Friday, June 26, 2015

Three papers addressed to Sulu gunmen’s leader found, court told

From the Borneo Post (Jun 24): Three papers addressed to Sulu gunmen’s leader found, court told

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here yesterday heard that three pieces of paper, including a letter from the Malaysia embassy, addressed to the alleged Sulu gunmen’s leader, were among exhibits found throughout Ops Daulat.

Former forensic lab officer ACP Shaikh Abdul Adzis Sh Abdullah told Justice Stephen Chung that the letter titled “cession money to the heirs of the sultan of Sulu for the year 2002”, was addressed to Datu Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram c/o Datu Fuad A. Kiram Argono Antipolo City Metro-Manila and dated on April 16, 2003.

Under examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar, the 107th witness testified that the printed form paper’s letterhead was “Kedutaan Besar Malaysia” with an address 107, Tordesillas Street Salcedo Village, P.O Box 2948 (MCPO), Makati City, Philippines.

To a question by Mohd Dusuki, the witness testified that the other document bore letterhead of His Royal Highness Paduka Mahashari Maulana Al Sultan Hadji Mohammad Punjungan Kiram sultan of Sulu, Jolo, Sulu dated on August 7, 1984 and the letter’s title was ‘Sultan Punjungan Kiram’s will and decree.

ACP Shaikh further testified that another letter was in the form of hand written notes dated March 18th, 2004 which was allegedly signed by Raja Muda Agbimuddin Kiram.

The witness was giving his oral evidence in the trial of 30 accused persons, including one woman and a nephew of the late self-styled Sulu sultanate III, Datu Amirbahar Hushin Kiram, who are facing various charges of committing terrorism acts.

They were apprehended during separate operations throughout Ops Sulu (later known as Ops Daulat) at several places in Lahad Datu, Semporna, Kunak and Sandakan between February 12 and April 10, 2013.

Waging war against the King charge carries the mandatory death sentence while the other charges provide for an imprisonment for life and a fine, upon conviction.

The trial, held at a hall doubled as an open court at the Kepayan prisons here under tight security checks by police and prison personnel, will resume today.

6 young rebels yield in Sarangani

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 26): 6 young rebels yield in Sarangani

Six young members of communists New People’s Army (NPA) in Sarangani province voluntarily turned themselves in to authorities, the Eastern Mindanao Commande (Eastmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported.

Eastmincom chief information officer Captain Alberto Caber told the media here that the six rebels surrendered to the elements of 73rd Infantry Battalion in several instances last week in the towns of Malapatan and Alabel.

On June 19, a certain Dindin, 19, together with two others whose aliases were Lovely, 18; and Junex, 19, yielded to Army troopers in Malapatan town.

On June 23, an alias Arman, also 19; surrendered together with two others who gave their nomme de guerre as Noli,  18; and Michael, 22, during a security operation conducted in Barangay Pag-asa, Alabel town.

Authorities said they had to keep the complete names of the young NPAs for the security of the surrenderees and their families.

Severe hardship due to the relentless security operations by the government troops in the area was the main reason why the young NPA members opted to return to the folds of the law, Caber pointed out.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, commander of 73rd IB also told the media here that they were already facilitating the processing of appropriate livelihood and other necessary assistance under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) from the local government of Sarangani Province.

Caber also emphasized that a total of 38 NPA members have already surrendered to the government this month and 134 since January.

Meanwhile, Eastmincom also reported that members of Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) under the 36th Infantry Battalion recovered two unexploded improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Sitio Togoponon, Barangay Hinapuyan, Madrid, Surigao del Sur last Monday.

The IEDs were discovered planted by the NPA rebels in an area frequented by civilians, the report added.

6 NPA rebels surrender in Sarangani

From the Philippine Star (Jun 27): 6 NPA rebels surrender in Sarangani

Six communist rebels have surrendered in Sarangani, the military said yesterday.

Lt. Col. Eduardo Gubat, spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), said the rebels surrendered to soldiers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion in Malapatan and Alabel town on Jan. 19 and last Tuesday.

“Hardship due to relentless security operations by government troops is the main reason why they opted to return to the fold of the law,” Gubat said in a statement.

Eastmincom public affairs chief Capt. Alberto Caber  identified the rebels with their aliases, Dindin, 19; Lovely, 18; Junex, 19; Arman, 19; Noli, 18; and Michael, 22.

Caber said 134 communist rebels have so far surrendered in Eastern Mindanao this year.

The number of communist insurgents in the country is around 3,200 as of  last year, according to latest military estimates.

