Thursday, May 14, 2015

Former rebel arrested, surrenders guns

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 14): Former rebel arrested, surrenders guns

A former member of the New People's Army was arrested yesterday by a combined team of Regional Intelligence Unit 6 and local police in Talisay City, for alleged illegal possession of firearms.

Supt. Joresty Coronica, Talisay City police chief, said the arrest of Rodolfo Canieso, an ex-NPA member, yielded an AK-47 assault rifle with a magazine containing 15 live ammunition, a 357 Magnum revolver with 15 bullets, and 12 more assorted ammunition.

On Tuesday, a barangay chairman, who survived a massacre in 2011, surrendered an M16 assault rifle and two homemade shotguns with ammunition to the Philippine Army and police Special Action Force in Silay City, Negros Occidental.

Supt. Rosauro Francisco, Silay City police chief, said yesterday that the three firearms and 45 ammunition of Elisco M16 rifle with serial number RP 18642, and 12 gauge shotgun have already been turned over to the PNP Crime Laboratory for ballistic examinations.

Francisco said a combined team of Army and SAF troopers were conducting a joint operation in Brgy. Kapitan Ramon and neighboring areas in Silay City, when barangay chairman Ramon Celebre surrendered the assault rifle and two homemade shotguns to them.

However, it has not yet been determined who are the owners of the guns surrendered by Celebre.

Celebre survived the March 6, 2011 massacre of Kapitan Ramon barangay officials, that perpetrated by former Punong Barangay Noel Ayalin, who is now serving a jail term of 240 years for murder and frustrated murder charges.

Meanwhile, Coronica said the arrest of Canieso was made after the combined team of RIU 6 operatives and his men raided the suspect's residence in Hacienda Catamnan 2, Brgy. Concepcion, Talisay City, by virtue of a search warrant issued by Judge Anita Guanzon-Chua.

Coronica said that complaints have been aired against Canieso for possession of the firearms.

Francisco also reiterated his call for owners of licensed firearms, who failed to renew their licenses, to deposit their guns at the Silay City Police Station, while they are renewing their licenses.

Since January, the Silay police has accounted for 11 unlicensed firearms, and their owners are now facing charges for their illegal possession.

A story of a revolutionary told in comics

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (May 14): A story of a revolutionary told in comics

Luis Jalandoni thanks all those who have touched his life during the launch of his illustrated biography, April 25. (Photo by Kodao Productions)

Luis Jalandoni thanks all those who have touched his life during the launch of his illustrated biography, April 25. (Photo by Kodao Productions)

“Louie Jalandoni’s illustrated biography could leave the reader stunned by the double impact of its edifying and insurgent message — in its account of a youth who was a witness to the greed of traditional Negros landowners and their callous indifference to the plight of their workers.”

 Who would not be intrigued by the story of a priest turned revolutionary? Or of a man from a landlord clan who disposed all his wealth for the farmers and the poor?

 Such storyline might be unbelievable especially for those who have not met Luis “Louie” Jalandoni.

The book “Louie Jalandoni Revolutionary” presents the journey of a person known to the public as the chairperson of the peace panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

 The book is a product of an amazing collaboration. The narrative is written by Ina Alleco Silverio and illustrated by seven artists based in the Philippines and in the United States — Roberto Elias, Max Santiago, Enrico Maniago, Renan Ortiz, Leonilo Doloricon, Fernando Argosino and Mervin Malonzo.

In his speech during the launch, Jalandoni thanked all those who worked hard for the book. He also paid tribute to individuals who were instrumental in his political transformation —the Negros farmers, his sister Lourdes or Inday, his caregiver during his childhood, Graciana Barsolis whom he fondly calls Mamang, the youth who gave him a copy of the Philippine Society and Revolution, Edmundo Legislador or Ka Pendong, among many others.

 In her note, Silverio said Jalandoni constantly refers to the lives and actions of those who shaped his own destiny.

“Far from extolling his own virtues, he praises the creativity, commitment, courage and strength of those who give their lives to the struggle for a just and lasting peace,” Silverio said.

Ina Alleco Silverio says the youth can look up to Luis Jalandoni as one of their role models. (Photo by Kodao Productions)

Ina Alleco Silverio says the youth can look up to Luis Jalandoni as one of their role models. (Photo by Kodao Productions)

National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera provided the gist of the narrative “Louie Jalandoni’s illustrated biography could leave the reader stunned by the double impact of its edifying and insurgent message — in its account of a youth who was a witness to the greed of traditional Negros landowners and their callous indifference to the plight of their workers.

In response, Louie expands his wealth and moral fervor to ease the needs of the deprived and the oppressed.

