmates who escaped, told radio network DzBB that three of those who were set free were suspected bomb makers from the 105th Command of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a secessionist group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
The BIFF is a splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which is holding peace talks with the government of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Superintendent Peter Bongat, the jail warden, told The Philippine Star: “It was not a jail break. It was a planned rescue of certain detainees.”
He said about a hundred men opened fire after cutting the jail’s power lines. They then stormed the compound, targeting cells that held high-profile inmates. Only one inmate has been captured so far.
Supt Bongat said there were intelligence reports that an attack on the jail was imminent. The prison staff were reinforced with soldiers last Saturday (Dec 31) and Sunday (Jan 1), but they were pulled out by Monday (Jan 2).

Apart from the suspected BIFF fighters, about a dozen drug traffickers were among those who escaped.

Abu Misry Mama, a spokesman for the BIFF, denied that his group was behind the attack, according to a report from Catholic radio station dxMS.


Maguindanao towns brace for more BIFF attacks

From the Philippine Star (Jan 3): Maguindanao towns brace for more BIFF attacks

The BIFF said the attacks were perpetrated to avenge the death of Thamrin Esmael, a high-ranking member of the group. File photo
MAGUINDANAO, Philippines -- Authorities are bracing for more attacks by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters to avenge the deaths of members killed and wounded in encounters with soldiers in the past five days.
More than 500 families, meanwhile, are in makeshift relief sites and houses of relatives in safer areas in Salibo town in Maguindanao after being displaced by BIFF attacks in the municipality last December 30.
BIFF bandits also attacked Barangay Nabalawag in Midsayap town in North Cotabato during the night of December 31 and fired assault rifles at houses and a nearby Army detachment, wounding a soldier’s wife named Norcel Bulay-Bulay.
The incident was preceded by the detonation by bandits at noontime the same day of a roadside bomb along a thoroughfare in Talitay town in Maguindanao.
No one was hurt in the bombing, but the powerful explosion caused panic among residents.
Barangay officials said the explosive was intended for a convoy of relief workers and soldiers frequenting Talitay to extend humanitarian services to villagers displaced by the government’s recent anti-narcotics operation in the municipality targeting Mayor Muntassir Sabal.
President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier tagged Sabal, now at large, as “narco-politican,” who is included in Malacañang’s list of local officials involved in large-scale drug trafficking.
Sources from the municipal peace and order councils in different towns said seven BIFF bandits were killed while five others were wounded, mostly adolescents, when soldiers guarding the detachments in Salibo that they attacked returned fire.
The slain bandits, identified only as Salik, Ansao, Talib, Norodin, Tulas, Sahayde and Sahidali, were killed while trying to sneak through the fences of the Army detachments they attacked from different directions.
Despite confirmation from local officials, the BIFF denied that seven of its members were killed in the encounters.
Abu Misry Mama, spokesman of BIFF, said only two from their ranks were wounded and that none was killed in the ensuing firefights.
Mama said the attacks were perpetrated to avenge the death of Thamrin Esmael, chairman of the BIFF’s self-styled Internal Affairs Group, in a recent encounter with soldiers in a nearby town.
Supt. Bernard Tayong, chief of the Midsayap municipal police, said they are tightly guarding barangays that are vulnerable to BIFF attacks.
He said the harassment of villagers and soldiers in Barangay Nabalawag last week was perpetrated by BIFF gunmen led by Commander Tong.
The commander, wanted for heinous offenses, is a known ally of two large-scale drug traffickers, Renz Tukuran and Mokz Masgal.
Tukuran and Masgall were both driven away from Midsayap by policemen in a series of anti-narcotics operation between late October until November last year.
The operations resulted in the arrest of 20 heavily-armed followers of the two drug lords, whose networks peddled shabu in remote areas in Midsayap and nearby towns.
Local police investigators are still validating reports purporting that the December 24 grenade attack near the Santo Niño church in Midsayap that injured 16 people was pulled off by a drug ring dislodged from the municipality.

AFP: 2 hostages have joined Abus

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 4): AFP: 2 hostages have joined Abus

Military says Japanese, Filipino are now part of the bandit group; 3 others removed from list of kidnap victims
The Armed Forces of the Philippines said a Japanese treasure hunter abducted by the Abu Sayyaf in 2010 and a Filipino businessman held by the bandits since 2014 have been removed from the list of kidnap victims after the military received reports that they have joined the group.

Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., the spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said fish trader Joshua Bani had been considered an ally of the Abu Sayyaf and will no longer be included on the government’s list of kidnap victims.

He said the fate of Japanese Toshio Ito, who had earlier been suspected of joining the bandit group, is unknown.

Tan said kidnap victims Dennis Cabadunga, a businessman from Labason town in Zamboanga del Norte province, who was kidnapped on May 28, 2015; Santino Espino, a 9-year-old boy kidnapped in Jolo town in Sulu province on June 30, 2016; and Antonio Tan, a Chinese-Filipino businessman from Lapuyan town in Zamboanga del Sur province, who was kidnapped on March 23, 2016, had also been removed from the list of kidnap victims because the military had not received updates on their status for a long time.

He said the military’s list now has 27 victims, among them a Dutch, a German, a Korean, four Indonesians, five Malaysians, six Vietnamese and nine Filipinos.

Tan said the military has “strengthened” its cooperation with residents of Sulu in a bid to enlist their help to rescue the victims.
Locals’ cooperation
“We are strengthening our cooperation with the local populace and make them understand their role in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf. The people can always put pressure on the Abu Sayyaf and not support the bandits. The cooperation with the AFP is significant in this fight,” he said.

Temojen Tulawie, a former councilor of Jolo, said the bandits have become more powerful, with the group’s influence becoming stronger in five major towns in Sulu.

“The Abu Sayyaf started abducting more people, [especially] foreigners, 16 years ago. There was kidnapping before 2000 but it was not that [prevalent] … compared to 2000 until today,” Tulawie said.

He said many soldiers have died in the campaign against the Abu Sayyaf, but the bandits continued to operate and the problem of kidnapping persisted.

Tulawie said now is the time for President Duterte to show his tough leadership.

