Friday, June 5, 2015

Japan, PH start talks on defense equipment transfer

From ABS-CBN (Jun 5): Japan, PH start talks on defense equipment transfer

Philippine President Benigno Aquino (L) shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during a signing ceremony at the Akasaka State Guesthouse in Tokyo on June 4, 2015. Photo by Reuters

The Philippines and Japan have agreed to start discussions on the transfer of defense equipment amid many challenges in the security environment in the region.

In their joint declaration, President Aquino and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed to initiate "negotiations to conclude an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology."

The agreement came amid China's reclamation activities in the South China Sea. Japan itself is also locked in a territorial dispute with China.

Speaking to reporters, Aquino said it is still premature to discuss which specific defense equipment would be transferred to the Philippines.

"The discussions are just starting on specifically which items, which equipment, and the Japanese are also re-examining the interpretation of the Constitution, which will or will not allow them to be able to transfer the same. So for us to say we have these as the 'wish list' is, I think, premature at this point in time," Aquino said.

"There is, of course, the assistance that they have rendered on our Coast Guard… and coastguard vessels are called 'white ships,' non-combatant, versus 'yung 'gray ships,' which will be combatant vessels. And, at this point in time, we are thankful that there is also already this help that increases the ability of our Coast Guard. There have been some interactions between the Japanese Self-Defense forces and our AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). We have nine cadets undergoing training in their defense academy."

Japan also promised to support the capacity building of the Philippine Coast Guard.

A contract has been signed with the Japan Marine United Corporation for the Philippines to acquire patrol vessels from Japan through an official development assistance, which will be used for disaster response and border patrol.

"We need maritime domain awareness. We have a 36,000-kilometer coastline. We want to know what's happening in our waters. And I think it's premature for me to talk about possibilities at this point, you know. I'd rather talk about certainties, as in the case with the FA-50s and the other equipment that are already either with our AFP or on the way to our AFP."

Both leaders also agreed to expand "bilateral and multilateral trainings and exercises" as agreed in the Memorandum on Defense Cooperation and Exchanges between the Philippine and Japanese defense departments.

But the absence of a visiting forces agreement with Japan has to be addressed before training exercises could be held in the Philippines.

"We have a Visiting Forces Agreement with America and with Australia, but we don't have the same with Japan. That has, first, to be worked out before we can talk about training exercises in the Philippines, for instance, especially for self-defense forces," Aquino said.

Aquino justified the elevation of the relationship between the Philippines and Japan into a strategic one, saying that challenges have evolved.

"The challenges are evolving. The requirements are increasing, and perhaps there is a need to revisit the same to make it a better instrument, whereby both countries' interests are served for instance," he said.

"In 2011, the issue of pandemics was not as apparent as it is now. The idea of lone wolf terrorists was probably not as valid a concept in 2011 as it is now. Global climate change, especially the furiousness of all of these typhoons that are hitting not just us, but even other countries in the pacific and other countries beyond us, has also changed. So, so many challenges have evolved-or, in a sense, even different-that there has to be a re-examination of how exactly we can come to each other's assistance, so that we best serve all the interests of our respective peoples, and other countries that are close to us that we can also render assistance to."

200 residents flee homes due to NPA-military clash

From ABS-CBN (Jun 5): 200 residents flee homes due to NPA-military clash

More than 200 residents of Lagonglong town in Misamis Oriental left their homes and evacuated to the provincial capitol in Cagayan de Oro City early Friday morning.

According to the evacuees, who were reisdents of Sitio Camansi, Barangay Banglay in Lagonglong, they received threats from members of the 58th Infantry Battalion.

The soldiers also allegedly forced them to admit they are members of the New People's Army (NPA).

Fourth Infantry Division Spokesperson Capt. Patrick Martinez said they will conduct an investigation on these claims.

Martinez also asked the evacuees to cooperate with the military.

Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were deployed to the area to provide additional security for a goverment project in Lagonglong.

Military operation is also ongoing due to the presence of NPA rebels.

MILF, Army 'foes' no more

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): MILF, Army 'foes' no more

A ranking official of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), the armed wing of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said that a "good relationship" exists between them and the government security forces.

"They used to be arch enemies but with the ceasefire mechanism working so well, no skirmishes have erupted the past years," said Mohammas Nasif, BIAF operations commander and chair of the MILF decommissioning team.

Naif made the statement during the joint "Brigada Eskwela" and dental outreach program by MILF, the Army's 6th Infantry Division and Department of Education inside the former MILF stronghold, Camp Abubakar in Barira, Maguindanao.

The joint effort, he said forms part of the Normalization process of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

"In fact we have a joint Army, MILF and PNP training," he told reporters.

"Darating ang panahon na mismong ang militar at PNP na ang magbibigay ng seguridad sa mga MILF communities (We look forward to the one day it is the military and PNP who will provide security for MILF communities)," Naif said.

After the Barira joint activity, the group proceeded to Barangay Rajamuda, Pikit, North Cotabato, once a battle ground between government forces and MILF.

The "Brigada Eskwela" has a theme “Ang batang Bangsamoro ay dapat nasa paaralan, ayaw sa barilan,” was participated by the representatives from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), MILF, local government units (LGUs) and various line agencies of the government that include the Department of Education (DepEd) and Department of Health (DOH).

Brig. General Carlito Galvez, head of the Coordinating Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities of the government (GPH-CCCH), said the activity manifests the readiness of the MILF to embrace society.

Galvez, in his message, called on participants to join hands for the future of Bangsamoro children.

“Sama sama po tayo na aagapay para sa kinabukasan ng ating mga anak. Tulungan nating palakasin ang governance ng Bangsamoro (Let's join hands to guide our children so they have better future. Let us be an instrument for a strong Bangsamoro government),” he said.

Galvez made it clear that the activities are part of the normalization process as defined in the Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed by both the government and MILF peace panels.

Omar Obas, Schools Division Superintendent of North Cotabato, also expressed gratitude to OPAPP, AFP, the MILF and other development stakeholders for choosing Rajamuda as one of the beneficiaries of Brigada Eskwela.

“Matagal na nating minimithi ang kapayapaan. Kaya bilang paghahanda sa nalalapit na pagpasa ng Bangsamoro Basic Law nararapat lamang na magkaron tayo ng mga pagtitipon na tulad nito (We have been longing for peace in this community. With the upcoming Bagnsamoro government, we expect to see more like this),” he said, adding that "Brigada Eskwela" is an expression of unity and peace.

