Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Army upholds rule of law in combat operations against rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 25): Army upholds rule of law in combat operations against rebels

CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar – The recent encounter of army troops with suspected members of the New People’s Army bespeaks of our troops respect to the Rule of Law, Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, said 8th Infantry Division Commanding General Jet Velarmino.

This, after some army troops encountered NPA members in a remote area of Barangay Bunga, Motiong Samar on August 19, 2015.

Based on the initial report of Lt. Col. George M. Domingo, Commanding Officer, 87th Infantry Batallion, 8th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, his troops were conducting combat operations to check the presence of NPA members in the outskirts of the barangay.

While approaching the area, the troops encountered a group of heavily armed NPA rebels.  Firefight ensued for some 15 minutes then the rebels withdrew from their temporary lair made of assorted leaves and wooden poles. 

Government troops immediately scoured the area which led them to a wounded NPA rebel left behind by his fleeing comrades.  He was identified by the barangay council of Bunga as Michael Gabane aka Lagbo.  The troops provided first aid to the wounded rebel and transported him to Camp Lukban Station Hospital.

After the encounter, troops recovered one caliber .45 pistol with live ammunition, one caliber .38, empty shells of AK47, two civilian backpacks containing NPA personal belongings and subversive documents with high intelligence value.

Domingo reported that there were no casualties on the government side, while one NPA rebel identified as Jenny Gabane aka Dacles was killed in action.  The troops, with the assistance of the barangay official, brought the cadaver to Motiong Funeral Homes for proper disposition.

Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, Commander of the 8th Infantry Division, extended his appreciation to the troops for abiding the rules of engagement particularly in situation warranting attendance to wounded enemy combatants.

“These local NPA combatants are just victims themselves of communist leaders who take advantage of them just to pursue their personal motives.  As an abider of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), even a wounded enemy deserves immediate medical care. This was manifested by our troops despite of the volatile situation, when they provided immediate medical attention to the wounded combatant,” he added.


AFP, PNP 'criminalizing' human rights work - Bayan

From InterAksyon (Aug 26): AFP, PNP 'criminalizing' human rights work - Bayan

Detail from a Manobo student's artwork depicting a burning school, which he called the handiwork of soldiers. (file)

The military and police are laying the ground for “the criminalization of humanitarian acts and human rights advocacy” by filing criminal charges against groups and individuals assisting lumad refugees in Davao City, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said.

Visiting the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran Mission House, where some 700 Manobo from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have sought refuge from what they say is the occupation of their communities by the military and attempts to forcibly recruit them into militias, Bayan spokesman Teddy Casiño cited the kidnapping,
human trafficking and child abuse cases filed by the regional Criminal Investigation and Detection Group against lumad leaders and supporters, including church workers and a Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate.

Casiño, a former Bayan Muna representative, said the charges "are meant to intimidate and vilify groups and individuals who provide support and refuge to lumad and peasant communities fleeing military operations."

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan Davao and one of those charged with kidnapping and child abuse, said 20 “strategic lawsuits against public participation” or SLAPP charges have been filed against human rights defenders and activists since last year.

She said these cases stem from their involvement in providing humanitarian aid and support to victims of typhoon Pablo, land grabbing and human rights abuses in Bukidnon, Davao del Sur and Davao del Norte, South Cotabato, Sarangani, General Santos City and the Misamis and Agusan provinces.

The Davao refugees became a cause celebré when authorities, claiming they were being “held against their will,” attempted to evict them from the UCCP compound and forcibly return them to their villages late last month.

This was followed by a diplomatic embarrassment when United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons Chaloka Beyani, who visited the country on the invitation of government, castigated the military for twisting his comments at an exit brief for security officials in an attempt to bolster its claims that the lumad were “manipulated” and victims of “trafficking.”

The military, and North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, the chair of the House of Representatives’ committee on indigenous people who has been involved in efforts to return the refugees, have also accused the lumad at Haran, who say they will leave only when troops pull out of their villages, of supporting communist rebels.


Philippines, Malaysia Hold Joint Naval Exercises Amid Security Concerns

From The Diplomat (Aug 25): Philippines, Malaysia Hold Joint Naval Exercises Amid Security Concerns

Drills focus on maritime security and transnational crime

The Philippines and Malaysia are holding naval drills this week as both countries seek to deepen their cooperation in maritime security and transnational crime.

The four-day naval drills, codenamed MTA MALPHI LAUT 18/5, are the 18th iteration of an annual bilateral training exercise between the two Southeast Asian states since a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation was concluded in 1994.

According to Rear Admiral Primitivo Gopo, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao (NFWM) which is hosting the five-day Maritime Training Activity (MTA), the exercises will be held ashore and afloat in Zamboanga City and in the Moro Gulf and focus on maritime security and transnational crime. They will run up to August 28.

The exercises, Gopo added, would consist of three phases and involve 157 sailors from the Philippine Navy (PN) and 136 sailors from the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN). The first phase, the harbor phase, will take place from August 24 to 25 and would involve various activities including courtesy calls, subject matter expert exchange lectures, special operations activities and naval aviation training. The second phase, at sea trials, will occur from August 26 to 27 and involve combined ship maneuvers to address various contingencies at sea. The third and last phase from August 27 to 28 will involve a sports cup activity and other recreational activities before the departure of RMN ships.

The primary objective of the exercise, Gopo said, is to enhance interoperability between the two navies and to develop better understanding and cooperation.

Smugglers, human traffickers, and terrorists from the southern Philippines have long posed a security threat to Malaysia. Two Malaysian hostages were recently kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf militants from a seafood restaurant in Sandakan and are still being held captive, and Kuala Lumpur and Manila are now working to secure their release.