“Mr. Duterte [should use an] iron fist, but this has to be an extraordinary solution without spilling the blood of innocent people. We have [experienced] so many deaths and abuses,” he said.

Tulawie said the military campaign against the Abu Sayyaf should focus on the towns of Patikul, Talipao, Maimbung, Parang and Indanan.


Philippine Coast Guard Thwarts Pirate Attack

From The Maritime Executive (Jan 3): Philippine Coast Guard Thwarts Pirate Attack


On Tuesday, suspected pirates launched an attack on the geared bulker Ocean Kingdom off of Zamboanga, Mindanao. A spokesman for the Philippine Coast Guard told Inquirer.net that two speedboats approached the Kingdom and opened fire at her bridge. Coast Guard assets arrived on scene and engaged the pirates, and after a firefight, the attackers retreated. No casualties were reported.

Seafarer Jefry Abales said in a social media post that his vessel had received a mayday call reporting a piracy attack near Sibago Island. At the time, Abales' vessel was only three nm from the Ocean Kingdom, and he gave thanks that his vessel had not been attacked as well.

This was the second attack on a merchant vessel near Basilan in two months. On November 11, ten gunmen in a speedboat attacked the freighter Royal 16 off of Basilan, boarding her and abducting six Vietnamese crewmembers. One additional seafarer was injured in the exchange.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia are actively fighting Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and piracy in the waters of the Sulu and Celebes Sea. The three nations' maritime boundaries intersect in this area, and in the past, pirates have taken advantage of territorial seas demarcations to flee the authorities.
Manila recently granted its island neighbors the right to conduct hot-pursuit chases of pirates into Philippine waters, a measure that is expected to improve the law enforcement response to attacks off of Sabah and Tawi-Tawi. In addition, the Philippine military has stepped up its shoreside counterinsurgency operations on the islands of Basilan and Sulu in an attempt to eliminate Abu Sayyaf's bases.

Separately, on Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines updated its count of Abu Sayyaf hostages, removing two individuals who are suspected of joining the group and three more whose status had not been updated for some time. The update brings the military's list of Abu Sayyaf hostages down to 27 people, most of them seafarers from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines.


Alert crew, prompt naval response foil Abu Sayyaf seajacking bid off Basilan

From InrterAksyon (Jan 4): Alert crew, prompt naval response foil Abu Sayyaf seajacking bid off Basilan

Google map of Basilan with the red arrow indicating the location of Sibago Island

An alert crew and quick response by naval units foiled what authorities called an attempt by the Abu Sayyaf to board and seize a container ship off Sibago Island, Basilan Tuesday.

Western Mindanao Command spokesman Major Felimon Tan said the M/V Ocean Kingdom was sailing for Davao City from Zamboanga City when it was fired at by six gunmen onboard two motorboats around 3:24 p.m. Tuesday.

None of the crew was hurt.

"The Naval Forces Western Mindanao Command deployed naval vessels with the Naval Special Operations Unit in the area,” Tan said. “Air assets were also deployed to conduct aerial reconnaissance and later on pre-positioned in the area as government forces continue to monitor transiting vessels at Basilan Strait and Zamboanga City waters."

The gunmen retreated towards the Moro Gulf.

Tan said Joint Task Forces Zamboanga, Basilan, and Sulu have been alerted and directed to look for and pursue the suspects.

As of this posting, he M/V Ocean Kingdom and its 27 crew are continuing their voyage to Davao City.


DWDD: AFP to file petition for custody of Ex-PDEA official

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 4): AFP to file petition for custody of Ex-PDEA official

File Photo from Google

Camp Aguinaldo Quezon City, DWDD – Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office Chief Colonel Edgard Arevalo sets to file a petition for custody of Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino, a former Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) official who faces trial for illegal possession of drugs.

Lt. Col. Marcelino surrendered yesterday afternoon in the office of the Provost Marshal General, Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He was accompanied by his sister and processes necessary requirements such as fingerprinting, mugshots and physical examination.

At this time, Lt. Col. Marcelino will be detained in AFP Custodial Center. “He will be detained definitely because he has a standing warrant of arrest, that’s why he voluntarily surrendered,” Arevalo explained.

Col. Arevalo said all actions to be taken will be based on Manila Regional Trial Court’s decision on granting their petition for custody of Lt. Col. Marcelino.

Lt. Col. Marcelino received a warrant last December 28 for violating the Section 11 or possession of dangerous drugs and Article 2 of the Republic Act No. 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002.


DWDD: GOODWILL VISIT | Russian Navy Vessels in Manila (Photos)

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 4): GOODWILL VISIT | Russian Navy Vessels in Manila (Photos)

PIER 15, South Harbor, Manila (DWDD):

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DWDD: GOODWILL VISIT | Russian Navy Vessels in Manila

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 4): GOODWILL VISIT | Russian Navy Vessels in Manila

PIER 15, South Harbor, Manila (DWDD)The Russian Navy Vessels Admiral Tributs, a large anti-submarine ship; and Boris Butoma, a large sea tanker, headed by Rear Adm. Eduard Mikhailov, Deputy Commander of Flotilla of Pacific Fleet of Russia. The aforesaid Russian Navy vessels are here for a goodwill visit to the Philippines from Jan. 2 till Saturday, January 7.

This is the third time a Russian Navy vessel visited the Philippines. The first visit in January 2012, when Admiral Panteleyev, an anti-submarine destroyer; Boris Butoma, the same large Sea tanker; and Fotiy Krylov, a rescue tug were also welcomed at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila. Likewise, in May 2016, Marshall Gelovani, a hydrographic vessel, also berthed in South Harbor, Manila for resupply and replenishment.

Philippine Navy (PN) vessel BRP Rajah Humabon (PS11) rendered customary meeting procedures at the vicinity of Corregidor Island, and escorted the vessels to its designated berthing area. PN delegates accorded the visiting navy a welcome ceremony upon arrival followed by a port briefing for security and health aboard one of the Russian Navy vessels.

This five-day visit will include series of confidence building engagements between PN and Russian Navy personnel such as courtesy call on the Flag Officer in Command, PN by the Russian Ambassador to the Philippines, Igor Anatolyevich Khovaev; and Rear Adm. Mikhailov himself together with the ship’s commanding officers. Likewise, tour to historical places within Manila and Cavite area, wreath laying ceremony, capability demonstration, open house to all civilians, shipboard tour aboard Russian vessels, receptions, goodwill games, and send-off ceremony were also scheduled.