Dulia Sultan, Board Member of North Cotabato and represented Gov. Emmylou Mendoza in the event, also lauded the joint efforts to achieve lasting peace in troubled communities.

"Brigada Eskwela," Sultan said, is a pursuit where weapons of war are shelved and replaced with the tools of education, peace and development.

“Ang pagkawala ng armas sa mata ng mga bata ay paraan upang tuluyan nang mawaglit sa kanilang isipan ang barilan at kaguluhan. Paaralan at lapis ang ating gamitin upang tulungan silang maging masigasig sa pag-aaral at makamit ang magandang kinabukasan,” she added.

School buildings and classrooms were repaired by AFP troopers and MILF fighters during the activity.

Dental services and free haircut were also given to the school children in the area.

Abdul Kadir Manibpil, the deputy brigade commander of the National Guard Front of the MILF graced the occasion and led his men, together with the AFP troopers in the repair of school buildings and classrooms.

Manibpil assured the full support of the MILF to the activity, saying that Brigada Eskwela will turn schools into conducive and favorable learning facilities for Bangsamoro children.

Col. Noel Clement, commander of the 602nd Brigade, was also thankful for the opportunity given to the AFP to take part in the undertaking that he said would show that soldiers are not only trained for war but also to perform peace and development works.
“We will not only build classrooms in today’s activity. We will also rebuild the lives of our school children,” Clement stressed.

Gabriela lawmaker: Release former info officer

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 6): Gabriela lawmaker: Release former info officer

Gabriela Representative Emmi De Jesus has appealed to the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to release Sharon Cabusao, former public information officer of said group and currently consultant of the Crispin Beltran Resource Center.

De Jesus said Cabusao has thyroid and blood-related diseases and that she should be immediately released from CIDG detention.

“Her current situation could worsen her medical condition. We appeal for her immediate and unconditional release,” she said.

Cabusao was arrested with her husband Adelberto, alleged leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front, and Isidro de Lima, driver,  last Tuesday in Bacoor, Cavite.

The main target of CIDG’s warrant was Adelberto who was facing 15 counts of murder before a court. But during the arrest, the arresting team claimed they found firearms and explosives from the group.

Earlier, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay claimed Silva is a peace consultant of the NDF and de Jesus concurred. But military Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief Lieutenant Harold Cabunoc said Silva was Wilma Tiamzon’s replacement after she and her husband, Benito, top CPP-NPA-NDF leader, along with 5 others were arrested in March 2014 in Cebu.

 “We strongly condemn the illegal arrest and detention of Ms. Sharon Cabusao, former Gabriela officer and women’s rights advocate and we call for her immediate and unconditional release. She was arrested without any warrant and the case filed against her holds no merit,” said De Jesus.

She said the CIDG have accused Cabusao of “harbouring a criminal” after their arrest.

PN to acquire 1,432,800 rounds of 5.56mm

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): PN to acquire 1,432,800 rounds of 5.56mm

The Philippine Navy (PN) has allocated the sum of Php32,768,136 for the acquisition of 1,432,800 rounds of 5.56mm (SS109M855) ball ammunition.

These are the rounds being used by the various models of M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles equipping the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the bullets with 90 calendar days.
Pre-bid conference is scheduled this coming June 10, 1 p.m. at the Office of the PN Bids and Awards Committee Bonifacio Naval Station, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Gov’t forces, BIAF, MILF train as Joint Peace and Security Teams

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): Gov’t forces, BIAF, MILF train as Joint Peace and Security Teams

The Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have finished forming and training the first Joint Peace and Security Team (JPST) Monday, June 1 that will be deployed in agreed areas in the Bangsamoro to help in the decommissioning process.

The said training had the full support of the leadership of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) mandates the JPSTs to track and document private armies and other armed groups; help reduce and control weapons; support the observance of the ceasefire agreement; work on security arrangements for peace process-connected personalities and events; and support dispute resolution initiatives on the ground.

6th Infantry Division, Philippine Army commander Major General Edmundo Pangilinan, who oversaw the graduation of the first JPST, expressed that he “could no longer see the differences between the government forces and the BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces).”

The commander emphasized that peace, long been prayed for by all sectors in Mindanao, could only be attained through unity. “Now we are one. We have a lot of experiences, the BIAF, the AFP, the PNP, including the civilians who suffered so much. We shed tears, perspire and bled. I believe that because of these experiences we should stop these fights.”

MILF Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) head secretariat Toks Ibrahim said the formation of the first JPST was another concrete proof of the gains of the peace negotiations between the government and the MILF. “The training was successful despite the differences between the participants.”

Brigadier General Carlito Galvez, Jr., chairperson of the GPH Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), commented that “ang dating magkaaway at magkakatunggali ngayon ay magsasama-sama sa iisang layunin na palaganapin ang katahimikan sa buong Mindanao (Former enemies and foes now work together to spread peace in Mindanao)."

The International Monitoring Team (IMT) M-10 mission also joined the ceremony and recognized the the JPST’s vital role in the normalization process. Mission deputy head Admiral Dato Pahlawan Khairuddin Bin Mohd Arif lauded the members of the JPST, proclaiming the team will contribute greatly to the success of the peace process to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao.

BIAF Commander Gordon Sayfullah gave assurances of his command’s full support for all the JPST’s activities and undertakings in the Bangsamoro.
The JPST is part of a larger normalization initiative which aims to build a Bangsamoro that is committed to basic human rights where individuals are free from fear of violence or crime and where long-held traditions and values continue to be honored.

MNLF belittles reports of uniting with rivals

From the Manila Standard Today (Jun 6): MNLF belittles reports of uniting with rivals
AN OFFICIAL of the Moro National Liberation Front said Friday his group’s unification with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as being pushed by the House of Representatives could not happen and was a political maneuver to gain support for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

MNLF spokesman Absalom Cerveza said his group, which comprises entirely of Joloanons, will not unite with the MILF since it was composed mainly of Maguindanaons and the two groups had tribal differences.

“It will not work because of tribal differences,” Cerveza said.

The unification of the MNLF and MILF unity was stipulated in House Bill 5811 of the “Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” a substitute bill to HB 4994, the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, chairman of the Committee on Muslim Affairs, has incorporated the move to unite the two rebel factions on the premise relating to the 42 contentious points in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the government and the MNLF that has been reviewed by the Philippine government, the MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Loong said this would “certainly pave the way for the reconciliation of the MNLF and MILF positions and the unity of the two liberation movement.”

Loong is considered one of the prominent leaders of the MNLF during the time of its founding chairman Nur Misuari at the height of the Mindanao rebellion in the 70s.

