Saturday, March 14, 2015

Editorial -- Derailing modernization

From the Philippine Star (Mar 13): Editorial -- Derailing modernization

The country has one of the weakest armed forces in this part of the world. With Filipinos acknowledging the need for the nation to develop credible defense capability, that weakness has compelled the government to turn to its treaty ally the United States for help in protecting the Philippines’ territorial integrity.
The weakness has also persuaded policy makers to allot more public funds for a ramped-up modernization program – still modest by regional standards – for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The surest way to derail this modernization, which has been expanding gradually, is to taint AFP supply procurement with allegations of corruption.

This is the problem now faced by the military amid a controversy that has erupted over the acquisition of 21 UH-1 or Huey helicopters worth P1.2 billion from a joint venture of American and Canadian companies. The bidding committee of the Department of National Defense has been accused of favoring the suppliers and allowing the delivery of helicopters that are allegedly old and defective. DND officials have said the deal was aboveboard, but a panel has been created to investigate the accusations.

News reports said UH-1D helicopters were delivered instead of the more advanced UH-1H. Eight of the helicopters have been accepted by the Philippine Air Force, whose officials said the aircraft are working and operational.
Corruption scandals hounded the DND and AFP in the previous administration, with a star-ranked former comptroller being convicted and imprisoned for graft. A former military and defense chief killed himself over his mother’s grave amid accusations of wrongdoing.

The scandals led to reforms to cut red tape and make procurement procedures transparent in the DND and AFP. It is not clear if the reforms have been sustained. Budget procedures for the AFP were also overhauled to make the system transparent and prevent fund juggling.

If the latest allegations prove correct, either there has been backsliding in reforms, or more changes are needed in the way defense contracts are awarded and public funds are spent. The controversy over the helicopter deal must be cleared up quickly and credibly, before it sours enthusiasm for spending billions in public funds for military modernization.

China lashes out at US 'pirate-style sense of insecurity'

From the Military Times (Mar 14): China lashes out at US 'pirate-style sense of insecurity'

China's state news agency accused the U.S. on Saturday of having a "pirate-style sense of insecurity" in response to recent comments from Washington expressing concern over Beijing's territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.

The Xinhua News Agency took issue with remarks by U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday that Chinese land reclamation and construction work on disputed South China Sea islands were "fueling greater anxiety within the region about China's intentions."

Washington said it will continue to raise its concerns with China and urged all parties to avoid destabilizing activities.

"As we've said many times, we encourage all claimants to pursue peaceful and diplomatic approaches to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea," Psaki told reporters at a daily briefing.

In its response, Xinhua labeled Psaki's comments "strikingly biased and by no means conducive to solving the disputes and bolstering peace and stability."

"The United States has once again violated its commitment to not holding (a) position or taking sides on the South China Sea issue, and its so-called concerns about China's 'threat' serve only to reveal its pirate-style sense of insecurity," said the commentary, signed by Xinhua reporter Zhang Ning

The language used exemplified the more caustic tone taken over recent months by the Communist Party controlled media in defending China's territorial claims and rejecting Western concepts of democracy and civil liberties. The commentary appeared only on Xinhua's English-language service directed at foreign audiences.

China says it has historical claims to a huge swath of the South Sea China that overlaps with the claims of several neighbors including Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines, and constantly accuses the U.S. and its powerful navy of meddling in the dispute.

The U.S. says it takes no sides on the sovereignty issue, but has a national interest in ensuring the peaceful resolution of disputes and safety of navigation through the crucial shipping routes that crisscross the region.

IMT-M10 To Continue Malaysia's Commitment In Monitoring, Observing Peace In Mindanao

From the Malyasian Digest (Mar 15): IMT-M10 To Continue Malaysia's Commitment In Monitoring, Observing Peace In Mindanao

The International Monitoring Team - Mindanao 10 (IMT-M10) arrived in Mindanao on Saturday to continue Malaysia's commitment in monitoring and observing the ceasefire between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The team arrived at the Awang Airport here on a C130-owned Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) before being taken to the IMT-M headquarters located about five kilometres away.

A ceremony to hand over duties and roles was then held between IMT-M10 Head of Mission Maj Gen Datuk Sheikh Mokhsin Sheikh Hassan and IMT-M9 Head of Mission Maj Gen Datuk Abdul Samad Yaakub.

It was witnessed by Chairman of the Government of Philippines-Ad hoc Joint Action Group (GPH-AHJAG) Brig Gen Manokuto O.Orense, Head of Government of Philippines-Coordinating Committees for the Cessation of Hostilities (GPH-CCCH) Secretariat Major Carlos T.Dol Jr and MILF-CCCH chairman Rasid Tan Ladiasan.

In line with the IMT-M slogan of "Together We Make It Happen", Sheikh Mokhsin said he was optimistic and confident that his team was capable of carrying out the responsibilities entrusted to them with dedication and discipline.

"We will continue to tread the path of excellence of the previous team in ensuring that the peace process can be achieved in the near future," he told Bernama.

The IMT-M10 comprises 16 members, of whom 11 are from the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), two from Royal Malaysian Police and three others are civil servants from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Although the team would be the last group to be entrusted with the tasks after the final stage of the peace agreement was signed, Sheikh Mokhsin demanded full cooperation among team members in carrying out their duties, besides working closely with members of the international team from Indonesia, Brunei, Norway and Japan.

The IMT-M10 will be stationed in four areas, namely in Catabato City, Illigan City, Zamboanga and General Santos City, for a term of one year.

Meanwhile, Orense said the Malaysian team had been deemed by the local community as an important body that would help facilitate and ensure smooth running of the ongoing peace process.