This visit by Russian Navy and the fitting reception bestowed by PN will foster goodwill which will contribute in the furtherance of friendship of PN and Russian Navy, and enhance the maritime cooperation through naval diplomacy and camaraderie. NPAO / MCAG

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Military seeks custody of Marcelino

From Rappler (Jan 4): Military seeks custody of Marcelino

The ex-PDEA agent's main defense in the case against him is that he was doing covert operations for the military when he was first arrested in January 2016

MILITARY WANTS CUSTODY. File photo of former PDEA official Marine Lt Col Ferdinand Marcelino (center). File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MILITARY WANTS CUSTODY. File photo of former PDEA official Marine Lt Col Ferdinand Marcelino (center). File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is seeking custody of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Ferdinand Marcelino, a former drug enforcement agent now facing trial for illegal possession of drugs over his first arrest in a shabu warehouse one year ago. (READ: Ex-PDEA exec Marcelino surrenders to AFP)
"We are filing a petition for custody before the courts para nasa atin muna, sa AFP muna ang kanyang custody (so we'll have custody of him, the AFP will have custody). It's in the process," said Colonel Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP public affairs office.
The military is now headed by General Eduardo Año, who, according to Marcelino, was his superior (or handler, in intelligence parlance) who had ordered him to conduct covert operations for the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) in 2015. ISAFP was then headed by Año. (READ: Marine Colonel: I would never betray country for drugs)
After his first arrest in January 2016, Marcelino had said he was deployed to check on the involvement of Army personnel in illegal drugs, among others.

Marcelino was freed in June 2016 after the Department of Justice (DOJ) dismissed his case for lack of evidence. But acting on an appeal from the police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), the DOJ reconsidered and filed illegal possession charges before a Manila court in September 2016.
The court issued an arrest warrant against him last December 27.
A week later, on January 3, 2017, the former PDEA agent surrendered to the AFP Provost Martial General based at the military headquarters Camp Aguinaldo.

Arevalo said that pending a court decision on the military's petition, Marcelino will remain detained at the AFP Custodial Center.

"Nag-surrender siya sa atin. May proseso tayong kailangang gawin and base sa magiging aksyon ng korte," Arevalo said. (He surrendered to us. We have a process to follow and we will act on the basis of court action – whether it will grant that petition for custody or not.)

Marcelino claimed he was doing covert operations for the military when PDEA agents found him in January 2016 at a shabu warehouse in a drug bust that seized around P320 million ($6.675 million) worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride (shabu).
'Alabang Boys'
Marcelino shot to fame in 2008 for leading the arrest of the so-called "Alabang Boys" and for exposing alleged instances of corruption in the justice department after charges against the 3 he had arrested were dropped.
His commander at the time, former AFP chief Dionisio Santiago, ran for the Senate in the May 2016 elections and was a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte.
After Marcelino's January 2016 arrest, the DOJ, then under the Aquino administration, sought proof that Marcelino's presence in the shabu warehouse was a sanctioned military operation.
The Philippine Army's Intelligence and Security Group sent a certificate vouching that Marcelino shared information with the Army, but the DOJ found it too "generic" and proceeded to file a case against him.
In another twist to Marcelino's case, Senator Leila de Lima showed in September a text message showing Marcelino was being pressured to testify against her. Marcelino claimed it was not true.


Left blasts Duterte admin’s ‘neoliberal triumvirate’

From InterAksyon (Jan 4): Left blasts Duterte admin’s ‘neoliberal triumvirate’

NEDA director general Ernesto Pernia, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez (file photo)

Leftists warned President Rodrigo Duterte to be “wary of the neoliberal triumvirate” in his administration who, they said, were trying to block his “pro-people policies while continuing to uphold the discredited neoliberal macro-economic policies of the Aquino regime.”

In a statement Wednesday, Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, cited the opposition of Secretaries Benjamin Diokno of Budget and Management, Carlos Dominguez of Finance, and National Economic and Development Authority director general Ernesto Pernia to the proposed pension hike for Social Security Service members.

When he campaigned for the presidency, Duterte slammed his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, for vetoing a bill, primarily authored by leftist lawmakers, that sought to increase the pension of SSS members by P2,000 because the move would eventually bankrupt the pension fund. Duterte also promised to push through with the pension increase.

However, Duterte recently said he might not be able to make good on his promise, citing the same reasons given by Aquino which, he added, was also the advice of his economic advisers, although his spokesmen said he was still studying the matter with an eye to reaching a “win-win” solution.

At a Palace briefing Tuesday, Diokno said it would be unfair to use tax money to fund the pension increase of what he described as a “private fund.”

"It is unfair for us to call on everybody to increase pension of a few. Our tax system is such that even the jobless, they pay taxes in the form of value added tax. Why should you burden them to give benefit to a private pension system?" he said.

He also said, “Iba ‘yung candidate Duterte, sa President Duterte (Duterte the candidate is different from President Duterte),” much like Donald Trump the candidate is not the same as the US president-elect because, “may naipapangako ka na, pagka natingnan mo ‘yung datos hindi pala puwede (you have already promised something but, when you look at the data it can’t be done).”

Reyes called Diokno's reasoning “unacceptable” because it implied that people should not believe what candidates say.

“The economic managers should be helping the President fulfill his promise to the people, instead of finding ways to abandon these promises,” he said.

Reyes also noted that Diokno, Dominguez and Pernia “previously opposed the two-year ban on land conversion” and “now want to raise the excise tax on oil products.”

“It seems that they are systematically trying to undermine whatever pro-people and progressive policy pronouncement Duterte has in his government,” he said.

“Duterte should listen to the ordinary people and not the pro-business, pro-foreign, economic mangers. Protests loom over the government's failure to uphold its promises to the people,” Reyes said as he warned that “the economic crisis remains and will fuel unrest unless Duterte fulfills his promises of pro-people reforms.”


