Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Soldiers make love, not war in football program

From the Philippine Star (Apr 16): Soldiers make love, not war in football program

Present during the Football for Peace clinic at the University of Makati track and field oval are James Younghusband, Lt Col. Stephen Cabanlet, Jeffrey Tarayao and Phil Younghusband of Loyola, Meralco Sparks FC with children from Mindanao. JOEY MENDOZA     

Soldiers from the Philippine Marine Corps and Philippine Army trade their guns for “indestructible footballs” to preach peace by teaching the beautiful game to kids in areas where they’re deployed in, especially in “conflict areas” in Mindanao, through the “Football for Peace” program.

Now on its fourth year, the program held in partnership with Meralco’s social development arm One Meralco Foundation (OMF) and football team Loyola Meralco Sparks aims to not only hone the skills but also instill the values of sportsmanship, camaraderie, teamwork and discipline in the kids so they grow up as productive and peace-loving citizens.

“The footballs serve as our weapons in this ‘new battlefield’,” said Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet, executive officer of third Marine Batallion and founder of Football for Peace. “We the soldiers who are deployed in Mindanao will continue to keep our guns away and bring the balls to help the children attain peace and prosperity in their communities.”

Yesterday, more than 200 kids from Sultan Kudarat, Misamis Oriental, Zamboanga, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, Lanao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro and Palawan took part in a football clinic conducted by the Sparks, led by coach Simon McMenemy and stars Phil and James Younghusband at the University of Makati field.

One of the participants was an eight-year-old son of a Moro Islamic Liberation Front from Basilan.

“This speaks a lot since he entrusted his son to the Philippine military,” said Cabanlet, adding that in Football for Peace, “we don’t consider anyone an enemy, we’re all Filipinos who want peace.”

Jeffrey Tarayao, One Meralco Foundation president and chief corporate social responsibility officer, reiterated the company’s commitment to youth development through sports.

“It’s a great honor for us to be chosen by the Philippine Marine Corps as their partner in this inspiring initiative. Our shared belief of building the skills of young people to become responsible, productive and peace-loving citizens will hopefully lead us to a better country,” said Tarayao.

The Younghusbands said they enjoyed the experience as much as the participants relished their interaction.

“Being here today reminded me what football was really about, it’s about peace and enjoying the sport, having the inner child in you kicking the ball and having fun,” said James.

670-hectare bamboo plantation being planned in Fort Magsaysay

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 15): 670-hectare bamboo plantation being planned in Fort Magsaysay

Fort Magsaysay, Palayan City – This sprawling army camp is emerging to be the most environment-friendly with the recent launching of a bamboo propagation by the army leadership headed by Major General Gloriosio Miranda and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Capt. Mark Anthony Ruelos, chief of public affairs office here, told newsmen that a total of 670 hectares will be planted to bamboo inside this sprawling military camp, not only to support President Aquino’s National Greening Program (NGP) but serve as a livelihood project for soldiers and the paramilitary group Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, as well as civilians.
The camp’s greening program was actually started by then-camp division commander General Gregorio Pio Catapang, now chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), who initiated several environmental programs while stationed here.

Ruelos said the bamboo project was officially launched during the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement between the Army’s 7th Infantry (Kaugnay) Division, represented by commander Maj. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, and the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of the DENR, represented by Director Henry Adornado.
Fort Magsaysay is considered the biggest in Southeast Asia, has been selected as one of the few military camps piloting the Department of Agriculture and the National Defense-AFP Livelihood Development Programs.
Miranda said the plantation will be used to produce high-quality bamboo planting materials in support of the National Greening Program of the Aquino administration. About 305,400 bamboo seedlings are expected to be grown.
Miranda pointed out that for the first 100 hectares, some 20,400 bamboo propagules will be planted while the remaining 570 hectares will be planted with 285,000 indigenous clones and seedlings.
Bamboo is botanically classified as a grass and may be the most sustainable in maintaining ecological balance, DENR experts said.
It reaches maturity in just four years, without needing any chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.
Having anti-bacterial and anti-fungal qualities, bamboo also helps reduce greenhouse gases because the plants can absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
Experts said bamboo can create five times more carbon than the same amount of trees and 35% more oxygen. Bamboo naturally absorbs two-thirds more carbon dioxide and releases two-thirds more oxygen than any other plant.

NPA stages simultaneous attacks

Sun Star-Davao (Apr 15): NPA stages simultaneous attacks

SUSPECTED New People's Army (NPA) rebels simultaneously attacked and ransacked three areas in Monkayo, Compostela Valley.

Attacked were the mining compound of Monkayo Mayor Manuel Brillantes Jr. and the Philippine Army detachment of the 25th Infantry Battalion.

A security guard at the mining site and a militiaman acting as private security of the mayor were killed in the simultaneous attacks.

Colonel Francis Sibal, 10th Infantry Division's Civil Military Office Battalion commander, said the rebels were under Front Committee 3 led by Ka Lope.

He identified one fatality as Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) Rene Goc-ong.
Sibal said they have yet to identify the other fatality.

He said the rebels separated into three groups, with one attacking the mining compound, the other one harassing the Army detachment, while another posting at a bridge where possible government reinforcement would pass by.

While the rebels failed to capture the camp and cause heavy damage, Sibal said Goc-ong was injured and later died at a hospital from a gunshot wound in the neck.

Lieutenant Vergel Lacambra, of the 10th Division Public Affairs Office, said that about 20 members of the NPA attacked the army patrol base, resulting in a 20-minute encounter.

Around 11 p.m., about 30 rebels also established a road block along the national highway of Davao-Butuan road at Km. 104, Barangay Bankerohan Sur in Montevista, Compostela Valley. The armed group used one forward truck and one Starex van to block the national highway.

Upon receiving the reports, Senior Superintendent Antonio Rivera of the Police Regional Office-Davao said the Montevista police, the Compostela Valley Provincial Police Office and intelligence operatives conducted road security and intensified monitoring along the main supply route in coordination with the Philippine Army for counter measures.

'Umbra Kato's successor more radical, supports ISIS'

From ABS-CBN (Apr 15): 'Umbra Kato's successor more radical, supports ISIS'

With the death of Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) leader Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) foresees a power struggle within the renegade group.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama confirmed Kato's death on Tuesday. He said BIFF's vice chairman for political affairs, Esmael Abubakar alias Commander Bungos, will temporarily fill up the position as head of the group.

The AFP, however, doubts this decision will sit well with Commander Kagui Karialan, vice commander for political affairs and a nephew of Kato.

