Monday, August 31, 2015

‘America’s Flagship’ now en route to Asia providing combat-ready force

From Ang Malaya (Sep 1): ‘America’s Flagship’ now en route to Asia providing combat-ready force

The USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) is now en route to its new homeport in Japan. CVN 76 departed its home for nine years Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego August 31. USS Ronald Reagan replaced the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) as the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed aircraft carrier and will assume duties in the 7th Fleet area of responsibility upon arrival.

“Ronald Reagan has been embraced as America’s Flagship. Not only does she have strong ties to Americans, she also has ties to the people of Japan,” said Rear Admiral John Alexander, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. “In 2011 Ronald Reagan was one of the first responders to assist in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the east coast of Japan during Operation Tomodachi. The ties that were established with the ship and our host nation will continue to grow.”

Seventh Fleet is responsible for maintaining United States military presence in Western Pacific and Indian Ocean to promote peace, regional cooperation and stability. Five of the seven US Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area which are Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

The area covers 36 maritime countries including China, Russia, India, North Korea and Republic of Korea.

“USS Ronald Reagan is 11 years newer than USS George Washington (CVN 73), which means the carrier has benefited from 11 years of evolving technology,” said Captain Christopher Bolt, USS Ronald Reagan’s commanding officer. “America’s Flagship will serve our nation as a cornerstone of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces based in Yokosuka, Japan.”

The US Navy said in a news release USS Ronald Reagan provides a combat-ready force that works with the navies of other nation partners to protect the collective maritime interests of the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

MILF: UNFPA Country Representative and BDA sign Letter of Understanding

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 1): UNFPA Country Representative and BDA sign Letter of Understanding

UNFPA Country Representative and BDA sign Letter of Understanding

Mr. Klaus Beck, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Mohammad S. Yacob, Executive Director of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) signed Letter of Understanding (LOU) on August 28, 2015 at the Administrative Base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The signing was made in the presence of MILF Chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, Second Vice Chairman Pangalian Solaiman, and members of the Central Committee. Also in attendance to witness the signing were members of UNFPA delegation and BDA employees.

The LOU refers to a program of Strengthening Capacities for Reproductive Health, (RH) Service and Advocacy in the Bangsamoro. It is the first time that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, thru the BDA is collaborating with UNFPA particularly on the issue of Reproductive Health.

The MILF leadership appreciated the LOU signing and hoped that UNFPA and BDA can work together along the relevance of one of the agreements in the peace process which is the Normalization Annex. As a component, health program is one of the priorities.

In explaining the UNFPA's objectives for visiting Camp Darapanan, Mr. Beck said "Our commitment to improve the lives of the people in Bangsamoro is an everlasting commitment despite or regardless of insecurities and uncertainties, new challenges that would be thrown on our way. Continuous commitment is our commitment".

In response, Chairman Al Hajj Murad reiterated their acceptance of collaboration between MILF and UNFPA, working together for the development of Bangsamoro, and for attaining lasting peace in the area. He again expressed thanks and gratitude for the coming of Beck’s delegation and UNFPA’s assistance thru the development programs that were long been necessary.

MILF: President Aquino extends tenure of BTC

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 1): President Aquino extends tenure of BTC

President Aquino extends tenure of BTC

President Benigno Aquino III issued Executive Order No. 187, on August 20, 2015, amending Executive Order No. 120, Series of 2012 that constituted the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

The BTC crafted the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the Malacañan-MILF agreed version was submitted to leaders of Congress in a ceremony at the Palace on September 10, 2014.

The issuance of the executive order “shall fill the gap in the intervening period between enactment and ratification to address the issues relevant to the BBL and to the Bangsamoro as a whole”. The issuance thus extended the tenure of the BTC, strengthens and expands further the functions of the Commission.

Under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro and under Section 5 of the Executive Order (EO) No. 120 (s. 2012), the Bangsamoro Transition Commission shall cease to operate upon the enactment by Congress of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. The CAB also stipulates that the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) will be created only upon the promulgation and ratification of the BBL.

With the amendments of EO No. 120 through the issuance of EO No. 187, the BTC is tasked to prepare and draft a Code of Parliamentary Procedures for the Future Bangsamoro Parliament and a Bangsamoro Administrative Code for the consideration of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA).

MILF: ANC Cable network to spotlight BBL and Bangsamoro peace process

Posted to the MILF Website (Aug 31): ANC Cable network to spotlight BBL and Bangsamoro peace process

ANC Cable network to spotlight BBL and Bangsamoro peace process

ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) is set to put the Bangsamoro peace process and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the spotlight as it hosts “Peace and Justice: A Beyond Politics Special on the BBL” which will be aired live on September 1 at 7:00 to 8:00 pm, a report posted on the website of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) on August 30 said.

Anchored by veteran journalist Lynda Jumilla, the hour-long forum will discuss the current status of the BBL in both chambers of Congress and what steps the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panels are taking to ensure the peace while deliberations on the proposed bill are ongoing. It will likewise touch on the public and local sentiments about the BBL, and the way forward for the landmark measure.

Present during the forum will be Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government’s chief negotiator; Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS) and member of the MILF Peace panel as well as Mindanao civil society leader Gus Miclat. 

Also invited are the chief movers of the BBL in both chambers, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, Chair of the House Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro, and Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Chair of the Senate Committee on Local Government. Present in the audience will be members of civil society organizations, members of the security sector, and other stakeholders of the peace process.

Both committees have drafted their respective substitute bills—House Bill 5811 or the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, and Senate Bill 2894 or the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. Differences between the bills—the Senate substitute bill, the House substitute bill, and the original draft BBL prepared and submitted by the BTC and the Office of the President—are also expected to be tackled during the forum.

Ferrer enjoined the public to watch and participate in the forum, saying “it will be a good opportunity for the broader public to be educated more and share their sentiments about the peace process and the BBL.”
The public can ask questions during the forum by following the official twitter account of ‎ANC (@ANCNewsAlerts) and using the hashtag #BeyondBBL.

ANC is the Philippines' only cable news network running 24/7. It is the country’s first all-news network, and it has a strong presence online. (Source: OPAPP)

CPP/NDF/NPA: Nine Military Actions Launched by NPA-Central Panay from June to August

NDF/NPA propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Aug 31): Nine Military Actions Launched by NPA-Central Panay from June to August

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
New People’s Army
Jose Percival Estocada, Jr. Command
Central Panay
Media Statement
August 31, 2015

From June to August of this year, the New People’s Army of Central Panay successfully launched 9 military actions. These actions caused 9 confirmed casualties on the enemy – 6 killed and 3 wounded while the NPA suffered no casualty.

June 5, 2015, around six in the evening – a team of NPA Red fighters harassed the regular troops of the Philippine Army that is guarding the construction equipments for the road project in Brgy. Binolusan Grande, Calinog, Iloilo. The road project is part of the deceptive mega dam project in Jalaur River. There is no reported casualty on the enemy.

June 29, 2015 – another team of red fighters harassed the Philippine Army-CAFGU detachment in Brgy. Agloloway, Jamindan, Capiz. The said detachment is more or less two kilometers from the 3rd ID, PA camp and is part of its perimeter defense. Brgy. Agloloway is within the 33,310 hectares military reservation area that the Tumandok People are continuously opposing since it is part of their ancestral domain.

July 31, 2015, at past 4 in the afternoon – a team of red fighters harassed the 6RPSB-PNP detachment in Brgy. Agcalaga, Calinog, Iloilo. The 6RPSB-PNP is securing the Jalaur mega dam project that is strongly opposed by the Tumandok people. There is one confirmed wounded on the part of the enemy and from unconfirmed reports, two more police officers are also wounded.

August 11, 2015, 4:50 in the morning – another team of the NPA harassed the forces of the 61st IB encamped in the mini-market of Brgy. Katipunan, Tapaz, Capiz. There is no reported casualty on the enemy.

August 15, 2015, around 2:30 in the afternoon – NPA Red fighters ambushed the operating troops of the 61st IB in Sitio Tobi, Abangay, Tapaz, Capiz. These troops are in hot pursuit after the harassment in Brgy. Katipunan. Three enemy troops are confirmed dead.

August 16, 2015, 11 in the morning – another team of the NPA again attacked the 6RPSB-PNP detachment in Brgy. Agcalaga, Calinog, Iloilo. One enemy is confirmed wounded.

