Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Army in Maguindanao disposes seized improvised bombs

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Army in Maguindanao disposes seized improvised bombs

The Army's 6th Infantry Division Bomb Disposal Unit Thursday detonated hundreds of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) recovered, confiscated and seized in various military operations in its area of jurisdiction.

"The IEDs were properly disposed," Capt. Joann Petinglay, 6th ID spokesperson told reporters.

Petinglay said the IEDs mostly fashioned from hand grenades, rifle grenades, rocket propelled grenades, 60 mm and 81 mm mortars and other improvised bombs were placed in a concrete covered pavement to ensure it will not harm humans, animals or damage structures.

The disposal area is within the 80 hectare military installation in Barangay Semba, Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao.

The series of blasts were three to five kilometers away.

The 6th Infantry "Kampilan" Division, with three Army brigades, two Special Forces Battalion and 1st Marine Brigade under its jurisdiction operationally and administratively, covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato.

Petinglay said most of the IEDs were found in Maguindanao where a month-long police law enforcement campaign was launched against outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

She added the IEDs were recovered during Army operations, bomb disposal campaign, collected in previous area of engagement between the Army, police and the BIFF.

Many were seized during military operations that led to the capture of ranking BIFF officials, Petinglay said.

Groups set 3-day mission to help Lumads in Bukidnon

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Sep 16): Groups set 3-day mission to help Lumads in Bukidnon

 MERCY MISSION. Human rights advocates from various sectors  in Davao City and North Cotabato are set to conduct an independent probe on the alleged illegal arrest of civilians in Kitaotao, Bukidnon late August. (Earl O. Condeza/

MERCY MISSION. Human rights advocates from various sectors in Davao City and North Cotabato are set to conduct an independent probe on the alleged illegal arrest of civilians in Kitaotao, Bukidnon late August. (Earl O. Condeza/

Around 500 individuals joined the delegation from Davao and North Cotabato for a three-day mercy mission in Barangay White Culaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon to “give assistance to victims of militarization” in the area.

Dubbed as Help! Kitaotao, Bukidnon, the mission which started today will document cases of human rights violations in the area and to give relief assistance for the victims.

Pasaka Confederation of Lumad Organizations said 57 households in Barangay White Culaman were ransacked by Army members last month, while 16 persons were arrested including minors.

The children aged 2, 5 and 7 years old, and a mother who has an 7-month old child were later released.

Read: IP leader, residents claim Army arrested civilians in Bukidnon

On August 28, the Army’s Eastern Mindanao Command said they served 57 search warrants in Barangay White Culaman early morning of August 26.

“The arrested 12 suspected NPA personalities are now in custody of local PNP for further investigation and for filling of cases,” said Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of Public Information Office.

Caber said the composite teams from the Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion and 4th Infantry Division, and the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Public Safety Company recovered “(a)t least one improvised M16 rifle; one M79 grenade launcher; three rifle grenades; two unexploded improvised explosive device (IEDs); detonator, blasting caps; assorted ammunition; and subversive documents.”

Isidro Indao, spokesperson of KMK, however, said that those who were arrested are their relatives, “and they are all civilians”.

In a press conference held at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound on Wednesday morning, Pasaka Secretary General Jong Monzon said that they are holding the mission “to relieve the situation of their fellow lumads in the area.”

He said the Lumads in Kitaotao “need to know that they are not alone in this struggle, in their call to pull out military troops in their community.”

“We are going to the communities affected to see their situation first hand,” he said. “We will not abandon our fellow lumads,” Monzon added.

The mercy mission is initiated by Promotion of Church People’s Response in Southern Mindanao, Solidarity Action Group for Indigenous Peoples and Peasants (Sagipp), and Pasaka.

The said activity is in partnershp with different peasant organizations such as the Kahugpungan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao (KMK), Tinananon, Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa sa Arakan (Tikulpa), and the Nagkahiusang Mag-uuma sa Barangay White Culaman (Namabaw).