"Without their help, the people don't know how to move forward as the bonding has existed for a long time.

"Therefore, we will continue to work with this team effectively to ensure the peace process could be achieved soon," Orense said.

His view was shared by Carlos who pointed out that the presence of the Malaysian team during the observation process was very strong, thus increased the level of security and peace at the affected areas.

"Their monitoring activity and assistance have somehow stabilized the peace process.

"The situation has improved and progressed very well," said Carlos who also praised Malaysia's commitment to the peace agreement.

Ladiasan, on the other hand, expressed hope that the team would stay during the transition as the community needed them to ensure that the peace and stability would remain after the finalisation of the peace agreement.

"People see the difference and feel the presence of the international monitoring team (IMT), especially from Malaysia, which led the team successfully.

"They see the IMT as a very important mechanism in monitoring good partnership with relevant parties involved with the agreement.

"Thanks to the partnership, the situation on the ground now is very stable and this helps build confidence among the people," he added.

The agreement is also expected to enact the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is being deliberated in Congress.

INTERVIEW-Philippine Muslim rebels warn trust in government eroded

From Reuters (Mar 14): INTERVIEW-Philippine Muslim rebels warn trust in government eroded

Moro (Islamic) Liberation Front (MILF) rebels stand guard near a Barrett sniper rifle along a road at Camp Darapanan rebel base in Maguindanao province, in the southern Philippines March 12, 2015. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

CAMP DARAPANAN, Philippines, March 14 (Reuters) - The trust that the largest Muslim guerrilla group in the Philippines has in the government has been eroded by a clash in January in which 44 police commandos and 18 rebels were killed, a rebel leader told Reuters in an interview this week.

The violence has throw into doubt a peace process aimed at ending a 45-year conflict that has killed 120,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in the resource-rich south of the largely Christian Philippines.

Public outrage over the killing of the policemen and questions surrounding President Benigno Aqunio's handling of the issue have blow up into his biggest political crisis.

"Trust has been affected," Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrilla group, told Reuters in an interview at his base on Mindano island.

"We are studying to see if the approval of the police operation came from the highest level of government."

The Jan. 25 clash erupted when police tried to infiltrate into a rebel area to capture Zulkifli bin Hir, an al Qaeda-linked Malaysian bomb-maker with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.

The government said at the time the incident was a mistake and Aquino appealed for the peace process to remain on track but legislators working out an autonomy deal upon which peace hinges have stopped their work.

Police said in a report on Friday that Aquino had approved the mission. Aquino has said he was given wrong information and misled.

Murad did not say what the MILF will do if Aquino was found liable for the police mission but said it was a violation of the ceasefire.

A civil engineer by training, Murad said he met Aquino on Jan. 13 to raise concern about the delays to the autonomy law in Congress but he was not informed about the operation to get the militant.

"Based on our findings, it was not a mistaken encounter," he said, adding the police saw his group as an enemy.

"They attacked our community and our forces."

But he said the rebels were committed to the peace process and would work with a new government if the talks went beyond the end of Aquino's term, in June 2016.

"The president's political capital is dwindling and there's a possibility the (autonomy law) will not be passed on time," Murad said as uniformed guerrillas stood guard.

"The next president, whoever is elected next year, is bound to implement the peace agreement."

But he warned that the MILF would not accept watered down autonomy. Aquino and his allies in Congress hope the autonomy law will be passed by June.

Court clears 42 suspected MNLF members of rebellion, genocide

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Court clears 42 suspected MNLF members of rebellion, genocide

A Pasig City court has cleared 42 out of the 272 suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) members charged with rebellion and genocide in connection with the September 2013 siege here.

Commissioner Edilwasiff Baddiri of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) told the Inquirer the 42 cleared suspects will be released anytime on Saturday after the warden of the Security Intensive Care Area 2 at Camp Bagong Diwa received a copy of the March 13 order of Presiding Judge Maria Rowena Modesto San Pedro of the Regional Trial Court Branch 158 of Pasig City.

The court’s 12-page resolution said the 42 suspects had been cleared because “there is nothing that will connect them to the alleged rebellion that took place.”

“… [T]he mere act of running away from the battle zone cannot implicate them; there is no evidence showing any overt act of complicity to the crime of rebellion or to an armed public uprising; that paraffin tests conducted on them yielded negative results for gunpowder nitrates; to continue to hold them for trial despite absence of probable cause will simply be an injustice,” the resolution, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, said.

Baddiri said the decision was “already final.”

“They could not be jailed again,” he said.

“We will work with other government agencies to ensure the reintegration and rehabilitation of the 42 detainees. They suffered for more than a year. Let us strive to provide them with care and protection,” Baddiri added without naming those who were ordered released.

Mayor Ma. Isabelle Salazar said she was not happy with the way things turned out in the prosecution of the suspected MNLF rebels.

“The local government unit’s legal team worked hard for our defense. We will pursue justice in memory of those who died and the sovereignty of Zamboanga City. At all cost justice must be sought,” Salazar said.

Lawyer Laisa Masuhud-Alamia, the executive secretary of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said the regional government would spend for the return of the released suspects to this city.