August 17, 2015, past 10 in the morning – NPA fighters ambushed the operating troops of the 61st IB in Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz, Capiz. These troops are part of the unit ambushed last August 15. Three are confirmed dead and one wounded on the military troops. To avoid further attacks, the military has to wait until night to transport their casualties.

August 17, 2015 at half past 3 in the afternoon – NPA fighters again ambushed the reinforcing troops in Brgy. Aglinab, Tapaz, Capiz. There is no reported casualty on the military troops.

August 20, 2015 – another team of the NPA harassed the Philippine Army-CAFGU detachment in Brgy. Daan Sur, Tapaz Capiz. There is no reported enemy casualty.

These series of military actions were launched by the NPA-Central Panay to show its support to the strong opposition of the Tumandok people to the two mega dams to be constructed in Jalur and Pan-ay rivers. Moreover, to expose the lies concocted by the military leaderships of the 3rd Infantry Division and the 301st Brigade Philippine Army that the revolutionary forces in Central Panay are weakening.

In December of last year and January of this year, the provincial governments of Capiz and Iloilo declared as “conflict-manageable” and “development ready” the abovementioned provinces because the NPA forces are allegedly waning. Furthermore, they proudly declared that the construction of the two mega dams will not only solve the flooding problem but also the more than four-decade long insurgency problem in Central Panay. For now, the civilian and military leadership will surely swallow their words in the face of the surge of armed revolution that they will surely face in the coming months and years.

Ka Jurie Guerrero Spokesperson
JPEC-Central Panay

More cops, troops deployed in GenSan as charter celebration, tuna fest opens

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 1): More cops, troops deployed in GenSan as charter celebration, tuna fest opens

GENERAL SANTOS CITY -- The Police Regional Office-12 deployed additional police personnel in parts of the city in connection with the opening on Tuesday of the city’s week-long 47th foundation anniversary celebration and 17th Tuna Festival.

Supt. Edgar Yago, operations chief of the city police office, said at least 615 police and military security personnel will secure various venues and the lined up events for the festivities until Sept. 6.

He said the PRO-12 augmented the city police’s security operations for the festival with personnel from the regional training school, regional office and the regional police public safety battalion.

Troops from the Philippine Army-led Joint Task Force GenSan, barangay policemen and members of volunteer group Magdalo were also deployed in the main festival venues, especially the at the city’s oval plaza grounds.

“We’re on red alert right now and rest assured that we’re doing everything to make sure that the celebrations will be smooth, orderly and peaceful,” Yago said.

The official said the security deployment at the oval plaza and other festival venues will be on 24-hour basis that will be divided in three shifts.

He said they have also installed closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in each of the six entry and exit points of the oval plaza, eight at the carnival area and two at the security command post.

There are existing CCTV cameras in strategic areas of the streets surrounding the oval plaza grounds, he said.

Yago said they have set up a monitoring station for the installed CCTVs at their command post, which also serves as the base of standby personnel from the City Health Office, Red Cross and the Bureau of Fire Protection.

The festival, which is co-organized by the city government and the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority-General Santos Fish Port Complex, had a soft opening last Aug. 15 but the highlights were set from Sept. 1 to 6.

Minor activities were lined up at the oval plaza and other parts of the city until Sept. 15.

After the highlight of the celebration on Sept. 6, Yago said they will maintain a security strength of 249 personnel at the oval plaza.

Meantime, Carlos Hagosojos, 17th Tuna Festival director, said eight entities will compete in the tuna float parade, which is slated before the grand opening ceremonies at 6 p.m.

He said the opening ceremony will include a light and sounds show, balloon show, fireworks display and cultural shows from 235 performers.

It will be highlighted by the ceremonial cutting of a whole yellowfin tuna, which will be offered to the public by 100 chefs.

City Councilor Shanee Llido Pestano, chair of the council’s tourism committee, said they will also formally unveil the certificate for the Guinness record achieved by the city for the “world’s largest fish display.”

The city government received earlier his month the certificate for such feat, which was achieved on Sept. 11, 2014.

The world record bid was the highlight of the city’s 46th charter anniversary celebration and 16th Tuna Festival last year.

The Guinness certificate read: “The largest fish display consists of 25,594.49 kg (56,426 lb 3 oz) of yellowfin tuna and was achieved by the City of General Santos, South Cotabato, Philippines.”(

WESCOM baks youth movement’s plan to do patriotic voyage in West Philippines Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 31): WESCOM baks youth movement’s plan to do patriotic voyage in West Philippines Sea

The Western Command (WESCOM) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) here supports any activity that aims to raise the awareness of Filipinos about the West Philippines Sea.

This is according to WESCOM Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, who was interviewed by the Philippine News Agency (PNA) regarding plans of the “Kalayaan Atin Ito Movement!” (KAIM) to bring young people to the disputed region for a month-long patriotic voyage sometime soon.

Lopez said any advocacy to raise people’s awareness about the contested region is welcome as long as they are coordinated properly with the right agencies.

Asked if the WESCOM is bound to support the plan, the highest ranking military official in Palawan said there was nothing wrong since the goal was to raise the awareness of the youth regarding the Philippine-claimed area so they might also pass on what they knew to others.

Praising the movement’s plan, Lopez however, said it could only happen if appropriate consents were requested from government institutions and authorities that and who had command of the current situation in the chain of islands.

“Nakakatuwa kasi sa pamamagitan ng kanilang ginagawang aktibidad ay marami na ang nakakaalam at concerned sa isyu ng West Philippines Sea. Pagdating naman sa plano nilang pagbisita sa mga isla sa Kalayaan, kailangan dumaan muna ito sa pag-uusap para sa ibibigay na assistance ng mga sundalo para sa kanilang magiging seguridad (It is nice because what they are doing is an activity that enriches knowledge and concern about issues regarding the West Philippines Sea. On their plan to visit the islands in Kalayaan, they should undergo talks and coordination for assistance to be given to them for their safety and security),” Lopez said.

The KAIM was organized with an aim to basically increase the awareness of the youth regarding the disputed region.

Lopez said that many young people were unaware about the West Philippines Sea and why was the country opting to diplomatically resolve issues that currently concern it.

Early in August, the movement staged a summit in Puerto Princesa that was attended by 10,000 students from all colleges and universities in Palawan at the city coliseum with a goal to show “unity” for the West Philippines Sea to the international community.

Palawan is only one of the 82 other provinces that the movement plans to visit for information dissemination regarding the contested region. From each province, 30 volunteers will be recruited to join the patriotic voyage.

Miriam trains guns on Army, hits non-delivery of supplies

From The Standard (Sep 1): Miriam trains guns on Army, hits non-delivery of supplies

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has questioned the Philippine Army for its failure to deliver the    bulk of the training ammunitions and equipment it was programmed to procure last year.

Santiago, chairman of the Legislative Oversight Committee on the Visiting Forces Agreement, said she would file a resolution calling for a Senate investigation on the non-delivery of the military supplies.

Army spokesman Colonel Benjie Hao said the service  cannot be faulted  because it  placed  the order for the ammunitions two years ago and the government arsenal  should have complied  long  before Santiago noticed the problem. Hao said the Army had even paid in advance.              

The senator  said  that such failure to deliver might put Filipino soldiers at risk.   

“How can we expect our troops to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity when they have no ammunitions or equipment for training? Funds have been disbursed, why were supplies not delivered?” she said in a statement on Monday.

She cited a recently released report of the Commission on Audit (CoA), which showed that despite the P569.6 million the Army released to the Government Arsenal for ammunition, only P42.4 million worth of ammunitions were delivered in 2014.

The same CoA report showed that of the P231.9 million worth of combat clothing and equipment the Army requested through the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management from 2004 to 2011, P786,000 remained undelivered last year.

“The Philippines is threatened by a neighbor encroaching on its territory. We cannot afford to postpone―not even for a day―the delivery of much-needed ammunitions and equipment,” Santiago said.

The senator has been urging the military to boost its defenses against external threats, as she criticized the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the U.S.

As chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, Santiago also filed a resolution in July, expressing the sense of the Senate that the EDCA was invalid and ineffective unless concurred in by the Senate. The resolution was supported by 12 other senators.

Philippines Asks for US Military Assistance in South China Sea

From The Diplomat (Aug 31): Philippines Asks for US Military Assistance in South China Sea (by )

Manila feels harassed by Beijing when resupplying its military personnel in the West Philippine Sea.