But Cerveza contradicted Loong’s position, saying the MNLF could not work with the MILF as a result of the clout of the Maguindanaons.

Cerveza says the MNLF-MILF unity move by congress is a mere political persuasion aimed at gaining support from the MNLF for the eventual passage of the BBL and leading to the establishment of the Bangsamoro Entity.

He says the unification of the MNLF and MILF will instead create complex problems as they have differences―particularly when the MILF broke with the MNLF in the 1980s.

“If they want unity to work, the MILF will have to submit themselves under the MNLF, being the governing body,” Cerveza pointed out.
Cerveza says several sectors including the OIC have long been pushing for the MNLF-MILF unification, but their efforts failed and mainly because of the government’s abrogation of the 1996 final peace agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Agreement that led to the declaration of Mindanao independence by Misuari in 2012.

Ka Roger Rosal’s son-in-law nabbed in Cavite

From GMA News (Jun 5): Ka Roger Rosal’s son-in-law nabbed in Cavite

Cavite police on Friday arrested a communist rebel leader who is also the husband of Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late communist spokesman Gregorio "Ka Roger" Rosal.

Billy Santiago, allegedly the commanding officer of the Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee of the New People's Army, was arrested 3 p.m. in Brgy. Sta Rosa 1 in Noveleta, Cavite, according to Senior Superintendent Jonnel Estomo, head of the Cavite provincial police.

Santiago, who also uses the names Nene and Bibiet, has a pending arrest warrant for kidnapping and murder issued by the Quezon Regional Trial Court Branch 64, Estomo said.

Andrea Rosal was arrested in Caloocan in March 2014, also based on the same warrant of arrest. She is suspected to be a leader of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA.

Rosal, who was pregnant when arrested, gave birth while in detention, but the baby later died at the Philippine General Hospital due to oxygen deficiency in the blood — an incident blamed by militant groups on prison authorities' alleged neglect.

Estomo said Santiago will be brought to the Cavite Provincial Police Office for documentation.

Raytheon wins second increment of DTRA contract with PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Jun 5): Raytheon wins second increment of DTRA contract with PHL

Raytheon Company, one of the world's leading electronic and radar manufacturers, announced that it has won the USD25-million contract for the second increment of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) maritime border security program for the Republic of the Philippines.

Under this contract, the American firm will deliver sensing, command and control, and communications systems along with the training and sustainment services necessary to operationalize maritime border security capabilities.

Specific work planned under the increment II contract includes:

* Installation of a common operating picture platform in the National Coast Watch Control (NCWC) and National Coast Watch Stations in two different Philippine provinces.

* Design, installation and testing of electro/optical infrared cameras.

* Continued integration of command, control, and communications equipment and infrastructure.

* Construction of a training center.

* Communications and surveillance upgrades to Philippine Coast Guard vessels.

* Sustainment, training, and transition of capabilities to the government of the Philippines.

"Under this latest contract award, Raytheon will enable the government of the Philippines to stand up a fully-operational security capability that detects, deters, and prevents threats along its coastal borders," Raytheon Intelligence Information and Services president Dave Wajsgras said.

"This work continues our strong partnership with the Republic of the Philippines and our direct support of DTRA's efforts to help nations secure their borders and coastlines," he added.

Work under this contract builds on the first increment, a two-year, USD19-million Raytheon effort that significantly increased the maritime situational awareness of the Philippines, including the design and construction of the recently opened NCWC.

This increment provided the ability to integrate data from various agencies into the NCWC and enabled new sensing and communications capabilities.
Raytheon's work in the Philippines is part of the Cooperative Threat Reduction Integrating Contract (CTRIC II) awarded in April 2011 as a multiple award indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract.

Deles hails former communist rebels as peace, development partners

From the Daily Tribune (Jun 5): Deles hails former communist rebels as peace, development partners

The President’s peace adviser welcomed last week the return of some 150 former communist rebels to normal, civilian life, and hailed them as peace and development partners in their respective communities at a ceremony in Loreto, Agusan del Sur.

“Nais naming ipaabot ang respeto at pagkilala sa inyong malalim na pagsusuri at malayang pagpapasya na magbalik sa buhay na mapayapa at sibilyan at talikuran ang armadong pakikibaka — hindi dahil naresolba na ang lahat ng problema ng lipunan, ngunit kinikilala na sa dami ng ating problemang kailangan harapin, mas mabuti nga na mag-partner tayo, magtulungan, pag-usapan ang mga problema, at sama-samang maghanap ng solusyon (We wish to extend our respect and recognition for the deep consideration and free decision to return to the peaceful, civilian life, and turn your backs to armed revolution — not because we have already solved all problems in the society, but in recognition that, given the extent of problem that we have to face, it is better to be partners, to help each other, to talk about the problems, and find solutions together),” said Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles.

Also present in the event were Undersecretary Manny Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice and Peace; Agusan del Sur Gov. Adolph Edward Plaza; Loreto town Mayor Dario Otaza; and other officials from the different agencies, Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The former rebels also surrendered automatic rifles, shotguns and handguns, and stock ammunitions during the program.

Beyond the immediate assistance given, Deles noted that there will be consultations between the former rebels and representatives from the government in the coming days to settle the best means to help them in their return to civilian life.

The said program also coincided with the two-day peace caravan in the barangays of Kauswagan and Manawe meant to address the peace and development issues in Eastern Mindanao, and affirm the administration’s commitment that no conflict-affected communities would be left behind.

Pooling in efforts from the national and local governments, as well as the private sector, the caravan served around 3,000 residents providing medical and dental care, technical and livelihood training, legal consultations, health insurance registration, provision of educational kits, and distribution of certificates of land ownership awards among others.

“Sana ang pagkakataong ito ay mauwi sa isang selebrasyon ng pag-asa — na dito sa pagbabalik loob, sa pagbabago ng pamumuhay, ay talagang makakapanaginip nang muli ng mas magandang kinabukasan, lalung-lalo na sa mga bata at mga sususnod na henerasyon (Hopefully, this opportunity leads to a celebration of hope — that in the change of hearts and way of life can we truly dream again of better days, especially for the children and future generations),” Deles stressed.

Survey says: opinions on Bangsamoro Basic Law more favorable among those who know it

From the Business World (Jun 5): Survey says: opinions on Bangsamoro Basic Law more favorable among those who know it

PEOPLE WHO know more about the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) view it more favorably, a recent poll by the Social Weather Station (SWS) showed.