According to Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the AFP public affairs office, Karialan has been claiming to be the leader of the BIFF since last year, or even before Kato's death.

Cabunoc said Karialan is seen as more radical and violent compared with Abubakar.

Karialan led several attacks against the AFP earlier this year. He also pledged allegiance to the terror organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) via the Internet last year.

Meanwhile, Cabunoc said that they are still trying to get pictures of the burial site of Kato, noting that military informants were not allowed to take pictures of the site.

He clarified that AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Catapang was misquoted in reports saying that they already have pictures of the burial site of Kato.

Cabunoc said what Catapang meant was that in a day or two, the AFP might be able to get pictures of the site.

MILF: Maguindananon royal houses express support to BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 16): Maguindananon royal houses express support to BBL

Maguindananon royal houses express support to BBL

Leaders and members of the royal houses of Maguindanao, Kabuntalan and Buayan converged in a one-day solidarity assembly at Davao city to express their support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the measure that will establish a new autonomous entity for the Bangsamoro people.

Around 500 members of the three royal houses led by Maguindanao Prime Sultan Mandanaue Darussalam Sayyid Abdulaziz Salem Kudarat  Mastura V, Sultan of Kabuntalan PinandTuUkoMluk, Buayan Sultanate Amil Kusain Camsa and Taviran IV DatuNoldin S. Oyod converged at Davao Water Front Hotel on Monday April 13.

The Sultans said in a statement that they held the assembly so their voices be heard by the national government and the peoples of Mindanao.

“We have suffered many years of struggle and we want peace in our home for both Christians and Muslims including our indigenous brethren,” Prime Sultan Sayyid said.
The royal houses leaders cited Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 1st Vice Chair Ghazali Jaffar for giving the participants the MILF’s position on the BBL status.

Jaffar lamented the delay in the BBL deliberation in Congress brought by the unfortunate Mamasapano incident last January 25 where 44 police commandoes, 17 MILF fighters and three civilians perished.

He said the delay in the deliberation of the measure is painful both for Muslims and Christians.

The MILF official underscored the goal of the Bangsamoro, a new political entity, which is to spur development in Southern Philippines dubbed as “The New Mindanao.”

He added that as the people aim to build up new Mindanao, “guns shall be changed to shovels. Cannons shall be changed into tractors! Bombs will be changed into Fertilizers! Bullets shall be changed into seedlings!”

The draft BBL is currently in the hands of lawmakers for deliberation. Some senators and congressmen have seen certain provisions which they view as unconstitutional and have considered to have those removed.

The MILF leadership hopes the proposed charter for the Bangsamoro people will not be diluted. The BBL was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission whose members were appointed by President Aquino.

MILF: OPAPP-KDFI conduct massive information education and communication activities on FAB, CAB and BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 16): OPAPP-KDFI conduct massive information education and communication activities on FAB, CAB and BBL

OPAPP-KDFI conduct massive information education and communication activities on FAB, CAB and BBL

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in partnership with the Kalilintad Development Foundation Incorporated (KDFI) held massive information education and communication activities on Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the municipalities Pikit and Mlang in North Cotabato, Colombio, Sultan Kudarat; and Datu Odin Sinsuat and Datu Paglas in Maguindanao.

 There were 229 participants that attended in Pikit on April 6; 662 in Mlang on April 7; 240 in Colombio on April 13; 240 in Datu Odin Sinsuat on April 9; and 262 in Datu Paglas on April 12.

The activities were in the nature of an information campaign aimed at enlightening the public on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The said activities were attended by representatives from different sectors of Bangsamoro, Indigenous People and the Christian Settlers.

KDFI Executive Director Moidjoddin K. Talusob with KDFI Recourse Person, Abusama Abad, Edris Razul, Datu Mando Makakua and Abubacar Gulam delivered their respective topics during the series of their engagements.

Director Marlon Dedomo, OPAPP Media Bureau of Region12 graced the one held in Pikit North Cotabato.

Resource persons Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, OPAPP-KDFI Project Manager and Atty. Ranibai Dilangalen substantially discussed their respective topics. Prof. Abdula discussed “Understanding the FAB, CAB and the BBL, while Atty.  Dilangalen discussed the salient features of the basic law.

An open forum in the later part of the programs was conducted with the objectives of giving the participants the opportunity to raise questions that eventually change their mindset and perceptions about the controversial law now pending in Congress.

MILF: BBL a holistic approach to end poverty and conflict: Malacañang

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 15): BBL a holistic approach to end poverty and conflict: Malacañang

 On April 11, Malacañang continue to defend and push for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), calling it a “holistic approach” to end poverty and conflict in Mindanao.

Amidst a report by an international group on alleged “new cases of violence”, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte renewed Malacañang for the enactment of the BBL, while downplaying the new alleged cases of violence.

Sen. Francis Escudero called on the administration’s attention to the report “Rebellion, Political Violence and Shadow Crimes in the Bangsamoro: The Bangsamoro Conflict Monitoring System (BCMS) 2011-2013” prepared by the International Alert.

Valte said the root causes of poverty must be addressed, as poor areas had always been the breeding ground for recruits for the armed groups.

She said the government launched the Sajahatra Bangsamoro to ensure that the needs of people in Mindanao were being addressed, not just in terms of funding.

“We believe that the services of government must trickle down to the people in these areas, regardless of affiliation. So, you know, it’s really addressing the root causes of poverty that will help us move forward, and we believe that giving these areas a different structure, in the sense that they are going to have genuine autonomy and not just...on paper,” Valte said, adding the system in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao must be fixed as it had been politicized for a long time.

Valte said the International Alert study was partly funded by World Bank and that according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the organization had been a long time partner in peace advocacy of the Philippines and is a member of the International Contact Group.

“But one notable part of the report is that it has very interesting data on the conflict in areas of Mindanao, such that it identifies new causes of violence and not just the old roots of conflict in Mindanao,” Valte said.

“So at least the data is very useful for our peace process policymakers, such that they can see the data needed to craft laws... But another point that we wish to make is that the report itself says – and I quote – ‘without a doubt, ending the conflict as a major source of rebellion-related violence retires a significant source of political violence with huge costs in terms of death, injury and displacement, and will impact positively on the prospects of peace and stability across the Bangsamoro.’ Those are the pertinent parts of the report,” she said.

The report said immediate steps should also be taken to address the violence emanating from new threat groups such as the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and private armed groups and organized crime groups.

The transitional authority and the new political entity in the Bangsamoro would have to mitigate the risk of these groups disrupting the transition process, it said.

