Thursday, September 10, 2015

A heavy price paid for botched terrorist raid by Philippines and U.S.

From the Los Angeles Times (Sep 10): A heavy price paid for botched terrorist raid by Philippines and U.S.

Philippine raid fallout

After a bungled raid in January, the government of Philippine President Benigno Aquino III, center, has delayed plans to give the U.S. wider access to military bases that the Obama administration sought for its strategic “pivot” to Asia. (Jay Directo / AFP/Getty Images)

Before dawn on Jan. 25, a Philippine National Police commando team crept toward a thatched hut in the marshy jungles of Mindanao. They were hunting Marwan, an elusive bomb maker with a $5-million U.S. bounty on his head.

But they weren't hunting alone.

Five or six U.S. counter-terrorism advisors assisted from a police command post nearby, tracking the assault team in live video from a U.S. surveillance aircraft circling overhead. "Their main role was to provide tactical, live intelligence," said a Philippine officer who was present.

As the 13 commandos closed in, one stepped on a buried mine. The explosion wounded him and brought a burst of gunfire from the hut.

After a firefight, the American-trained team rushed in and radioed "Bingo, Mike One" to the command post. "Operation Exodus" appeared a success. The wispy-bearded target was dead

To make certain, they sliced the right index finger off the corpse. DNA tests by the FBI later confirmed that it belonged to Marwan, nom de guerre for a Malaysian-born, U.S.-educated engineer linked to multiple terrorist attacks across Southeast Asia, including a 2002 bombing that killed 202 people in Bali, Indonesia.

But his death came at a dreadful cost: 44 police commandos and four civilians were killed, along with 17 militants, in a fierce daylong battle after the initial assault. The bloodshed triggered bitter recriminations in one of America's closest allies in Asia, and put sharp new strains on Manila's security relationship with Washington.

Within weeks, the Pentagon announced that it was withdrawing a special operations task force. It had been sent to the Philippines after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and had become a model for U.S. counter-terrorism teams later deployed around the globe.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III's government delayed plans to give U.S. troops, warships and aircraft wider access to military bases that the Obama administration sought for its strategic "pivot" to Asia. The planned expansion has been stalled since.

The botched raid also left a landmark 2014 peace deal between the Philippine government and entrenched Islamic rebels in tatters, sparking a renewal of violence by insurgent groups.

"It was a bungled operation and it has had major fallout," said David Maxwell, a retired Army colonel who commanded the U.S. special operations force in the Philippines in 2006 and 2007.

This account is based on interviews with U.S. military officials and Philippine National Police officers, including survivors of the raid, as well as on formal inquiries by Philippine authorities, including a Senate committee and the Justice Department.

The U.S. "apparently gives us access to information and resources that have assisted us in our local operations," the Senate panel concluded in March. "However the question is … who is driving the cart? Was the operation authored by Filipinos?"

Pentagon officials say the answer is clear: No Americans joined or issued orders to the assault team.

But the debacle marked an inglorious end to a little-known 13-year U.S. military advisory operation in the Philippines, an effort credited with improving its army and police and with reducing the number of insurgent groups.

At its height, five years ago, more than 600 U.S. special operations troops deployed to Muslim-dominated Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines, according to Maj. Karolyn McEwen, a spokeswoman for U.S. Special Operations Command Pacific.

The U.S. force kept a low profile, working out of a base called Camp Navarro in western Mindanao. The government in Manila has battled Islamic separatist groups and communist insurgents on Mindanao for decades.

The Americans avoided a direct role in the fighting. They instead trained police and army units, advised them on counter-terrorism operations and ferried them around, sometimes in aircraft flown by U.S. contractors.

Over time, the U.S. focus increasingly turned to trying to capture or kill Marwan, who was believed hiding in western Mindanao. He became "HV1," the highest value target in the Philippines.

Zulkifli Abdhir, his real name, had been indicted in 2007 in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. The 16 charges included supplying bombs to Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional terrorist group that U.S. officials link to Al Qaeda, and Abu Sayyaf, a Philippine-based militant group that recently pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Philippine authorities blamed Marwan for at least nine bombings since 2002 that left 46 people dead and 207 injured.

But helping them find the bomb maker proved maddening for the Americans. Security forces had launched nine unsuccessful operations against Marwan since 2006. But he got away each time.

His escapes raised suspicion that he was getting help from nearby Philippine soldiers, perhaps rebel fighters integrated into the army as part of reconciliation efforts.

When police received a promising tip in mid-2014 that Marwan was hiding in the remote area of Mamasapano, the U.S. special operations task force helped track Marwan to a small house on stilts and began months of aerial surveillance.

U.S. military advisors supervised training of the police unit at a seaside resort and in the jungles of Mindanao before the raid. They also provided night-vision goggles, maps and a hand-held retinal scanner to confirm Marwan's identity.

On the night of the assault, some of the police officers fell behind in crossing rivers and trekking down dark jungle trails. Only a third of the assault team had reached Marwan's hut when the shooting started about 4 a.m.

Eager to get out, the team skipped the retinal scanner and cut off a finger instead, sticking it in a Ziploc bag.

But hundreds of Islamic fighters from other villages soon joined the battle. They pinned down the assault team and 350 other police officers who had deployed in the jungle to guard their escape.

"One by one we were getting hit and it slowed us down to carry the wounded," said a police officer who survived the battle. "As the day went on, we felt helpless."

U.S. advisors, relying on aerial video, helped some commandos "elude large enemy formations, thereby avoiding further casualties," a police investigation found.

But the attackers spotted scores of police officers hiding in chest-high corn near Marwan's hut and began raking the field with heavy machine gun and mortar fire. Most of the 44 dead were later found there.
After the 14-hour battle, a Black Hawk helicopter flown by Pentagon contractors landed and U.S. Army medics helped treat the wounded and collect the dead, U.S. officials said.

A few days later, Philippine police turned over the finger to an FBI agent in the city of General Santos on Mindanao. He rushed it off to the FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va.
The FBI had DNA from Rahmat Abdhir, a U.S. citizen who was arrested in Sunnyvale, Calif., in 2007 on charges of illegally sending $10,000, plus hand-held radios, Colt .45 magazines and other material to a designated terrorist — his older brother, Marwan — in the Philippines. Abdhir pleaded guilty to one count and is serving a 10-year sentence at the federal prison in Lompoc, Calif.

Two weeks later, the FBI issued its result: "After a thorough review of forensic data and information obtained from our Philippine law enforcement partners, the FBI has assessed that terrorism subject Zulkifli Abdhir, also known as Marwan … is deceased."

Philippines Woos Arms Manufacturers

From the Voice of America (Sep 9): Philippines Woos Arms Manufacturers

[Video report]

The Philippines ongoing territorial tensions with China have led it to try to modernize its military, which for years had one of the smallest budgets in Asia. The country is spending more on more advanced ships and planes, but it is also trying to entice arms manufacturers to set up shop locally.