Eventually, he is drawn to political action, involving himself in the perilous struggle of the workers for liberation.”

In his review of the book, Roland Tolentino, dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, said the book is “both political and popular art.”

 “As political art, it discusses mass disenfranchisement and seeks social transformation as evidenced in the life and body of Jalandoni. As popular art, it seeks to appeal to a larger audience.”

 Lisa Ito, professor at the College of Fine Arts in UP Diliman, commended the artists.

“They represent different generations of progressive artists based inside and outside of the Philippines, each with distinct styles and artistic strategies that complemented the texts,” she said.

In his foreword to the book, Jose Maria Sison, NDFP chief political consultant said the book is “a necessary, enlightening and interesting read for all those who wish to know and understand more the advance of the revolutionary forces in the Philippines and the international work done on their behalf.”

 Jalandoni, now 80 years old, continues to live the extraordinary, revolutionary life he has chosen.

For him, “serving the people through the revolution is deepening the practice of Christianity.” The launching of the book on April 25 also served as part of the celebration of the NDFP’s 42nd anniversary.

P1B sought for Kalayaan isles

From the Business World (May 13): P1B sought for Kalayaan isles

A MEASURE to appropriate funds for the Kalayaan Group of Islands has been filed at the House of Representatives.

Kalayaan Island -- AFP

House Bill 4167, filed by Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district) and Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr. seeks to appropriate P1 billion “to be exclusively used for the fortification and improvement of the current structures present in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.”

“We need to build more structures and fortify our defense of these islands, particularly the construction of a safe harbor as well as the repair of the Rancudo airfield on Pag-asa Island,” Mr. Rodriguez said in the explanatory note.

“Aside from solidifying our claim, the construction of structures in the Kalayaan Islands would also improve the tourism industry of the islands,” Mr. Rodriguez added.

Kalayaan was described as “a 5th-class municipality in the province of Palawan” with a population “of around 300 to 400 people” subject to claims by “Vietnam, Palau, Malaysia and China.”

Armed Forces chief Gen. Gregorio Pio P. Catapang, Jr. visited Barangay Pag-asa in Pag-asa Island last Monday with reporters. It is the lone barangay in the Kalayaan Group of Islands.

Mr. Catapang told reporters that he visited to establish that Pag-asa Island is a Philippine territory. Mr. Catapang added that there was a need to improve the island’s runway because of the difficulty in landing planes in the short airstrip.

Western command chief Vice-Admiral Alexander S. Lopez told reporters on Tuesday that the visit was also an opportunity to counter Chinese allegations of Philippine reclamation activities in disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea.

Satellite photos show that China has been conducting massive reclamations in several reefs around the Kalayaan Group of Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Catapang to AFP: Relay right information regarding China's reclamation work in WPS

From InterAksyon (May 14): Catapang to AFP: Relay right information regarding China's reclamation work in WPS

AFP-CRS chief Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala (left) with AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. Photographed by Jaime Sinapit,

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief General Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. on Thursday  directed the commander of the AFP-Civil Relations Group (CRS) to intensify its information campaign and make sure it passes on "the truth and right information" to the nation and the world about the reclamation activities of China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Catapang said the reclamation activities are not only a regional security threat but also a serious environmental threat by destroying delicate marine ecosystems.

"The role of the CRS is very important. It's like a 'Game of Perception'. The CRS has to relay the truth and right information to the people about what's happening in the WPS," Catapang said in his speech during the 64th anniversary celebration of the AFP-CRS at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala is currently the commander of the AFP-CRS. He is also concurrent spokesman of Catapang.

Gen. Catapang issued the statement amid criticism by Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero suggesting that  Catapang should not be the one making public pronouncements about the WPS issue as this is more appropriately the domain of Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Escudero stressed that the WPS issue with China is a diplomatic matter and not a military one.

But Malacañang is silent so far about the senator's suggestion.

On Monday this week, Catapang, accompanied by journalists, flew to Pagasa Island in the West Philippine Sea to lead a resupply mission and also to visit the troops posted there.

"China is undertaking massive reclamation on Subi Reef, which is ours, just across Pagasa Island. This will soon create friction. But, you know, that reef is ours together with Pagasa and other islets and reefs within the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG), a municipality of Palawan. KIG is our territory and we have to protect. It's our mandate to defend it, and that;s what we have to do," Catapang said.

The visit did not sit well with Beijing, which called Manila a "troublemaker" and rule breaker.

"We're planning something bigger," Catapang said when asked to comment.

"China is entitled to her own opinion," he added, about the name calling.

