Tuesday, July 7, 2015

LEONCIO KA PARAGO PITAO: Radiant Red star of the revolution (1957-2015)

Posted to the pro-CPP Davao Today (Jul 7): LEONCIO KA PARAGO PITAO: Radiant Red star of the revolution (1957-2015)

A Tribute by Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee-CPP

He was their favorite villain. Portrayed as a sinister symbol, he was pursued in ways mostly vicious. He was demonized like no other. Pictured as a menace, his destruction was sought by means always despicable.

After continuous counter-revolutionary campaigns of suppression and military intelligence operations that spanned four decades and six puppet regimes, the fascists and oppressors now rejoice to their hearts’ content.  They have killed the man.  The one that they called a criminal and a terrorist is finally dead. They have all the reasons to:  for this staunchly-loathed man was Leoncio “Ka Parago” Pitao, an enemy of US Imperialism, the oppressive and exploitative Philippine state and their fascist armed forces.

But unlike them, a vast number of Filipinos is in grief.

The Southern Mindanao Regional Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the people of Southern Mindanao thus accordits most profound salute to Ka Parago who was killed in a raid on 28 June 2015 in Brgy. Panalum, Paquibato District, Davao City.

Ka Parago, Leoncio Pitao to his townmates in Brgy.Balite, Loreto,  Agusan Sur was born of poor farmers.  His father was a lowly peasant who tilled a small piece of land and augmented the family income as a tuba gatherer.  The very hard life they lived, and the poverty and hunger everywhere, stirred up the young Parago to ask the question why; his search for an answer brought him to the revolution.

At the young age of 22, he joined the NPA.   This was in 1979, during the brutal years of martial law amid harsh socio-economic conditions, when the revolutionary movement in Mindanao was in its nascent stage and there were just a few hundred NPA Red fighters in the island.

With the comrades, Ka Parago organized and taught the lumads and peasants to defend their lands and stand up for their rights.  He fought the big loggers who appropriated the forests and prohibited the settlers from populating their areas. Wherever he went, Ka Parago worked  hard for the interest and welfare of the poor.  He would always say “it is for them, the farmers and workers and lumads, that we are here. We can never, should never rest until we see that their problems are solved.”

Revolutionary work in the countryside taught Ka Parago the intricacies of the people’s war. Very soon, he was leading a company, and later a battalion of Red fighters. He was more than a general in his comprehensive, hands-on practice in the warfront. Ka Parago was one of the best offsprings of the new democratic revolution.  He showed attributes of an exceptional Red fighter and communist party member. After doing significant tasks at the district and guerrilla front levels, he was eventually assigned to regional level duties and responsibilities in the NPA.  As a commander of the New People’s Army, Ka Parago led and trained so many young warriors in the art of war:  from the1980s to the 1990swhere they launched countless disarming operations with nary a single shot fired, to the capture of Gen. Victor Obillo and Capt. Eduardo Montealto in 1999, to the raid of the Davao Penal Colony in 2007 and the many outstanding tactical offensives mounted by the Pulang Bagani Companies of Southern Mindanao.

Despite these achievements, Ka Parago remained humble and was always open to criticism in order to improve his understanding of the situation and his styles and methods of work.Ka Parago’s star shone most brilliantly during the Second Great Rectification Movement and onwards.   His grasp of the rectification campaign was a big influence to the NPA commanders in the region to comprehend and follow the Party’s national call thereby instituting the correct interplay of base building, agrarian revolution and the armed struggle.

For the revolutionary people who came to know, work and struggle with him, he was a dear comrade, a dedicated proletarian revolutionary and outstanding people’s army commander. Firm as a fortress, he was deeply founded on the ideology and practice of Marxism Leninism Maoism.

He profoundly grasped the mass line, lived and fought with the masses for national freedom and genuine democracy.  He was truly grounded on the people.  In return, the masses embraced and protected him and what he represents as their own.

The reactionary government has tried but failed to coopt Ka Parago to turn his back on the movement. When he was detained and tortured in 1999, and the enemy tempted him with “reward money,” he remained steadfast in his convictions and ever faithful to the Communist spirit of defending the interest and security of the people and the revolutionary forces. Ka Parago was a radiant Red star of the revolution.

Even when he was very angry and grieving over the tragic death of his young daughter Rebelyn who was raped and killed by the military intelligence operatives (MIG 21) of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces (ISAFP) in 2009, Ka Parago exercised political wisdom.

Ka Parago remained strong and vigilant in the face of countless enemy operations and attacks from the Marcos dictatorship to the current US-Aquino regime.  Through the years, one contingent after another from the fascist armed forces hounded him but failed.  It was only when he was very sick and weak–which the military knew beforehand–that they finally caught up on him.

Ka Parago was killed while undergoing treatment for his lingering illnesses.  He had diabetes, hepatitis and hyperthyroidism which forced him to slow down in the midst of relentless military operations of the AFP. The medic, Ka Kyle (Vanessa Limpag) who was treating and nursing him was also razed to the ground.  Well-oriented of her right  under Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions,  she had already raised her arms and was shouting that she was a medic, but was gunned down just the same by the raiding team.

Maj. Gen Eduardo Año of the 10th Infantry Division and Lt.Gen Aurelio Baladad of the Eastern Mindanao Command and the Special Operations Command of the AFP are proud and happy for this “singular achievement” of having killed a very sick man and an unarmed medic.  They have brazenly disregarded the Rules of Engagement of the Geneva Convention and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and the International Humanitarian Law (CARHR-IHL).  They should be held accountable for the death of a medical personnel. It is very clear that in the current practice of the reactionary armed forces, the military kills indiscriminately and with impunity.

Ka Parago deserves the highest proletarian revolutionary honor and recognition. As we join all revolutionaries and progressives in celebrating his meaningful life and in mourning his treacherous killing, we declare that those who rejoice in his death are grossly mistaken to even imagine the demise of the revolutionary movement.

The 10th Infantry Division-Eastern Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines obscures the strength of the people’s war and legitimacy of the revolution by parading body bags, victims and fake surrenders, to justify its huge spending and defend the status quo. Their own declaration that the revolution is leaderless is unfounded and a figment of imagination.Time and again, they declare that the revolution is dead, but the sheer immensity and ferocity of their operations in the countryside and the mounting casualties on their side mock their assertion.Only a desperate army like the AFP can make such a gross underestimation in the face of the surging people’s war.In fact, it is the US-Aquino regime that is suffering from a leadership crisis, as the ruling class is further racked with warring factions who are all rearing to gain the upper hand in the next election circus.

On the other hand, the people in Southern Mindanao, and especially the lumads and peasants in the guerilla bases remember Ka Parago as their most beloved “Tatay” who was always at their side, ready to listen and  to help,  so unlike the AFP generals who continue to  attack and burden the people with their atrocities and harassment.

