Tuesday, April 14, 2015

‘BIFF will not die with Ameril Umbra Kato’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 14): ‘BIFF will not die with Ameril Umbra Kato’

Ameril Umbra Kato

Ameril Umbra Kato, seated, the commander of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the breakaway faction of Moro Islamic Liberation Front, is interviewed by the media inside his rebel stronghold in Maguindanao in this file photo. AP
Ameril Umbra Kato, the founding chair of the breakaway rebel group, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), is dead.

Abu Misri Mama, speaking for BIFF, in a phone interview confirmed that the group’s founding chair “has returned to his creator.” He added that BIFF followers have accepted Kato’s fate but vowed that “BIFF will not die with him.”

Mama said he had talked with the BIFF leader’s son who confirmed the death in a phone conversation. Mama said he decided not to go to where Kato was buried as it was too far and because Kato was already buried Tuesday morning.

“I’ve talked to his son who confirmed the death of his father. He was buried this (Tuesday) morning,” he said.

Earlier, Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, quoting Kato’s relatives and close allies, said the BIFF founding chair suffered a cardiac arrest at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday in his hideout in a remote village of Guindulungan, Maguindanao.

“Yes, his relatives confirmed he succumbed to cardiac arrest,” Dimaukom told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that the 69-year-old renegade leader suffered a mild stroke in 2011.

Mama said they have accepted the fate of their founding leader.

“We cannot do anything about it. We will mourn but BIFF will not die with him,” Mama said.

Revolutionary organization

According to Mama, the structure of BIFF, as a revolutionary organization, ensures that if a person or a leader dies, someone will automatically replace him to ensure the continuity of their struggle.

The rebel spokesperson said the council of leaders of BIFF would immediately meet to talk about the direction and the adjustments in the organization.

“As of the moment, BIFF’s vice chair for political affairs Ustadz Abubakr Esmael will temporarily fill up the position until the plenary,” Mama said.

In 2011, Kato was also reported to have died after he suffered a mild stroke.
READ: Ameril Umbra Kato dead–Muslim leader

In 2008, Kato, then the commander of Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s 105th base command, led a group of MILF forces in attacking civilian communities following the Supreme Court’s decision declaring the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain unconstitutional.

In 2009, Kato broke away from MILF, due to what he called “abandonment” when the the group’s central committee declared a suspension of military actions to end the yearlong war due to the botched signing of the MOA-AD and disagreements in the conduct of the peace talks with the government.  He then formed BIFF. He was replaced by his deputy, Zacaria Goma, as commander of MILF 105th base command.

The BIFF has since been attacking military positions in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. It, along with the MILF’s 105th base command, was also involved in the Jan. 25 fighting in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, that left 44 police commandos, 17 rebels and three civilians dead.

A month after the Mamasapano carnage, the military launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF, which is suspected of coddling bomber Basit Usman. The military said it killed more than 100 BIFF rebels in the month-long offensive.


BIFM-RIB: The Rematch-1

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement-Research and Information Bureau (BIFM-RIB) (Mar 7): The Rematch-1

On March 06, 2015 (Friday) a second Mamasapano incidence took place, just after 34 days of fallen 44 SAF Commandos. This proves that history always repeats itself. Although the enemy casualties, not based on body account, a reliable source from civil society and from the military authority, there were more than 40 dead bodies of members unloaded at Camp Siongco, Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

Two units’ personnel carrier and one unit war Tank (Tangki de Guerra) were destroyed. Only one slightly wounded on the side of the BIFF. This involved Brgy. Sambulawan, Datu Salibo and Gawang, Datu Saudi, all in 2nd Congressional District of Maguindanao.

Research and Information Bureau


BIFM-RIB: 3rd Major Encounter

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement-Research and Information Bureau (BIFM-RIB) (Mar 30): 3rd Major Encounter

The Malngog Encounter at Brgy. Malngog, Datu Saudi, Maguindanao on Sunday around 8:30 in the morning, March 29, 2015 ranks as the third major encounter between BIFF and AFP since the General Katapang All Out Offense against BIFF. The first one was in Brgy. Gawang and Sambulawan on the 27th of February 2015 both in the Municipality of Datu Saudi, Maguindanao. Second was at Barrio Muslim, Guindulungan also in Maguindanao province, in the afternoon of Friday (March 6, 2015). 

Of these 3 major encounters, only 3 BIFF men were killed in action (SHAHEED) while wounded 20. In the enemy sides, still vehemently denying the actual number of casualties. But civilian authorities in the communities involved who saw the actual hauling (loading) of dead bodies of government forces on government vehicles (Ambulances) in the 3rd BIFF-AFP encounters, there would be no less than 50 while the enemies claimed that there were 104 killed in the BIFF men as reported by the 6ID spokeswoman about two weeks ago.
As of yesterday’s encounter March 29, 2015, one SHAHEED (killed in action) in the BIFF and six (6) wounded. To the enemies (AFP) 3 units of government owned vehicles were badly hit by BIFF 90RR. There were: one unit of 6x6, one unit Korean Car and one unit White Red Cross Car. No less than 50 of the AFP men were killed in yesterday’s fierce encounters.

Research and Information Bureau


BIFM-RIB: The Amier Dies

Posted to the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement-Research and Information Bureau (BIFM-RIB) (Apr 15): The Amier Dies


          The founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) passed away about 2 am. On Tuesday, April 14, 2015, somewhere in the province of Maguindanao. Socially, it was a great loss from the BIFM, being an amier and a founder of the organization majority of his immediate followers treated him as “Brother”.