Armed Forces alarmed over use of child soldiers by communists

From the Manila Standard Today (May 14): Armed Forces alarmed over use of child soldiers by communists

Armed Forces of the Philippines spokesman and Civil Relations chief Brigadier General Joselito Kakilala on Monday said the military is alarmed at the resurgence of child-soldiers in the New People’s Army (NPA) especially in Eastern Mindanao.

“The latest child-soldier that surrendered to our troops is an 11-year-old boy from Mati City, Davao Oriental,” Kakilala said.

Kakilala refused to give the name of the victim but a separate report from the Eastmincom identified him as Michael Gabriel alias Dodong who “voluntarily surrendered to soldiers of the 60th Infantry Battalion while on security patrol in Barangay Camansa, Asuncion, Davao del Norte at 2 p.m. on May 9.”

Eastmincom data shows that Gabriel is the fourth minor to surrender since March this year.

The command’s spokesman, Captain Alberto Caber, said three minors who had earlier surrendered were aged between 14 and 17.

“Around 22% of NPA members are minors ages six 6 to eighteen 17 while around 74% are Indigenous People (IP) or Lumads in Eastern Mindanao area,” Caber said.

Caber said Gabriel is the 55th NPA member who surrendered this year.

Bunagan said Gabriel revealed to him he was 6 years old when recruited into the NPA.

“The boy had experienced 6 encounters with security forces in some parts of Davao del Norte and in Davao Oriental,” he said.

The boy allegedly also told him he was being used to plant landmines along military operation routes.

Bunagan said they are now coordinating the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for Gabriel’s custody.

“We are already coordinating with concerned local officials in order to locate the parents of Michael,” he said.;postID=3488976048019147928

Western Command head tells Filipino fishers to continue fishing off Scarborough Shoal

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Western Command head tells Filipino fishers to continue fishing off Scarborough Shoal

Despite the reported harassment of Chinese Coast Guard ships against Filipino fishermen, Western Command head Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez on Tuesday told fishermen to continue asserting their fishing rights at Scarborough Shoal as it is a legitimate Philippine territory.

"Our message (to Filipino fishermen despite the purported Chinese harassment) is to continue going there (because) it is ours.That's a traditional fishing country," he added.

He made this appeal especially to fishermen based in Northern Luzon.

At the same time, Lopez said there is an average three Chinese Coast Guard ships off Scarborough Shoal, with the sole purpose of driving away Filipino fisherfolks.

He also stressed that they are yet to detect any Chinese reclamation efforts in the vicinity.

Scarborough Shoal has been placed under the operational jurisdiction of the Palawan-based Western Command in February 2014, through the orders of then Armed Forces of the Philippines chief-of-staff Gen. Emmanuel Bautista.

"The area of Bajo De Masinloc (Scarborough Shoal) has been transferred from the Northern Luzon Command to the Western Command. This is to enhance our external defense capabilities which is now being concentrated at the Western Command and unity of effort and command so that our external defense efforts will just be under one commander and that is the Western Command commander," he added.

PAF- NDI Team assessing downed F-27 aircraft

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): PAF- NDI Team assessing downed F-27 aircraft

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that a "Non-Destructive Inspection" (NDI) Team has arrived at Legazpi Airport, Albay Wednesday afternoon to inspect the Fokker F-27 "Friendship" transport aircraft which was damaged after its nose gear collapsed while landing on May 11.

This was disclosed by PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya in a message to the PNA.

"The NDI Team arrived Wednesday afternoon and is currently assessing the damage and if whether the F-27 is still repairable," he added.

The F-27 was damaged last Monday, around 10 a.m., after its nose gear collapsed while landing.

The plane was carrying six crewmen, including its pilot.

This prevented normal flight operations from being carried out in the said airfield.

Canaya said the crippled F-27 was towed clear at 3 p.m., resuming flight operations at Legazpi Airport.

An investigation is now being conducted to determine the exact cause of the mishap.

Govt remains open to peace talks with communist rebels, says President Aquino

From the Philiippine News Agency (May 13): Govt remains open to peace talks with communist rebels, says President Aquino

President Benigno S. Aquino III has reiterated that his administration remains open to peace talks with the communist rebels but noted that they must show sincerity before negotiations resume.

"Ang gobyerno parating bukas makipag-usap ng kapayapaan. Pero kailangan naman makita natin ang sinseridad," the President told Bombo Radyo Philippines during an exclusive interview held in Malacañang on Wednesday.

Talks between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) bogged down after the latter sought the release of its consultants who are in government custody.

Aside from the issue on the consultants, President Aquino said the communist organization had offered a special track so that the talks could resume but it later backtracked.