Ka Parago lived very simply;  he was the exact opposite of the corrupt generals of the AFP who must certainly be fighting now over the so-called “Php 5.6 million bounty” on his head.  Ka Parago’s spartan life and his boundless sense of responsibility became an enduring example for every revolutionary who knew him and worked with him.  As a matter of fact, for many years since the onset of his illnesses, he repeatedly declined the Party’s offer of a sick leave.  All he wanted until his last dying breath was to live with the lumads and peasant masses and to serve them.

Truly, Ka Parago lives on in the hearts of the people. He will remain as the rallying cry that will move people to work and fight for the National Democratic Revolution.As we honor his death, thousands of young revolutionaries who have been inspired by this great guerilla warrior now follow in his footsteps.  We shall always cherish Ka Parago in life and in death.  Like him, we shall persevere and do our share in delivering heavy blows on the fascist oppressors and exploiters until the day the Filipino people are liberated from national oppression and class exploitation.Let a thousand, nay, tens of thousands of Ka Parago pierce the rotten US-Aquino regime and its successor. The masses and comrades grieve his death, yes, but they turn this grief to greater revolutionary passion and commitment as the people’s war goes on.

For the Regional Party Committee
Southern Mindanao


PHOTO | NDF activists stage lightning rally in Davao City to honor slain NPA commander 'Parago'

From InterAksyon (Jul 8): PHOTO | NDF activists stage lightning rally in Davao City to honor slain NPA commander 'Parago'

More than 50 members of revolutionary organizations under the National Democratic Front of the Philippines staged a lightning rally in downtown Davao city as part of a series of activities to honor the late New People's Army commander Leoncio Pitao, more known as "Ka Parago."

Pitao, who was ailing, and his NPA medic Vanessa "Ka Lyle" Limpag were killed in a military raid in Davao's Paquibato district on June 28.


MILF: House to fine-tune BBL, tops agenda of 16th Congress

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 8): House to fine-tune BBL, tops agenda of 16th Congress

House to fine-tune BBL, tops agenda of 16th Congress

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said on July 6 that the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law and key measures seeking to promote inclusive growth will be on top of the House of Representatives (HoR) agenda when it resumes sessions on July 27. It will be the third and final regular session of the HoR.

The proposedBangsamoro Law now called “Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region” (BLBAR), will be fine-tuned by lawmakers “to ensure greater inclusivity” ahead of the resumption of plenary debates on the measure later this month, Belmonte told news reporters before flying to the Netherlands to observe the oral arguments before the United Nations (UN) arbitral tribunal on the Philippines’ case against China’s reclamation on the contested Spratly Islands owned the Philippines.

“We want to ensure a more meaningful autonomy while likewise paving the way towards a more effective provision of vital services to our people. We want a peace that is lasting and sustainable,” he said.

The HoRadjourned sine die on June 11 with the Bangsamoro bill still under the period of interpellation on the plenary. Its counterpart measure in the Senate has yet to be approved at the committee level.

Aside from the BBL, Belmonte said the House is committed to deliberating on important measures on the following areas of concern: economic development and trade; national security, public order and safety; promotion of good governance; revitalizing education for a more competitive human resources; enhancement of social protection; expanding access to health to achieve higher productivity; unleashing land productivity; sustainable energy; climate change adaptation; and peace.


MILF: “Canada to put investments in Mindanao once BBL is passed”: Canadian Ambassador

Posted to the MILF Website (Jul 8): “Canada to put investments in Mindanao once BBL is passed”: Canadian Ambassador

Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder -- Carmencita A. Carillo of Business World

Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder -- Carmencita A. Carillo of Business World

During his visit to Davao City last Friday, July 3 where he attended the opening of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Expo, his Excellency Canadian Ambassador to the PhilippinesNeil Reeder said that the government can expect more investment from Canada once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed by Congress.

“We expect Canadian investments to increase with the passage of the BBL. We continue to support the Bangsamoro peace process and all efforts to implement a comprehensive agreement,” said Ambassador Reeder.

Mr. Reeder said while Canadian investments are currently focused in Manila and Cebu, he expects more ventures in Mindanao with the anticipated improvements in peace, security and overall economic climate arising from the implementation of the new law.

Among others, Canada is eyeingagri-food sector, bio-waste, and mining in Mindanao.

The country is Canada’s priority trade and investment markets under its Global Markets Action Plan.
During the 148th Canada Day celebration in the Davao City last Thursday, Mr. Reeder also stressed Canada’s support for the peace process in the Philippines .

The Canadian Government has been working closely with the peace panels, including the development of alternatives for a new policing structure within the proposed Bangsamoro Region.

“Our government applauds the determination of the Government of the Philippines and the members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to move forward with the peace process,” Mr. Reeder said.

“The start of the decommissioning process demonstrates the willingness of both sides to pave the way forward for lasting peace and stability, development and long-term economic prosperity for the people of southern Philippines and all Filipinos who have endured decades of conflict,” he added.


CPP/NDF: Red salute to a true revolutionary and soldier of the people, Kasamang Parago!

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 6): Red salute to a true revolutionary and soldier of the people, Kasamang Parago!

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
The entire revolutionary forces of North Eastern Mindanao Region (NEMR) salutes and bestows the highest honor to a true revolutionary and Red commander, Ka Parago or Leoncio Pitao. We are one with the masses, his family, friends and entire revolutionary forces in mourning his death as we praise his significant contribution to the advance of the national democratic revolution in Southern Mindanao Region (SMR) and in the country. We join the entire revolutionary movement in resolutely continuing and advancing the revolutionary cause that Ka Parago has devoted and gave his life for!

Ka Parago was respected and loved by the masses for he has sincerely and courageously served the people and the revolution for 37 years. For the masses of Paguibato, he was a caring comrade, ever willing to listen to their woes and to fight for their interests. He was always with the masses in defending their livelihood from land grabbing and plunder of greedy corporations and fighting the brutality and repression of the mercenary troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and paramilitary forces. Ka Parago was the people’s defender, a Red fighter whose commitment to the revolution has been established all throughout five (5) reactionary regimes, from Marcos’ Martial Law to the current landlord presidency of Benigno Aquino III.

As one of its military cadres and through his significant contribution, in the training of Red fighters on guerilla warfare, the 1st Pulang Bagani Command of the NPA in SMR successfully dealt numerous, daring deadly blows against operations and companies that have been destroying the land and dislocating the people in SMR. Through the correct treatment of prisoners of war of the unit he led, the NPA has shown its firm adherence to the Protocols of War and International Humanitarian Laws.

Ka Parago overcame various sacrifices throughout his revolutionary life. His father was killed by mercenary troops in the 70’s. He joined the NPA in 1978, was arrested in 1999 but upon his release in 2002, he chose to go back to the mountains and continued waging the peoples war. As a Red fighter, he lived far from his family, encountered many hardships in the face of countless military campaigns and operations and during NPA actions. The enemy has used brutal, inhumane acts to force him to abandon the masses: his family was continuously harassed and threatened by the AFP; his youngest daughter 22 year old Rebelyn was abducted, tortured, raped and then killed by military operatives in 2009. Battalions of enemy troops went after his guerilla unit without let-up in the attempt to capture or kill him. In his later years he was sick with diabetes, hyperthyroidism and hepatitis but he refused to leave the masses, preferring to stay in the guerilla zone where he would still be able to contribute directly to the revolution despite the escalating attacks of the enemy.

