Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Army rejects ceasefire offer

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jul 15): Army rejects ceasefire offer

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Army soldiers check on the surroundings of the village from the top of a bullet-riddled tanod outpost in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City on Tuesday, July 14, 2015. New People’s Army rebels attacked the village last Saturday killing an Army soldier and wounding two civilians. (Froilan Gallardo)

MILITARY operations against New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas holding an Army private captive will continue despite the rebels’ offer of a seven-day ceasefire.

The rebels wanted the cease-fire as a pre-condition for the release of Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba, whom they took prisoner Saturday during a raid in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City.

Captain Jo Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the Army is leaving it up to the government to decide whether to accept the NPA offer.

“That is now a political decision,” Martinez said. “Meanwhile, pursuit operations against the rebels will continue.”

Martinez said the 4ID has briefed the Army leadership on the incident at Alagatan, including the condition of Lupiba who, according to earlier reports, was already wounded when he was captured.

Martinez made the statement a day after the NPA’s North Central Mindanao Regional Operations Command spokesman Ka Allan Juanito said it is amenable to a ceasefire to facilitate the safe release of Lupiba.

“We are awaiting the formation of a local crisis committee and the third party facilitator for the arrangement of a safe and orderly release,” Juanito said in a statement.

But Juanito added the NPA is ready to hold Lupiba “as long as it takes” or until circumstances permit his release.

Juanito said the NPA is treating Lupiba as a prisoner of war (POW) and will treat him in accordance with the law of warfare under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

 Juanito said the NPA is sorry for the wounding of two civilians who were caught in the crossfire.


PNoy installs former top military spy as new army chief

From the Philippine Star (Jul 15): PNoy installs former top military spy as new army chief

President Benigno Aquino III and newly appointed AFP Chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who is turning over today the Philippine Army commanding general post to Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año. Malacañang Photo Bureau/Gil Nartea

President Benigno Aquino III on Wednesday formally installed 10th Infantry Division chief Maj. Gen. Eduardo Año as the new commanding general of the Philippine Army.

Aquino led the change of command ceremony at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City where Año assumed the post left by Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri, who was appointed last week as the new chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Before assuming leadership of the 10th Infantry Division chief in July 2014, Año was the commander of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

He also served as assistant deputy chief of staff for intelligence and commander of the Army's 201st Infantry Brigade.

A graduate of the Philippine Military Academy class '83, Año was credited for the capture of several leaders of the New People's Army.

Año was implicated in the abduction of activist Jonas Burgos who went missing in 2007.

The Department of Justice, however, dismissed the arbitrary detention charges against Año and five other officers in 2013 due to lack of probable cause.

Burgos was said to be kidnapped by armed men in 2007 and was dragged to a Toyota Revo van whose license plates were traced to another vehicle earlier impounded by the military in Bulacan.


Civil society group says local politics behind Pantar ambush

From MindaNews (Jul 14): Civil society group says local politics behind Pantar ambush

A long-standing political rift was behind the ambush of Army troopers in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte on Monday, an official of a civil society organization here said.

One soldier was killed while seven others were wounded in an ambush along the national highway in Pantar at around 7:40 a.m. Monday. (see related story).

Juanito Enriquez,  managing director of the Civil Society Organization Forum for Peace who rushed to the ambush scene said the conflict was triggered by the rivalry between former Pantar mayor Mohammad Exchan Limbona and Mangondaya Tago, the vice mayor who succeeded him in May 2014.

Enriquez is also among CSOs involved in Bantay Bayanihan and is currently the chair of the press corps in Iligan City.

The rift worsened after the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) dismissed Limbona in May last year after his conviction for the killing of former vice mayor Hadji Rashid Onos.

Soldiers were deployed to secure the area following Limbona’s dismissal.

Limbona, who earlier sought traditional settlement for Onos’ killing, denied any involvement in the ambush, a source who requested anonymity told MindaNews.

The dismissed mayor was at the scene of ambush carrying a firearm and talking with other civilians, the same source said.

Goldstar Daily News reported on May 6, 2014 that the DILG ordered the installation of Tago as mayor replacing Limbona who was “dismissed from the service over the killing of another politician.”

The Goldstar report said Limbona was also meted the punishment of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reemployment in the government by the Office of the Ombudsman, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

The report added that Limbona was convicted in connection with the July 3, 2007 killing of Onos by a group that, authorities said, included Limbona, then a barangay chair.


1 soldier killed, 6 wounded in Lanao ambush

From the Manila Times (Jul 14): 1 soldier killed, 6 wounded in Lanao ambush

Authorities are investigating the possibility that a jihadist group is behind the ambush on military personnel in Pantar town, Lanao del Norte wherein one soldier was killed and six others were wounded.

On Monday, over a dozen gunmen ambushed a squad of the 42nd Company of the 4th Mechanized Battalion on board a six-by-six truck during a routine patrol along the Pantar town portion of the highway linking the provinces of Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.