Malaysia also played a role in facilitating negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which both inked a peace agreement over a year ago (See: “Malaysian Peacekeepers Could Face Toughest Challenge Yet”). The exercise also comes amidst the unresolved Sabah issue between the two sides, and Malaysia saw a 2013 invasion by Filipino militants in the Lahad Datu incident.

Earlier this year, Malaysian officials also announced that the country was preparing a series of offshore military bases in the Sulu Sea to address threats from the southern Philippines, including an influx of hundreds of thousands of displaced southern Filipinos if talks were to break down with the MILF.


Abu Sayyaf gunmen say they will kill duo if ransom money not paid soon

From The Star Online (Aug 25): Abu Sayyaf gunmen say they will kill duo if ransom money not paid soon

[Video report: Timely visit
Time is running out for the two hostages, Bernard Then and Thien Nyuk Fun, captured by Abu Sayyaf-linked gunmen, as the kidnappers plan to behead Then.

PETALING JAYA: After switching off her handphone for months, the wife of an Abu Sayyaf hostage switched it on again only to receive a chilling call from the gunmen – they are threatening to behead him.

Chan Wai See said she received the threat at about 5pm on Saturday.

Chan managed to speak to her husband Bernard Then Ted Fen who she said sounded worried and scared. It was the first time that she had spoken to her husband since the end of June, when she switched off the phone.

The gunmen told her that they will behead him if the ransom was not paid.

Then also told her that another hostage who was with him, Thien Nyuk Fun, who suffers from high blood pressure, was in a “critical” condition.

“The conversation with my husband lasted less than a minute. Unlike before, he did not sound steady.

“He said he was next in line to be beheaded. The kidnappers then snatched the phone from him and told me they would behead him if the ransom was not paid quickly. The line then got cut off,” Chan said, sobbing. She added that the line was very bad and that the person on the other end of the phone spoke in Malay.

“I am terrified for my husband’s life. I plead with the government to save him from beheading,” she said.

Chan did not have any contact with the kidnappers since June when she turned off her phone on instructions by the police.

She switched it on last Friday after reading media reports about the beheading of a Filipino hostage.

“I was so scared and didn’t know what to do,” she said.

Thien, 50, and Then, 39, were snatched from the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah on May 14 and taken to Jolo island in southern Philippines by the gunmen.

Thien was the restaurant manager while Then, a Sarawakian, was holidaying in Sandakan.

The duo’s families are getting even more worried as there have been recent reports of beheadings and military raids in Jolo.

They also say that they do not have the money to pay the ransom demanded by the kidnappers.

Malaysian intermediaries are believed to be facing problems in negotiations as the families have been unable to raise the ransom.

Yesterday, the families met Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed in Putrajaya to ask for the Government’s help to secure their release.

Nur Jazlan said the Government had a policy of not entertaining ransom demands and did not want to set a precedent.

Abu Sayyaf militants beheaded a Filipino village chief on Aug 11 after his family failed to come up with the one million pesos (RM892,000) in ransom.

The village chief was kidnapped on May 4 along with two other coastguard personnel.


WesMinCom cites Beng for support to military

From the Zamboanga Today (Aug 25): WesMinCom cites Beng for support to military

The Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines yesterday and No less than WesMinCom Commander LtGen Rustico Guerrero presented Climaco with a plaque of appreciation during the celebration of the Command’s anniversary at Camp Don Basilio Navarro in Barangay Calarian.

The recognition cited the mayor’s invaluable services and support extended to the Command.

During the same occasion, Climaco was able to confer with Rear Admiral Datuk Khairul Anvar bin Yahya, Commander of Naval Region 2 of the Royal Malaysian Navy, who heads a contingent of navy personnel from the neighboring country.

The Malaysian naval delegation is set to conduct joint border patrol exercises with their Philippine Navy counterparts to strengthen security measures this week.

The drills aim to intensify security in the seas that used by lawless elements, particularly the Abu Sayaff Group (ASG), in their kidnap-for-ransom activities. Climaco urged both naval forces to coordinate efforts to secure the seas to discourage criminals.


AFP accepts over 40K M4 Remington rifles after US firm corrects over 20,000 units

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Aug 25): AFP accepts over 40K M4 Remington rifles after US firm corrects over 20,000 units

The military has accepted over 40,000 M4 Remington rifles for its troops after the United States-based manufacturer replaced the defective parts of more than 20,000 rifles.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines said the 44,186 rifles – which were delivered in two batches – have been accepted as of August 30 by the Defense Acquisition Office.

The AFP public affairs office chief, Col. Noel Detoyato, said the first batch of 24,300 rifles were already accepted and would soon be issued to the troops of the Philippine Army.

The second batch of 19,886 rifles will be subjected to ballistic tests before these are issued, according to Detoyato.

“All the rifles are corrected already and have been accepted. The date of acceptance was July 30 but the documents signifying the acceptance were received by the DAO on August 13,” Detoyato said.

This means that the Remington Firearms Company had already corrected the defective rifles, which had unstable rear gunsights, prompting the military to return the rifles to the manufacturer.

The military earlier returned some 22,000 firearms to the supplier so that the defective parts could be replaced at no cost to the government.

Of the 27,000 M4 rifles initially meant for the Philippine Army, only 5,000 were without defects and equipped with optical gunsight and have been already distributed to the Philippine Marines.

At first, the Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee withheld the acceptance of the 22,000 rifles as the rules provided that defects must first be corrected before the units could be accepted.

“This was not about the procedure in the procurement, but it was the lapse of the supplier. They had to correct this before the TIAC could give the go-signal to accept,” the military official said.

Detoyato said the defects were discovered four months ago when the TIAC conducted a random sampling test of the delivered rifles and noticed that the rear sight of the rifles were unstable.

“It’s a defect by the supplier so the supplier had to shoulder and correct the discrepancy before (the guns) could be accepted,” the military official said.

Some rifles distributed to the 7th Infantry Division were also recalled since these were only “ceremonially distributed.”

The latest batch was the part of the delivery of around 60,000 rifles meant to replace the old M16 rifles. The 60,000 rifles cost the government around P2 billion.

Pacific Angel Philippines mass casualty exercise improves emergency response

From DVIDS (Aug 24): Pacific Angel Philippines mass casualty exercise improves emergency response

Pacific Angel Philippines mass casualty exercise improves emergency response

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Angel Vrgiles, a mass casualty instructor from Hurlburt Field, Fla., talks with a member of the Philippine army about the outcome of a mass casualty exercise as part of Pacific Angel Philippines, Bohol Province, Philippines, Aug. 21, 2015. The mass casualty exercise was the culminating event of a five-day subject matter expert exchange between the U.S. Defense Institute for Medical Operations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response, the Provincial Heath Care Unit and the City Heath Care Unit. Pacific Angel is a multilateral humanitarian assistance civil military operation, which improves military-to-military partnerships in the Pacific while also providing medical health outreach, civic engineering projects and subject matter exchanges among partner forces. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Aaron Oelrich/Released)

TAGBILIRAN, Philippines - In 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated Bohol Province, Philippines, destroying bridges and turning buildings into piles of rubble. The damage was significant with numerous injuries and fatalities.

The province’s reaction to the disaster exhausted first response agencies including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Telephone and Radio System Integrated Emergency Response, the Provincial Heath Care Unit and the City Heath Care Unit.

“After the earthquake, response agencies worked independently, there was no teamwork, making it chaotic and unorganized,” said Mark Sidney Galia, head of emergency management for the TaRSIER. “I was the one in charge in our operation center; I set priorities to the responses and dispatched the teams to their locations. The first few days, there was duplication of services between the response agencies.”

Following the disaster, members of the emergency response agencies evaluated their reaction to the disaster.

“As an emergency responder, the earthquake was a wakeup call,” Galia said. “We realized we have to prepare, we have to be ready and we have to practice. Before the earthquake, we had the training but there was no practice. But with the help of Pacific Angel and this mass casualty exercise, we have learned how to practice our emergency response together.”

The mass-casualty exercise was the culminating event of a five-day subject matter expert exchange between the U.S. Defense Institute for Medical Operations, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the TaRSIER, the PHCU and the CHCU.

The event was part of the greater Pacific Angel Philippines, an exercise that brings together U.S. service members and other partner nation military personnel to establish partnerships and build capacity.

This year, Pacific Angel Philippines brought together the U.S., the Philippines and four other Indo-Asia-Pacific partners and Philippine non-governmental organizations.

“This was the first time that all the response agencies from the local area have trained together,” said Capt. Faiz Taqi, a Defense Institute for Medical Operations team member from Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. “Each agency conducts its own training, but they have never had a combined training like this. It has been very important and very successful because the local agencies came together and were able to bring different ideas and experts and share with one another for the first time.”

Taqi was not the only one who felt the training was valuable.

“For the past five days, we learned the theory of what to do, we prepared how to respond and we put it into action,” Galia said. “Everyone had a great experience. We learned interoperability between the different agencies and are better prepared for the next earthquake or emergency.”

With a new-found level of communication and cooperation between the emergency response agencies, they all move forward with a greater understanding of one another.

Taqi said the U.S. and the local emergency response agencies can learn a lot from each other, and collectively, they can work together to improve their processes as well.

“Working together is not only bringing the two nations together, it is also increasing the inter-agency cooperation by training the internal agencies together for the first time during the Pacific Angel Philippines.”


Troops recover IEDs from NPA

From the Philippine Star (Aug 25): Troops recover IEDs from NPA

Local folks have been complaining of the excessive collection of "protection money" by the New People's Army (NPA). Philstar.com/File photo

Soldiers on Monday recovered a dozen improvised explosive devices (IEDs) left by communist rebels following a firefight with soldiers in west of South Cotabato’s T’boli town.

The IEDs could be used as roadside bombs or as time-delayed explosives that can be set off in public places, such as terminals and markets, using mobile phones.

Lt. Col. Ronald Alcudia, commanding officer of the Army’s 27th Infantry Battalion (IB), said the explosives were found in an open field where his subordinates and a group of New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas collecting revolutionary taxes from T’boli tribal communities traded shots for an hour.

The encounter erupted when the NPAs opened fire on a team of soldiers dispatched to verify the reported presence of gunmen mulcting “protection money” from peasants in Barangay Lakunon in the hinterland T’boli town.

Local folks have long been complaining of the excessive taxation activities of NPAs in the barangay.

Alcudia said 27th IB combatants will continue with their community patrols in T’boli’s hinterland areas that are vulnerable to NPA incursions.


Military base in Quezon converted into coop plant

From The Daily Tribune (Aug 24): Military base in Quezon converted into coop plant

From military base to a cooperative-run exporting plant.

This was the former headquarters of the Army’s 1st Special Forces Battalion in Barangay Danglagan, Padre Burgos in Quezon province.

The former military camp was converted into a plant of the Pederasyon ng Magsasaka at Mangingisda sa Bayan ng Padre Burgos (PMMBPB), which is engaged in the manufacture of various coconut products.

Chris Ferrer, one of the founding leaders of PMMBPB, said that the federation has a total of 798 employees composed of 750 twiners, 20 weavers and 28 in charge of the research and production.

Among the federation’s products are coco peat, fresh coir dust, mixed fiber, coco twine ropes, mattress fiber and Coco Geo nets.

Currently, Ferrer said that the PMMBPB is exploring export markets in Dubai, Korea, China, United States of America and Europe.

“We have gone a long way after converting this military camp into a manufacturing plant,” said Ferrer.

Bob Villena, owner of the lot where the PMMBPB sits, recalled how local residents of Barangay Danglagan and adjacent villages embraced the 1st SF Battalion troops who were always in support of the populace especially during calamities.

“They (1st SF Battalion troops) did not only provide security, they were our partners in the local community,” declared Villena.

“There was even a time when the 1st SF Battalion dismantled its garage for armored personnel carrier to provide materials for the construction of makeshift classrooms after a school was destroyed by typhoon,” he added.
As tribute to the 1st SF Battalion, the PMMPB has maintained the symbol of the Army unit at the compound.
After its stint in Padre Burgos, the 1st SF Battalion was transferred to Candelaria also in Quezon province before moving to Leyte then at its present location in Bukidnon province.


Supreme Court justices visited Pag-asa Island

ANC video report posted to ABS-CBN (Aug 26): Supreme Court justices visited Pag-asa Island

[Video report: 3 Supreme Court justices visited Pag-asa Island]

Three Supreme Court justices take a trip to the Pag-asa Island in the West Philippine Sea. - ANC, The World Tonight, August 25, 2015


NPAs kill retired cop linked to human rights abuses

From ABS-CBN (Aug 25): NPAs kill retired cop linked to human rights abuses

A group of armed men shot dead a retired policeman in front of his house in Barangay Cabubuhan, Magsaysay town in Misamis Oriental on Monday.

The five suspects approached retired SPO4 Dioscoro Capiring Jr. and identified themselves as members of the New People's Army (NPA).

The armed men then ordered Capiring to turn over his firearms. The victim surrendered his caliber .22 revolver with live ammunition.

Insisting the victim still had his M-16 rifle, the suspects then shot Capiring's knees before aiming at his head and body.

In a radio interview in Cagayan de Oro, NPA North Central Mindanao spokesperson Allan Juanito admitted the rebels were behind the ex-cop's killing.

Juanito accused the victim of several human rights violations while he was still active in service, including the alleged execution of two civilians.

The police provincial office in Misamis Orietnal has organized a task force to investigate the motive behind the killing.


Photo: Relief operation

From The Standard (Aug 26): Photo: Relief operation

This undated handout photo released by the Philippine Air Force on Aug. 24 shows an Air Force helicopter unloading relief for the residents in a village in Ilocos Sur that was isolated by the flooding caused by Typhoon “Ineng.” AFP


Tribal leaders, elders call for release of detained IPs

From The Standard (Aug 26): Tribal leaders, elders call for release of detained IPs

The leaders and elders of various indigenous peoples’ tribes in Davao del Norte are calling for the immediate release of their fellow tribesmen who are being held in the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City.

In its Resolution No. 2, series of 2015, the Office of the Tribal Assembly of Elders/Leaders of the Langilan Manobo tribe aired its concern about the “miserable situation” of their constituents who, it said, were deceived by militant organizations into going to the Haran compound on Father Selga Street, Davao City.

The notarized resolution, which bears the signatures and thumbprints of 60 tribal leaders and elders, strongly condemned these militant organizations for bringing and padlocking the IPs in Haran.

Specifically mentioned in the resolution were the following organizations: National Democratic Front (NDF), Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), New People’s Army (NPA), Karadyawan-Kapalong, Karapatan, Pasaka Regional Lumad Confederation, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), Gabriela, Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), Salugpungan Ta Tanu Community Learning Center, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Southern Mindanao Region (KMP-SMR), Mindanao InterFaith Services Foundation Inc. (MISFI) and Exodus.

Pointing out that it is the responsibility of the entire tribe to look after the safety and welfare of its members who are being oppressed, the tribal leaders and elders said their call for their tribesmen’s immediate release was in response to the complaints of their relatives.

In its resolution, the Manobo tribal council said “innocent families were deceitfully brought” to Haran by militant groups “who promised them some remuneration for their attendance in Davao City.”   

According to earlier reports, various IP tribes in Davao del Norte and other provinces were asked to go to Davao City to attend a three-day dialogue with President Benigno Aquino, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and even Rep. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao. For attending, they were promised money, rice, pots and pans, agricultural tools and slippers.

“Instead they were used as marchers during the rallies instigated by the militant organizations,” the tribal council said in its resolution.

The council unanimously decided to send the resolution to the office of the Haran-UCCP compound, with copies provided the Committee on Indigenous Peoples of Congress, National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Commission on Human Rights.


US admiral arrives today

From The Standard (Aug 26): US admiral arrives today

THE commander of the United States Pacific Command is scheduled to arrive in the country on Wednesday to discuss security problem involving the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

Admiral Harry Harris Jr. will meet top Philippine military officials before flying to Palawan to assess the security situation in the WPS.

Harris will be accorded military honors by AFP chief of staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri at Camp Aguinaldo before holding discussions with ranking military officials in Palawan.

“The purpose of the visit is to discuss bilateral security concerns with the Philippines and gain local perspective on the security situation because the Pacific is an area of where his troops are deployed,” AFP Public Affairs chief Col. Noel Detoyato said.

“He has to get a very good perspective on what is happening on the ground. That is why he wanted to visit Admiral Alexander Lopez so that he can be personally be brief by the commander,” Detoyato said, noting that the meeting will take place at the Western Command headquarters in Puerto Princesa City.

The Western Command headquarters is near Philippine Navy bases in Ulugan Bay which are being offered to the US as a base for visiting American forces and vessels under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) the Philippines inked with the US.

Harris earlier reiterated US concern over security matters in the West Philippine Sea and said China is “creating a great wall of sand’’ through its land reclamation, causing serious concerns about its territorial intentions.

“But what’s really drawing a lot of concern in the here and now is the unprecedented land reclamation currently being conducted by China,’’ he said. “China is building artificial land by pumping sand onto live coral reefs—some of them submerged—and paving over them with concrete. China has now created over 4 square kilometers [1.5 square miles] of artificial landmass,’’ he said.

Harris said the region is known for its beautiful natural islands, but “in sharp contrast, China is creating a great wall of sand with dredges and bulldozers over the course of months.’’

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea. The Philippines and other countries which have territorial disputes with China in the busy sea have been particularly concerned by the land reclamation projects, which have turned a number of previously submerged reefs in the Spratlys archipelago into artificial islands with buildings, runways and wharves. The islands could be used for military and other facilities to bolster China’s territorial claims.

Harris said the pace of China’s construction of artificial islands “raises serious questions about Chinese intentions.’’

He said the United States continues to urge all claimants to conform to the 2002 China-ASEAN Declaration of Conduct, in which the parties committed to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.’’

“How China proceeds will be a key indicator of whether the region is heading toward confrontation or cooperation,’’ he said.

The U.S. says it has a national interest in the peaceful resolution of the disputes in a region crucial for world trade. China says its territorial claims have a historical basis and objects to what it considers U.S. meddling.

Harris said the United States is on track to reposition 60 percent of its navy to the Pacific Fleet by 2020.

“By maintaining a capable and credible forward presence in the region, we’re able to improve our ability to maintain stability and security,’’ he said. “If any crisis does break out, we’re better positioned to quickly respond.’’


Pemberton defense presents last witness

From The Standard (Aug 26): Pemberton defense presents last witness

THE lawyers of US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton rested its presentation of evidence after a forensic pathologist disputed on Tuesday the official cause of death of transgender woman Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude who was found dead in an Olongapo City hotel in October 2014.

Pemberton’s lawyers claimed that the testimony of forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun supported the Marine’s claim that Laude was unconscious but still alive when he left her and that another person could have entered the hotel room and killed Laude.

But private prosecution lawyer Virginia Suarez said the defense failed to establish their assertion and dismissed Fortun’s testimony as incredible because she was paid to testify based on “theories, photographs and documents” without actually examining Laude’s body.

“That’s expected. Fortun admitted the defense paid her services to testify. How can she be considered credible? The Laude family did not pay the prosecution. She has not seen or touched her remains,” she said.

“You cannot just compare a four-page report of Fortun with a comprehensive examination of the forensic expert from the Philippine National Police who actually dissected and conducted external and internal autopsy on Laude,” Suarez said.

“I must say we cannot compare an apple to an orange,” Suarez said, noting that Pemberton only presented himself, his mother Lisa and Fortun to back his claim that Laude was still alive when he left her.

“But they could not establish their assertion [although] that is a good legal tactic for the defense to convince the court that he had no intention to kill her,” Suarez said.

“We have overwhelming pieces of evidence, more than 300 of them with 28 testimonies,” she added, a day after Pemberton testified that he strangled Laude after a fight, but the transgender woman was still alive when Pemberton left.

After the defense rested its case, Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court Branch 74 set closing arguments on September 14 and scheduled December 14 as the deadline of her decision.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is confident that the case against Pemberton was strengthened after he admitted strangling Laude and that reinforced arguments against the downgrade of the murder case to homicide.

“Pemberton’s admission that he strangled Laude certainly helped the prosecution’s case,’’ DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima said, adding that it reinforced the evidence presented by the DOJ prosecutors in the murder case.

“Our prosecutorial stance remains the same— target Pemberton’s conviction for murder, and nothing less,” De Lima assured.

Pemberton testified on Monday that he was a victim of deception by Laude, whom he strangled in self-defense in a fit of “passion and obfuscation,” but did not intend to kill the latter.

The American serviceman had gotten drunk while on furlough in this city and was supposedly deceived into believing that Laude was a female sex worker.

During intercourse, Pemberton said he discovered that Laude was not a woman. Shocked, Pemberton testified that he pushed back Laude, who slapped him, prompting the serviceman to choke the transgender.

His lawyer Rowena Flores explained that Pemberton’s testimony was meant to prove that the qualifying circumstances of treachery, abuse of superior strength and cruelty were not present in the case.

The lawyer said the serviceman “acted in self-defense and to protect his honor and life… and acted in immediate vindication of the wrong done to him.”

“Jennifer succeeded in committing such acts of lasciviousness by deceiving Pemberton or by fraudulent machination,” Flores claimed.


50,629 assault rifles defective — military

From The Standard (Aug 26): 50,629 assault rifles defective — military

The Armed Forces of the Philippines  has  50,629 pieces of M4 assault rifles in its arsenal but these are defective and could not be used  by government soldiers, a military spokesman said on Tuesday.

The  rifles valued at P1.9 billion were supplied by the United States-based Remington Outdoor Company but the company still has to replace the defective weapons,  according to Col. Noel Detoyato,  AFP  public affairs chief.

In this file photo, President Benigno S. Aquino III hands over one of the M4 assault rifles to an Army soldier during  the ceremonial distribution held at the AFP General Headquarters on August 14, 2014. Malacañang Photo Bureau 

In August last year,  the military handed  27,000 pieces of M-4 rifles  to the Philippine Army  and Marines  in ceremonies attended by President Benigno S. Aquino III at  Camp Aguinaldo.

After a  technical inspection, the military’s acceptance committee rejected the rifles due to defective sights and barrel grooves, Detoyato said.  He did not say when Remington would  replace the   rifles.

“The supplier  (Remington) has  to correct this  before the technical inspection and  acceptance committee (TIAC) will give the go signal for us to accept,” Detoyato said.

Of the  50,529 M4 rifles, at least  44,186 rifles were set aside for the  Army and another 6,443 for the Marines.  

Remington sold theM-4  rifles to the AFP  for P38,402  apiece under the Joint  Army-Marine Corps. Assault Rifles Acquisition Project.

The military said  it saved P1.2 billion  from the deal and vowed to  use the savings to buy additional weapons as part of the AFP modernization.

The first batch of 100   rifles   was delivered on July 5, 2014 and the second batch of 27,200. The remaining 23,329 units were supposed to be delivered in December 2014.

Soldiers of the 7th infantry division based  on  Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija received an undetermined  number of the M-4 rifles which were covered by the recall order, sources said.


Six US Marines F/A-18 in Philippines for exercise

From Ang Malaya (Aug 25): Six US Marines F/A-18 in Philippines for exercise

“Philippine Air Force and United States Marine Corps (USMC) are scheduled to participate in Bilateral Tactical Exercise from August 20-31,” US Embassy in Manila said in a statement. The exercise between Filipino Air Force and American Marines will involve six USMC F/A-18 aircraft.

The exercise is designed to improve bi-lateral procedures and practices for air-to-air and air-to ground operations and build interoperability and partnership between the two forces.

The US Embassy further added that aircraft are scheduled to fly out of Clark Air Base during the exercise. Training will involve PAF and USMC aircraft conducting Close Air Support in Crow Valley Range.

“Local residents should expect an increase in air-traffic noise and explosions within the range,” the US Embassy said.


NPA rebels’ facing suit over torching of heavy equipment

From the Mindanao Times (Aug 25): ‘NPA rebels’ facing suit over torching of heavy equipment

TWO ALLEGED members of the New People’s Army are facing a criminal charge before the Provincial Prosecution Office of Davao del Sur for their alleged involvement in the torching of heavy equipment of construction firms in the area.

The suspects were arrested in Sitio Bayungon, Barangay Astorga, Sta. Cruz on Aug. 23.

Jimmy Joven and Peter John Corales are facing a charge for violation of Republic Act 9156 or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drug Act of 2002” and Republic Act 10591 or the “Comprehensive Law of Firearm and Ammunition.”

Law enforcers are still preparing the documents for the arson charge to be filed against the respondents.

Joven and Corales are now temporarily held at Sta. Cruz Municipal Police Office while their case is being resolved by provincial prosecutor Teresita Recto.

Based on military reports, the respondents were responsible for burning eight pieces of heavy equipment in Sta. Cruz, Davao del Sur on Saturday evening.

The report added they burned a grader and backhoe in Barangay Coronon at 7:30 p.m., and two more excavators of TKS company in Barangay Darong at the same time.

Another excavator and a dump truck of Premium Construction Company, owned by AWAT Party List Rep. Pepeng Agoba, were also burned in Sitio Takub, Barangay Zone 1 at 10 p.m., reportedly by five armed men riding motorcycles.

At 10:20 p.m., a crane and excavator owned by Profen construction were razed along the national highway in Barangay Tagabuli.

Accordingly, the alleged rebels held a security guard at gunpoint and burned the equipment, after which they fled toward Barangay Coronon and burned a grader of TKS Construction company owned by Michael Tee.


5 killed in Bukidnon were civilians - NPA

From Rappler (Aug 25): 5 killed in Bukidnon were civilians - NPA

The military disputes this claim, however, insisting that soldiers gunned down armed rebels


The 5 alleged communist guerrillas killed in Bukidnon in a reported clash with the military last August 18 were civilians and not rebels, the New People's Army (NPA) claimed.

Mamerto Bagani, spokesperson of the NPA's Mt. Kitanglad Subregional Command, said in a statement that the incident occurred in the village of Mendis in Pagantucan town at around 4 pm.
The victims were identified as 70-year-old Herminio Samia, 20-year-old Joebert Samia and 19-year-old Emir Somina. Two minors, a 17-year-old and a 13-year-old, were also killed.
The incident, Bagani said, happened only a few minutes after an NPA unit clashed with troops from the 3rd Special Forces Company about 4 kilometers away from the huts of the victims.
"On this firefight, 2nd Lieutenant Alvin Cantala Balangcod was killed and Private First Class Virgil Soto Rubantes was gravely wounded. On the other hand, two NPA fighters were wounded and a firearm was left behind," Bagani said.
The NPA claimed that the victims were gunned down even if they already "raised their hands in surrender."
Earlier, Capt. Alberto Caber, public affairs chief of the military's Eastern Mindanao Command, said that the soldiers were conducting a security patrol that day after they received reports about the presence of armed men in the area. 
"It is clear that what occurred was an encounter because our troops were shot first. We got the bodies and we also got firearms, backpacks and documents in the area," Caber said.
Caber dismissed the rebels' claim, saying it's only normal for the NPA to cover up for their combat loss.
The military said that the bodies were immediately turned over to the police and local government.
"The soldiers also immediately turned over the bodies to local authorities for proper disposition. Meanwhile, our operations in the area will continue most especially in Northern, Southern and in Central Bukidnon," Caber said.
As the number casualties from the government, rebel and civilian side rise, peace advocates are calling on both the government and the National Democratic Front to resume the stalled negotiations to address the root causes of the conflict.
In the Hague Joint Declaration in 1992, both parties agreed to tackle substantive agendas including human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces.
In March 1998, both parties signed the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).
The government and the NDF panels have already formulated their drafts for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (Caser) but the process has not made any progress after the talks hit a snag.
The guerrilla war in the country is considered as one of the longest running communist movements in Asia.


Lawmaker warns diluted BBL won’t resolve Mindanao conflict

From MindaNews (Aug 26): Lawmaker warns diluted BBL won’t resolve Mindanao conflict

A partylist representative on Monday warned against passing a version of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that would not adhere to the provisions of the peace agreements signed between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Bayan Muna Rep. Karlos Isagani Zarate said passing the BBL just so President Benigno S. Aquino III could cite a legacy of his administration will not address the root cause of the long-standing Moro unrest.

“What’s the use of passing a law that cannot solve the problem?” he said.

Zarate said the government peace panel should have considered at the outset that Congress may object to the provisions of the agreements they deem unconstitutional and that it would be better if they included some lawmakers in drafting the BBL.

He said the substitute bills filed in the Senate and even in the House of Representatives have excluded several provisions in the original draft, which is a result of the 17-year negotiation between the government and MILF peace panels.

The MILF cannot accept a version of the BBL with provisions that are only 50-percent compliant to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), he said.

He said it is doubtful the BBL could be passed before Aquino leaves office, as most lawmakers will be “busy” after filing the certificate of candidacies in October.

Zarate said it will be difficult to muster a quorum as the election period draws near. He cited that no sessions were held in the past days due to lack of quorum.

1BAP partylist Rep. Sylestre Bello III recently said the lawmakers skipped the sessions to avoid discussions on the Freedom of Information bill, Anti-Dynasty bill and the BBL.

Since July 17 when Congress resumed its sessions, only two lawmakers were able to interpellate the BBL in the plenary with 28 items still up for deliberation.

“If and when the interpellation of the BBL resumes, more congressmen will attempt to dilute it further, for example, the provisions on the control of resources,” Zarate said.

He said the substitute bill filed by Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has failed to live up to the provisions of the CAB and FAB.

He said Marcos’ bill rejected the “request of the MILF to reconsider the provisions that have been omitted” from the original draft. He called Marcos’ version of the BBL less than the existing Republic Act 9504, which amended RA 6734, the law creating the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Zarate said the Makabayan bloc in Congress is not amenable to Marcos’ substitute bill as it will not provide a long-term solution to the conflict.

He warned that passing a version of the BBL that would fail to address the problem will only result in more problems.

He cited, for instance, the Final Peace Agreement entered into by the government and the Moro National Liberation Front in 1996.

He said the next administration should also honor the CAB and the FAB or risk losing credibility in the international community.

“An agreement must always be respected,” he said.


Soldier wounded in new NPA ambush in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 25): Soldier wounded in new NPA ambush in Southern Philippines

One army soldier was wounded after communist rebels ambushed a military patrol in the southern Philippine province of Agusan del Norte, officials said on Tuesday.

Army Capt. Alberto Caber, a spokesman for the Eastern Mindanao Command, said the attack occurred in the village of Tagbongabong in Remedios Romualdez town on Monday afternoon.

He said soldiers from the 29th Infantry Battalion were patrolling the village when New People’s Army fighters ambushed them, sparking a gunbattle that lasted about 10 minutes.

“A soldier of the 29th Infantry was wounded after its patrolling elements were fired upon by more or less 20 NPA rebels in Sitio Bahi in Tagbongabong. The NPA group withdrew and escaped from the scene after about 10-minute firefight,” Caber said.

“The wounded soldier was immediately given first aid care by the troops and is now on stable condition,” he added.

There was no official report of enemy casualties. It was the second ambush in just 2 days in the region. On August 23, NPA rebels also ambush an army patrol that left one soldier wounded in Davao del Sur’s Malita town.

The NPA has been waging a secessionist war the past four decades in an effort to overthrow the democratic government and install a Maoist state.


Sayyafs threaten to behead Malaysian hostage

From the Mindanao Examiner (Aug 25): Sayyafs threaten to behead Malaysian hostage

Abu Sayyaf rebels have threatened to behead a Malaysian national if ransom for his safe release is not paid by his family, who sought help from Kuala Lumpur to save the hostage now being held in southern Philippines.

Chan Wai See, the wife of kidnap victim Bernard Then Ted Fen, said she spoke with the rebels and her husband on the phone on August 22 and told the Home Ministry about it, according to a report by the Malaysian Insider.

The 39-year old Bernard was kidnapped along with Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, by four gunmen who stormed Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan on May 14. Thien is the restaurant’s manager.

Chan and Thien’s daughter, Chung Chin Lung, met with Deputy Home Minister I Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Deputy Home Minister II Masir Anak Kujat to allay their concerns over the victims.

Both officials have assured Chien and Chung that they will do all they can to bring the Malaysians back home safely. The hostages were believed being held in Sulu Archipelago and Sabah is just near the Filipino province of Tawi-Tawi. It was not immediately known how much ransom the Abu Sayyaf is demanding.

The report said Bernard was apparently very weak and told his wife that he would be beheaded next after the Abu Sayyaf beheaded a kidnapped Filipino village official, Rodolfo Boligao, recently.

It added that Thien was also very weak and the situation had been made worse because they were forced to move around as militants wanted to avoid detection.

The two Malaysian officials said they were closely working with Philippine authorities to determine the location of the two hostages.

In Zamboanga City, Marine Captain Maria Rowena Muyuela, a spokeswoman for the Western Mindanao Command, said law enforcement operations against the Abu Sayyaf still continue following the recent rescue of two kidnapped Coast Guard members – Gringo Villaruz and Rodlyn Pagaling – in the village of Buanza in Sulu’s Indanan town.

At least 15 rebels were killed in that operations which also left injured 7 soldiers.

“We have not received any reports of Abu Sayyafs threatening to kill their Malaysian hostage, but what I can tell is that our law enforcement operations are continuing in Sulu against the Abu Sayyaf,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner by phone from her headquarters.

Muyuela did not say what areas in Sulu the soldiers were operating, but the Abu Sayyaf is active in the towns of Patikul, Talipao and Indanan.

The threat to kill the hostage coincided with the start of the 5-day joint Philippines-Malaysia naval training exercises in Zamboanga City that involved several ships and aircrafts from both countries.


Mga dependent ng MNLF sa N. Cotabato, nakatanggap ng tulong

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 24): Tagalog News: Mga dependent ng MNLF sa N. Cotabato, nakatanggap ng tulong (Dependents of the MNLF in N. Cotabato, receive assistance)

Nakatanggap kamakailan ng tulong pang-edukasyon at pangkalusugan ang mga dependent ng mga miyembro ng Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) dito sa lalawigan.

Ang nabanggit na mga ayuda ay nagmula sa Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) program ng Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

Kabilang sa mga tulong na ipinamahagi ay ang PhilHealth cards, Member Data Records (MDR), at Notice of Scholarship Grant na mismong ipinagkaloob ng mga kinatawan ng PhilHealth at Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

Nagbigay din ng oryentasyon ang PhilHealth kaugnay ng kanilang mga serbisyo partikular ang iba’t- ibang health packages na maaaring pakinabangan ng mga benepisyaryo.

Samantala, ibinahagi naman ng CHED ang mga nakapaloob sa education study grant ng mga PAMANA- MNLF beneficiary. Kabilang na rito ang CHED priority courses, financial benefits at grounds for termination of study grant.

Sa kabilang banda, inihayag ni OPAPP Director for Mindanao Jhunnel Raneses na ang pamamahagi ng tulong ay parte ng pagpapatupad ng 1996 Peace Agreement sa pagitan ng gobyerno at ng MNLF.


Rebel-returnees receive livelihood assistance

From the Philippine Information Agency (Aug 24): Rebel-returnees receive livelihood assistance

Twenty three rebel-returnees received earlier today at the office of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Provincial Capitol Center, Tagum City, checks worth P 50,000 for their livelihood assistance.

DILG Provincial Director Alex Roldan said that the assistance was part of the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

Director Roldan said that the CLIP is government program for the rebels, who want to surrender and to return to normal lives by reintegrating themselves in the society through financial, health and education assistance packages.

Roldan bared that there were actually 30 rebel-returnees, however, the other seven returnees had already received P 65,000 last July 28 in a formal turn-over attended by Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario.

He added that during the 23 rebel returnees got only an initial of P15,000 during the formal turn-over.

Roldan told the rebel-returnees that those who turned over firearm will receive another cash-package.

“The amount will range maybe from P40,000 to P250,000 depending on the firearms,” he said.


Army recover IEDs in military-NPA clash site in S. Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Army recover IEDs in military-NPA clash site in S. Cotabato

Government forces recovered two powerful improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in a remote village of South Cotabato where government forces clash with suspected communist rebels, military officials Tuesday said.

The IEDs were found by soldiers during clearing operations following the 30-minute encounter that left several rebels wounded, some critically, according to Colonel Ronald Jess Alcudia, 27th Infantry Battalion commander.

Alcudia said the improvised bombs fashioned from mortar and grenades were found by 27th IB troopers in Sitio Motosom, Barangay Laconon, T’boli, South Cotabato Monday, about two days after the clash on Saturday afternoon.

Army 2Lt. Gautene of 27th Infantry Battalion was the leader of the team which was conducting peace and development operation when they chanced upon about 30 heavily armed communist New People's Army guerrillas. A 30-minute firefight ensued until the guerrillas fled deep into the forest, leaving guns, ammunition and an improvised bomb.

Clearing operation was carefully conducted to prevent accidental explosion of booby traps that could have been left by the fleeing rebels.

Alcudia said the guerrillas belonged to Platoon Nokia/Alcatel of Guerilla Front 73, Far South Mindanao Region.

Alcudia believed the rebels have suffered casualties due to blood stain in the rebels' escape route but could not ascertain how many.

Quoting witnesses from the community, an Army officer involved in the operation, said the rebels have two fighters in very serious condition but their comrades could not bring them down for medication due the presence of government forces.

But Alcudia said the Army is willing to provide medical assistance on humanitarian grounds if the rebels opt to bring down their wounded companions without firearms.


Basilan warring clans 'smoke the pipe of peace' through police efforts

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 25): Basilan warring clans 'smoke the pipe of peace' through police efforts

Police authorities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have yet settled another bloody Moro clan wars in Basilan after two families smoke the pipe of peace, officials said Tuesday.

In his report to Chief Supt. Ronald Estilles, police regional director for the PNP-ARMM based here, Supt. Oscar Nantes, Basilan police director, said two groups have signed a truce ending decades old conflict that claimed several lives from both sides and stalled economic growth in their communities.

Nantes said elders of the Yakan family of Idan and the Arabani and Baite families, all in the town of Maluso, have ended their armed conflict and swear before the Holy Quran after signing the peace agreement.

"They both agreed not to resort to violence anymore and help build peace in the communities," Nantes said. "They realized they will be the end beneficiaries of any peace and development that will come to Maluso if the end hostilities."

Territorial dispute triggered the armed conflict between the warring families who happened to be related by affinity and by blood with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Nantes said it took more than a month for the local police and Muslim elders to convince hardliner members of the warring families since the conflict dates back to the 1980s and resulted in the death of more than a dozen members from both sides.

The police provincial director lauded the support extended by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman and the local military counterpart.

Few days ago, the ARMM regional government, through the Regional Reconciliation and Reunification Commission, successfully brought warring families in Sumisip and Lantawan to the negotiating table and smoke the pipe of peace.

With the successful unification of warring families, Nantes said he was inspired to "work harder" and settle remaining clan war, locally known as "rido," in Basilan.

"We have found the strategy that will soften the hearts of those involved in bloody family dispute," he said.

Election season is coming and settling clan wars in war-torn Basilan is one step to ensure peaceful balloting next year.