The fascist troops killed Ka Parago only after decades and countless attempts of the AFP and only through mercilessly killing him when he was already very sick and unable to fight back, along with unarmed medic Vanessa Limpag aka Ka Kyle, who made it known she was a medic and was surrendering. The raiding team of the Scout Ranger Company of the AFP, were true to their fascist character and were violating the protocols of war and international humanitarian laws. It staged the scene to indicate that the two were armed and were fighting back by putting weapons beside their dead bodies.

For the people of SMR and the entire revolutionary movement, Ka Parago is a martyr, Red commander and an inspiration to join the revolution and serve the people. His life and teachings will remain and continue to contribute towards the advance of the revolution.
Red salute to Ka Parago and Ka Kyle!

Advance the people war!

Ka Maria Malaya
July 6, 2015

Gazmin close to being pinned in chopper scam

From an opposition newspaper, The Daily Tribune (Jul 8): Gazmin close to being pinned in chopper scam

One of President Aquino’s closest Cabinet officials, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, is near to being pinned in the anomalous P1.2-billion deal for the rehabilitation of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) helicopters as he was found to have allegedly signed the amendments to the contract agreement of the disqualified bidder.

At yesterday’s Senate hearing, it was noted that only two percent of the 35,000 contracts entered into by the Department of National Defense (DND) had undergone competitive bidding.

This means that 98 percent of the contracts inked by the government through DND were all negotiated deals.

In the continuation of the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation on the chopper deal, panel chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said the revelation of Rhodora Alvarez, a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employee and a whistle-blower in the case, Gazmin, who was not present in yesterday’s hearing, will now have a lot of explaining to do.

Gazmin earlier denied before Senate probers the alleged irregularities in the AFP’s acquisition of refurbished helicopters.

Alvarez also pointed to Gazmin as having favored the winning supplier when he signed and approved the amended terms in the contract even after it was awarded.

She said Gazmin cannot deny knowledge of the revised contract given to the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc (RASI) and Eagle Copters since he signed it.

“It was evident that there was a violation of Republic Act 9184 (Procurement Law). It was obvious that Mr (Robert) Rice, (the winning supplier) was favored in the amendments of contracts that were approved by Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,” Alvarez said.

“Our law provides that (amendment) has to be done during the pre-bid conference not after the awarding of contract. In that alone the violation was too evident. Who signed the amendment of the contract, it was recommended of course by the CTRC and approved by SND (Secretary of National Defense), Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,” she added.

CTRC is the Contract Termination and Review Committee of the DND.

Alvarez, in her affidavit submitted to the committee, said there was a seven-percent commission to be given to Gazmin and a five-percent kickback for other officials.

Gazmin denied this in a letter submitted to the committee.

“Yes we will be calling him (Gazmin). If it’s true that he signed the amendments (to the contract agreement) then we will be calling him to shed light on the matter,” Guingona told reporters after the hearing.

“Only two percent out of the 35,000 contracts, underwent public bidding. That means all the other contracts were considered as a failed bid that were later on subjected to negotiated procurement. The DND tried to explain that most of the contracts were on the battalion level involving small purchases,” he said.

The matter of Gazmin being held accountable is not remote it will be established that he has some responsibility and liability over the negotiated deals.

“Well if ever, it (accountability) has to go up to the secretary, yes (it can happen),” Guingona said.
But they have to ascertain first whether there weres some violations committed especially on the issue of the P1.2 billion acquisition project involving UH-1 helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

But this early, Guingona admitted that the decision of the DND and PAF (Philippine Air Force) to engage in a negotiated contract with Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) jointly with Eagle Copters Ltd. was highly questionable.

“But suffice it to say that there are a lot of questions on it. First about the bidding failure because of Rice (RASI), second bidding failure were also because of Rice (RASI). Third bidding failure happened and then came the negotiated contract. So it really puts a question in our mind. Is there something behind all these? Why negotiate the contract with the same person which caused the failed bids,” the senator said.

One of the documents submitted to the committee showed Gazmin being among the signatories on the ”amendment to the contract agreement”, notarized on June 28, 2014, in which the DND, among the provisions altered, agreed to forego to pre-delivery inspection.

In the supposed original contract, pre-delivery inspection was supposed to be conducted in the United States where the main office and hangar of RASI are located.

The department, based on the document, likewise acceded to remove some technical specifications for the UH-1 helicopters which were stated in the contract specifically on items listed under the “power train item.”

Under the contract the supplier is required to install mast, straps and main rotor trunnion assemblies that are in new surplus condition. This requirement was removed in the amended version of the contract.

RASI, Alvarez claimed, did not raise any issues during the pre-bidding process and it was only after DND awarded the contract to company that these were made.

The whistleblower earlier said the controversial procurement of the 21 helicopters by the DND was “tailor-fitted” to favor the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services, Inc (RASI) and Eagle Copters, Ltd.
The amendments introduced were the exclusion of a pre-delivery inspection and the technical specification of power train. These were made upon the request of supplier RASI.


Philippines plans to ramp up its military spending

From the Business World (Jul 7): Philippines plans to ramp up its military spending

THE PHILIPPINES plans to ramp up military spending over the next 13 years, earmarking more than $20 billion to modernize its forces in the face of Beijing’s maritime ambitions in the disputed South China Sea, a top Air Force official told Reuters.

A US Marine amphibious assault vehicle (AAV) makes its way to shore in Zambales as part of annual Philippine-US joint maneuvers in this file photo. The Philippines will buy more military equipment to modernize its forces. -- AFP
Maj. Gen. Raul del Rosario, military chief of plans, said the blueprint includes installing radars and sensors, and buying equipment such as submarines, frigates, fighters, surveillance planes and missile systems.
“By the time, we complete this plan, we will have complete coverage of the South China Sea,” said Mr. del Rosario, a former fighter pilot, showing the military’s detailed plan that was approved on Friday. “We will have 24/7 awareness of what is happening in the disputed area and we’ll be able to respond quicker to any contingency in our own exclusive economic zone.”

He said the ambitious plan was initiated in 2013, but top brass had only approved overall spending of P998 billion ($22.11 billion) last week.

Mr. del Rosario said P83 billion had been earmarked for the first five years, P444 billion for the next five years and P471 billion for the last five years.

In 1995, Congress had earmarked P364 billion for a similar 15-year plan. Less than one-tenth of that sum was actually spent by 2010.

The modernization program is designed to strengthen Manila’s claims in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy deposits.

China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, building artificial islands in areas over which the Philippines and other countries have rival claims. The moves have sparked alarm regionally and in Washington.