Aquino's Chinese ancestry fuels anger in Beijing

From Rappler (Jun 27): Aquino's Chinese ancestry fuels anger in Beijing

A top Chinese editor says '99.5%' of his website users think the Philippines 'uses many inflammatory words' on the South China Sea dispute

CHINESE ROOTS. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III lights ceremonial incense at the temple of his ancestors, the Xu (Co) clan, at Hongjian village in China's Fujian province on September 3, 2011. File photo by Jay Morales/Malacañang Photo Bureau

CHINESE ROOTS. Philippine President Benigno Aquino III lights ceremonial incense at the temple of his ancestors, the Xu (Co) clan, at Hongjian village in China's Fujian province on September 3, 2011. File photo by Jay Morales/Malacañang Photo Bureau

BEIJING, China – The Chinese ancestry of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, whose family hails from China's Fujian province, has fueled anger against the Philippines here in Beijing.

In a forum with Filipino and Thai journalists, we asked Shi Ding, deputy editor in chief of top Chinese news website, what statement from the Philippines had angered the Chinese the most in the South China Sea dispute.

Speaking through a translator, Shi cited no particular statement from the Philippine government, but singled out a person who, in a way, is one of their own: "It's your president, President Aquino."

Shi said on Friday, June 26: "There are many statements...and also actions of his. And the most important thing, he actually has some Chinese blood. Because of his background, most of the Chinese people are very angry about what he says and what he does."

Aquino traces his roots to Hongjian village in China's Fujian province, which he visited in 2011. His mother, former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, came from the line of Chinese immigrant Co Yu Hwan, who moved to the Philippines in 1861.

Aquino's spokesman has cited the President's Chinese roots in downplaying the dispute over the South China Sea, which the Philippines claims as the West Philippine Sea.
Despite this, in 2013, Aquino would become the first president to approve bringing China to court over the maritime row.

China has viewed these arbitration proceedings as "unfriendly" on the part of the Philippines. (READ: China to PH: Friends avoid lawsuits)

'99.5%' vs Philippines

While Manila pursues this case, Shi said "99.5%" of his website's users think the Philippines "uses many inflammatory words" on the maritime row.

He added that "more than 95%" of the users of, which is affiliated with China's Global Times newspaper, think that the Philippines does these things "because of the United States' support."

Shi spoke on Friday before 8 journalists from Filipino and Thai news websites, including Rappler, in a forum sponsored by the Chinese foreign ministry.

His comments show rising emotions against Manila in Beijing.

After all, the South China Sea dispute is "the most popular topic now in China," Shi said.

Zhou Zhixing, chief editor of Chinese news website, also said his website adopts the Chinese government's stance on the South China Sea dispute.

He said the Chinese, however, have different opinions on the issue. "The readers would have more reasonable thinking, and would not think that it's all the responsibility of the United States," Zhou said.

In any case, Chinese editors agreed it is the media's role to help in resolving the maritime row.

Shi cited a visit of personnel to Vietnam "to help the Chinese people know the true Vietnam." This, despite the two countries' dispute also over the South China Sea.

"We think it's the media's responsibility to help solve the problem and build a more friendly relationship with neighboring countries," he said.

China moves controversial oil rig back towards Vietnam coast

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): China moves controversial oil rig back towards Vietnam coast


A Chinese navy frigate is seen on the horizon in waters close to the Haiyang Shiyou 981, known in Vietnam as HD-981, oil rig in the South China Sea July 15, 2014. REUTERS/Martin Petty

China has moved an oil rig at the center of last year's violent dispute with Vietnam closer to Vietnam's coast in the disputed South China Sea, just weeks ahead of the first visit by a chief of Vietnam's Communist Party to Washington.

The move, announced by China's maritime safety authorities, comes soon after the country indicated it was close to setting up new outposts in the maritime heart of Southeast Asia, as it nears completion of land reclamation in the South China Sea.

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's deployment of the rig last year in what Vietnam called its exclusive economic zone and on its continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles off its coast, led to the worst breakdown in relations since a brief border war in 1979.

Vietnam's people remain embittered over a perceived history of Chinese bullying and territorial claims in the South China Sea, although China said at the time the rig was operating completely within its waters.

The rig now appears to be in an area where the exclusive economic zones (EEZ) of Vietnam and China overlap, but further away than last year, said Le Hong Hiep, a visiting fellow at Singapore's Institute of South East Asian Studies.

In an online statement posted on Thursday, China's Maritime Safety Administration said the 'Haiyang Shiyou 981' rig would carry out "ocean drilling operations" 75 nautical miles south of the resort city of Sanya on southern Hainan island.

Experts estimate the drilling site is about 104 miles (167 km) east of the Vietnam coast. The $1-billion rig will remain there from June 25 until August 20, the statement said, telling ships to stay 2,000 m (6,562 ft) away for safety reasons.