Suspected NPA rebels torch truck in North Cotabato village

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 17): Suspected NPA rebels torch truck in North Cotabato village
Suspected communist rebels on Wednesday torched a logging truck in the village of Imamaling in Magpet, North Cotabato but spared the driver and the two helpers from harm, the police said Thursday.

Senior Insp. Felix Fornan, Magpet police chief, said the 10-wheeler truck—loaded with logs—was heading for the town proper when flagged down by five suspected New People’s Army members past noontime Wednesday.

Fornan said Antonio dela Cruz, the driver, told police the suspected rebels told them they had grudge with the truck owner, whom he did not identify.

 “The gunmen then poured gasoline on the vehicle and set it on fire, including the logs,” he said.

Fornan said dela Cruz and the two helpers walked for several kilometers to reach the town proper and report the incident to the police.

TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao

From Rappler (Sep 16): TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao

'A form of ethnocide,' the attacks on the indigenous communities in the last 4 months are concentrated in Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur

Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

Kalumaran, a confederation of different indigenous tribes in Mindanao, has expressed alarm over a series of direct attacks, killings, arrests, harassments, zoning, and vilification in Lumad areas where it says there is a strong resistance against environmental plunder.

The attacks are concentrated in the provinces of Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur, which are hosts to Lumad schools that are privately operated but are regulated by the Department of Education (DepEd).

"It is a form of ethnocide but it is worse because there are specific characteristics of impunity and killings targeting the Lumad. What is alarming is that it is happening all over Mindanao," said Kalumaran secretary general Dulphing Ogan.

Several incidents have been reported in the last 4 months:

May 2015

More than 700 Lumad were displaced from Talaingod in Davao del Norte after alleged government forces and the anti-communist paramilitary group Alamara occupied several villages in the town and in Kapalong. Human rights groups reported of cases of harassments, vilification and indiscriminate firing.

Hundreds of students were also deprived of the right to attend their classes after at least 24 primary and secondary schools operated by the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated Academy were shut down and the teachers were threatened to be killed.

Davao del Norte Division head of the DepEd Josephine Fadul said the recommendation for the closure of the schools was based on a meeting with high-ranking military officials at the "Regional Intelligence Committee" on April 23.


The Department of Education Region XI declared that the schools were "not closed but just not reopened." The military and DepEd announced that the schools would be replaced by the military using "para-teachers" or soldiers who will act as teachers.

The administrations of the schools cried foul over the decision of DepEd, asserting that the government should facilitate the involvement of NGOs that are trying to fill in the gaps in the education sector. STTICLC and MISFI explained that the inaccessibility of the area and the present conflict situation made the process of compliance more challenging.

July 23

More than 500 policemen and government agents, led by North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco, conducted a "rescue operation" at the evacuation center at the Haran Center, which is operated by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, to force them to return home.

The event resulted in violence after the police forcibly opened the gates of the center and stormed with their truncheons and shields, which left at least 17 Lumads, including a tribal elder, and 2 cops injured.

July 26

Chaloka Beyani, the United Nations special rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, went to the evacuation center in Davao City to talk to the tribal leaders and displaced residents. He said that his impression was the Lumad were not being detained inside the evacuation center contrary to the claims of the military. Beyani said no one should forcibly take away the Lumad from the evacuation center.

August 13

Beyani issued another statement, saying that the military "distorted and misrepresented" his views making it appear that he was accusing support groups of manipulating the Lumad. Eastern Mindanao Command's spokesperson Colonel Eduardo Gubat resigned after making a public apology.

August 18

Five Lumad, including a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old, were killed by the Special Forces in Pangantucan town in Bukidnon. The military said they were rebels, but the New People's Army denied the claims, saying the victims were civilians. Later, the 4th Infantry Division, despite their press releases and press conferences claiming that the 5 Lumad were rebels, recanted and accused the NPA of killing the victims.