President Benigno S. C. Aquino III has promised the military about P34 billion this year, which will fund the purchase of two frigates and a twin-engine long range maritime aircraft.
So far, the government has given the military P9.4 billion in 2014. This has been used to purchase eight combat utility helicopters and as a down payment for 12 FA50 fighter-trainers from South Korea. Two of the aircraft are expected in 2016.

Mr. del Rosario said that between 2018 and 2023 the Philippines would buy electric-diesel submarines and advanced missile systems.
Three aerial surveillance radars with a range of 350 nautical miles will also be installed in Ilocos Norte, Lubang Island and Mount Salacot in Palawan, all facing the South China Sea to detect movements in the disputed area.
These will complement the navy’s two surface sensors capable of detecting ship activities 200 miles away. Three surveillance planes will also be on constant patrol in the area.
“We do not aim to defeat China,” Mr. del Rosario said. “But our goal is make any state think twice before attacking. We will make sure anybody attacking us would end up with a bloodied nose.”

Road to peace, road to Bangsamoro

From ABS-CBN (Jul 7): Road to peace, road to Bangsamoro

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - In his first State of the Nation Address, President Benigno Aquino III already signified his plan to achieve a lasting peace in Mindanao.

"Tungkol sa sitwasyon sa Mindanao: hindi po nagbabago ang ating pananaw. Iwasan natin ang mga pagkakamaling nangyari sa nakaraang administrasyon kung saan binulaga na lang ang mga mamamayan ng Mindanao," President Aquino said.

The coming years would show the seriousness of the President's intent. One year after becoming President, Aquino met with the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Murad Ebrahim, in Tokyo, Japan.

More meetings between government and MILF negotiators followed, as both sides dreamed of the possibility of peace.

In 2012, MILF Chief Murad Ebrahim set foot for the first time in Malacanang. On March 2014, the government and MILF peace panels finally came together to sign the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

Those who lived in fear after decades of war were given new hope.

MILF Chief of Operations Mohammad Nasif said that after 43 years, MILF warriors could now look forward to a time when they could live normal lives.

"After 43 years of struggle, gusto ko na ng private life. Mag-bonding muna kami kasi wala kaming bonding for 43 years," he said.

Wilma Madatu, education and training chair of the MILF Bangsamoro Women Auxiliary Brigade, wept as she foresaw the end of their struggle once Congress passed the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

"For 17 years, nagsimula kay Corazon aquino, nakita niya ang problema sa Mindanao. Si [Joseph] Estrada ang pinaka-worst na nangyari sa amin. Sinabi niya pulbusin ang mga Moro. Masakit sa amin yon. Tingin namin kay Estrada katulad din siya ni [Ferdinand] Marcos. Si Gloria [Arroyo] hindi naman masabi na maganda or worst pero don kami nagkaroon ng magandang tingin namin sa presidente nang dumating si Noynoy kasi yong sinimulan ng kanyang nanay parang pinagpatuloy niya," Madatu said.

Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo believes that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is not the only solution to the problem in Mindanao.

He, however, admitted it is the best option as of this time.

“Our peace and order forces are tired of fighting. Civilians are tired of evacuating. I'm sure the milf is also tired of fighting," he said.

But the journey to peace was unexpectedly derailed after an encounter transpired between the Philippine National Police Special Action Forces, the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

The police operation was meant to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifili Bin Abdhir alias Marwan, bomb maker Basit Usman and Amin Baco.

Marwan was killed in the operation but 44 PNP-SAF troopers, 18 MILF fighters and 5 civilians were also killed in the operation.

Emotions ran high as some members of the families of the Fallen 44 blamed President Aquino for the incident.

The peace talks with the MILF became imperiled and the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law was also put at risk.

The President came out on television to explain the Mamasapano operation while reminding lawmakers that the BBL is the best chance for lasting peace in Mindanao.

Senator Allan Petter Cayetano has blamed the MILF for the loss of trust in the peace process.
"Kung hindi nila kinupkop si Marwan at kung hindi sila lumaban, hindi patay ang 44 ngayon. Tila tayo nabubulag sa pangako ng MILF at hindi nakikita na ang kapayapaang ito ay peke. Bakit pilit tayo tinatakot ng government peace panel at MILF na kung hindi ipapasa ang BBL ay magkakaroon ng gyera," he asked.


Mindanao People's Caucus secretary general Bobby Benito has a different perspective on the President's initiative and style of governance.

He said that neutralizing an international terrorist is a breakthrough.

"Ang tingin ko diyan medyo sumablay siya, pero may kasabihan nga tayo, the end does not justify the means. Sa puntong ito, palagay ko he is justified the end," he said.

"I am not saying na worthless yong buhay ng SAF atsaka buhay ng ibang namatay. Dapat maintindihan natin na gaNyan ang leadership. Sometimes, you go shortcut kasi hindi naintindihan ng common tao ang vision mo. Kasi may vision ka, you know how to achieve it. Along the way, may masasagasaan diyan. Magsho- shortcut ka pero at the end of the day, na-achieve mo ang mission mo na yon na. It is good for everybody, for the nation. It's a big accomplishment sa pag-neutralize ng international terrorists," he added.

Quevedo, however, said trust should be restored after the Mamasapano encounter.

"The Mamasapano incident was very unfortunate in the sense that human lives were lost. Because of the Mamasapano incident, the prejudices and biases of Christian Filipinos against Muslims as well as Moros against Christians rose again. It made the peace process more difficult. People think that the Moros cannot be trusted. At the same time, the Moros also, the MILF would say that we signed a protocol and it was violated and we trusted the government. Those are mutual prejudices and biases that create mistrust. Trust is the bottom line of peace agreements. If the other party cannot be trusted at all, then why sign a peace agreement? So we have to put again, restore trust to each other," he said.

Lugaya Ambilang, the sister of one of the civilians killed in the encounter, said she was angry and dismayed with the president after the Mamasapano encounter.

That all changed when she started listening to the hearings in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

"Hindi pa ako maka move-on. Pinapakita ko sa mga tao na ganito ako. Ang sakit mawalan ng nag-iisang kapatid. Sinabi namin: bakit ganon si PNoy? Binoto namin siya. Kahit sa malayo, hindi namin siya nakita ng personal. Binoto namin siya pero bakit ganon siya? Nalaman ko na walang kasalanan si PNoy. Doon ko na-realize na masama pala ang manghusga. Sana patawarin ako ng Allah," Lugaya said.

Since the Mamasapano encounter, the President has strived to push his peace initiative forward by urging lawmakers to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The military has launched an all-out offensive against the BIFF. Leaders of the breakaway group were captured and Basit Usman was killed, with the help of the MILF.

Aquino's ratings, however, took a hit after the Mamasapano encounter.

Only time will tell if the trust in MILF and the peace process has been permanently damaged by the Mamasapano encounter. One thing is for sure: the President will continue to urge his allies to pass the BBL before he steps down in 2016.