Vietnam's maritime authorities were monitoring the rig's placement, the website of the country's state-controlled Tuoi Tre newspaper on Friday quoted unidentified sources as saying.

The rig movement comes weeks before Vietnam's top leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, is expected to visit the United States, in the first such trip by a general secretary of the nation's Communist Party.

His mission is expected to further boost warming strategic ties between Washington and Hanoi - a relationship eyed warily in Beijing.

It also comes amid rising concerns at China's rapid creation of artificial islands on South China Sea reefs - construction criticized by the US and protested by Vietnam.

However, Le Hong Hiep, the Singapore-based analyst, said he felt Hanoi would not protest as strongly as it did last year if China said the rig was placed within an EEZ claimed from Hainan Island rather than one from the hotly disputed Paracel Islands, as it did last year.

Vietnam and China agreed on an equal split of the maritime boundary of the Gulf of Tonkin in 2000 but have yet to agree on demarcating waters further south, near the rig's current site.

Earlier this year, the rig was drilling in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Myanmar, tackling the deepest exploration well it has so far undertaken, its owner, state energy group China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), said in an earlier statement.
CNOOC could not immediately be reached for comment on Friday.

VIDEO | As CARAT ends, US Navy confirms warships to patrol SE Asia waters

From InterAksyon (Jun 27): VIDEO | As CARAT ends, US Navy confirms warships to patrol SE Asia waters

US Navy Capt. Fred Kacher, commander of destroyer Squadron 7, talks about plans by the US Navy to deploy warships for patrols in Southeast Asia as the joint US and Philippine naval exercises in Palawan concluded on Friday. TV5 SCREENSHOT

A US Navy official confirmed a plan to deploy its warships for rotational patrols in Southeast Asia as it concluded naval training exercises with Philippine forces in Palawan waters.

The week-long Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT 2015) maritime exercises between US and Philippine naval forces saw the USS Forth Worth and Philippine warships BRP Ramon Alcaraz and BRP Gregorio del Pilar  sailing in the Sulu Sea.

The CARAT exercises involved the correct maneuvering of ships, search and rescue operations and gunnery exercises while a US P-3C Orion surveillance plane and the Philippines’ Islander plane flew overhead.

A highlight of the gunnery exercises was a target shooting by three warships at sea wherein the USS Forth Worth demonstrated the firing power of its MK110 57mm gun which discharges 220 rounds per minute at a target some 17 kilometers away.

A US Navy offiial said this type of exercises is the appropriate solution for problems in the sea.

“Regional challenges demand regional solutions. The ability to go to sea and get to know each other and learn how each other operate is very very important,” US Navy Capt. Fred Kacher, commander of Destroyer Squadron 7, said.

The US Navy admitted that it plans to enhance its forces in Southeast Asia including the deployment of four warships to patrol the region.

“The ships don’t have to come from somewhere if there’s a challenge. They are already here. So that’s something we are very pleased with, and I think that speaks to how important the United States Navy and the US government use this region … this ship and ships like it is really the future of engagement for the US Navy in Southeast Asia,” Kacher added.

Besides the US, the Japanese navy also conducted maritime training with Philippine troops in Palawan, an action which displeased China.

Malacanang however defended the holding of military exercises with the US and Japanese forces.

“We cannot be faulted if other countries have lauded the approach that we have decided to take in resolving this dispute that we have with our neighbor,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Underscretary Abigail Valte.

Philippine officials said the military exercises, whether with the US or Japan, were not meant to make a show of force against nations with overlapping claims over islands in the West Philippine Sea.


[Video report]

NPA threat in Bicol gone by 2016

From the Manila Bulletin (Jun 26): NPA threat in Bicol gone by 2016

Pili, Camarines Sur — The threat of insurgency remains a security concern in only two of six provinces in the Bicol region and a top army commander based here is optimistic that this problem will soon come to a “manageable level” by 2016.

Major General Yerson Depayso, Philippine Army 9th Infantry Division commander who is based in Camp Elias Angeles, here, said recently that Sorsogon and Masbate are the two remaining provinces in the region where the New People’s Army (NPA) remains a major internal security concern.

The government’s security sector, however, is doing all measures to clear these areas of the threat so that they are, at least by the end of 2016 declared, along with the other four Bicol provinces, as “conflict manageable and ready for further development (CMRFD) areas,” Depayso said.

Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, and Albay have been declared as CMRFD areas one after the other starting late last year up to early this year, following the forging of separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the respective provincial governments and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Philippine military plans upgrades of Central Command’s air, naval assets

From the Business World (Jun 26): Philippine military plans upgrades of Central Command’s air, naval assets

PLANS are underway to improve the air and naval assets and support facilities of the Cebu-based Central Command (CENTCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), its Air Force chief said on Friday.