4th Football for Peace Festival: Not all wars are won with guns

From Rappler (Mar 13): 4th Football for Peace Festival: Not all wars are won with guns

The Philippine Marine Corps is set to hold their 4th Football For Peace Festival Cup on April 18

PLAYING TO WIN. During the second Football for Peace Festival, young football players from Palawan, demonstrated determination and enthusiasm during their warm-up drill. Rappler file photo

PLAYING TO WIN. During the second Football for Peace Festival, young football players from Palawan, demonstrated determination and enthusiasm during their warm-up drill. Rappler file photo

On April 18, the Philippine Marine Corps with the Football For Peace Movement in collaboration with Fleet-Marine Football Club, is set to hold the 4th Football For Peace Festival Cup at the Philippine Marine Corps Football Grounds, Marine Barracks Rudiardo Brown, Lawton Ave in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

More than 80 teams from within and outside of Metro Manila are expected to compete in the festival.

In 2011, the Philippine Marine Corps, initiated the Football for Peace program to bring kids from conflict areas to Manila. Aimed at promoting peace through sports and education, the program conducted simultaneous football clinics and programs in schools and areas near Marine detachment units in Sulu. (READ: #FootballForPeace: Indestructible balls for indestructible dreams)

In order to sustain this movement, the group also held Football for Peace Festival cups every April at the Philippine Marine Corps Football Grounds in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The program has covered different conflict areas including Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, Palawan, Sultan Kudarat, Cotabato, Basilan, and Misamis Oriental among others. The Philippine Army also joined the movement for peace. At present, there are over 1,500 kids and counting participating in the program.

Since 2011, the Philippine Marine Corps have had the following activities:
  • Three Football Peace Cups in Sulu
  • Four Peace One Day Cup held every September 21 and participated by 193 UN Member States
  • Football Clinic in place of the Peace Cup in Zamboanga (during the Zamboanga Seige)
  • Three Football For Peace Festival Cups in Manila
Through the program, an average of 200 children from different conflict areas in Visayas and Mindanao are brought to Manila for the annual festival. The Football for Peace festival aims to provide a normal and conflict-free environment to the children.
Rappler has been a campaign partner of the Football for Peace Movement since 2012.
Sharifamae H. Salip Jamuh, one of the program's many scholars, has recently graduated with a high school diploma from Western Mindanao State University in 2014. Made possible through the Football for Peace movement, she was able to enroll at the University of Santo Tomas where she is in her first year, taking up Physical Education. She is also a member of the UST Women’s Soccer Varsity Team.

[Football for Peace movement is open to all kinds of supports and pledges. Interested groups/individuals may help by providing sponsorship for the educational tour, their meals and snacks, or any kind/activity that would make the children's stay in Manila a memorable experience. You can host them on any date between the 14 of April 2015 - 21 April 2015. For more details, you may contact 1LT Rowena B Dalmacio PN(M), Office of the Civil Military Operations, MC7 at +63 (927)3997153]

Abu Sayyaf demands P10M for release of 2 teachers

From the Manila Bulletin (Mar 14): Abu Sayyaf demands P10M for release of 2 teachers 
Two days after it freed a public school teacher, the Urban Terrorist Group of the Abu Sayyaf (UTG-ASG) has demanded a P10-million ransom for the safe release of two public elementary school teachers the bandit group kidnapped early this month in Talusan town  in Sibugay province.

Zamboanga City Police Director  Sr Supt Angelito Casimiro said the ransom demand was relayed to the families of the victims who were still hoping that the kidnappers will release their relatives them even without paying any bounty.

The ASG is holding captive public school teachers Reynadit Silvano, 34 and Russel Bagonoc, 22 in a forested area somewhere in  Basilan province.

The two public school teachers were kidnapped last March 5 at around 8 a.m. by six members of the  ASG while they were on their way to the Tuburan Elementary School in Barangay Moalboal, Talusan.

The kidnappers were later identified by the police as brothers Naim Sabdani, Mansul Sabdani, and Amadan Sabdani, residents of Barangay Moalboal, Talusan; Edimar Isnain and two other unidentified persons. They were reported to be members of the ASG-UTG.

Casimiro said the police here has already informed Sibugay province Governor Wilter Palma about the development and the P10-million ransom demand of the kidnappers.

Last  Wednesday, the ASG release Allyn Muksan Abdurajak, 44, of the Jolo School of Fisheries, unharmed.

Abdurajak was abducted by two ASG gunmen operating in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, Sulu at around 6:10 p.m. Tuesday. Marathon negotiations between her relatives and the kidnappers resulted her early release.

Rights advocates hit ‘encampments’

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 15): Rights advocates hit ‘encampments’

The International Solidarity Mission, a contingent of human rights advocates from European Union and Asia  last week discovered military encampments in day care centers, multi-purpose centers and barangay halls in some areas of Agusan del Sur.

The mission disclosed its finding after a visit to Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur last March 9 and 10. The HR mission said in a statement  that the military was using barangay halls, daycare centers and multi-purpose centers as camps.

Sister Mary Francis Anover, RSM, who is national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, said the encamped military in barangay halls and other public facilities invited threat to the civilian community.

“In the guise of conducting census and consultations they are putting the lives of the civilians, especially the children in the community at risk,” Sister Anover said.

Bishop Raul Amorcillo, Bishop of Iglesia Filipinia Independiente (IFI) of the Diocese of Bukidnon said he observed during the mission that in the indigenous communities in Agusan del Sur, “martial law is present”.

The two religious leaders were among the “Balit Mission” contingent that visited and sleep with evacuees in Barangay balit, San Luis Agusan del Sur last March 9 and 10, 2015.

“There is indeed violation of the law as in Article 10, Section 22 of Republic Act 7610 states that public infrastructures such as schools, hospitals and rural health units shall not be utilized for military purposes such as command posts, barracks, detachments, and supply depots”, Karapatan Caraga secretary general Eliza Rose Pangilinan said in an interview.