Taiwan weighs in on PH-China maritime row

From the Philippine Star posted to ABS-CBN (Jul 8): Taiwan weighs in on PH-China maritime row

Any arrangement or agreement – including arbitration proceedings – regarding islands in the South China Sea and their surrounding waters reached without Taiwan’s participation and consent will have no legal effect and will not be recognized by the Taiwanese government, Taiwan’s ministry of foreign affairs said yesterday.

In a statement issued on the first day of the Philippines’ presentation of its case against China regarding jurisdiction before the United Nations arbitral tribunal, Taiwan said it enjoys all the rights to these island groups and their surrounding waters in accordance with international law and the Taiwanese government “does not recognize any claim to sovereignty over or occupation areas by other countries, irrespective of the reasons put forward or methods used for such claim or occupation.”

The Taiwanese foreign ministry said the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, Macclesfield Bank and Pratas Islands, as well as their surrounding waters, are an inherent part of Taiwan’s territory and waters.

Taiwan also called on countries with claims in the South China Sea to respect the spirit and principles of the UN Charter and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and to exercise restraint, safeguard peace and stability in the region by refraining from any unilateral action that might escalate tensions.

“The ROC (Republic of China) government will work to safeguard sovereignty, shelve disputes, pursue peace and reciprocity and promote joint development,” the foreign ministry statement said.

“Based on consultations conducted on an equal footing, the ROC is willing to work with other parties concerned to jointly ensure peace and stability in the South China Sea, as well as conserve and develop resources in the region,” the ministry said.


Final episode of West Philippine Sea documentary released

From Ang Malaya (Jul 7): Final episode of West Philippine Sea documentary released

The final episode of West Philippine Sea documentary ‘Kalayaan’ was released July 26, a day before the Philippines defend its case before the Arbitral Tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in Netherlands. The final episode is entitled ‘Paninindigan Para sa Karagatan’.

The episode features Atty. Henry S. Bensurto, Jr., Philippine Consul General in San Francisco and Head of the Department of Foreign Affairs Legal Team on the West Philippine Sea; Hon. Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza and Hon. Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

President Aquino said, with regards to the final episode, Philippine delegation in Netherlands will be fighting for the country’s right in West Philippine Sea, while Filipino soldiers continue to protect Philippine sovereignty at seas.

The President urges the nation to watch and share the documentary. “Hindi natin kailangang maging sundalo o abogado upang makiambag. Sa ating henerasyon nagsisimula ang ganap na paninindigan para sa karagatan at dignidad ng Pilipinas.”

“The third episode of ‘Kalayaan’ aims to inform the audience about the Philippine position and the significance of filing an arbitration case to UNCLOS,” DFA said.


26 rebels give up, 20 guns recovered

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 7): 26 rebels give up, 20 guns recovered

Twenty-six self confessed members of the New People's Army in Negros and Panay abandoned the armed struggle and surrendered to units of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in the first semester of 2015, military records show.
In the same period, 20 firearms were recovered, of which 13 came from Negros Island and seven from Panay, Maj. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, yesterday said.
Of the 26 former rebels, 10 are from Negros and 16 from Panay, while four others had been arrested, bringing to 30 the number of neutralized rebels in the past six months, Tiongson added.
Military records also showed that the 3ID units seized 13 rebel camps in Negros and six in Panay.
Negros Occidental was recently declared peaceful and ready for further development by its local officials, while the declaration of Negros Oriental was made May last year.
The Rachelle Mae Palang Command of the New People's Army Southeast Front, in a press statement, claimed it has inflicted a blow to the declaration of the AFP that Negros Oriental is now “conflict manageable and development ready” after it successfully warded off a raid on its temporary encampment positions in Brgy. Talalac, Sta. Catalina.
They further claimed to have inflicted two casualties on the 79th Infantry Battalion, who initiated the raid, on June 13 and 14.
Ka Estrella Banag-banag, spokesperson of the Rachelle Mae Palang Command, also accused the 79IB of harassing farmers, threatening civilians and committing other forms of human rights violations.
Banag-banag also reported that they had not incurred casualties during the armed skirmishes with 79IB troops, with all personal belongings, equipment, gadgets and weapons all accounted for.
Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, 79IB commander, however, debunked claims of the NPA remnants led by a certain Ka Jimlan in southern Negros, that they suffered casualties.
Pascua said that the NPA remnants are always on the run, after experiencing irreversible setback in the past several years.

2 soldiers hurt in landmine blast in Davao del Norte

From the Philippine Star (Jul 7): 2 soldiers hurt in landmine blast in Davao del Norte

The insurgency is one of the persistent problems of the country, especially in remote areas and provinces.

Two soldiers were wounded after a landmine exploded during an ambush by suspected communist rebels on government troops in Davao del Norte Tuesday morning.
The wounded soldiers, who belonged to the Philippine Army's 68th Infantry Battalion, 10th Infantry Division, were on security patrol around 7:50 a.m. in Sitio Bayabas, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte, when a landmine exploded. 
The soldiers sustained minor shrapnel wounds and burns due to the blast. Other soldiers helped and applied first aid immediately to their wounded companions, the military said. The two soldiers are now in stable condition. 
The military said that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are being used as  landmines by New People's Army (NPA) bandits in their attack against civilians, civilian infrastructure and government troops.
Lt. Col. Zosimo Oliveros, 68th IB commander, said that the bandits immediately withdrew after a 20-minute firefight in the area. 
"Pursuit operations are still ongoing," Oliveros said.
Civilians said that the bandits planted several landmines in the area to scare the villagers. 
Military officials have condemned the continuous NPA rebels' manufacture and use of IED or landmines because these are prohibited under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Rebels torch truck

From the Philippine Star (Jul 7): Rebels torch truck

A band of suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas burned a truck owned by a businessman in Columbio, Sultan Kudarat Sunday night.

The truck had just delivered goods in Barangay Maligaya and was returning to the town proper when a group of armed men pulled it over in Barangay Sinapulan at past 6 p.m., according to Senior Inspector Bernard Francia, town police chief.

The truck was owned by businessman Willie Estabillo.

Francia said the armed men introduced themselves as NPA rebels and ordered the driver and his helper at gunpoint to get off the truck.

The rebels poured gasoline on the engine and set it on fire before fleeing.

Francia said the rebels belong to a group led by a certain “Kumander Warren” operating in Sultan Kudarat and Davao del Sur.  


PH vs China at The Hague: '80% of fish' at stake

From Rappler (Jul 7): PH vs China at The Hague: '80% of fish' at stake

On China's ancient arguments, a Supreme Court senior justice says, 'The world has rotated a trillion times, and you cannot bring this up anymore'

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

DAVID VS GOLIATH. A Chinese coast guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a standoff as the Philippine boat attempts to reach Ayungin Shoal, a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014. File photo by Jay Directo/AFP

The Philippines is set to slam China before a UN-backed tribunal Tuesday, July 7, with a practical issue at stake: the Philippines' right to fish in the disputed South China Sea.