More hangars will be put up for fighter aircraft, transport aircraft, and helicopters, Philippine Air Force chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey F. Delgado said.

“We will hopefully increase the number of aircraft here when the new aircraft arrives. Because of its (CENTCOM) strategic location, it can support both northern Luzon and the southern part of the Philippines,” said in an interview.

Upgrades for CENTCOM will increase the country’s additional capacity to conduct increased maritime patrol and surveillance over its western and southern territories, a region that is also claimed by China.

The CENTCOM, which is supported by more than 14,000 soldiers including personnel from the Philippine Airforce’s 2nd Air Division (Tactical Air Operations), the Third and the Eight Infantry Division, the 53rd Engineer brigade and the Philippine Navy’s Naval Forces Central, is about a thousand kilometers away from the area region in South China Sea, where China is conducting massive reclamation activities.

Besides the CENTCOM, the AFP has five other unified commands including the Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) in Tarlac, the Western Command (WesCom) in Palawan, the Southern Luzon Command (SolCom) in Lucena, Quezon, the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) in Davao, and the Western Mindanao Command (WESTMINCOM) in Zamboanga.

Reports of the Philippines’ military asset upgrades come at a time now that Manila and Beijing are locked in a territorial dispute over the South China Sea.

China, through it’s nine-dash line claim asserts ownership of about 90% of the entire South China Sea -- a region which is also claimed by the Philippines as being under its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Phl has significant HR problems – US

From the Philippine Star (Jun 26): Phl has significant HR problems – US

Extrajudicial killings by security forces and vigilante groups, an overburdened criminal justice system, a meager record of prosecutions, and widespread official corruption and abuse of power are the most significant human rights problems in the Philippines, the US State Department said.

In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014, the State Department said the Philippine government investigated and prosecuted only a number of reported human rights abuses, and concerns about impunity persisted.

At the same time terrorist organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiya (JI) and the New People’s Army (NPA), as well as elements associated with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) –  including the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) – continued to kill security forces, local government officials and other civilians, the report on the Philippines said.

The Moro National Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF) also conducted military operations against government security forces and civilians.

Security forces and police allegedly abused and sometimes tortured suspects and detainees. Common forms of abuse during arrest and interrogation included electric shock, cigarette burns and suffocation, the report said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), as of September, investigated 44 cases of alleged torture involving 49 victims, with police suspected in 35 cases, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in two, jail guards in three, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in two, other government officials in four and unidentified individuals in two of the cases.

United States, China had ‘very frank discussion’ on West PHL Sea issue

From Ang Malaya (Jun 26): United States, China had ‘very frank discussion’ on West PHL Sea issue

“As expected, our dialogue over the last two and a half days included a very frank discussion of some issues on which we have not always seen eye to eye, and that is, frankly, a sign of a mature and good working relationship,” United States Secretary of State Secretary John Kerry said in his closing statement for US-China Strategic & Economic Dialogue and Consultation on People-to-People Exchange.

US-China S&D Dialogue is an annual high-level dialogue for the United States and China to discuss a wide range of regional and global strategic and economic issues between both countries. This year’s S&D was held June 23-24 in Washington, DC.

Among the topics US and China differ in principles that were discussed were cyber security and cyber theft, universal human rights and freedoms. “I raised our concerns regarding the pending legislation in China that might seriously undermine the ability of nongovernmental organizations and civil society to continue work that is critical to everything from protecting the environment to advancing rule of law to deepening cultural and academic ties between our countries,” Kerry said.

“We also discussed the rise in tension between China and many of its neighbors regarding reclamation and possible militarizing activities in the South China Sea,” the US State Secretary said.

He noted that US does not take sides on territorial disputes and question of sovereignty, however, “we do have a strong national interest in freedom of navigation and overflight as well as peaceful resolution of disputes.”

“We believe that countries with competing claims should exercise restraint, refrain from preventative unilateral actions, and settle their differences in accordance with international law.”

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi, Secretary Kerry’s counterpart in the said dialogue, said “China reaffirmed its firm determination to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, as well as continued commitment to seeking peaceful solutions to the relevant disputes through dialogue and negotiation with those directly concerned.”

The Chinese official added that China would work with ASEAN countries to advance the consultation on Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

Philippines also interested in Japanese Hueys, C-130 planes

From Ang Malaya (Jun 26): Philippines also interested in Japanese Hueys, C-130 planes

The Department of National Defense is also open to acquiring other excess Japanese military equipment, this was confirmed by Department of National Defense spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez on Thursday, June 25.