Each day 200,000 bullets are produced at the Government Arsenal. But it is not enough to supply the Philippine Armed Forces with the ammunition it requires.

The facility’s director, Jonathan Martir, explained a plan to open a defense economic zone, a tax-free place for foreign arms manufacturers to make more and better weapons for the Philippines.

“We’re going to achieve self-reliance simply because we’re going to manufacture here in the Philippines... imagine us manufacturing high level equipment, weaponry, that we’ve never manufactured before,” he said.

Upgrading Manila's aging arsenal is just one part of the plan. Manila is also conducting joint exercises with Japanese and American forces, improving the country's ability to patrol and secure its thousands of remote islands.

Beijing has built military outposts in parts of the South China Sea, known here as the West Philippine Sea. That includes a landing strip on a once-submerged reef.

Both countries say they are trying to avoid confrontation, but Manila-based defense consultant Jose Antonio Custodio said there are no illusions about how the two-armed forces compare.

“Against a country like China and the lack of any capabilities on the Philippine side, the West Philippines Sea installations can be overrun in barely half a day,” he said.

The effort to try to make those forces more formidable is taking shape at Government Arsenal, even though some of the equipment here dates back to the Second World War.

“The sorry state of our defense industry right now, even without the threat from the South China Sea, we still have to improve our capability to manufacture our own ammunition,” Martir stated.

He added that the arsenal still needs presidential approval to allow foreign firms to make weapons here.

Gov’t forces unscathed in ComVal encounter

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 10): Gov’t forces unscathed in ComVal encounter

Government troopers from the 66th Infantry Battalion survived an attack perpetrated by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels the other day in Purok-10, Sitio Ambawan, Barangay Osmeña, Compostela town, Compostela Valley province.

The 10th Infantry Division said that the soldiers were en route to Purok-4, Barangay Ngan in the same town to deliver supplies for an on-going peace and development program when they were waylaid.

A landmine also struck the soldiers truck which was damaged.  No fatalities or serious injuries were reported from the government’s side.

Recovered from the area were one detonating devise and a 30-meter wire.

Meanwhile, the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that the vice team leader of the medical platoon of guerrilla front 72 of the NPA in southern Mindanao recently surrendered to authorities.

Eastmincom chief information officer Captain Alberto Caber said the former rebel turned himself over to elements of 71stIB last Tuesday in Barangay Pangibiran, Mabino, Compostela Valley.

Upon his surrender, the former NPA leader, identified only as a certain ‘George’ was brought to the Mabini municipal police station and the municipal health office.

Caber said that the returnee will be enrolled in the Comprehensive Local Integration Program where he will receive livelihood support.

AFP chief dares critics to prove military involvement in Lumad killings

From the Philippine Star (Sep 10): AFP chief dares critics to prove military involvement in Lumad killings

Armed Forces chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri on Thursday dared groups linking the military to the killing of Lumads to show evidence that would back their allegations.

“It’s easy to accuse so they have to prove it but what I can say is that there were no Army forces when the incident happened,” Iriberri told reporters in a chance interview on Thursday.

“It was very clear that soldiers were not involved and yet they insist that soldiers are responsible. You can see their motive in accusing the armed forces,” he added.

When asked what is the motive of those who accuse soldiers of killing Lumads, Iriberri said: “Of course to destroy the image of the armed forces.”

Activists have accused the military of killing Lumad leaders because of suspicions that they are sympathizers of communist rebels. They claim that a paramilitary group backed by the Army was responsible for the deaths of three Lumads in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last week.

The victims, identified as Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development director Emerito Samarca and indigenous people’s leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo, were killed by unidentified men last Sept. 1 in Barangay Diatagon.

Militant groups said the killers were members of the Magahat-Bagani Force but Army officials have denied the existence of such paramilitary unit.

Iriberri said the local police has filed cases against three suspects who are not members of government militias.

“We are supporting the effort of the police and we are also conducting operations against all armed groups in the area,” he added.

Last Tuesday, President Aquino gave assurance that there is no government campaign to kill Lumads.

“There is no campaign to kill Lumad people. We are serving the people,” Aquino said in a media forum.

“Serving the people does not mean killing its citizens,” he added.

Militant groups, however, are convinced that extrajudicial killings is a policy of the Aquino regime and the armed forces.

“The victims, their kin and the witnesses have spoken: the Armed Forces of the Philippines and its paramilitary forces are responsible for the grave crimes and atrocities against them, their tribes, and their communities,” human rights group Karapatan said.

“There is a distinct pattern in the 262 documented victims of extrajudicial killing and the 292 victims of frustrated killings, especially in the cases of the killing of the Lumad in Mindanao: they were defending the people’s right to land, ancestral domain, social services, among others, and they were persecuted and killed,” the group added.

Basilan RTC declares Abu Sayyaf terrorist group

From the Philippine Star (Sep 10): Basilan RTC declares Abu Sayyaf terrorist group

In this Saturday, May 16, 2015 file photo, black flags associted with terror organization Islamic State, or ISIS, were also recovered from the site of the military offensive to retake villages from the control of the Abu Sayyaf militants and their Malaysian cohort, Mohammad Najib alias Anas. Pareño, file

A Philippine court has declared the Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf, notorious for ransom kidnappings and beheadings of hostages, as a terrorist organization.

It is the first militant group to be officially outlawed in the Southeast Asian country under a rarely used anti-terrorism law.

Philippine prosecutors said Thursday that the designation will help the government hunt down and prosecute militants and it can seek to impose sanctions against members and supporters.

Under the 2007 Human Security Act, the Department of Justice asked a regional trial court in southern Basilan province five years ago to ban the Abu Sayyaf.

Prosecutors say the court approved the government's request only this week, adding the government would take steps to outlaw at least three other Islamic groups.

AFP chief questions motive of those linking them to Lumad killings

From GMA News (Sep 10): AFP chief questions motive of those linking them to Lumad killings

Insisting that the military is not involved in the killing of two tribal leaders and a school head last week, Armed Forces chief Hernando Iriberri on Thursday questioned the motive of those who continue to link them to the alleged harassment and killing of indigenous peoples or Lumad in Mindanao.

"The perpetrators, the suspects, have been already identified and it's very clear that [they] are not [under us] and yet they (accusers) insist we are behind it," said Iriberri.

"That's where you can see their motive in accusing the Armed Forces."

Iriberri did not mention any names, but his statement came two days after progressive lawmakers grilled military officials during a budget briefing at the House of Representatives regarding the alleged military-backed Magahat Bagani Force, the group blamed for the killing of the two tribal leaders and school head in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Officials had repeatedly denied that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had trained and armed the Magahat Bagani Force .