For starters, the Philippines needs to smash China's strongest argument. China asserts that the arbitral tribunal at The Hague, The Netherlands, has no right to hear the historic case over the disputed waters. The Philippines has until Monday, July 13, to debunk China's claim.
If the court decides it has jurisdiction, Manila can present the merits of its case at a future date.
"The issue here is whether the Philippines will keep 80% of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea, or we lose it to China," Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court told Rappler's Maria Ressa.
"If we lose 80% of our EEZ in the South China Sea, that means we lose 80% of the fish we catch annually in the South China Sea," Carpio said in the Rappler interview on June 27.
The EEZ is an area 200 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines or edges. Within the EEZ, the coastal state has the exclusive right to fish and to exploit other resources.
The Philippines, then, will lose much of its traditional fishing grounds if it fails before the tribunal. (Watch the full interview below.)

These traditional fishing grounds include Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
Panatag Shoal was the site of the site of a heated standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in April 2012. The incident eventually prompted the Philippines to file a historic case against China in January 2013.
Ironically, experts said the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague has even emboldened China.
The Asian giant, for one, has driven Filipino fishermen away from Panatag.
Calling this a human rights violation, two Filipino lawyers recently requested 3 UN bodies to "direct China...to respect the human rights" of Filipino fishermen.
Gas reserves affected, too
In his interview with Rappler, Carpio added another dimension to losing much of the EEZ: losing gas reserves.
He pointed out that the Malampaya gas field – which provides 40% of electricity in the Philippines' biggest island group, Luzon – "will run out of gas in 10 years."
Carpio said because of this, the Philippines "should develop" Recto Bank (Reed Bank) in the South China Sea, a source of natural gas bigger than Malampaya.
The problem, he said, is that the Chinese coast guard harasses Philippine survey ships in Recto Bank. (READ: Philippines slams China over 'sovereignty patrols')
This is why the Philippines is "not able to do the survey and drilling" in the area. (READ: PH gives mixed signals on Recto Bank drilling)
Carpio said the Philippines "will lose the entire Reed Bank if we lose this case to China." He added that half of Malampaya could be "encroached by the 9-dash line," China's demarcation to claim virtually the entire South China Sea.
Still, Carpio believes the Philippines has a strong case because the country adheres to United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
LEGAL BATTLEGROUND. A picture made available July 28, 2014, shows the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Vredespaleis (Peace Palace), in The Hague, the Netherlands on August 27, 2013. File photo by Guus Shoonewille/EPA
LEGAL BATTLEGROUND. A picture made available July 28, 2014, shows the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Vredespaleis (Peace Palace), in The Hague, the Netherlands on August 27, 2013. File photo by Guus Shoonewille/EPA

"The purpose of law of the sea is to provide stability and peace in the use of our oceans and seas," Carpio said.
UNCLOS 'a big compromise'
He pointed out that before UNCLOS was concluded in 1982, coastal states claimed varying portions of the sea. Some claimed up to 500 nautical miles from the baselines, some 600, some 200.
UNCLOS provided a "big compromise," Carpio said: Each coastal state will have an EEZ of 200 nautical miles from the baselines, "but you have to waive all other historical claims to all other waters."
China has cited its historical rights to uphold its 9-dash line – which Carpio earlier said is based "on historical lies."
"China signed and ratified UNCLOS. But now China is saying, ‘Yes, we are entitled to 200 nautical miles, but we also claim the entire South China Sea because of historic rights.' I mean, they cannot do that," he said.
China reminds Carpio of the 17th century, when scholars debated whether a state can own seas and oceans. "That debate raged for over a century. There was a battle for the hearts and minds of legal scholars and policymakers."
On one hand, he said, Dutch scholar Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) argued that seas and oceans "belong to all mankind" and remain "part of the global commons."
English scholar John Selden (1584-1654), on the other hand, claimed that naval powers "could own oceans and seas."
Grotius eventually prevailed with his argument "that oceans and seas belong to all mankind, except for the territorial sea," which UNCLOS measures 12 nautical miles from a coastal state's baselines.
Carpio said: "Now, 300 years later, China is saying, 'We own the sea.' China is resurrecting the arguments of John Selden. This debate was concluded a long time ago. The world has rotated a trillion times, and you cannot bring this up anymore."

Security forces on alert due to BIFF threat in Maguindanao

From InterAksyon (Jul 7): Security forces on alert due to BIFF threat in Maguindanao

Soldiers and policemen in Maguinanao are on alert status, 7 July 2015.DENNIS ARCON/InterAksyon.com

The entire forces of the 6th Infantry Division in Maguindanao is on alert due to the resurgent threat of elements of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), splinter group of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) now in peace negotiations with the Philippine government.

Four separate BIFF attacks were reported in the towns of Datu Hoffer and Shariff Aguak after military and police camps were peppered with bullets, resulting in the death of one Army corporal.

BIFF spokesman Abu Misrie Mama also immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Aside from these four incidents, a grenade was lobbed at the house of Datu Unsay acting mayor Monawara Ampatuan also in the town of Shariff Aguak early Monday morning. This resulted in the wounding of a carpenter, Mandatu Pronogero. Investigation on this incident continues.

Homemade bomb found by roadside

In a related development, part of the national highway in Datu Saudi has been closed to traffic after a homemade bomb was discovered at past 6 a.m. Monday. The bomb was made from bullets of an 81-millimeter mortar.

In the town of Pikit, North Cotabato, killed in a shootout at 6:15 this morning was a certain PO2 Anwar Batingkay.

The victim sustained gunshot wounds in the body, leading to his death.

Batingkay is said to be part of Pikit-PNP and an intelligence office. Motive for the killing is still unknown.

Last week, two policemen were gunned down in the town of Datu Salibo, Maguindanao. The perpetrators are still unknown.


BIFF attacks a show of force – Army

From MindaNews (Jul 7): BIFF attacks a show of force – Army
The Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) has been staging attacks to create the impression that it remains a force to reckon with, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Joann Petinglay said.

Petinglay was reacting to the “hit and run” attacks by the BIFF, including the killing Sunday of an unarmed, off-duty soldier in Barangay Labo-Labo, Datu Hofer, Maguindanao.

She said all government forces in Maguindanao have been directed not to travel or commute alone but in groups, on-duty or off-duty, to prevent the recurrence of similar attacks.

Cpl. Saturnino Saragena, of the 38th Infantry Battalion and team leader of the Civilian Armed Force Geographical Unit in Barangay Labo-Labo, was heading toward the market place when shot by suspected BIFF hitmen.

The BIFF, through its spokesperson, Abu Misri Mama, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying his group has shifted to guerrilla warfare because it could not match government forces in an open war.

Before Saragena’s killing, the BIFF harassed the 43rd Philippine National Police Special Action Force Company in Shariff Aguak town, apparently to divert the attention of military forces.

“Clearly, the BIFF wanted to get media mileage,” Petinglay said, adding “the Army will not allow this sitting down.”