“Remember that the peace between (the government) and MILF means peace with the largest and most organized armed group, which has been fighting the government for decades,” Valte said.

“So to end this armed conflict means that this organized armed body ceases to fight with government and instead becomes a partner in addressing the problems that are facing the country, and of course, which include problems of lawlessness. So it enables the effective exercise of the rule of law over areas previously outside the reach of government and some quarters would say, ‘ungovernable” areas,” she added.

Valte said groups wanting to talk peace must be distinguished from lawless elements with selfish motives.

The passage of the proposed BBL was stalled after the January 25 Mamasapano tragic incident that killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force, 17 MILF combatants and 3 civilians.

Meanwhile, Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala – one of the convenors of the National Peace Council said they would make sure the body remains independent in tackling contentious issues in the peace process with Muslim rebels, including disagreements over the BBL.

Zobel made the assurance during the first meeting of the council held at Intercontinental Hotel last Tuesday.

He said the council would try to help the people understand what is at stake in the approval or rejection of the BBL.

He said the council acknowledges the daunting challenges facing the country in its pursuit of peace. Also being addressed are historical prejudices and biases.

Other members of the Peace Council include former ambassador Howard Dee, former Supreme Court chief justice Hilario Davide Sr., Bishop Antonio Tagle and Muslim youth and civic leader Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.

MILF: Long-time warring tribes in Mlang, Cotabato now stand with one voice of support to BBL

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 15): Long-time warring tribes in Mlang, Cotabato now stand with one voice of support to BBL

Some 700 participants have expressed support to the establishment of the Bangsamoro government during a massive information drive on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) conducted jointly by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and Kalilintad Development Foundation, Inc. (KDFI) held in Barangay Gaunan, Mlang, Cotabato on April 7.

The program aims to provide information on the establishment of the Bangsamoro government. The Bangsamoro is intended for all, not for the Moros alone, according to Junaida Agao who gave the overview of the activity.

One of the guests, Mlang Mayor Joselito Piňol said “the BBL may not be perfect, but we’ll fix it. What is important is we will give a chance to those people who have potential in achieving peace. Peace will not be given in a silver platter.If we can find peace long, still we go on. If there is a problem in the BBL we will talk it.”

He said he is not a leader of Ilonggos (of Mlang) only but also of the Muslims of entire Mlang. Whatever system we have, if the leader is not for the people, it’s useless. “I fully support the effort of the MILF to have a good relationship between Muslims and Christians. Don’t leave us (ilonggos) should the Bangsamoro is established. Let’s live together”, he added.

He expressed gratitude to the elders of the Moros that his ancestors were accepted by them during those early times in Mlang, for without them he may not be the mayor now, Piňol

Mayor Piňol is the younger brother of former north Cotabato Governor Manny Piňol who was one of the prominent butchers of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), an agreement that would have established the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

Also, Vice Mayor of the said town, Atty. Abonado delivered a message of support for the peace process between the MILF and the GPH.

One member of the Sangguning Bayan of Mlang, Atty. Benito,said, “Whatever you (people of Mlang)want, I support your decision because in Mlang whether there is BBL or not we are united.” He further urged everybody to be open-minded. “There is no unconstitutional issue if we are open-minded. We are the ones feeding the people of Luzon. And they think that when Bangsamoro is established we are separate, hence, no one will feed them.” He continued.

On her part, Ms.Sarah Alamada, DILG, LGOO of Mlang said that her office is very supportive of the BBL. She emphasized the necessity of the registration with the COMELEC, and urged the participants to register so that they can help in decision-making thru the ballots.

For Noah Zabel, Barangay Chairman of Dugong, Mlang, said that the people of Mlang are very supportive of the peace process (the BBL). No need to ask them whether they want it or not.

Meanwhile, one of the resource persons, Jabib Jabar, from the Local Monitoring Team (LMT) in Cotabato province, spoke about the overview and status of the BBL.

According to Jabar, the BBL is not an agreement of the senators and the MILF but it’s between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the MILF and witnessed by international communities. He was referring to the outward arrogance of the anti-BBL senators during the hearing on the Mamasapano encounter.

In the past, Muslims and Christians are in quarrel every time they met. But now we have a good relationship already so we must not destroy it. Be calm; wait because the BBL is under deliberations in Congress.

The senate report which says, among others, that the Mamasapano incident was a massacre is erroneous.The SAF members who intruded into the place were all in full battle gears. Hence, if it’s a massacre, it means that the MILF are more equipped than the SAF?, Jabar asked.

On his part, Shiek Moidjoddin Talusob, KDFI Executive Director, said the BBL is a product of the supreme sacrifice of the Bangsamoro. The Bangsamoro people have their own government and were an independent nation before and during the Spanish colonization.

One of the organizers of the program, Prof. Esmael Abdula discussed some salient points of the BBL; the structures and operations of the Bangsamoro. He had tackled the FAB and its 4 annexes and the Bangsamoro waters, as well.

He said that President Aquino was right when he said that the solution to the Mindanao problem is the realization of the BBL.

“The BBL is now in Congress for deliberation. It is not yet watered down;hopefully an agreed version will come out,Abdullah stated.

Atty.Dilangalen explained the historical background of the BBL, the connotations of the word Bangsamoro as used in the GPH-MILF peace deal, and the would-be territories of the Bangsamoro.

The participants were mostly coming from the Barangays of Dungguan, Gaunan,and Dugong, the three barangays which are mostly inhabited by Muslims out of the 37 brangays of Mlang. Some officials from barangays of New Antique, New Consolacion, Lepaga, Inas and Bagontapay have also attended the activity. The Mlang PNP chief was also present.

Nasser Pulindao, an anchor of the “BTC on the air” program in DXMS, McKinley and Mads Agao from the MILF committee on information also gave inputs on the features and status of the BBL.

Abdullah Pananggulon, the barangay chairman of Gaunan, Mlang, expressed gratitude to the organizers of the program that they were given a chance to know and clarify things about the peace process, especially the about the Bangsamoro government.

MILF: Iqbal: we use alias to protect myself, my family, and the struggle

Posted to the MILF Website (Apr 14): Iqbal: we use alias to protect myself, my family, and the struggle

Iqbal: we use alias to protect myself, my family, and the struggle

In the resumption of senate hearing on Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) on Monday, Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chief Negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said, ““We use nom de guerre to protect myself, my family, and the struggle. If I was harmed and killed, perhaps I would not be here in this august body.”