According to the SWS survey conducted from March 20 to 23 among 1,200 adults nationwide, while only 23% of those surveyed approved of the BBL and 48% disapproved of it -- for a net approval of -24 (28% were undecided) -- there was a wide disparity of views between those who said they had “extensive knowledge” of the BBL and those who did not.

The national average of -24 reflected a favorable +28 (64% approve, 36% disapprove) among those with “extensive knowledge” of the BBL, a neutral -2 (41% approve, 43% disapprove) among those with “partial but sufficient knowledge,” an unfavorable -27 (24% approve, 51% disapprove) among those with “only a little knowledge,” and a worse -35% (11% approve, 46% disapprove) among those with “no or almost no knowledge” about the BBL.

The same survey found that 4% of respondents have “extensive” knowledge of the BBL, 13% have “partial but sufficient” knowledge, 47% have “only a little,” and 36% had “almost none.”

The SWS survey also found that Filipino Muslims were the most knowledgeable about the BBL, with 58% of them saying that they have sufficient knowledge on the matter. This is substantially higher than the 27% of Filipinos under the Iglesia ni Cristo, 19% from other Christian groups and 13% of Catholics who rated themselves as sufficiently knowledgeable on the subject.

Meanwhile, more than a third of Filipinos believe that the BBL will not be passed in Congress under the Aquino administration, the term of which will end in 2016, the SWS poll showed.

According to the survey, hope that the BBL will be passed under the Aquino administration got a -34 net score with 39% of Filipinos “not hopeful at all” that the BBL will be passed under Mr. Aquino’s term.

On the other hand, 27% are “somewhat not hopeful,” 24% are “somewhat hopeful,” while 8% are “very hopeful.”

“It can be expected given the high emotions from the Mamasapano incident. We hope that moving forward, sentiment will change after a scrutiny of the actual provisions of the draft law,” said Deputy Presidential Speaker Abigail F. Valte in a text message sent to reporters when asked about the results.

The survey was conducted a couple of months after the Jan. 25 police operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The mishandled police operation, which though successful in eliminating the primary target -- high profile terror suspect Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan -- came at the cost the lives of 67 people including 44 police commandos.

The SWS rates ratings as: +70 and above, “excellent”; +50 to +69, “very good”; +30 to +49, “good”; +10 to +29, “moderate”, +9 to -9, “neutral”; -10 to -29, “poor”; -30 to -49, “bad”; -50 to -69, “very bad”; -70 and below, “execrable.”

Chinese warship fired warning shot on Pinoy boat: report

From ABS-CBN (Jun 5): Chinese warship fired warning shot on Pinoy boat: report

The Philippines on Friday expressed concern over reports a Chinese warship has fired a warning shot on a Filipino fishing boat near a reclaimed reef in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Manila's defense minister said.

China has been rapidly expanding its occupied reefs in the Spratly archipelago, alarming other claimants, and drawing sharp criticism from the United States, Japan and European States.

"If indeed this happened, it is a cause of grave concern." Defense Minister Voltaire Gazmin told journalists in a text message from Tokyo, where he joined a four-day state visit by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III.

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

All but Brunei have fortified bases in the Spratlys, which are roughly 1,300 km (800 miles) from the Chinese mainland but much closer to the Southeast Asian claimants.

In Tokyo, Aquino said his nation was ready to start talks with Japan on allowing Japanese military aircraft and naval vessels to use Philippine bases to refuel and resupply, extending Tokyo's range of operations into the South China Sea.

On Wednesday, Aquino made a veiled comparison between China's activities in the South China Sea and Nazi Germany's expansionism before World War Two.

US Naval Base Guam receives most technologically-advanced sub: Rebalance to Asia-Pacific

From Ang Malaya (Jun 5): US Naval Base Guam receives most technologically-advanced sub: Rebalance to Asia-Pacific

The United States military deployed Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine USS Topeka (SSN 754) to its new homeport US Naval Base Guam last May 29. She is currently the most technologically-advanced submarine of Submarine Squadron 15 based at Naval Base Guam.

“Topeka is the fourth submarine assigned to Commander, Submarine Squadron (CSS) 15 as part of the Navy’s long range plan to put the most advanced and capable units forward,” the US Navy said.

“Prior to arriving in Guam, Topeka completed an engineering overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, N.H.”

CSS-15 Commodore Captain Jeffrey Grimes said “from bow to stern she has been completely upgraded, the most technologically-advanced submarine we have.”

“Guam is the Navy’s best kept secret,” he said. “Once they get here, you can’t get them to leave.”

“She brings a new level of sophistication and fire power that we need in the Pacific,” Grimes added.
““This is an overall rebalance of the naval forces into the Pacific, so picking up another naval submarine to Guam gives us more capability to continue to reinforce our partners, provide a level of conventional deterrence and support the ongoing efforts that we have.”

President Aquino explains why he likened China to Nazi

From Ang Malaya (Jun 5): President Aquino explains why he likened China to Nazi

During the press conference with the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo, Japan June 5, President Aquino explained further why he likened China to Nazi Germany. A reporter asked “how do you think your words about Nazi for China? Do you think it hurts Chinese people’s feelings?”

“We have no intentions of hurting anybody’s feelings,” the President said. “If you look at it from an economic perspective, were very, very much in favor of China.”

“Throughout the years, we have not answered, for instance, all of the attacks on the Philippines by the media,” he added. “We have tried to do our best to de-escalate the situation. We have promised to abide by the international law and that’s why we went to arbitration which is found as a means of resolving these disputes in UNCLOS.”

However, “our fishermen today complain that they are no longer being allowed to fish in this particular area [Scarborough Shoal]. They are not allowed to even shelter in the cay during times of inclement weather and have had to modify their feelings.

“I have had to ask them to exert more patience because we do not want to escalate the situation. We keep saying in various fora, hopefully we can concentrate our energies and efforts in growing our economies and making our people more prosperous.

“If you were the Philippines, and suddenly you would have one coastline, in effect, your whole west coast is gone, you will be retained with your east coast, would you say, ‘Yes please, take half of our waterways’?

“I don’t think any country would willingly do that. So we are just standing up for our rights. We respect everybody else’s rights. We ask that our rights also be respected,” President Aquino said.

Negros declaration as peaceful June 10

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jun 5): Negros declaration as peaceful June 10
The declaration and signing of Negros Occidental as peaceful and ready for further development is scheduled on June 10 in Bacolod City, with top military and police officials invited to witness the ceremony, Army spokesman Maj Rey Tiongson said yesterday.