Meanwhile, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu condemned the attacks which he said came during the holy month of Ramadhan.

“I am sad that some of the victims of BIFF attacks were soldiers in ‘bayanihan’ mission in Maguindanao,” Mangudadatu said, citing two soldiers who were working for the rehabilitation of Datu Unsay Elementary School were killed earlier.

“Our government forces do not attack or liquidate BIFF when they chance upon them but arrest and give them their day in court,” he said.

The governor shared Petinglay’s assessment that the attacks were a show of force on the part of the BIFF.

Early this year, the military launched an “all-out offensive” against the BIFF in Maguindanao displacing thousands of residents and disrupting classes in the province.

The BIFF broke away from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) a few years ago.

The split stemmed from disagreements on the conduct of the peace talks with government.


Rizal declared 'Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): Rizal declared 'Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development'

Showing proof that rebel strength in the countryside is now on the decline, Rizal Province was declared "Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development" Monday.

The event took place 2 p.m. at the Multi-Purpose Hall, Ynares Center Complex, Antipolo City.

Rizal Gov. Rebecca Ynares expressed her thanks to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police and other stakeholders in promoting peace and development in the province.

During the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) certifying Rizal's "Conflict Manageable and Ready for Further Development" status, Ynares said that they will ensure that all parties concerned shall be united and undertake the responsibility in sustaining internal peace and security operations in the province.

Southern Luzon Command head Lt. Gen. Ricardo R. Visaya expressed his gratitude to Rizal provincial officials and residents for their active involvement and participation in sustaining peace and development within their province.


Update: New ASG recruits behind Sulu grenade throwing incident; 11 civilians injured

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): Update: New ASG recruits behind Sulu grenade throwing incident; 11 civilians injured
A top military said the grenade throwing incident that occurred early Tuesday in Jolo, Sulu was perpetrated by new recruits of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) sent on a test mission.

Col. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said latest investigation report showed the number of victims rose to 11, including two children, from the initial figure of seven.

Arrojado said based on information they gathered, the group composed of six members led by Aljun Adun, a follower of Ajang-Ajang under ASG sub-leader Ninuk Sappari.

He said the group were monitored a day before the incident at the residence of Ining Jawhari Adun in Sitio Baunoh, Barangay Bangkal, Patikul.

Arrojado said the group was sent to carry out liquidation mission with soldiers and policemen as well as uncooperative civilians as their main targets.

The official said they have strengthened the conduct of checkpoints in all roads from and to Jolo in coordination with the police “for possible apprehension of the suspects.”

He said the truck of the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion was returning to Camp Bud Datu in Barangay Tagbak, Indanan after fetching soldiers to the headquarters of the 35th Infantry Battalion in Barangay Liang, Patikul purposely to take promotional examination.

He said the suspects riding tandem on a motorcycle tailed the truck and hurled a fragmentation grenade towards military vehicle.

However, he said the grenade landed and exploded near a group of bystanders as the suspects missed their main target, the military truck. The suspects sped off immediately.

The victims were identified as the following: Hassan Linsani, 42; Rodelio Gitgit, 40; Jayjay Gitgit, 10; Jeremy Boon, 52; Marry Boon, 32; Elina Misuari, 40; Rofya Raffi, 32; Ibno Abdulmain, 22; Ferdauza Rajek, 24; Sitti Kausar Assadi, 51; and, Mohammad Heshum Alkhimar, six.

Arrojado said the troops from the Jolo Internal Defense Force (JIDF) rushed to the blast site and in coordination with police assisted in transporting the victims to the hospital.


2 troopers hurt in NPA ambush in Davao Del Norte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): 2 troopers hurt in NPA ambush in Davao Del Norte

Two troopers from the 68th Infantry Battalion were hurt after they were ambushed by New People's Army (NPA) bandits in Sitio Bayabas, Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod town, Davao Del Norte Tuesday.

The rebel attack was followed by a IED blast, Eastern Mindanao Command public affairs office chief Capt. Alberto Caber said.

The ambush took place at 7:50 a.m.

He added the two soldiers suffered minor shrapnel wounds and burns due to the explosion.

The two are now in stable condition after being given first-aid treatment by their fellow troopers.

First-aid care was immediately applied by the troops to the wounded personnel and they are now in stable condition.

IEDs are being use as a landmine by NPA bandits in their attack against civilians, civilian properties and government troops.

68th Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Zosimo Oliveros said that the bandit group immediately withdrew after a 20 minute firefight in the area.

"Pursuit operations are still ongoing," he added.

Civilians reported that the bandits planted several landmines in the area to instill fear among the villagers.

The manufacture and use of IED or landmines are prohibited under the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.


PCG helicopter up for emergency repairs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): PCG helicopter up for emergency repairs

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has allocated the sum of PhP7.45 million for the emergency repair of its PCG Helo 1636.

The PCG said the money is intended for the repair of "engine number one turbine assembly" of the aircraft.

Winning bidders are required to deliver the items within 30 calendar days.

The PCG is known to operate three helicopter units for its maritime patrols and search-and-rescue missions.

Bid opening is scheduled for July 14 at 9 a.m. at the PCG Conference Room, 2nd Admin Building, Port Area, Manila.

Bids will be opened in the presence of the bidders’ representatives who will opt to attend. Late bids shall not be accepted.


19th Philippine Contingent to Haiti formally deployed Tuesday

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): 19th Philippine Contingent to Haiti formally deployed Tuesday

The Air Force formally deployed the 19th Philippine Contingent to Haiti (19th PCH) Tuesday morning.

The 135-strong all Philippine Air Force (PAF) contingent formally bid farewell to their loved ones and families at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City at 10 a.m.

The send-off ceremonies were presided by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deputy chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. John Bonafos.

The 19th PCH departed for Haiti via a UN-chartered Ethiopian Airline at around 2:30 p.m.

The group includes a doctor, two nurses and 13 female soldiers led by Col. Vincent Incognito.

The batch was supposed to be deployed to Liberia last year but was cancelled due to Ebola cases in that region.

They will replace the Philippine Navy contingent which is scheduled to return to the country on July 14.

AFP Peacekeeping Operations Center (PKOC) Col. Roberto Ancan said the 19th PCH will act as Force Headquarters Support Unit that performs clerical, VIP security and conducts Civil Military coordination activities at Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Filipino peacekeepers will join the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

UN peacekeepers are selected from among AFP soldiers that are trained with peacekeeping related courses who further undergo a three-month refresher course at the PKOC prior to their deployment.

Peacekeeping operation is the AFP's commitment to the United Nations in the advocacy for international peace and solidarity, delivery of humanitarian relief, alleviation of human suffering due to conflict, respect to rule of law, protection of human rights, women and children and participation in conflict mitigation.


Chopper supplier, whistleblower face off in Senate hearing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): Chopper supplier, whistleblower face off in Senate hearing

The officials of the supplier of the 21 units of refurbished helicopters for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) modernization and whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez faced off on Tuesday in the fourth Senate inquiry into the alleged anomalous Php1.2-billion transaction.