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local government, insisted that Iqbal reveal his real name but the latter refused.

“It does not inspire confidence in anyone, when you’re sitting across the table and you’re not sure of the identity of the person you’re talking to,” Marcos said.

The MILF chief negotiator assured he would disclose his real identity once the BBL is signed into law.

“When the BBL is passed by Congress and hopefully ratified, that will be the time everything will normalize and we will disclose that,” said the MILF chief negotiator, also known for his pseudonym Salah Jubair in his book “Bangsamoro: A Nation Under Endless Tyranny.”

Senator Teofisto Guingona III said he doesn’t any problem with Iqbal using alias as long as we continue to the peace process until its final end.”

Senate President Franklin Drilon said in a statement that the use of nom de guerre by Iqbal has no legal implication on the peace agreement.

Using his alias, Iqbal signed for the MILF in the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, two major documents yielded in the 17 years of arduous peace negotiation between the two parties.

OIC to seek Malaysia’s advice on status of Southern Philippine’s peace agreement

From the Malay Mail Online (Apr 14): OIC to seek Malaysia’s advice on status of Southern Philippine’s peace agreement

Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Tan Sri Iyad Ameen Madani during an exclusive interview with Bernama in Kuala Lumpur, on April 14, 2014. — Bernama pic

Secretary General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Tan Sri Iyad Ameen Madani during an exclusive interview with Bernama in Kuala Lumpur, on April 14, 2014. — Bernama pic

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) would seek Malaysia’s advice regarding the status of the peace agreement on the Southern Philippine issue brokered by Malaysia before proceeding with any further action, its Secretary-General Tan Sri Iyad Ameen Madani said.

Madani, who arrived here today for a three-day visit, said his meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak scheduled for tomorrow, would among others, focus on the unresolved issue, especially after the killing of 44 police commandos in an encounter with Moro rebels in Maguindanao on Jan 25.

“We think the process has slowed down a little bit and that is why we are involving ourselves more actively, so that perhaps we can help the process move at the right speed.

“Since the Malaysian prime minister spearheaded this (peace agreement), we want to listen to him on this and on the current status of the agreement, and where he sees a role for us,” he told Bernama in an exclusive interview, here, today.

Malaysia had been facilitating the peace talks between the Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), since 2001.

Both signed a peace agreement on March 27, 2014.

“We have two challenges here. One is with the Philippine government. If there is already an agreement, they should live up to that commitment. Secondly, we would like the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and MILF to look at things in a similar manner because if they go separate ways, it would certainly weaken the outcome.

“We (OIC) have managed to bring them together and we have established the Bangsamoro forum, with representatives from both sides. That formula is producing fruit and they are closer to each other now,” he noted. 
After Malaysia, Madani will head to Manila, Philippines where he will discuss the issue with Philippine officials.

The secretary-general said his visit to Malaysia would give him the opportunity to brief Najib on OIC’s agenda, besides getting the prime minister’s views on the organisation and its future.

“I am its new secretary-general. The first job of any OIC secretary-general is to touch base with the member states.

“All 57 member states are important to us but Malaysia is of special importance to the OIC because of its location, success in various fields including scientific, economic growth and political clout,” he said.

Madani, who was appointed OIC secretary-general on Jan 1 last year, is scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman tomorrow.

He is also expected to deliver a talk at the International Islamic University Malaysia and visit Chemical Company of Malaysia (CCM) Pharmaceuticals Sdn Bhd in Bangi to witness the production of halal pharmaceutical products.

Lawyer of Laude family faces contempt citation

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 15): Lawyer of Laude family faces contempt citation

A lawyer of the family of slain transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude is facing a contempt citation for providing reporters details of court proceedings in the trial of US Marine Pfc. Joseph Scott Pemberton.

On Tuesday, lawyer Virgie Suarez faced reporters to inform them that Regional Trial Court Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde had warned her not to publicly discuss the merits of the case.

Pemberton, who was charged with murder for the Oct. 11 slaying of Laude, was absent during Monday’s hearing but showed up in court on Tuesday. He left before noon after informing the court that he would no longer attend the afternoon hearing, Suarez said.

“Before the witnesses were presented today (Tuesday), the defense counsel already moved to cite me in contempt for answering your queries, for facing you, and for allegedly discussing before the media the merits of the case,” Suarez said during a break of the court proceedings.

She said, however, that the judge allowed her to provide reporters only details of what transpired inside the court.

Jabalde has prohibited reporters from covering the trial, which began on March 23. Media organizations have been obtaining details of the trial from Suarez and the public prosecutors.

“What I’m doing now is merely reporting what actually transpired in the court. I’ll be your lens; I’ll be your eyes,” Suarez said.

Since the trial resumed after the Holy Week, only Suarez has been providing details of the trial. City Prosecutor Emilie Fe de los Santos held a news conference at the end of the first hearing on March 23.

Pemberton’s lawyers have not acceded to requests for interviews since the trial began.
“Of course, I vehemently opposed the manifestation and the motion [of the defense for the court to cite me in contempt]. I said I did not, in any way, violate the court order not to discuss the merits of the case. I said I did not do any contemptuous acts and I did not do anything wrong,” Suarez said.

“All I did was to report to you my analysis of the case. At the end of the discussions [on Tuesday morning], the court warned me not to inject my opinion or analysis of the case,” she said.

Suarez said she also asked the court to clarify “if I was not at liberty to state my opinion or analysis of the court and was not allowed to answer your queries or tell you who the witnesses were.”

The court directed her to stick to the facts, she said.

“I have always believed in the freedom of expression, freedom to access information. That’s what I’m doing right now,” she said.

Tuesday’s hearing centered on the testimony of Gershome Pura, the operations manager of Ambyanz Disco Bar, where Laude and Pemberton first met, based on various accounts.

Suarez said Pura had knowledge of their meeting, having copied into a separate device a footage taken by the bar’s closed circuit television camera, which was presented in court.

Suarez did not provide details about the footage. But last year, footage supposedly showing Laude and Pemberton leaving the bar together on the night of Oct. 11 surfaced.

According to the testimony of two witnesses, Laude and Pemberton checked into a nearby motel, Celzone Lodge. Laude was later found dead, slumped in a toilet in one of the motel rooms.

SPO3 Tyrone Tecson, an officer of the police’s Scene of Crime Operations (Soco), also testified in court. Tecson, Suarez said, told the court that he led the Laude murder investigation and was the police officer who took the statements of most of the witnesses and the testimonies of other policemen.