The three suspects were identified as Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy, and Garito Layno, all members of the alleged paramilitary force. They have been charged with grave coercion, multiple murder, arson, robbery and grave threats last Sept. 7 along with 20 John Does.

“I want to clarify this first na mayroon nang tatlong tao na na-identify and cases have been filed against three persons responsible for the incident in Lianga,” said Iriberri, a native of Surigao del Sur.

"Very clear na walang katotohanan 'yung ina-accuse sa amin na kami ang may kagagawan ng mga karumal-dumal na krimen na 'to,” he added.

Iriberri said they will investigate other reports that soldiers were seen in the area during the incident, although he added those could be just armed men wearing military uniforms.

“It's easy to wear uniform, even NPAs (New People's Army) wear uniform. Ginagamit 'yung uniporme namin, 'yung mga nare-recover nila halimbawa doon sa aming casualties and so napakadaling gumamit ng uniporme,” he said.

Teenage survivor of Bukidnon ‘encounter’ denies they are NPA rebels

From GMA News (Sep 10): Teenage survivor of Bukidnon ‘encounter’ denies they are NPA rebels

 A teenager who survived an assault by government troops in Bukidnon last month has surfaced to deny that what happened was an encounter as claimed by the military, a report on GMA News TV's "QRT" said Thursday.

The report quoted the 15-year-old survivor as saying that he, his father, brother and three of his cousins were resting after working in a ricefield in Pangantucan town on August 18 when they were fired upon by members of the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

The survivor, identified only as Nono, was able to flee the scene, but his five companions were killed, the report said.

Nono is now under the custody of human rights group Karapatan.

In an interview on "QRT," Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson for the 4th ID, said the fatalities, who he claimed were New People's Army (NPA) rebels, were fully armed and fired at them first.

"Along that area, nakita rin po natin 'yung 19 backpacks ng New People's Army and one AK-47. In fact, dalawa po 'yung sundalo natin na wounded during that exchange of fire... [they] were hit first kaya po nag-return fire ang ating mga sundalo," Martinez said.

He added that all official reports indicated that the encounter that occurred three kilometers away from the Manobo community had no survivor.

Martinez also said paraffin tests performed by SOCO and the Philippine National Police on the bodies of the fatalities turned out positive for traces of gunpowder burns.

The spokesperson clarified that they sought guidance with the Manobo regarding the proper funeral rites for their people, contrary to claims made by the kin of the slain men that the rites were violated.

"We sought guidance po and help sa mga barangay council together with the Pangantucan municipal police station for the identification po ng ating mga kababayan na nasawi po nung time ng bakbakan," Martinez said..

However, Nono denied that his father, brother and three cousins were armed, saying his father had poor eyesight and required assistance to move.

Datu Jomorito Guaynon, chairman of the Kalumbay Federation of Lumad in Northern Mindanao, countered Martinez's claims, saying they were able to confirm that the slain men were not NPA rebels but members of an indigenous tribe or Lumad during a visit in the area last September 1.

"Sa pagpunta natin noon nung nakaraang September 1, sa isang fact-finding mission, kinausap natin ang mga kaanak at saka 'yung tribal datu doon na sabi nila ay hindi ito mga NPA dahil sila ay sibilyan at nakatira doon sa Barangay Mendez, Pangantucan, Bukidnon," Guaynon said.

He, however, admitted that the area where the encounter happened was a known bailiwick of the NPA.

"Hindi naman namin itinatakwil o idineny na sa bundok na 'yan ay maraming mga NPA, pero anong responsibilidad namin doon? Wala kaming magagawa doon para maki-away sa NPA kung hindi sa amin lang ay sana i-respeto ng military yung sibilyang katutubong lumad at habulin nila yung totoong armado saka NPA," Guaynon said.

He also sought to discredit the paraffin test conducted by the military on the bodies.

Victor Alleria of CHR Northern Mindanao, in a separate report, said they are already looking into the issue.

Gov’t pursuing new leads to check ‘other version’ of Mamasapano clash

From GMA News (Sep 10): Gov’t pursuing new leads to check ‘other version’ of Mamasapano clash

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said the government is not sitting on the Mamasapano case, but is merely pursuing "new leads" to verify claims that there is an "alternative version" to the clash that left over 60 people dead, including 44 elite police commandos.

De Lima said that verification of this supposed "other version" is what's taking investigators so long to complete the second part of its probe.
The first part of the parallel probe, announced in April, revealed that at least 90 individuals were recommended to be charged for murder and theft. The initial report focused on determining who were responsible for the deaths of 35 of the 44 commandos, who were members of the 55th Special Action Company (SAC). 
The second part of the report, meanwhile, is expected to dwell on those responsible for the deaths of the remaining nine commandos from the 84th SAC.
In an interview at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, De Lima said the filing of the first batch of charges was put on hold due to the new leads that would paint another version of the clash.
"Ready na ang transmittal [for the first part] pero minarapat namin na i-hold muna dahil nalaman natin na supposed leads na ito. This is very sensitive. Kailangan maayos ang pagkaka-verify ng information," she said.
"Itong tungkol sa sinabi ng pangulo na alternative version, in-assign din niya ito sa ibang agencies, even the military and police and kami. But because of the sensitivity of the matter, wala muna kaming puwedeng sabihin until may resulta iyong validation sa information," she added.
De Lima said these new leads are being "thoroughly scrutinized bago sabihin na merong another version of the incident."
The Justice secretary added that they would be discussing next week whether the first batch of cases could finally be filed, while verifying the new leads.
During a forum organized by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, President Benigno Aquino III said he is still studying an “alternative version” of what transpired during the police operation to arrest Jemaah Islamiyah leader Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan on Jan. 25.
“Do I have closure? I still have quite a number of questions, and there are various agencies of government tasked to ferret out the truth of exactly what happened in its entirety,” Aquino said.
“There is an alternative version of events that happened there, which is undergoing very intense scrutiny. We are looking for witnesses that will prove or disprove certain observations,” he added.
Killed in the Mamasapano clash were 44 elite policemen, 17 MILF rebels, and five civilians.

The clash happened while government forces were trying to capture international terrorists in the area. The MILF has maintained that its fighters acted in self-defense and has cited violations of ceasefire protocols with the government.

The third-party International Monitoring Team has cited ceasefire violations on either side.

Director Moro Virgilio Lazo, SAF chief, said the elite police unit welcomes the investigation as it will prove or disprove allegations and will also give credit for the death of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir — alias Marwan — to those who deserve it. Marwan was one of the targets of the SAF operation.
He added SAF troopers have already given their statements to the DOJ.

Gov't arsenal eyes 35-M rounds of small arms ammunition for 2016 output

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 10): Gov't arsenal eyes 35-M rounds of small arms ammunition for 2016 output

The government arsenal in Limay, Bataan is targeting to produce 35 million rounds of small arms ammunition next year, or five million more than its production target for 2015, for the use of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Small arms ammunition refers to bullets used by handguns, automatic rifles and sub-machine guns in the military's inventory.