Robert Rice Jr., president of the US-based Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. (RASI), accused Alvarez of trying to extort money from them.

”She demanded for 15 percent commission after the awarding of the contract and once we denied her request because 15 percent was too much, she begins to back off and then insisted that she wanted 3 percent for commission,” Rice told the Senate blue ribbon panel chaired by Sen. Teofisto Guingona Jr.

Rice, who was seated beside Alvarez, clarified that even the three percent commission was not given to Alvarez because the former Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employee has an accounted 210,689 dollars for the supposed payment of salaries of RASI’s Filipino crew in the Philippines.

The RASI officials claimed when they refused to pay Alvarez, she allegedly revoked the performance bonds for the contract which they paid for 121,460 dollars and another for 110,500 dollars after it expired.

Rice also blamed the delay in the delivery of the helicopters to Alvarez’s threats to file tax evasion charges against the RASI’s local crew.

In his Powerpoint presentation, Rice showed photos taken from her Facebook account showing Alvarez handing out money.

“This is Christmas time and she’s handing out money. She has two brand new vehicles, a brand new van and a brand new car in addition to the many vacations she’s taking as well. She brought her family to Hong Kong’s Disney land,” Rice claimed.

Rice accused Alvarez of using fabricated statement, adding “she made a lot of allegations and assumptions based on her lack of knowledge.”

Alvarez categorically denied Rice’s accusation that she tried to extort money from RASI, claiming she even mortgaged her condominium unit just to pay in advance the salary of the RASI’s Filipino crew in the Philippines.

”I was never an extortionist. My purpose of coming out is for the country because I don’t want our soldiers to be put in danger by flying helicopters which are not safe,” Alvarez said.

Meanwhile, Guingona described the exchange of accusations by Rice and Alvarez as secondary, insisting the main purpose of the Senate inquiry is to find out if the procurement laws have been violated in the acquisition of the UH-1D choppers from RASI.

”Regardless of the motives of these people, what important is whether the law has been violated, whether the specifications have been tailor-fitted to favor one supplier, whether they receive kickbacks and what we should be done to avoid this in the future,” Guingona said.

Guingona asked the Department of National Defense (DND) to prepare answer to Alvarez’s allegations that the Php1.2 billion contract for the purchase of the 21 helicopters was tailor-fitted to favor RASI which has already been disqualified three times in the previous biddings.

Guingona also asked to submit explanation on what he described as alarming data from DND which shows that only two percent or 650 out of 35,000 contracts of the DND have been approved after meeting required documents in 2013.

”This is very alarming figures. It’s certainly raises some questions which I hope you can answer in the coming days,” Guingona said.

Manalo explained that the contracts were mostly ‘small one’ by the field commanders of the AFP.


PHL-China relations remain strong but China has to heed ASEAN Centrality vis-a-vis territorial dispute - Palace exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): PHL-China relations remain strong but China has to heed ASEAN Centrality vis-a-vis territorial dispute - Palace exec
A Palace official on Tuesday maintained that bilateral relations between the Philippines and China remain strong but China has to acknowledge the ASEAN centrality principle regarding the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea row.

In a briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the two countries are celebrating this year the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

He pointed out that as agreed by President Benigno Aquino III and Chinese President Hu Jintao during the former's visit in China in 2011 the relationship between the two countries does not solely rely on the West Philippine Sea issue.

"Patuloy ang pagpapasigla ng people-to-people programs sa maraming larangan tulad ng edukasyon at kultura, at kooperasyong pangkabuhayan. (The people-to-people programs on various aspects like education and culture and livelihood cooperation continue to be strengthened)," he said.

However, Coloma discounted bilateral talks as a mode of addressing issues regarding territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea.

"Malinaw ang posisyon ng Pilipinas: kailangang kilalanin ang prinsipyo ng ASEAN Centrality dahil sa Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea sa pagitan ng China at mga kasapi ng ASEAN na nilagdaan noon pang 2002 at sa patuloy na panawagan hinggil sa pagbubuo ng legally binding Code of Conduct (The Philippines' position is clear: the principle of ASEAN Centrality must be acknowledged as agreed under the Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea signed by China and ASEAN members in 2002 and as calls for the institution of a legally binding Code of Conduct continues)," he said.

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua on Monday said he believed that a war between the Philippines and China was far from happening despite the territorial row.

He, instead suggested that the two countries discuss the issue through bilateral talks.

The Philippines has submitted a case before the international tribunal and the first day of hearing on the case is set from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Tuesday (The Netherlands time).

Asked for his thoughts on the timing of the Chinese's ambassador's proposal, Coloma said this was not their focus and that they do not have any information on this but stressed his belief that bilateral relations between the two countries remained strong.


DND says no realignment of SBMS project

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): DND says no realignment of SBMS project

The Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday denied reports that realignment took place in its shore-based missile system (SBMS) project which has a budget of Php6.5 billion.

"The SBMS project is merely a proposal at this time, and as such, there is no 'realignment' but rather a re-prioritization of the said project in favor of the urgent need of our PA (Philippine Army) troops for individual force protection equipment," DND public affairs office chief Arsenio Andolong said.

He added that the re-prioritization was a collective decision by Defense senior leaders, which was submitted to the President after going through the required processes in the Defense System of Management (DSOM), which took into consideration the dynamics of the country’s ever developing security environment.

"We reiterate that Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin will never be a party to nor condone graft and corruption in the AFP Modernization Program as insinuated in the report," Andolong pointed out.

Earlier, PA spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato said that the SBMS project was not removed from the lists of weapons to be acquired under the revised Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program but merely rescheduled.

The first phase of the program was scheduled for 2013 to 2017.

"It was not scrapped but moved to the second horizon," Detoyato said.

It means that the project will be implemented in 2018 to 2022.

While third phase of the AFP modernization is slated for 2023 to 2028.

And in the meantime, force protection equipment, squad designated rifles and modern radios as these equipment are urgently needed by ground forces operating down south.

Detoyato added the SBMS would be acquired to beef up the external defense capabilities of the PA and not aimed at any particular nation.

He also stressed that all equipment acquired under the modernization program were above board and undergone the legal procurement process.


CIDG bags 2 rebels during General Santos operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 7): CIDG bags 2 rebels during General Santos operations

Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group have arrested two members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front during operations at Purok 3, Lanton, Barangay Apopong, General Santos City Monday.

CIDG chief Director Benjamin B. Magalong identified the arrested rebels as couple Regina and Edgar Patulombon.

The two were arrested at 1 p.m. by combined operatives of CIDG Southern Mindanao, 10th Infantry Division and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The two are wanted for kidnapping Army personnel sometimes in June 2013.

Regina is the chairman of Medical Team of Southern Mindanao Region and is capable of doing medical surgery as she did to a wounded rebel commander.

Recovered from the two rebels were a caliber .38 revolver and two fragmentation grenades.