Philippines Asks for US Military Assistance in South China Sea

Image Credit: Flickr/ U.S. Navy
Last week, Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin requested military assistance from the head of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., to strengthen the Philippines’ position in the South China Sea, AFP reports.

According to Colonel Restituto Padilla, a military spokersperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), “[i]t was a specific request on the part of the secretary of national defense to Harris to get their assistance in… resupplying and rotating troops.”

He emphasized that Admiral Harris made no commitment during the meeting to fulfill the request concerning the “West Philippine Sea” (Manila’s name for the closest section of South China Sea).

“They just took our requests and the details still have to be discussed,” Padilla said. Reuters, however, did report that U.S. Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez told local media that Harris pledged his support to help the United States’ oldest ally in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Philippines specifically asked the United States for assistance in monitoring the situation in the South China Sea in “real-time” by providing surveillance and reconnaissance assets, as well as air cover to a civilian ship that supplies military personnel stationed on and around the Second Thomas Shoal.

“If there are Americans flying around there, we won’t be troubled. We need to be helped in our resupply missions. The best way they could assist is through their presence,” Gazmin told AP.

“We want the U.S. military to watch over our ships, which China attempts to block every time we rotate troops and bring supplies to a ship that ran aground on Ayungin Shoal,” Padilla reiterated.

During their talks, Gazmin and Harris also discussed the Pentagon’s new Asia-Pacific Maritime Security Strategy which, while noting that “the United States takes no position on competing sovereignty claims to land features in the region,” slightly reprimands Manila. “Although we applaud the Philippines’ and Vietnam’s efforts to bring its maritime claims in line with the Law of the Sea Convention, more work remains to be done,” the document reads.

Both sides also agreed to boost the interoperability of U.S. with Philippine forces.“It was agreed that developing the capability of the AFP is of paramount importance, specifically in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, and command and control,” Philippine defense department spokesman Peter Galvez told the Philippine Star after the consultations. The United States is providing around $50 million in direct military aid to the Philippines this year.

As I reported last week, (See: “Philippines Push For Military Modernization in New Budget Proposal”), Manila is planning a 25 percent increase in the a portion of its 2016 defense budget dedicated to the modernization of AFP in order to reinforce its military assets in the South China Sea.

2 peasants killed, 400 families evacuate in Surigao del Sur

From the pro-CPP Online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Aug 31): 2 peasants killed, 400 families evacuate in Surigao del Sur

Terror operations by soldiers and paramilitary men set off a new wave of evacuation of peasant and Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur province.

caraga bakwet

The Lumad ‘bakwets’ of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur (Photo courtesy of Bsp. M.Villasanta/

Suspected soldiers and members of a paramilitary group killed two peasants, closed a community school and triggered the evacuation of hundreds of families in San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur province.

In the past three weeks, a total of 420 families have left the two villages of Siagao and Bolhoon in the municipality of San Miguel, for fear of soldiers of the Philippine Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion and members of the tribal paramilitary group Bagani.

On Aug. 28, at past 6 p.m., peasant brothers Crisanto, 39, and Ely “Loloy” Tabugol, 34, of Siagao village were shot dead by “armed men with long firearms” suspected to be paramilitary men, said Karapatan-Caraga in its factsheet. The next day, Aug. 29, all 332 families of the village left because the armed men threatened that “they will be massacred.”

In Bolhoon village, on Aug. 9, all 45 families of Purok 16, sitio Nalindog, left their homes, hours after being roused from their sleep and gathered for interrogation by another group of paramilitary men. The Bolhoon evacuees had risen to 81 families, as of writing.

The evacuation halted classes in the Nalindog Tribal Community School, affecting 76 students from Grades 1 to 5.

A “peace dialogue” held on Aug. 18 by Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel came to naught as the local government tried to convince the evacuees to return home, but gave no assurance about their safety.

The Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan-Caraga) urgently called for the dismantling of paramilitary groups, which they said should be held accountable, along with soldiers who were implicated in the killings, disappearances, torture and harassment of communities.

The evacuees from the two villages are staying in two evacuation sites: at the Tina Elementary School in Tina village, and at the San Miguel municipal gym.

Killed in their own home

According to the Karapatan-Caraga factsheet, in the morning before the Tabugol brothers were killed on Aug. 29, at around 9 a.m., residents had been on alert after seeing a composite unit of 30 men composed of known members of the Hasmin group of the Bagani Force and uniformed soldiers of the 36th IB, in the banana orchards and outskirts of Siagao.

At around 6 p.m., Loloy had just returned to the village after bringing his sister and mother to San Miguel town proper, as advised by his elder brother Crisanto, to keep them safe. As soon as he got to his house at around 7 p.m., he was confronted by armed men, who shot him in the foot. Witnesses heard Loloy plead for his life, saying, “Please sir, we know nothing and did nothing wrong, we are only civilians.” The armed men shot him in the forehead and kept firing. He sustained nine gunshot wounds.

Funeral of the Tubogol brothers, Crisanto and Ely. (Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Caraga/

Funeral of the Tubogol brothers, Crisanto and Ely. (Photo courtesy of Karapatan-Caraga/

Witnesses said Crisanto tried to run but was shot three times and died on the spot.

On Aug. 30, San Miguel Mayor Alvaro Elizalde visited the evacuees, but failed to convince them to board the two dump trucks that were supposed to transport them home.

“Despite the military’s presence, they were unable to stop the killing and no arrests were made after the incident, despite reassurance from the mayor that the threat has been lifted,” Karapatan-Caraga said.

‘Do you want to eat bullets?’

In the early morning of Aug. 9, a dozen armed paramilitary men of the Magahat/Bagani led by Marcos Bocales and Calpit Egua roused the residents of the whole sitio (subvillage) of Nalindog and forced them out of their homes. The residents described the men as “carrying M16 rifles and backpacks, and in military uniform.”

The residents where then gathered at the waiting shed where the men were segregated from the women and children. The armed men alleged that the residents were supporters, if not members of the New People’s Army (NPA), and proceeded to interrogate and harass them.

Angel Vocales, a five-month pregnant resident who was carrying her sick child, tried to assert her right and told the paramilitary men that it was illegal to forcibly enter people’s homes. Karapatan-Caraga said one of the suspects then told her at gun point: “No one can prevent us because this is our law! Do you want a sample to believe us?”
The Lumad 'bakwets' of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur (Photo courtesy of Bsp. M.Villasanta/ [4]
The Lumad ‘bakwets’ of San Miguel, Surigao del Sur (Photo courtesy of Bsp. M.Villasanta/

The paramilitary men also confiscated three cellphones of the teachers of the community school, supposedly to prevent them from informing the NPA of the Magahat’s presence.

Regine Tejero, a teacher of the Tribal Filipino Program of Surigao del Sur (Trifpss), tried to refuse to give her cellphone, was threatened by one of the men: ‘Ma’am, do you want to eat bullets?”

The Magahat men asked about officials of Trifpss and of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development Inc. (Alcadev). They then threatened the teachers: “Are you aware, Ma’am, Sir, of our rules? If we catch teachers inside the cottage, we will burn the cottage along with the teacher inside.”

The paramilitary men later distributed leaflets printed with the “Bagani” logo to the residents. They forced brothers Lawrence and Berios Bocales to guide them out of the community. The Bocales brothers were able to return after an hour, with the confiscated cellphones.

Army honors fallen soldiers

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 1): Army honors fallen soldiers

A memorial for the fallen soldiers of the 303 rd Infantry Brigade was inaugurated at the Heroes Park at Camp Maj. Nelson Gerona in Minoyan, Murcia, Negros Occidental, yesterday.

Col. Francisco Delfin, 303 rd IB commanding officer, yesterday said he puts up a memorial in every camp where he is assigned as commander to honor fellow soldiers who have made an ultimate sacrifice.

The monument will include the names of fallen soldiers assigned in Negros Occidental, who were mostly killed in action between 2000 to 2013, he said.

Delfin said they timed the inauguration of the heroes monument with the celebration of National Heroes Day.

The widow of PFC Rene Gonzaga shed a tear when she saw the monument, saying at least their children will be able to remember the heroism of their father, Delfin said.

Gonzaga was among the 35 soldiers whose names were engraved in the monument.

Ginalyn Gerona, the widow of Maj. Nelson Gerona, said it was the dream of her late husband and his fellow soldiers to give honor to their comrades, who had died while serving the Philippine Army.