Pangilinan, Alvin Ygot of the College Editors’ Guild of the Philippines (CEGP-Caraga) and Atel Hijos, Chairperson of Gabriela Caraga were among local progressive group leaders who accompanied the ISM Mission to Balit.

The “Balit Mission  was initiated by various groups in Mindanao such as Kasalo, Kalumaran, Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), and the Northern Mindanao Religious and Bishops’ Ecumenical Forum.

It is part of the “Mindanao Bakwit Solidarity Mission” organized by the Mindanao-wide alliance of indigenous peoples, Kalumaran.

International human rights and lumad groups like International Alliance for Asian Indigenous People and IP People’s Pact in Asia were the international component of the Balit Mission who went to Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur last March 9 and March 10.

The contingent even sleep for a night March 9 , 2015 evening with more than 1,000 lumad evacuees mostly members of the Banwaon Tribes in evacuation centers in Balit, San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

Lumads from 14 tribal communities in San Luis, Agusan del Sur evacuated from their homes since January 23, 2015 as a result of skirmishes that were apparently sparked by the December 22, 2014 murder of barangay chairman Necasio Precioso Sr. of Balit, San Luis town perpetuated allegedly by the military.

Karapatan and the Rural Missionaries’ Association of the Philippines said Precioso’s family had been accused as a supporter of the New People’s Army (NPA) by the military.

According to the lumads in the area the slain barangay captain was a human rights defender since 1995.

The Banwaons in 14 communities in the hinterlands of San Luis municipality fled from their homes due to militarization guised as Community Organizing for Peace and Development. (COPD).

The Banwaon Tribal Datus’  tribal communities were united that the COPD is intended to pave the way  for large mining companies to operate in the tribals’ ancestral domain.

Gabriela secretary general for Caraga Atel Hijos said  the Balit Mission is to show solidarity and support to some Banwaon people who were displaced as a result of “militarization and paramilitarism” in their ancestral lands in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

2 in MILF panel Malaysian citizens? Probe sought

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 15): 2 in MILF panel Malaysian citizens? Probe sought

CONGRESS, which is now deliberating on the controversial Bangsamoro Basic Law, should look into allegations that Moro Islamic Liberation Front chairman Al-Haj Murad Ebrahim and MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal are Malaysian citizens, lawmaker said on Saturday.

Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles asked the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL to look into the claim of former interior secretary Rafael Alunan that the two are Malaysian citizens before continuing with its deliberations on the pending measure.

Nograles made the appeal as the head of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers scored the MILF for its “arrogance” in not giving a copy of its probe into the Mamasapano incident to the government, but submitting it instead to the Malaysian government.

“According to former Secretary Rafael Alunan III, both Chairman Murad and Chairman Iqbal travel with Malaysian passports, and are in fact Malaysians. This is a very serious allegation and must be investigated immediately, even before we continue deliberations on the BBL,” Nograles said.

“I raise this concern because if it is true that we are writing the BBL Law for Malaysians then we in Congress will be criminally liable for acts of treason,” he added.

“We are all for peace but we should achieve peace in Mindanao without sacrificing our sovereignty as one nation and one people,” Nograles said.

“I call on our Ad Hoc Committee chairman Rep. Rufus Rodriguez to immediately call the officials of the Bureau of Immigration and subpoena all travel documents of Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Mohaguer Iqbal to shed light on this matter and confirm whether or not these allegations are true,” he said.

Nograles made the appeal as retired general Ediberto Adan Jr., AGFO chairman and president, slammed the arrogance of the MILF in not giving a copy of its report to government but giving one to the Malaysian government.

“That is to me is not really a good move in connection with the peace process,” Adan said at the sidelines of the pre-graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy at the Fort Del Pillar in Baguio City.

“While there is a third-party facilitator, the Malaysian government, to show good faith, to show that they recognize the authority of the Philippine government, they should submit their report to our government,” he added.

“There are certain protocols as the MILF claims that’s why they are submitting this to Malaysia but for purposes of building trust and if they are sincere in building that trust, then that should have coursed through the Philippine government,” Adan insisted.

Earlier, leaders of the MILF such as Jaafar Ghadzali and Mohagher Iqbal said they will submit their investigation report to Kuala Lumpur through the International Monitoring Team because of supposed protocols and if the government wants a copy, they should ask for one from Malaysia.

Adan said the MILF’s behavior will aggravate public uproar against the proposed BBL, especially since many of the BBL’s provisions have been deemed unconstitutional.

“The Association of Generals and Flag Officers does not believe that these provisions augur well for peace because it violates the fundamental law of the land,” Adan said.

“[The BBL] grants certain powers that diminishes the role of the commander-in-chief. It gives them an opportunity to maintain an armed force which is a violation of the Constitution, because the Constitution only provides for one Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he added.

MILF re-validating ‘loopholes’ in own Mamasapano report

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): MILF re-validating ‘loopholes’ in own Mamasapano report

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal  INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA

Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/RAFFY LERMA

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) own investigation on the Mamasapano debacle had wrapped up but it would be undergoing re-validation and revisions before it can be submitted to the International Monitoring Team (IMT), the rebel group’s chief negotiator said.

The Malaysian-led IMT monitors the implementation of the government and the MILF ceasefire agreement, as well as oversee the protection of civilians in conflict zones and their rehabilitation and development under the socio-economic component of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

READ: Full report: The Mamasapano incident

Mohagher Iqbal told the Inquirer on Saturday that MILF chair Murad Ebrahim has directed the rebel group’s investigating team to re-validate and revise its findings because there were discrepancies in the individual output of its members.