“Tecson also testified that he was present during the police photo lineup and that he saw Barbie (Laude’s friend) identify Pemberton from one of the photos,” Suarez said.

This took place on board an American vessel before the US government allowed Pemberton to be detained at a facility supervised jointly by the US and Philippine governments in the Armed Forces of the Philippines headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

The Laude family intends to go to the Supreme Court to overturn Jabalde’s directive barring media coverage of the trial and to seek the transfer of Pemberton to Philippine custody, Suarez said.

Holy War in Mindanao continues – Abu Misry

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 15): Holy War in Mindanao continues – Abu Misry

The waging of Holy War in Mindanao will continue despite the death of Ameril Umbra Kato, the founder of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

This was disclosed to the Manila Bulletin here by Abu Misry Mama, BIFF spokesperson in an interview.

“Hindi naman nangangahulugan na kung mamatay ang isa sa amin ay hihinto na ito kasi hindi ito order ni Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato. Dumaan lang ito sa kanya kasi order ito ni Allah (Death among our ranks does not mean that we will stop because this is not an order only from Ustadz Amril Umbra Kato but from God),” Misry Mama pointed out.

Kato died at 2 a.m. on Tuesday somewhere in Guindulungan in Maguindanao province and was buried in the same place at around 7 a.m. of the same date.

Misry Mama said Kato was replaced by Sheik Ismail Abubakar.

Abubakar is the former vice chief of staff of BIFF and eventually replaced Mohamad Ali Tambaco as the group’s vice chairman for political affairs, he pointed out.

Misry Mama did not give details as to the plans and calls of the new leader of BIFF especially on military activities.

In February this year, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) launched its all-out offensive against the BIFF that ended by the last week of March.

The military claimed they killed more than 70 BIFF fighters during the offensives, including the group’s known leaders.

In one of the fierce fighting last March 29, three known commanders of the BIFF were killed – Abeh Salih alias Commander Bisaya, Nords Indong alias Bhuto, and Salaudin Indong.

The Indong brothers were siblings of Mohaimen Indong alias Commander Kagi Karialan, one of the known leaders of BIFF in Maguindanao.

In another interview on Wednesday morning, April 15, Abu Misry turned down the claim of the AFP that the BIFF will weaken further with the death of Kato.

The AFP said that Kato is the source of inspiration among the BIFF members in the area.

“Si Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato lang ang nawala pero ang mga turo ng Islam at ang aming mga gawain ay magpapatuloy (Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato is already gone but the teachings of Islam and our works will continue),” Abu Misry pointed out.

He added that the BIFF is not loyal to a single person but to the Quran and its teachings, the reason why they will continue their aspirations despite the death of Kato.

Misry Mama also denied the claim of the AFP that Kagi Karialan will replace Kato as head of the BIFF.

“Si Karialan ay vice chairman ng military affairs. Si Sheik Abubakar ang pumalit kay Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato kasi siya ang vice chairman for political affairs (Karialan is the vice chairman for military affairs. It was Sheik Abubakar who replaced Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato because he is the vice chairman for political affairs),” Misry Mama clarified.

DND Asec suspended over retirement pay anomaly

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 15): DND Asec suspended over retirement pay anomaly

The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) has ordered the six-month suspension of former Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) General Manager and current Department of National Defense (DND) Assistant Secretary Danilo Augusto Francia in connection with the alleged illegal grant of severance pay to a former colleague.
In a 15-page decision, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found Francia and  MCIAA board member Ma. Lourdes Varga-Dedal guilty of simple misconduct for granting Patria Aurora Roa, who was also regional director of the Department of Tourism, P500,000 severance pay in April 2010.
 Morales said the disbursement voucher covering the grant was signed by Francia alone and without supporting documents in their obvious haste to grant Roa an undue benefit.
The Commission on Audit issued a notice of disallowance on the ground that the severance pay has no legal basis and is prohibited by Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Circular No. 2002-02.
In finding Francia and Dedal administratively liable, Ombudsman Morales stated that despite the clear prohibition under the DBM circular, “they still granted severance pay to Roa in obvious defiance [of] the DBM rules and regulation which they ought to consider in their decision-making as clearly instructed by their own charter.”
The DBM guidelines prohibit department secretaries, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries who serve as ex-officio members of the Board of Directors from receiving any remuneration in line with the Supreme Court ruling that their services in the board are already paid for and covered by the compensation attached to their principal office.

‘Aggressive’ commander named new BIFF head

From the Manila Times (Apr 15): ‘Aggressive’ commander named new BIFF head

THE military sees a leadership struggle within the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) following the death on Tuesday of the group’s head, Ustadz Ameril Umbra Kato.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry announced on Wednesday that Sheik Esmail/Ismael Abubakar alias Commander Bungos has been named as the new head of the bandit group.

But Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Public Affairs Office, said Kato’s relatives, particularly Commander Muhaiden Animbang alias Kagi Karialan, may not accept Bungos as BIFF leader.

Cabunoc explained that the BIFF membership is based on “clan lines.”

The official described Bungos as an “aggressive” leader.

But compared to Karialan, Cabunoc said Bungos is much “tamer.”

Karialan, he added, is respected by the BIFF for being a tactical and religious leader.

Cabunoc said the military is worried of Karialan because of his supposed allegiance to the ISIS.

If Kato’s relatives will reject Bungos as BIFF leader, Cabunoc said it is possible that the leadership tussle will break up the bandit group.

Kato reportedly died following a massive heart attack on Tuesday in Maguindanao province. The military said reports coming from the Army’s 6th Infantry Division claimed that Kato was buried on Wednesday.

Curfew, nightclub ban on US troops killing businesses in Olongapo, Subic

From Rappler (Apr 15): Curfew, nightclub ban on US troops killing businesses in Olongapo, Subic

Some establishments have already closed, while others are just struggling to survive right now, according to business owners

 LIFT THE BAN. Nightclubs and other businesses in Olongapo City and nearby Subic Bay Freeport are clamoring for the lifting of shore leave restrictions on US servicemen when their ships dock in the port of Subic.

LIFT THE BAN. Nightclubs and other businesses in Olongapo City and nearby Subic Bay Freeport are clamoring for the lifting of shore leave restrictions on US servicemen when their ships dock in the port of Subic.

Nightclubs and other businesses in Olongapo City and nearby Subic Bay Freeport are clamoring for the lifting of shore leave restrictions on US servicemen when their ships dock here.

The leave policy was implemented in late 2014 following the death of Filipino transgender Jennifer Laude allegedly at the hands of US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton.