One soldier was killed and six others were wounded, two of them are in critical condition. The soldiers reportedly fired back and wounded two of the attackers.

Col. Gilbert Gapay, commander of Iligan City-based 2nd Mechanized Infantry
Brigade, told the Manila Times they started coordinating with Marawi city-based 103rd Infantry Brigade to help in a probe on the alleged involvement of the Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM), based on the initial items recovered from the scene.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)-government ceasefire committee also sent investigators along with the Malaysia-led International Monitoring Team because the recent atrocities may affect the Mindanao peace process.

Recovered were two vehicles without license plates, a white Ford Ranger and black Toyoto Revo and several types of ammunition shells of Russian-made weapons such as AK or Mikhail Kalashnikov rifles and M203 grenade launcher.

Although officials are mum on the KIM’s involvement, military and police agents had reportedly arrested one of the suspected attackers who was able to post bail.

Col. Manolo Samarita, deputy commander of the 103rd brigade, confirmed to the Manila Times that the recovered vehicle matched the one used by KIM members in the foiled June 17 attack in Marawi City.

Investigators are also looking at other possible motives of the attack such as kidnapping, rido or local feud and a retaliation act on the recent arrest of alleged members of the MILF in Marawi city last Friday.


Duterte on new AFP chief Iriberri: 'He has the brains and competence to do it'

From CNN Philippines (Jul 13): Duterte on new AFP chief Iriberri: 'He has the brains and competence to do it'

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte believes new AFP chief Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri will be "a good chief of staff for the entire country."

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte described the new Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri as "a warrior."

Iriberri was assigned in Davao Region years back as a brigade commander and had worked with Duterte on the peace and security of the region.

Related: Lt. Gen. Iriberri is new AFP chief

Asked on Iriberri’s appointment, Duterte said the new AFP leader is deserving of the position.

“He’s very good… he’s also a warrior. He has got the brains and the competence to do it,” said Duterte.

“He will be a good chief of staff for the entire country, not only for the Armed Forces of the Philippines.”

According to many officials, Iriberri is also media savvy, well-experienced in civil military operations, and has a good grasp on the latest developments in military technology.

He is also known as a highly-professional and politically-neutral military officer and being chosen as the new AFP chief is an assurance that the military will exercise impartiality in next year's national polls.

Iriberri, who has been at the helm of the Army since February 2014, took over the top military post after Gen. Gregorio Catapang retired from the military service.

Iriberri is the 46th chief of staff of the military.

Aquino presided over the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo on Friday morning (July 10).


Bidders wanted for supply, delivery of rifle bullets

From the Business World (Jul3): Bidders wanted for supply, delivery of rifle bullets

THE ARMED FORCES of the Philippines (AFP) is looking for interested companies to bid for a P41.9-million contract to make, supply, and deliver more than one million rounds of rifle ammunition to be used by the Philippine Army.
In a bid invitation published on Monday, the AFP General Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee (GHQ-BAC) has invited prospective bidders to manufacture, supply, and deliver 1,059,209 rounds of 7.62-millimeter (mm) ball rounds for a contract price of P41,902,308.
Petty Officer 1 Myla M. Tiu of the GHQ BAC said that the ammunition is used by a wide range of rifle weapons used by the Philippine Army, including their standard-issued M60 rifle series, as well as the M240.

Interested bidders may purchase a complete set of bidding documents from the GHQ BAC starting yesterday (Monday) for a non-refundable fee of P25,000.

A pre-bid conference is schedule on July 20, 2015, 9:00 a.m, at the AFP BAC Conference Room in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Opening of bids is set on Aug. 7 in the same venue.

The Philippine military, through the Government Arsenal (GA), manufactures bullets for rifles and pistols on its 370-hectare industrial estate in Limay, Bataan.

DND Public Affairs Chief Arsenio R. Andolong confirmed that the GA does manufacture 7.62 mm ammunition but cited that it could be different from the type the Army needs.

US checks possible terror funding via aid groups in Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Jul 13): US checks possible terror funding via aid groups in Philippines

In this June 2008 photo, Petty Officer 2nd Class Anthony Chavez, a native of San Bernardino, Calif., works with a soldier from the Armed forces of the Philippines to move relief supplies to a school in Balasan on Panay Island. US Navy/Spike Call/Released

The United States will soon implement a program designed to screen employees and beneficiaries of federally funded aid organizations and activities in the Philippines.

Along with Guetamala, Kenya, Lebanon and Ukraine, the country is part of the pilot program of the Partner Vetting System of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to start on July 27.

The program is a "higher level safeguard" to screen potential grant recipients, sub-recipients, contractors and other individuals involved in non-profit activities, according to a document in the Federal Register.

The Department of State and USAID said the Philippines and the four other countries in the pilot program were chosen because they represent a "range of risks and are located where both agencies have comparable programs. "

Under the vetting system, analysts will collect information provided by grant applicants and search for possible matches in key US government terror databases.

