Saturday, June 20, 2015

[Part 1] Moro Mindanao rehabilitation: Lessons from the past

From the Thought Leaders section of Rappler (Jun 20): [Part 1] Moro Mindanao rehabilitation: Lessons from the past (by Patricio N. Abinales)

'It was not American soldiers who made the most transforming impact on the war zones of the southern Philippines; it was their civilian counterparts who had brought about these profound positive changes'

In the March 30, 2011 issue of USA Today, Jim Michaels wrote a special report about his time with US Special Forces working with Philippine troops in Basilan island in the Sulu archipelago, southwest of the country’s second largest island, Mindanao. The area had been tagged by the Bush administration as the “second front on the war on terror,” and Michaels was sent by his newspaper to check on whether reports about Filipino-American success against the local terrorist group, the Abu Sayyaf, were indeed accurate.

He opened his piece with a reminder to his readers of the Philippines’ (and Mindanao-Sulu’s) strategic significance: “Though not widely known, the Philippines was once threatened to become an epicenter of al Qaeda. In the 1990s, before Osama bin Laden became a household name in America, top al-Qaeda leaders such as September 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were in this Pacific island chain developing ambitious plans to strike at America and the West.”

He then explained what has happened since the Special Forces established their working relationship with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): “[T]he small U.S. contingent [gave] the Philippine military the tools and know-how to decimate Abu Sayyaf on its own…at minimal cost in lives and dollars.”

The report said only 17 American soldiers had died since the program was implemented (3 in bombings, the rest from a helicopter crash). In contrast, the Abu Sayyaf had been decimated from a force of 1,200 in 2001, to only about 400, and 28 of its leaders had been either killed or captured.

And while American taxpayers were shelling out $2 billion dollars a week in Afghanistan, the costs of the Philippine operations had been a minimal $50 million per year. When Michaels asked Brigadier-General Edward Reeder, commander of the Army’s Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg about this, the latter replied: “Nobody understands it better than the soldiers that have experience in the Philippines….They understand counterinsurgency. Is it a future model for counterinsurgencies? Absolutely!”

Yet what Michael did not tell us was how constricted this site of US combat operations was. While some US Special Forces units were based in Mindanao, most were concentrated in Basilan, a dense, forested, sparsely populated island half the size of Rhode Island. And it was a threat that appeared to be already under control with the 400 remaining Abu Sayyaf members hardly the same force that proclaimed a jihad against the Philippine state in the early 1990s. In fact, the real and serious threats to the Philippine state could be found in the larger, better armed insurgent groups operating in the larger Mindanao island: the MILF, with a 14,000-strong armed force, which once dreamt of fighting to separate Mindanao and Sulu from the national body politic; and the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army (8,000-strong nationwide) with its illusions of replicating Mao Tse Tung’s dream in the Philippines.

These two “movements” had accumulated enough military and political experience in their long-drawn wars against the AFP, and possessed the capacity to undermine Philippine security in the long run. But the US – both for diplomatic and political reasons – had kept its forces away from being actively involved in dealing with these insurgencies. In the tail end of Michael’s report, he mentioned the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its $100-million support “to boost the Philippine economy and build government institutions…in the Muslim-dominated southern Philippines…have quietly thwarted al-Qaeda’s intention of gaining a foothold in Asia.”

How exactly USAID did this, Michaels did not elaborate to readers: the successful adventures of men with guns proved to be more exciting to an American audience weary of stories of failure in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Michaels made it appear that the agency was only playing second fiddle to the military’s civic action programs. This was slightly disingenuous on the journalist’s part. In fact, it was not American soldiers who made the most transforming impact on the war zones of the southern Philippines (both Basilan and Mindanao); it was their civilian counterparts who had brought about these profound positive changes.

Almost a decade before the General David Petreaus’ approach to counter-insurgency became the official doctrine for America’s wars abroad, USAID was demobilizing insurgents and preventing them from returning to the battlefields, in limiting the ability of other insurgent groups to expand their areas of operations and spheres of influence, and, most important of all, in catalyzing some development in “unstable” Muslim Mindanao.

If you explore USAID’s livelihood rehabilitation program that was established to assist former combatants of the MNLF in returning to “civilian life” and getting themselves back into productive activity, it actually worked and continues to work out rather well.

This is the first part of an abridged report I wrote as a fellow at Washington DC’s Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The proposal I submitted and was approved was to try to figure out why 70% of Filipino Muslims support the presence of US troops in Mindanao. This was an anomaly that puzzled my hosts, given that by 2010, they were already so used to forum after forum, op-ed piece after op-ed piece that tried to explain why the American adventure in Iraq was a dismal failure. And here, in Mindanao, was a $40-million successful project in contrast to the billions of dollars wasted on Iraqi state building

MILF: Editorial -- Decommissioning not surrender

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Jun 18): Decommissioning not surrender

Decommissioning is a general term for a formal process to remove something from an active status.  To decommission is to remove or retire (a ship, airplane, or weapons, as used in the GPH-MILF normalization process).
It can also mean to deactivate or shut out, say a nuclear power plant.  It can never equate or will ever interchange or confuse with the word “surrender”.  Surrender is to yield (something) to the possession or power of another; deliver up possession of on demand or under duress: to surrender the fort to the enemy; to surrender the stolen goods to the police. Decommissioning has none of all those elements (of surrender).

More importantly, decommissioning, in the context of the GPH-MILF normalization process, is a principled approach in skirting any stigma of surrender on the part of the MILF, which is an ideologically-based movement.

First, decommissioning is part of agreement. It is one of the components of the Annex on Normalization of the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB).  The other components are redeployment of government forces, socio-economic intervention in the Bangsamoro, disbandment of private armed groups, grant of amnesty and pardons, disposition of previously acknowledged MILF camps, conduct of study on transitional justice and reconciliation, putting up of normalization trust fund, etc.