He also recalled that a few months ago, he got reports from his peace adviser that instead of sticking to their list of major demands, the rebels made more unrealistic demands that were impossible to meet.

"Imbes na magkaroon lang ng pinakasentrong mga demands, pinalaki nang pinalaki nang pinalaki, parang sinabi na ring, ‘imposible itong mga demands na gugustuhin namin para hindi matuloy itong usapan’," the President said.

"So, hinihintay lang natin ‘yung sinseridad nila para naman may patunguhan. Hindi iyong parang mekanismo lang para pakinabangan lang nila at hindi ng sambayanan. Kung maipapakita ‘yung sinseridad, bakit hindi tayo mag-umpisa ng usapan ulit?" he added.

NPA rebel surrenders in Mountain Province

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): NPA rebel surrenders in Mountain Province

An 18-year old out-of-school youth who got tired of hiding in the mountains surrendered to the police after a year with the communist New People's Army (NPA).

With this development, Police Regional Office – Cordillera (PRO-Cor) Chief Supt. Isagani Nerez encouraged other members of the underground movement to surrender and abandon the armed struggle and return to the comfort of their families and assist police and other law enforcement agencies to bring peace to the region.

Belated reports from Natonin, Mountain Province identified the rebel returnee as Gerome Vinas Palmero, a.k.a. Jonathan, who surrendered to members of the Natonin Municipal Police Station on May 10 at about 6:20 p.m.

Palmero also surrendered his firearm.

He joined the communist movement in 2014 and later joined in conducting mass activities, Natonin police reported. He did not join any raid or ambush of the underground army.

Palmero said he was from Barangay Bagong Pag-asa, Quezon City and he surrendered through the assistance of SPO2 Esteban Basbasan Jr., barangay officials of Balangao, Natonin, Mountain Province and in coordination of the Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office of Natonin.

Likewise, Nerez said the continued efforts of the regional police force has nabbed two wanted persons in the region because of the intensified campaign against wanted criminals as he challenged all police commanders to “ensure the arrest and conviction of all criminals in the jurisdictions.”

Nerez said the Cordillera Regional Highway Patrol Unit (RHPU) reported the arrest of the third wanted man for the first quarter of this year who is charged with carnapping.

RHPU operatives arrested Von George Pineda, a resident of Happy Home, Old Lucban, Baguio City while he was at the Baguio General Hospital and Medical Center for a check-up.

Regional Trial Court Branch 7 Judge Mona Lisa V. Tiongson-Tabora recommended PHP300,000 for his bail.

Nerez added that at the level of the police station his men have also been doing their best to arrest the wanted persons.

Also recently, the fourth wanted man was nabbed by elements of Station 5 of the Baguio City Police Office (BCPO) in his residence at No. 116 City Camp Proper, Baguio City.

Police identified the suspect as Dominador Galvez Sr., 64, for twice violating the Child Abuse Law or Republic Act 7610.

Operatives of the City Intelligence Unit (CIU-BCPO) said RTC Judge Mia Joy C. Cawed set PHP80,000 bail.

AFP to declare Samar island towns as rebel-free

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): AFP to declare Samar island towns as rebel-free

The Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division (ID) in Eastern Visayas will declare five island towns in Samar provinces as insurgency-free this year.

This is in addition to the 15 towns in Leyte province that were declared as free from serious rebel threats, said 8th ID Commander Major Gen. Jet Velarmino.

Two of the three provinces in Samar Island are composed of island towns with three in Northern Samar and five in Samar.

Of the two provinces, Northern Samar’s three island towns was just declared to be insurgency-free and tourism-ready areas.

But the army official declined to mention these island towns since it’s not yet final. Prior to declaration as insurgency-free the town will have to be proclaimed as manageable conflict-affected and ready for development area.

In the military campaign to achieve insurgency-free status of the region, Velarmino said the encounter between government troops and rebel groups is inevitable.

“Based on our observation, rebel groups in Leyte province has the tendency to leave their weapons during clashes while those in Samar would engage in a fire fight with government troops,” he said.

Velarmino cited as example the recent encounter between rebel groups and government troops in a remote village in Ormoc City when soldiers from the 19th Infantry Battalion recovered firearms, gadgets, assorted medical provisions, foodstuffs, personal belongings and subversive documents.

The 8th ID has three army brigades in Eastern Visayas - the 803rd Brigade based in Catarman, Northern Samar; the 801st Brigade based Hinabangan, Samar and the 802nd Brigade based in Ormoc City.

The army division has 11 battalions stationed in Leyte, Samar, Northern Samar and Eastern Samar provinces.