She is happy that his dream has finally materialized and that the monument will serve as a wonderful memorial for the fallen soldiers, Ginalyn said.

Ginalyn said she has continued the medical missions started by her husband so his memory will live on.

Joining the activity yesterday were Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Board Member Salvador Escalante, who represented Neg. Occ. Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr., Negros Occidental Provincial Police Director Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, Bacolod City Police Director Senior Supt. Melchor Coronel, retired officials of the 303 rd IB, and the widows of the fallen soldiers.

Insurgency-free NIR AFP target for 2016

From the Visayan Daily Star (Sep 1): Insurgency-free NIR AFP target for 2016
The Army's 3rd Infantry Division is targeting Negros Island Region to be insurgency-free by next year, after declaring the two Negros provinces to be peaceful and ready for further development, its commander, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, said yesterday.

“We are working towards the neutralization of the remaining armed elements in the area,” said Guerrero, who was among the guests at the 29 th founding anniversary of the 303rd Infantry Brigade, at Camp Maj. Nelson Gerona in Murcia, Negros Occidental.

The target to declare Negros Island Region, also known as Region 18, as insurgency-free by middle of next year, was set by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, he said.

After Negros Occidental was declared as “peaceful and ready for further development” in June this year, it has continued to be a violence-free province, without any terroristic activities by the New People's Army remnants, so far, military records show.

Guerrero, who supervises the internal security operations in Negros and Panay, claimed that the target set for the NIR is “doable”, considering that the number of NPA members has already dropped.

This time, we have the support of local government units and local chief executives, with our very aggressive effort to push for development in the countryside, he said.

The military estimates that there are still about 200 armed NPA members operating in Negros Island, from a peak of more than 1,000 fighters in the 1980s.

With the deployment of Bayanihan teams in the countryside, we were able to help address poverty, injustice and other reforms sought by the people, Guerrero said.

Asked how they will contain the NPA remnants who are engaged in guerrilla warfare and avoiding armed confrontations to preserve their forces, he said it can be done not only by military means, but also through social pressure, coming from communities.

We are hoping that the introduction of social reforms and development programs in conflict-affected communities will help the rebels realize the futility of their armed struggle, since we are giving them options for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, Guerrero said.

This is also an opportunity for them to reunite with their families and be part of mainstream society, he added.

City sets testimonial dinner for retiring military official

From the Zamboanga Today Online (Aug 31): City sets testimonial dinner for retiring military official

Mayor Beng Climaco will lead city government officials in tendering a testimonial dinner for retiring Western Mindanao Command Deputy commander BGen. Orlando “Jojo” de Leon Monday, August 31 as a show of gratitude for his dedication and commitment to service.

The testimonial ceremony will be attended by members of the City Council led by Vice Mayor Cesar Iturralde and other city officials, military and police officials and representatives from key sectors.

De Leon, who is retiring from service September 4, was one of the military officers who played an important role in the resolution of the September 2013 siege in Zamboanga.

Based on records from archives of the Wesmincom, de Leon was designated deputy commander on April 27, 2013 upon the retirement of BGen. Eugenio Clemen. Prior to his designation at Wesmincom, he was the commander of the 2nd marine Brigade in the Province of Sulu.

De Leon’s outstanding achievement in the military service is highlighted by the numerous awards and recognitions he received both from military and civilian sectors. These include the Most Outstanding and AFP Officer of the year award in 2000 (PAOCTF), Distinguished Service Star, Bronze Cross medals, Silver Wing medal and several Military Merit Medals both for combat and administration and military commendations from military and other institutions.

He graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1982.  He is turning 56 on September 7.

Karapatan nixes Army invitation to rights training

From the Business Mirror (Aug 31): Karapatan nixes Army invitation to rights training

THE human-rights watchdog Karapatan has rejected outright the invitation of the Army’s Fourth Infantry “Diamond” Division (4ID) for the group to send a representative to speak before the participants of a course for soldiers to be handled by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay said the invitation, dated August 24, was sent by Col. Alexander Macario, commander of the 401st Infantry Brigade.
In rejecting the invitation, Palabay said Karapatan would not participate in a charade, like the “human-rights training” or similar futile exercises “meant to waste public funds, either from the Philippines or from other states, over activities that will redound to nothing but more human-rights abuses on the marginalized sectors in your respective area of responsibility and elsewhere in the country.”
Palabay added that millions of pesos in foreign aid and public funds from the nation’s coffers have been spent in many so-called human-rights training courses among state-security forces, but the fact is, human-rights violations have persisted and even worsened under the current administration.
“The numerous victims of extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture, illegal arrest, threats, forcible evacuation and other brutal violations against civilians enforced by the 4ID, the Army and the whole Armed Forces under the Aquino administration are a testament not only to the futility of the same activities, but to the opportunism and deception that your institution employs to legitimize the said human-rights abuses,” Palabay added.
Macario asked Karapatan to join the CHR in the Caraga Region in conducting the training.

Group holds anti-China rally on National Heroes' Day

From ABS-CBN (Aug 31): Group holds anti-China rally on National Heroes' Day

Policemen stand guard behind placards during a rally by members of Movement and Alliance to Resist China's Aggression, regarding the disputed islands in the West PH Sea, in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati, August 31, 2015. Photo by Ezra Acayan, Reuters

With their rallying call ''Worship Not Warships,'' the Movement and Alliance to Resist China's Aggression (MARCHA) held a picket in front of the Chinese Consulate in Makati on Monday to condemn Chinese territorial claims in the West Philippine Sea.

The group, a network of individuals and groups that oppose Chinese aggression in the Philippines, held the protest on National Heroes' Day to honor the many Filipinos who fought for sovereignty.

Two of the main movers of MARCHA were Paranaque 2nd district Rep. Roilo Golez and Loida Nicolas-Lewis of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

Golez is confident the Philippines will emerge victorious in the arbitration case it filed against China before a United Nations tribunal.

"An important resolution by the UN Arbitral Tribunal at the Hague is coming up. They will soon decide on the question of jurisdiction on the arbitration case filed by the Philippines challenging China's claim in the West Philippine Sea. I believe that we have a strong case against China, so if we succeed in establishing jurisdiction, we have a big chance of winning,'' Golez said.

Also spotted in the crowd was former Senator Rene Saguisag, who said that China's refusal to participate in the arbitration indicates the weakness of its claims to the disputed seas.

After a program that lasted over an hour, the demonstrators dispersed peacefully.

AFP fetes 5 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf

From ABS-CBN (Aug 31): AFP fetes 5 soldiers wounded in clash with Abu Sayyaf

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Western Mindanao Command honored today 5 Marines who were injured in a clash with the Abu Sayyaf Group last week.

Wesmincom Commander, Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, personally pinned the wounded personnel medal to Sergeant Rey Addatu, Corporal Elmer De Jesus, Corporal Jomar Ballad, Private First Class Paul Julius Calamay, and Private First Class Ronwaldo Dalayday.

The five belong to the Marine Batallion Landing Team 2.

Addatu said they were conducting military operations when they encountered the group in the vicinity of Barangay Latih, Patikul, Sulu last August 28.

The soldiers' encounter with some 300 bandits lasted for an hour. The clash left 10 soldiers wounded. Three Abu Sayyaf bandits were killed.

The recipients of the award are currently confined at the Camp Navarro General while another five soldiers are in a private hospital in the city.

Wesmincom spokesperson Capt. Rowena Muyuela said all the wounded soldiers are now in stable condition.

Two of them also were transferred today to the Manila Naval Hospital.

In a phone interview, Muyuela denied the presence of international Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists during the encounter.

She added that pursuit operations against the bandits in Sulu are still ongoing in an effort to rescue the remaining hostages of the group.

Japan seeks biggest-ever defense budget amid China concerns

From the Philippine Star (Aug 31): Japan seeks biggest-ever defense budget amid China concerns

Japan's Defense Ministry wants to buy an advanced Aegis radar-equipped destroyer and more F-35 fighters under its largest-ever budget to bolster the defense of southern islands amid a territorial dispute with China.

The ministry endorsed a 5.1 trillion yen ($42 billion) budget request Monday for the year beginning next April, up 2.2 percent from this year. It would be the fourth annual increase under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012 and ended 10 years of defense budget cuts.

Abe's government says Japan needs to bolster its military role amid China's growing territorial assertiveness and the rising risk of terrorist attacks. Parliament is expected to approve a set of contentious bills to expand Japan's military role by late September.