          However, as for as the plan and objective of the Movement is concerned, it upholds firmly and constantly. In fact, a few hours before his demise, he called on his immediate followers, instructed them to continue the struggle until ALLAH Subhanahu Wa Ta ‘ala, the most high granted us the honor of Victory or Martyrdom.

Research and Information Bureau


DFA chief: US sending military equipment to help PH monitor territory

From the Manila Times (Apr 15): DFA chief: US sending military equipment to help PH monitor territory

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday revealed that the United States is sending air force and naval equipment to the Philippines to help the military monitor incursions in the country’s territory.

Speaking on ABS-CBN News Channel, Del Rosario said the equipment would be manned by US personnel . He did not reveal what kind of military equipment the US is planning to send over.

US Defense Secretary  Ashton Carter last week said the US would deploy its “best weapons” in Asia to counter the threat posed by China specifically in the South and East China Seas.

US President Barack Obama, speaking in a town hall meeting in Jamaica last week, also expressed concern over China’s provocative actions in the disputed areas, saying small countries like the Philippines and Vietnam should not be “elbowed aside”.

The developments followed the publication last week of aerial surveillance pictures of China’s massive land reclamation in areas within the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

Del Rosario said Manila sees China’s action as its way of defining its 9-dash line claim which Manila disputed before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). He added the DFA has protested all of China’s reclamation activities through diplomatic channels.

“We have appealed to them to stop what they’re doing,” he said.

Asked by program host Karen Davila if the Philippines can “technically” do anything to stop what China is doing, Del Rosario said, “We’re looking at our options now. I’m not prepared to discuss that.”

Earlier, Armed Forces chief of staff, Gen. Gregorio Catapang discounted any military action on the issue, saying it’s not wise to escalate the tension already prevailing in the disputed areas. He said however, that Filipino troops stationed in areas that remain under Philippine control to stand their ground.

Del Rosario said they expect the ITLOS to hand down its ruling on the arbitration case in early 2016.

China refused to participate in the process, insisting that the issue is not within the jurisdiction of ITLOS as Beijing remained firm that the territorial dispute should be addressed bilaterally.

Del Rosario however, revealed that they opted to involve the United Nations and the international community in the issue as dealing with China on a bilateral basis was futile.

He said in the case of the Scarborough Shoal which China isolated in 2013, Filipino diplomats sat down 50 times with their Beijing counterparts in an attempt to resolve the issue.

“Each time we sit down with them, they always invoke that their sovereignty over South China Sea is indisputable,” he said.

Manila however, continued to push for a diplomatic solution.

“We chose arbitration because we wanted to preserve our valuable friendship with China,” he said.

Sophisticated weaponry

Carter, who was in Japan last week to finalize its new defense cooperation guidelines with Tokyo, said the US is taking  “a strong stance against the militarisation of these disputes.”

Interviewed by Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun, Carter said China’s land reclamations “seriously increase tensions and reduce the prospects for diplomatic solutions.” He then called on Beijing to “limit its activities and exercise restraint.”

Before leaving for Japan, Carter delivered a speech in Arizona reaffirming the US commitment to the “pivot” or “rebalance” to the Indo-Pacific region.

“The ‘pivot’ is a comprehensive diplomatic, economic and military strategy targeting China and aimed at ensuring the continued dominance of American imperialism in the world’s fastest growing economic region,” an article quoting Carter’s speech and posted on the New World Socialist Website read.

In his speech, Carter likewise revealed the extensive build-up and restructuring of US military forces in the Asia-Pacific that he said are geared to a war with China.

New military hardware is being developed, specifically tailored to the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle war plan, which envisages a massive air and missile assault on mainland China from US bases and naval assets in the western Pacific. In addition to “a new, long-range stealth bomber and a new, long-range anti-ship cruise missile,”

Carter said that the US was working on “new weapons like a rail gun” using electromagnetic forces, and “new space, electronic warfare and other advanced capabilities, including some surprising ones.”

* The Pentagon has already dispatched some of its most sophisticated weapons systems to Asia, including the latest Virginia class nuclear submarine and P-8 surveillance aircraft, as well as fighter aircraft and bombers.

“We will continue to push our most advanced weaponry to the Pacific, including, for example, our newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt,” Carter said.

The US is comprehensively redistributing its military forces throughout the region, including new basing arrangements with Australia, Singapore and the Philippines.

In North East Asia, the Pentagon is restructuring its bases in Japan, especially on Okinawa, and South Korea and transforming Guam into a “strategic hub” for the region.

In Japan, Korea and Guam,” Carter boasted, “we are in the middle of four of the largest military construction projects since the end of the Cold War.”

The US is “constantly refreshing our alliances” in the region. Carter emphasised that this involved “establishing brand new partnerships” and maintaining “an increased tempo of training and exercises.”

As he spoke, the annual US-South Korean war games were underway.

The US and the Philippines are also about to begin their annual Balikatan military exercises, which have doubled in size from last year and also include Australian military personnel.


DFA: US eyes sending air, naval support to PH amid China dispute

From ABS-CBN (Apr 15): DFA: US eyes sending air, naval support to PH amid China dispute

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Wednesday revealed that the United States is looking at sending advanced air and naval support to the Philippines amid the country's simmering dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.

Speaking to ANC, del Rosario quoted US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter as saying the US is looking at deploying to the Philippines various advanced air force, naval, and maritime domain equipment.

''These were outlined by Secretary Carter recently and we welcome this,'' del Rosario said.

Del Rosario said the plan was revealed a few days ago and the Philippine government has yet to discuss the matter with the US government.

"We have not talked about to what extent this will happen. With that equipment, you can surmise there will be US presence,'' he said.