Nearly 7,000 American soldiers participating in war games in the Philippines this April will have to follow the restrictions involving a 10 pm curfew and a ban on entering bars and nightclubs. It also means the movement of US troops outside official activities will be strictly limited within the vicinity of their respective hotels.

Owners and managers of nightclubs and bars and other businesses say these restrictions on shore leave has adversely affected their businesses.

No business

“No business!” replied Jim Robertson, owner of Scuba Shack bar and restaurant at the waterfront road of Subic Freeport when asked about the impact of the shore leave restriction on his business.

“We’re losing some P50,000 ($1,121.61) a night since this ban was imposed,” said Robertson, whose place is a favorite hangout of US troops because of its proximity to the pier where their ships are docked.

“There are two ships anchored at the bay right now, but their servicemen cannot leave their ships because they can’t dock. There are more ships coming because of the Balikatan exercises scheduled this year, but businesses won’t make any money from this because of the ban,” he added.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Roberto V. Garcia confirmed that 9 US warships are due to arrive in Subic this April.

Bayside Disco and Karaoke manager Pura Orpida lamented the loss of some 80% of their customers with the ban in place.

“If before an average of 10 customers come to the club, with the absence of US troops, it’s now down to two,” she said.

Orpida emphasized that US troops are a lot more secure when they go to bars and pubs like Bayside since the girls undergo a lot of documentation and tests before they are allowed to work.

Struggling, surviving

At the Naval Station Bar and Restaurant, its manager Catherine Click acknowledged the huge impact of the ban on their business operations.

“This business was originally started with the US troops visiting Subic as the target market,” she said. “When the ban was imposed, it really hit us hard because we’re relying on them to patronize our place,” the 28-year-old manager said.

“Where we used to make P40,000 ($897.75) to P50,000 ($1,121.61) a night, we're now down to less than P20,000 ($448.87) a night,” she said.

One popular hangout along waterfront road reportedly lost as much as P1 million ($22,430.61) when they bought new refrigerators and chillers just before the Laude tragedy happened last year.

At the HD1 Bar and Restaurant in Olongapo City, the news of the ban came as a depressing one for its manager Erlieboy Esquivel. “We’re making P50,000 ($$1,121.61) to P60,000 ($1,346.76) a night from these US servicemen as they love to drink beers and mixed drinks and are really generous spenders but that sudden imposition of the liberty ban really hit us hard,” said Esquivel.

Because of the ban, some businesses have already closed shop while others are just struggling to survive right now, he said.

Esquivel also shared that club and bar owners and managers were invited recently by authorities and the agenda was the restriction on liberty.

“It’s not very encouraging as we have to wait for the Laude case to be resolved before the Navy authorities will make a decision on allowing liberty for their servicemen,” he said.

Espina hands in resignation as PNP OIC

From Rappler (Apr 16): Espina hands in resignation as PNP OIC

Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, the current OIC of the PNP, sent the President his letter of resignation last March

PNP OIC Leonardo Espina arrives at the South Wing Annex of the House of Representatives in Quezon City on Tuesday, Arpil 14, to attend the executive session of the House of Representative's probe into the Mamasapano encounter. Photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, who has headed the national police force as its officer-in-charge (OIC) since December 2014, offered to resign 4 months before his scheduled retirement in July.

Espina has been the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s OIC since December 2014, following the preventive suspension of its former chief, Director General Alan Purisima.

According to at least 3 high-ranking officials from the PNP, Espina gave President Benigno Aquino III his letter of resignation last March.

He gave the letter before his promotion from Deputy Chief of Operations to Deputy Chief of Administation effective Tuesday, April 14.

In a chance interview on Tuesday, April 14, Espina dodged Rappler's question about his resignation letter.

It was an apparent effort on his part to give the President a free hand in choosing a permanent PNP chief to replace resigned PNP boss Alan Purisima, according to a top PNP official.

The President at that time reacted by asking Espina for a few days to think about it, a source told Rappler.

Espina has served as the PNP’s head as it soldiers through its biggest crisis to date: a PNP Special Action Force (SAF)-led operation in Mamasapano town, Maguindanao that claimed the lives of 67, including 5 civilians, 18 Muslim rebels, and 44 SAF troopers.

Not the first time

It’s not Espina’s first time to express his willingness to let go of his interim role as the PNP’s top cop.

In December 2014, just as news of Purisima’s suspension broke, Espina told Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II of his willingness to be bypassed as the PNP’s OIC.

Several Rappler sources confirmed that Espina indeed submitted a letter to Roxas saying he would be more than willing to relinquish the job to the PNP’s next highest-ranking official, Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, Jr.

A PNP in crisis

Espina, the PNP’s 3rd-highest ranking official then, was eventually picked to be the OIC while Purisima was suspended.

Several police officials, including Espina himself, admitted this was a difficult set-up for the police force.

Although the suspended Purisima was not allowed to exercise the powers of a PNP chief, officials close to him remained loyal and refused to recognize Espina’s authority. (READ: Don’t mess with the police, Mr President)

While he denied commanding “Oplan Exodus,” it was later revealed through legislative hearings and formal investigations that Purisima was a key player prior to and even during the operation.

The 4-star general, a close friend of President Benigno Aquino III’s, sat in briefings the month leading to the Mamasapano operation. On January 25, Purisima was receiving and relaying information to military and police officials, and to the President himself.

More than 4 months since his suspension and 2 months after Purisima’s resignation, Aquino has yet to pick a new, full-time PNP chief. (READ: Why the PNP needs a full-time chief now)

Espina is among the lead contenders for the plum post, but his scheduled retirement in July 2015 may be a hindrance.

Other contenders include Garbo, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group chief Police Director Benjamin Magalong, Directorate for Operations chief Police Director Ricardo Marquez, and Logistics Directorate chief Police Director Juanito Vaño.

Espina, in an interview with reporters late March, admitted not having a full-time or acting PNP chief was affecting the police force administratively. Police sources and former police officials, meanwhile, said it was affecting the PNP’s morale.

Philippines seeks help from US in South China Sea dispute

From InterAksyon (Apr 15): Philippines seeks help from US in South China Sea dispute

Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. (Krisken Jones,

The Philippines is seeking more "substantive" support from its long-time security ally United States on how to counter China's rapid expansion in the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Wednesday.

China's rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has alarmed claimants, including the Philippines and Vietnam, and drawn growing criticism from US government officials and the military.

US President Barack Obama has said Washington is concerned China is using its "sheer size and muscle" to push around smaller nations in the disputed sea, drawing a swift rebuke from Beijing.