Just recently, one of its battalion, the 34th Infantry Battalion (IB) was re-assigned to Maguindanao to augment government troops securing peace in Mindanao area.

But the troops re-assignment will not affect their anti-insurgency campaign, said Velarmino.

“That was a mandate to us from our higher up to help in securing peace and order problem in the Mindanao, but our troops in the region can assure that we can handle problem of insurgency in this region,” Velarmino added.

Ensuring and attaining peace is not just a job of government troops said Kananga, Leyte Mayor Elmer Codilla where 19th IB is based.

Codilla cited the collaborative effort of all agencies of the government and the community as essential in winning the peace.

Although, there are still presence of insurgents in his town, Codilla said that people in the community now has changed their perspective towards military after availing the services of the government through the help of the military.

“The army and the local government units cannot do it on their own. We need help from the community that are now cooperative since they have seen that soldiers are now more approachable and they are partner in development,” Codilla explained.

Kananga town is one of important towns in the province of Leyte as it hosts the largest geothermal plant in Asia and the second largest geothermal plant in the world - the Tongonan Geothermal Plant.

As part of government effort to convince more rebels to surrender, the government through the Department of the Interior and Local Government implements the Comprehensive Local Integration Program, a reward system that will help rebel returnees to be integrated with the society by acquiring knowledge in livelihood skills and receive incentives from surrendering firearms.

The army assists the DILG in processing documents of rebel returnees for them to avail the reward of abandoning communism.

Army steps up drive vs illegal loggers

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Army steps up drive vs illegal loggers

The Philippine Army’s 801st Infantry Brigade (IB) has vowed to go not only after communist rebels in Samar, but illegal loggers as well.

Col. Leo Cirunay, commander of 801st IB based in Hinabangan, Samar renewed their commitment after the troops of the 52nd IB under Capt. Marlon C. Jauod of Pequit detachment together with the Paranas Police confiscated more than 600 board feet of illegally cut hardwood in Tenani village near Ulot River.

The army and police turned-over seized logs to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for proper disposition.

Meanwhile, DENR will continue the strict enforcement of Executive Order (EO) 23 declaring a moratorium on the cutting and harvesting of timber in natural and residual forests nationwide.

EO 23 led to the establishment of an anti-illegal logging task force, headed by the DENR regional director.

The intensified anti-illegal logging operations of the military and police is part of a campaign to save the Samar forests against loggers that proliferate in the province.

Illegal logging remains to be a top concern of Samar, which has reported activities in its protected forest covers as well as watersheds.

Cirunay vowed to intensify their efforts against illegal logging activities especially in logging hot spot areas in Paranas, Hinabangan, Calbiga and San Jose de Buan towns.

"It is our mandate to arrest and file charges against those violators of the law and ensure they be made to answer for their actions in coordination with the other law enforcement agencies," he said.

UNICEF, MILF to launch 'Children, Not Soldiers' drive

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): UNICEF, MILF to launch 'Children, Not Soldiers' drive

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will jointly launch here on May 18 the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign aimed at sparing children from any form of military activity.

The campaign is a series of public events to be run by the MILF, in coordination with the UNICEF, in their base commands to signal their commitment that no child should be recruited or associated with any future MILF armed endeavor.

The MILF is currently engaged on a comprehensive peace overture with the government for the formation of the proposed MILF-led Bangsamoro entity that would replace the old Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao set-up.

The UNICEF-MILF communication campaign is expected to raise the standard of spreading the message to the MILF, their children and families in communities across Mindanao – that no child under the age of 18 should be engaged in any form of military endeavor.

The MILF-spearheaded campaign with the backing of the United Nations thru UNICEF would include various activities such as group discussions with children in war-torn communities, radio programs, and a theatre play.

UNICEF partner agencies, meanwhile, has prepared banners, steamers, posters and a series of visual materials that will help endorse the advocacy.

Expected to grace the scheduled program launching at EM Manor Hotel here are UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander and MILF top honchos, among others.

Army, Capitol distribute piglets, carabao to upland folks in NegOcc town

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Army, Capitol distribute piglets, carabao to upland folks in NegOcc town

Relocated residents in Barangay Sta. Rosa, Murcia, Negros Occidental received piglets and carabao from the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental and the Philipine Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade in turn-over rites held Tuesday.

Distributed were 10 piglets worth Php2,500 each and a carabao worth Php30,000 as livelihood assistance to the upland residents.

The initiative is part of the Negros First Army Wellness Farm and Livestock dispersal program of the Army supported by the provincial government.

The beneficiaries also received chicken multiplier machine or incubator for mass production of chickens and Pekin ducks.