''It's the first time it was announced a few days ago. It’s the first time we're hearing about it. We have not engaged in any discussion. We will find out more about what these plans involved."

Del Rosario said he is set to fly to the US in two weeks to meet with members of the US Congress and possibly, Carter and US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Del Rosario made this revelation after US president Barack Obama criticized China for using its ''sheer size and muscle'' in staking its claim to the disputed waters.

The US has said that it will not take sides in the dispute, but it has expressed concern over the extent of reclamation works of China in some features of the sea.

The latest declaration also seem to underscore efforts of the US to shift its focus to Asia to counter the rise of China. While Asia's largest economy has seen its military spending increasing sharply in recent years, its military power remains inferior to that of the US.

Meanwhile, China, in response to Obama's remarks for the first time gave more details about the purpose of the Chinese reclamation works.

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying, the man-made islands would be for improving the working conditions of personnel stationed there, safeguarding territorial sovereignty, performing obligation in maritime search and rescue, meteorological observation, environmental protection, navigation safety and fishery production service.

Del Rosario said the Philippines is also looking at other options in dealing with the Chinese reclamation works. However, he said he cannot yet reveal what are these.


Del Rosario said the Philippines has been protesting seven China's reclamation activities in several features in the West Philippine Sea.

Latest satellite images show that China has made some progress with its reclamation work in Mischief Reef (Panganiban Reef), which is located off Palawan and is considered by the Philippines to be within its exclusive economic zone.

Del Rosario said the Chinese reclamation activities must stop as these threaten the Philippine sovereignty.

''They are out to control the South China Sea and that's obvious for various reasons: they need to feed their people from the resources, there are hydrocarbon resources there, they need to fuel their economy and also it is strategic militarily to able to control the South China Sea," he said.

The DFA earlier said China's reclamation works, contrary to the Asian giant's claim, are not good for the environment. It said some 300 acres of coral reef systems have been destroyed by the Chinese activities. It added these ''unilateral'' works are causing coastal states to lose $100 million yearly.

Del Rosario added he believes the Chinese reclamations are meant to physically establish China's ''nine-dash line'' claim in the West Philippine Sea.

He said with 40 percent of the world trade passing through the West Philippine Sea, the Chinese works do not only threaten the Philippines but also the rest of the international community.


The Philippines has filed a case against China before a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal and it expects a ruling early next year.

China has refused to participate in the proceedings, a move experts say Beijing has adopted in order to avoid legitimizing the proceedings.

Del Rosario said last March 16, the Philippines responded to questions by the members of the arbitral tribunal hearing the case.

He believes that the Philippines will manage to prove that it is within the jurisdiction of the tribunal to hear the case.

He added that the Chinese reclamation will not affect the Philippine case, as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) ''will look at not what's there now, but what it was before they built these features."

Armed men fire at army detachment in Ilocos Sur

From GMA News (Apr 15): Armed men fire at army detachment in Ilocos Sur

Armed men fired at an Army camp in Cervantes town in Ilocos Sur province Tuesday, with police not discounting the possibility the attackers were communist New People's Army rebels.

No one was initially reported hurt in the incident at the camp of the Army's 81st Infantry Battalion, GMA Ilocos reported on Wednesday.

Recovered from the scene were a shell from an M-14 rifle and bloodied pieces of bamboo.

Police are looking into whether the attackers were NPA rebels.

"Hindi pa natin mai-establish kung ano motive nun, mga unknown perpetrators yun. Hindi naman sinabi kung taga-kabila," said Ilocos Sur provincial police community relations head Superintendent Marlo Castillo.


Witness reaffirms Palparan's role in Capadan-Empeno case

From GMA News (Apr 14): Witness reaffirms Palparan's role in Capadan-Empeno case

Witness Raymond Manalo remained consistent in implicating retired Army general Jovito Palparan in the alleged abduction and torture of two missing University of the Philippines students.

In a court hearing at the Malolos Regional Trial Court Branch 14 on Monday, Manalo testified that he met UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in Camp Tecson, Bulacan, where they were all held.

According to rights group Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay, Manalo remained consistent despite the defense's attempts to discredit his testimony through various court technicalities.

“Not being able to break the consistencies of Manalo's accounts, Palparan’s lawyer invented inconsistencies in Manalo's affidavits by picking one statement or sentence out of context and comparing another statement from a different affidavit,” she said. 

“Such court antics of Palparan and his lawyer indicate their failure to destroy the credibility of Manalo and other witnesses in the Capadan-Empeno case. Once again, Palparan’s accountability on the disappearance and torture of the two students is firmly established,” she continued.

Karapatan regularly works with the National Union of People's Lawyers which has provided private prosecutors for the Capadan-Empeno case against Palparan.

Manalo is a farmer from San Ildefonso, Bulacan who earlier stated he was abducted along with his older brother Reynaldo by the Army 24th Infantry Battalion on February 14, 2006.

He said they were held captive for one and half years because his brother, Bestre, was believed to be a member of the New People's Army.

Manalo said during his detention under Palparan's orders, he met Cadapan, Empeño, and another abducted farmer Manuel Merino at Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Palparan was arrested in 2014 after three years in hiding. He was given the monicker "The Butcher” for alleged human rights violations wherever he was assigned. Palpalan has repeatedly denied that he or the military was involved in the incident.

AFP to troops aboard BRP Sierra Madre: Remain strong

From GMA News (Apr 14): AFP to troops aboard BRP Sierra Madre: Remain strong

Troops aboard the Philippine Navy's BRP Sierra Madre, which serves as the country's outpost on the Ayungin Shoal, were told to remain strong despite allegedly being harassed by China.