More than 100 escape Cotabato province jail after gunmen attack

From InterAksyon (Jan 4): More than 100 escape Cotabato province jail after gunmen attack

Google Earth map showing the location of the district jail in Kidapawan City, Cotabato

(UPDATE 4 - 9:58 a.m.) At least 132 inmates of the North Cotabato District Jail in Barangay Amas, Kidapawan City, Cotabato province escaped after gunmen attacked the facility early Wednesday morning.

Jail warden Superintendent Peter John Bungat said the gunmen, who he described as belonging to a breakaway faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front led by a Commander Derby, struck the rear of the facility past 1 a.m., triggering a two-hour gun battle.

Durig the fighting, Jail Officer 1 Excell Ray Vicedo was shot in the chest and lower back and was rushed to the nearby Cotabato Provincial Hospital but died around 3:36 a.m.

An inmate also died from a stray bullet while several others were wounded, Bungat said.

It was during the battle, said a statement from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, that "around 100 inmates took the opportunity to escape through the back portion of the facility while the rest of the personnel were retaliating to hold their ground and to protect other inmates."

It was the third attack on the jail since 2007.

Solda acknowledged that the jail, which holds criminal suspects undergoing trial, is "congested" like other facilities in Mindanao. At the time of the attack, the BJMP said the jail population was 1,511 inmates.

Kidapawan police chief Superintendent Leo Ajero, said two of the escapees were captured in Amas.
BJMP spokesman Chief Inspector Xavier Solda told Radyo5 in an interview that up to a hundred gunmen were involved in the attack.

Bungat said the gunmen were looking to spring the "Gunsang Brothers" and other members of their group from the jail, which is located near the Cotabato provincial capitol.

Other witnesses said the attackers first unlocked Cell No. 8 where the Salik brothers and Camayo brothers, suspected members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, were kept. They then unlocked other cells.

During an interview with CNN Philippines, gunfire could be heard in the background. Bungat estimated security personnel were up against more than a hundred gunmen “based on the volume of fire.”

Describing the area around the jail, Solda said: "Ang likod po niyan malawak na kakahuyan, maraming puno (The rear is thickly forested)."

Bungat said they were expecting the attack after receiving an intelligence report on December 30 and had immediately met with the police and military.

However, he said Army troops were pulled out for an operation on Tuesday, a development the attackers apparently exploited.

Solda confirmed that the jail personnel were ready for the attack.

"During the firefight, kasi naka-ready 'yung personnel doon, nakaantabay sila (the personnel there were ready, they were alert)," he said.

"Nagpapasalamat kami sa warden kasama personnel ... nakipaglaban sila para i-depensa 'yung facility at protektahan 'yung ibang inmates pa (We thank the warden and the personnel ... they fought to defend the facility and protect the other inmates)," he said.


Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels attacked cargo ship off Basilan province

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan  3): Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels attacked cargo ship off Basilan province

Suspected Abu Sayyaf rebels on Tuesday tried, but failed to hijack a Philippine cargo ship while sailing off Basilan province in the Muslim autonomous region, authorities said.

The gunmen, on board two speedboats, attacked the vessel Ocean Kingdom off Sibago Island around 2 p.m. The ship was heading to Davao City to deliver its cargo when it came under fire.

A Filipino sailor from another vessel nearby said they received a distress call from MV Ocean Kingdom. “Just in (in our VHF radio): Mayday, Mayday, Mayday this is MV Ocean Kingdom, we are under piracy attacks in the vicinity of Sibago Island,” the sailor, Jefry Abales, wrote on his Facebook page.

He said their ship was just 3 miles from MV Ocean Kingdom and also heading to Davao City when they received the frantic call from the vessel. He added the MV Ocean Kingdom managed to sail away from the attackers.

“Na anghelan gyud mi aning Barkoha. Kasabay ra namo na nga Barko ganeha around 1400hrs kay pareha ra namog destination underway to Davao from Zamboanga City pud sila, naka overtake lang sila kay kusog2 gamay mudagan ilang barko. Balik mis among agi for means of safety. Wala ka onboard ang pirates sa ila kay habog ilang barko, na buslot2 ra ilang barko kay ge pusil2 sa mga Pirata.”

“Salamat Lord gepa una gyud nemo tong Habog2 nga Barko para maka anghel kanamo igo ra raba unta ni ambakon sa pirate ning amo. Naka buntot rami anang barkoha 3 miles away ra mi anang MV Ocean Kingdom pag ataki sa pirates sa ila. Thanks God walay injured pud sa ila.”

Security forces alerted by the attack rushed to the area and secured the cargo boat owned by Oceanic Shipping Lines. It was the second cargo ship attacked by rebels off Basilan since November last year. Abu Sayyaf fighters also hijacked a Vietnamese cargo ship and seized 6 crewmen, including its captain in a daring attack November 11 that left one sailor wounded.

The ship, MV Royal 16, was sailing off the province when 10 gunmen on a speedboat intercepted it off Sibago Island and boarded the vessel and abducted the crewmen. Another Filipino cargo ship, MV Lorcon Iloilo, passing near Basilan rescued the wounded sailor and provided him first aid.

The Abu Sayyaf is also holding over a dozen Malaysian and Indonesian sailors in the restive region.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who visited Kuala Lumpur last year, has allowed Malaysia to enter the country’s southern border in hot pursuit of Abu Sayyaf rebels and kidnap gangs following the slew of ransom kidnappings in Sabah just near the Muslim province of Tawi-Tawi.

Manila also allowed Indonesia to do the same following the spate of Abu Sayyaf attacks on its tugboats in Sabah and Tawi-Tawi. The Philippines has joint border patrol agreements with both Malaysia and Indonesia.


DILG: 535 PAMANA completed projects bring real change to conflict-affected areas

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan  4): DILG: 535 PAMANA completed projects bring real change to conflict-affected areas

A total of 535 or 68% of the 787 projects under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) have been completed since the program started in 2012.

DILG Secretary Ismael ‘Mike’ D. Sueno said the Department is continuously monitoring the 252 remaining projects which are on various stages of implementation.

The PAMANA program provides subsidy and technical assistance for infrastructure projects such as roads, water, bridges, and public market to alleviate the plight of people living in conflict-affected communities and to strengthen peace efforts in these areas.