If they (Japanese) will have excess defense articles (in the form) of Hueys and C-130 cargo planes, we will be very much interested in acquiring them,” he said in Filipino as reported by state media.

Galvez said the Philippine military will not have a hard time to “absorb” Hueys and C-130s as the country already has maintenance facilities, spare parts and know-how to operate these equipment as the military has the same sort of assets in its inventory.

Defense sources say Philippines and Japan are in talks for transfer of at least two to four P3-C Orion maritime surveillance aircraft.

We are interested in acquiring them (P-3Cs) especially if they become excess defense articles as we can acquire it at a very reasonable price which is advantageous to the government,” Galvez said in earlier interview.

Japan is in the process of replacing its P-3Cs with its homegrown Kawasaki Heavy P-1 patrol aircraft which has twice the range of the “Orion” which is pegged at 2,380 nautical miles.

Asked if the country is ready to maintain and operate the P-3C, Galvez said the defense department will program it from its budget.

COA: FA-50, Bell 412EP deals not suspended

From Ang Malaya (Jun 26): COA: FA-50, Bell 412EP deals not suspended

UPDATED: The Commission on Audit today said that it did not suspend the aircraft acquisition projects entered by the Department of National Defense for Philippine Air Force. “The COA did not suspend the aircraft deals,” the Commission said.

COA said it is only waiting for documents from DND needed for audit.

“We only issued a notice of suspension because we are still awaiting some documents from DND needed for our Audit,” the Commission said in an email response to Ang Malaya Net’s inquiry.

“Our Notice of Suspension does not in any way affect the delivery of the fighter jets from Korea,” COA said.

DND said in a statement that “the COA merely suspended their scheduled audit pending the submission of additional requirements and data from the Department of National Defense (DND). Thus, the acquisition of the Bell 412 helicopters and the FA-50 jets are ongoing.”

The notice includes deals with Korea Aerospace Industries for twelve FA-50 aircraft and eight Bell 412EP combat utility helicopter project with Bell Helicopter Canada and the 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopter deal.

The report from The Manila Times, headlined with COA grounds P25-B aircraft deals, says “the Commission on Audit (COA) has ordered the suspension of three aircraft acquisition deals forged by the Defense department after state auditors red-flagged them for irregularities.”

DND: COA suspends audit, not the purchase

From Ang Malaya (Jun 26): DND: COA suspends audit, not the purchase

The Department of National Defense clarified today that the Commission on Audit (COA) scheduled audit was the one suspended and not the actual purchase of 12 FA-50 jets from South Korea and 8 Bell 412EP helicopters from Canada, following the issuance of Notice of Suspension from COA.

“For the information of the general public, the Commission on Audit (COA) has not suspended the acquisition projects for the 12 Jet Aircraft from South Korea, the eight Bell 412EP Helicopters from Canada, and the 21 UH-1 helicopters,” the defense department said today.

“The COA merely suspended their scheduled audit pending the submission of additional requirements and data from the Department of National Defense (DND). Thus, the acquisition of the Bell 412 helicopters and the FA-50 jets are ongoing,” DND added.

COA said in a statement “our Notice of Suspension does not in any way affect the delivery of the fighter jets from Korea.”

“We assure the Filipino public that all transactions in the Department are aboveboard, transparent, and in compliance with the rules and regulations as prescribed by law,” the defense department noted.

First two FA-50s are scheduled to be delivered before the year ends, while two of eight Bell 412EP already arrived early this month. The 21 UH-1 helicopter deal was partially terminated with eight delivered.

9 YEARS AGO TODAY | Kin, friends, activists remember abduction of UP students Empeno, Cadapan

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): 9 YEARS AGO TODAY | Kin, friends, activists remember abduction of UP students Empeno, Cadapan

Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeno with pictures of their missing daughters, Sherlyn and Karen. (file)

Friday, June 26, is International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

It is also the day, nine years ago, when University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, along with farmer Manuel Merino, were abducted from a farmhouse in Hagonoy, Bulacan by soldiers.

Relatives of the two students and of other victims of enforced disappearances and of political prisoners, human rights activists and members of the University of the Philippines community will gather at the lobby of the state university’s Palma Hall at 5:30 p.m. Friday to honor Empeño and Cadapan and, once again, call for them to be surfaced.

The courts have acknowledged the military’s involvement in their disappearance, putting on trial retired Army general Jovito Palparan, dubbed “The Butcher” by activists who blame him for extrajudicial killings, disappearances and other rights abuses in the areas where he served as military commander, Lieutenant Colonel Felipe Anotado and Master Sergeant Edgardo Osorio on charges of kidnapping with serious illegal detention.