He did not say what the discrepancies were but added that the MILF probe team had been sent back to Mamasapano for the conduct of verification and validation of data.
“He ordered our team to re-validate data. It won’t take long and it will be available by next week,” Iqbal said.

“Actually, the MILF probe was done but we found some loopholes so chairman Murad directed the probe team to return to Mamasapano and counter-check some facts,” Iqbal also said in a radio interview here.

He said the probe should have been completed earlier but it was stalled by the operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Mamasapano.

“Malapit na, malapit na,” Iqbal said, maintaining that the full report will be for the IMT alone. Those interested in what the report contains will be provided the executive summary only.

Revealing some of the initial findings, Iqbal said the probe team found out that only 17 MILF fighters were killed – not 18 as earlier reported – during the January 25 police commando operations against suspected international terrorist Malaysian Zulkifli bin Hir and his Filipino aide Basit Usman.

Also the MILF probe team found out that only three civilians were killed on the day and not five as reported in the media, Iqbal said.

As this developed, Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate said the Philippine National Police’s Board of Inquiry failed to pursue the command responsibility and liabilities of President Aquino in its investigation of the Mamasapano debacle.

“While, the BOI report contains facts that are already disclosed to the public, it fails to put the main burden of accountability on the most responsible for the operation who is Pres. Aquino himself,” Colmenares said.

He said the BOI report has deliberately understated Aquino’s direct responsibility when he “illegally” authorized Purisima to act as PNP chief during his suspension and allowing unlawful US involvement in the police operation.

“When Aquino broke the chain of command, he has taken direct and command responsibility over Gen. Napenas, SAF’s and AFP’s actions, inactions and failures,” Zarate said.

Zarate said the “the shortcomings of the BOI report all the more emboldens us to push for the immediate resumption of the Congress Mamasapano probe and we hope that we can hold even one hearing next week.”

Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan national chair, also agreed that Congress should resume the hearings to “stop the government’s yellow-washing of the truth on Mamasapano.”

READ: Walden Bello cuts ties with Palace over Mamasapano ‘cover-up’

“Congress should reopen the hearings and should not allow itself, led by Speaker Sonny Belmonte to be complicit to the yellow-washing and lies. The BOI is further proof that the Aquino government is engaged in a grand cover-up scheme. There is growing call from the public for truth, accountability and justice,” Crisostomo said.

Ninety-two lawmakers had so far signed a letter to House Speaker Sonny Belmonte, asking for the resumption of the hearings.

‘Military offensive turns Maguindanao into war zone’

From the Philippine Star (Mar 14): ‘Military offensive turns Maguindanao into war zone’

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Philippine Army File photo

The ongoing military operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) have practically turned communities in Central Mindanao into a war zone, the People’s Council for National Unity, Reforms and Peace (PCNURP) said yesterday.

The PCNURP pointed out the communities are taking the brunt of the military offensive against the BIFF rebels blamed in the killing of 44 policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

PCNURP insisted that all-out war is never the solution to the conflict in Mindanao, as it would displace more people, especially in areas where the armed clashes take place.

PCNURP called for an immediate end to the government offensive that they said has displaced at least 73,000 people since it started on Feb. 25.

The PCNURP is seeking the truth behind the Mamasapano incident, demanding accountability and justice.

The PCNURP noted the allegations of the groups Suara Bangsamoro and KAWAGIB Moro Human Rights Alliance of indiscriminate firing and bombing by government troops.

They pointed out the all-out offensive is supposed to be launched for 10 days but the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had requested a three-day extension, resulting in more evacuees.

The declaration of an all-out offensive against the BIFF came only a month after villagers in Mamasapano had to evacuate on fears of another firefight with government forces in the area following the Jan. 25 incident.

The group noted the military launched ground and aerial attacks on the towns of Salbo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, on information where the BIFF are hiding.

The PCNURP explained the use of heavy artillery and air support has forced civilians to abandon their homes and evacuate to safer ground.

PCNURP is also calling on government to conduct more humanitarian assistance for those affected by the renewed clashes.

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also said the military offensive has displaced thousands of civilians.

“The all-out offensive is now resulting in the evacuation of thousands of the people in the affected areas,” MNLF spokesman Emmanuel Fontanilla said.

The military, on the other hand, has already cleared a portion of Maguindanao of any threats from the BIFF.

This came after government troops succeeded in capturing several camps of the BIFF in the town and outlying areas.

Occupants of the BIFF encampment in Barangay Tina in Shariff Saidona reportedly scampered to different directions as units of the Marines approached.

PMA to revise honor code after SC ruling on Cudia

From the Manila Standard Today (Mar 14): PMA to revise honor code after SC ruling on Cudia

A top official of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) said the recent decision of the Supreme Court (SC) upholding the dismissal of cadet first-class Alvin Jeff Cudia because of grave violation of the Academy’s age-old honor code has strengthened the institution’s standards for due process and academic freedom.

At the same time, the decision will pave the way for initial reforms of the code for the benefit of present and future batches of cadets who wish to become future military officers.

PMA Superintendent Lt. Gen. Oscar Lopez said part of the initial reforms in the Academy’s honor code for cadets is the appointment of cadet advisers to the cadets who are being heard by the honor committee for violations of the code to guide them in defending themselves before their fellow cadets.

“The SC decision has strengthened the existence of the Academy’s honor code and has contributed in enhancing the implementation of the code to the cadets who are future military leaders. We are elated that we were upheld for our minimum compliance to the doctrine of due process which has been an integral part of the code and the process of hearing the cases of violations of the cadets by the honor committee,” Lopez said.