This figure has a 98 percent percentage acceptance based on standards and 108 percent supportability to AFP combat requirements, according to National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin during the House Appropriations Committee hearing on Department of National Defense proposed 2016 budget at the House of Representatives in Quezon City last Sept. 8.

The DND is seeking a Php 158.8 billion budget for next year, broken down into Php63.5 billion for territorial defense, security and stability; Php 1.5 billion for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; Php 667 million for international engagements and peace support missions; and Php 93.1 billion for force level support and training.

The latter amount is also inclusive of pensions.

‘NPA team leader’ yields

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 10): ‘NPA team leader’ yields

A ALLEGED vice team leader of the New People’s Army surrendered to soldiers in Barangay Pangibiran, Mabini, Compostela Valley on Wednesday afternoon.
Capt. Alberto Caber, information officer of Eastern Mindanao Command, said that alias George surrendered to soldiers of the 71st Infantry Battalion under the 10th Infantry Division at 2 p.m.
George told soldiers that he was the vice team leader of the medical platoon of Guerrilla Front 72 of the NPA Southern Mindanao Regional Committee.
He was brought by the soldiers to Mabini Police Station and was transferred to the municipal health office for a medical checkup.
Accordingly, the former rebel wanted to start a new life with his family and to avail the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) through the local government unit of Compostela Valley.
Through the program of the LGUs, the surrenderee will receive livelihood and appropriate training assistance.
As of last count, there were already 214 NPA members who returned to the folds of the law through the units of Eastern Mindanao Command.

More HR violations unraveled in 'Pangantucan 5' massacre than initially reported

From InterAksyon (Sep): More HR violations unraveled in 'Pangantucan 5' massacre than initially reported

A government soldier take photographs of fact-finding team going through the documentation process in Pangantucan.

Reports reaching Manila indicated that the massacre of five members of a Manobo community in the municipality of Pangantucan, Bukidnon on August 18 was not the only human rights violation committed allegedly by the military in what it claimed was a legitimate encounter with the New People's Army (NPA).

A fact-finding mission put together by 20 human rights and religious organizations was able to document the following:
  • Torture of five people, the victims dubbed "Pangantucan 5": Datu Herminio Samia, his son Jobert and grandson Norman, and brothers Ramil and Emer.
  • Frustrated extrajudicial killing of two of the victims' neighbors.
  • Threat, harassment, and intimidation of 30 people, including the victims and residents.
  • Coercion of three people.
  • Violation of rights of eight children, including a victim's five younger siblings who stopped going to school.
  • Food and economic blockade for 32 families.
  • Divestment of property in the case of Herminio's home.
  • Destruction of property in the case of Herminio's home.
  • Four instances of the use of civilians as a guide or shield.
  • One instance of the use of a public place for military purposes, in the case of a barangay hall.
  • Threat, harassment, and intimidation of 115 members of the fact-finding mission delegation.
According to the report, two groups of men introduced themselves as members of the NPA to two of the victims' neighbors in Brgy. Mendis the morning of August 18 on separate occasions.

Both groups were armed and asked to be guided by the neighbors to their comrades' camp.

Frightened, the neighbors did as they were told even if at least one of them did not know where the supposed camp was.

The first group reportedly ended up in Herminio's home. Jobert, Norman, Ramil, and Emer were there, as well. With them were Herminio's son 15-year-old "Nono" (not his real name) and Heminio's daughter-in-law Nelly Jane and her father Henry Cayuhay.

When their guide said he could no longer accompany them, the "NPA members" asked Norman to be their guide.

Neighbors heard gunshots about 40 minutes later, according to the report.

By 6:00 p.m., the reported further indicated, Nono arrived at the house of another neighbor, where the residents had gathered. He said that his father was killed by soldiers even after he pleaded to be taken as their prisoner, instead.

The residents wanted to go to the site, but Nono told them the soldiers no longer distinguished civilians from combatants, and would shoot anyone they saw.

The report quoted Nono as saying Nelly and Henry went home when they heard the gunfire, and that Norman had been able to return to Herminio's house to tell them the men he was guiding were really members of the military and had joined other men in army uniform.

Nono said the soldiers arrived after Norman's return and ordered them to come out of the house.

Nono obeyed, but when he saw the soldiers shooting his companions, he ran.

They fired at him too, he said, and shouted that they would eventually hit him.

According to the report, 27 residents went to Herminio's house on August 19, where they found soldiers guarding the bodies. They supposedly told them not to touch the corpses, and said these were the bodies of NPA members and that they had confiscated an AK47 from the corpses.

This was what the residents saw: "Emer, who lay face-up, still had his arms above his head. There was a bullet wound on his leg and his throat was slit. Norman ... was also lying face-up, the right half of his head blown – his right ear had been torn off. Ramil was also lying face-up, his right hand was chopped off, and his throat was also slit. Jobert had both his legs shot, and his throat slit. Herminio was the only one not in the line, his body near their coffee trees. His stomach was torn, and his throat was also slit."

The residents told the participants of the fact-finding mission that the soldiers ordered the men to line up with their back to the soldiers and their hands raised above their heads. They were then asked who among them were NPA members.

One of the soldiers also kept unsheathing a bloody bolo, while the others kept cocking their guns.

They then ordered the residents to carry the bodies to the barangay hall, and during the trip, asked who among them were "masa".

A dump truck reportedly carried the bodies away to be processed by morticians, the report said.

The bodies were brought back to the community the following day, and on August 21, were buried.

According to the report, the community's situation had not improved since then.

Residents now had to get permission from the soldiers to go to their farms.

They were also only allowed in their farms from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., which was why many families did not do so anymore. They were also afraid of being accused of being NPA members.

Those who went with the fact-finding mission added that soldiers loitered around while the residents were being interviewed for the documentation, and that the soldiers were there taking photos of the participants.

The participants of the fact-finding mission recommended the immediate pull-out of the military from Brgy. Mendis, the investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators, and the guarantee of the community's security.

They also stressed that the victims were clearly civilians, especially since they had government documents such as identification cards for PhilHealth, the 4Ps, and the Commission on Elections.

They accused the soldiers of "bastardizing" indigenous traditions, given that embalming was not part of the native practice of the Manobo community. Rather, they usually hold a wake for the dead for one night, then bury him or her the following day.

The Manobo also perform a ritual when a death is violent, to appease Magbabaya (God), who is offended when any of them is brutally killed.

However, the community was unable to observe all this as the bodies were taken out of the community for embalming.

The participants of the fact-finding mission added that a datu like Herminio was a respected individual in the community, and his murder sows fear in the community. If a datu can be killed, more so would it be easier for a non-titled community member to be killed.