Brig. General Jon Aying, commanding officer of the 303rd IB, urged beneficiaries to treat the new project as their own business.

There is big money in this endeavor, Aying said.

Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. said he is glad to see the improvement in the way of life of the residents four years after they were relocated.

They now have vegetable production, and backyard fishpond projects, and these will be augmented by the distributed piglets and carabao.

They reside in free housing units constructed by the Army, with amenities like electricity and water supply.

The governor said the province will also construct a school house for pre-school children, and install water system for those living in the uppermost part of the relocation site.

Army defends operation vs armed men in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Army defends operation vs armed men in Maguindanao

The Army's 6th Infantry Division stressed on Wednesday that the Army operation in Talayan, Maguindanao on Monday was legitimate and did not violate the civil and political rights of the residents.

Capt. Joanne Petinglay, speaking for the 6th ID, told reporters the soldiers of the Army mechanized battalion based in Talayan simply responded to reports about the presences of armed men, believed to be members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the village of Katibpuan at past 5 a.m.

"As out troops were entering the village, they were met with volley of fires, forcing them to respond and a 15-minute firefight ensued," she said.

The firefight, which left a soldier wounded, was halted when the armed men fled and mingled with the civilians.

"Our troops cannot arrest civilians who were unarmed despite reports they were armed before the soldiers came," she said.

The wounded soldier was immediately evacuated to Camp Siongco Station Hospital and later transferred to Notre Dame Hospital.

Clearing operations conducted by troops at around 6 a.m. in the area further resulted in the recovery of a firearm and a magazine with four live rounds of ammunition.

Petinglay said remnants of the BIFF are still roaming around interior villages in Maguindanao's 10 towns after the massive law enforcement operations of Task Force Central was terminated in March.

"They are still there, trying to prove they are still a force to reckon with but as far as the military is concerned, they are considered a spent force," she said.

She urged local government officials, from town to village governments, to help the military and the police contain lawlessness in their communities so development could start.

Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr is new 6th Infantry Division chief of staff

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr is new 6th Infantry Division chief of staff

The 6th Infantry Division warmly welcomed the designation of Colonel Romeo S. Brawner Jr. who assumed as the new Division Chief of Staff during the flag raising ceremony here this morning, with 6th Infantry Division Commander Maj. General Edmundo R. Pangilinan in attendance.

Brawner replaced Colonel Virgilo B. Bartolome who served as the acting Division Chief of Staff.

Bartolome temporarily took the place of Colonel Roseller G. Murillo, who served the Division as Chief of Staff for 29 months from November 1, 2012 to March 30, 2015.

Murillo assumed Command of 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi City.

The ceremony was witnessed by the General, Technical and Special Staff of the Division and the commanders of Post and Tenant units as well as the officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of 6ID.

In his message, Colonel Brawner said that performing his task is like a symphony orchestra.

“Each of you has your own instrument to play and I will be your conductor with Maj Gen (Edmundo) Pangilinan as our musical director,” he said.

“Bear with me as we go about performing our tasks and I am looking forward to working with you in 6th ID,” he added.

On the other hand, Pangilinan said that the role of the Chief of Staff is vital in the success of the Command.

“I entrust on him the important role of Division Chief of Staff because I am aware of his commendable work experiences and achievements and that this Command deserves no less than the best,” he said.

“The baton is now in your hands and I will be waiting for the symphony that you will be conducting,” Pangilinan added.

Colonel Brawner was the former Spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command. He was previously assigned to the Office of J3 (Operations) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and to the AFP Public Information Office.

He was an awardee of the Ten Outstanding Philippine Soldiers (TOPS) in 2013.

Army repairs Leyte camp wrecked by ‘Yolanda’

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Army repairs Leyte camp wrecked by ‘Yolanda’

The Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion based in Aguiting village of this town has completed rebuilding their base camp damaged by the 2013 catastrophe.

A military chaplain blessed the structures on Sunday that include the administration building, officers’lounge, non-commissioned officers’ barracks, operations, quarters, supplies building., dining hall, medical clinic, Sandiwa Hall, organic livestock, organic vegetable garden, among others.

Battalion commander Lt. Col. Nedy Espulgar recounted how the destruction saddened them, however he stayed optimistic that gradually, they would be able to rebuild what were lost.

Major General Jet B. Velarmino, 8th Infantry Division Commander, lauded the initiative made by Espulgar and for embracing the organic farming, thus making his men more fit to perform their tasks.

Espulgar said that even with super typhoon Yolanda’s wrath that razed the base camp to the ground, he voiced optimism that also lifted his men’s spirit.