He explained the appointment of members of the Academy’s honor committee and the way the honor committee conducts its hearings on erring cadets and the rendering of decisions are purely matters among the cadets which serves as a training ground for them to be self-reliant, trustworthy and independent-minded-leaders.     

He said among the common violations of the cadets that are subjected to hearings of the honor committee are cheating, lying and stealing which the PMA strictly prohibits.

But Lopez said that most of those who are subjected to hearings by the honor committee opt to leave the Academy instead of undergoing the rigid process so as not to burden themselves.

The PMA official said the SC ruling on the celebrated Cudia case vindicated the members of the honor committee and even the Academy from suspicion of having committed grave abuses in the enforcement of their decision, which dismissed Cudia from the Academy with barely less than a month prior to last year’s graduation rites.

Lopez said the Academy is set to release Cudia’s academic documents with the annotation that he was separated.

He explained that Cudia’s academic documents has already been available since last year but with the annotations that he was on indefinite leave considering the cases that he filed with the different agencies and the courts contrary to allegations that the Academy withheld the documents.

“It’s time for the Academy to move on. It’s also time for Cudia to move on now that the High Court has rendered its decision and has made the issue part of jurisprudence,” Lopez said.

 He said the Academy’s honor code serves as the guidepost for the cadets in their actions while inside the institution so that they will be trained and developed into responsible and dedicated military officers who do not lie, do not cheat and do not steal considering that they should always do the honourable thing.

Cudia was dismissed from the Academy for allegedly lying after he came in late for two minutes in a class because he was asked to do some work by his professor.

Navy’s missile-capable assault crafts to be built in Philippines

From Ang Malaya (Mar 14): Navy’s missile-capable assault crafts to be built in Philippines

Three Multi-purpose Assault Craft or MPACs of Philippine Navy that will serve as platform for advanced weapon system (remote weapons system as well as missile launch system—Lot 2) will be built in Philippines in accordance to the approved technical specifications of the Navy. “It will be armed with stabilized weapon system with fire control complemented with a short to medium range missile system,” Navy Vice-commander Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad said.

The Department of National Defense allocated PhP270 million from the General Appropriations Act for the acquisition of these 3 brand-new MPACS. Single-stage open competitive bidding will open on April 6. Winning bidder, must be the manufacturer, should deliver goods in 365 days after receiving the Notice to Proceed.

The government will be procuring the missile launch system in a separate acquisition project. These MPACs should be capable of operating at sea state five with 2.5 to 4 metres of waves or rough sea condition without systems degradation.

Philippine Navy is now operating six MPACs. Three were built by Taiwan while the other three were built by Filipino shipbuilder Propmech Corporation in Subic Bay, Zambales.

Army launches manhunt against fleeing NPAs in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): Army launches manhunt against fleeing NPAs in Samar

The Philippine Army launched a hot pursuit operation against communist insurgents who fled after a clash Friday afternoon on the outskirt of this remote town.

Lt. Col. Antonio Dulnuan, Jr. battalion commander of Army’s 87th infantry battalion (IB), said that a fire fight erupted between government troops and rebels around 2:30 p.m. in Hagbay village, San Jose De Buan town, some 122 kilometers north of Tacloban City.

“Government forces were conducting combat operations in the area when an undetermined number of lawless armed elements fired upon the pursuing troops. The troops resorted to fire back. No reported casualty from government forces and dispersed group of New People’s Army (NPA),” Dulnuan said.

The 87th IB asked their medical team to give immediate medical assistance should there be wounded NPA members seeking for medical assistance.

“We call on those rebels to come out, lay down their arms peacefully and be given proper medical attention. They are being assured that their human rights will be respected,” the army official said.

Government troops are in close coordination as well with the local government officials to ensure the security and safety of the residents in the area.

Dulnuan reminded soldiers to strictly follow the rule of law and respect for human rights while conducting follow-on operations in the area.(

Govt continues to help communities displaced by conflict in Central Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): Govt continues to help communities displaced by conflict in Central Mindanao

The government will continue to provide assistance to communities displaced by recent military campaign in central Mindanao with the help of other organizations, a Palace official said.

People affected by the fighting asked the government to stop the military offensive against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters so they could back to their homes. They also asked for additional humanitarian assistance.

“Tutugon naman po tayo doon sa mga assistance na kailangan nila, hindi lang doon sa ‘pag provide ng pagkain sa mga kababayan nating nasa loob ng evacuation centers, at siyempre ang mga attendant services na rin diyan, katulad ng medical services at kung ano pang mga kailangan,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a radio interview Saturday.

There is ongoing counseling for people who are displaced by the conflict in coordination with the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the provincial disaster risk management council and municipal governments, Valte told dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

The Department of Health is also conducting medical missions, and it also provides prepositioned supplies, hygiene kits and other essential medicines to affected communities.

Health officials are also doing blood sugar screening, and vaccination against pneumonia. They also conduct medical consultations in cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), according to Valte.

Valte also reported that based on the record from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, the number of displaced families staying in evacuations centers had gone down.

Most of the 56,000 displaced persons are staying in 44 evacuation centers, Valte said. Those who stay outside the evacuation centers are pegged at 8,500. The government continues to assist them as well, she said.

“Ang priority naman siyempre ng AFP diyan is ang safety ng mga civilians so talagang nagkakaroon ng displacement,” she noted.

“On the side of government, hinahabol na natin ang pagbibigay ng kalinga sa mga nadi-displace na mga pamilya doon.”

President Aquino to lead 110th PMA graduation rites

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 14): President Aquino to lead 110th PMA graduation rites

President Benigno S. Aquino III will lead on Sunday the 110th commencement exercises for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Sinag Lahi Class of 2015 at Fort Gregorio del Pilar.