When a match is found, USAID staff will further analyze all existing data and make recommendations on the eligibility of the individual or group to receive funding.

"Vetting conducted under the Partner Vetting System complements the stringent due diligence procedures undertaken by USAID and its implementing partners," officials stated in the document.

The program, however, was approved by the US Congress despite no evidence that USAID funds are being diverted to terrorist organizations.

Concerned organizations have expressed opposition to the new vetting process, which may cause aid organizations to be perceived as intelligence arms of Washington.

Officials denied the accusations, saying the PVS is "not a US intelligence collection program" as it collects the "least amount of information possible" from grant applicants.

The US government also said that the program is needed to protect US taxpayer resources in high risk environments.


Captive soldier in safe condition

From the Philippine Star (Jul 14): Captive soldier in safe condition

An official of the New People’s Army (NPA) claimed yesterday that the soldier they seized in Gingoog City in Misamis Oriental last Saturday is in safe condition.

NPA spokesman Allan Juanito said Pfc. Adonis Lupiba, 26, was treated for a bullet wound in the leg and is now in stable condition.

A trooper was killed and another was wounded when a band of NPA guerrillas shot the soldiers, who were playing basketball in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City, last Saturday.

Two civilians were wounded in the attack.      
Juanito claimed Lupiba is a prisoner of war.

He assured Lupiba’s family that he would be released as soon as he gets better and vowed to issue updates about his health.

Juanito claimed they took two high-powered firearms and other military equipment from the soldiers.       


13 captives still in Abu hands

From the Philippine Star (Jul 15): 13 captives still in Abu hands

Abu Sayyaf bandits are still holding at least 13 captives in the jungles of Sulu, a military official said yesterday.

Col. Alan Arrojado, chief of the Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS), confirmed the number following the release of teacher Russel Bagonoc last Sunday.

Arrojado said among these captives were foreign nationals, a municipal mayor of Zamboanga Sibugay, and local residents.

The foreigners were Elwold Horns of Holland, Thien Nyuk Fun of Malaysia, Bernard Then Ted Fen of Cambodia, Noui Hong Sung of Korea and Toshio Ito of Japan.

Horns, who has been in captivity since 2012, was seized along with his fellow birdwatcher Lorenzo Vinceguerra of Switzerland.

Vinceguerra managed to escape last December after he reportedly fought off his captors.

Aside from the foreigners, the other captives are Mayor Gemma Adana of Naga town in Zamboanga Sibugay, Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) personnel Gringo Villaruz and Rod Pagaling, and village chairman Roberto Bulagao.

Bulagao and the PCG men were seized on an island off Dapitan City on May 4.


Iloilo town hall receives bomb threat, IED found in bathroom

From GMA News (Jul 15): Iloilo town hall receives bomb threat, IED found in bathroom

Local police found an improvised explosive device in a bathroom of the the Pavia town municipal hall in Iloilo on Monday, after town employees received a bomb threat through a text message.

"[Sabi sa text] sasabog ang bomba sa gilid ng CR sa labas ng gym ng Pavia sa di malamang oras ngayong araw. Huwag balewalain, baka madale ang lahat sa flag-raising. I-check ninyo para makita ninyo," municipal employee Eddie Bañas told GMA Iloilo.

[Video report: Bomba, nakita sa isang banyo sa munisipyo]

Pavia police rushed to the town hall and, along with the Iloilo Provincial Public Safety Company, town they evacuated the employees from the hall.

The IED was found soon after, connected to a mobile phone that had no battery.

"Eto, pag-complete, ay talagang sasabog kasi maano nito kung makaya ng battery niya, pero titingnan natin kung either threat lang ito o take natin seriously," said Superintendent Roderick Condag, commander of the Iloilo Provincial Public Safety Company.

Police officers also searched for municipal hall from top to bottom in case another bomb had been planted. They declared the area safe two hours later.

The motive for the attempted bombing was still unclear to police investigators as of posting time. Nevertheless, security was tightened at the town hall.


Maj. Gen. Año named new Philippine Army chief —sources

From GMA News (Jul 15): Maj. Gen. Año named new Philippine Army chief —sources

Major General Eduardo Año has been appointed the new head of the Philippine Army, sources told GMA News Online.
President Benigno Aquino III will preside at the change of command ceremony at the Philippine Army headquarters in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig Wednesday morning.
Año will fill in the post of Army chief after Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri took over the post of chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last week.

Año was the former head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP). 
He is also one of the respondents in the case about the alleged abduction of activist Jonas Burgos. 

Photo: Free ride

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 15): Photo: Free ride

Defense and Air Force officials offer journalists a ride in one of the controversial used UH-ID helicopters purchased by the defense department in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City. Lino Santos


China asks PH: Drop arbitration effort

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 15): China asks PH: Drop arbitration effort

CHINA  on Tuesday  urged the Philippines to drop its arbitration case over the South China Sea dispute to bring back good relations between the both countries.

“China urges the Philippines to come back to the right track of resolving disputes through negotiation and consultation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement.