Palparan has denied his involvement in the disappearance of the UP students and Merino, who he described as “full-time” members of the New People’s Army, as well as other abuses blamed on him, although he has acknowledged that he may have “encouraged” others into taking the law into their own hands in their pursuit of so-called “enemies of the state.”

Despite his high profile, Palparan, a former party-list congressman, managed to evade arrest for almost three years until the National Bureau of Investigation finally cornered him in a house in Manila’s Sta. Mesa district in August last year.

In February this year, prosecution eyewitness Raymond Manalo, a farmer from Bulacan, told the court regional trial court in Malolos, that he saw Empeño and Cadapan naked and being tortured in a military camp where he and his brother Reynaldo were also being held.

The Manalo brothers were also snatched by soldiers, also in 2006, but eventually escaped.
Raymond Manalo also said he met Palparan three times while he was in military hands.

In a statement Friday, Hustisya (Victims United for Justice) said the commemoration of Empeño-Cadapan abduction is “a call to unite and call for justice, and a stop to political repression.”

“We want justice and want it now!” the organization said.

Community leader murdered in Davao Oriental after 'Red' tagging - Karapatan

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): Community leader murdered in Davao Oriental after 'Red' tagging - Karapatan

Ricky Basig during a dialogue with barangay officials on alleged military atrocities. (Karapatan-SMR photo by Lam Banuag)

A community leader in a Davao Oriental town was gunned down Thursday evening allegedly by government soldiers, Southern Mindanao chapter of the human rights organization Karapatan said.

Ricky Basig, purok leader of Sitio Kaputian in Baganga town was sitting at the veranda of his house when he shot around 6 p.m., allegedly by troops of the 67th Infantry Battalion led by a Private First Class Maca, described as team leader of the unit’s Peace and Development Operation Program in the community, Karapatan-SMR said.

Basig belonged to the Mandaya tribe and was also a member of Barug Katawhan, an organization of survivors of typhoon Pablo in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley.

Karapatan noted that Basig was slain less than a month after he testified at a dialogue between village officials and members of a fact-finding mission mounted by the Exodus for Justice and Peace, during which he recounted being harassed by soldiers of the 67th IB and, in one instance, made to guide the unit’s troops.

Before this, Karapatan-SMR said, a soldier of the 67th IB it identified only as Gatchalian summoned Basig and accused him of being a member of the New People’s Army.

Basig, said Karapatan-SMR, had been active in rebuilding efforts in his community, helping build water lines and helping organize farming cooperatives.

Group says US should cut military aid to PH, citing rise of 4 generals despite rights abuses

From InterAksyon (Jun 26): Group says US should cut military aid to PH, citing rise of 4 generals despite rights abuses

Generals Jorge Segovia, Ricardo Visaya, Aurelio Baladad and Eduardo Ano

In March last year, members of the Manobo tribe in Davao del Norte were reportedly threatened and interrogated by troops of the 60th Infantry Battalion and 4th Special Forces of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division, who also destroyed their rice fields and stole their chickens.

Later that month, aerial bombing sent more than 300 tribal families fleeing their community to seek refuge in Davao City.

Human rights groups believe the Manobos’ resistance to large-scale mining operations in their ancestral lands triggered the militarization, accusing the Armed Forces of the Philippines, particularly the Eastern Mindanao Command, of protecting the interests of expanding large-scale agricultural projects and mining projects.

Current EastMinCom chief, Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad, who was promoted by President Benigno Aquino III in August last year, commanded the 10thID at the time, his troops accused of using a school and a church as their camp, and ransacking the home of community leader Mario Liban and confiscating his crops.

Later, the soldiers allegedly destroyed the crops of other farmers, harassed tribal chief Datu Herminio Suminggil, and imposed a 20-hour curfew, preventing farmers from tending to their crops. They also supposedly arrested a couple and forced them to admit that they were involved in the capture of a colonel by the New People’s Army.

Days later, the soldiers allegedly returned, lined up the villagers, and threatened to kill them in retaliation for an NPA ambush on their comrades. The soldiers also forced children to guide them on an operation.

These and similar abuses committed by Eastmincom troops have remained unpunished even as Baladad and three other senior officers who command or have led them have seen their stars continue to soar, are documented in a report, “The Path to Promotion in the Armed Forces Philippines: Vilification Campaigns, Human Rights Abuses, and Impunity,” by the US-based Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines.

The EANP bills itself as “a national ecumenical network of individuals, organizations, and groups, advocating restrictions to military aid appropriations to the Philippine government until there is compliance with national and international standards of human rights.”