At a press briefing on Tuesday, Armed Forces of the Philippines Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the military ship bringing in supplies for the troops were blocked several times by the Chinese government patrolling the areas.

"Nung mga nakaraang mga buwan lalo na last year ay hinaharang yung resupply," he said.

The AFP leadership has told the troops manning the ship to remain strong.

"Huwag magpatinag sa ano man na pananakot... Kami ay sundalong Pilipino; hindi tayo nagpapatinag sa sinuman na nanakot sa atin," he said.

Cabunoc said that the troops' morale remains high.

"'Yung nasa mga isla, high morale, regular naman silang na-resupply and marami tayong efforts na mapanatili ang kanilang morale sa pamamagitan ng communication," he said, noting that troops were given cellphones to contact their families.

He added that supplies are being provided to the troops regularly, along with care packages.

"Mga re-supply [at] 'yung kanilang mga personal request ay talagang pinagbibigyan natin. Maliban pa dun ay merong nagpapadala ng mga care package, mula sa ating mga kababayan locally and abroad, at pinahahatid natin dun sa kanila ang mga padala," he added.

Asked if the troops were affected by China's massive reclamation work on several disputed South China Sea territories, Cabunoc said he was not sure if the soldiers were aware of such activities, but "at all cost ay gagawin nila ang tungkulin habang sila ay nakadeploy dun sa mga teritoryo na kanilang kinalalagyan ngayon."

"'Yung ating mga sundalo positive-minded, resilient, mapagtiisin, kung ano man mayroon ay kanilang ginagawan ng paraan at handa silang gawin ang kanilang tungkulin," he added.

Earlier this month, newly published satellite images showed that China is quickly reclaiming land around a submerged reef within an area the Philippines regards as its exclusive economic zone, with several dredgers in operation and seawalls built.

A March 16 image published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) shows what it said was a chain of small artificial land formations as well as new structures, fortified seawalls and construction equipment along Panganiban (Mischief) Reef.


Kumander Bungos is new BIFF head

From GMA News (Apr 15): Kumander Bungos is new BIFF head

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters vice chairman for political affairs Sheik Esmael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos (right) sits beside BIFF founder and chairman Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato in this photo taken in April 2011 in Maguindanao. Abubakar took over the helm of the BIFF on Tuesday, April 14, after Kato died of a stroke. /File

Following the death of its founder and leader Ameril Umbra Kato on Tuesday, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters named Sheik Ismael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos as head of the rebel group.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama told GMA News Online in a phone interview that the group decided to have the 40-year-old Abubakar take over Kato's post.

Prior to his appointment, Abubakar was the former chief of the political affairs of the BIFF. He is also active in the military offensive.

Abubakar also served as the brigade commander of the 105th Base Command of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The BIFF is a splinter group of the MILF.

Abubakar studied in the Middle East, is an expert at Shariah law, and took on the title of sheik.

Misry Mama refused to reveal the group's plans but gave the assurance it will continue the legacy of its founder.

The BIFF spokesman admitted Kato's death is a big loss to the group. However, he said it does not mean the group will lose its power, contrary to the claim of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that the BIFF will become weaker now that Kato has died.

Kato passed away before dawn Tuesday due to a stroke.

Misry Mama told GMA News Online Kato was buried at 9 a.m. Wednesday in Mindanao.

In 2008, Kato led attacks in Mindanao after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the MILF and the Arroyo administration.


BIFF: Umbra Kato buried in Mindanao

From GMA News (Apr 15): BIFF: Umbra Kato buried in Mindanao

The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters on Wednesday claimed that Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato has been buried in Mindanao.

In a text message to GMA News Online, BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said the leader of the breakaway group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was buried 9 a.m. on Wednesday, a day after his death was reported.

For his part, Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said Kato may have been buried in the mountains of Guindolongan, Maguindanao.
For his part, Armed Forces of the Philippines public affairs chief Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc said the military is 99.99 percent sure Kato has died.
However, he said they will only confirm Kato's death once they receive pictures of his remains. As of Wednesday, AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joselito Kakilala said they have yet to get proof of Kato's death.
Earlier, some media reports quoted AFP chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang as saying the military has pictures of Kato's cadaver.
However, Cabunoc denied such reports, saying the military chief may have been misquoted.
"Na-misquote ata siya. What Gen. Catapang may have meant to say is that he may get the pictures in a day or two," he said. "Pero wala pang hawak ang AFP ng kahit anong picture sa ngayon."
Kato organized the so-called Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM) and its armed group, the BIFF, in 2008.

That same year, he led his men in attacks in several towns in Mindanao after the Supreme Court junked a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain between the MILF and the Arroyo administration. 

‘MILF bought off by Malaysia’

From the Manila Standard Today (Apr 15): ‘MILF bought off by Malaysia’

THE Moro National Liberation Front, led by Nur Misuari, accused the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front of entering into a “sinister conspiracy at the expense of the country’s patrimony.”

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza urged lawmakers deliberating on the Bangsamoro Basic Law to look into allegations that government and MILF officials accepted bribes from Malaysia to forge a peace agreement that would allow foreign exploitation of Mindanao’s natural resources.

“Aquino entered into some kind of an agreement with Malaysia for them to explore natural gas when he (Aquino) became president,” Cerveza claimed, referring to the 288-hectare Liguasan Marsh that straddles the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat.

“The government and Malaysia had a deal to grant Malaysia the sole prerogative to mine our natural gas and develop it,” Cerveza said, saying it was a “sinister conspiracy at the expense of the country’s patrimony.”