The signing coincides the end of the tour of duty of Brig. Gen. Jon Aying in Negros Occidental as 303rd Infantry Brigade commander. He is due to assume a higher position as assistant AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans (J5).

Aying, who had worked for four years tapping stakeholders, including peace advocates, local government units, non-government and people's organizations, in the development of conflict-affected communities in Negros, said the declaration of Negros Occidental as peaceful and ready for further development was made by Negrenses who abhor violence.

Among those invited to the signing are Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, PNP officer-in-charge Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina, AFP chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, Army chief Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri. Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3rd Infantry Division commander, Chief Supt. Josephus Angan, regional police director of Western Visayas, Ma Lina Sanogal, action officer of the Provincial Peace Integration and Development Unit (Pro-PIDU), said.

The declaration transferred the lead role of maintaining internal security from the military to the local governments and the police. This is part of the military efforts to shift focus from internal security to territorial defense.

Gov. Alfredo Maranon Jr., who was among the AFP Bayanihan awardees, for his support to the peace and development campaign in Negros Occidental, is among those who will sign the declaration.

Tiongson said that they are still waiting for confirmation from the invited guests.

With the signing, Negros Occidental will join the provinces of Iloilo, Capiz, Antique, Aklan in Panay, Guimaras, Negros Oriental, Siquijor and Cebu, that were under the jurisdiction of the 3ID, as peaceful and ready for further development.

Guerrero said the improved security in Western Visayas resulted in the boom in business, major constructions, and an increase in the number of tourists and investors coming in during the past year.

He called on his troops and stakeholders to continue to work in the spirit of Bayanihan and nurture the peace to last for future generations to enjoy.
The signing of the declaration will be followed by the 303rd Infantry Brigade turnover of command ceremony between Aying and his successor, Col. Francisco Delfin, to be held at Camp Major Nelson Gerona in Brgy, Minoyan, Murcia.

Philippines, Japan eyeing possible Visiting Forces Agreement

From InterAksyon (Jun 5): Philippines, Japan eyeing possible Visiting Forces Agreement

President Aquino with Japanese Prime Minister Abe in their bilateral talks Thursday. Reuters photo.

The Philippines and Japan are looking to forge a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), similar to what Manila has with the United States and Australia, as part of the expanded cooperation in defense and maritime security that President Aquino and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed on Thursday.

President Aquino confirmed this to journalists at a final press conference with the Japanese National Press Club, before departing Tokyo for Manila on Friday. referring to his talks on Thursday with Mr. Abe, Aquino said that "it was discussed yesterday [Thursday] during our summit meeting with the Prime Minister that the relevant entities will start discussions, leading up to a Visiting Forces Agreement."

The President responded to a question from a reporter from Reuters who asked about the issue of Japan extending its defense footprint.

Among the possible scenarios, it was pointed out, were "doing maritime patrols in the South China Sea — possibly more patrols, possibly more naval activities there ... [for Japan] to be able to refuel their aircraft in the Philippines, or perhaps use naval bases."

Aquino said: "The Visiting Forces Agreement will have to be passed and approved by our Senate, but we will be starting discussions on all of the details embodied in this."

Currently, the Philippines only has two Visiting Forces Agreement — one with the United States of America and the most recently passed, the one with Australia, Aquino told reporters.

He added thaht Manila welcomes "this development [possible VFA with Japan]. We have only two strategic partners, the US and Japan. As I have stated previously, it does not behoove a good partnership or relationship if you are not able to work at interoperability with the other."

Aquino elaborated: "An agreement that even for humanitarian concerns exists only on paper will not be effective when there comes a time that you would need to be in coordination, and in cooperation, or in joint cooperation with your strategic partners.

"So, yes, the Philippines does welcome this development and we will be initiating all of the diplomatic requirements to come up with a Visiting Forces Agreement."

On the subject of territorial tensions and Chinese reclamation activities in the West Philippine Sea, Aquino suggested that the Chinese authorities could "revisit the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea" that China had signed with ASEAN in 2002.  Manila has been pushing for a binding Code of Conduct ever since, but has been foiled at every turn by Beijing.

"And the other aspect is if the situation were reversed, would they accept not meddling in, you know ... If China's and the Philippines' position were reversed, would they accept the advice that they are now telling countries as small as ours?"

[Video report]

AFP denies Karapatan's claim of encampment in Lumad schools

From InterAksyon (Jun 5): AFP denies Karapatan's claim of encampment in Lumad schools

Weapons captured from suspected insurgents in Eastern Mindanao. Photograph from EastMinCom.

The military on Friday debunked Karapatan's claim that soldiers were using a Lumad school in Talaingod, Davao del Norte for counter-insurgency purposes allegedly in connivance with school officials.

"We are partnering with different stakeholders in promoting Bayanihan spirit among Filipinos. There is nothing wrong if we support DepEd (Department of Education) in preparing school facilities during Brigada Eskwela and other community activities, like our Youth Leadership Summit and Medical Mission. The people have appreciated our services and more and more NPA members have renounced armed struggle after realizing the futility of their cause," retorted Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, Armed Forces of the Philippines-Public Affairs Office (AFP-PAO) chief, in rebuttal to Karapatan.

In a statement, Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay had accused the military and DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro of being "a conduit of the military's implementation of the government's counter-insurgency Oplan Bayanihan."

"The way Sec. Luistro holds on to the Department of Education's Memorandum 221 of 2013 and his inaction on the plight of the Lumad children at risk of the military's encampment in Lumad schools shows how he and his department are used by the military to justify their presence in the learning centers," Palabay lamented.

She said such kind of partnership could lead to the closure of the schools established by the Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) following the recommendation of the DepEd School Division Superintendent Dr. Josephine Fadul to Atty. Alberto Escobarte, director of DepEd Region XI.

"Worse, Fadul requested the creation of a new public high school with the military as para-teachers, citing an agreement made during a meeting with the Regional Intelligence Committee. If this is not counter-insurgency at the expense of children who only wanted to go to school, then what is this, Sec. Luistro?" she said.

"Memo 221 is DepEd's version of the AFP's directive#25. Both legitimize the use of schools/educational institutions for military purposes. DepEd's version uses 'civil-military operations' as cover. But CMO operations are just a part of the AFP combat operations," she added.

Cabunoc dismissed the accusation, and urged Karapatan instead to partner with the AFP and DepEd to help further improve school buildings to make possible better education condition for the Lumad students.