“Armed conflict is ignited when people’s clamor for socioeconomic development is ignored and marginalized. There can’t be peace where there is no development. Over the years, this is being addressed and healed by PAMANA,” said Sueno.

Through PAMANA, the DILG addresses sub-regional development interventions covering economic structures, local roads, evacuation centers, water supply systems and community infrastructure subprojects.

The Department also builds the capacities of DILG field offices and local government units (LGUs) on conflict-sensitive planning and investment programming. It also implements or formulates policies addressing issues on good governance relative to conflict-affected areas.

The DILG further provides advisory and technical assistance to Regional Offices in project appraisal; and assists LGUs in the preparation of project proposals and detailed engineering design including program of work as well as operation and maintenance of completed projects.

“Real development, real change is inclusive and does not leave behind areas affected or vulnerable to armed conflict,” said Sueno.


Armed men attack North Cotabato provincial jail, free 130 inmates

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 4): Armed men attack North Cotabato provincial jail, free 130 inmates

Heavily armed men raided at past 12 a.m. on Wednesday the North Cotabato District Jail in Barangay Amas and free 130 detainees, including high profile inmates.

Provincial Jail Warden Supt. Peter Bongat told reporters that a jail officer was killed while an inmate was injured during the exchange of gunfire.

One of the inmates, Salik Capalla, told reporters that a brownout occurred at 12:30 a.m. then a series of gun bursts.

Supt. Leo Ajero, Kidapawan City police director, said two of the escapees have been re-arrested in Barangay Amas.

Prior to the attack, words spread around the jail facility before New Year that a raid will be conducted to rescue high profile inmates believed to be members of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Because of the report that a raid will be conducted on New Year's Eve, officials of the Bureau of Jail Management (BJMP) sought augmentation force from the military and the police.

The augmentation force stayed until Tuesday when they were pulled out.

Witnesses said the attackers first unlocked Cell No. 8 where the Salik brothers and Camayo brothers, suspected BIFF members were detained.

The gunmen also unlocked other cells.

It was the third attacked in the provincial jail facility since 2007.

Manhunt is in progress.


Coast Guard, Navy save cargo ship from sea pirates off Zamboanga

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 3): Coast Guard, Navy save cargo ship from sea pirates off Zamboanga

Map of Zamboanga City, Zamboanga province and Basilan (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

A firefight ensued between the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel and suspected pirates off the waters of Zamboanga on Tuesday afternoon as the government’s maritime security personnel rescued a cargo vessel from being hijacked.

The PCG spokesperson, Commander Armand Balilo, said the firefight happened after the suspected pirates apparently attempted to commandeer cargo vessel MV Ocean Kingdom that was travelling from Zamboanga to the Davao region.

Balilo said the crewmembers of Ocean Kingdom sought the help of the Coast Guard.

The MV Ocean Kingdom was attacked at 25 nautical miles east of Matanal Point, Sibago Island, Basilan Province.

“Info received from Coast Guard District South Western Mindanao that at about 3:30 p.m. January 3,  2017, Coast Guard Station Zamboanga received radio call from MV Ocean Kingdom, a cargo vessel of Oceanic Shipping Lines, that they are under attack by unidentified armed men onboard two speed boats at vicinity 25 nautical miles East of Matanal Pt, Sibago Island, Basilan Province,” a report from the PCG said.

The clash ensued and the pirates failed to take control of the vessel due to the intervention of the PCG, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) and the Philippine Navy.

“Initial info is that the perpetrators fired multiple gunshots at the bridge of the vessel sir,” Balilo said, adding that no casualty was reported as of press time.


Malaysian Security Forces Step Up Vigilance In Wake Of Threats

From the Malaysian Digest (Jan 3): Towards Safer Seas In 2017: Malaysian Security Forces Step Up Vigilance In Wake Of Threats

A PHONE call saved three crew members on a tugboat chugging near Pulau Berhala off Sandakan on Oct 31 last year.
One of the crew members saw a speedboat approaching and immediately contacted the Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) call centre before hiding in a compartment in the vessel that was towing sand to Tawau.
As patrol boats moved towards the tugboat in response to the distress call, the speedboat headed off in a different direction, possibly backing off from what could have been a robbery or kidnapping attempt.
They were lucky because the location was close to shore and there were patrol boats nearby. Many of their peers were not so lucky last year.
Because of the slow-moving vessels used by fishermen and transporters, they are targeted by armed groups from southern Philippines who prowl the Sulu Sea in speedboats, dashing across the border to find their prey.
To combat cross-border criminals, particularly kidnap-for-ransom groups from southern Philippines, Malaysian security forces believe good communication link with stakeholders at sea would given them an advantage.
THREAT FROM KIDNAP-FOR-RANSOM GROUPS Last year, there were at least 11 reported cases of armed men raiding vessels off the east coast of Sabah, of which nine involved kidnappings.
Since the formation of Esscom in 2013, after an armed intrusion in Lahad Datu by followers of the self-proclaimed Sulu sultanate from southern Philippines, Malaysian security forces have been on full alert against cross-border criminals.
As Malaysian authorities strengthened their defence, lawbreakers, who in the past survived on smuggling goods and people between the east coast of Sabah to southern Philippines, felt the heat.
Vessel operators were also ordered to adhere to the policy of sailing in designated routes when entering Malaysian waters or risk being reprimanded. On top of that, trade between the two regions has been banned since the middle of last year to end the trade and transportation of immigrants by cross-border criminals.
Between 2013 and 2015, there were six kidnap-for-ransom cases that saw armed men targeting island resorts, fish farms and even a restaurant in coastal districts such as Semporna, Kunak, Lahad Datu and Sandakan.
This prompted Esscom to tighten its operations as the government pumped in more security assets to keep criminals at bay in 10 coastal districts designated under the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (Esszone).
For a good 10 months from the last kidnapping case at a restaurant in Sandakan on May 10, 2015, security forces thwarted many attempts by “suspicious-looking speedboats”.
This was also helped by a curfew imposed from July 2014. In March last year, they struck again, this time targeting slow-moving vessels, such as tugboats, trawlers and fishing boats.
With the number of cases rising, security forces turned to new strategies to counter the armed groups.
On Dec 8, a group of kidnappers led by a key Abu Sayyaf member met their match off Semporna in a shoot-out with policemen from the General Operations Force’s Tiger Platoon.
Three of the suspects were killed, including Abu Sayyaf gunman Abraham @ Ibrahim Hamid, two arrested and two more missing, likely to have died. The group had earlier kidnapped two men after raiding three boats off Lahad Datu and Semporna.
Esscom commander Datuk Wan Abdul Bari Wan Abdul Khalid said there would be no let up from security forces following the shoot-out, the first confrontation with an armed group at sea since 2013.
AUTOMATIC IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM (AIS) With the number of attacks on vessels by armed groups rising last year, the authorities urged owners to install maritime distress safety systems on board.
One of the systems is the Automatic Identification System (AIS), which would allow the authorities to track distress signals activated by crew members and locate their whereabouts at sea.
It costs between RM4,000 and RM6,000 to install. If such requirement, including installing communication devices, is observed, the authorities can provide swift assistance by deploying assets to the distress area and prevent kidnapping attempts.
To stress on its importance, Sabah police commissioner Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun had made it compulsory for vessel owners to have the AIS or other systems that are compatible to allow security forces to detect their locations when they run into trouble.
He said there were vessel owners who refused to install the position locating device because they did not want the authorities to monitor their movements.
There were those who claimed it was costly, but intelligence reports indicated some preferred if their presence at sea was “discreet” as they could be fishing in a neighbouring country, be involved in other activities or break curfew.
Rashid said he did not have a definite answer to such claims, but reiterated the importance of having a reliable communication system at sea.
“I have had discussions with fishermen associations in the east coast and they have mentioned of a similar device called the Mobile Tracking Unit (MTU).
“It is cheaper than the AIS and if they want to have the MTU, we welcome it.
“As long as they have safety distress devices on their boats, both parties (the fishing community and security forces) can work together to boost security to combat crime at sea.”