The participants of the fact-finding mission also stressed that the Manobo were deprived of the right to assert control over their ancestral domain, as the soldiers barred them from gaining access.

"The families want justice to be served, for the military men involved to be taken off service and jailed accordingly," the report said.

Lumad: Caught in the middle of a war

From Rappler (Sep 10): Lumad: Caught in the middle of a war

NPA SCHOOL? A schoolboy claims the communist movement used to run his school in Talaingod, Davao Del Nore. Screenshot of the Youtube video  NPA SCHOOL? A schoolboy claims the communist movement used to run his school in Talaingod, Davao Del Nore. Screenshot of the Youtube video
The military played before lawmakers a video showing a boy singing "Lupang Sinira" of nationalist Pol Galang, but the lyrics were changed. The altered song was made to be about a people fired up to fight an oppressive government.

It's supposed to be the national anthem that students used to sing every morning in the now closed "NPA school" for the Lumad in Talaingod, Davao del Norte.

Lupang sinira, bayan ng magigiting
Alab ng puso, sa dibdib mo'y apoy
Sa nayon at lungsod itinatag ang makabayang pamahalaan.
May tilamsik na dugo at awit sa paglayang minamahal
Ang pula ng watawat mo'y tagumpay na nagniningning

Brigadier General Angelito De Leon, Armed Forces deputy chief of staff for operations, showed it on Tuesday, September 8, as proof that the military was right in closing the Salugpungan Tanano Igkagunon Community Learning Center (STILCC), an alternative learning center in Talaingod. It was supposedly used to recruit indigenous peoples into the communist movement.

From a high of 25,000 armed regulars in the 1980s, the military estimates NPA strength to be down to about 4,000 nationwide. Half of them are in Eastern Mindanao, one of the rebels' remaining bastions.

While many Filipinos have moved on and dismissed the revolution as dead, the insurgency continues to thrive in the so-called Timber and Mining Corridor of the Philippines. The movement easily finds allies among residents because of its battlecry to keep big business away from their ancestral domains.

In contrast, the military has been seen as the protector of mining companies that have disrupted tribal communities. It's an image that is not helped when soldiers commit crimes such as the recent case of alleged rape of a 14-year-old Manobo girl by members of the Army 68th Infantry Battalion.

Compostela Valley used to be the center of gravity for NPA operations but Typhoon Pablo in 2012 forced the Southern Mindanao Regional Party Committee of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) to Talaingod, according De to Leon.

"We have monitored heavy presence of NPAs there," he said. Clashes, landmine incidents, and the propaganda war stepped up.

Lumad forced to take sides

Caught in the middle of the nearly 5-decade old communist insurgency are the Lumad who are sometimes, if not often, forced to take sides between government forces and the NPA. The Lumad eventually find themselves fighting each other.

"This has been going on for decades, the use of paramilitary forces by the military to fight the NPA in Lumad areas. The problem, of course, is that it's not the NPA that really suffers as they easily slip away but the tribes that remain," said Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio La Viña, a legal expert on environment and indigenous peoples.

"The military and the paramilitary forces do not make any distinction and attack the leaders that remain and who are usually the educators or those leading fights involving logging or mining. This is really about those resources and the control of ancestral domain," La Viña added.

It triggers a cycle where the NPA finds fertile ground to recruit Lumad, who, according to the military, now make up the majority of NPA members in Eastern Mindanao.

"Based on our report, 90% of guerrilla bases and NPA camps are inside a stretch of ancestral domain areas and 3 out of 4 NPAs in Eastern Mindanao are members of the IPS," De Leon said in a presentation before the House of Representatives during its budget briefing.

"The NPAs have already established a shadow revolutionary government called Komiteng Rebolusyunaryo sa Muncipaldad or Barrio in certain areas in Eastern Mindanao," he added.

The military said the NPA also operates Bagani forces in Eastern Mindanao. There are 6 commands in Davao area alone.

"There is a Pulang-Bugani, which is composed of the fighters of the NPA. It's a regular unit of NPAs operating in Davao area.... The commander of the Pulang Bagani command 1 was the late Parago," said Armed Forces chief General Hernando Iriberri.

Pressure for military

The military is pushing to end Asia's longest running insurgency so it can focus on territorial defense amid China's aggressiveness in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Army chief Lieutenant General Eduardo Año – the intelligence chief behind the arrest of CPP chief Benito Tiamzon and commander of the Davao-based 10th Infantry Division when NPA's well loved commander Leoncio Pitao or "Ka Parago" was slain – vowed to reduce the NPA down to about a thousand before he steps down in 2017.

On the ground in Eastern Mindanao is a general equally hated by the communist movement. Eastern Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Aurelio Baladad gained notoriety for arresting the "Morong 43" – a group of people tagged by the military as NPA members but who, according to human rights groups, turned out to be health workers. The military maintains that they are communist rebels.

The past incidents show the danger of a military going back to its history of human rights violations in its determination to quash the enemy.

Warning signs

Leftist lawmakers, whose colleagues were once victims of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the military during the Arroyo years, see the warning signs. Leftist groups have been tagged by the military as front groups for the NPA.

A fuming Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares blasted the military for tagging the schoolboy in the video as an NPA just because he sang that song. “Ito ang problema sa AFP natin kaya madaming namamatay. You’re intolerant of dissent. You’re committing the same mistake you did during the Martial Law. Singing a song by a nationalist singer already makes one an NPA? That's absurd," Colmenares said as he blew his top during Tuesday's budget hearing.

"Nakakapikon. Bihira lang ako magalit, Madam Chair. Ang ganiyang klase ng psychology, maraming namamatay. Baka ma-EJK si Pol Galang niyan," Colmenares added.

Iriberri argued that it was how the song was used. "It’s not about the song. It is how it is being used. It is how it is being taught and in what context it is being conveyed to the children and to the IPs," said the military chief.

The military also showed test papers supposedly brainwashing the Lumads attending the school.

True or False? "Pagdating ng Amerikano ay lalong lumakas ang pagmimina (Mining will intensify with the arrival of the Americans)." De Leon said the prescribed answer was "True."

The military said they only implemented an order from the Department of Education, which closed the school following the request of the Office of the Talaingod Municipal Tribal Council of Elders to investigate if it was teaching in compliance with government standards.

Public outcry

The recent deaths of a school head who was hogtied and stabbed and two Lumad leaders who were shot in Surigao del Sur triggered public outcry over the escalation of violence in Eastern Mindanao.

They died at the hands of members of the Magahat-Bagani Force, a paramilitary group allegedly under the control of the Army's 36th Infantry Battalion.

Iriberri claimed the Bagani Force operates independent of the military. A tribal leader was presented during the hearing to explain that it's a tribal unit to serve as "ancestrals protector" or "cultural guard" against outsiders and unwanted influences.

But the close ties between the military and the Mahagat-Bagani Force is common knowledge in the area. Locals attest to this.