Briefly stated decommissioning is not pursued alone or singly but is interlinked and parallel with the other processes aimed at normalizing the situation in the Bangsamoro.

Second, those decommissioned weapons are not turned over to the government but to an international third body, the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) composed of Turkey, Norway, and Brunei.

And third, except for the symbolic decommissioning, the subsequent three phases (2, 3 and 4) are tied up to the passage and ratification of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the operationalization of the Bangsamoro Police, and the implementation of all the agreements of the parties.

Some people question the MILF why it agreed to decommission its weapons (and combatants). The answer is very simple. Aside from the above-mentioned reasons, one cannot get or achieve something lofty and big without paying for it also dearly. Besides, who will be in need of weapons when the Moro Problem or Question, the sole agenda of the GPH-MILF peace talks since 1997, has been satisfactorily settled through the passage of the BBL. Hence, only duly constituted authority, like the Bangsamoro police, will bear arms to maintain peace and order in the Bangsamoro.

Admittedly, decommissioning is one of the most difficult decisions ever made by the MILF. It is so sensitive and the impact far-reaching that require long debates and soul-searching. However, at the end of the day, wisdom prevails over those whose articulations hinged mainly on fleeting considerations.

However, that BBL is not any BBL; it should and must be a good BBL. This is the reason that we consistently appeal to Congress to pass a law that is faithful to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Short of this benchmark, that BBL is a watered down version, which the MILF cannot and will not accept.

CPP/NDF/NPA: Mapaminsalang Kumpanya sa Mina, Pinarusahan ng Tomas Pilapil Command!

NDF/NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jun 18): Mapaminsalang Kumpanya sa Mina, Pinarusahan ng Tomas Pilapil Command! (Harmful Companies in Mina, punished by the Thomas Pilapil Command!

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Tomas Pilapil Command – Bagong Hukbong Bayan
Partido Area – Camarines Sur
Pahayag sa Midya
Ipinatupad ng isang yunit ng Tomas Pilapil Command – Bagong Hukbong Bayan (TPC – BHB) ang atas ng Demokratikong Gubyernong Bayan na parusahan ang kumpanyang Bicol Chromite And Manganese Inc. sa Brgy. Himagtocon, Lagonoy, Camarines Sur at sirain ang mga kagamitan nito na kinakasangkapan sa pagdambong sa yamang mineral ng bansa at pagsira sa kalikasan. Ino-opereyt ang nasabing kumpanya ng isang Lydia Cu. Ganap na sinira ng mga operatiba ng TPC-BHB ang isang backhoe, isang bulldozer, isang owner-type jeep, at mga generator set. Humigit kumulang 10 milyong piso ang pinsalang tinamo ng mapanirang kumpanya sa mina. Ang pagparusa ay ipinatupad nitong Hunyo 18, 2015 bandang alas-6 ng gabi.

Ang hakbang na ito ay tugon rin sa matagal nang reklamo ng mga residente sa mga bulubunduking barangay ng Himagtocon, Pinamihagan, Del Carmen at Bocogan sa bayan ng Lagonoy, Camarines Sur dahil sa patuloy na pagsira ng naturang kumpanya sa kanilang mga komunidad dulot ng walang-habas na pagmimina na sumisira sa kapaligiran.

 Ang kabundukan ng Lagonoy ay isa sa mga lugar sa Rehiyong Bikol na maraming nakaimbak na mineral tulad ng chromite, ginto, manganese at iba pa. Mula pa noong matapos ang ikalawang Digmaang Pandaigdig ay sinimulan na ang pagdambong ng mga dayuhan at pagsira sa mga likas na yaman at rekurso. Nagpalit-palit na rin ang mga dayuhang kumpanya na nagmina rito.

Walang programa ang gubyerno ni BS Aquino III, maging ang mga naunang rehimen, para sa tunay na industriyalisasyon ng bansa. Sa halip na linangin ang mga yamang mineral tungo sa pag-unlad ng lokal na industriya, hinayaan lamang ng mga naghaharing rehimen ang malalaking dayuhang kumpanya na hakutin patungo sa labas ng bansa ang mga hilaw na materyales na magagamit sana sa paglikha ng mga makinarya at kagamitan para sa pambansang industriyalisasyon.

Kabaliktaran sa sinasabi ng gobyerno na ”kaunlaran” at ”maayos na trabaho” para sa mga lokal na residente ang ibubunga ng mga dayuhang mining investment, nananatiling pinakamahirap ang nasabing mga baryo sa Lagonoy. Ang bayan ng Lagonoy mismo ay isa sa nananatiling mahirap na bayan sa Camarines Sur at buong Bikol.

Nananawagan ang TPC-BHB sa mamamayan ng Partido Area sa Camarines Sur na makiisa sa paglaban sa pagpapahintulot ng rehimeng US-Aquino sa walang-awat na pagdambong ng malalaking dayuhang kumpanya sa yamang mineral ng bansa at sa nagreresultang malawakang pagkasira ng kapaligiran.

Ka Baldomero Arcangel

CPP/NDF: NPA ambushes counterrevolutionary and anti-people elements in Butuan City

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP website (Jun 13): NPA ambushes counterrevolutionary and anti-people elements in Butuan City

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Media Statement

A team of the New People’s Army under Western Agusan Norte-Agusan Sur Sub-regional (NPA-WANAS) Command ambushed the notorious surrenderee-turned-regular AFP soldier and Military Intelligence Company (MICO) operative, Alan “Alay” Dalayan. This happened in Brgy. Bit-os, Butuan City in June 5, around 8:00 am, while he was conducting his intelligence rounds.

In June 9, on the day his burial was supposed to take place, an NPA unit harassed troops of the PNP-SAF in Brgy. Bitan-agan who were launching combat operations to secure the visit of Mar Roxas to Butuan City.