And it argues that its report contains enough bases for the US to put the squeeze on the Philippines to respect human rights by cutting foreign military funding to the AFP as it did in 2008 in response to escalating extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The EANP cites Section 7043 of the US’ 113th Congress Public Law 235, or the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, which mandates that funds appropriated under the FMF “should only be made available” if the Secretary of State certifies and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that the Philippine government has complied with the following:
  1. Investigating and prosecuting army personnel who were credibly alleged to have committed, aided, or abetted extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, and other human rights violations.
  2. Strengthening government institutions working to eliminate such crimes.
  3. Implementing a policy of promoting army personnel who demonstrated professionalism and respect for human rights.
  4. Ensuring that the AFP and paramilitary groups under its control were not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against journalists or human rights defenders.
The group says the State Department has not yet certified the AFP’s compliance with these conditions.

In fact, it noted, the four generals cited in its report had been promoted “very rapidly” over the past five years, with an average of only one and a half years before rising to the next rank, despite the abuses committed by troops under their command.

“Each has risen to leadership through service in units responsible for a campaign of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and illegal detentions,” the EANP said.

The generals cited by the EANP are:

Major General Jorge Segovia

Major General Jorge Segovia headed EastMinCom early last year until his retirement in July. During his stint, said EANP, more than 10,000 people from 50 communities in four provinces were displaced.

Back then, he and his division commanders, Ricardo Visaya of the 4th ID and Baladad of the 10th, mounted operations targeting certain barangays accused of supporting the New People’s Army, with soldiers and auxiliary militias placing communities under military control and turning schools, barangay halls and other community centers into encampments.

The soldiers conducted a detailed household census and imposed curfews, allowing farmers only four hours to tend their crops and otherwise limiting civilian movement.

Community leaders became victims of extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and public vilification.
Segovia began his EastMincom stint at the helm of the 10th ID from 2010 to 2012.

But before this, he had already been implicated in rights abuses as commander of the 2nd ID in Tanay, which was responsible for the capture of the “Morong 43,” health workers nabbed in a raid on a farmhouse in Rizal province in February 2010 in circumstances that the Commission on Human Rights very recently, if very belatedly, violated their human rights.

Months after their arrest and alleged torture, a court ordered the health workers released an all charges against them dropped.

The AFP has not disputed the CHR’s findings but insists the Morong 43 were communist rebels undergoing explosives training when they were captured.

Major General Ricardo Visaya

President Aquino promoted Visaya to head the Southern Luzon Command in September last year.
Before this, he commanded the 4th ID from April 2013 to September 2014.

Units under Visaya’s command were accused of using harsh and illegal tactics against local communities accused of supporting the NPA, EANP said.

In August last year, Manobo tribal leader Datu Roger Alaki was allegedly killed by a member of a tribal militia allegedly organized by the 73rd Infantry Battalion in Agusan del Sur. EANP cited the Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization as saying residents reported being targets of a vilification campaign conducted by the tribal militia, including threatening to attack them if they refused sign an agreement granting access to a mining company to operate in their community. This drove 30 families from their homes.

The same month, Higaonon leader Marcel Singaman Lambon was killed by a member of a militia unit in Bukidnon. He had been campaigning to end the expansion of an oil palm plantation into his community. Before his murder, soldiers would often visit him and publicly vilify him as an NPA supporter, the EANP said.

Incidentally, Visaya formerly commanded the 69th IB under then 7th ID commander Jovito Palparan. Now retired, Palparan is facing trial for the abduction and disappearance of University of the Philippipnes students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno on June 26, 2006, who were reportedly snatched by troops of the 69th IB. The unit was also implicated in the abduction of brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, who later escaped. Raymond Manalo is one of the key witnesses against Palparan, who activists call “The Butcher” for the string of human rights abuses in areas where he was assigned as military commander.

From February to September 2007, when Visaya was promoted to head the 7th ID’s civil military operations in Metro Manila, soldiers were stationed to barangays in the metropolis and were accused of conducting surveillance, intimidating civilians and actively campaigning against progressive political parties, EANP said.

Generals Aurelio Baladad and Eduardo Ano

Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad

After his stint as 10th ID commander, Baladad was promoted by Aquino to head EastMinCom in August last year. Incidentally, he used to command the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the 2nd ID and was among the officers accused of the illegal arrest and torture of the Morong 43.

Despite this, he was promoted to brigadier general and named AFP deputy chief of staff for operations.

In July 2013, he was promoted to major general and commanded the 3rd ID in Capiz until he received his third star in 2014.

Major General Eduardo Año 

In September last year, Major General Eduardo Año was named commander of the 10th ID, which operates in the Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, an area of operations with a long history of human rights abuses, the EANP said.

Troops of the 71st IB under the 10th ID have been tagged in the killing of peasant leader Luis Carbajosa in April this year. Human rights groups reported that Carbajosa, who had organized land reform beneficiaries and actively opposed the incursion of big banana plantations, was on an AFP “hit list” prior to his murder.