These led some humanitarian groups and Kananga town Mayor Elmer C. Codilla to share some construction materials that formed part the more typhoon-resilient camp now.

Despite wreckage, the soldiers continue with their work. Indeed, they’re able to seize several firearms last week from rebels in Ormoc.

Velarmino rewarded the troop with cash and encouraged them to carry on running after armed rebels to attain peace.

Abu Sayyaf group releases school teacher in Jolo

From the Philippine News Agency (May 14): Abu Sayyaf group releases school teacher in Jolo

A teacher abducted nine days ago together with her brother, also a teacher, was released by the Abu Sayyaf brigands in the province of Sulu, a top military official announced Thursday.

Released was Reynadeth Bagonoc-Silvano, 31, a teacher of Tuburan Elementary School in Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said Silvano was released around 7:30 a.m. Thursday in the town proper of Jolo, the capital of Sulu.

Arrojado said a concerned resident brought Silvano to the headquarters of the Joint Task Group Sulu where she immediately underwent medical check-up and debriefing.

Arrojao said Silvano told them the Abu Sayyaf brigands released her due to the pressure brought about by the continuous law enforcement operations in the towns of Indanan and Parang.

However, Arrojado said that Silvano’s brother, Russel, 22, also a teacher, remains in the custody of the bandits.

He said Silvano will be transported aboard a Navy boat Thursday to the headquarters of the Joint Task Force Zambasulta in this city.

The victims were seized last May 5 while they were on the way to Tuburan Elementary School in Talusan, Zamboanga Sibugay province.

Arrojado said the Abu Sayyaf Group that abducted the victims are led by Mawallil Hatib Mudam based in the town of Parang.

MNLF, sultans want out of Bangsamoro

From Rappler (May 13): MNLF, sultans want out of Bangsamoro

Will Tausugs vote no to the Bangsamoro autonomous region?

INCLUSIVITY. About 500 residents attend the Senate public hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday, May 13, at Jolo, Sulu.

INCLUSIVITY. About 500 residents attend the Senate public hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law on Wednesday, May 13, at Jolo, Sulu.

SULU, Philippines – The envisioned Bangsamoro autonomous region is designed to benefit the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) over other groups.
This was the recurring sentiment of representatives of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the sultanate of Sulu during the Senate hearing on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Jolo, Sulu, Wednesday, May 13.
Before an audience that included Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, his father, Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan, and mayors of Sulu towns, both the MNLF and representatives of the Sulu sultanate turned the hearing into an opportunity to reiterate their staunch opposition to the proposed law.
Both groups said they felt excluded from the BBL, despite earlier assurances from peace negotiators that the law is inclusive.
The MNLF, in fact, warned that the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan – three of the 5 provinces under the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao – would vote against the BBL during the plebiscite.
Sulu is the known bailiwick of the MNLF, the rival group of the MILF, which signed a peace pact with the government that is now the basis of the law pending in Congress.
No consultations?
The representatives of both groups told Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, who's leading Senate consultations on the BBL, that they were never consulted during the crafting of the proposed law – grievances that were raised even during the peace talks between the government and the MNLF, resulting in two separate bloody clashes: the March 2013 Sabah standoff and the September 2013 Zamboanga siege.
Members of 2 out of 3 MNLF factions attended the hearing – the faction led by former Cotabato City vice mayor Muslimin Sema and the MNLF-Islamic Command Council. Both factions oppose the BBL. The faction led by MNLF founding chairman Nur Misuari attended an earlier forum on the BBL held in Jolo on Tuesday but skipped the Senate hearing.
The Sulu sultanate was represented by Datu Albi Julkairnan, chairman of the Council of Datus, and Abraham Idjirani, spokesperson of a branch of the Kiram family claiming to be the heirs to the sultanate.
The BBL seeks to create an autonomous region that is parliamentary in form, with district, sectoral and reserved seats. The set-up is designed to encourage groups like the MNLF to create their own parties or field their own candidates to run for office.
While the Bangsamoro government does not prevent groups apart from the MILF to participate in the government, the law creating it is based on a peace pact that was the product of consultations with a single group – the MILF.
The MILF will also lead the transitional government from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Bangsamoro – another issue for the MNLF.
RIVALRY. Abdul Sahrin, secretary general of the MNLF-Sema faction, warns that Sulu will reject the BBL.
RIVALRY. Abdul Sahrin, secretary general of the MNLF-Sema faction, warns that Sulu will reject the BBL.