Hua Chunying
The Philippines has asked the United Nations tribunal in The Hague to declare China’s claims to virtually all the South China Sea invalid, saying Beijing’s actions have trampled on other nations’ rights.

However, China maintained that it “will never accept the unilateral attempts to turn to a third party to solve the disputes.”

China contends the tribunal doesn’t have jurisdiction, and has refused to participate in its proceedings.

China offered again to open bilateral negotiations to settle the maritime dispute, which the Philippines rejected.

“We have asked China to participate and we continue to extend the invitation for them to explain their side,” Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said.

Jose said the Philippines has “exhausted all reasonable effort” to resolve the issue through bilateral consultations as China has demanded, but the talks failed because of the conditions set by China.

The Philippines said that any negotiation on the issue would be deemed acceptable only if other members of the Association of Southeast Nations are involved.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration wrapped up its hearing on the jurisdiction and admissibility of the Philippines’s case against China last Monday, and is expected to decide on the jurisdiction issue within the year.

In a bulletin from The Hague, deputy presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the Philippines had concluded its presentation of arguments on why the court should hear the arbitration case.

Valte said the Arbitral Tribunal scheduled two rounds of hearings on jurisdiction and admissibility of the case filed by the Philippines.

The first round of oral arguments were held from July 7 to 8. A second round concluded  Monday, with Solicitor General Florin Hilbay delivering the closing statement.

Valte said the Philippines has until  July 23  to give its written submission to the Tribunal to amplify its answers to questions posed by individual members of the court.


Arbitral Tribunal gives China a chance: Vows to make decision on jurisdiction ASAP

From Ang Malaya (Jul 14): Arbitral Tribunal gives China a chance: Vows to make decision on jurisdiction ASAP

The Arbitral Tribunal is giving China an opportunity to comment until August 17 in writing on Philippines’ arguments during the Hearing on Jurisdiction and Admissibility. Though China chose not to participate in the arbitration, the tribunal wants to “assure each party a full opportunity to be heard and to present its case” as prescribed under Article 5 of Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS).

The five-man tribunal says in a statement, dated July 13, that it now enters its deliberations and is conscious of its duty under the Rules of Procedure to conduct proceedings “to avoid unnecessary delay and expense and to provide a fair and efficient process.”

“The Arbitral Tribunal will endeavour to issue its decision on such issues of Jurisdiction and Admissibility that it determines appropriate as soon as possible and expects to do so before the end of the year,” the tribunal said.

“In the event that the Arbitral Tribunal determines that it has jurisdiction over some or all of the Philippines’ claims, it will then proceed to a hearing on the merits,” it said.

Philippines has presented its position on the the issues of jurisdiction and admissibility from July 7 to 13. The tribunal gave Philippines until July 23 to submit further written responses to the questions posed by the Arbitral Tribunal during the hearing.


Rumors of NPA attack triggers panic in Isabela

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 14): Rumors of NPA attack triggers panic in Isabela

Parents pull children out of school

Rumors of an impending New People's Army attack on Isabela town in Negros Occidental, with Mayor Enrique Montilla as the target, yesterday morning triggered panic in the town and prompted some parents to pull their children out of classes in four public schools.
The police and Army in the town who were on full alert allayed fears saying the threat of an NPA attack was just a rumor.
Some classes at Isabela East, Isabela West and District 2 elementary schools, and the Isabela National High School were cancelled, Senior Inspector Ramil Sarona, Isabela police chief, said.
The parents were pulling their children out of their classes, and the teachers said they could not stop them from doing so, Sarona added.
The rumors of the threat of an NPA attack came from the East and West elementary schools but no one could say who actually started them, he said.
We have been telling Isabela residents not to believe unconfirmed reports, and not to panic, the police are on top of the situation, Sarona said.
The threat of an NPA attack came after 10,000 people crying for justice Saturday turned out for the funeral of slain Board Member Renato Malabor Sr. in Isabela, where he was mayor for nine years.
Malabor, 55, and his bodyguard Leody Jomilla, 52, were gunned down by a lone gunman on June 28.
Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. has alleged that the killing was politically motivated.
The Army and police have beefed up security in the town since the twin assassinations.
Montilla said the claim that the NPA was set to stage an attack on his town was just a rumor.
“Imaginations have run wild,” he said.
Montilla said there was no threat of an NPA attack but the police were on red alert just the same and were out on the road.
Life goes on in Isabela, Montilla said.
On rumors that he is the target of the NPA, Montilla said there are a million and one possibilities. He asked who would stand to gain the most by that?
On insinuations that the killing of Malabor was politically motivated because the board member planned to run for mayor against him in 2016, Montilla said he has lost three elections and he does not remember anybody getting hurt because of this.
Montilla pointed out that for the past year he has been very sick and almost died, and was even on a ventilator.
Sarona said he was not aware of the rumor that the NPA's target would be Montilla.
The rumor he heard is that the residents of Isabela were alarmed because the Philippine flags in the town were hanging upside down with the red on top, that was a sign that the NPA would attack, Sarona said.
The claim that the flags in the town were hanging with the red side up was not true, Sarona said.
Col. Francisco Delfin, commander of the Army's 303 rd Infantry Brigade, said the army had one company in Isabela.
The Army has not monitored any NPA plans to attack Isabela, he added.

NPAs harass Army team in Juban, Sorsogon

From the Bicol Today (Jul 13): NPAs harass Army team in Juban, Sorsogon

Red fighters on formation watch a cultural presentation during CPP 46th founding anniversary. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

Red fighters on formation watch a cultural presentation during CPP 46th founding anniversary. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

About 10 armed members of the New People’s Army (NPA) harassed an Army team led by 2Lt. Mike Anro Fragio and Lt. Niko Pendijito on Saturday night in Barangay Catanusan, Juban, Sorsogon.

According to police sources, the NPA positioned themselves at the northwest portion, about 250-300 away from the Army position, and opened fire.

The firefight lasted for about seven minutes before the rebels withdrew toward the northwest direction of Barangay Maalo, Juban.

The police said the armed men belonged to NPA’s Larangan 2 (FC 80) KOMPROB Sorsogon.

There is no reported casualty on both sides, said police report.

As a counter measure, PNP personnel of Juban MPS and adjacent Municipal Police Stations have established chokepoints/blocking force in strategic areas in their respective territorial jurisdictions which can be used as withdrawal routes of the rebels.


DND, PAF show airworthiness of newly-acquired choppers

From ABS-CBN (Jul 14): DND, PAF show airworthiness of newly-acquired choppers

In a massive effort to prove the airworthiness of the newly-acquired and highly criticized refurbished helicopters, the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Philippine Air Force (PAF) flew the seven UH-1D choppers into Camp Aguinaldo and presented them before the media.

There to show support for the endeavor were Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Defense Undersecretary and Special Bids and Awards Committee chairman Fernando Manalo, and other defense officials.

Congressmen Rodolfo Biazon and Ashley Acedillo also came to observe the event.

The procurement of the Hueys was brought to question when supplier Rhodora Alvarez alleged at a Senate hearing that certain defense officials fixed the bidding process to make sure that the contract for the purchase of 21 UH-1 choppers would land in the hands of Rice Aircraft Service, Inc. (RASI).

Alvarez said the "fixing" involved requiring helicopters to have undergone the structural life extension program (SLEP), something only RASI could have provided.

Critics questioned why after three failed biddings, the negotiated procurement still went to RASI, when in fact RASI was one of the failed bidders.

The entire contract between the defense department and RASI was for the acquisition of 21 units of refurbished UH-1 helicopters for more than P1.26 billion.

But on March 25, 2015, the defense department partially terminated its contract with RASI because the latter failed to meet its deadline of delivery.

Only 6 UH-1D choppers were turned over to the PAF worth more than P30 million. The remaining 15 helicopters will no longer be bought.

Apart from the procurement, the airworthiness of the UH-1Ds was also put to question.

At the same Senate hearing, Senator JV Ejercito showed a report from the PAF where defects on the newly-turned over Hueys were detailed: one chopper would not start while another chopper required a change of engine. Two choppers would not start.

But Gazmin said Tuesday's demonstration was an attempt to allay fears about the choppers.
The seven UH-1D choppers flew in and landed in front of the grandstand.

DND officials gave a detailed presentation of the entire acquisition process, and PAF officials gave a rundown of the capabilities of the UH-1D and how, after SLEP, it was "at par or even much better" than the UH-1H that the PAF currently has.

Afterwards, members of the media were invited for a quick flight from the grounds of Camp Aguinaldo to Rizal province and back. For purposes of comparison, reporters were allowed to fly in the older UH-1H as well.

Gazmin and Manalo both maintained that the claims of corruption against the DND are all lies, but the department has also launched an internal investigation on the issue.

Manalo, for his part, has filed libel charges against Alvarez.

Biazon and Acedillo, meanwhile, announced that the House of Representatives will hold its own hearing and review on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program.

One of the topics up for discussion, Biazon said, is the chopper controversy.


1 Army soldier killed, 5 hurt in ambush

From ABS-CBN (Jul 14): 1 Army soldier killed, 5 hurt in ambush

A soldier died and five of his comrades were wounded in an ambush in Lanao del Norte on Monday morning.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said members of the 42nd Company of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion were on their way to Barangay Punod in Pantar town when armed men sprayed bullets on their vehicle at the boundary of Kalalangan and West Pantar villages.

Some of the men who fired shots at the soldiers were hiding on the roadside, while the others were on board a white pick-up truck which was trailing the soldiers' vehicle.

The soldiers' vehicle managed to move several meters after the armed attack, giving them the chance to escape.

The lone fatality was identified as Private First Class (PFC) Joey Matallano.

The five injured are Sergeant Benigno Silvano Jr., Sergeant Rudolph Apriba, Corporal Omar Salazar, PFC Bryan Ronn Begornia, and PFC Ronald Macatay.

The white pick-up truck used by the suspects was abandoned. It only had a commemorative plate bearing the name ''Prosecutor''.

A certain Abdul Jalil Sarip, who turned out to be a village chief in Madalum, Lanao del Sur, was also arrested.

Sarip allegedly drove a Toyota Revo which some of the suspects supposedly boarded.

The military has launched an investigation to determine the motive behind the ambush.

Lt. Col. Anthon G. Abrina, Battalion Commander of the 4th Mechanized Infantry Battalion, said the assailants could be from a group who wanted to spoil the peace talks.

''It could be spoilers, it could be threat groups, lawless elements,'' he said.


MILF commanders undergo training in dev’t planning

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): MILF commanders undergo training in dev’t planning

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) camp commanders huddled for three days with representatives of government line agencies in this city to undergo formal training on how to kick off and implement development in six previously acknowledged MILF camps located in the Maguindanao and Lanao provinces.

The Area Development Planning (ADP) Workshop was held at the Em Manor Hotel in this city from July 9-11 with MILF commanders, and government military and agriculture officials to begin the transition plans for the MILF camps into peaceful and productive communities. After the three-day workshop, both GPH and the MILF participants will collaborate on formulating the priority development plans in the six sites.

Under the Annex on Normalization, the GPH and the MILF mutually agreed to constitute joint task forces that “will assess the needs, plan appropriate programs, and undertake the necessary measures to transform these areas into peaceful and productive communities."

These areas are in the vicinity of former MILF Camp Abubakar as-Siddique, Camp Badre, and Camp Omar ibn al-Khattab in Maguindanao; Camp Rajamuda in North Cotabato and Maguindanao; Camp Bilal in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; and Camp Busrah Somiorang in Lanao del Sur.

The six camps were identified and acknowledged in 1999 during the term of former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in order to facilitate the observance of the 1997 ceasefire agreement. However, an all-out war was waged against the MILF in 2000. The MILF withdrew from some of these camps, notably Camps Abubakar and Omar.

Mohamad Saleh, MILF Task Force Camps Transformation Coordinator, expressed his deep gratitude to the national government for its “commitment to achieve genuine peace and development in Mindanao.”

The work of the Joint Task Forces in each of the six sites is one of the confidence-building measures provided in the Annex on Normalization, an integral part of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which the Government and MILF Panels signed in March 2014.

“The peace dividends must already be felt by the people in our communities as soon as possible,” Saleh said.

Former Agriculture Secretary and GPH Peace Panel member Senen Bacani briefed participants on the rudiments of area development planning. He also urged the participants to identify quick-response projects that will address immediate needs of the communities such as electricity, water supply system, minor infrastructure and quick gestation livelihood projects.

“These efforts should continue because we are all Filipinos and we should provide assistance to those who need help,” Bacani said.

The three-day workshop was facilitated by Roberto “Roy” Tordecilla, World Bank Senior Expert and Engr. Nasser Sinarimbo.

Former rebel gets PHP117,000 cash assistance

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Former rebel gets PHP117,000 cash assistance

IMPASUG-ONG, Bukidnon – A former rebel of the New People’s Army (NPA) received PHP117,000 cash and livelihood assistance from the military and the local government here, a military officer said Tuesday.

Capt. Norman Tagros, spokesperson of the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, said that Jonathan B. Nacar, a.k.a “Totong,” received a check of PHP52,200 from the 8IB.

Tagros said that the amount was a remuneration of the AK-47 assault rifle that Nacar turned over when he surrendered to the army’s 8IB in Impasug-Ong, Bukidnon.

Nacar, 24, a Higa-onon tribe of Bukidnon, and a former member of the Guerrilla Front 4B of the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee, surrendered to the military in September 2014.

Lt. Col. Lennon Babilonia, commander of the army 8IB, personally handed the check to Nacar during the formal turnover at the town hall of Impasug-ong last Monday.

Aside from the said amount from the military, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace Process (OPAPP) also extended PHP50,000 cash for livelihood assistance on top of the PHP15,000 cash assistance from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in Bukidnon.

During the turnover ceremony, Babilonia also announced the promotion of two soldiers for gallantry in action during an encounter with the armed communist NPA rebels in Bukidnon, which resulted in the recovery of three AK-47, improvised explosive device, blasting caps, several rounds of live ammunitions and subversive documents.

Tagros said that army Sgt. Nestor S. Sabaldana was promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant while army Private First Class Aberto A. Bugtay, to Corporal.


Make life difficult for all threat groups, newly-appointed AFP chief tells men

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Make life difficult for all threat groups, newly-appointed AFP chief tells men

In line with government efforts to defeat insurgency and lawlessness in the countryside, newly-appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri has ordered all unit commanders to make live difficult for all threat groups.

"Win the peace, secure the peace and make their areas of responsibility inhospitable to all the threat groups with utmost respect to human rights. That was my order to our commanders," he added.

Iriberri also stressed that this order covers the New People's Army, Abu Sayyaf Group and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

During the change-of-command ceremonies Friday, the newly-appointed AFP chief stressed that winning the peace is one of his priorities.

Iriberri said that the gains made must be preserved and even expanded, adding that in the last seven years, 58 conflict-affected provinces have been declared either as insurgency-free or peaceful and ready for further development.

"From Siquijor in December 2008 to Negros Occidental just last June 2015, peace has been won with the cooperation, collaboration and combined strength of the AFP and our civilian partners and stakeholders," he stated.

Iriberri hopes that before the end of 2015 and even beyond 2016, more provinces will join this number.


Appointment of new PNP chief was based on qualifications -- Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Appointment of new PNP chief was based on qualifications -- Palace

Malacanang on Tuesday defended the appointment of Police Director Ricardo Marquez as the new chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), saying the selection was based on the qualifications.

”The President’s choice was based on who has the best qualification to carry out the responsibility of the PNP chief,” said Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma Jr. in a press briefing in Malacanang.

Coloma made the reaction to the statement of the Coalition of Filipino Consumers who said former PNP chief Alan Purisima pushed for the appointment Marquez.

On Tuesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II announced the appointment of Marquez to lead the 155,000-strong police force.

Marquez will replace Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina who served as acting PNP chief for Purisima.

Purisima was suspended and eventually dismissed by the Ombudsman over his alleged involvement in the anomalous Php100-million contract with a private gun courier service.

Marquez was a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1982 and a PNP directorate for operations chief prior to his appointment by President Benigno Aquino III.

Marquez bested other contenders that include Deputy Director General Danilo Constantino, chief of the directorial staff; Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo, deputy PNP chief for operations; Chief Superintendent Raul Petrasanta; Police Director Benjamin Magalong, Crime Investigation and Detection Group chief; and Police Director Juanito Vaño, directorate for logistics head.


Last 4 Bell 412EP to be delivered August

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): Last 4 Bell 412EP to be delivered August

The last four Bell 412EP combat utility helicopters will be delivered by August.

This was confirmed by Defense undersecretary for finance, modernization and materiel Fernando Manalo in an interview with the PNA Tuesday.

He said that the four will join the other four now undergoing testing and evaluation by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

The first batch of four arrived last May and June.

The Department of National Defense (DND) on March 2014, signed a Php4.8 billion contract with Canadian government for the delivery of eight Bell 412EP helicopters.

The helicopters will be acquired government-to-government through Candian Commercial Corporation.

"Three of these eight helicopters will be configured as (as) VIP helicopters for the coming APEC meet in September," Manalo earlier said.

These new helicopters are intended to replace the five aging Bell 412 helicopters of the Office of President which were acquired during the time of President Fidel V. Ramos.

The Bell 412EP is capable of carrying 14 passengers and is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 140 knots (around 259 kilometers), cruise speed of 122 knots (226 kilometers per hour) and a range of 402 nautical miles (745 kilometers).

It is powered with an enhanced Pratt and Whitney PT6T-3D Twin Pac.


UH-ID flight aimed at disproving claims that aircraft is defective

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): UH-ID flight aimed at disproving claims that aircraft is defective

The decision to fly selected media personnel aboard the UH-ID "Huey" combat utility helicopters was aimed at disproving allegations that the aircraft are not airworthy and mission capable.

This was stressed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin Tuesday morning.

Seven UH-IDs, two UH-IHs along with their pilots and crew were deployed to Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City to disapprove allegations that the aircraft is defective.

Selected members of the media were flown aboard a UH-ID and UH-IH which took off from Camp Aguinaldo at 11:07 a.m. and made a short flight to San Mateo, Rizal.

The aircraft and its passengers arrived at the military base at 11:46 a.m. safe and sound.

"(The flight demonstration and briefing) aims to correct allegations coming out in the media (that the UH-IDs) are defective and not flyable. We thought it prudent to bring the helicopters here and let the media know about their capabilities and difference from the UH-IHs," Gazmin said in Filipino.

He added that UH-IDs are very safe and capable as he was able to fly it many times without encountering any untoward incident.

The Defense chief also denied claims that he and other officials were asking for 15 percent commission for the UH-ID project.

"Those are all lies," he stressed.

The acquisition for the 21 UH-IDs, which is worth Php1.26 billion, have been wracked in controversy after claims of bidding irregularities and the aircraft being defective.

It was partially terminated last March 25 after suppliers Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. failed to deliver the rest of the aircraft.

"In compliance with Section 88, Rule XXII of the IRR of RA 9184 (Philippine Procurement Law), the contract agreement between the DND/AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and the Joint Venture of Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. for the supply and delivery of 21 UH-I helicopters for the PAF with corresponding contract price of Php1,263,000,000 shall be partially terminated for exceeding the 10 percent maximum liquidated damages," the DND order signed by Gazmin said.

There are 20 UH-IH and seven UH-1Ds at the Air Force inventory as of this time.

"Both aircraft have the top speed of 124 KIAS (knot indicated airspeed) but when you are flying UH-IH model, you can feel the aircraft starting to shake or shiver when you are approaching speeds up to 82 to 90 knots. But in the UH-ID, you can feel no vibration and even if you are cruising at speed of 110 KIAS," said Major Aristides Galang, 210th Tactical Squadron operations officer and the test pilot involved in the acceptance test of UH-IDs.

"It (UH-ID) also climbs very fast compared to the UH-IH," the PAF official pointed out.

Galang, who has 1,900 flying hours to his credit, also stressed that during acceptance tests of the aircraft, either the UH-ID performs up to standard, as specified in the PAF checklist, or it will not be accepted for service until.

During the so-called "maintenance test flights" (which are done during the pre-acceptance phase), all forms of maneuvers, are conducted to ensure that the aircraft has no major discrepancy which could cause it to fail or crash while in PAF service.

This includes air and ground handling and various emergency procedures, the pilot said.

On claims that major discrepancies were encountered during initial tests of the aircraft, Galang said this is only natural as all aircraft are prone to wear-and-tear while flying.

Galang said the same holds true for all aircraft in every Air Force in the world and dealing with such discrepancies is the job of maintenance crews and officers.

PAF spokesman Col. Enrico Canaya earlier said the "D" designation in the UH-1 means that it was manufactured by Dornier, a German aircraft manufacturer that started construction of the UH-1 during 1967 to 1981.

Around 350 units were build by the German aircraft manufacturer.

Canaya said that all seven UH-IDs are deployed to Central Luzon and Manila PAF units.

"The PAF, however, opted to deploy these newly turned over units to Central Luzon and Manila areas for endurance flights, training and other missions to make it accessible to technical representatives and take advantage of warranty claims," he added.

The PAF spokesman also clarified that the UH-1Ds and UH-IHs, still in Philippine service, are similar models but made by different manufacturers.

"Their airframes are old but once they are refurbished and maintenance manuals they are reliable to perform missions. The PAF has a wealth of experience operating and maintaining UH-1 helicopters since the 1970s," he added.

Canaya also dismissed reports that UH-1D spare parts are no longer available in the market.

"Their parts are not obsolete and available in the market just like the parts for the existing fleets of UH-1Hs the PAF is currently maintaining. The UH-1H helicopters are still widely use in other countries," he added.

Canaya also said that the PAF does not accept aircraft with technical issues.

"The PAF only receives and operates units that passed the Technical Inspection And Acceptance Committee," he pointed out.

The PAF spokesman stated that the newly arrived UH-IDs are more superior to the UH-1Hs as it features composite main rotor blades which have a better performance and safety feature that the latter aircraft.


BRP Sierra Madre undergoes 'minor repairs'

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 14): BRP Sierra Madre undergoes 'minor repairs'

The Philippine Navy (PN) on Tuesday admitted that "minor repairs" are now being conducted to the rust-streaked and dilapidated BRP Sierra Madre (LT-57), Philippine ship that ran aground on Ayungin Shoal since 1999.

"By conducting minor repairs in the vessel, the Philippine Navy merely ensures that the men the renowned media firm described as '...troops staying there struggling to survive extreme mental and physical desolation,' would not be neglected," PN spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

However, he did not specify the repairs made to the ship.

BRP Sierra Madre is the Navy transport serving as the Philippine outpost off the Spratly Islands.

It is located atop Ayungin Shoal(known internationally as Second Thomas Shoal). It is a commissioned vessel with personnel on board. It behooves the Philippine Navy to ensure the ship's habitability and safety.

"The decrepit condition of the ship is no secret. Such sorry state has gained notoriety when it was reported by an international print media," he said.

Arevalo added that PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Jesus C. Millan prioritizes the welfare of personnel assigned in the front lines.

"Be it ships in distant Kalayaan Island Group or the Marines in the jungles of Sulu, Basilan, and Central Mindanao-- are attended to does not violate any law or convention. It conforms to internationally accepted principles of human rights," he added.

"Just as the Philippine Navy is morally and duty bound to resupply its personnel with food, water, medicines, and other basic necessities, it is incumbent upon the navy leadership to ensure that the minimum survivable condition of the ship is accorded to its personnel on board," Arevalo further said.

Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez vehemently denied earlier reports claiming that the Philippines was using cement to reinforce the foundations of the rusted transport.

"We are not doing any construction or anything. We are merely improving the accommodations of our people deployed there," Lopez said in Filipino.

"We are just maintaining (the ship) to give better accommodations to our troops," he added.

The Western Command chief also stressed that the Philippines' arbitration case would weaken should the country engage in construction activities in the disputed area.

The "BRP Sierra Madre" ran aground in 1999 and was eventually used by the Philippines as an outpost to assert sovereignty in the area.