The exploration by Malaysian engineers actually started in the 1990’s when the MNLF was still negotiating their peace with the government, he said.

So the MILF disapproved of the exploration because the MILF was still negotiating its Framework Agreement with the government and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim asked Aquino to stop the drilling.

“The MILF didn’t want Liguasan Marsh as the site of the exploration because they will be displaced since their forces are concentrated in the area,” Cerveza said.

But Murad mysteriously agreed not to oppose the exploitation of Liguasan Marsh after he allegedly met secretly with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in Malaysia days before the signing of the Framework Agreement in exchange for 10 billion Malaysian ringgits (P123 billion).

Cerveza suspects that the MILF acceded to the Malaysian business targets in Liguasan Marsh after Malaysia provided them the necessary support in their peace deal with the government.

“The environment suddenly changes following Malaysia’s financial support to the MILF at the height of its peace negotiations with the government,” Cerveza said, insisting that “money changed hands.”

He said that the exploration will cover thousands of hectares of land in Tawi-Tawi which is rich in oil and gas deposits.

The deals were suspended by the government after report of the secret meeting emerged in October 2012, Cerveza said.

The government even admitted that it was suspending the bidding process of oil exploration contracts in the Liguasan Marsh area pending a wealth-sharing annex for the Framework Agreement.

“Chairman Murad is correct. Wealth-sharing is one of the annexes that we have to finish...Of course we have to finish first the negotiations for all the annexes,” Aquino said at that time.

“From what [then] Energy Secretary Rene Almendras explained to me, we have not yet opened the areas for bidding,” the President added.

But despite the President’s statement, the areas cited by Murad are actually covered by the Department of Energy’s Petroleum and Energy Contracting Round 4 which was launched last year.

Three contracts are currently up for bidding: Area 11 covering 600,000 hectares in Cotabato; Area 12 covering 456,000 hectares in Cotabato; and Area 15 covering 482,000 hectares in Sulu Sea.

Murad said based on available data, the resources in the Cotabato basin are estimated to be 158 million barrels of oil, with 10 wildcat wells drilled in the areas already.

Area 11  in Cotabato received two bids from Forum Pacific and Helios Mining and Energy, which were both accepted.

Area 12 also in Cotabato received a bid from three companies of which two were accepted. Dil Moro Energy Corp. and Min Energy Pty. Ltd were accepted while  Monte Oro Resources Energy Inc.’s bid was rejected.

Area 15 in the Sulu Sea drew the most bids of which three complied. The bids of  The Philodrill Corp and Philex Petroleum Corp.; Mitra Energy Ltd. (with Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Co. and Tap Oil) and Forum Pacific were accepted but the Department of Energy rejected the bid of NorAsian.

Senator Nancy wants to know how military uses intelligence fund

From Ang Malaya (Apr 14): Senator Nancy wants to know how military uses intelligence fund

Senator Nancy Binay questions what the Armed Forces of the Philippines is doing with millions of intelligence fund to not know the real identity of certain individuals.

“This is a clear and obvious lapse on the information gathering mechanism of the AFP that it cannot even find out whether a person is using an alias or not,” the senator said after knowing the the AFP through General Gregorio Catapang that it treated Mohagher Iqbal as a real name.

It turned out during Senate Local Government committee hearing on Monday that even presidential adviser on the peace process Teresita Deles does not know MILF peace panel chair’s real name.

She urges the AFP and peace panel to properly use their funds to know even simple details like the real name of persons they are dealing with.


Mohagher Iqbal’s real name revealed

From Ang Malaya (Apr 15): Mohagher Iqbal’s real name revealed

ABS-CBN News sources in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Congress have revealed Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s peace negotiator and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chairman Mohagher Iqbal’s real name.

The sources said on the sidelines of the executive session in Congress on the Mamasapano incident on Tuesday that Iqbal’s real name is Hassan Abdullah Muhammad. He was born on February 14, 1947 in Cotabato City.

Earlier reports that says the peace negotiator’s real name is “Lubis Abas” was not true, according to the source. They also added that Iqbal and government officials cannot be forced to say the MILF official’s real identity due to the prior peace talk’s agreement.

“The use of a nom de guerre by Iqbal in signing the peace agreement does not constitute any legal violation, for both parties involved fully recognized Iqbal as the MILF’s chief negotiator in the peace process,” Senate President Franklin Drilon said.

However, Drilon said that revealing Iqbal’s real name can be an important “confidence-building measure” that can alleviate doubts on the organization’s sincerity and commitment towards peace.


66 Cordillera police officers complete SCOUT training

From Agency (Apr 13): 66  Cordillera police officers complete  SCOUT training

The Police Regional Office – Cordillera honored the 66 police officers who graduated from the Modified PNP Special Counter-Insurgency Operations Unit Training (SCOUT).

During the April 6  flag ceremony at the PRO-Cor regional headquarters, the 66 strong policemen of the ALIBTAK Class 09-2015 were presented for graduation after proving their competence in completing the 45-day training on PNP SCOUT.

PRO-Cor Regional Director Police Chief Superintendent Isagani Nerez   led in the handing  over of the certificates to the graduates,  the donning of the SCOUT Beret and pinning of the SCOUT Pin.

Certificates of Merit  were  awarded  to the  top three  graduates  namely  PO1 Ronard B. Padchig (No. 1); PO1 John Mark S. Emper(No. 2) and PO1 Jafemar C. Burgos(No. 3). 

Padchig  and Emper also received  Certificate of Recognition  for being the “Strong Man” in  Physical Fitness Test, and class president respectively.  For being the ‘Top Gun’ in the Marksmanship Test for long and short firearms, PO1 Eric B. Accatan also received certificate of recognition.