Leaving communities

The bigger problem for the military is the situation at the Haran compound in Davao City, where many Lumad from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon have relocated amid the "militarization" of their communities and the alleged forced recruitment to join the Alamara paramilitary group.

The military, citing the suicide of one of the Lumad in the facility, is saying that the Lumad were tricked to go there when they were told that they were to meet Sarangani Representative Emmanuel Pacquiao and President Benigno Aquino III. Charges of serious illegal detention have been filed against the organizers.

"The NPA used the Alamara to demonize the Bagani guards of several tribes who resist the ideological and organizing works of the NPA among the IP communities," De Leon said.

But when anti-riot cops went to the Haran House to try to bring the Lumad back to their communities, clashes ensued as the Lumad refused to return to their communities.

North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, chairman of the House committee on Indigenous Peoples who accompanied the government forces, gained notoriety after a video of a woman tribal chieftain giving her a scolding circulated online. The chieftain explained how they couldn't return to their communities because the military would accuse them of being NPA members.

A United Nations rapporteur, who visited the Lumad, also reported the "anxiety" that the presence of Alamara has caused in their communities.

The military insisted that its presence in Talaingod is meant to protect the residents.

"There is no militarization. The organizers are using the term to describe military presence in IP domain. The military enters villages due to the heavy presence of the New People’s Army in order to protect the populace," De Leon said.

These are communities otherwise ignored by the government. The NPA swoops in, the soldiers follow, and then clashes erupt as government delivers long delayed services to try to win the community back.

Catamco and the military stand by their claims that the Lumad at the Haran House are "suppressed out of fear from organizers."

Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have called for hearings to investigate the situation of the Lumad.

Burning Questions: Talking With José María Sison About Climate Change, Capitalism and Revolution

From Counter Punch (Sep 9): Burning Questions: Talking With José María Sison About Climate Change, Capitalism and Revolution


José María Sison is a living legend. Born in 1939 in Cabugao, on the island of Luzon in the Philippines, to a wealthy and connected family, his education and compassion led him to become a revolutionary activist by the age of 20. Today he remains, at the age of 76, a leader of what has been called by the New York Times “the world’s longest running communist insurgency.”

1969 he founded the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) with 12 delegates, representing only a few scores of party members, and he has stayed the course through thick and thin – today it has 10s of 1000s of members. And at no easy price: his revolutionary works earned him nine years in prison, including a year and a half in solitary confinement. Released in 1986, he has lived in exile ever since, and remains on the US terrorist watch list. While no longer involved in operational decisions, he remains a chief consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, and chairperson of the International League of Peoples’ Sruggle. Not just a politician, Sison was also a professor of English literature, is an esteemed poet, and a winner of the Southeast Asia WRITE book ward.

Some have recently alleged that the CPP has stagnated intellectually. However, the party’s ideological leadership seems to be effective, as even the detractors admit. As previously reported on Counterpunch, the New Peoples Army operates throughout 20% of the countryside of the Philippines, on 100 fronts, across 70 provinces, 800 municipalities, 9000 barrios and 8000 villages. Is this 21st century Maoism a blast from the past, or is it the only promise of a future for a country with the highest income disparity in Asia, where a quarter of the population lives on less than $1 a day? Benedict Anderson has written of the “historical vertigo” of the Philippines: as visionary forerunner of anti-colonial movements in the region, today it is home to arguably the strongest Left in Southeast Asia. Here we learn from Sison about how he translates vertigo to victory, as he responds the burning questions of 21st century politics and revolution.

How have ecological crises, and particularly the catastrophe of Haiyan, effected the ideology and practices of revolutionaries working above and underground in the Philippines?

JMS: The revolutionaries in the Philippines who work in both the urban and rural areas have always been conscious of the necessary relationship of nature and society or that of the environment and the people who produce new things of use and exchange value from the objects, means and conditions provided by the environment. The ecological crises and particularly the catastrophe of Haiyan serve to raise and sharpen the consciousness of the revolutionaries about the environmental issue and the urgent need to act on it.

The monopoly capitalist firms have been responsible for the wanton use of fossil fuel and carbon dioxide emissions in the Philippines, for the rapid deforestation – which has removed the shield to typhoons, caused soil erosion, prolonged droughts and floods together with landslides – and for the rapid expansion of mining and plantations, which use chemicals that poison the streams and kill marine life. Due to global warming, the surface of the Pacific Ocean has warmed and become the speedway for more frequent and stronger typhoons hitting the Philippines.

As a revolutionary strategist, what advice do you offer to those who are dedicating themselves to the global struggle for climate justice?

JMS: I wish to advise all those who dedicate themselves to the global struggle for climate justice to stand for it militantly as a distinct cause, and at the same time, to seek solidarity and cooperation with those who dedicate themselves to the struggle for social justice. They face a common enemy in monopoly capitalism and the imperialist powers which are the cause of climate and social injustice.

The global struggle for climate justice is interconnected with the global struggle of the people for social justice. The environmental crisis and the threat to the very existence of humankind are coming to the fore, concurrently with the recurrent and ever worsening economic, financial and social crises of the world capitalist system. The constant attempts of monopoly capitalism to seek superprofits and accumulate capital by increasing the organic composition of their capital – adopting higher technology, disemploying so many workers everywhere and using cheap labor and buying dirt cheap raw materials from the underdeveloped countries – have wrought havoc on the people and the environment.

The grave abuses and injustices inflicted by monopoly capitalism and by its local agents are driving the broad masses of the people to revolt against their exploiters and oppressors and to fight for a fundamentally new and better world. Thus, the forces of anti-imperialism, democracy and socialism are resurgent. Within this context, the exponents of climate justice must unite with those of social justice. In this regard, I invite them to participate in the 5th International Assembly of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle, because this league pursues the struggle for both climate and social justice.

What are your perspectives on ecosocialism as an emerging ideological orientation at the intersection of social and environmental crisis and struggle? (For instance, The Ecosocialist Manifesto / Belem Declaration of 2009, The Enemy of Nature, by Joel Kovel, or The Plan Patria 2013-2019 of the Venezuelan government.)

JMS:   Monopoly capitalism is the plunderer of both the labor power of the working class and the natural resources used in the process of production. It is driven by the profit motive to exploit, pollute and destroy the environment without minding the lethal consequences to the very existence of humankind. As the social and environmental crisis worsens, it is necessary for the working class and the rest of the people to struggle against monopoly capitalism, to establish the power of the working class, to protect the environment and fight for socialism.

The International League of Peoples’ Struggle, which I chair, studies the various perspectives, like those in publications that you have mentioned, to adopt points for strengthening our own perspective. We advocate the most effective line and measures for stopping and rolling back global warming, and we strive to arouse, organize and mobilize the working class and the people for the anti-imperialist and socialist cause against monopoly capitalism, which is clearly the biggest culprit responsible for the social and environmental catastrophe that we face.