In 2007, Año was accused of commanding soldiers who abducted activist Jonas Burgos, son of press freedom icon Jose Burgos Jr. Jonas has not been found since.

The Burgos family filed a criminal complaint against Año and vainly attempted to block his promotion. The Department of Justice dropped the case for lack of evidence.

PHL hits back at China: It’s not our fault that other countries support us

From GMA News (Jun 26): PHL hits back at China: It’s not our fault that other countries support us

Malacañang on Friday hit back at China after Beijing's accusation that the Philippines is trying to “rope in” other non-claimant countries in the dispute over resource-rich parts of the South China Sea.
“We cannot be faulted if other countries have lauded the approach that we have decided to take in resolving this dispute that we have with our neighbor,” deputy presidential spokesperson Usec. Abigail Valte told reporters at a press briefing at the Palace.
Valte also reminded China that that its territorial dispute with the Philippines has international implications, particularly on global trade.
“While they may say that this is a regional matter, it cannot be denied that a significant number of global trade passes through that region, and again, it cannot be denied that it has an impact on those outside the region,” she said.
On Thursday, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun indirectly blasted the Philippines for “roping in countries from outside the region to get involved in the South China Sea issue.”
Reacting to the Philippines' recent military exercises with Japan, Yang also criticized Manila for “putting on a big show of force, deliberately exaggerating the tense atmosphere in the region.”
This week, Japanese and Philippine military planes flew twice near Recto (Reed) Bank off the coast of Palawan, which is being claimed both by Manila and Beijing.
Not exaggerating
At the same press briefing, Valte further countered the Chinese defense official’s claim that the Philippines is exaggerating tensions in disputed areas.
“We do not subscribe, as a matter of policy, to exaggeration. We do not base our discussions on exaggerated facts because it is not in our nation’s interest to do so,” she said.
“In fact, from the beginning of this dispute, we have advocated a rational discussion that is based on issues, as well as an objective view of facts as they happen,” she added.
In a separate text message, presidential spokesman Sec. Edwin Lacierda said China should stop its reclamation activities in the contested areas if it really wants tensions to simmer down.
The question is: Will China, as a responsible member of the family of nations, listen to the reasonable voice of the international community?” Lacierda said.
Territorial dispute
Manila and Beijing have been locked in a territorial dispute over resource-rich parts of the South China Sea over the past years.
China uses the so-called “nine-dash line” to assert ownership of almost the entire South China Sea, while the Philippines uses the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) as basis for its claim.
The Philippines, which calls the disputed areas the “West Philippine Sea,” has already sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to nullify China’s massive claims over South China Sea. Oral arguments on the case will begin next month.
Beijing, however, has refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings, insisting instead on bilateral talks to settle the dispute.
Despite the filing of the arbitration case, recent satellite images showed Beijing building artificial islands with buildings and piers in seven features in the West Philippine Sea. 
Several countries, including Japan and the United States, have backed the Philippines’ call for a stop to these reclamation activities

P.A.F. plans to develop further Cebu air facilities

From the Business Mirror (Jun 26): P.A.F. plans to develop further Cebu air facilities

AS more aircraft become available for the Philippine Air Force (PAF), plans are now under way to further develop its air facilities in Cebu, according to PAF chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado.

He said this is possible as the Benito Ebuen Air Base, which is in Lapu-Lapu City, Cebu, is very strategic as aircraft base, a facility can access and support operations in the western, southern and northern parts of the country.

Incidentally, the PAF will celebrate its 68th founding anniversary at the former Clark Air Base in Pampanga this coming July 1 with President Aquino as the keynote speaker.

“We intend to put up more hangars for our fighter aircraft in the future and our transport aircraft, and helicopter hangars [in our Cebu air facilities] due to its strategic location,” the PAF chief said.

Soldier wounded in clash with NPA rebels

From the pro-CPP Bicol Today (Jun 24): Soldier wounded in clash with NPA rebels

A member of the 92nd Reconnaissance Company of the Philippine Army is now in serious condition at the Bicol Medical Center after he was wounded in an encounter with New People’s Army (NPA) rebels at 2:45 p.m. Monday at Sitio Magsaysay, Barangay Cawayan, Libmanan, Camarines Sur.

A police report said Cpl. Benjie Veluz and his fellow soldiers were conducting a security patrol at the area after they received information about the presence of armed men when they encountered the rebels, resulting in a 20-minute firefight.

The rebels then withdrew towards the mountainous portion of the village. Upon seeing Veluz wounded, his companions rushed him to the hospital for treatment.