"We are, at this point, seeking additional support from the United States in terms of being able to take a stronger position in defending our position, which is to uphold the rule of law," Manila's Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario told journalists.

"I hope to sit down with defense and also state to be able to see if we could get more substantive support." He did not say what kind of support he was seeking.

Next week, 11,500 Filipino and American soldiers are taking part in the largest-ever 10-day war games in the Philippines, called "Balikatan" (shoulder-to-shoulder), setting into motion the US rebalance to Asia policy.

China claims most of the potentially energy rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

China on Wednesday bristled at recent comments by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III in an interview with Agence France-Presse. Aquino said China is engendering fear around the world with its posture in the South China Sea's disputed waters, and that it's possible conflict over territorial disputes could break out.

"The accusation is groundless," said Hong Lei, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a regular briefing. "We urge the Philippines to respect China's territorial sovereignty."

China dismisses Aquino's call to fear Beijing over reclamation frenzy

From InterAksyon (Apr 15): China dismisses Aquino's call to fear Beijing over reclamation frenzy

Latest Philippine surveillance photo of Fiery Cross Reef, one of the sites of China's reclamation frenzy which has drawn warnings from several countries led by the US, and a howl of protest from Manila.

China on Wednesday dismissed as "groundless" Philippine President Benigno Aquino's warning to AFP that the Asian giant's actions in the South China Sea should "engender fear for the rest of the world".

Aquino made his remarks in an exclusive interview on Tuesday, saying that China's increasing bold assertions of its territorial claims could cut access for other nations to vital international shipping lanes and rich fishing grounds in the sea.

China's foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a regular briefing: "The relevant accusations by the Philippines are groundless."

China claims sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, using vague demarcation lines that first appeared on Chinese maps in the 1940s, locking it into territorial disputes with several of its neighbours.

Asked to assess recent Chinese government moves, Aquino said: "Does it engender fear? Yes, I think it should engender fear for the rest of the world."

"The question of it escalating to something beyond everybody's control should be at the top of the minds of all world leaders," he added.

Using the Chinese name for the Spratlys, where satellite imagery shows Beijing has recently constructed artificial islands, runways and man-made harbours, Hong said: “The Philippines' territory has never covered the Nansha islands. 

"We urge the Philippines to respect China’s territorial sovereignty," he added.

Hong said that Beijing favored the resolution of territorial disputes through "negotiation with countries directly concerned, based on respect for historical facts".

He added that Chinese construction "does not impact or target any other countries, or threaten the security of international shipping lanes and fishing activities".

The US has weighed in on China's projects, with a State Department spokesman saying the reclaimed land was "fuelling greater anxiety within the region" and might become "militarised".

US President Barack Obama warned last week that Beijing should not "elbow aside" countries it is in dispute with in the South China Sea.

Manila sought international support in recent days as it denounced the reclamation frenzy, with some report indicating an apparent Chinese design to choke off Philippine access to Ayungin Shoal and Recto Bank.

Charges filed against kidnappers in Zambo Sur; P60-M ransom demanded

From MindaNews (Apr 15): Charges filed against kidnappers in Zambo Sur; P60-M ransom demanded

Police have filed criminal charges against five of the 10 suspected kidnappers who seized two children and a bakery worker last March 31 in Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.

One of the two children, Zynielle Jay Garban, 2, was found dead three days after the suspects seized them. Fishermen fished out her body at sea near Pitogo town.

Senior Supt. Sofronio Ecaldre, Zamboanga del Sur police director, said the criminal charges were filed against the suspects on Monday before the provincial prosecutor’s office.

Ecaldre named the respondents as the following: Mahbad Hassan and Alkim Hassan, both of Barangay Poblacion, Pitogo; Jalid Malali; Usman Jelanie; and, Usman Hassan all of Barangay Kalintana, Naga, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Ecaldre said Mahbad and Alkim were arrested a day after the incident but the arrest was not announced as investigation was ongoing.

He said investigation showed the suspects stayed at the residence of Mahbad and pretended to be fresh fish traders while monitoring the movement of their target, Chzarenia Kapa Sajulga, a businesswoman.

He said Usman was identified through a closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera footage of CJ Bakeshop owned by Sajulga.

The suspects seized Zynielle Jay, her elder brother, Ace Jay Garban, 3, and Ledegie Tomarong, 17, after they failed to get Sajulga.

Zynielle Jay and Ace Jay are the grandchildren of Pitogo Mayor Richard Garban.

Sajulga ran inside her house and locked herself in a room when the suspects entered her bakery.

They grabbed the two children and Tomarong, who were at the fish port, and escaped by using them as human shields during a shootout with pursuing policemen.

Mayor Garban announced that the kidnappers have demanded P60 million for the release of his grandchild and Tomarong.

He appealed to the kidnappers to free the hostages on humanitarian grounds since their families are not capable of paying the ransom.

Meanwhile, Ecaldre said policemen and soldiers were still tracking down the whereabouts of the victims.

Zamboanga police: kidnappers using social media to look for victims

From MindaNews (Apr 15): Zamboanga police: kidnappers using social media to look for victims
Posts on social media sites like Facebook can make users targets of kidnappers if they were not careful with what they share online, a police official said.

“Be careful of what you share online,” city police director Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro cautioned residents amid security threats in this city.

Casimiro said the tendency of residents to share their location, photos of their houses, and other personal details online would endanger their safety in light of reports that kidnappers are browsing social media sites to pick targets.

“We got information from the Sulu area that they are looking at the Facebook accounts of people in Zamboanga City. You are opening up your houses and family to possible trouble,” he warned.

He disclosed that bombing and kidnapping remain the top threats in this city.

He said they also engage the communities to be early warning mechanisms as part of target hardening measures of the local police.

He said coastline patrol and sea-borne operations were also being intensified to further secure coastal and island barangays.

He said the continued “security hardening” has so far deterred kidnapping incidents in this city.

“If you look at the nearby provinces, that’s where the kidnappers are doing their activities as they believe that Zamboanga City is being hardened, and we will continue to do the hardening of Zamboanga City,” he added.

Recently, the police and military conceptualized and adopted a security plan dubbed “PuMA” or “Pulis-Marines-Army” deployment and stepped up security measures in this city.

Kato deputy now heads BIFF

MindaNews (Apr 15): Kato deputy now heads BIFF

A Middle East-educated sheik (Islamic scholar) now leads the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) after its founding chair Amiril Umra Kato died of cardiac arrest on Tuesday dawn.