The following are his offenses:

1. Stealing a 30 cal. machine gun and a stoke mortar from the NPA and collaborating with a politician to sell it to the AFP
2. Guiding enemy troops in an attack against comrades on the very day he turned his cloak in May 2001
3. Harassment, breaking up of mass organizations and forcing civilians to surrender
4. Misusing the revolutionary movement’s financial resources
5. Close coordination with other traitors in the establishment of the counterrevolutionary bandit BULIF in Lumad communities.

He believed that because he lived for more than a decade after becoming a traitor, his offenses to the revolution will be completely forgotten. The record of his offenses to the people and the revolution remained. With the advance of the armed revolution, all records of crimes and offenses will always remain in the memory of the victims. In the end, he was gripped by the high hand of justice.

On the other hand, a team under NPA-WANAS ambushed the anti-peasant, Pedyboy “Bobong” Agwanta in the afternoon of June 7 in Brgy. San Mateo, Butuan City. Agwanta once killed a peasant and was a notorious landgrabber who has dispossessed numerous families who were evicted from the plots they tilled. His acts were long detested by the peasants who have nothing else to turn to but the revolutionary movement. He was also an active asset of the PNP-South Station in San Mateo, Butuan City and an illegal drug dealer, as well.

The revolutionary movement will continue to purge the oppressive and domineering elements in the barrios of Butuan City. May this serve as a warning to those who have committed crimes and offenses against the people and the revolution. The still have time to change.

AFP sets more surveillance in West Philippine Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 20): AFP sets more surveillance in West Philippine Sea

The military will be conducting more surveillance in the West Philippine Sea following China’s pronouncement that it would be building more structures on the artificial islands in the contested area.

Asked if the military was alarmed that China had continued its reclamation efforts in the disputed territory, Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr. said it would double check if China had indeed expanded its reach.

“We still have to verify it, we will conduct another reconnaissance in the area,” Catapang said.

Recent surveillance images showed that land reclamation is in progress on Kagitingan (Fiery Cross), Calderon (Cuarteron), Burgos (Gaven), Mabini (Johnson South), Panganiban (Mischief), Zamora (Subi) and McKennan (Hughes) reefs in the West Philippine Sea, which are within the country’s 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone.

Catapang said it would follow the lead of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the issue.
“The lead here is the DFA. We are just standing by their next move. We have already proven that, indeed, China has put up reclamation in the area that is not consonance with international law. So it’s the DFA’s move,” the military official said.

The Philippines is locked in a maritime row with China, which is claiming nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea.

Without a strong military to show force, the Philippines has adopted a rules-based, diplomatic approach to resolve the issue, filing a case against China with the United Nations arbitral tribunal.
The Philippines also took on a multilateral approach to deal with the maritime dispute, recognizing that there are other claimants within Southeast Asia.

Earlier, China said the land reclamation of reefs in the Spratly Islands is nearing completion and that more infrastructure will be built for maritime search and rescue and environmental conservation scientific research.

This despite an ongoing case before the United Nations filed by the Philippines, challenging China’s actions in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, the festering South China Sea territorial dispute is causing fear among Filipinos, according to the pollster Social Weather Stations (SWS).

The independent polling outfit said eight in 10 Filipinos are worried that China’s expanded presence in the disputed region could lead to “armed conflict” with the world’s most populous nation.
The SWS said this sentiment had weighed on people’s minds since the Philippines backed down from a tense standoff with China over control of rich fishing grounds around Scarborough Shoal in 2012.

The study showed 84 percent of 1,200 respondents were “worried” about armed conflict with China.

Malacañang yesterday acknowledged the fears of people, saying it is in the “best interest” of the country to resolve the maritime dispute with China through diplomatic means.

“It’s natural for people to worry about armed conflict because it’s a given that in conflict, no one wins,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

DavNor declared peaceful, ready for development

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jun 20): DavNor declared peaceful, ready for development

DAVAO del Norte has been declared peaceful and ready for development during the conduct of the 16th leg of the Association of Regional Executives of National Agencies in Talaingod town on Friday.

Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmicom) spokesperson Captain Alberto Caber said the declaration was based on improved security situation in Davao del Norte through the resolution made by municipal and provincial peace and order councils.

 Caber said seven provinces are under the Eastmincom's area of responsibility that were declared as peaceful and ready for development from 2011 up to this month.

He added that among the provinces are South Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao Oriental, Camiguin, Dinagat Island, Davao del Sur, and Davao del Norte.

"With the strong collaboration of all concerned government agencies and NGOs, we have again achieved another Bayanihan success for the greater good of the people in Talaingod. We are all united for peace and development in this province. This is a concrete example of what we call whole of nation approach," Baladad said.

The declaration was signed by Eastmicom commander Aurelio Baladad, Army's 10th Infantry Division commander Eduardo Ano, Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo del Rosario, provincial police director Alex Roldan and Arena Davao Region president Mariano Alquiza.

US notes 24% drop in terror attacks in PH

From the Manila Times (Jun 20): US notes 24% drop in terror attacks in PH

Call of Duty  Army soldiers pose for pictures during an independence Day exhibit at the fort Bonifacio in taguig city. PHoto by Melyn Acosta

Call of Duty: Army soldiers pose for pictures during an independence Day exhibit at the fort Bonifacio in taguig city. PHoto by Melyn Acosta
As Islamic jihadists fuelled a huge spike in terror attacks last year with the global death toll soaring 81 percent, the Philippines witnessed a 24 percent drop in attacks, a US State Department report released in Washington on Friday (Saturday in the Philippines) said.

According to the Country Reports on Terrorism 2014 prepared by the State Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism, the drop in the number of attacks was attributed to the improved cooperation between Manila and Washington.

“Terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and the Communist People’s Party/New People’s Army (CPP/NPA), were unable to conduct major attacks compared to previous years due to continuous pressure from Philippine counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts. Terrorist groups’ acts included criminal activities designed to generate revenue for self-sustainment, such as kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and bombings for hire,” the report which was posted on the State Department’s website said.