Deputy IGP: Security forces still negotiating release of sailors

From The Star Online (Jan 3): Deputy IGP: Security forces still negotiating release of sailors

Security forces here are still negotiating for the release of five Malaysian sailors taken from waters off Dent Haven in Lahad Datu in July last year, said the Deputy Inspector-General of Police.  

Tan Sri Noor Rashid Ibrahim (pix) said middlemen were trying their best to negotiate and secure the safe release of the hostages. 

He also said that the five, Abdul Rahim Summas, 62, Tayuddin Anjut, 45, Mohd Ridzuan Ismail, 32, Fandy Bakran, 26, and Mohd Zumadil Rahim, 23, were reported safe and well. 

The sailors, who were snatched from their tugboat on July 18, are in the hands of Abu Sayyaf kidnappers believed held in the jungles of Jolo, Philippines. 

“We will not leave Sabah to deal with this matter alone.

"We in Bukit Aman are constantly monitoring and assisting to secure their release,” he said after witnessing the handing over of Sabah Police Commissioner duties from Datuk Abdul Rashid Harun to Datuk Ramli Din here on Tuesday. 

It was reported that the kidnappers were seeking 100 million pesos (RM8.5mil) for the release of the sailors. 

On whether to continue Sabah’s dusk-to-dawn sea curfew, Noor Rashid said this would be decided by the police and Government. 

He, however, agreed that the curfew was still relevant and needed. 

Meanwhile, Abdul Rashid in his departing speech, expressed his confidence in Ramli doing a good job as the new Sabah Police Commissioner. 

“We have faced numerous challenges and threats in Sabah from criminals but I'm sure the new police commissioner will be able to handle these well. 

“I hope all department chiefs and policemen will give their fullest cooperation to the new police commissioner in bid to keep Sabah safe from criminal elements,” he said. 

Ramli, who had served as Malacca’s police chief for about a year, vowed to continue safeguarding the sovereignty of the state and to improve in areas where needed. 

“I will continue what Rashid has left behind and will do my best in ensuring the safety of the people in Sabah,” he said. 

Abdul Rashid retired after serving the police force for 41 years. 


COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (8)

Posted to the MindaNews (Jan 3): COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (8) (By Patricio Diaz)

8th  of nine parts

The Only Option

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/ 03 January) — The only option that will give the Bangsamoro basic law bill a good chance to be filed in the Congress in July 2017 is the revision of Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) into Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) through convergence as proposed in the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap. Let the 21-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)  do this – the 10 GPH (government) nominees to come from all Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions including Misuari’s and the local government units  from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Indigenous Peoples (IPs) will be nominated by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – the same set up as in the 15-member BTC with two IPs on the MILF side.

To do this, President Duterte has to amend EO No. 08 to revise and specify clearly the BTC membership, including MNLF-Misuari, and to set definitely the parameters of convergence following the BPDR with Draft BBL as the mold. This also means the President must convince Misuari accept the one-track BPDR convergence process.  This is not asking him to sacrifice anything but only to see reason and accept realities.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) must help in convincing Misuari — to prove sincerity in its statements supporting the BBL and, lately, the convergence of the BBL and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF. We believe Misuari is still the OIC’s “niño bonito” as he is the President’s “Brother Nur” and “friend”.

Misuari should be made to realize that under the talking plan that Parcasio presented, it may take a year or more to negotiate the three issues left out in the Tripartite Review. And, more matters may be brought out. With the OIC participating as facilitator, the Tripartite Review mode of negotiation will most likely be adopted. Has the GPH panel been organized? There has been no report in the media. When can the negotiation start?

Misuari should be made to see the reason behind the one-track BPDR convergence process. The all-Moro (except two IPs, perhaps) MNLF and MILF BTC can deliberate well on how to converge the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), Draft BBL, FPA, R.A. No. 9054, etc. “in fairness” (to quote Duterte) to the Bangsamoro and the Moros – not to any single Moro Front leader or group.

Contentious issues must be carefully, calmly, wisely deliberated – putting away heavy chips on shoulders, axes and grinding stones — to reconcile conflicts and seek solutions fair to the Bangsamoro, the Moros and other people of the Bangsamoro. There are many such issues between the Moros and Government, between MNLF and MILF, among the MNLF factions strewn in the provisions of the agreements and laws to be converged..