What should the ideological orientation of the revolutionary movement be to mining in the Philippines? Many indigenous peoples and environmentalists oppose mining altogether, in favor of an ancestral mode of production in harmony with the ecosystem, a perspective which found internationalist expression this year around the International People’s Conference on Mining 2015. Others in the revolutionary movement see mining not only as an indispensable source of revenue, but as prerequisite for passing through the necessary “stages” toward socialism (primitive accumulation, industrialization, formation of proletariat, etc). This is also a burning issue from India to Ecuador, where indigenous cosmovision confronts proletarian developmentalism over what course the revolutionary movement should take. As Arundhati Roy asks about the future of revolution in India, “can we leave the bauxite in the mountain?”

JMS: The given situation in the Philippines under the hegemony of the US and other imperialist powers and the local exploiting classes of big compradors and landlords, is that mining firms can be owned totally by foreign monopoly firms. Limitless truckloads of raw mineral ores from so many parts of the country are being shipped out at a rapid rate to China, Japan and other countries for processing. Some mining firms specializing in precious metals like gold, silver, platinum and palladium fly them out by helicopter to ships waiting at sea.

Under the present circumstances, it is just for the indigenous peoples and for environmentalists to oppose totally the unrestricted mining by the imperialist and local reactionaries for their own narrow benefit at great damage to the entire people, economy and environment. But it is wrong to glorify underdevelopment and condone the social environment of widespread poverty, malarial swamps, malnutrition and disease in the name of a romantic, idylicized communalism. The new democratic or socialist system, shall guarantee the wise utilization of natural resources, protection of the environment and the free and prior informed consent of the indigenous communities as well as the prior provision of benefits and sharing of prospective benefits.

There would be wiser utilization of natural resources and a higher level of environmental protection and conservation of the national patrimony if the Filipino people themselves, under a people’s democratic or socialist government, process the raw materials from the primary stage to the secondary and tertiary stages. It is sheer nonsense to reduce the Filipino people to a choice of underdevelopment under Filipinos who merely keep their rich natural resources in the ground or foreign monopoly capitalists who take away the nonreplaceable raw mineral ores. Socialism entails a further development of the forces and relations of production.

Under present conditions of big comprador-landlord rule in the Philippines, the foreign monopoly capitalists freely get large areas of mining concessions from the national government. And in collusion with corrupt government officials, they often use traditional chieftains of indigenous communities to circumvent the requirement of free and prior informed consent of the entire community, and get a series of small mining permits to escape formal environmental regulations by the national government and cover large areas to mine. But when the revolutionary forces are around to arouse, organize and mobilize the people against the mining companies, then the indigenous peoples, their revolutionary kinsmen and even the traditional leaders unite against the mining companies.

What are your perspectives on the left-wing governments of South America? Is it just state capitalism and bourgeois democracy, or do you see genuine revolutionary potential and promise in the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, etc?

JMS: I see a certain measure of what is revolutionary in the left-wing governments in South America. They are assertive of national independence against imperialist impositions and they carry out feasible measures of social justice and social welfare. But the Left in power co-exist with the exploiting classes in society and these also have representatives in government who are in active opposition. No revolution has yet brought down the exploiting classes definitively. Such exploiters make trouble against the Bolivarian government in Venezuela, especially because the oil income has decreased. They also do so against the other progressive governments.

But while these left-wing governments stand and fight for the interests of their people, they have our solidarity and support. We cannot give them up, especially because the imperialist powers are now being buffeted by a new crisis that is worse than the one that started in 2008. The revolutionary potential of workers and the rest of the people is growing and can become a real force on an unprecedented scale. The neoliberal policy has been so extremely exploitative and so destructive that social upheavals and revolutions can burst out soon enough on an unprecedented scale.

What are your perspectives on the recent ideological transformation of Kurdish revolutionaries (in particular the YPG) in Rojava and other parts of Turkey, towards a feminist, ecological and anti-nationalist ideological orientation?

JMS: Even if the Kurdish revolutionaries speak of stateless democracy and repudiation of the nation-state and nationalism under their concept of democratic confederalism, I would still say that they have what amounts to organs of political power at various levels. Otherwise there would be anarchy and no sufficient level of political unity, government and command over armed personnel in order to fight powerful enemies. In fact, I am hoping that the Kurds in Iraq, Syria and North Kurdistan will compose a confederation of states someday. The very prospect of that should be terrifying to Erdogan and the Turkish reactionaries. As regards feminism, gender equality and concern for ecology, these can be adopted as guiding principles and as active factors in any coherent and effective system of governance or administration.

Many credit the Zapatista uprising of 1994, and subsequent international gatherings hosted by them, as game-changers in the world of radical politics, from repudiating traditional vanguardist parties to affirming the revolutionary subjectivity of indigenous peoples. How was the Zapatista uprising received and understood by the movement in the Philippines?

JMS: The revolutionary movement in the Philippines welcomed the Zapatista uprising of 1994 and was impressed for a number of years by the ability of the Zapatistas to receive so many foreign visitors and even host international gatherings. But subsequently we also became concerned that the leadership of the Zapatistas was assuring the Mexican central government that they had ceased to extend or encourage armed struggle beyond Chiapas and were already receiving big amounts of NGO funding from abroad.

It can suffice to have a broad united front to bring about a successful popular uprising against the local authority in Chiapas, or even against an authoritarian government like that of Somoza, Duvalier, Marcos, Mobutu or Suharto. But there is yet no proof of a fullsome socialist revolution without the leadership of a revolutionary party of the proletariat. The party form of political organization is still the favored way of concentrating the revolutionary will of the proletariat for socialism. And of course, there is yet no class other than the proletariat that is most determined to wage a socialist revolution against the bourgeoisie.

In the fields of art, culture, and literature, what do you believe are the most important and inspiring works which help us to comprehend and confront the challenges of 21st century?

JMS: I am sure that there are already important and inspiring works in the fields of art, culture and literature which help us to comprehend and confront the challenges of the 21st century. These works are being created as a reflection of and in conjunction with the suffering, sacrifices, struggles, successes and aspirations of peoples, such as those in the Philippines and India, who are waging new democratic revolutions, with a socialist perspective. Such creative works are waiting to be recognized and appreciated on a global scale.

I am most acquainted with revolutionary literary and artistic works in the Philippines. These are imbued with the spirit of serving the people. They expose the forces of oppression and exploitation and inspire the workers, peasants and the rest of the people to wage revolutionary struggle against imperialism and reaction, and for a fundamentally new and better world of greater freedom, democracy, social justice, development, cultural progress and international solidarity. There are many excellent writers, artists and cultural workers. They are well organized and join the protest mass actions as well as the people’s war in the countryside.