The report however said that despite “sustained pressure on terrorist organizations,” terrorist and rebel groups in Mindanao managed to retained its capability to make improvised bombs and engage in small-scale attacks.

The State Department likewise gave credit to the progress in the implementation of the country’s Internal Peace and Security Plan which calls for the transition of internal security operations from the military to the Philippine National Police. It however branded the transition as “slow and ineffective”.

“Continued violent extremist activity, as well as counterterrorism gaps between the AFP and the PNP, slowed this transition and forced the AFP to continue playing the lead counterterrorism role in the Philippines,” the report said.

The State Department also took note of the government’s push to enact the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and efforts to curb the potential threat posed by radical supporters of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the risk of ISIL elements traveling to the Philippines to promote violent extremism in the country or seek safe haven as among the situations to watch out for in the Philippines.

Commenting on the State Department’s report, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Philippines is “firmly determined to address these challenges”.

“Government is firmly determined to address these challenges through intensified security measures and pursuit of peace-building initiatives,” he said in a text message.

The State Department report mentioned the Aquino administration’s move to prioritize having the 2007 Human Security Act amended to enable it to conform to international standards; ease the strict monetary penalties and prison terms against law enforcement officials involved in cases where individuals are wrongly accused and later acquitted; and remove barriers to support investigations.

“The (Anti-Terrorism Council) Project Management Center, in coordination with the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) Secretariat and the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office, ensured the final version of the HSA was fully in line with the Terrorism Financing Prevention Act and other Anti-Money Laundering Act and Philippine government initiatives prior to submission to the House of Representatives,” the report said.

While the report criticizes the limited capabilities and “mixed record of accountability and respect for human rights of specialized counterterrorism units like the National Bureau of Investigation and the PNP Special Action Force, it gave credit to the continued improvement in the security of Philippine passports.

It also mentioned the country’s commitment to improve transportation and port security by increasing security capabilities at its airports, seaports, and bus terminals.

The State Department report moreover said an “under-resourced and understaffed law enforcement and judicial system, coupled with widespread official corruption” led to “limited domestic investigations, unexecuted arrest warrants, few prosecutions, and lengthy trials of cases.”

“Philippine investigators and prosecutors lacked necessary tools to build strong cases, including a lack of clear processes for requesting judicially-authorized interception of terrorist communications, entering into plea bargains with key witnesses, and seizing assets of those suspected in benefiting from terrorism,” it said.

The full State Department reported said there were 13,463 attacks in 95 countries in 2014 — up by a third from the year before — with Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan bearing the brunt of extremist violence, the State Department said in a report.

The largest number of attacks were carried out by Islamic State (IS) militants, who unleashed 1,083 assaults last year as part of a deadly march across Iraq and Syria. The Taliban were the next most lethal group, with 894 attacks.

There was also a sharp rise in violence in Nigeria, where Boko Haram’s Islamist militants have been spreading terror in the north. Some 7,512 people were killed in 662 attacks.

The report also highlighted a rise in “lone offender violent extremists in the West” such as the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January in Paris.

“The terrorism challenges that we face continue to evolve at a rapid pace and we cannot predict with precision what the landscape will look like one decade or even really a year from now,” said top US counterterrorism envoy Tina Kaidanow, unveiling the 2014 Country Reports on Terrorism.

“We must do more to address the cycle of violent extremism and transform the very environment from which these terrorist movements emerge.”

Acknowledging that most of the recorded attacks were in war zones, Kaidanow denounced the “savagery” seen last year which had spurred the high death toll.

Kidnappings also jumped by a third, with more than 9,400 people taken hostage, three times as many as in 2013. Ransoms have been used by both IS and Al-Qaeda as an effective way to raise money.

But Kaidanow said the numbers did not tell the whole story, saying the US has been effective over the past year in building up a coalition to help fight militant groups, choke off funding and stem the flow of foreign fighters.

3 Abu Sayyaf group members arrested in Palawan — military

From GMA News (Jun 20): 3 Abu Sayyaf group members arrested in Palawan — military

Security forces arrested three Abu Sayyaf group members in Palawan on Thursday, a military report on Saturday said.

The report identified the three as Alnaser Sawadjaan, Jardin Hajuli, and Alig Pandah – all from Sulu province.

During police interrogation, the three revealed that their leader, one Muammar Askali, is in Puerto Princesa City for a kidnap mission in time for the Baragatan festival.
Also, the military report said Marines and police personnel on patrol in Sitio Bagong Buhay in barangay Sumbeling in Bataraza town nabbed the three bandits at about 12:40 p.m.

The three, who were brought to the  Bataraza police station, yielded a cal.-45 handgun.

Sawadjaan, the report said, is the son of the late Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Jul Asman Sawadjaan who is blamed for the kidnapping of Jordanian journalist Baker Attani three years ago in Sulu.
Askali, on the other hand, masterminded the bombing of a  police camp in Sulu last May 29.

Fourteen police personnel were injured in the attack, the military report added.

PMA honors PNP OIC Espina a month before retirement

From GMA News (Jun 20): PMA honors PNP OIC Espina a month before retirement

OIC Police Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina is joined by kin and friends during testimonial honors ceremony hosted by the Philippine Military Academy at Fort del Pilar in Baguio City on June 20, 2015. Saleema Devi Refran

Philippine National Police OIC Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina was awarded with testimonial honors at the Philippine Military Academy, a report from GMA's “Balitanghali” said Saturday.
According to the report, Espina arrived at the PMA in Fort Del Pilar, Baguio City around 8:40 a.m. where he was first welcomed with arrival honors by the PMA administration led by Lt. Gen. Oscar Lopez, PMA superintendent.
[Video report]
This was followed by a testimonial parade conducted by the PMA Cadet Corps.
Lopez said testimonial honors are only given to PMA graduates who achieve the highest rank in the uniformed services like the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
However, he said Espina, though only an OIC and technically not a full-fledged PNP chief was an exception for he demonstarted the PMA's motto of courage, integrity and loyalty.
Lopez said Espina proved this with how he handled himself and the situation during the Senate hearings following the Mamasapano clash last January where 44 police commandos were slain in a covert mission in Maguindanao.
In one of those hearings, Espina became emotional and broke down while asking the Moro Islamic Liberation Front representatives why his men were killed even after they already surrendered.
Meanwhile, in his speech, Espina thanked his family and those who supported him during his nearly four decades of service with the PNP.
The testimonial honors come a month prior to Espina's retirement.