BIFF spokesperson Abu Misry Mama said the new leader, Sheik Ismael Abubakar, was among the best leaders next to Kato.

Abubakar was the BIFF vice chair for political affairs at the time of Kato’s death.

Mama said Abubakar served as a brigade commander of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILFs)’s 105th Base Command before he bolted the MILF with Kato.

Mama said BIFF leaders, in a special meeting after Kato was laid to rest, agreed to install the 40-year old sheik, also known as ‘Commander Bungos,” as its new chair.

The spokesperson said the BIFF’s struggle for independence will continue despite the loss of Kato.

The also group denied they are weakened now with the death of their founder.

Mama refused to reveal Kato’s final resting place.

Kato formed the BIFF in March 2010. He left the MILF over disagreements on the handling of peace talks with government.

NPA men attack an army camp, mining firm owned by Monkayo mayor

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): NPA men attack an army camp, mining firm owned by Monkayo mayor

A group of New People’s Army (NPA) men simultaneously attacked and ransacked the mining compound of Monkayo Mayor Manuel Brilliantes and the army camp of the 25th Infantry Battalion leaving one private security guard and one member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) dead on Tuesday night in Monkayo, Compostela Valley province.

P/Sr. Supt. Antonio Rivera disclosed that the security guard, whose name was not given, died after engaging the rebels to prevent them from entering the Brilliantes mining compound in Barangay Banlag at around 10:30 on Tuesday. However, rebels were able to enter and ransacked the mining compound.

It was learned that the mining compound houses the office of Brilliantes’ mining firm. It also houses the ball mill plant for gold and stock piles of mining ores.

Newly-assumed Civil Military Officer Lt. Francis Sibal of the 10th Infantry Division told reporters during the AFP-PNP press conference that the rebels under Front Committee 3 of Ka Lope at the same time attacked the 25th Infantry Battalion base in Barangay Banlag.

While the rebels failed to capture the camp and cause heavy damage, Sibal said one CAFGU member identified as Rene Goc-ong was injured and later died at a hospital from a gunshot wound in the neck. Sibal said the bullet hit one major vein in the neck of Goc-ong.

Lt. Vergel Lacambra of the 10th Division Public Affairs Office said that about 20 members of the NPA attacked the army patrol base resulting to a twenty-minute encounter.

Rivera added that at around 11:00 that night, more or less 30 rebels also established a road block along the national highway of Davao-Butuan road at Km. 104, Barangay Bankerohan Sur in Montevista, Compostela Valley. The armed group used one forward truck and one Starex van to block the national highway.

Upon receiving the reports, Rivera said the Montevista police, the Compostela Valley Provincial Police Office and intelligence operatives conducted road security and intensified monitoring along the main supply route in coordination with the Philippine Army (PA) for counter measures.

Royal Houses in Mindanao express strong support to BBL

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 15): Royal Houses in Mindanao express strong support to BBL
The Royal Houses in Mindanao declared their strong support for “the early establishment of the Bangsamoro government, through the enactment into law of the GPH-MILF Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)”.

This declaration was made and manifested by the historic signing of Declaration of Support to the Bangsamoro by the Sultans from the different Sultanates in the entire Mindanao during the first ever Bangsamoro Royal House Solidarity Conference held at the Waterfront Insular Hotel, Lanang, Davao City last April 12, 2015.

With the theme: “Bangsamoro is 1 Towards Just and Dignified Peace”, the Royal Houses of Mindanao, which include the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Rajah Buayan, Kabuntalan, Sulu and Borneo, Lanao, Kaagan (Davao), and the Iranun gathered together with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to strengthen unity among their people and make a common stand to strongly support the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The Royal Houses see that the BBL will bring a brighter and better future for the Bangsamoro people as they believe that “the proposed BBL (that) will be enacted into law and implemented... will address political tyranny, economic torment, exploitation and other social problems.”

The members of Mindanao’s Royal Houses proclaimed their unified stand in the midst of the hostile debate in Congress regarding the proposed BBL, raising fears that the Bangsamoro -- seen as a realization of the Moro people’s aspiration for self-determination -- may be endangered.

“We are here today because we have responded to the call for unity among the Bangsamoro,” said His Royal Highness Sayyid Abdulaziz Salem Kudarat Mastura V, Prime Sultan of Maguindao Mandanaue Darussalam.

Recalling that “the historic sovereignty of the Bangsamoro was upheld and defended by the Moro Sultanates, especially the Sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu and the Rajah Buayan,” Sultan Mastura emphasized their pivotal role to the Bangsamoro peace process.

During the conference, MILF Vice-Chairman Ghadzali Jaafar clarified the misconceptions going around that the BBL or the Bangsamoro peace process disrespects or disregards the Moro Sultanates for in fact, “it were the Sultans, the Datus, and the Rajahs who have fought and never surrendered against the Colonizers of this country,” he said.

When asked how the Sultanates could help in ensuring the passage of the BBL, Jaafar said, “First, I hope it would help. But whether or not it would help facilitate the passage of the BBL and whether the BBL would be passed or not, what’s important is, the Sultans have made their voices heard, that they have made a stand. And that this is for the unity and solidarity of the Bangsamoro people.”

The Solidarity Conference was thus seen as a breakthrough in focusing the common efforts of Moro Royal leaders for the brighter future of the Bangsamoro people.

Give peace a chance

“We oppose those who change the BBL so that instead of adding to or improving our current autonomy under the ARMM, it is instead being reduced,” said Sultan Mastura.

He said “the Bangsamoro Peace Agreement already adequately addresses the core demands of the Moro people for self-determination within a framework of full and meaningful autonomy.”

“It is therefore incumbent upon every Filipino to give this legislation a chance to build the bridge for peace,” said Bai-a-Labi sa Kabuntalan, Bai Umaima M. Lauban-Silongan.

According to her, “antagonizing the BBL is burning the bridge for peace.”

She also called on all detractors of the BBL to “think a thousand times before embarking on defeating this chance for peace by riding on the imperfections of the CAB and the BBL to fan war.”

The royalties from Lanao, the coastal areas, and even from the Kaagans in Davao have also joined to manifest their support to the passage of the BBL as they believe it embodies the “legitimacy of the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-rule.”

Sultan Dr. Ibrahim Bahjin, the Paramount Sultan of the Sultanate of Sulu and Borneo said that “actually, we are not yet tired of war but after having fought several wars already, did it solve the conflict? No.”

“This is perhaps the last chance for us to deliberate this matter in peaceful means. Let us support the BBL,” he said.