"Karapatan must partner with us in our community activities rather than remain fault-finders behind the fence. Karapatan must also fight for the rights of the people who are victimized by the New People's Army's extortion and summary executions. They must also fight for the rights of the innocent victims of the NPA purges, like the deaths of more or less 400 people in Inopacan Leyte due to the CPP-NPA-NDF's 'Oplan Linis' in the late 80s," Cabinoc said.

He said the AFP Bayanihan program had already convinced at least 79 NPA members to return to the fold of the law through the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

"These rebel returnees have found out that their leaders have taken the lion's share of the extortion money taken from mining firms and small-time farmers," he said.

Based on the latest Eastmincom data, two out of 3 NPA rebels in its area of operation are Lumads.

House not likely to meet June 11 deadline to pass BBL

From MindaNews (Jun 5): House not likely to meet June 11 deadline to pass BBL

The House of Representatives is not likely to meet its June 11 deadline to pass the Committee-approved Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) with only a total of five representatives finishing their interpellation this week out of at least 33 who signed up.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (AHCBBL) on Tuesday night admitted that lack of quorum is affecting their June 11 target to pass its substitute bill to the BBL – HB 5811 or the “Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” — but won’t go for the Senate’s new October deadline .

“This should be finished . this should already be finished,, by June 11. Kasi we’re ready naman to defend it,” Rodriguez told MindaNews Tuesday night.

Rodriguez was absent Thursday. On Friday, he told MindaNews “we are still on track to finish it by June 11.”

Told the other representatives are not as optimistic, Rodriguez said, “kaya pa” (we can still finish it).
But Lanao del Sur Rep. Pangalian Balindong, Deputy Speaker for Mindanao, told MindaNews on Thursday morning that meeting the June 11 deadline is not likely.

“I doubt with more than 30 members yet to interpellate and many more to introduce amendments,” he told MindaNews.


Basilan Representative Jim Hataman-Salliman assists Misamis Occidental 2nd district Representative Henry Oaminal as the latter defends provisions of HB 5811 during an interpellation at the House of Representatives on June 4, 2015. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Asked what would be a realistic deadline, Balindong replied, “we will gauge in the progress of today’s session.”

Asked after the session Thursday night, Balindong said, “I don’t think we can meet the deadline on June 11. Mahirap (it’s difficult).

Congress adjourns sine die on June 11.

Basilan Rep. Jim Hataman-Salliman, one of the vice chairs of the Ad Hoc Committee, said they are still “banking on the agreement that we are going to finish this on June 11 unless may bagong plano si Speaker na di pa natin alam (unless the Speaker has a new plan that we still do not know of).


“Apparently, all is not well in the ruling coalition’s front, especially with the development in the Senate,” Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said.

“I think the last minute intervention of (President) Aquino and the Malacanang-initiated version that was made to be voted upon by the House Ad Hoc Committee boomeranged and, unfortunately, this will result to an even more diluted and watered down law and a further setback to the Moro people’s quest for genuine self-determination. “

Gabriela partylist Rep. Luz Ilagan said “the general sentiment is why we are rushing when the Senate is taking its sweet time.”

Zarate, Ilagan and the other members of the Makabayan bloc voted no to the substitute bill when it was put to a vote at the committee level on May 20, claiming the committee’s version will not address the historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro and will instead perpetuate the status quo.

Fifty representatives voted in favor of what is now HB 5811, 17 against and one abstention.

“Hindi nito sasagutin ang historial injustice committed against the Bangsamoro people,” Zarate said in explaining his vote. He said the substitute bill’s promised autonomy is hollow as the control, specifically on resources, still lies with the central government, making it “an empty victory for the Bangsamoro people.”

MILF chair Mohagher Iqbal acknowledged the difficulties both Houses of Congress are experiencing.
Iqbal told MindaNews the fate of the BBL is now in Congress but he expressed hope it would be a BBL faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB.

He reiterated an earlier statement that “the bottomline is, kung ang naipasa ay watered down BBL, di tatanggapin ng MILF yan. (if what is passed is a watered down BBL, the MILF will not accept that).


Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon (LP) said it is “physically impossible for us to finish by June 11.”

“What is the sense in hurrying us (to pass the law by June 11) when the Senate is not going to finish anyway. Do we accomplish anything? Granting we pass the law, we still cannot accomplish anything without the other body,” Biazon, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, told MIndaNews.

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Saturday said October would be the new deadline for the passage of the law as the Senate Committee on Local Government under Senator Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. had yet to finish its committee hearings.

On Tuesday, Marcos delivered a privilege speech rejecting the draft BBL in its present form. He was referring to the draft law that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted to Congress in ceremonial rites in Malacanang on September 10, 2014, and the basis for their hearings.

Marcos said he would present a substitute bill but did not say when. The Marcos Committee has scheduled an additional public hearing on June 9.

At the House of Representatives on Thursday, Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat, who did not finish his interpellation on Wednesday, took the floor again but apparently feeling exasperated by the responses from Misamis Occidental Henry Oaminal, another Ad Hoc Committee vice chair, reserved his right to interpellate the chair himself on the first round on Monday.


Zamboanga City Representative Celso Lobregat raises several issues on his second day of interpellation on  House Bill 5811 on June 4, 2015. Lobregat however reserved some of his questions for Ad Hoc Committee chair Rufus Rodriguez on Monday when the session resumes. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Lobregat raised a number of issues on Wednesday and Thursday, among others, the origins of the word “Moro,” the first time “Bangsamoro” was used, what Rodriguez meant when he said “be on the right side of history” during his sponsorship speech on Monday and what happens to provisions the Committee deleted but are provisions in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014.

Rodriguez was a no-show on Thursday. On Wednesday, he left the session hall shortly before Lobregat’s turn.

On Tuesday night, representatives were informed by SMS that there would be sessions on Thursday and Friday but on Wednesday night, were notified there would be no Friday session anymore.

“Intelligent answers”

Only two representatives finished interpellations on Tuesday – Minority leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya. On Wednesday, only Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves was able to finish interpellation.

Lobregat, who had been wanting to interpellate Rodriguez as the Ad Hoc Committee chair, was not able to finish his interpellation on Wednesday night and Thursday night.

Surprisingly, Buhay party-list and former Manila mayor Rep. Lito Atienza, who had consistently questioned the lack of quorum or stood by the rostrum in an attempt to question the quorum, did not on Thursday night but spoke to express his dissatisfaction over Oamainal’s responses to Lobregat.