The budget increase results largely from proposed purchases of new equipment, including 17 surveillance helicopters, six F-35 fighters and three advanced "Global Hawk" drones. The construction of a Soryu-class submarine is also planned to bolster island defense and surveillance.

The budget request also includes the cost of planned new troop deployments on two southern islands, Amami Oshima and Miyako.

The ministry also requested funds to enhance information gathering by posting intelligence officials in three new locations, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and Mongolia.

The requests are based on new defense guidelines allowing Japan's military a larger role amid tensions over China's growing military might.

The budget is to be formally drafted into a bill in December that will be submitted to parliament for approval.

Sayyaf leader Sahiron seen fleeing in Barangay Takas in Sulu; AFP in hot pursuit

From InterAksyon (Aug 31): Sayyaf leader Sahiron seen fleeing in Barangay Takas in Sulu; AFP in hot pursuit

File photo of ASG commander Radulan Sahiron: on the run.

Government forces in Sulu are in hot pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group led by Radullan Sahiron, who was sighted fleeing near a mosque in Sitio, Dundangan, Barangay Kabbon Takas in Patikul, Sulu on Sunday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of Joint Task Force Sulu (JTFS), said there will be no letup in the intensified military operation until Sahiron is neutralized.

Abu Sayyaf terrorists in Sulu have been on the run since last week after suffering heavy casualties - 38 dead and over 31 wounded - in a series of clashes with Army and Marine troopers the past week.

On the government side, 10 Army and seven Marines were wounded in action, Arrojado said.

“The relentless combat operations launched by JTFS troops are badly hurting the Abu Sayyaf,” Arrojado said, adding that the heavy casualties suffered by the terrorist group was confirmed after the wives of five wounded Abu Sayyaf members were monitored buying medicines in various pharmacies in Jolo on Saturday.

Government forces are supported by 105mm artillery bombardment. Howitzers are only fired after a forward observer gives the accurate coordinate on the exact location of the Abu Sayyaf group.

Sahiron figured in the Dos Palmas kidnapping of 21 tourists, including three Americans, in Palawan in 2001. Among those killed were Martin Burnham, wife of Gracia Burnham, and Guillermo Sobero, who was beheaded.

The one-armed Abu Sayyaf leader is responsible for many atrocities in Sulu for over a decade. His right arm was cut off during a battle against government forces in Mindanao during the 1970s.

Miriam to pry into undelivered army supplies, equipment

From InterAksyon (Aug 31): Miriam to pry into undelivered army supplies, equipment

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Senate PRIB file photograph

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago is set to file a resolution urging the proper Senate committee to investigate why hundreds of millions of pesos worth of military supplies and equipment still have to be delivered to the Philippine Army (PA).

According to Santiago, the Commission on Audit (COA) has found that the bulk of the "Combat Clothing and Individual Equipment (CCIE)" items requested for procurement from the Procurement Service – Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) from 2004-2011 totaling P231,944,683.19 in the Headquarters, Philippine Army and common use supplies in 9th Infantry Division totaling P786,323.35 remained undelivered as of year-end.

Santiago noted, "the state auditors claimed that due to these failures, the Philippine Army was deprived of the timely use of the procured items."

The senator vowed to file a resolution calling for a Senate probe into the non-delivery of the military supplies, a failure, which, she said, "might put Filipino soldiers at risk."

"How can we expect our troops to defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity when they lack ammunition or equipment for training? Funds have been disbursed, why were the supplies not delivered?" Santiago asked.

She cited a recently released COA report, which showed that despite the P569.6 million the Army released to the Government Arsenal for ammunitions, only P42.4 million worth of ammunitions were delivered in 2014.

"The Philippines is threatened by a neighbor encroaching on its territory. We cannot afford to postpone — not even for a day — the delivery of much-needed ammunition and equipment,” Santiago declared.

For its part, the Philippine Army blamed the government arsenal office for the situation, as Army spokesman Col. Benjie Hao reasoned that, since the service placed the order two years ago, the government arsenal should have complied and filled up the order long before Senator Santiago noticed it.

Hao indicated that the Army had even paid in advance for it.

"If the arsenal encountered problems along the way, then we should not be the ones to elaborate," Hao said. "We are open, we can always tell the good Senator about these things."

Murad: Senate version “clearly violated the peace agreement” but “will wait until the final process”

From MindaNews (Aug 31): Murad: Senate version “clearly violated the peace agreement” but “will wait until the final process”

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao –House Bill 5811, the substitute bill to the GPH-MILF draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has been criticized by various sectors, including the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), for allegedly envisioning a Bangsamoro that is “less than the ARMM” (Autonomous Region in Muslim) that it seeks to replace. But MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the Senate version, SB 2894, is a “clearly violated the peace agreement” because it will reduce the future Bangsamoro into the level of a province.

“It clearly violated the peace agreement… more than the House version because basically, it is not an autonomy at all. It is a local government unit similar to the province. Murad told MindaNews at the conference room of the Central Committee Convention Hall on August 25 (see Q and A)

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim discusses scenarios on the passage or non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim discusses scenarios on the passage or non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

“Let’s say a complete violation of the agreement itself because the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) is intended to provide an autonomous government for the Bangsamoro (but) this is not an autonomous government,” he said.

The 1987 Constitution, under Article X, Section 15 envisions an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras “consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

He said they had brought up these concerns with President Aquino and are still hoping that a BBL “compliant with the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)” can still be passed this month “so we will wait until the final process.”

Murad had earlier cited three scenarios – the first on the passage of a BBL that adheres to the FAB/CAB; the second, that no BBL is passed under the Aquino administration; and the third a BBL is passed but not compliant with the FAB/CAB.

HB 5811 and SB 2894, both titled “Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region,” have been criticized by various sectors as providing for an autonomous region that is “less than the ARMM that it seeks to replace.”

Proponents and supporters of the House and Senate versions, argue that HB 5811 and SB 2894 ensure that the provisions do not violate the 1987 Constitution.

But critics of the House and Senate versions say providing an autonomous region less than the ARMM would also violate the Constitution’s mandate on the autonomous regions.

Mandate from Constitution
At the Dialogue on the House and Senate bills on the BBL initiated by the Institute of Autonomy and Governance at the Dusit Thani hotel in Makati City on August 20, Retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna, a member of the 1986 Constitution Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution, and one of the authors of the provision on the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras, clarified that the creation of an autonomous region is “not a grant from Congress to the autonomous region (but) a mandate by the Constitution.”

Power granted to the autonomous region, he said, “does not come from Congress. It does not come from the national government. It comes from the Constitution.”

It is up to Congress to provide for framework of legislation, Azcuna said, “but Congress has no choice but to grant or recognize the grant of powers given under the Constitution to the autonomous regions.”

“That is very important because it does not come from Imperial Manila, because the Constitution is the Constitution of the entire nation… it is the entire Philippines that is the author of the Constitution and the powers and the creation of the autonomous regions come from the Constitution,” he said.

Azcuna recalled that during a Senate hearing, one of those who opposed the BBL said, “imagine under this proposal, education will be given to the autonomous region?”

“Excuse me,” Azcuna said, “the Constitution says so! It’s already there in the listed powers of the autonomous region. The autonomous region shall have the power over education.”

He urged the public to “start with the Constitution,” for the powers of the autonomous region listed there, adding “this is a chance for peace.”

“I come from Mindanao. I know what it is s to suffer absence of peace,” Azcuna said.

He noted that the Department of Justice’s motto means “Peace is the product of justice.”

“There must be justice first before we can have peace.. This mandate to create an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao is a matter of justice,” Azcuna said, explaining that they provided for this in the Constitution because “we wanted to right an injustice that had been long fostering in our country, the injustice to the Muslims in our country.”

“We wanted them to be able to shape their own future here within the country. Self-determination, yes, within the context of a single nation, single state, not secession. There’s nothing wrong with self-determination consistent with the Constitution. So that is the basis: justice and with that, development.”

Fine balance
In the same Dialogue, Titon Mitra, Country Director of the United Nations Development Prograame (UNDP) noted how the Philippine Constitution empowers a unitary state “to provide for the rights, freedom and prosperity for all of the country’s citizens” but at the same time, “holds out the promise of meaningful autonomy for Muslim Mindanao and for the Cordilleras.”