August 24

A 14-year-old Manobo girl from Talaingod filed rape charges against 3 soldiers. The military confirmed that the suspects were soldiers, but explained that the charges were dropped after they paid P63,000 to the family.

August 27

Soldiers arrested 11 Manobo tribal and farmer leaders in the town of Kitaotao and transported them by a helicopter. The soldier then declared that the village was already "liberated" from the NPA. The military said the arrest was made after they served 57 search warrants in a community of suspected communist rebels, where they reportedly yielded an improvised M16 rifle, an M79 grenade launcher, 3 rifle grenades, two explosives, and subversive documents.

Isidro Indao, spokesperson of the Kahugpongan sa mga Mag-uuma sa Kitaotao (KMK), denied the military's claims. He asserted that these leaders and organizations were targeted because they were vocal in the campaign against human rights abuses in the mountain communities and were calling for the armed groups, most especially the military, not to occupy civilian villages.

August 28

Several families fled their homes after the Bagani paramilitary group, led by a certain Jasmin Acevedo, killed Lumad brothers Crisanto and Loloy Tagugol in the poblacion area of San Miguel town in Surigao del Sur.

September 1

At least 2,000 residents from the village of Diatagon in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, were displaced after a group of paramilitary, allegedly accompanied by soldiers, killed Emerico Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV).

Samarca was found hogtied, with a stab wound, his throat slit open inside a classroom. ALCADEV is a privately operated but government-regulated learning institution that provides basic and technical education to Lumad children in communities rarely reached by government services.

After killing Samarca, the armed men peppered with bullets Dionel Campos and his cousin Datu Bello Sinzo while the entire village was watching. Campos was a community leader and the chairperson of the indigenous people group Maluhutayong Pakigbisog Alansa sa Sumusunod (Mapasu), which is known for its firm position on the protection of ancestral lands and its campaign against human rights violations targeting indigenous people.

September 2

At least 10 houses and a Lumad school were burned by the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group in the community in Panocmo-an in Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao de Sur. The group also burned a corn sheller owned by the community in Kabulohan. Both communities are not far from the site where Samarca, Campos, and Sinzo were killed.

September 4

Residents sought refuge after an armored personnel carrier and two 6x6 military trucks carrying soldiers in full battle gear rolled inside a village in Pangantucan town in Bukidnon.

September 8

Five Lumad evacuees were arrested by a cop in Tandag City for distributing leaflets about the recent attacks.

Ogan of Kalumaran said his group had documented only the major cases. There are other reports of daily harassment, zoning, and occupation done by the military and paramilitary groups.

Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel recently blamed the paramilitary behind the attacks, but he disclosed that these groups were "monsters created by the military" for its counterinsurgency campaign.

Pimentel said that no ragtag bandit can own several high-powered firearms that cost P150,000 each without the help of the military.
Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

Photo by Karlos Manlupig/Rappler

The military quickly denied any involvement in the attacks, and vowed to fully support the ongoing investigations.

Colonel Isidro Purisima, commander of 402nd Infantry Brigade, said that the persons identified with the Magahat-Bagani group are not even included in the list of CAFGU Active Auxiliary (CAA) personnel.

“The AFP adheres to the Law of the land. As provided for in the Constitution to wit: Providing for the Citizen Armed Force whose main function is to protect their communities against any threat group that are disturbing the socio-economic activities and the peaceful-living of our people. The CAA is the only legitimate force being supervised by the AFP. Other armed groups shall be the subject of Law Enforcement Operations conducted by the PNP," Purisima said.

“Your Army will continue its constitutional mandate of protecting the people and securing the community and will never stop in our efforts in bringing peace in these areas. We are calling everyone to stop violence and give peace a chance.” the colonel added.

Pimentel dismissed the military's statement supporting an investigation. He said that if the Armed Forces of the Philippines is sincere in its efforts to achieve peace, then it should immediately disband and disarm all paramilitary groups and spare all civilian communities from its counterinsurgency campaign.