Regional Director Police Chief Superintendent Isagani Nerez praised  the police officers  for completing the course that only the “brave, the determined and the physically able can survive.”

Nerez reiterated the importance of the training and the standard set forth for the graduates – to come up with a highly disciplined, effective and efficient police officers.

He  called on the graduates and all the other police officers to continue to be inspired by the heroes of the Mamasapano  incident  who dedicated their lives for the country.

SCOUT training aims to  equip  all PNP personnel  with skills in dealing with armed men and threat groups. It  focuses  on the following subjects: First Aid, Rope Courses, Immediate Action Drills, Water /Seaborne Tactics, Terrain Modeling, Close Quarter Battle, Survival, Field Training Exercises and Community Immersion.

Inputs and exposures in actual police works  are also given to the trainees for them to gain more knowledge on police works. There are also special modules on internal security operations to  enhance their knowledge and skills in the conduct of internal security operation.


IP leaders, gov’t peace and order concerns in Sarangani

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 14): IP leaders, gov’t peace and order concerns in Sarangani

ALABEL, Sarangani,  Apr. 14  (PIA)  --   Tribal  chieftains and B’laan indigenous peoples  leaders   in Alabel and  Malapatan  town  of  Sarangani   recently  met  with   military and police  officials and officials of  government line agencies  at the  provincial  capitol here  to  discuss  issues affecting the lumad communities in the area.

Capt. Rey Balibagoso,  spokesperson of the 1002nd  Brigade of  the Philippine Army, told  Philippine Information Agency 12  that the forum   on April 7  at the  Provincial  Gymnasium  aimed  to  “discuss and find a concrete solution to issues affecting the indigenous people particularly the unstable peace and order situation in their community.”

Concerns  over several  issues pertaining  to ancestral domain, socio-economic development, indigenous political structure, customary laws,  and security and quick reaction mechanism were also  deliberated.

The forum  was anchored on the theme  “Empowering our IP Leaders in Establishing Partnership for Peace, Development and Prosperity in Ancestral Domains/Indigenous Cultural Communities.”

Bae Norma Rivera representing the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and the IP Sectoral Council for Mindanao discussed the NAPC Development Framework for Indigenous People/Indigenous Cultural Communities.

Several personnel  from the National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) and Provincial Tribal Council (PTC) of Sarangani Province were also present  as  resource persons.

“What is due for you is for you! You, the indigenous people should be economically sound; you should be given total empowerment and that is how this present administration is doing,”  said  Sarangani  Gov.  Steve Chiongbian  Solon  told the  IP participants in his  message.

He also  emphasized that the  “Sulong Tribu” component of the “Sulong Sarangani Program”  was  designed to empower the indigenous people.

Regarding  peace and order  concerns,  Col. Ronald Villanueva, the Brigade Commander of 1002nd Brigade  emphasized that  lawless group of New Peoples’ Army  should spare the indigenous people from recruitment and exploitation.

“There are so many problems affecting the IPs and the solution to these problems is not raising arm against our fellow Filipino but for all of us to come together in the Filipino Spirit of “Bayanihan” to attain peace and development in the countryside,” Col. Villanueva appealed.

The  activity  culminated with the  signing  of  a  Manifesto of  Commitment  to  support  the Indigenous People-Peace and Development Outreach Program (IP-PDOP)  currently  being implemented  by the 1002nd Brigade.

IP-PDOP  focuses on the  upland barangays  of  Malapatan town in  cooperation with the   “Sulong Tribu” program team and Sarangani Police Provincial Office, the LGU and the NCIP.

The forum  was also  attended  by representatives   from  the  Department of the Interior and Local  Government,  Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Agriculture, NPAC, NCIP,  Provincial Tribal Council of Sarangani, 73rd Infantry Battalion and 1002nd Brigade  who  responded  to  queries  and  concerns  raised by the  IP  leaders.


Kidnappers demand P60-M ransom for release of victims, says Pitogo town mayor

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 14): Kidnappers demand P60-M ransom for release of victims, says Pitogo town mayor

PITOGO, Zamboanga del Sur – The kidnappers are demanding P60 million as ransom for the safe release of the three victims abducted here last March 31, according to Mayor Richard Garban.

In a recent press conference held at his office, Mayor Garban identified the culprits as belonging to the lost command that demanded P30 million for each of the two remaining victims, Ace Jay Garban, 2, and Ledegie Tomarong, 17.

It could be recalled that Ace Jay Garban, Zynille Jay Garban, 3, and Ledegie Tomarong who were at the fish port, were forcibly taken as human shields by the abductors last March 31 at 5:45 p.m. while fleeing from pursuing policemen after a botched operation targeting a businesswoman, Chzarenia Kapa-Sajulga.

Three days after the incident, Zynille Jay’s dead body was found floating in the sea, causing panic among the residents.

The mayor said the kidnappers contacted their families and told them to raise the money.

“Dako kaayo ang kaguol ug kasubo sa mga pamilya sa biktima tungod sa dakong kantidad sa salapi ang gipangayo sa mga kidnapper bugti sa ilang kagawasan. Asa man nila pangitaon ang maong kantidad nga nga ibayad nila?  Tungod niini, kinasingkasing kami nga naghangyo sa mga kidnapper nga ilang buhian ang makalooy nga mga biktima,” Garban appealed.

(The victims’ families felt sad and worried because the amount demanded by the kidnappers is quite big. Where are they going to get that money? With this, we are heartily appealing to the kidnappers to release the victims.)