For instance, as reported, Misuari wants the letter of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement strictly followed – particularly Paragraph 15 on the establishment of a provisional government for the original 13-province area of autonomy. Evidently, he wants to hold a plebiscite to affirm the composition of the Muslim Autonomy as provided in the “Second” part of the Agreement. This is setting time to forty years back. The provisional government is no longer practicable.

To avert the collapse of the GRP-MNLF Jakarta Peace Talks over this issue, President Ramos provided in the FPA the creation of the SPCPD (Southern Philippines Council for Peace and Development), the CA (Consultative Assembly) and the SZOPAD (Special Zone of Peace and Development) with a plebiscite over the last. Even with Misuari at the helm, the SPCPD did not work; it was not workable ab initio.  Another plebiscite – the third since 1989 — will not change the minds of the Christian majority.

Let us cite more instances of provisions to reconcile:

[1] In forming the government of the Autonomy for the Muslims, the Tripoli Agreement (Part III, Paragraph 9) provides for the election of “A Legislative Assembly” that will appoint “an Executive Council”.

In the Draft BBL, the Parliament is elected by popular vote. On its inaugural session, it elects from among its members the Chief Minister as chief executive officer; he will appoint the other executive officers or ministers — the deputy minister from among the members of the Parliament.

In R.A. No. 9054, the executive branch is headed by the governor who is elected by popular vote together with the vice governor; the legislative branch is the Legislative Assembly with members elected by popular vote. These are in accordance with Part III (Phase II) Paragraphs 21, 23 and 24 of the FPA.

[2] In Part III, Paragraph 10 of the Tripoli Agreement, “Mines and mineral resources fall within the competence of the Central Government, and a reasonable percentage deriving from the revenues of the mines and minerals be fixed for the benefit of the areas of the autonomy.” This is among the three unresolved issues of the Review.

In the FPA (Paragraphs 146 and 147), “strategic minerals” was made an exception and was to be defined later. In R.A. No. 9054, “strategic minerals” was defined and the fees fixed including the sharing between the Central Government and the ARMM.

In the Draft BBL, as agreed in Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth-Sharing, the
“competence” is transferred to Bangsamoro, the “mineral resources” classified and defined into “non-metallic”, ”metallic” and “strategic” – the fees and sharing fixed, the Bangsamoro getting 100 percent of the fees on non-metallic minerals.

The instances above are the contentious issues between Government and MNLF; they are provided differently in the FPA and R.A. 9054 on one hand and in Draft BBL and the CAB on the other. There are more instances. The MILF study group had presented to the House and the Senate more than 40 objections to the revision and deletion of Draft BBL provisions.  These issues might have been differently provided in the FPA and R.A. No. 9054 or not at all.

The bottom line is: If the convergence process will be done on the single BPDR track by the BTC with members from the MILF and all MNLF factions, the basic enabling law for the Bangsamoro will be – as Parcasio was praying for – common to all, is the just and lasting solution to the Moro Problem; and the proposed bill will have a good chance of meeting the July 17, 2017 timeline for submission to the Congress, That is the only option.

Conclusion tomorrow: Sad notes


COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (7)

Posted to the MindaNews (Jan 2): COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (7) (By Patricio Diaz)

 7th  of nine parts


Speaking to the Muslims during Harirayah celebration in Davao City last July 8, President Rodrigo Duterte talked about “reconfiguration”. In his rambling speech, he did not elaborate. However, from what he said, we might be able to figure out his idea:

“… if I succeed in convincing everybody in Mindanao, if I can convince my MILF  brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN there will be a reconfiguration of the territory … x x x x x … in fairness to Nur, we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation …” (Bold supplied)

What did he mean by “the territory”?  Was he referring to the entire Mindanao? If so, he was only telling what was expected. Mindanao and Sulu will be reconfigured into federal states with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) as one state should federalization become a reality.

Was he referring to the ARMM? It has been a distinct autonomous region since 1977 when President Marcos proclaimed the autonomy of 13 provinces and included cities according to the 1976 Tripoli Agreement – reduced into two regions of five provinces each in the 1977 plebiscite, finalized into the ARMM in the 1989 and 2001 plebiscites.

What did he mean by in fairness to Nur, we might also configure his territory of the Tausug nation …”? Create Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi into a region for Misuari?

Whatever he really meant, he gave a clue to the puzzle. 

Misuari, MILF and the Lanao-Maguindanao Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) factions are like oil and water that will not mix. Let the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) be the enabling law for the Basilan-Sulu-Tawi-Tawi Autonomy where Misuari’s leadership is unopposed – naming it as it suits Misuari. Let the CAB-FPA-R.A. (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro-Final Peace Agreement-Republic Act) No. 9054 convergent Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL) be the enabling law of the Lanao-Maguindanao Autonomy named Bangsamoro. Passing separate organic acts might be easier for the Congress.

Reconfiguring the ARMM can easily be done as part of the federalization process. But both the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)-Misuari want the Bangsamoro basic law passed before the shift to the federal system which will not happen before 2019, the projected time for the plebiscite on the anticipated federal constitution. And, federalization is still a long shot that can miss the mark.

Can “configuration of a Misuari territory” or the creation of two autonomous regions out of the ARMM be done without violating the 1987 Constitution and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement?

President Marcos created two regional autonomous governments (RAG) – RAG IX and RAG XII – he reasoned, according to the will the people expressed in the 1977 plebiscite. In that plebiscite, South Cotabato, Davao del Sur and Palawan opted out of the proposed 13-province autonomy. The ten other provinces preferred to maintain the existing Region IX and Region XII set up. Of course, the plebiscite result was rigged.

The one-region ARMM was established by President Corazon C. Aquino pursuant to Article X, Sections 1, 15 to 21 of the 1987 Constitution in recognition of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, said the Peace Commission under President Corazon C. Aquino. President Marcos justified the two-region Muslim autonomy as being the will of the people and in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Tripoli Agreement.

Can Duterte make good his Harirayah proposition — “convince my MILF brothers and Nur Misuari of the MN” then hold a referendum to validate his proposition and make it constitutional? Reconfiguration, if approved by the people, will be constitutional and in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Tripoli Agreement.

A big BUT even if done: Will they who cannot unite accept their separation?