Espina was appointed officer-in-charge of the PNP after Director General Alan Purisima was suspended in relation to a graft case. Purisima has since resigned as PNP chief but is still a member of the national police. 

Terror groups evolving, growing via social media: expert

From ABS-CBN (Jun 20): Terror groups evolving, growing via social media: expert

MANILA - A terrorism expert expressed alarm over a 2014 US report saying terror attacks and deaths have risen sharply since 2013.

Professor Rommel Banlaoi of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research said that while global efforts against terrorism have improved, terror groups have also been evolving and actively recruiting members via social media.

"Terrorist organizations are evolving, threats are evolving. Although there are tremendous efforts to counter terrorism worldwide, terrorist groups also have a way to innovate and learn from their mistakes and also learn from their victories," Banlaoi said in an interview on ANC's "Dateline Philippines" Saturday.

He said countries must implement local and international counter-measures to address the root causes of terrorism and insurgencies.

"While we are fighting the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the Al Qaeda has not been eliminated yet. Now we are confronting two types of terrorist organization that have the capability to wreak havoc in international community," he said.

"Crucial to the fight against terrorism is to address all underlying conditions," Banlaoi added.

The US report comes less than a week after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (US) said the Abu Sayyaf Group is coddling five international terrorists.

The State Department said there were 13,463 attacks in 95 countries in 2014 -- up by a third from 9,700 the year before -- with Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan bearing the brunt of extremist violence.
Most of the attacks were carried out by Islamic State militants, who unleashed 1,083 assaults last year as part of a deadly march across Iraq and Syria. The Taliban were the next most lethal group, with 894 attacks.

There was also a sharp rise in violence in Nigeria, where Boko Haram's Islamist militants have been spreading terror in the north. There, some 7,512 people were killed in 662 attacks.

Decommissioning manifests MILF’s transformation -- Murad

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 19): Decommissioning manifests MILF’s transformation -- Murad

“For some people, the event today is about statistics, 145 MILF and 75 firearms but this is not. It is something deeply personal to us,” Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Central Committee Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said during the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of the MILF combatants on Tuesday.

Ebrahim said, "As I look at the basis of each of our 145 brothers here, I see 145 stories of struggle, pain, hopelessness and even of death. I also see 145 stories of hope that indeed peace is near,” he added.

The event was the first phase of the decommissioning process under the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed last March 2014.

He emphasized, this decision is "to show MILF’s firm commitment to comply with the principal agreements signed with the Philippine government knowing that the President understands and feels what they have been going through. How it is to be under the oppressive regime."

Chairman Murad expressed gratitude to President Aquino for his unwavering commitment to their partnership to build a democratic, peaceful and safe society for the Bangsamoro.

He stressed, this is the beginning of the transformation of the MILF from an armed revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people.

Today is not yet the completion and culmination of our hopes and dreams.  It is a significant event because we proclaim our commitment to peace not by words but by action,  we’re ready and distinctive partner in building a new corner of peace, security and development not just for the Bangsamoro but for all,” Murad said.

The 75 weapons were turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) headed by the Turkish Ambassador to NATO Haydar Berk with representatives of Norway, Brunei and the GPH and MILFpanels as members.

The decommissioned weapons were stored at Camp Abubakar in Sitio Bombaran, Barangay Tugaig in Barira, Maguindanao wherein 30 members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPST) are assigned to ensure security of the storage area under the supervision of the Joint Verification and Monitoring Team (JVMT).

MILF freely chooses the right road that leads to attaining just and lasting peace”- Iqbal

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 18): “MILF freely chooses the right road that leads to attaining just and lasting peace”- Iqbal

Some 145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIAF-MILF) combatants have registered manifesting intention to formally join the decommissioning under the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III together with some cabinet members, legislators, GPH-MILF peace panels, local officials, religious and security sectors and other stakeholders graced  the ceremonial turnover of weapons and decommissioning of the MILF Combatants on Tuesday at the Old Provincial Capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Decommissioning is a process that includes activities aimed at achieving a smooth transition for the BIAF members to productive civilian life. The MILF shall undertake a graduated program for the decommissioning of its forces and turn-over of weapons so that these are put beyond use.

 According to MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal: “We are at the crossroad after 17 years of hard and long negotiations and now through a strong partnership between the GPH-MILF we are here working for peace.”

Iqbal explained that there are two roads wherein we have to choose the right one because it will lead us to attain the just and lasting peace.

“The first road will lead us to dark Bangsamoro area where there is no hope, no peace and no justice while the second road leads us to a Bangsamoro area that is happy, peaceful, prosperous and free,” he said.

He added the MILF had made a choice.  Choosing a Bangsamoro that is happy and peaceful, with security over insecurity, freedom over war, development over poverty – that is our choice, we choose it freely, we choose it for the Bangsamoro and we choose it for all Filipinos who seek peace.

“This is the hope and aspiration of the Philippine government under H.E President Benigno Aquino III and the MILF led by chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim – this is also the hope and sincere expectation of the Malaysian government as third party facilitator,” Iqbal said.

The MILF peace panel chair said, this decision is one of the most difficult decisions they have done in their years of struggle for self determination.