Mitra said there are “many unitary as well as federal systems in the world that have autonomous regions, including the United Kingdom, Spain, the Russian Federation, India, and Indonesia” and that in all these systems, “a fine balance has been found between the prerogative of the national state to protect its territory and provide for all its peoples on the one hand, and the aspirations of a people with a distinct history and identity to meaningful autonomy on the other.”

“It is perhaps worth reflecting the Philippines is where it is now because of the commitment of both panels working long and hard to find a way to lasting peace, because of trust that has been developed over time, because of expectations from those that have been under arms that there will be an alternative for them and future generations.”

The Philippines, he added, “is at a pivotal moment and from the perspective of UNDP, we hope that the pivot is in the direction of lasting peace and not further decades of conflict.”

Benedikt Seeman, Country Representative of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, spoke of his observations that Filipinos are “scared … of the peace process and of the BBL and of what that might mean for an autonomous region…”

Be not afraid

“People are scared because recently I’ve been reading, and people were saying ‘Oh my God, the BBL is a Constitution. See, they’re trying to build another state.’ But be not afraid. California has a Constitution. New South Wales has a Constitution. The German state of Bavaria has a Constitution.
Even the European Union tried to well, have a constitution for itself. And still those people and those entities I am talking about are not separatists, they’re not a danger to their respective countries or administrations.”

Seeman pointed out that the BBL “is also a reflection of a distinct regional identity as a people.”

“The Bangsamoro or BAR (Bangsamoro Autonomous Region) is not an LGU. The Bangsamoro is not a separate state. Is it something in between? Technically speaking, maybe yes. But we must not forget that what we are looking at is the establishment or an improved establishment of an autonomous region, not a separate state, not a threat. It must be more than the ARMM and it must be less than a State and that is how autonomy can work and that is how autonomy will work.”

On questions of Constitutionality, Seeman said, “Yes of course, any BBL version has to be aligned with the national Constitution. But let’s not forget that first and foremost that same national Constitution actually demands the (establishment of) autonomous region not only in the Bangsamoro but also in the Cordillera.”

The MILF had earlier dropped its bid for independence and opted for an autonomy that MILF peace panel chair and Bangsamoro Transition Commission chair Mohagher Iqbal described as “less than independence but more than ARMM.”

Q and A with MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “The struggle will not end”

From MindaNews (Aug 31): Q and A with MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim: “The struggle will not end”

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao (MindaNews/30 August) – While Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim was discussing scenarios on the peace process late afternoon of August 25, the sound of a little girl crying outside the conference room of the Central Committee Convention Hall, would make him occasionally look for a familiar face behind the curtained entrance.

Immediately after the interview, four-year old Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim, Murad’s granddaughter, entered the room to greet her Baba. She had cried because her Baba’s security personnel would not allow her in while the interview was in progress.

But Zareenah managed to get past the security cordon on July 25 at the convention hall beside the conference room, when her Baba met with some 50 journalists from Mindanao and Manila, in a dialogue moderated by Mindanao’s lone Cardinal, Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI.

Murad’s photographs have always been as the military chief of the MILF and later as MILF chair. It was the first time he was photographed with a grandchild.

The 67-year old Murad is a doting grandfather to nine grandchildren aged 2 to 17, with Zareenah the eighth, as “very close to me.”

BABA AND ZAREENAH. Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim joins her grandfather, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim after an interview at the conference room of the Central Committee Convention Hall in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on August 25, 2015. Murad is known as "Baba" to his nine grandchildren. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

BABA AND ZAREENAH. Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim joins her grandfather, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim after an interview at the conference room of the Central Committee Convention Hall in Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao on August 25, 2015.
Murad is known as “Baba” to his nine grandchildren. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

It is Zareenah who keeps referring to Murad as “artista” (actor), thinking that when her Baba appears on TV, he is an “artista.”

Murad recalls that after Zareenah’s photos and video of the media dialogue came out, “she said ‘artista na rin ako.’”

Murad says the elder ones among his grandchildren ask him what they are negotiating for.
He said he would explain to them “in a very simple way”  that “we have to do this struggle not for us but for them, for their future.”

He said his dreams for his grandchildren and “for the entire next generation” is that they will not experience what his generation experienced, that they will “live normally and enjoy the fruits of the peace process. But this is also very dependent on the outcome of the peace process.”

Murad was one semester short of completing his civil engineering degree at the Notre Dame University in Cotabato City when he joined the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF’s) “Batch 300” at age 22. He later became vice chair for military affairs of the MILF under Salamat Hashim, chief of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces and MILF peace panel chair from early 2001 until he took over as MILF chair in July 2003 following the death of Hashim.

Murad talks about “the struggle” in this interview by MindaNews’ Carolyn O. Arguillas.

Q. The Senate now has its substitute bill (SB 2894) to the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) What can you say about the Senate version?

A. It’s good that the Senate Committee on the BBL has already passed its report. As far as the draft BBL’s substitute bill in the Senate, we see that there are so many violations of the peace agreement. It clearly violated the peace agreement.

Q. More than the House version?

A.  More than the House version because one thing is, basically, it is not an autonomy at all. It is a local government unit similar to the province. Let’s say a complete violation of the agreement itself because the (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) is intended to provide an autonomous government for the Bangsamoro (but) this is not an autonomous government.

Q. Have you aired your concerns with government?

A,  Yeah. We transmitted our concerns to the Office of the President.

Q. What was the answer?

A.  Ang initial na sagot ng Malacanang is “there is no finality yet in the BBL because that would still be subject for interpellation in the Senate.” So magkaroon pa ng bicameral session (and) they will try their best that this could be corrected in the final version.

Q. Do you think this can still be corrected given that both houses of Congress will go on recess from October 10 to November 2 and Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said September 28 wala nang pag-uusapang BBL because budget na ang pag-uusapan? Last Sunday (Aug. 23), he said the House will pass their version on September 15. Daw.

A. If Senate also can immediately pass their own final version then they can have the bicam maybe before the end of September? So there is still a chance if they really want to correct.

Q. There is still a chance?

A. It depends on the will of both the Houses of Congress and the government also in general to deliver the agreement because they still can deliver. But then if there is no will on their part, that is a problem. So that’s why we are we are looking at: the possibility that the BBL will not be passed within the tem of the President and we are looking also at the worst scenario.

Q. You mentioned three scenarios the last time.

A.  Yeah. Scenario 1, if the BBl is passed in compliance with the FAB and CAB and acceptable to the parties, the roadmap of the peace process will proceed as scheduled; Scenario 2, BBL will not be passed anymore (under the Aquino administration) so we have Plan B because that can happen, that is a possibility; and Scenario 3, the BBL is passed but not compliant with the FAB and CAB and not acceptable to the MILF. We also have our own plan if this happens

Q. Pero ang sagot ng mga critics, ‘who are you MILF to say that it’s not acceptable to you, bakit kayo ang nagdidikta?’ Yun yung tanong.

A. Because there is a peace agreement. Ang BBL hindi lang amin yan. It is a BBL drafted by the government commissioners and the MILF commissioners so ang pinanghahawakan namin, it has to comply with the agreement. Yun lang ang acceptable sa amin, yung BBL that will comply with the peace agreement kasi yung ang batayan sa pag-gawa ng BBL, hindi naman ito ordinary bill na they can just .. meron itong foundation, may peace process.

Q. May nadagdag ba doon sa three scenarios?

A. Yun pa rin ang general but we are still hoping for the first scenario… so we will wait until the final process.

Q. Saan galing ang optimism ninyo given that, as you said, LGU na lang ang Senate version and yung sa House naman, less than ARMM. Tapos mag ba-bicam sila but they will still be deciding on the basis of the substitute bills.

A. It will be in the plenary so it’s not only in the committee level.. It will be the entire House and the entire Senate so we are hoping … Anyway, kung titingnan natin, majority pa rin ang administration in both Houses.

Q. But as you said, the scenario already involves the possibility that you will really have to pass this on to the next administration…

A.  Nakikita natin na kasi if you look at the present administration, sila yung (kasamang) author nitong peace process especially the peace agreement. So .. mas paborable pa rin sa peace process na maipasa ito within the administration because at least the interpretation of the agreement is finalized within the administration.

Q. If the two Houses pass their respective versions but these versions are still not acceptable to the MILF, pag nag-bicameral conference sila, unacceptable pa rin sa inyo yung result noong bicameral, di ba?