Tomorrow: The Only Option


COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (6)

Posted to the MindaNews (Jan 1): COMMENT: IV. BEL: Roadmap and Roadblocks (6) (By Patricio Diaz)

6th  of nine parts

Arbitrary Accommodation

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 01 January) — In allowing Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari to deal separately with another government (GPH) implementing panel, President Rodrigo Duterte replicated the arbitrary accommodation that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted Misuari. However, Duterte’s accommodation can imperil the Bangsamoro.

In 2006, President Macapagal-Arroyo agreed to have the full implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA)  reviewed under the supervision and control of the OIC (Organization of Islamic Conference, now Cooperation). Known as MNLF-GRP-OIC Tripartite Review, President Benigno C. Aquino III continued it until its termination in January 2016 – with Misuari’s protestation, inconclusively.

President Arroyo could have ignored Misuari’s complaints but she could not refuse the ICFM (Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers)  Resolution No. 2/33-MMs in 2006 calling for the review. Evidently, the OIC’s call was also an arbitrary accommodation of Misuari if the facts are taken objectively.

[1] Paragraph 12 of the FPA requested the OIC “to continue to extend its assistance and good offices in monitoring the full implementation of the agreement” but only “during the transitional period until the regular autonomous government is fully established”.

[2] This transitory provision was no longer in effect in 2006: (a) R.A. No. 9054 was ratified in 2001. (b) The first election under the new law was held in the same year, electing MNLF Parouk Hussein as governor and other MNLF officials as majority members of the Regional Legislative Assembly. (c) That firmly established the regular autonomous government under FPA embodied in R.A. No. 9054.

[3] The OIC was inconsistent in supporting the MNLF’s rejection of R.A. No. 9054 and the plebiscite. In 2004 and 2005, the ICFM recognized the plebiscite as a “significant” development “in the development of the 1996 Peace Agreement”. In 2003, the 10th Islamic Summit extended the same recognition including the November 2001 election.

[4] As stated in “[2]” above, the MNLF took part in the November 2001 election winning the governorship and the majority membership in the Regional Legislative Assembly – an act of recognition of the plebiscite and R.A, 9054.

[5] Misuari accused the Congress of enacting R.A. No. 9054 without his participation and that of the MNLF.  But to amend or repeal R.A. No. 6734, the FPA provided these options for the Congress:
In Part I, Paragraph 2(a):  “The bill shall include the pertinent provisions of the final Peace Agreement and the expansion of the present ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) area of autonomy” (Bold text supplied). Why fault the Congress for exercising the options so authorized?

In Part III (Phase II): Referring to provisions of the FPA for implementation after the ratification of R.A. No. 9054 and to GRP’s obligation to recommend their inclusion in the bill, “Accordingly, these provisions shall be recommended by the GRP to Congress for incorporation in the amendatory or repealing law. (Bold text supplied). Why did the FPA not specifically mandate the inclusion as compulsory instead of obliging GRP to recommend?   
[6] The Review was for the amendment of R.A. No. 9054 in accordance with the FPA. There is no provision in the FPA allowing this mode of amendment with the intercession of the OIC. This is not among the modes provided in Sections 1 and 2 of Article XVII on Amendments of R.A. No. 9054.
The OIC could have said “NO” to Misuari, but did not. Arroyo could not refuse OIC’s call. Aquino III finished the Review on its 10th year but did not accommodate Misuari by rejecting three issues that according to then Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (PAPP)  Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles were not within the purview of the Review for valid reasons. Without the three rejected issues, Misuari vetoed the proposed bill containing the 42 consensus points to amend R.A. No. 9054 in accordance with the FPA. In chess parlance, the Review ended in a stalemate.

Stalemate to Roadblock

Duterte should not have accommodated Misuari; but, as a friend, if they are true friends, he should have convinced him to join the one-track implementing process according to the Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap (BPDR). The 1976 Tripoli Agreement has been fleshed out more comprehensively in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Annexes.

Significant provisions of R.A. No. 9054 have been adopted into Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). By joining the new Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), Misuari could help draft a more inclusive and convergent Bangsamoro Enabling Law (BEL), the new BBL.

Misuari’s misgivings with R.A. No. 9054 and the 2001 plebiscite and ARMM election drove him back to arms. The Review, intended to mend the rift, turned out to be the last straw. Duterte’s accommodation is understandable – to break the stalemate and remove an impediment to peace in Mindanao.  But under the present state of the peace process, it’s ironic — the accommodation can become a formidable roadblock.

As revealed by Parcasio, the autonomy law that MNLF-Misuari will work out with the GPH implementing panel will be the basic law to govern the BAG (Bangsamoro Autonomous Government) – meaning, R.A. No. 9054 will be amended and the ARMM renamed.

Evidently, the new autonomy law will contain the 42 Review consensus points and the three rejected issues together with other matters from the four references Parcasio has specified subject to negotiations. The new autonomy law will not be converged with the new BBL or BEL of the MILF-led BTC. The inevitable complications will form the formidable roadblock to the establishment of the Bangsamoro.

First, the timeline: The MILF-led BTC, most probably, can meet the July2017 timeline for submission to the Congress. This is improbable for the MNLF-Misuari autonomy bill. The negotiation for the three rejected issues and other new matters will take time; gauged from past negotiations including the Review, it can take years. The Congress will defer action indefinitely.

Second, the convergence feasibility: The Bangsamoro under the BTC bill is ministerial-parliamentary; the BAG under the amended R.A. 9054 will still be presidential-unitary. How can the two be converged and come out with the basic law acceptable to all?
What can be converged are the BTC bill and the amended R.A. 9054. The latter is wrapped in uncertainty since the amendment will take time and the Act will have to be ratified. Can the plebiscite be held with the 2019 election? If ratified, convergence can take place during the 18th Congress.

Third, no convergence: But Misuari will not allow convergence. Parcasio called it “a disaster”. If the amended R.A. 9054 is ratified, will Duterte accommodate Misuari and implement the autonomy law to install the BAG ignoring the BTC bill waiting in the Congress? That will not remove the formidable roadblock to peace in Mindanao.

Is there a way to clear the road? 

Tomorrow: Reconfiguration