“We want to show to the world that the MILF will always comply the congregations set for the peace agreements,” he stressed.

He emphasized that if one wants peace, prepare for peace. This is the start of MILF’s preparation for peace time in the Bangsamoro by taking this decommissioning - it is the first of the many slides towards the achievement for peace.

A total of 75 weapons consisting of garand rifles, carbines, M-203 armalite rifles, caliber 50 barrel rifle, rocket propelled grenade launchers, caliber 50 machine guns, 81 mm mortars and 60mm mortars were turned over to the Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) led by Turkish Ambassador Haydar Berk with Norway and Brunei as well as GPH and MILF representatives as members.

The weapons have been transported to Camp Abubakar for storage under close security by government and MILF forces.

3ID wants to sustain peace gains

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 20): 3ID wants to sustain peace gains

A two-day mission planning workshop last June 14 and 15 was conducted by the 3rd Infantry Division to plan out strategies to sustain the current peace accomplishments of 3ID soldiers in the area of operation.

Early this month, the 3ID has attained its target to make all the cities and provinces on its area of operation Peaceful and Ready for Further Development (PRFD).

“Our job does not stop with the declaration of Peaceful and Ready for Further Development communities, instead, the larger challenge that lies is the sustainment of our efforts so we will not get lost in the right tract to attain development and just and lasting peace,” said 3ID assistant division commander B/Gen. Reynaldo Mutiangpili.

The activity was conducted a couple of days after Department of National Defense (DND) Sec. Voltaire Gazmin visited the 3ID at Camp Macario Peralta, Jr. in Jamindan town and lauded the excellent performance of the spearhead troopers on the PRFD achievement.

However, the DND official has reminded the troops to remain alert and cautious in the journey of bringing peace despite the PRFD declaration.

The peace and order development was achieved after the province of Negros Occidental was declared peaceful and the Negrenses are ready for further development thru a resolution that was unanimously approved by the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) of Negros Occidental last June 10.

The eight other provinces of Iloilo, Aklan, Capiz, Antique, Negros Oriental, Guimaras, Cebu and Siquijor have earlier manifested their desire for sustainable peace and development.

Army battalion, namahagi ng mga textbooks sa Dinalungan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jun 18): Army battalion, namahagi ng mga textbooks sa Dinalungan [Army battalion, distributes textbooks in Dinalungan (Aurora)]

Humigit kumulang 600 mag-aaral sa bayan ng Dinalungan ang nakinabang kamakailan sa mga textbooks na bigay ng 56th Infantry Battalion (56IB) ng Philippine Army.
May kabuuang 29 na kahon ang naipamahagi sa Paulino Bautista Elementary School, Abuleg Elementary School, at Ditawini Elementary School.

Buong pasasalamat ng mga guro sa mga naturang paaralan pagkat malaking bagay raw para sa kani-kanilang mga klase na may sariling aklat ang mga estudyante.

Sa isang pahayag, sinabi ni 56IB head Lt. Col. Joey Escanillas na nakita nila ang hirap ng kalagayan sa pag-aaral ng mga bata kaya isinulong nila ang ganitong programa.

Pangunahin aniya sa kanilang sandatahan ang suportahan ang edukasyon dahil naniniwala sila na ito ang siyang susi sa katahimikan at kapayapaan ng isang lugar tungo sa pag-unlad

Decommissioning a painful 'healing process' for MILF

From the Philippine Star (Jun 20): Decommissioning a painful 'healing process' for MILF

Members of the Turkey-led multinational Independent Decommissioning Body inspect the firearms turned in for safekeeping by a group of Moro Islamic Liberation Front members. Unson

The Moro guerillas decommissioned on June 16 are still trying to move on from separation with guns that were for them a badge of courage and icon of a never ending struggle for self-rule.

For now disarmed guerillas Abdulwahid and Guiamudin, who had figured in many encounters with soldiers in hostile areas in Central Mindanao, moving on from their having turned in their rifles for safekeeping by the International Decommissioning Body is like detaching slowly from pain caused by a death of a family member.

"But we have to move on just the same even if we aren’t sure yet if our (peace) agreement with government shall be implemented in letter and spirit because this is a healing process and there must be trust, there must be giving and sharing," Abdulwahid said in the Maguindanaon dialect.

The figurehead of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, most known as Hadji Murad, and MILF's chief negotiator, Mohagher Iqbal, had both said it was so difficult for the 145 guerillas to agree to disarmament by the Turkey-led IDB amid uncertainties on the fate of their final peace compact with government.

Turkey is a member-state of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of more than 50 Muslim nations, including petroleum-exporting countries in the Middle East and North Africa.
Also helping in the government-MILF peace efforts are the European Union and Norway and OIC-members Malaysia, Indonesia, Libya and Brunei.

Matas, who also decommissioned last June 16 before President Benigno Aquino III during the symbolic disarmament of a group of MILF fighters in keeping with a normalization deal with government, said many of his younger companions cautioned him against turning over his firearm to the IDB, but proceeded nonetheless.

"Maybe by agreeing to disarm and to have my gun kept by the IDB, people opposing the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) will realize that we are indeed dedicated to this peace process," he said in the vernacular.

Some of the 145 rebels that bade their firearms goodbye had, in the 1970s, fought combatants of the Philippine Army and the now defunct Philippine Constabulary alongside Hadji Murad, then still a field commander of the Moro National Liberation Front, from where the MILF had splintered from in the early 1980s.

Murad said each of the 145 guerillas have stories of pain, hunger, dislocation and joy in their many years of fighting better armed government security forces.

The guerillas turned in infantry rifles and 25 crew-served weapons such as shoulder-fire B-40 anti-tank rocket launchers, 60 and 81 millimeter mortar launchers, a .50 caliber machine gun and home-made .50 caliber long-range sniper rifles.