Joining the President in this event are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang, as well as other ranking military officials.

Malaca├▒ang this early has sent its well wishes to this year’s batch of graduates led by class valedictorian, Cadet First Class Arwi C. Martinez, who will soon join the ranks of the Philippine Army.

“We wish all the graduates luck and safety as they continue to bear the flag for us,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte told an interview over state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Saturday.

Valte also welcomed the news that a woman, Cadet Caroline Jhoy R. Nacional, once again made it to the Top 10 as the nation continues to observe the National Women’s Month.

President Aquino is scheduled to arrive here at 9:00 a.m. to first inaugurate the newly completed PMA Sports Complex at the Jurado Hall. He will then proceed to the Fajardo Grandstand to grace the estimated two-hour Commencement Program.

About 5,000 people are expected to attend the program, including members of the AFP Cadet Corps, former PMA Superintendents, PMA Command Personnel Officers, AFP Major Services and Area Commanders, PMA alumni, members of the Foreign Armed Forces Attach├ę, enlisted personnel and civilian employees, friends and relatives of the graduating class, local government officials and other guests.

President Aquino will also take part in the Merienda Cena for the PMA Sinag Lahi Class of 2015 at the Conference Hall of the Mansion in Leonard Wood Road before heading back to Manila.

MILF MAMASAPANO REPORT | AGFO: Why Malaysia? Not a good move

From InterAksyon (Mar 14): MILF MAMASAPANO REPORT | AGFO: Why Malaysia? Not a good move

Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan (Ret.) being interviewed on the MILF's Masasapano investigation report. Photographed by Jaime Sinapit.

The chairman and president of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) on Saturday lambasted what he calls the arrogance manifested by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in not submitting or furnishing a copy of its own Mamasapano investigation report to the government.

The MILF leadership had said, instead, that it was submitting the document, instead, to the government of Malaysia, citing certain protocols pertaining to the Bangsamoro peace process.

Malaysia has been brokering the peace talks between the Aquino administration and MILF.

Earlier, leaders of the MILF, such as Jaafar Ghadzali and Mohagher Iqbal, said they would submit their investigation report to Kuala Lumpur through the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

They said that if the government wants a copy of their investigation report, then it should request one from Malaysia, being the facilitator of the peace talks.

"That, to me, is not really a good move in connection with the peace process," said Adan. "While there is a third party facilitator, the Malaysian government, the MILF, to show good faith and that they recognize the authority of the Philippine government, they should submit their report to our government."

Adan Jr. told in an interview at the sidelines during awarding ceremonies of the pre-graduation rites of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) "Sinaglahi" Class 2015 at the Fort Del Pillar in Baguio City that he was appalled by the MILF's show of arrogance.

The former spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and executive director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) said that, the protocols cited by the MILF aside, "for purposes of building trust and if they are sincere in building that trust, then that report should have been coursed through the Philippine government."

Hundreds of MILF fighters joined forces with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), in repulsing commandos from the Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) last January as they were withdrawing after neutralizing international terrorist Zukifli Abdhir (nom de guerre Marwan).

Marwan, a Malaysian national and terrorist of the regional Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) movement, which has links with Al Qaeda, was tracked to his hideout in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The 12-hour firefight killed 44 SAF men, 18 MILF and 5 civilians, while 16 other SAF men and officers were seriously wounded.

This show of arrogance by the MILF, Adan said, will tend to aggravate public uproar against the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

But, Adan said, the damage has been done by the MILF as the Filipino people, as a nation, has become enlightened about certain unconstitutional provisions in the BBL that are being scrutinized in Congress.

"Not in its present form," Adan said about the problematic provisions, "there are so many defects there, unconstitutional provisions."

"My organization, the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO), of which I am now the chairman and president, does not believe that these provisions augur well for peace. Because it violates the fundamental law of the land."

What is unbelievable, Adan said, is that the BBL is apparently not beholden to the commander-in-chief, the President.

The proposed law grants certain powers to the Bangsamoro "that diminishes the role of the commander-in-chief. It gives them the opportunity to maintaining an armed force, which is a violation of the Constitution, because the Constitution only provides for one Armed Forces of the Philippines. That's a violation of the authority of the President down to the Chief of Staff, which must never be compromised," Adan affirmed.

Furthermore, Adan said, the quest for justice for the massacred 44 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos cannot be completed without the arrest and detention of the perpetrators: "There is no closure of the Mamasapano carnage without giving justice to the victims. "There should be justice, of course. All the perpetrators should be held accountable; they should be surrendered by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as demanded by our senators and congressmen." Adan said that, if the perpetrators refuse to surrender and continue to be coddled, then long arm of the law will catch up with them: "The nation's security forces and law enforcement agencies must conduct law enforcement operations to arrest them, and, if they resist, neutralize them." The PNP and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have yet to file criminal charges against the perpetrators believed to be members of the MILF and some of them members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Bomb-making materials seized

From Tempo (Mar 14): Bomb-making materials seized

Government forces have recovered bomb-making materials as offensive operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao continue.

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said soldiers recovered the materials used in making improvised explosive device during clearing operations in Sitio Tatapan, Barangay Kitango, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao Thursday.

“While scouring the area, two platoons of the 1st Mechanized Infantry Brigade recovered seven 60-mm mortar fuses, one plastic container of ammonium nitrate, and one roll of electrical wire,” Kakilala said.

Kakilala added that operating troops also recovered one ballistic helmet, gun powder, two magazines for an M-16 rifle, and a police uniform.