A. Yes.

Q. So when are you going to tell the government that you cannot accept this BBL?

A. Actually, in both House and the Senate, and the Office of the President, malinaw ang position namin. We will accept the BBL that is in compliance with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement (FAB). We keep on repeating to them, reiterating to them that we really cannot accept a BBL that is not in compliance with the peace agreement…We have transmitted to him (President Aquino) our concerns.

Q. And what was his answer?

A.  Well, he said “it’s not yet final,” that the final will come after the bicam.

Q. So you’re willing to wait until end of September?

A. We are willing to wait after the bicam.

Q. But even before reaching the bicam, if on Sept. 15 the House passes its versiowithout addressing the 28 concerns raised by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, then Senate passes a version where the Bangsamoro is like a province, then isn’t that the time to say already that you cannot accept this?

A. No. Titingnan namin kung anong resulta ng plenary in both House and Senate, and then we will see. Then we will officially declare our position after that.

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim discusses scenarios on the peace process. MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim discusses scenarios on the peace process. MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Q. Have you prepared your people on the ground on this? Are they aware that there is a possibility the BBL won’t be passed under this administration? Naka-explain ba sa kanila kung bakit ganon?

A. Actually we are open. We have been continuously holding series of meetings with our people.. Kailangan maiintindihan nila what is the real situation. Inexplain namin sa kanila, gaya ng sabi ko, na there are three possible scenarios, na posibleng mangyari

Q. Mapasa ang BBL.

A.  Mapasa ang BBL na acceptable sa atin. Second, hindi na maipasa during this administration and third a BBL that is not acceptable to us. So lahat nang ito naintindihan nila and we are continuously educating…

Q. Meanwhile, ano ang status ng political party ninyo? Malapit na ang filing ng certificates of candidacy. October 12 to 16.

A.  We have complied with all the requirements. We are hoping that before October, mailabas yung approval ng political party.

Q, Before the filing of the certificates of candidacy… Are you going to field candidates in the ARMM? Kasi it looks like mag-ARMM election.

A,  As far as the MILF is concerned, we will not participate unless an acceptable BBL will be passed. If the acceptable BBL will be passed, only then will we participate in the election.

Q, Are you fielding candidates at the local level now? In December 2014, when the scenario was that the BBL would be passed in early 2015, you said your political party will only participate in the regional elections and hindi ninyo pakikialaman ang sa local elections

A. Yes.

Q. Sa regional lang kayo. But given the situation now, with the BBL in limbo, it looks like magkaka-election pa rin sa ARMM. Are you going to field candidates na doon sa local or support candidates..

A. I think ganon pa rin. We will not participate in the local elections

Q. Did the President offer you, ask you if you would field candidates for the ARMM election?

A.  No. We already officially pronounced to him we will not field candidates to the ARMM. Alam nila yan.

Q. Oo nga, pero baka naman ngayon, kasi iba na ang sitwasyon.

A. Hindi pa namin napag-usapan tungkol sa ARMM kasi we are focused on the BBL… We also want the President.. importante na as partners (dapat) alam niya kung ano ang nasa loob namin at alam din namin ang nasa loob niya… Tinanggap naman niya ito ng maluwag and then .. sabi siya the process is not yet final and we are still working out

Q. Pero di ba he told you during your first meeting in Tokyo (in August 2011) that in the second half of his term lame duck na siya?

A. Yes. Pero ang nakikita rin namin his influence is still there. Nandoon pa rin.

Q. Looking back, was it a mistake to rely on the popularity of a Philippine President in the negotiations kasi yun ang tingin ng iba, that the MILF relied too much on the popularity of the President.

A. Actually we did not. Not exactly the popularity, but we relied much on his strong commitment na na-express sa amin na he is really committed to solve the problem kasi nakikita namin noon, during the past Philippine administrations.. the President will just go for peace process and then just try to solve the problem within his administration.

Q. Tapos i-dribble, pasa naman sa next?

Dribble tapos pasa sa next administration. This time, we sense the strong commitment of the President especially after our talk in Tokyo. So nakita namin na very strong ang kanyang political will, so doon kami nag-rely. It’s not really on his popularity but we were hoping na .. with his strong political will, he can influence the process kasi alam namin na there will be an internal process within the government after signing the agreement.

Q. Nabasa niyo siguro na sinabi ni Senador Marcos peace agreements only bind the executive not the legislative…

A. Contrary to that, we always reiterate na we negotiated with the Philippine government (not just) the Executive Branch… When the BTC (Bangsamoro Transition Commission) was composed, there was a resolution passed by Congress affirming the composition of the BTC so in the negotiations also, there were senators and there were members of the House who were present and there was consultation with them with the GPH panel. We don’t focus only on the executive although we engage directly with the executive. (We) negotiate with the Philippine government. In all past negotiations, it was the same process: the executive but the agreement is binding to the government of the Philippines.

Q. What major lesson has the MILF learned from this negotiation under the Aquino administration… What is the major achievement in the peace process under Aquino?

A.  The main achievement is the signing of the CAB. That is the main agreement because in all past negotiations, we had some agreement but it’s not the totality of the solution to the problem. It is only through this comprehensive agreement. Now as always… the bigger challenge is in the implementation process kaya nga on our part, we have built different structures. Andyan yung IMT (International Monitoring Team), TPMT (Third Party Monitoring Team). Nandiyan ang ICG (International Contact Group) kasi nakikita namin na always, the challenge is bigger in the implementation. Nangyari din ito sa 1976 agreement, sa 1996 agreement ng MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) so ganoon din ang mangyari now, kaya we put up structures to help in the implementation. And that is why in the agreement itself, the MILF installed safety measures tulad ng no unilateral implementation of the agreement. Kasi nakita namin na ganon ang nangyari sa MNLF after na hindi nangkaroon ng kasunduan ang Mixed Committee, the government proceeded by drafting RA 9054. Despite the opposition of the MNLF, they continued to have an ARMM…ARMM was already there then they offered it to Nur Misuari and Nur Misuari accepted the leadership of the ARMM. Sa panig namin, definitely we will not accept the ARMM even if the BBL will not be passed. We will not accept the ARMM.

Q. So you will not field candidates in the ARMM elections?

A. We will not field candidates.

Q. Did you raise with President Aquino this concern about the transition period?

A.  Yeah. We also raised this because it is already less than one year before 2016.

Q. What did he say?

A. Actually his comment is, “we will see the final details” so there’s nothing definite. Kasi ang tingin namin it all depends on Congress also, because Congress can pass a resolution to possibly extend, kasi even in the draft of Bongbong (Marcos), he was alluding to a 180-day transition period.

Q. Six months.

A. Six months and the draft of the Ad Hoc Committee (in the House) is silent on the transition but there are also some congressman voicing out their suggestion to postpone the election until 2019.

Q. Postpone the ARMM election you mean

A.  The Bangsamoro government. If there is a Bangsamoro government, so they will be postponing the election. Parang ganon.

Q. They can only postpone it if there is a law that says so. Meanwhile, kung wala, the ARMM election will proceed as scheduled.

 A. Yes, yes. The ARMM will continue.

Q. So did he mention a possibility of still meeting that commitment for a transition period?

A. It all depends on what is in the law. That’s the key. Kasi the passage of the law will also include the arrangement on what will happen to the BTA (Bangsamoro Transition Authority).

Q. Definitely there were still be a BTA, kasi nasa agreement yan, di ba? You cannot just proceed

A. Yeah. We cannot just proceed to regular government. There will be a BTA.

Q. What’s happening to your decommissioning?

A.  The normalization process can continue but the decommissioning process is dependent on the ratification of the BBL so if there is no BBL, there is no decommissioning.

Q. Have the commitments to the first batch of decommissioned MILF been implemented?A.

 Meron na. There are some commitment na na-deliver sa kanila. Cash assistance was already delivered to them.

Q. Cash assistance na P25,000? Baka ubos na yan. Yung livelihood component?

A. They’re processing now.

Q. June pa yun. August na. Almost September.

A.  Wala pa rin.. kasi there are variations on that. Merong selected to continue studying then there will be… depende yun sa kung anong choice nila so kung yung (elder ones) they will not study anymore, they will be given livelihood.

Q. You are facing a situation where it is election season already… How will you navigate the waters during the election?

A. Actually what will happen is, if no acceptable BBL is passed, then we will go back to our original position as far as the democratic process is concerned, na hindi kami mag-participate. We will not participate.