Kalumaran said the military and paramilitary groups are probably annoyed that tribal communities stand firm in their position not to allow mining and logging companies to operate inside their ancestral land.

"These areas are the best spots to extract gold, nickel, and copper. And these areas are also the remaining forests in Mindanao," Ogan said.

MILF: Editorial -- Why only now and why?

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Sep 16): Editorial -- Why only now and why?

We view with great discernment the manifesto signed by 31 former officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP), the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) expressing their collective opposition or rejection of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

While we respect their views and the reasons for coming out with the manifesto but we keep asking ourselves “why only now and why?”  The military has always been part of the peace process of the MILF since 1996. As a matter of fact, of the 11 government chief peace negotiators since July 1996, the first three as well as the ninth were military people namely, Lt. Gen. Fortunato Abat, Maj. Gen. Orlando Soriano, Maj. Gen. Edgardo Batenga, and Lt. Gen. Rodolfo Garcia of the “famed” or “hated” Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), respectively. There were or are other high military or police officers involved deeply in the peace process especially in the aspect of the ceasefire. They included the late two AFP chiefs of staff, Jocelyn Nazareno and Angelo Reyes.

Of course, we do not know all of the officers listed in the paid advertisement but surely we know many of them closely either in combat or in peace-making.  In particular, we can include General Renato de Villa, Major General Jose Magno Jr., Brig. Gen. Rodrigo Gutang, and General Alexander Yano, all retired. De Villa attended the signing of the General Cessation of Hostilities in Cagayan de Oro City on July 18, 1997; Magno, who later became commander of the Central Mindanao Command (CENCOM) on March 5, 1986, saw action, among others, in Lanao del Sur especially in the assault of Nusa Island in Lake Lanao, an MILF base, in November 1977 where government forces suffered heavy casualties;  Yano was once the chair of the government Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH); and Gutang, CENCOM commander in 1986, figured out prominently during an incident involving some key officials of the MILF in Marawi City in 1987. The impression created out of him is that he is more of a diplomat rather a military man on the way he masterly handled the incident.  Many Moros had a high regard of him, as a consequence.

In fairness, in our years of dealing with them we found them not only fine military men but were also good in peace-making.  In some instances, it is easier to deal with military men compared to others whose professions and forte is the play of words or rhetoric.

But frankly speaking we find hard time understanding their view related to forging agreements in negotiations. Why did they speak now when the BBL is already on the verge of passing (or not passing) in Congress and the election fever is already felt strongly? The truth is that they may have the best of intentions but the timing seems not perfect.
Moreover, we are sure that they know the nature of negotiation. It is essentially giving and taking and taking and giving. It is not a one-way traffic. One cannot impose on the other party; that is not negotiation. The government had tried this approach, at least three times: 2000 all-out war, 2003 all-out war, and 2008 war after the MOA-AD was declared unconstitutional. Each time this approach was tried or resorted to, it always forced the parties to resume the peaceful path of negotiation. The MILF is game (and sincere) in talking peace but it is also ready to defend itself at all times.

As to their support for the declaration of the CAB as unconstitutional and void, we find it also very hard to understand the wisdom. Such an eventuality would have radical and adverse consequence to the whole peace process and ceasefire with the MILF

MILF: BIAF holds capability building training

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 16): BIAF holds capability building training

BIAF holds capability building training

The 116th  Base Command of the  Central Mindanao Front, BIAF-MILF Under Gordon Shyfulah Khan conducted Capability Building Training last September 11-16, 2015  at Camp Al Tariq Al Fateh Al Medina,  Darul Amal Community Base , Brgy. Sandab Damabutig, Lanao Sur

The training was attended by about 200 selected officers from 116th Base Command down to the level of Department Heads, Brigade Commanders and Staff under the BIAF Central Mindanao Front. It is a part of a series of human capability programs for the 116th Base Command that was directed to conduct at least, one (1) training annually in its respected area of operation (AOR).