MNLF position
The MNLF signed two peace agreements with the government. The first one – the 1976 Tripoli Agreement – was signed during the administration of Marcos' father, former dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The next peace deal was signed in 1996 during the Ramos administration. Months after signing the agreement, Misuari was elected governor of ARMM.
However, the MNLF maintains that the government has yet to fully implement both peace agreements.
There are efforts from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, an influential body among Muslim countries, to unite the MILF and the MNLF.
In a bid to address the grievances of the MNLF, the MILF incorporated aspects of the 1996 peace pact that the MNLF still wants to be implemented to the BBL. These provisions are known as the "42 consensus points."
However, the MNLF said the MILF did this without informing or consulting the MNLF.
"They tried to smuggle the provisions of Republic Act 9054 and the 42 consensus points to the (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro). That is intellectual piracy. They have no courtesy," said Abdul Sahrin, secretary general of the MNLF-Sema faction.
MNLF-ICC chairman Habib Mudjahab Hashim said both groups "agreed to disagree" during the meeting with the OIC in April.
PUBLIC HEARING. (From left) Davao del Norte Representative Antonio Lagdameo Jr, Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II
PUBLIC HEARING. (From left) Davao del Norte Representative Antonio Lagdameo Jr, Sulu Vice Governor Abdusakur Tan, Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II

Tausugs vs Maguindanaoans
Another layer of conflict, which involves cultural issues unique to Muslim Mindanao, surfaced during the hearing.
If the MNLF would have it their way, they would rather return to the set-up that was established in the region following the signing of the Tripoli Agreement, where there were two regional autonomous governments in Western and Central Mindanao.
This is because the Tausugs, who are traditionally known to be warriors, do not want to be governed by the Maguindanaoans, Sahrin said.
"We don't like the Maguindanaoans to govern us. There must be two [autonomous regions], a federal system of governance. There must be one federated state - one for the sultanate of Sulu territories and another for central Mindanao," Sahrin said.
But even Marcos, in a press conference in Zamboanga after the Jolo hearing, said this is no longer possible at present. The conflict in Mindanao started in the 1970s during the regime of his father. More than 4 decades since, peace in Mindanao remains elusive.
Although Marcos acknowledged that the MNLF's position is valid, he said he believes MNLF's grievances could be addressed by assuring them that they would be involved in the future Bangsamoro government.
The Sulu sultanate, meanwhile, wants areas under the traditional jurisdiction of the monarchy, which includes the provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan, to be excluded from the Bangsamoro.
They also raised an issue against the provision appointing a Wali or a titular head of the Bangsamoro autonomous government since they still recognize the traditional sultans.
Marcos will hold separate set of hearings with the MNLF and the Sulu Sultanate in Manila on May 18 and May 25.
Asked if the Senate can still beat the target deadline to pass the law before Congress adjourns on June 11, Marcos admitted that doing so would be "tough."
Marcos is also set to hold another public hearing in Zamboanga on Thursday, May 14.

China 'angry' over US military plans in disputed waters

From Rappler (May 13): China 'angry' over US military plans in disputed waters

'A challenge by the US military in the region could potentially trigger a regional standoff'

NEW ISLAND. Reclamation in Keenan (Chigua) Reef as of December 2014

NEW ISLAND. Reclamation in Keenan (Chigua) Reef as of December 2014

Beijing expressed anger Wednesday after reports the United States was considering ramping up its military presence in disputed South China Sea waters and confronting Chinese territorial claims with ships and aircraft.

Defence Secretary Ash Carter asked staff to explore sending Navy surveillance aircraft and vessels to islands which Washington believes have been rapidly built up by China in recent months, the Wall Street Journal said May 11, citing officials.

"We are severely concerned by relevant remarks made by the American side," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular briefing in Beijing.

"Freedom of navigation does not mean that the military vessels or aircraft of a foreign country can wilfully enter the territorial waters or airspace of another country."

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, even waters approaching the coasts of its Asian neighbours, and has provoked alarm with increasingly bold actions.

United States officials last week accused China of building up to 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of artificial islands in the Spratlys, an archipelago of more than a hundred islands, reefs and atolls between Vietnam and the Philippines.

China could construct airfields, surveillance systems and harbours that would jeopardize regional stability, they said.

The US has so far not sent ships and aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the reclaimed reefs – the standard zone for territorial waters around natural land – in order to avoid escalating tensions, the WSJ said.

“We’re just not going within the 12 miles — yet,” it quoted a senior US official as saying.

A challenge by the US military in the region could potentially trigger a regional standoff, the newspaper added.

China urged "the relevant country" to "refrain from taking risky and provocative actions," Hua told reporters.

US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet senior officials in China later this week.

The US has used its military to push back against what it considers Beijing's aggressive stance before.

Last November two giant long-range B-52s flew over China's newly-declared Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea.