Monday, July 20, 2015

Japan ramps up criticism of China in revised defense paper

From InterAksyon (Jul 21): Japan ramps up criticism of China in revised defense paper

Japanese coast guard ships keep pace with a Chinese vessel in the East China Sea (Reuters file)

Japan ramped up its criticism of China's land reclamation and offshore platforms in disputed seas on Tuesday in a hastily revised annual defense report.

The 500-page white paper, approved by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government, for the first time includes satellite images of Chinese man-made islands in the South China Sea.

China claims most of the 3.5 million-square kilometer South China Sea, with the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also staking claims.

Japan has no claim in the South China Sea but is in dispute with China over small islands in the East China Sea.

After hawkish members of Abe's party complained that the report was too soft on China, the Defense Ministry appended a demand for China to halt construction of platforms in the East China Sea that it began two years ago.

"We have confirmed that China has started construction of new ocean (exploration) platforms and we repeat our opposition to unilateral development by China and call for a halt," the ministry said.

The paper outlining Japan's defense posture and perceived threats comes after its lower house of parliament last week passed legislation that for the first time since World War Two would allow Japanese soldiers to fight overseas.

China said the legislation called into question Japan's post-war commitment to "the path of peaceful development."

Japan's complaints about platforms that Japan fears could be used as radar outposts in the East China Sea come as Japan is playing a more prominent role in the South China Sea dispute.

Japan has angered China with criticism of artificial islands that China is building in the Spratly Islands.

Japan fears Chinese military bases in the South China Sea could bolster its influence over a region through which $5 trillion in trade passes every year, much of it to and from Japan.

China has said its constructions in the South China Sea would be used for defense as well as to provide civilian services that will benefit other countries.

Japan is seeking to build ties in Southeast Asia that it hopes will improve the capacity of countries there to keep tabs on Chinese activity.

Japan and the Philippines have conducted two joint naval exercises in and around the South China Sea and in June, Abe and President Benigno Aquino III said they would begin talks that could led to Japan using Philippine bases.

Japan has also said it may begin air patrols in the South China Sea. China said it would see that as interference.

U.S., Australia wrap up Talisman Sabre exercise

From the Navy Times (Jul 20): U.S., Australia wrap up Talisman Sabre exercise

The sailors and Marines of the George Washington carrier strike group and the Bonhomme Richard expeditionary strike group bid "hooroo" to the Australian Defence Force on Saturday after wrapping up Exercise Talisman Sabre.

About 33,000 troops, 200 aircraft and 21 ships participated in the two-week biennial exercise.

"During TS15 we demonstrated our Pacific partnership with the Australians and Kiwis," Cmdr. Michael Posey, the lead planner for the exercise, said in a Navy release. "The first level of TS15 validated our long-standing relationship with the Australians and it was a reminder that our two nations have fought together in every major conflict since World War II."

It was the sixth iteration of the exercise and, significantly, members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force participated as embedded units with the United States, a further sign of Japan's growing involvement in regional security.

New Zealand defense forces also participated as embedded forces with the Australian military, the release said.

Bonhomme Richard ESG conducted more than 20 amphibious landings with landing craft air cushion and landing craft utility units, and MV-22 flights.

George Washington CSG also conducted war games. Five U.S. Navy F/A-18 Super Hornets took fuel from a Royal Australian air force KC-30A, according to a release.

The next Talisman Sabre is scheduled for Summer 2017.

The Bonhomme Richard and George Washington sailors also got to enjoy some liberty in Australia.

The sailors of the GW CSG visited Brisbane while the Bonhomme Richard took in the sights at Fremantle and Bunbury.

This is also the last major exercise for George Washington as the forward-deployed carrier in Japan. The super carrier is headed to Norfolk after seven years in Japan. It is on its way to San Diego where it will swap crews with the carrier Reagan, which will take over as the forward-deployed carrier in 7th Fleet.

Human rights worker accused in Sulu bombing freed

From the Sun Star-Davao (Jul 20): Human rights worker accused in Sulu bombing freed

DAVAO. A file photo of Sulu bombing suspect Temogen Tulawie while detained in Davao City last 2012. He has been acquitted of the charges along with Abner Tahil and Juhan Alihuddin. (King Rodriguez)

Human rights activist Temogen "Cocoy" Tulawie, tagged in a bombing incident in Sulu in 2009, was acquitted by a court in Manila for lack of evidence.

Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 presiding Judge Marlo Magdoza found Tulawie not guilty, together with Johan Alihudin and Abner Tahir, during his promulgation on Monday, July 20.

Lawyer May Ann Arnado of the Mindanao People Caucus (MPC), one of Tulawie's legal counsels in Davao City, said "the prosecution was not able to establish evidence to prove the accused guilty."

With the trial running for almost a year, Arnado also said that the statement of the prosecution's star witness was illegitimate and was "rehearsed in order to single out Tulawie."

"It's a very long time how our justice system works. If you have the money, it's very dangerous especially for human rights defenders," she said. "But in the end, we were able to obtain justice. Justice will prevail."

She said Tulawie, who has been detained at the Manila City Jail for more than three years now, is set to go back to Davao City Tuesday, July 21.

It was previously reported that one of the main complainants against Tulawie was former Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan, who petitioned the Supreme Court to transfer the case trial venue from Davao City to Manila.

Court clears 2009 Sulu bombing suspects

From the Manila Times (Jul 20): Court clears 2009 Sulu bombing suspects

Judge Marlo Maglagar of Regional Trial Court Branch 19 on Monday dismissed the charges filed against three suspects implicated in the 2009 Sulu bombings that left 12 people wounded.

The court found Temogen “Cocoy” Tulawie, Abner Tahil, and Juhan Alihuddin innocent of illegal possession of explosives, multiple frustrated murder, and multiple attempted murder charges.

The complainant, then vice governor and now Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan was among those injured.

Esszone curfew stays due to potential threats of kidnapping

From the Free Malaysia Today (Jul 20): Esszone curfew stays due to potential threats of kidnapping

Sabah Police Commissioner says the 7pm to 5am curfew will enter its 23rd phase and begin tomorrow until August 5


KOTA KINABALU: The 22nd phase of the curfew in the waters off the Eastern Sabah Security Zone (ESSZone) which expired today will be extended to the 23rd phase, beginning tomorrow until August 5.

Sabah Police Commissioner Jalaluddin Abdul Rahman said the curfew, from 7pm till 5am, involving six districts, Sandakan, Kinabatangan, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Semporna and Tawau was extended for security considerations.

In a statement today, he said the decision to extend the curfew was based on new information about potential threats of kidnapping for ransom and Abu Sayyaf.

He said chalet operators and the fishing community were also supportive of the extension.

The curfew would enable security forces to carry out enforcement, and monitoring of boat movements and suspicious activities in relation to cross border crime such as human and drug trafficking and firearms smuggling, he said.

Meanwhile, Jalaluddin said district police chiefs in ESSZone had been empowered to issue permits to those involved in fishery activities or during an emergency.

Cebuano News: Bag-ong Chief of Staff sa AFP naglaum magpadayon kausaban sa ‘Philippine Army’

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 20): Cebuano News: Bag-ong Chief of Staff sa AFP naglaum magpadayon kausaban sa ‘Philippine Army’

Naglaum si Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri, nga ipadayon ni Major General Edwardo Año ang mga kausaban nga iyang nasugdan sa Philippine Army sa siya pa ang Hepe niini.

Gi-agni usab niya nga dugangan niini ang kakugi sa paghimo’g daghan pa nga mga kausaban aron makab-ot ang gitawag nga “our base camp 2016 transformation targets.”

Samtang si Major General Año, nga mipuli kang Lieutenant General Iriberri, kinsa mao ang natudlo nga Bag-ong ‘Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP),’ sa milabay nga Hulyo 17, mipasalig nga ipatumaw niini ang mga responsibilidad isip bag-o nga ‘Commanding General’ sa ‘Philippine Army.’

“Makasalig ka Sir nga akong bantayan pag-ayo ug hingpit nga gidawat ang akong tahas isip ‘Army Chief,’ si Major General Año namulong, atol sa seremonya sa iyang pagdawat sa katungdanan gikan kang General Iriberri, sa Fort Andres Bonifacion, ning siyudad, bag-ohay pa lamang.

“Akong sumpoon ang tanang mga hulga ug atubangon, sa dakung pagsalig ang paghimo sa unsay angayan himoon aron matunghayan ang katungod ug magpabilin nga magmatinud-anon sa atong Batakang Balaod nga maoy gipangayo sa kasundaluhang Pilipinhon,” pulong pa ni General Aňo.

Cebuano News: Major General Año, cum laude, membro sa PMA ‘Matikas’ Class of 1983

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 20): Cebuano News: Major General Año, cum laude, membro sa PMA ‘Matikas’ Class of 1983

Si Major Genereal Edwardo Año, ang bag-ong natudlo nga Hepe sa ‘Philippine Army’ migradwar nga ‘cum laude’ sa Philippine Military Academy sa Baguio City ug membro sa PMA ‘Matikas Class of 1983.’

Siya ang Commander 10th Infantry “Agila” Division sa Philippine Army sa wala pa natudlo sa kasamtangang pwesto isip ‘Hepe sa Philippine Army.

Mikuha siya sa ‘International Officer Intelligence Course’ sa Fort Huachuca sa Arizona, United States of America, ug mikuha sa pinakataas nga pwesto sa klase.

Siya usab nakadawat sa daghanan nga mga awards, nga naglakip sa duha (2)  ka Distinguished Service Stars, usa ka Gold Cross Medal alang sa  ‘gallantry in combat action,’ usa ka ‘Silver Cross Medal,’ baynte-kwatro (24) ka mga Bronze Cross Medals alang sa ‘intelligence operations,’ ug traynta e otso (38) ka mga Tripple “M” kun Military Merit Medals.

Cebuano News: IPSP sa AFP nakapadakop nga dagkung lider sa komonista

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 20): Cebuano News: IPSP sa AFP nakapadakop nga dagkung lider sa komonista

Ang Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) sa AFP kun “Armed Forces of the Philippines miresulta sa pagdakup ug pagsumpo sa mga gitawag nga ‘high-value targets’ kun dagkong lider sa mga komonistang rebelde.

Kini ang gibutyag ni Presidente Benigno S. Aquino III, sa iyang pagdayeg kang Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri, ang iyang gitudlo nga bag-ong ‘Chief of Staff sa Armed Forces of the Philippines (CSAFP).’

Matud pa sa Presidente, daku’g nahimo si Gen. Ireberri sa pagpatuman sa  IPSP, sa dihang siya pa ang Hepe sa ‘Philippine Army.”

Pipila niini mao ang pagdakop sa  mga high-value targets nga komonistang rebelde, sama sa magti-ayon nga Benito ug Wilma Tiamzon, Ruben Saluta, Adelberto Silva, ug Kumander Parago sa Communist Party of the Philippines, New Peoples’ Army, National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF).

Lakip usab niini sila si Mohamad Ali Tambako sa Justice Islamic Movement (JIM) ug Sihata Latip sa ‘Abu Sayyaf,’ pulong pa sa Presidente.

School children receives hygiene kits from 1st CAV Squadron

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jul 20): School children receives hygiene kits from 1st CAV Squadron

Elementary students in a far-flung barangay of Navalan, Tukuran, Zamboanga del Sur were recipients of “Project Hygiene Kit” initiated by the 1st Cavalry (Tagapanguna) Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division, Philippine Army.

Lt. Col. Charlemagne Batayola Jr., commanding officer of the 1st Cavalry Squadron led the distribution of 105 hygiene kits to students of MV Lagare Memorial Elementary School in Barangay Navalan.

New Project

A new program of the Civil-Military Operations (CMO) office for this year, “Project Hygiene Kit” aims to promote proper hygiene to indigenous peoples’ children especially in the remote and far-flung barangays.

Batayola said the project is consonance with the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) “Bayanihan” campaign of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that encourages active participation of various stakeholders in their peace and security efforts.

“We are launching this program, because we consider the school children as part of the stakeholders,” he added.

Proper Hygiene

He said further that there is a need for children in the countryside to develop proper hygiene to protect them from various diseases. Hence, this project intends to raise awareness on the importance of proper handwashing with soap and water not only among schoolchildren but in the community as well.

The simple act of handwashing can reduce the spread of diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid fever and respiratory infections.

The said kit includes basic hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, face towel, bath soap and alcohol.

During the event, Batayola said the school children were taught proper hand washing techniques, brushing of teeth and other health practices by the health team of Labangan Rural Health Unit headed by Dr. Mailyn Manupac, municipal health officer.

Meanwhile, Navalan Punong Barangay Leoncio Osores was grateful to the 1st Cavalry Squadron for launching the project in his barangay saying that it offers help to school children to learn and practice personal hygiene.

“Pinaagi ani nga project, ang mga kabataan makasagop sa maayong batasan sa ilang pagkabata. Kung unsa ang ilang nahibaloan sa kasundalohan ug sa municipal health office mahitungod sa personal hygiene, ila na kini madala hangtud madako sila ug malikayan nga magkasakit,” Osores explained. (Through this project, the school children can adopt good habits during their formative childhood years. What children learn from the soldiers and municipal health office on personal hygiene can be practiced until they grow up and thus avoid getting sick.)

Osores recalls that last year, the unit also conducted several activities such as: tree planting, “Brigada Eskwela”, medical and dental civic action program (MEDCAP), clean up drive and extending food assistance to poor families.

Batayola expressed his gratefulness to Pagadian Mayor Romeo P. Pulmones, Ferdinand P. Pulmones and Mr. Kendrick Yap for partnering with the “Project Hygiene Kit” of the 1st Cavalry Squadron.

Defense budget reduced by P2b

From the Manila Standard Today (Jul 21): Defense budget reduced by P2b

THE government has slashed to P25 billion the 2016 budget of P27,752,655.774.55 being proposed by the Department of National Defense, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad confirmed on Monday.

He said the appropriation would be used to buy modern equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, one of the weakest in Asia.

The P27.7 billion defense budget for 2016 is part of the proposed Revised AFP Modernization Program dated Oct. 29, 2014, with a total amount of P90,858,912,364.56 including P31,106.003,531.90 in 2015 and P18,589,184,038.45 in 2017.

The Defense Department said that of the P90.8 billion budget for 2014-2017, it had P13,410,026,020.06 allocation in 2014 but it has yet to itemize the money.

The Budget Department must be more transparent in releasing figures because Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, in his letter to President Benigno Aquino III dated March 5, 2015, said it appeared that the P90.8 billion defense budget for 2014-2017 for 33 projects had further been slashed to P60,143,404,181.90 with 28 projects.

Gazmin said Aquino “approved in principle” 28 projects under the with a total budget of P60.1 billion during a meeting that the latter presided over on Feb. 17, 2015. Abad and all the AFP Major Service commanders, Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras, among others, were also in the meeting.

In his letter, Gazmin said the proposed P60.1 billion budget was for 2015-2017 that he submitted to Abad on Feb. 23, 2015.

Meanwhile, the P25 billion defense budget for 2016 reportedly will be used to buy two frigates, two twin-engine long-range patrol aircraft and three aerial surveillance radars to boost the military’s capability to defend the West Philippine Sea from China’s aggression in the area.

Abu Sayyaf frees 18-year-old kidnap victim in Sulu

From GMA News (Jul 20): Abu Sayyaf frees 18-year-old kidnap victim in Sulu

An 18-year-old woman abducted by the Abu Sayyaf Group in Zamboanga del Sur in March was released in downtown Jolo in Sulu Monday afternoon, Sulu police said.

The victim, identified as Ledegie Tomarong, was brought by a civilian to the Joint Task Force Sulu, GMA News correspondent Peewee Bacuño reported.

She underwent a medical checkup afterwards.

Initial information received by the Sulu PNP showed Tomarong and two children were abducted by an Abu Sayyaf members led by sub-leader Sibih Pisih on March 31 in Pitogo, Zamboanga del Sur.

The Abu Sayyaf used the three as human shields while escaping from policemen.

SBMA ready to coexist with military base

From the Business Mirror (Jul 20): SBMA ready to coexist with military base

Despite its mandate to convert and develop into civilian and commercial use in what used to be a US naval base here, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is ready and willing to coexist with a military base that the government is set to establish in this free port.

SBMA Chairman Roberto V. Garcia said in a media interview here on Monday that he sees no problem for a mixed civilian and military use of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
“We’re a government agency, and for reasons of national security we have to cooperate with the national government,” Garcia said.
He added the return of Subic as a military base is understandable “because Subic simply offers the best defense position” for the Philippines and its allies in view of Chinese aggression on the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippine government announced last week that it would re-open Subic Bay as a military base to allow quicker response to Chinese movements in disputed waters.
Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino said the government would station fighter planes and frigates in Subic as part of a defensive posture.
Garcia confirmed the plan on Monday, saying that under a memorandum of agreement signed last year with the Department of National Defense (DND), the SBMA has set aside 13 hectares for the proposed Philippine military base in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
This will be in the Cubi Point area, that is at the southwest apron of the Subic Bay International Airport, an area that used to be the air terminal of the courier giant Federal Express before it relocated to China.
Garcia said it would take at least six months for the government to refurbish the facilities, considering the sad state the terminal has fallen into after FedEx’s departure in 2009.
“As I understand it, the proposed base will be what they call in military parlance a ‘forward operating base’ because it is near a potential source of conflict. But mainly it will be a training base,” Garcia said.
He added that the use by American forces of the proposed Philippine base would not violate the Constitution because the visiting foreign troops that may be hosted in the base would be here only on a rotational basis.
He also said that Philippine allies like Japan and Australia, which are also seeking to sign a visiting forces agreement similar to the existing pact with the US, might also be hosted in the proposed Subic base.
Aside from the air base at the Cubi Point, the Armed Forces will also use the Alava, Bravo and Boton wharves here for the naval assets, Garcia said. As of now, Subic is already the home port of the country’s two frigates that were acquired from the US last year.
Garcia clarified, however, that the SBMA-DND agreement would only be implementable once the Supreme Court gives the green light to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, which provides for greater access by foreign allies of Philippine military bases.
On the economic side, Garcia said the SBMA will not be generating any income from hosting a Philippine base. “But local companies that can provide services to the military, as well as the local hotels and restaurants, would surely benefit from Subic’s hosting of a base,” he added.
Garcia added that under the agreement with the DND, the military would have priority in using facilities here only in case of national emergency.
“So I think, this would not prejudice the interest of our business locators in the free port,” Garcia said.

Photos: US Navy rescues Pinoy fishermen in disputed sea

From ABS-CBN (Jul 20): Photos: US Navy rescues Pinoy fishermen in disputed sea

A US Navy ship on Sunday rescued 11 Filipino fishermen whose ship capsized in the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The US Navy, in a report, said surveillance ship USNS Impeccable rescued the fishermen while it was en route to Subic Bay.

Impeccable sailors saw the distressed fishermen on a partially submerged boat.

“They [Impeccable crew] initially spotted only eight people on the partially submerged vessel,” said Lt. Cory Hilgart, an anti-submarine watch officer. “They then realized that it was actually 11 and made the call to commence the rescue effort.”

“One of the crew members spoke English,” Hilgart said. “He told the Impeccable crew that they were fishermen from the Subic Bay region. He confirmed that there were only 11 on board.”

The fishermen were brought aboard the Impeccable where they were examined by medical personnel and given food and water.

No serious injuries or illnesses were reported, the US Navy said.

They were later turned over the Philippine Coast Guard.

Filipino fishermen await rescue from their sinking boat in the West Philippine Sea.

Sailors and personnel from the Military Sealift Command assigned to USNS Impeccable man a rigid-hull inflatable boat to rescue the 11 distressed fishermen.

US Navy sailors assist a Filipino fishermen after he is rescued from their sinking vessel.

The 11 rescued fishermen returned home to Infanta, Pangasinan on Monday.

P25B eyed to boost territorial defense

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 21): P25B eyed to boost territorial defense

Proposed budget to purchase frigates, surveillance planes, radars
The Aquino administration is proposing to spend a record P25 billion ($552 million) next year to purchase frigates, surveillance planes, and radars to improve surveillance and detection in the disputed South China Sea, officials said yesterday.
The funds to modernize the military are part of President Aquino’s P3 trillion ($66.24 billion) budget bill in 2016, his last year in office. Aquino is no longer eligible to run for a second term.

The budget proposal is 15.1 percent more than the current appropriation of P2.606 trillion, according to Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad, adding that about 80 percent of the proposed government spending “will be eaten up by the forward estimates or the cost of ongoing programs and projects.”
“In 2016, our proposal to Congress is 25 billion pesos for the modernization program,” Abad told Reuters, saying this would be the highest-ever spending for military modernization in two decades.
Abad said the government’s proposed budget, including the defense spending plan, would be submitted to Congress next week after the president delivers his last State of the Nation Address on July 27.
A senior military general, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the press, told Reuters the funds would be used to acquire two frigates, two twin-engine long range patrol aircraft and three aerial surveillance radars.
The rest of the money would be for annual amortization of 12 FA50 light fighters ordered from South Korea. Two planes are due for delivery this December.
Meanwhile, the United States Congress has been urged to declare that the security of shoals and islands controlled by the Philippines in the disputed South China Sea falls within the scope of their Mutual Defense Treaty.
“I think we should change our position on the application of the US-Philippine security treaty to cover features in the South China Sea that are currently occupied by the Philippines and under its jurisdiction,” Walter Lohman, director of the Center for Asia Studies at the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a recent congressional hearing. “Currently, we’re ambiguous in that regard.”
Lohman was referring to the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) under MDT Article IV and V wherein it was declared that the US will only come to the assistance of the Philippines if its metropolitan territory is attacked or if its Armed Forces are attacked in the Pacific area.

CPP/NDF/NPA: On the issues raised against the NPA regarding the capture of Pfc. Lupiba in Gingoog City

NDF/NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Jul 18): On the issues raised against the NPA regarding the capture of Pfc. Lupiba in Gingoog City
NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Media Statement
July 18, 2015

No measure of invectives against the New People’s Army, the revolutionary army of the poor, will conceal the fact that one of its guerilla platoons successfully raided a peace and development team of the 58th Infantry Battalion in Brgy. Alagatan, Gingoog City last July 11, 2015, where Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupiba was captured.

First, the video we have recently uploaded in Youtube clearly shows that the prisoner of war under NPA custody is in good health. This runs counter to the allegation of the 58th IB and 4th Infantry Division spokespersons that the captured soldier was wounded and subsequently mistreated by the NPA—an accusation that has caused unnecessary worry on the part of his family and friends.

Second, it was only right for Pfc. Lupiba not to fire his weapon, which would have compromised the safety of many civilians. This is his way, as a professional soldier, of adhering to their rules of engagement which states that “involvement of civilians and their property must be avoided” and “damages must be limited only to the extent necessitated by the mission”. Their officials, however, clearly do not understand these rules of engagement for they ordered their men to occupy barrio centers, barangay halls, gymnasiums and other public facilities in conducting the psywar component of the triad operations of Oplan Bayanihan.

Moreover, the reactionary soldiers violated CARHRIHL (Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law). Part 4, Article 12 of the said document clearly provides for the right of the civilian population “…to be protected against the risks and dangers posed by the presence of military camps in urban centers and other populated areas”. Thus, Pfc. Lupiba’s group’s occupation of the barrio hall in Alagatan puts in danger the lives of the residents whom they have used as a human shield against the NPA.

The Filipino heroes have inspired us in offering their lives for the sake of the interests and welfare of the nation and the oppressed and exploited Filipino people. Unfortunately, the AFP stubbornly clings to its mercenary tradition which really only serves the interests of US imperialism and the local ruling classes to perpetuate their hegemony over our semicolonial and semifeudal nation. Therefore, the AFP’s counterrevolutionary COPD (Community Organizing for Peace and Development) can in no way be called heroic. Its chief and, more likely than not, only, objective is to launch psychological warfare against the peasants to suppress their right to struggle for genuine land reform and development. Ironically, this is the “peace and development” brought by the reactionary COPD troops to the countryside, as was the case in Brgy. Alagatan.

The NPA’s lenient treatment of Pfc. Lupiba and other POWs before him and our readiness to release him in due time consistently proves the revolutionary movement’s sincerity in adhering to the rules of combat and CARHRIHL, and most of all its desire for the resumption of peace negotiations with the government of the Philippines to address and provide solutions to the socio-economic and political causes of the continuing civil war in the country.


Ka Allan Juanito
New People’s Army
North Central Mindanao Regional Command

Beijing chides US over South China Sea flight of Pacific Fleet chief

From InterAksyon (Jul 20): Beijing chides US over South China Sea flight of Pacific Fleet chief

US Navy file photo of Adm. Scott Swift, at his assumption of command of the US Pacific Fleet. China on Monday called on Washington not to pick sides in quarrels over the South China Sea, state media said, days after Swift flew over the disputed waters.

China on Monday called on Washington not to pick sides in quarrels over the South China Sea, state media said, days after a US naval commander flew over the disputed waters.

US Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Scott Swift on Saturday made what the fleet called a "seven-hour maritime surveillance mission" over the South China Sea aboard a US P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

At a press roundtable in Seoul Monday, Swift confirmed the flight, which he called "routine" but gave no further details.

Swift also visited the Philippines, a close US ally and one of several countries locked in territorial disputes with China over competing claims to the Sea.

China's defense ministry responded by calling on the US to "take more actions to promote regional peace and stability, and not the opposite".

"We hope the US will abide by its promise not to take sides over South China Sea issues," it added in a statement reported by the Global Times newspaper.

China claims most of the South China Sea, overlapping with areas the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan deem to be their territory.

The Philippines has been improving defence ties with the United States as the conflict has grown, and last week said it would open a US naval base that closed more than 20 years ago facing the Sea.

It was not stated which parts of the disputed waters Swift flew over in the flight, reported Sunday on the website of the US Pacific Fleet.

Gov’t to buy 130,000 boots for Army

From the Business World (Jul 29): Gov’t to buy 130,000 boots for Army

THE PHILIPPINE ARMY is looking for companies interested in manufacturing and supplying more than 130,000 pairs of combat boots after the Department of National Defense (DND) chose to buy gear for Filipino soldiers instead of acquiring a multibillion missile defense system.

Then-presidential daughter Evangeline Lourdes Arroyo is shown distributing combat boots in 2003. -- AFP

In a bid invitation published by the Philippine International Trading Corp., an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry, the Philippine Army is inviting prospective bidders for the supply and delivery of 131,654 pairs of combat boots for the 80,000-strong Philippine Army.

The approved budget for the contract is P175,963,470.

“Bidders are limited to domestically accredited producers and manufacturers of footwear and leather goods with a valid Certificate of Accreditation issued by the Board of Investments,” the bid invitation said.

A complete set of bidding documents can be purchased for a non-refundable fee of P50,000 from the Bids and Award Committee I Secretariat at the 4th floor of the National Development Committee Building in Salcedo Village, Makati City.

A pre-bidding conference is scheduled early this week, on Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the 5th floor conference room of the same building.

The purchase comes at a time when the DND dropped the purchase of a P6.5-billion Shore Based Missile System (SBMS) -- a military asset initially included in the military’s to-buy list in the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

According to the DND, the “reprioritization” made the military address the urgent need for boots, helmets, body armor, night-vision goggles and other gear regularly used in combat situations by Philippine Army troops.

Tokyo To Challenge China on Fiery Cross Reef

From Defense News (Jul 19): Tokyo To Challenge China on Fiery Cross Reef

In what may turn out to be the first step in a dangerous game of chicken, Japan's upcoming annual defense white paper will accuse China of belligerency in its dealings with neighbors as it becomes clear that China is laying the foundations of a military base on Fiery Cross Reef, one of seven artificial islands China has created in the disputed Spratly Islands.

In the outline of the white paper, to be released in late July, on top of the usual statements citing North Korea's nuclear and missile development as issues of concern, the paper will directly call China's reclamation work on the Spratlys, "high handed." 

In the last 18 months, China has added about 800 hectares to seven reefs in the area, including an airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef, along with the makings of a military radar base. All of this is seen as a significant escalation in a dispute over the islands, part of a huge swath of territory in the South China Sea (SCS) over which China claims undisputed sovereignty.

While the Fiery Cross Reef development has been condemned by the US, Japan's accusation raises the ante and more directly challenges perceived Chinese expansionism, supporting the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam in their dispute over China's claims on the islands.

Japan's assertiveness is relatively new and bold, and comes just as the Japanese Diet this month is passing legislation that will enable the country to engage in collective self-defense (CSD) for the first time in its postwar history. The statement also builds on an assertion made in last year's defense white paper that accused China of attempting to change the status quo in the region through force.

Japan's latest assertion led to predictably robust responses from Beijing, with Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying accusing Japan of trying to "smear China to create tensions in the region."

"The Chinese construction on the reefs has nothing to do with Japan's security situation. Japan is neither a claimer state or a nearby country in the South China Sea area. It's deliberate show of unnecessary worrying shows that Japan wants to be involved in the SCS affair," said Zhuang Jianzhong, vice director of the Center for National Strategy Studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

"China's reconstruction on the reefs has its historic and current need for various purposes and Japan has no right to criticize others while Japan deploys warships and increases patrolling radius over SCS areas to show its ambitious aim. History will show that China will be non-aggressive and no threat to other Asian countries while it will remain firm in defending its sovereignty and legitimate right," he said.

"Basically, this does affect Japan," said Robert Dujarrac, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University Japan.

"Japan relies on the US for its defense; PRC has challenged the territorial status quo in East China Sea, now pushing the boundaries in SCS. It is a US-China issue but Japan is part of the US equation, so it cannot always stand aside. Moreover, Japan's comments and potential activities in the SCS have been very low key until now," he said

Behind the tit-for-tat, Japan's direct approach probably signifies a deeper shift in Japanese perceptions, attitudes and responses to its position in Asia, analysts said.
"My sense is there has been a tangible surge in Japanese interest and activity in the South China Sea in recent months," said Jeff Smith, director of Asian Security Programs at the American Foreign Policy Council.

This new assertiveness is being backed up by clearer signaling that the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) is ready to fight. The SDF has become much more active in the region. For example, the SDF will participate in joint drills with the US and Australia on Australian soil for the first time later this year, and Japan will participate in US-India Malabar exercises this year.

In addition, Japan and the Philippines are reportedly negotiating a deal granting the SDF access to Philippine military bases, and Tokyo appears to be considering a proposal to join the United States in surveillance patrols in the SCS.

On the defense front, Tokyo is negotiating to sell submarines to Australia and Shinmaywa amphibious planes to India.

"These [moves] all strike me as very bold and very significant changes to a Japanese foreign policy that appears to be going all-in on a hedging strategy toward China," Smith said.

Since many other countries, particularly Vietnam and the Philippines, have far more to worry about than Japan, the new assertiveness may signal that Japan is more interested in showing itself as a reliable ally in the region, Smith said.

"I think at this point, Tokyo is less interested in improving ties with Beijing than fostering deeper strategic collaboration with the United States and with other countries in the South China Sea to hedge against China. For better or worse, [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe seems to have concluded that diplomacy is unlikely to resolve the most potent disagreements [like the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute], and that this rising tide of Chinese assertiveness is a long-term, secular trend, rather than a temporary trend that can be mitigated by diplomacy," Smith said.

Japan seems increasingly willing to signal its support to other regional actors and their positions on the South China Sea.

"This is important not just because Japan has a direct interest in preventing China from gaining a monopoly over the South China Sea, but perhaps Tokyo assumes this will also make others more likely to support its own position on the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands if and when tensions flare there or just more broadly for the legitimacy reasons in the international court of public opinion."

Jun Okumura, visiting scholar at the Meiji Institute for Global Affairs, said Japan's actions were part of a "new normal" attitude being adopted by Japan in the face of the reality of its security dilemmas. China as a rising power is looking to flex its muscles, and Japan as an announced preserver of the status quo, is, likewise, behaving normally in calling China on this, he said

"There is a school of thought that you have to speak up in the war of words with China in order to be taken seriously. You know what would be really escalatory? Regular patrols in the South China Sea. More visits by Japanese naval vessels and more joint exercises will no doubt be annoying to the Chinese authorities, but that will not lead to anything serious," Okumura said.

"If Japan has chosen to insert new language of China being 'belligerent' in the defense white paper then it is quite a step up in language from the previous, more guarded cause for 'concern' type of expressions in the past about Chinese military movements," said Christopher Hughes, professor of international politics and Japanese studies at the UK's University of Warwick.

"Overall, this would seem to be another registration of Japanese interest in the South China Sea, demonstrated most recently by the JSDF's participation in exercises with the Philippines military. Japan's security interests clearly extend to the South China Sea and this may be a region that Japan could become drawn into under a collective self-defense type scenario to support the US efforts to preserve the freedom of navigation and thus Japan's own security," Hughes said.

Peace talks with CPP-NPA is still highly possible - Belmonte

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): Peace talks with CPP-NPA is still highly possible - Belmonte

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Monday said peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines - National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) can still be done within the remaining term of office of President Benigno Aquino III..

Belmonte said he was surprised upon learning that top honchos of the CPP-NDF told him that they had sent feelers through an intermediary about their willingness to resume peace negotiations but there was no feedback until now from Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Teresita Quintos Deles.

In an interview, House leadership said that he only learned about the feelers when they have a chance to talk with CPP-NDF leaders Jose Maria Sison and Luis Jalandoni while they were in The Netherlands when they attended the Philippine-China hearing recently on the West Philippine Sea dispute. Aside from him, House senior leaders like Majority Leader and Mandaluyong City Rep. Neptali Gonzales II, Appropriations Committee Chair and Davo City Rep. Isidro Ungab and Accounts Committee Chair and Romblon Rep. Eleandro Jesus Madrona joined him.

“He said the spirit of the whole thing is 'we should continue the talks'. He mentioned to me their go-between, which is a lady official, was abreast of what was going on and had communicated with Secretary Deles. They had not gotten feedback. I told them I'd bring it to the attention of the President," Belmonte said.

The speaker expressed confidence that peace negotiations can still be done within the remaining months of the Aquino administration.

"I wish it could. I think the atmosphere is such that it can still be done during this term of the president... He has other assistants, I do hope the festering problem will be solved and it can be solved during the last year in office,” he pointed out.

Belmonte revealed that even before they went to The Hague for the arguments on the West Philippine Sea, the meeting with the communist leaders had been arranged by intermediaries.

"Even before I left the Philippines, we had some kind of a contact on my part through friends of Ruth Zumel. She herself is a friend of mine as her husband, Tony Zumel, was a very close friend of mine,” he admitted.

“Since he has died I have become a member of his foundation so it was through Ruth that I got word that they will also like to see me if I go to The Hague” he added

The communist delegation had 10 people. He said the meeting, which was in a Japanese restaurant, "was friendly."

Deles earlier said that there must be no preconditions from the communist leadership before the two parties can resume negotiations.

Among the sticking issues in the resumption of the talks is the communist party's demands that their detained “consultants” be released first.

US surveillance vessel rescues shipwrecked fishermen

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): US surveillance vessel rescues shipwrecked fishermen

The USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23), a surveillance ship, rescued 11 shipwrecked fishermen while in route to Subic Bay, Zambales last Sunday.

The crew of the American ship spotted a partially submerged ship and noted debris in the water.

The USNS Impeccable master immediately deemed assistance was required and began preparations to deploy their rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB) to rescue the personnel.

“This was a team effort with civilian mariners, SECDET [security detachment], MILDET [military detachment] and Lockheed Martin working together to achieve an efficient rescue of all 11 fishermen,” USNS Impeccable master Robert Wiechert said.

The RHIB made three trips to the distressed vessel and rescued all 11 individuals.

“One of the crew members spoke English,” Lt. Cory Hilgart, the theater anti-submarine watch officer, said.

“He told the Impeccable crew that they were fishermen from the Subic Bay region. He confirmed that there were only 11 on board.”

Once the mariners were brought aboard Impeccable, they were examined by medical personnel and given food and water. No serious injuries or illnesses were reported.

Shortly after the USNS Impeccable arrived in port in Subic Bay, all 11 mariners were turned over to the Philippine Coast Guard.

AFP assures security of Australian-Filipino consortium out to drill new exploratory well in WPS

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): AFP assures security of Australian-Filipino consortium out to drill new exploratory well in WPS

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) announced that it is more than ready to secure the Australian-Filipino consortium which is planning to drill a new exploratory well in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

"That area (is within) our exclusive economic zone so any exploration must be protected by our navy. It's incumbent upon us to protect the activity," Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, AFP public affairs office chief, said.

The consortium will commence drilling on August 1.

Detoyato said the AFP will deploy the Navy to secure the project but did not give further details for security reasons.

"As long as it is within Philippines waters, our Navy will secure those who are involved in economic activities," he added.

And when asked whether the AFP is expecting the Chinese to harass the consortium, Detoyato said:"We don't expect any but we are prepared."

Reports indicate that the oil exploration project will be conducted off the coast of Zambales, but in an area that is not part of the disputed area of the West Philippine Sea.

As this develops, the AFP public affairs chief welcomed the maritime surveillance flight conducted by a P-8A Poseidon aircraft of the US Navy with Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift on board.

"I'm sure it will help us more . . . it will give us more on information because there will be info sharing on whatever they will observe, all activities in the area," Detoyato said.

"They are sending a good message that they are also concerned about the security situation in the area. Depending on the point of view where you're coming from, from our point of view it is a good gesture because somebody is concerned with our concerns," he stressed.

18-year-old ASG captive escapes from captors in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 20): 18-year-old ASG captive escapes from captors in Sulu

An 18-year-old kidnapped victim of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) bandit managed to escape from the clutches of her captors in Sulu Monday afternoon.

This was revealed by Joint Task Group Sulu commander Col. Alan Arrojado.

He identified the escaped victim as Ledejie Tomarang, 18, and a resident of Pitogo town, Zamboanga Del Sur.

She was spotted dazed and wandering at Buanza, Indanan town by concerned citizens around 4:30 p.m.

Tomarang was quickly brought to barangay officials who then quickly transported her to Joint Task Group Sulu headquarters.

Upon interrogation, the victim revealed that she was able to escape from her captors due to the ongoing law enforcement operations being conducted by military and police units in Barangays Kagay and Sawaki, Indanan where troopers from the 35th Infantry Battalion have discovered an abandoned ASG camp Sunday.

US Navy surveillance ship rescues 11 Filipino fishermen in West Philippine Sea

From Ang Malaya (Jul 20): US Navy surveillance ship rescues 11 Filipino fishermen in West Philippine Sea

A United States Navy ocean surveillance ship has rescued 11 Filipino fishermen in West Philippine Sea while on its way to Subic Bay July 20. USNS Impeccable sailors spotted personnel on a partially submerged vessel and noted debris in the water, the US Navy said.

“They [Impeccable crew] initially spotted only eight people on the partially submerged vessel,” said Lt. Cory Hilgart, the theater anti-submarine watch officer at Commander, Task Force 74. “They then realized that it was actually 11 and made the call to commence the rescue effort.”

The rescued fishermen, residents of Subic Bay area, were examined by medical personnel and given food and water aboard the US Navy vessel. No serious injuries or illnesses were observed.

“Impeccable is currently en route to Subic Bay for a scheduled port visit where it will debark the rescued fishermen,” the US Navy said in a news release.

NPA scoffs at ‘surrender ploy' of Army

From the Visayan Daily Star (Jul 20): NPA scoffs at ‘surrender ploy' of Army

The New People's Army Southeast Front dismissed as a “scripted work of fiction” the claim of the military that four of its active members recently surrendered to the 79 th Infantry Battalion in Negros Oriental.

The former rebels were presented last month by the 302 nd Infantry Brigade and 79IB officials to Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo, who assured them of financial assistance under the Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program.

Ka Estrella Banag-Banag, spokesperson of the Rachelle Mae Palang Command, said in a statement that the couple presented to Degamo had been decommissioned from active service for almost a year, upon their request, as they were unable to bear the hardship and sacrifice indispensable in the revolutionary struggle.

Banag-banag said “Bara” was a former squad medical officer, and “Jean” once served as squad supply and logistics officer. “While we are appreciative of their past service, it would be an organizational misrepresentation to publicly project them as active and current NPA members,” Ka Estrella said.

RMPC is still verifying the identities and records of the other two alleged NPA members presented to Degamo, the statement said.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, 79IB commander, said the four ex-rebels formed part of the first batch of former NPA members to avail of government services.

Col. Allan Martin, 302 nd IB commander, said the latest surrender is an indication that many members of the rebel movement are now getting tired of the hard life in the mountains.

Ka Estrella cautioned Degamo against releasing funds for what she claimed as fictional active NPA members.

Philippine Military Upgrade Stalls as China Sea Simmers

From the Wall Street Journal posted to the NASDAQ Website (Jul 19): Philippine Military Upgrade Stalls as China Sea Simmers

A push by the Philippines to overhaul its obsolete military has ground to a halt just as the U.S. ally is striving to deter China in the disputed waters between them.

A string of programs collectively valued at $1 billion stalled early last year, said military officials and executives involved in Philippine defense deals. The delay underscores how the government's efforts to transform the country's derelict navy and air force have become mired in red tape, funding problems and corruption allegations.

The delays leave long-held plans to build a "minimum credible deterrent"—comprising small but capable air and naval fleets—at least a decade from completion, said Jose Antonio Custodio, a Manila-based defense consultant. Even with a basic deterrent in place today, Manila would likely still lack the means to check Beijing's assertiveness.

"We're still at square one," said Mr. Custodio. "With China building all these new bases [in the South China Sea], I'd say it's already too late."

Securing secondhand equipment from allies such as Japan and the U.S. may now be the Philippines' only chance of quickly upgrading its forces, people familiar with the country's procurement process said. The approach of presidential elections in May make it unlikely that any big contracts will be signed before then.

President Benigno Aquino III has promised to rejuvenate the military, which has been degraded by decades of underinvestment.

A pledge to spend $1.7 billion on new equipment initially bore fruit, as the administration signed a flurry of defense contracts valued at $834 million in late 2013 and early 2014, including deals for 12 Korean fighter jets, three Airbus transport planes and a new fleet of combat helicopters from Canada and the U.K.

"The record will show that the Aquino administration has stepped up the pace of [military modernization] considerably, surpassing the procurement program undertaken by three previous administrations combined," said presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma.

However, Mr. Coloma said Mr. Aquino still hasn't signed a law passed by the Philippines Congress in February 2013 earmarking $2 billion for defense procurement. Mr. Coloma didn't explain the delay.

Government finances have been stretched thin after the government spent billions on reconstruction following Supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. Spending has also slowed after a recent scandal in which prosecutors charged three senators with corruption for their alleged involvement in the use of dummy NGOs to steal around $220 million in public money. All three senators denied the charges. Strict government procurement rules have been further tightened since then, putting the brakes on a range of spending programs.

Contracts for two naval frigates valued at $398 million and for two long-range patrol planes valued at $132 million—capabilities that would help the Philippines monitor its maritime territory, where it has overlapping claims with China—are among those that were scheduled to have been bid out last year but haven't moved ahead. " It's a bureaucratic logjam," said Mr. Custodio.

Foreign defense companies seeking to supply these and other systems can only wait for the logjam to clear.

"It seems that all programs are paralyzed," said a Western defense executive whose company is involved in one stalled project.

Another Western executive said the Philippines was hardly unique in experiencing lengthy holdups for military equipment, but recalled how the country's defense leadership had built momentum in 2013, only to hit the buffers in early 2014.

"Defense officials just don't have the authority to make things happen now," he said.

The Philippine Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines didn't respond to requests to comment.

With China accelerating its island-building program in the South China Sea, Philippine military chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang recently urged Manila to spend more on defense as the country's economy enjoys healthy growth. Last year's defense budget was just $3.3 billion—far less than neighboring Singapore's$9.5 billion.

A Philippines senate inquiry into the country's military modernization efforts has meanwhile questioned the effectiveness of the funds spent so far, with one senator arguing there was practically nothing to show for the $1.4 billion spent on new weaponry in the decade to 2013.

Senators also looked into a deal for 21 secondhand helicopters, which the defense department canceled in April after only seven deliveries amid concerns about the quality of the technology, and with a Philippine tax official claiming that the aircraft had been ordered in exchange for kickbacks.

The defense department has denied the allegations.

The breakdown of the helicopter program has made defense officials even more reluctant to place new orders and expose themselves to further scrutiny, said Mr. Custodio.

Mr. Aquino has turned to allies for help. On a recent state visit to Japan, he requested secondhand P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, having already received a $183 million loan from Tokyo to fund the construction of 10 new patrol boats. Tokyo has said it is considering the requests, though it hasn't committed to anything specific. Australia, South Korea and the U.S. have all donated used military kit to Manila in recent years and have signaled a willingness to do more.

But hand-me-downs won't deliver a deterrent capable of influencing decision makers in Beijing, Mr. Custodio says. "The Chinese are building islands on our doorstep."

Army wonders about NPA peace sincerity after 3 more CAFGUs killed in Gingoog

From InterAksyon (Jul 20): Army wonders about NPA peace sincerity after 3 more CAFGUs killed in Gingoog

Soldiers of the 58th Infantry battalion guard the road leading to one of the villages attacked a week earlier by the NPA in Gingoog City. Photographed by Erwin Mascarinas

A week after the NPA attack on a village in Gingoog City, three members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) were killed by suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) after an attack on an Army Patrol base in Barangay Hindangon in Gingoog City.

Reports indicated an estimated 40 NPA guerillas fighters attacked the army patrol base of the 58th Infantry battalion in one of the far-flung villages in Gingoog City.

The NPA had withdrawn after the 40-minute firefight when, around that time, three Cafgu militiamen were on their way back to the patrol base on board a motorcycle that was flagged by the retreating NPA, who apparently killed them.

Major Gen. Oscar Lactao, commander of the 4th Infantry Division, questioned the sincerity of the NPA in the face of their request for a ceasefire and suspension of military operation.

"I really don't understand the stand of the NPA. They are asking for a ceasefire, they are asking for suspension of military operations, then suddenly they attack our patrol base. Then they killed three unarmed Cafgus who were on their way back to the patrol base. This is murder, since the ones they killed were not armed," said Lactao.

The NPA, in a statement released five days ago, pointed out the revolutionary group's interest in a cease-fire and suspension of military operations, and suggested that they are open to start negotiations for the safe and orderly release of the Pfc. Adonis Jess Lupeba, who was captured during the July 11, raid in Barangay Alagatan.

"How can they [NPA] be considered sincere after what they did last night? Their intentions seem to be clear: it is just purely to inflict violence ... purely criminal. We should give justice to those they have killed, and go after these criminals," Lactao said.

The remains of the victims were not recovered right away due to residual harassment action by the rebels," said Edmar Pabia, information officer of the Gingoog city government.

Mayor Marie Guingona of Gingoog City strongly condemned the latest attack.

"The people are fed up with continued harassment by the NPA. Every time there are development projects for the people, they harass the communities," she said.

"The NPA said they are for the people, but they are, in fact, indiscriminately attacking innocent civilians and wrecking havoc to thwart any development that benefits the people." Guingona added.

Guingona said she hopes to have more support from the Army and the Philippine National Police to ensure security for the city of Gingoog.

"We will definitely request additional reinforcement by our military and police to secure peace and order and the safety of the people. However, we will have to see further how things will unfold from here. We hope the situation will not get any worst, but if it does, we are prepared to act accordingly. We can see the problem, and it would be foolish not to take precautions," she said.

The mayor observed that the attacks in Gingoog followed weeks of NPA activities tending to discourage people from cooperating with the city government's P1.7 million waterworks project, "and the latest attack is obviously an effort by the NPA to forestall the multi-million Gingoog City-Malaybalay City Highway, the construction of which is on going in the said area."

Solon calls on militant groups to free 700 Lumads from church compound in Davao

From the Manila Bulletin (Jul 19): Solon calls on militant groups to free 700 Lumads from church compound in Davao

Davao City – North Cotabato Representative and Chairperson of the House Committee on National Cultural Communities Nancy Catamco reiterated her call to militant groups here for them to release the more than 700 Indigenous Peoples (IPs) from Talaingod town in Davao del Norte and San Fernando in Bukidnon, who have been kept inside the Haran Compound at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) under squalid conditions here.

The IPs have been residing at the UCCP-Haran compound for months now due to alleged military abuses they endured in their respective communities.

In a statement dated July 18 sent to the media here, Catamco compared the situation of the IPs inside the compound to that of a concentration camp.

“To me it looks like a concentration camp where IPs are being treated inhumanly,” Catamco said.

She also complained that government line agencies that include the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Education (DepEd), National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) were previously barred from entering the compound to check the situation of the IPs.

“I was surprised when officials told me that militant groups did not allow them to get inside the compound hence they cannot come up with a situation report and provide necessary assistance.”

She also questioned the “legitimacy of the militant groups for having custody of the 700 individuals including children inside the UCCP-Haran.”

Last Wednesday, July 15, Catamco together with representatives Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list, Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women’s party-list, and Brig. General Alexander Baluta of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) held a dialogue and negotiation with the IP leaders in Haran.

The dialogue did not succeed despite assurances from the government of the IPs’ safety if they return to their homes and communities.

“If the IPs were really evacuees then they deserved relief interventions, access to government agencies and to the media where they can express their grievances,” the lady solon asserted.

“Everyone in the compound raised their hands when I asked them who wanted to go home,” Catamco said.

US turns over P5M in equipment to PNP SAF

From Rappler (Jul 20): US turns over P5M in equipment to PNP SAF

This includes battering rams, shields, night vision goggles and Kevlar helmets

NEW EQUIPMENT. The PNP receives over P5 million worth of equipment from the US government. Rappler photo

NEW EQUIPMENT. The PNP receives over P5 million worth of equipment from the US government. Rappler photo

The Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force on Monday, July 20, officially received over P5 million (about $110,500) worth of crisis response team (CRT) equipment from the US government.

SAF officials estimate that equipment worth over P5 million – from battering rams, shields, night vision goggles to Kevlar helmets – were given to the elite police unit by the US.

The equipment, SAF chief Director Moro Lazo told Rappler, can be used for a range of operations – from hostage crises similar to the 2010 Quirino incident to conflict situations such as the Zamboanga siege of 2013.

It’s a much-needed push for the SAF, which only recently lost a sizeable number of their equipment during the botched “Oplan Exodus.” (READ: Slim chance of getting the rest of SAF 44's firearms)

The PNP SAF during their Monday, July 20 flag ceremony inside Camp Bagong Diwa. Rappler photo
The PNP SAF during their Monday, July 20 flag ceremony inside Camp Bagong Diwa. Rappler photo
“The equipment we turn over to the SAF, it’s not enough,” US Department of Statement Diplomatic Security Regional Security Officer Thomas McDonough said on Monday.

McDonough added the SAF was the “number one leg” in a table composed of the US’s priority PNP units. The others include the PNP’s Explosives Ordnance Disposal units, the Anti-Cybercrime Group, and the Anti-Kidnapping Group.

The equipment turned over on Monday is one of the biggest batches from the US in almost a decade, the SAF said. Donations, which happen at least once a year, usually come in small amounts – equipment worth P1 to P2 million.

A batch of non-commissioned and commissioned officers is set to receive US training on CRT in early 2016.

First conviction in anti-terror law

From the Business World (Jul 19): First conviction in anti-terror law

THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE (DoJ) has secured its first conviction under the Human Security Act, after one member of the “Al Khobar Group” was found guilty for a 2008 car bomb explosion in Midsayap, Cotabato.


The DoJ, whose logo is seen here, has secured its first conviction under the Human Security Act. -- BW File Photo
The agency cited a recently received two-page decision by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 69 sentencing Jun Guevarra (also known as Manuel Ibarra or Jun Ibarra) to 10 years’ imprisonment, after a plea bargain was approved.
Prosecutors said Guevarra and two others, Abu Basir and Khenny Mamogkat, who remain at large, operated under the Al Khobar group, which planted an improvised explosive device (IED) at the Midsayap public terminal that exploded on May 8, 2008.
The act was committed to coerce the local government to give in to its demand of a monthly P100,000 tax to be deposited to Mamogkat’s bank account, the information as quoted by the decision said.

Although Guevarra originally entered a not guilty plea on May 2009, he later asked prosecutors to be allowed to plead guilty to a lesser offense as an accessory to the crime.

Quoting him as saying he was remorseful, the decision said: “He condemned in the strongest word the Al Khobar as a terroristic organization which targeted victims to extort money.”
The court approved the plea bargain and sentenced Guevarra to 10 years’ imprisonment, also ordering him to pay nominal damages of P30,000 each to seven victims present during the explosion.

Republic Act No. 9372, or the Human Security Act of 2007, made “terrorism a crime against the Filipino people, against humanity, and against the law of nations.”

Aside from this case, the DoJ Task Force on Anti-Terrorism also obtained murder convictions for five individuals responsible for bombing Awang Airport in Cotabato City in 2003, which killed one soldier. The five led by Zulkifli Julkifli were sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or up to 40 years’ imprisonment.
Three members of the Abu Muslim Group -- the urban support group of the notorious Abu Sayyaf Group -- were also convicted for multiple murder for bombing the Filmart Shopping Center in General Santos City in 2002, which led to 12 being killed and 46 injured.

The three were also ordered to pay the heirs of the fatalities a total of P180,000 in civil indemnity and damages, as well as P95,000 to the only injured victim who presented evidence during the trial.