Buhay partylist Representative and former Manila City mayor Lito Atienza expresses dissatisfaction on how  Misamis Occidental representative Henry Oaminal response to representative Celso Lobregat during an interpellation. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Buhay partylist Representative and former Manila City mayor Lito Atienza expresses dissatisfaction on how Misamis Occidental representative Henry Oaminal’s  responses to Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat on Thursday, June 4. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

“The sponsor is unable to answer clearly for the record on how we would appreciate the provisions of the proposed law,” he said, proposing that Lobregat be given another chance at interpellation before Rodriguez himself and for Oaminal to “relinquish sponsorship role tonight so that intelligent answers can be provided to us who are listening.”

“We’re not getting anything. Hindi po naman tama yan,” he said, adding Lobregat’s questions are “very, very critical” in the members’ decision but “are not answered in the manner that they should be answered. We’ve been beating around the bush with the answers given.”

Lobregat then said he would reserve his questions for Rodriguez on Monday.

After Atienza spoke, Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Seth Frederick Jalosjos and Palawan Rep. Frederick Abueg who inquired about the opt-in provision. They faced Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong, another Ad Hoc Committee vice chair who took over from Oaminal. Loong explained that HB 5811 is not the final version as representatives have the right to introduce amendments.

Cat and mouse

The session ended at 8:06 p.m. and will resume on Monday, June 8.

The interpellations from Tuesday to Thursday were marked by a seemingly “cat and mouse” game between the Presiding Chair and Atienza who would often rise to question the quorum. As soon as Atienza would approach the rostrum or starts saying “Mr. Speaker,” the Presiding Chair would then immediately suspend the session or order a roll call.

According to the House records, 193 were present during the roll call on Monday, 197 on Tuesday and 191 on Wednesday.

Most of the seats of the House members are empty as interpellation for House Bill 5811 continues on June 4, 2015. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Most of the seats of the House members are empty as interpellation for House Bill 5811 continues on June 4, 2015. MindaNews photo by Toto Lozano

Thurday’s session started at 4 p.m. with only 16 representatives counted by MindaNews inside the session hall. Two minutes later, when Atienza rose apparently to question the quorum, the Presiding Chair, Deputy Speaker Balindong, suspended the session. It resumed only at 5:46 p.m. At its maximum, 70 representatives were present, based on MindaNews’ count.

The House has 290 members; the quorum is 146.

The period of interpellations is followed by the period of amendments and after that, the voting.
Rodriguez had earlier said the deliberations at the plenary would be on June 1 to 3 and 8 to 10.

Is the Philippines about to miss its chance at peace?

From IRIN News (Jun 4): Is the Philippines about to miss its chance at peace?

MILF guards patrol a rebel camp in the southern Philippines

With a bill aimed at ending a decades-long Muslim separatist insurgency in the southern Philippines floundering in congress, observers warn that failure to pass the legislation could reignite the conflict.

After almost 30 years of fighting, the government signed a peace agreement last year with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which has about 12,000 soldiers. The accord requires the MILF to gradually decommission its army, and it would expand the autonomous Muslim area on the southern island of Mindanao, creating a new political entity called Bangsamoro.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was drawn up to provide a framework for governance of the region, which is essential for the peace deal. But the BBL has been stalled in congress since 44 police were killed in a 25 January clash with MILF members, which led some legislators who had initially supported the bill to become harsh critics.

Analysts warn that the peace agreement could fall apart if the stalemate continues much longer.

Leaders of the MILF still support the peace process, but the rank and file is losing patience, and they are looking abroad at the tactics of other Islamic insurgencies, according to Ramon Casiple who heads the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, a Manila-based think tank.

“It is the younger factions that may be waiting in the wings who are in danger of going back to fighting and exposed to other foreign armed groups,” said Casiple.

There is also rising discontent with the peace process on the government side, especially since the battle in January when police commandos strayed into a rebel-held territory while pursuing suspects in the 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali, Indonesia.

Timeline of the conflict

Some politicians saw the incident as evidence that the MILF were not committed to peace, and argued that passing the BBL would only embolden the organisation.

“Armed conflict will ensue; blood will be shed,” said senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of Ferdinand Marcos whose military-backed government was ousted by mass protests in 1986, in a speech on Wednesday.

The younger Marcos argues that the BBL is unconstitutional because it would create “a state within a state”.

The MILF’s chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, has blamed the January clash on police who he said ignored requirements in the peace deal to coordinate with the MILF on any operations in territory under its control.

He urged the government to press ahead with the deal, which he characterised as the last chance for peace after 17 years of negotiation.

“I don’t think the MILF would ever agree – or is capable – to negotiate again for such a long period of time. If we miss this opportunity, I don’t think a similar opportunity will ever present itself again in a generation or two from now,” said Iqbal in an open letter on 19 May.

He said that the younger, “more radical” generation of fighters would be more likely to take up arms again in pursuit of a separate state.

Julkipli Wadi, a political science analyst at the Institute of Islamic Studies in Manila, told IRIN that Iqbal’s warning was a calculated move aimed at pressuring lawmakers to pass the bill. But he added that it was also a valid observation.

Some MILF members have broken away already, forming a group called the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. They reject the peace deal and have pledged to fight for independence.

As politicians debate the BBL, about 32,200 people remain displaced by January’s violence. They remain in limbo, afraid to return to their houses for fear of renewed fighting.

Kimberly Pascua, 18, awaiting her artificial limbs

Civilian victims of the conflict like Kimberly Pascua, 18, are a constant reminder of the consequences of returning to war.

Pascua lost her legs and six family members in a MILF attack five years ago, and she spoke to IRIN at the Davao Jubilee Foundation, which has been helping to rehabilitate her with prosthetic legs with assistance from the International Committee for the Red Cross.

“I hope this time, peace holds and there would be less fighting and less children to be caught in the middle,” she said. “I lost my legs to the conflict, and I wish no more children suffer like me.”

MILF fears more ‘diluted’ provisions in draft BBL

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 5): MILF fears more ‘diluted’ provisions in draft BBL
Rebel group however warns against too much dilution of BBL

ghadzali jaafar

MILF vice chair for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar: Seeing dilutions RYAN LEAGOGO/ FILE PHOTO...

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday expressed fears that the draft charter for a Bangsamoro substate had been diluted in the Senate and the House of Representatives, but said it would await the final product from the lawmakers before taking action.

Ghazali Jaafar, vice chair for political affairs of the MILF, said its Central Committee was respecting the legislative process that Malacañang’s proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was undergoing but would “monitor it with vigilance.”

“We have witnessed dilutions (of the proposed BBL) in the House ad hoc committee. We are afraid that more will either be added or deleted from it and will not be the same as the agreed provisions in the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro),” Jaafar said in a telephone interview with the Inquirer.