“Clearing operations are still on-going in the area,” said the AFP spokesman.

“The AFP, in coordination with the Philippine National Police, will continuously pursue the BIFF bandits who have scampered from our intensified law enforcement operations,” Kakilala added.

“We will also continue to take part in the on-going relief operations jointly conducted by ARMM Heart and local provincial and municipal governments in the area,” Kakilala said.

The AFP earlier said that that least 116 BIFF members, including three relatives of Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman and a suspected foreign terrorist, have been killed in the ongoing military offensive against lawless armed groups in Central Mindanao.

The military also said that government troops are closing in Usman, who is said to be moving around the SPMS (Shariff Aguak, Pagatin (Datu Saudi), Mamasapano, and Salibo (Shariff Aguak) in Maguindanao.

Kakilala denied reports that the wanted terrorist was able to slip out of the province amid the continuing military offensive.

“The operating troops of the Marine Battalion Landing Team 8 led by Lt. Col. Willy Manalang are closing in on the group of Usman and five foreign terrorists who are being coddled by BIFF leader Mohammad Ali Tambako,” said AFP spokesman.

“Accordingly nasa area pa si Usman, sa SPMS box and its periphery… malabo siya makalusot kasi madami tayong checkpoint,” he further stated.

Third ‘high-value target’ also got away

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Third ‘high-value target’ also got away

As the principal targets of the botched Special Action Force (SAF) operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province, on Jan. 25, Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan,” and Basit Usman have become household names. But there was a third target who got away and his name was never mentioned before.

The Philippine National Police board of inquiry report on the Mamasapano debacle released on Friday said the third “high-value target” of “Oplan Exodus” was Amin Baco.

Like Marwan, Baco is reportedly a Malaysian bomb expert and a member of the Southeast Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) who is wanted for a string of bomb attacks in the region.

But unlike Marwan who was “killed on the spot,” Baco and Usman managed to escape from the SAF commandos who raided their riverside huts in Mamasapano early on Jan. 25.

Wanted by US, PH

Baco, who uses the alias Jihad, is wanted by the Philippine and US governments for various bombing and kidnapping cases.

He is reportedly one of the kidnappers of two Malaysian cousins Tun Wee Jie and Tun Wee Wei from Lahad Datu, Sabah, on Nov. 14, 2002.

He was also involved in the foiled kidnapping of Chinese trader Ting Ting Yeong in Iligan City on May 5, 2013, according to the board of inquiry report.

Baco is believed to have taken refuge with the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, training its members in explosives and helping them plot attacks.

Philippine intelligence officials say Baco stayed for years with Abu Sayyaf fighters in Jolo, but fled the area after a US-backed air strike targeting foreign militants killed several extremists in a mountain encampment in February 2012.

He was later monitored to have joined the Abu Sayyaf in nearby Basilan province and on the Zamboanga Peninsula, posing with armed Filipino militants in a picture taken with a cell phone that was later seized by government forces.


Marwan, the primary target of the SAF operation, was a Malaysian national and US-trained engineer who was believed to be a senior member of JI.

He was internationally and locally wanted on a string of bomb attacks, most notably the Bali bombings of Oct. 12, 2002, that killed 202 people and seriously injured 209 others.

He also used as aliases Ebs, Ibs, Musa, Ahmad and Nods while in hiding, the board of inquiry report said.


Basit Usman is the alias of Ahmad Batabol Usman, a Filipino bomb expert who now heads the Special Operations Group of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He is involved in at least five bombings from April 2002 to January 2008 in General Santos City, Tacurong and Cotabato City, his “specific terrorism playgrounds,” according to the report.

His bomb attacks have killed 17 people and seriously injured 62 others, the report said.
The board said the three specialized in manufacturing and detonating improvised explosive devices by remote control such as ordinary cellular phones.

It said the bombs appeared to be crude since dilapidated and rusting mortar, artillery and recoilless rifle rounds were used as the main charge, but they were powerful enough to cause extensive injuries and great terror.

Philippine police seize marijuana worth $1.35 million

From Anadolu Agency (Mar 13): Philippine police seize marijuana worth $1.35 million

Crop destroyed after raids on five farms in northern Luzon


Authorities in the Philippines seized marijuana worth $1.35 million following raids on farms on the northern island of Luzon, local media reported on Friday.

Narcotic agents and police destroyed a haul, valued at 60 million pesos, found on five farms around Sugpon, Ilocos Sur province.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Ch. Insp. Edgar Apalla told GMA News that 240,000 marijuana plants, 10,000 seedlings, 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of seeds and 100 kg of dried marijuana was discovered.

"It was a big destruction,” he said. “It is our operational thrust to destroy [marijuana] before it reaches the illegal drug market.”

Recent raids on marijuana farms have shown links to the Abu Sayyaf insurgent group in the south and the Communist New People's Army in the north. Both groups are alleged to partly fund their armed campaigns through drug dealing.

Kidnapped teacher freed

From Tempo (Mar 14): Kidnapped teacher freed

The Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) released a government teacher after holding her for nine hours in the forested area of Indanan town in Sulu.

The provincial police office in Sulu reported that the ASG freed Allyn Muksan Abdurajak, 44, of the Jolo School of Fisheries, at about 3:30 a.m. last Wednesday.

Abdurajak was abducted by two ASG gunmen operating in Barangay Kajatian, Indanan, at around 6:10 p.m.,Tuesday. Police said Abdurajak was released after negotiations by her relatives with the kidnappers. The ASG used a tricycle as their getaway vehicle and fled towards Buansa area in Indanan town.