Some of the 145 rebels had told reporters it was for their respect for their central committee that they agreed to disarm, unmindful of the security constraints they could possibly experience without guns now to protect their communities from aggressions of all sorts.

Malacañang had promised to provide the decommissioned rebels socio-economic interventions needed to hasten their assimilation into the mainstream.

In a text message Saturday, Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao said his office  can provide them vocational schooling through the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

"Our TESDA office and its regional training center are ready to accommodate them. We have the HEART (Humanitarian Emergency Assistance and Response Team) ready to help them too," Hataman said.

Physician Kadil Sinolinding, Jr., who is Hataman's regional health secretary, said they will extend free general evaluation of the health of the 145 guerillas and members of their immediate families.
Sinolinding said Hataman want them and members of their families tested for diabetes, hypertension, respiratory illnesses and eye problems.

"We can also provide cataract surgery to those that have cataracts," Sinolinding said.
Hataman said they will also extend livelihood support to the 145 guerillas for them to have other sources of income needed to sustain the schooling of their children.

For Esmael, who had also turned his firearm in, the most important intervention the national government can initiate now, in addition to the immediate socio-economic packages from ARMM and Malacañang, is to ensure the enactment into law of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law according to its original draft.

The draft BBL, now pending in Congress, mired by controversies, is the enabling measure for the replacement of ARMM with a more empowered MILF-led Bangsamoro political entity based on the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014 in Malacañang by government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and MILF counterpart, Muhaquer Iqbal, in the presence of President Aquino, Hadji Murad, and foreign diplomats.;postID=3476448718137001972

A Philippine soldier's first Father's Day celebration

From Rappler (Jun 20): A Philippine soldier's first Father's Day celebration

One man's struggle between the call of duty and love for his family   

Last year, 2nd Lieutenant Salacoddin Mangidia led Philippine soldiers stationed in a dilapidated Philippine Navy vessel purposely marooned on Ayungin Shoal in the disputed South China Sea, to protect Philippine territory.

Mangidia, who began a 4-month stint at the BRP Sierra Madre on June 17, 2014, could not leave his post when his wife, Ensign Haidelyn L. Mangidia, gave birth to their first child in August last year.

He was not around to witness the difficult birth of their firstborn, Sharif, and only saw him months later.

This is why Haidelyn, a member of the Philippine Navy stationed in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City, is eagerly anticipating her husband's first "real" Father's Day celebration on Sunday, June 21, the Armed Forces said in a news release.

Duty first

Haidelyn, now 3 months pregnant with their second child, still gets angry when she recalls how Salacoddin told her a week before his deployment that he could not fulfill his promise to go on paternity leave.

“I can never refuse when duty calls. It is part of my sworn duty as a soldier,” he said.

Burdened, Salacoddin set off for Ayungin Shoal, where he and his fellow soldiers faced a different battle – almost 4 months of loneliness, isolation, and homesickness onboard the BRP Sierra Madre. (READ: Troops fear 'miscalculation' in next mission to Ayungin)

PHILIPPINES' GUARDIAN. An aerial view shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert their nation's sovereignty over Ayungin Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

PHILIPPINES' GUARDIAN. An aerial view shows a Philippine Navy vessel that has been grounded since 1999 to assert their nation's sovereignty over Ayungin Shoal, a remote South China Sea reef also claimed by China, on March 29, 2014. Photo by Jay Directo/AFP

“I filled our calendars with things to do to fight off the effects of boredom and loneliness. We had TINEs (Troops Information and Education) where we deliver presentations of our respective specializations. We also had water games and days where we outdo each other in lifting weights,” he said.

He added that apart from keeping them occupied, the activities he organized for his group were also for the maintenance of their mental and physical health, and to boost morale. (READ: Fear for Philippine troops facing China 'enemy')

Salacoddin made sure that they ate meals together like a real family. Evenings were spent watching movies on DVDs and sometimes singing songs. He did all these as officer-in-charge despite having his own worries about his wife, who, up to that point, refused to contact him.

The letter

On the day his wife gave birth, Salacoddin handed a letter he wrote for her to dzRH anchorman Sherwin Alfaro. Alfaro had visited the BRP Sierra Madre to give radios, and to interview Salacoddin and his men. He also volunteered to be a “postman” to make sure that the group's letters reached their families.

Salacoddin said the only way to contact troops stationed in Ayungin Shoal is through a satellite phone.

While Salacoddin’s letter was traveling across the West Philippine Sea with Alfaro on a civilian fishing boat, Haidelyn was undergoing a difficult labor in the Manila Naval Hospital.

“I had hematoma. I lost a lot of blood. Four bags of blood were needed for transfusion,” Haidelyn said.

It took a week for Salacoddin's letter to reach Haidelyn. She finally sent a text message to the BRP Sierra Madre to notify her husband of their son' birth.

“I am sad about not being there with her to witness our son’s birth. I think every father in the world would want to see that special moment,” he said.

THE MANGIDIA FAMILY. 2nd Lieutenant Salacoddin Mangidia, wife Ensign Haidelyn Mangadia with son Sharif. They will be spending Father's Day on June 21, 2015 as a family. Photo courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

THE MANGIDIA FAMILY. 2nd Lieutenant Salacoddin Mangidia, wife Ensign Haidelyn Mangadia with son Sharif. They will be spending Father's Day on June 21, 2015 as a family. Photo courtesy of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

At the end of his BRP Sierra Madre stint in September 2014, Salacoddin finally met his newborn son. He said he had no ill feelings towards his profession, even after missing the momentous occasion. He said he had prepared for possible family conflicts that might arise regarding his job.

Advice to fellow soldier-fathers

“The only advice I would give to soldiers and other fathers like me is to always keep an open communication with your love ones. With the nature of our job, we cannot escape instances where we and our families have to suffer separation,” Salacoddin said.

On Haidelyn’s part, she said there should always be patience and understanding.

Salacoddin is currently stationed in Cavite to undergo schooling, giving him an opportunity to make up for lost time.