Jaafar specifically referred to a privilege speech in the Senate on Wednesday by Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., chair of the Senate committee on local governments holding hearings on the draft BBL, in which he said the proposed measure had unconstitutional provisions and that he was preparing a substitute bill.

Marcos referred to a report by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the committee on constitutional amendments, that the draft BBL could not pass questions in the Supreme Court.

Marcos said that in its present form the proposed Bangsamoro charter would not lead to peace in Mindanao but put the country down the “road to perdition.”

Wait and see

“We will wait and see. This is the official stand of the Central Committee. We will wait for the final outcome from the bicameral body,” Jaafar said.

The MILF leadership, he said, will convene again if ever the final output will significantly deviate from the original draft and the previously signed agreements.

“If the MILF cannot accept the output then we will talk again about our next action and decision,” Jaafar said.

“The government should not waste this opportunity to resolve the conflict peacefully because the MILF is fully committed to the process,” Jaafar added.

It would be very difficult, he said, to jumpstart another peace negotiation if the present process will collapse.

“Some are raising speculations about the Bangsamoro seceding from the entire country. They want a guarantee? The guarantee is to ensure fair treatment to the Moros. The government and the people must make them feel part of the country. If there is justice, good governance and services, I don’t think there will be a reason to separate from the Philippines,” Jaafar said.

Democracy at work

At the weekly Senate news forum on Thursday, Senate President Franklin Drilon repeated an early apprehension that the Malacañang-endorsed BBL would not be passed at the Palace target deadline of June 11, in time for inclusion in President Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 27.

“That was a desired date to finish it, but this is a democracy. We will work on it,” he said.

The massacre of 44 Special Action Force commandos on Jan. 25 while on a mission to take out three international terrorists in the MILF-controlled Mamasapano in Maguindanao province set back Malacañang’s timetable for the creation of a Bangsamoro substate and planned elections on May 2016 for its parliament.

“No matter what you say, the Mamasapano incident delayed the enactment of this critical piece of legislation that can bring stability, peace and progress to Mindanao,” Drilon said.

“We have always said we will review and make sure the BBL is within the four corners of the Constitution,” he said, adding that he did not think that Marcos’ statement that he could not support the Palace version of the BBL could cause much concern.

Drilon disagreed that the Marcos substitute bill would further delay the passage of the draft BBL, saying it was “more convenient” to present the alternative rather than subjecting the measure to amendments.

“The Senate is a collegial body. No one can dictate (on anyone). The senators are all independent. They have their own assessment of the situation and we will debate on this,” he said.

No ‘Plan B’

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda dismissed Marcos’ contention that the draft BBL would “lead to perdition.”

“We strongly disagree with that. In fact, it is a bill that will rather lead to a genuine and peaceful solution to the situation in Mindanao. It was done in consultation with all the stakeholders,” Lacierda said.

“I think we will leave it with our allies in the Senate to do what is proper. We believe that the Bangsamoro Basic Law, as drafted, is the best course of action,” he said.

On Wednesday, Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, said the administration had no “Plan B” should Congress fail to pass the draft BBL, pointing out that Aquino’s term ends next year and “a new set of actors will come in.”

“We have to deliver what we have to deliver in this administration,” Deles told reporters on Wednesday. “My work is to do things under this administration. That is what this government is taking on.”

Kidnap raps vs NDF's Jalandoni could scuttle chances for peace talks' resumption - lawyer

From InterAksyon (Jun 4): Kidnap raps vs NDF's Jalandoni could scuttle chances for peace talks' resumption - lawyer

The subpoena for a kidnapping complaint issued against Luis Jalandoni, the chief peace negotiator of communist rebels, could scuttle any chances of resuming negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front, a lawyer warned.

NDF legal consultant Edre Olalia called the inclusion of Jalandoni in the complaint filed over the capture of four policemen by the New People’s Army in Mindanao last year "treacherous."

Olalia warned that the criminal complaint and subpoena against Jalandoni might "seriously prejudice any potential resurrection of the peace negotiations under the present administration."

As chairman of the NDF peace negotiating panel, Jalandoni has often helped facilitate the release of government personnel captured by the NPA, which Olalia explained was within the NDF’s "legitimate exercise of its rights and duties under international humanitarian law as a national liberation movement."

On July 10 last year, rebels captured Police Officer 3 Vic Calubag, PO1s Rey O’Niel Morales, Edito Roquino Jr. and Joen Zabala during a raid on the police station of Alegria town, Surigao del Norte. The four were released on July 29 and turned over to emissaries and government officials, among them Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II.

Subsequently, police filed a complaint against Jalandoni, NDF Mindanao spokesman Jorge Madlos and 32 others for kidnapping with serious illegal detention and violation of Republic Act 9851, which criminalizes violations of international humanitarian law and “other crimes against humanity.” The complaint alleged that the rebels who seized the policemen “take direct orders from Luis G. Jalandoni and Jorge Madlos.”

The Surigao del Norte provincial prosecutor’s office, finding probable cause, issued the subpoena, a copy of which was dropped last week in the mailbox of the home of a close relative of Jalandoni in Bel-Air, Makati City last week “with no people” and “not registered mail,” a source close to the family said.

This prompted immediate condemnation from Jose Ma. Sison, Communist Party of the Philippines founder and NDF chief political consultant, who demanded that “the Aquino regime should respect the JASIG (Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees) and allow the safe passage of Jalandoni to his negotiating post and office in The Netherlands."

Jalandoni is a naturalized Dutch citizen and lives in Utrecht, where the NDF international office is based and where Sison also lives in exile.

Olalia also questioned the "deliberate delay" in the service of the subpoena, which he said "smacks of bad faith, is anomalous and legally ineffective."  

He added that the complaint against Jalandoni “could not prosper on factual and legal grounds.” 

Aside from this, he said the complaint violates the bilateral JASIG, which protects negotiators of both parties, their security and staff, from nuisance or harassment suits.

Formal peace negotiations between the government and the NDF stalled in April 2013. 

In October last year, a government delegation met with the NDF in the Netherlands on the possibility of resuming the formal talks. 

In a report by, Jalandoni was quoted as saying that in December 2014, a draft agreement on the timetable for the discussions and agreements on both the regular and special tracks of the negotiations was crafted.

“Unfortunately, the Mamasapano fiasco and the resultant backlash on the GPH-MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) peace process, in general, and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, in particular, have also adversely affected the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations,” Jalandoni said in the report.