They are guided by Marxist aesthetics and by Mao’s Talks at the Yenan Forum on Literature and Art and his other works on cultural work and propaganda. They have studied the works created under the guidance of socialist realism when the Soviet Union was still socialist, the creative works of Left American writers in the 1930s and the revolutionary works in socialist China up to the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. At the same time, they break new paths in adopting and developing subjects and styles in the various literary and art forms.

It is not surprising that the most important and inspiring works are being done in countries where the revolutionary struggles are most intense. In this regard, I am optimistic that as the social and ecological crises worsen, more people will rise up in both underdeveloped and developed countries. Their revolutionary struggles will generate the impetus for literary and artistic creations by the people and for the people through various forms and means – real and digital. The writers, artists and cultural workers are a growing major component of the revolutionary movement on a global scale.

MILF: Diluted BBL to slow down decommissioning

From the Philippine Star (Sep 10): MILF: Diluted BBL to slow down decommissioning

In this 2014 file photo, members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front pray together as they gather at their stronghold at Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao province to coincide with the tentative peace-signing agreement between the MILF and the government at Malacanang Palace. AP/file

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday claimed that a diluted Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) would delay the decommissioning of its armed combatants and its firearms.

In an editorial posted on its website, MILF said it considers the passage of a watered down BBL the "worst case scenario."

"For sure, the MILF will reject it (diluted BBL) outright, and worse the various aspects of the normalization process including decommissioning of its weapons (and combatants) will come to a halt," the group said.

"Likewise, we do not know if the various mechanisms including the international bodies will continue to stay," it added.

MILF said the issue about a diluted BBL is not about how many provisions of the original draft are deleted.

"Just one issue, for instance, the aspect of natural resources, can make the BBL diluted and would force the MILF to reject it," MILF said.

the MILF to reject it," MILF said.
"Of what use an entity, dubbed as autonomous, if it has no access or power over or share of the revenues derived from the natural resources? Both the House and Senate versions have deleted or seriously diluted this provision," it added.

The BBL aims to establish a new Bangsamoro entity with enhanced economic and political powers. The entity will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which the government said did not solve the decades-old problem in the south.

The peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF last year serves as the basis of the draft law.

Opponents of BBL, however, are suspicious about the extent of the powers of the proposed Bangsamoro government. They also believe that the BBL will not withstand the legal challenges to be filed before the Supreme Court.

Other challenges confronting the supporters of BBL are the lack of quorum in the House of Representatives and differences over some key provisions of the measure.

The MILF has been pushing for the passage of the original BBL draft but some lawmakers insisted on introducing amendments.

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. previously admitted that the notion the two chambers of Congress could agree on a BBL version before focusing on the 2016 budget is "really becoming an impossible dream."

He also said that time is running out on the BBL because lawmakers will soon be preoccupied with the budget deliberations and election campaigns.

The MILF said a real and genuine autonomous entity "has the right or condition of self-government, especially in a particular sphere." Such autonomy, the group explained, is more seen in terms of powers and shares of the wealth of the nation.

"Shares in powers and resources can be likened to a human being, who can stand firmly and on his own if he has two feet," MILF said.

"Both the House and the Senate versions of the BBL have seriously unnerved or mutilated the right leg and amputated the left leg, so much so that if it is not restored would render the Bangsamoro entity inutile," it added.

The MILF stressed that depriving the Moros of their rightful place in the country is "not a sure antidote to secession."

NDF consultant jailed 12 years without being arraigned should be freed, says Karapatan

From InterAksyon (Sep 10): NDF consultant jailed 12 years without being arraigned should be freed, says Karapatan

The newly released Andrea Rosal with political prisoner Eduardo Serrano, who has been in jail 12 years but has yet to be arraigned on the charges against him. (photo courtesy of Karapatan)

A human rights organization is demanding the release of Eduardo Serrano, a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines who has been languishing in jail for 12 years without being arraigned on what his lawyers describe as the “trumped-up” charges filed against him.

Recently released political prisoner Andrea Rosal, daughter of the late Communist Party of the Philippine spokesman, echoed the call of Karapatan and said the charges against Serrano should be dropped for “sheer lack of evidence against a man who was abducted, tortured, and imprisoned for nearly 12 years.”

Rosal was released from jail on September after the regional trial court in Mauban, Quezon dismissed murder charges against her for lack of evidence.

Serrano faces multiple murder and frustrated murder charges before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 98.

“Eduardo Serrano has been deprived of his civil and political rights since his Gestapo-style abduction and torture and his subsequent incarceration for nearly 12 years. For 10 days after his illegal arrest, from May 2, 2004 to May 12, 2004, he was denied the right to counsel and was not allowed to see his family and human rights organizations,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

On July 13, the Special Third Division of the Court of Appeals decided on his petition for certiorari and prohibition with prayer and issuance of temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction.

Acting on the CA ruling, RTC Judge Marilou Runes-Tamang ordered the prosecution on August 26 to present evidence that Serrano is “Rogelio Villanueva” or “Ka Makling” and subsequently suspended his arraignment until the issue of his identity is resolved.

Runes-Tamang was supposed to hear the prosecution’s evidence on Wednesday.

But when the prosecution failed to show up, she declared it had effectively waived its right to present evidence.

Karapatan also noted that no warrant of arrest was ever issued against Serrano nor was he among the accused in the original information for multiple murder, frustrated murder, and robbery filed by soldiers under the command of now retired Army general Jovito Palparan.

The only arrest warrant issued for the case was for “Nemesio Cabungcal, et al” with the other respondents identified only through aliases.

“Thus, Serrano’s abduction on May 2, 2004 is a case of warrantless arrest,” Palabay said.

It was only on July 22, 2011, or more than seven years after Serrano was illegally arrested, that the amended information with his name inserted was filed by the prosecution, who claimed he was “Rogelio Villanueva” when “there is no evidence at all that Serrano is ‘Rogelio Villanueva.’ None of the witnesses’ affidavits mentioned Serrano’s name and that Serrano was among those who participated in the ambush,” Palabay said.

Aside from this, Karapatan said the AFP also filed several other charges against “Rogelio Villanueva” in three other courts in Quezon City.

“The practice of the Armed Forces of the Philippines of concocting charges against their perceived ‘enemies’ shows the military’s convoluted ways and thinking. They file false charges to justify the abduction and illegal arrest of persons like Serrano, security guard Rolly Panesa, Andrea Rosal and the other 536 political prisoners,” Palabay said.

Panesa was abducted on October 5, 2012, tortured at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna, presented to media as alleged communist rebel leader “Benjamin Mendoza,” and then transferred to Camp Bagong Diwa where he was imprisoned for 10 months.

“We appeal to Judge Runes-Tamang to rule on what is just and right for the long-imprisoned Eduardo Serrano. All charges against him in the said court, as well as in other courts, should be dismissed and he should be immediately released,” Palabay said.