Tomarong’s parents are laborer and house helper. Ace Jay is a nephew of Punong Barangay Jayjay Garban.

The government is strictly implementing the “no-ransom policy” in dealing with the kidnappers.

Mayor Garban said “the suspects have also their own families and they have children too. I believe the abductors know deep in their hearts that they are also human beings and they can understand the sad fate of their victims.”

The police and local officials are still clueless as to the location of the victims. “We don’t have an idea where exactly the victims are,” Garban reported.

Law enforcement agencies are incessantly doing sea patrols along the municipal waters of the neighboring towns to recover the victims. 


1CAV’s free medical, dental services benefit over 400 residents of Labangan town

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 14): 1CAV’s free medical, dental services benefit over 400 residents of Labangan town
Over 400 residents of Barangay San Isidro here have benefited from the free Medical and Dental Civic Action Program (MEDCAP) conducted on Friday, April 10, by the 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1st FAB), Army Artillery Regiment in partnership with the 1st Cavalry (Tagapungana) Squadron (1CAV) of the Philippine Army’s Mechanized Infantry Division.

In his message, Lt. Col. Sonny Sales, commanding officer of the 1st FAB, said the objective of MEDCAP was to bring immediate medical health services to the people especially those living in the remote areas where access to government services is difficult like Barangay San Isidro, which is also “one of our adopted barangays.”

Meanwhile, 1CAV commanding officer Lt. Col. Charlemagne Batayola Jr., said the project was conceptualized by the army leadership in partnership with the local government unit because out of the government’s genuine concern to help alleviate the living condition of the people in far-flung areas.

“Kini ang among pangandoy ug sa gamay nga pamaagi makahatag kaninyo sa gamay nga kalipay ug paglaum dinhi sa San Isidro,” Batayola explained. 

 (This is our dream that in our own little way we can bring joy and hope here in San Isidro.)

For his part, Punong Barangay Gavino Lacsado expressed his sincere gratitude to the Philippine Army that for second time, it held such an activity in his barangay.

Danilo Tingtingan was also thankful to the MEDCAP, as his sons, Johny, 11, and Danilo, 7, had availed themselves of free circumcision.

“Nagpasalamat ko sa Philippine Army tungod kay dili nako mogasto ug kwarta ug kahago  magpatuli sa akong duha ka anak nga lalaki sa health center nga anaa sa lungsod. Layo kining among gipuy-an sa lungsod. Mopasahe pa ko P30 matag-usa aron mahatud sila sa health center,” Tingtingan explained.

(I am thankful to the Philippine Army because I will no longer spend money and time to have my two sons circumcised at the municipal health center located at the town proper. Our house is far from the health center and I have to spend P30 each for fare just to bring them there.)

A total of 412 residents have availed of the said project broken down as follows: 115 for free medical checkup, 90 for dental services/tooth extraction, 85 young boys for circumcision, 100 were given vaccination, and 182 were provided of free medicines.

The medical and dental teams from 1st Infantry (Tabak) division and the Rural Health Unit have jointly conducted the said activity.

Aquino says Muslim peace deal can be saved

From Rappler (Apr 14): Aquino says Muslim peace deal can be saved

Aquino says he can still secure a peace deal with Muslim rebels before standing down next year after a botched anti-terror raid nearly derailed the process

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. President Benigno S. Aquino III walks among troops upon arrival at the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Pilar, Bataan for the 73rd Commemoration of the Day of Valor on April 09, 2015. Photo by Lauro Montellano, Jr. / Malacañang Photo Bureau

COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. President Benigno S. Aquino III walks among troops upon arrival at the Dambana ng Kagitingan in Pilar, Bataan for the 73rd Commemoration of the Day of Valor on April 09, 2015. Photo by Lauro Montellano, Jr. / Malacañang Photo Bureau

President Benigno Aquino said Tuesday, April 14, that he could still secure a peace deal with Muslim rebels before standing down next year, after a botched anti-terror raid nearly derailed the process.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippines' biggest Muslim rebel group, signed a peace pact last year aiming to end their four-decade separatist struggle that has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives.

But efforts by the Aquino administration to pass a law authorising an autonomous region for the nation's Muslim minority -- the key part of the pact – were delayed amid outrage over a police raid in January targeting alleged top terrorists.

Malaysian bomb-maker Zulkifli bin Hir, one of the United States' most wanted men, was killed in the raid. But 44 police commandos also died in an ensuing day-long battle with MILF fighters and other rebels.

Asked in an exclusive interview with AFP on Tuesday if the peace accord could be implemented before he steps down in June next year, Aquino said: "Yes, I believe so."

As outrage eased over the deaths – the single biggest battlefield toll among security forces in recent memory – the autonomy bill could be discussed "devoid of emotion," he said.

"Perhaps two, three weeks ago, a month ago they were saying it's dead in the water," Aquino said.

"They're back to discussing it. That's a very hopeful sign," Aquino said, referring to debates in parliament that resumed this week after a three-month suspension. Aquino repeated warnings that failure to implement the treaty could radicalize the MILF's moderate base and cause further bloodshed in the southern Philippines. "There is the very real danger that failing this, they (MILF leaders) will lose the support of their rank and file, who will now listen to the more radical voices within the organization," he said.

Government peace negotiators hope parliament will pass the self-rule bill by mid-year.

Once it becomes law, a plebiscite will be held in areas to be included in the autonomous region that will be called Bangsamoro.

A transitional government will hold office until the first set of regional officials are elected in May next year, simultaneously with the national elections.

A peace deal to end decades of fighting in the south would be a key legacy for Aquino, but he said he was prepared for the possibility that it would not be fully implemented under his term.