Q. Politicians are pragmatists. And I heard some of them say the MILF should be practical. Like they would say ‘you need our support for the passage of a good BBL, but can you deliver votes?’

A. Well we have the control (over) our people kaya nga yung mga nakaraan na mga election, we had not manifested kung gaano kalakas yung MILF because we never participated officially. But this time if there is really a BBL that would be passed na acceptable sa amin, then officially the organization will go on all-out participation in the democratic process. That’s why we have the political party.

Q. Na-mention ba ang possible scenario that Congress will postpone the ARMM election?

A. So far wala. Hindi namin napag usapan.

Q. Dean Tony Laviña says there should be enough time for the debates on the BBL and that it would be better that the next President owns the process in the same manner that President Aquino also owned the process that led to the signing of the peace agreement. Meron na bang lumapit sa inyo na mga Presidential wannabes or vice presidential or even senatorial wannabes?

A. Officially wala pang lumapit sa amin kasi sa ngayon we are still looking forward that the BBL would be passed within this administration.

Q. Do you consider the BBL an election issue?

A. Actually ang nakikita natin ngayon, the politicians are already using the BBL for different reasons. There are those using it kasi nakikita nila na they will get votes by supporting the BBL. Meron namang they will get more votes when they oppose the BBL. Kaya nga unfortunate that the BBL came at a time na yung environment is already polluted with the political exercise ng election, na ginagamit ito noong mga politician.

Q. Sinabi ninyo kay Presidente ang three scenarios ninyo?

A. Yeah.

Q. Yung details ng three scenario sinabi ninyo?

A. Hindi namin napag-usapan kasi … we focused on raising our concern involving the draft of the substitute bill of the house (HB 5811) and the Senate (SB 2894). It is really not acceptable to the MILF kasi gaya ng nasabi ko, it violates the agreement. Yun lang basically ang pinarating namin … (The President said) the process is not over so they will still work on it. Yan ang general na message niya.

Q. So would you really wait until the bicameral or will you only give yourself a deadline until the House passes its version and Senate passes its version kasi by then alam na kung talagang walang nagbago?

A. Oo, pero officially we will declare our position when the process ends. Kung anong mangyayari, only then will we officially declare our position.

Q. Okay, if that happens, and the BBL is passed and it is not acceptable to you, then we are going to see another repeat of history here. The BBL that will be passed is not in accordance with the FAB/CAB. But since it was passed by Congress, it will go through the process of plebiscite. So it will be like 2001 when the MNLF boycotted and campaigned for boycott of the ratification or RA 9054. Ganon din gagawin nyo?

A. We will not participate in the plebiscite.. So it’s a repeat (of history), it’s not solving the problem at all. We will go back to zero again. Ganon pa rin ang mangyayari if they will pass (their) BBL.

Q. You will not participate in the ARMM election, you will not also participate in a plebiscite where the BBL passed is not acceptable to you. That means if this happens, you will have to return to the negotiating table di ba? Kasi hindi dismantled yung panels di ba? And the TPMT.

A. Yes, andyan pa rin ang TPMT. But then if the BBL is passed na hindi acceptable sa amin, I think it really complicates the process kasi kahit na magbalik pa, anong pag-usapan when the government will continue to implement the BBL that is not acceptable?

Q. Ang mangyayari, parang nangyari noong 2001 di ba, when RA 9054 lapsed into law? Hindi pinirmahan ni GMA (President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). So it lapsed into law and then they implemented it because there’s a law pero hindi din na-solve ang problema kaya nag tripartite review. Nagyon, in your case, you don’t need a tripartite review because you have built in mechanisms. So papasok ang TPMT, ICG etc. So babalik pa rin kayo sa table?

A. Well it depends on the next administration kung ano ang magiging response nila. But then if we go back to the negotiation, then they have to do something with the passed BBL kasi hindi maaring negotiating and then they are also (implementing) because it’s a violation of the agreement. It’s a unilateral implementation sa side nila.

Q. So kung ang mangyari nyan ay magkaroon talaga ng Bangsamoro government, under the agreement, ang BTA is supposed to be composed of MILF etc.. Hindi na kayo mag participate din?

A. Hindi na. And then of course, we will never recognize the implementation (of the FAB/CAB). We will continue with the struggle. We will continue and then we can capitalize on the structures of the peace process to move forward kung ano ang nararapat.

Q. So babalik tayo sa TPMT if it’s a question of implementation di ba?

A. Yeah so the TPMT can officially… we will demand that it officially declare that there is no implementation .. and then there will be no exit agreement and then there will be no decommissioning. So it goes back to the same situation before we started the negotiation.

Q. Given na you said worse ang Senate version dahil para na lang siyang probinsya and given only a few session days are left until the budget debates begin on September 28, are we expecting a miracle here?

A. No. The thing is, we will have to wait for the whole process kasi ano ang gagawin namin ngayon even if we declare no more because nothing will happen? So we just wait and see and then meantime we have to see what are our options are. So that’s why ang nakikita namin is worst case scenario talaga — a BBL will be passed that does not comply with the FAB and CAB and also it’s not acceptable to the MILF. That’s the worst case scenario because it will complicate..

Q. If that is the worst case scenario, what is the ideal scenario at this stage given the complications and given the time constraints and quorum problems.

A. The ideal scenario na nakikita namin is still the original na Basic :aw will be passed.

Q. Pero hindi na nga. Impossible na nga yan to pass the original, right?

A. There is still a possibility.

Q. Talaga? Ano yan? Never say die?

A. Kasi nandyan ang bill eh. Intact yung original bill so when it comes to the plenary, they can still do it pero it depends.

Q. Wala ngang quorum Sir.

A. Yun na nga. Quorum can be created… Kasi yun nga, ang sabi ko, we have to wait for the final outcome. We cannot decide at this point in time or we will (just) speculate. (We wait) and then we decide. We have to wait for the process to end.

Q. Sinabi nyo na kanina na after the bicam, yung talagang nakita na talgang hindi ito acceptable then lalabas kayo ng posisyon ninyo?

A. Yeah lalabas kami ng posisyon namin na its not acceptable for us. Now meron pang remaining process. It will be passed to the President.

Q. For veto?

A. It’s either because there are three options for a President.

Q. So ano yan, is it going to be sign it into law, let it lapse into law or veto it?

A. We do not know kung ano.

Q. Hindi niyo ba natanong bakit hindi niya na certify na urgent yung bill?

A. We have been reiterating to him. Sabi niya, anyway the process is already going on

Q. Hindi pa rin sine-certify kasi baka mas masaklap kung sine-certify niya

A. Yun nga.

Q. We know we’re facing a very uncertain future, uncertain in the sense that between now and June 30, 2016, kasi yun ang target supposedly na naset-up yung Bangsamoro, sinabi nyo rin na process siya, so even if hindi matuloy under this administration, sa next administration naman. Do you see the implementation of the CAB/FAB within your lifetime?

A. We are hoping pero it’s not a grand plan. Ibig sabihin what is important is nandyan yung agreement, we protect that agreement because if it cannot be implemented within our lifetime, then the struggle will continue and the next generation will always demand for the implementation of this agreement.

In this photo taken August 25, 2015, four-year old Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim whispers to her grandfather, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim her dream to become a "dalaga" (lady) so she can carry her two-year old brother. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO.

In this photo taken August 25, 2015, four-year old Sittie Zareenah Ebrahim whispers to her grandfather, Moro Islamic Liberation Front chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim her dream to become a “dalaga” (lady) so she can carry her two-year old brother. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO.

Q. Never ending?

A. Yeah. Because the struggle is there. This is a protracted struggle. Hindi mo talaga, you cannot dictate kung hanggang saan but what is important is you keep on, keep on hold on to the struggle until the final objective is (realized).

Q. Pero yung final outcome ngayon, kung hindi mapasa ang BBL…

A. We will go on with this struggle. We will continue the struggle – it could mean a further political struggle or an armed struggle. If there is no more chance of political struggle… what we tell our people is, it’s not the end of the struggle.

Q. It’s not the end.

A. It’s not the end of the struggle. We will continue with the struggle and that is the only thing we can promise to our people if the BBL will not pass. The struggle will not end. Hindi ibig sabihin na nawala na because all the factors in the struggle are still there.

Q. In August last year you said armed struggle will be the last option.

A. Ahhh. You cannot eliminate the armed struggle as an option but we have already invested so much in political struggle and we will continue to see if there is still a chance to move forward.