The invited speakers were Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, member of the BLMI’s Steering Committee  and Peace Advocate,

Col. Samanodin Sansarona, member of Bangsamoro policing committee,   Dr. Hasanor Alapa , Respected Scholar  and  Member of MILF Supreme Court and Aleem Ibrahim Panolong, one of active ulama in Lanao province. Other invited guests were Mar Nor, Butch Malang,  Abemor Abdullah, all from BIAF – Central Mindanao Front.  

The training started with a recital of some verses of the Holy Qur’an, followed by Opening Remarks by Datua Lukis,  Staff Member of 116th  Base Command, Program Overview  by Mar Nor CMF Admin,  and Nor Hasan Panolong, 116th   Base Commander, Review of 116th  Structures and operation , short Remarks by Abemor Abdullah, and  Butch Malang, BIAF Central Mindanao Front Deputy on Planning and Operation and Head, CCCH Secretariat who gave briefing  on BIAF important role in the peace process. 

The program proper started with Col. Samanodin Sansarona  who lectured on Psychological Operation  and the Bangsamoro Experience from  1960’s to  Martial Law period starting1972,  Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, Updates on GPH-MILF Peace Process ,  status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in congress and Organizational Strengthening thru Ideological, Political and Organizational orientation programs  and Dr. Hasanor Alapa,  Understanding Prophet Muhammad’s Leadership Aleem Ibrahim Panolong , lectured on Islamic Ideology. 

At the conclusion of the program, the participants asked for more training in the future.

MILF: Phil business execs meet MILF leadership

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 16): Phil business execs meet MILF leadership

Phil business execs meet MILF leadership

The biggest names in Philippines business community were the guests of the MILF Central Committee on September 14 primarily to dialogue and explore possibilities of investment in the Bangsamoro.

Many of them Makati-based, the business executives were addressed by MILF Chairman Alhaj Murad Ebrahim and Central Committee members over subject matters delving mostly on the BBL and prospects for business ventures.
The blue chip companies represented in the delegtaion were Ayala Corporation, Globe Telecom, Manila Water Company, Ayala Land Incorporated, Unifrutti, Agumill Philippines, Roxas Holdings Incorporated, First Agri Holdings/FCMI, MERALCO, and PLDT. Business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan also sent a representative.

All are members of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), an influential NGO that promotes inclusive development. They were also joined by visiting World Bank Vice-President for East Asia and Pacific Axel van Trotsenburg and JICA officials based in Manila.

Chairman Ebrahim described the visit as a “strong manifestation of your (businessmen’s) keen interest in helping us achieve our common aspirations.” The MILF highest leader also believed that the visit also gives hope for everyone even if there are some challenges in the political aspect of the peace process. He expressed his wish that the business sector can help in moving the political aspect.

He told the businessmen that the struggle of the MILF will “not bear fruits unless everybody will be on-board, especially the private sector.”

“The process is just a means to achieve peace, then  after that  it is the turn of everyone to work to realize the dividends of peace,” he also said in his welcome words.

Chairman Ebrahim stressed that the MILF has always been willing to talk to the business community. He urged businessmen to identify areas where they can play their roles and discuss how they can cooperate with each other.

When asked how this cooperation can be operationalized, the MILF chief emphasized that in any undertaking, the need for a mechanism or structure is indispensable. He suggested that a coordinating structure between the business sector and the MILF be set up.

Chairman Ebrahim explained that in a similar fashion the MILF has already established structures of development since 2003, particularly the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) and the recently-launched Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP).

As early as January 2013 businessman John Perrine of Unifrutti Group Phil, a Davao-based exporter of Cavendish bananas, visited Chairman Ebrahim to discuss business concerns.

Few days after the National Peace Summit was held last April 27, BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal extended invitation to big businessmen to have a personal dialogue with the leadership of the Front.

6 arrested for US embassy protest

From the Philippine Star (Sep 17): 6 arrested for US embassy protest

Six protesters, mostly students, were arrested and charged for vandalizing the United States embassy and attacking police officers stationed along Roxas Boulevard yesterday.