"If it's my fate that I will not be able to shepherd my country towards having that peace agreement... I hope I will be able to demonstrate the absurdity of going back to the traditional way, which is violence always simmering or threatening to boil over," he said.

The Philippine constitution only allows presidents to serve a single term of six years.

Constantino joins PNP's Command Group

From Rappler (Apr 15): Constantino joins PNP's Command Group

Police Director Danilo Constantino is now the PNP’s number 4 official as Deputy Director Generals Leonardo Espina and Marcelo Garbo, Jr., are officially promoted

Police Director Danilo Constantino. Photo from the PNP DPCR

Police Director Danilo Constantino. Photo from the PNP DPCR
The chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s community relations arm is now its 4th in command.
Police Director Danilo Constantino, the former chief of the PNP’s Directorate for Police Community Relations (DPCR) has been promoted to Officer-in-Charge (OIC) Chief of Directorial Staff, following the promotion of the police force’s two highest-ranking officials.
According to General Order Number 692 from the PNP’s National Headquarters, Constantino officially joins Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina and Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, Jr., in the Command Group this week. (READ: Espina, Garbo to assume new PNP posts next week – Roxas)
The order is dated April 14, 2015.
Espina was promoted from Deputy Chief for Operations to Deputy Chief for Administation while Garbo moved from Chief of Directorial Staff to Deputy Chief for Operations.
The Deputy Chief of Administation is the PNP’s number 2, while the Deputy Chief for Operations is the PNP’s 3rd highest-ranking official. The Chief of Directorial Staff is the PNP’s number 4.
Constantino, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982, was previously regional chief of Cebu. He was also executive officer and later the deputy director of the Directorate for Operations.
The 2-star general from Gapan, Nueva Ecija was also deputy director of the Directorate for Comptrollership.
With his appointment, Constantino bypassed other members of his class who were considered front runners for the Command Group: Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong and Directorate for Operations chief Police Director Ricardo Marquez.
PNP without a chief
Constantino’s addition to the PNP Command Group and the formal promotion of Espina and Garbo comes as the PNP marks more than 4 months without a full-time or acting chief.
Espina is concurrently the PNP’s Office-in-Charge (OIC) after the preventive suspension and eventual resignation of PNP chief Director General Alan Purisima.
Purisima was suspended by the Ombudsman in December 2014 pending the investigation of a graft case against him.
He resigned in early February after he was implicated in the failure of “Oplan Exodus,” a botched police operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao that claimed the lives of at least 67, including 44 members of the PNP Special Action Force.
Espina is among the top contenders for PNP chief although he is turning 56 – the mandatory age for retirement – in July 2015.
Other top contenders for the post of PNP chief are Garbo, Magalong, Marquez, and Directorate for Logistics chief Police Director Juanito Vaño, Jr.
Sources also say that Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta, a close friend of President Benigno Aquino III, may come in as a dark horse in the race.
Like Purisima, Petrasanta is currently serving a preventive suspension order stemming from two cases pending before the Ombudsman: the Werfast case, which also involves Purisima, and a case involving the alleged sale of AK-47s to communist rebels in Mindanao.

China reclamation meant to 'define' 9-dash line – PH

From Rappler (Apr 15): China reclamation meant to 'define' 9-dash line – PH

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says China wants its artificial islands to 'undermine' Manila's case against Beijing

 FUELING CONCERN. New images released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies – such as this photo of Cuarteron Reef – show the extent of China's reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Photo courtesy of CSIS

FUELING CONCERN. New images released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies – such as this photo of Cuarteron Reef – show the extent of China's reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Photo courtesy of CSIS

The Philippines accused China on Wednesday, April 15, of using artificial islands to define the Asian giant's 9-dash line, a demarcation to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.

"We see these as unilateral aggressive activities on China's part, and not only are they using it to define the 9-dash line," Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said in an interview on the news program Headstart on Wednesday, April 15.

"They feel that it will serve to undermine our case with the arbitral tribunal, because what they're tying to do is they're taking features and changing the character, the nature, and the maritime entitlements of these features," Del Rosario said.

Del Rosario did not detail how the artificial islands will define the 9-dash line, a U-shaped line that the Philippines wants an arbitral tribunal to declare as baseless under international law. (READ: 'No such thing as 9-dash line' – US envoy)

His comments came after a new set of satellite images, released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, showed the extent of China's reclamation in the South China Sea.

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday, April 13, said China's reclamation has destroyed around 300 acres of coral reefs, and is estimated to lead to US$100 million in annual losses to coastal states.

The DFA also cited "growing international concern" over China's "massive reclamation activities" in the disputed waters, parts of which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea.

'Case vs China not affected'

US President Barack Obama himself warned that China shouldn't "elbow aside" countries, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, which China is in conflict with in the South China Sea.

The Philippines is pursuing a historic arbitration case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Vietnam supports this case through a position paper filed with the arbitral tribunal. (READ: PH to tribunal: Vietnam boosts case vs China)

In his interview on Headstart, Del Rosario pointed out that the reclamation will not affect the arbitration process.

Del Rosario explained that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the so-called Constitution for the Oceans, "will not look at what's there now, but what it was before they built these features."

The Philippines expects a ruling on the case by 2016.

In the meantime, the Philippines is appealing for international sympathy.

On Tuesday, April 14, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III told Agence France-Presse that China's actions "should engender fear for the rest of the world."

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay, for his part, called for a "joint venture" between the Philippines and China in the South China Sea. Eyeing the presidency in 2016, Binay said, "China has money, we need capital."