China claims island-building ecologically benign

From InterAksyon (Jun 19): China claims island-building ecologically benign

Chinese dredging vessels in waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands May 21, 2015. U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters

China's construction on disputed reefs in the South China Sea will not destroy ocean ecology, the country's maritime regulator said, in the face of complaints from the Philippines that the work is damaging coral in the area.

Beijing's rapid reclamation around seven reefs in the Spratly archipelago has alarmed other claimants such as the Philippines and Vietnam and prompted growing criticism from the U.S. government.

Manila in April said China's construction had destroyed about 300 acres (1.2 sq km) of coral reef and caused estimated annual losses of $100 million to coastal nations.

"The Nansha expansion project highly emphasises environmental protection," China's State Oceanic Administration said in a statement on its website late on Thursday, which was covered widely in Chinese media on Friday.
China refers to the Spratlys as the Nansha islands.

Numerous protection measures, including the use of a "new type" of dredging technique, had been implemented during planning and construction and had achieved good results, the administration said.
"Impact on coral reef ecology is localised, temporary, controllable and restorable," it said.

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

China stepped up its creation of artificial islands last year, and there have been recent tensions between the Chinese navy and the U.S. military around the Spratlys.

Beijing said this week that some of its island construction work would be completed soon, but that it would continue to build facilities which it says will help with maritime search and rescue, disaster relief and environmental protection.

Washington has repeatedly asked China to halt its island building, fearing that a militarisation of the territorial disputes could threaten regional stability.

KALAYAAN EPISODE 2 | Pamanang Karagatan to be launched June 22

From InterAksyon (Jun 20): KALAYAAN EPISODE 2 | Pamanang Karagatan to be launched June 22

MANILA – After the successful launch of the first episode of the documentary, KALAYAAN, which tackled the economic angle of issues ermbroiled in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) will be launching the next installment in the series, Episode 02: Pamanang Karagatan.
Pamanang Karagatan will be shown on June 22, at 4:00 p.m. in the official Facebook accounts of the President ( and the DFA (, as well as in the Facebook pages of Lourd de Veyra, Rodolfo Sabayton, Jr. and RA Rivera, Jr.
This second episode will tackle the historical angle of the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea issue. Among the featured speakers is Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Supreme Court.
Following the social media launch, Episode 02 will be aired on People’s Television Network (PTV-4) at 5:30 p.m.
Replays of Episode 02 will be aired on PTV-4 every 5:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on June 23-26.

KALAYAAN is a three-part documentary series on the West Philippine Sea (WPS) produced by the DFA, in partnership with PCOO.

Each episode focuses on a different angle of the issue: economic, historical and legal.

The documentary is part of the nationwide Information, Education and Communication (IEC) campaign of the DFA to increase the level of public awareness and understanding of the issues relating to the WPS.
The documentary is directed by RA Rivera, Jr. and hosted by Lourd de Veyra, together with Jun Sabayton.

The third episode is slated to be released in early July.

1 soldier dead, 2 wounded in clash with NPA in Davao del Sur

From InterAksyon (Jun 20): 1 soldier dead, 2 wounded in clash with NPA in Davao del Sur

File photograph by Erwin Mascarinas

Reports reaching Manila indicated that a soldier was killed while two  others were wounded when elements of the Philippine Army's 10th Infantry Division 39th Infantry Battalion (39IB) were fired upon by a suspected band of New Peoples Army (NPA) rebels in Sitio Tibaol, Brgy. Sinoron, Sta.Cruz, Davao del Sur.

According to a report from the Eastern Mindanao Command, the incident happened around 12:10 p.m. on Friday, June 19.

The soldiers recovered one M16A1 rifle, two rifle grenades, three unexploded improvised explosive device, ammunition, assorted medicines, a radio, subversive documents and backpacks at the encounter site.

Pursuit operations were launched, even as the wounded soldiers have been brought to Camp Panacan Station Hospital and deemed in stable condition.

Necessary coordination has been made by 39IB with the family of the soldier who was killed in the firefight.

39IB Commander Lt. Col. Apollo Jun Lamaton said that his unit will continue to provide security operations in the area to protect the populace from extortion activities by the CPP/NPA bandits.

Residents in the area reported that there were four wounded NPA bandits carried by their comrades during their escape.

The squad from 39IB was on security patrol following a report from concerned residents about the presence of an armed group in the area.

Meanwhile, Eastern Mindanao Command Commander Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Baladad sounded a call to wounded NPA members to come out for their medical treatment.

"We are all awaiting for your return to the fold of the law. We will facilitate your safe return to your respective families and become productive citizens in your respective communities," Baladad said.

NPA rebels ambush army patrol in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 20): NPA rebels ambush army patrol in Southern Philippines

Communist rebels ambushed an army patrol killing a soldier and wounding two more in the town of Santa Cruz in the southern Filipino province of Davao del Sur, officials said Saturday.

Officials said Friday’s attack sparked a firefight in the village of Sinoron where troops from the 39th Infantry Battalion recovered an automatic rifle, ammunition and several improvised explosives left behind by members of the New People’s Army.

Army Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said troops were sent to pursue the ambushers. “The soldiers recovered one M16A1 rifle, two rifle grenades, three
unexploded improvised explosive devices, ammunition, assorted medicines, a radio transceiver, subversive documents and backpacks at the encounter site. Pursuit operations are on-going,” he said.

Caber said the wounded soldiers were rushed to Camp Panacan Station Hospital in Davao City.

The identities of the slain soldier and his wounded companions were not released to the media by the military, saying, their families would have to be informed first.

Caber, who cited alleged information from unnamed villagers, said four rebels were reportedly wounded in the fighting, but this could not be independently confirmed or part of a military propaganda to boost the morale of the troops.

The NPA has been fighting for many decades now for the establishment of a Maoist state in the country.