The protesters demanded that the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the US and the Philippines be junked and that US forces be removed from the country.

Among those charged and arrested were Aries Gupit, 24, of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and Eulogio Amang Rodriguez Institute of Technology students Teddy James Angeles, 19; Gerardo Gaddi, 21; and Orion Yoshida, 21.

Graduate Gem Cataag and Polytechnic  University of the Philippines student Karl Paulie Anareta were also arrested and charged.

The protest happened on the day local newspapers reported that China has built a third airstrip in the West Philippine Sea.

The protesters, carrying placards and bags of paint, stormed the US embassy before 6 a.m.

Police officers from the Manila Police District Station 5 said they saw the protesters throwing paint at the US embassy.

“As we approached them, they started running, heading toward mobile car number 388 and throwing stones at the car,” the police officers said in a joint affidavit of arrest.

The police officers said some of the protesters tried to turn the car over while two policemen were still inside the vehicle.

The protesters also threw paint at the anti-riot police officers, hitting some in the face and uniform.

They also attacked one of the cops and broke the windshield, side mirror, and scratched the car doors of a police mobile.

The arrested protesters were taken to the MPD and charged with violating Batas Pambansa 880, illegal assembly, resisting arrest, direct assault, vandalism, malicious mischief resulting in damage to government property, and physical injury.

The protesters’ companions followed them to the MPD and vandalized the MPD headquarters as well, police said.

Armed men massacre family of five in Samar

From The Standard (Sep 17): Armed men massacre family of five in Samar
A family of five was massacred in broad daylight Tuesday by seven armed men in fatigue uniform and bonnets in Barangay Victory, Calbayog City, Police Chief Superintendent Ernesto Salvador Tejada said Wednesday.

The victims were identified as Sonny Regulacion, 38; his wife Adelia, 42; and their children Princess Christine Joy, 5; Angel Mae, 2; and Cristina, an infant.

Sonny was reported to be a known leader of city Mayor Ronald Aquino.

Two neighbors, 38-year-old Marlene Natayangga and a seven-year-old girl, were also hit by stray bullets. They have been declared out of danger and are now recuperating at the Saint Camillus Hospital, Tejada said.

Investigators said Sonny and his family were in the house of his brother Teban when the incident happened.

“Accordingly, Sonny was outside the house and in a hammock while his family was inside the house when the armed men arrived there and without a word started to shoot at them,” Tejada said, quoting from the investigation report.

Tejada said investigators were still trying to identify the suspects who fled to the mountains after they shot the victims.

Palace stays course on Spratlys

From The Standard (Sep 17): Palace stays course on Spratlys

THE Palace reiterated on Wednesday that the government will abide by its policy of arbitration and diplomacy in dealing with issues involving the South China Sea even as a United States think-tank said Beijing may be building its third airstrip on artificial islands in disputed waters.

“The situation there primarily deals with, again, our approach to the situation in the West Philippine Sea, that is to go through the arbitration track, and to go through the diplomatic track,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.

“Because that will resolve a number of issues besetting us in the West Philippine Sea, and so that’s the best track that we will continue to use—the arbitration track and also the diplomatic track,” he added.

Lacierda made the remark after the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies claimed on Sept. 8 that China is building another air strip on Mischief Reef, one of several artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago.

“Clearly, what we have seen is going to be a 3,000-meter airstrip and we have seen some more work on what is clearly going to be some port facilities for ships,” he said.

China claims almost the whole of the sea and over the past year has asserted its stance with rapid conversion of tiny reefs into islands for facilities with military uses.

Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei all have rival claims to the waters, which incorporate strategically crucial shipping lanes and could harbor oil and gas deposits.

The Pentagon has warned that Beijing’s activities are changing the regional status quo, and has weighed sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles—the normal territorial zone around natural land—of the new artificial islands.

Work began last year on a 3,000-meter (9,842 feet) runway on Fiery Cross reef in the Spratly islands, around 1,000 kilometers from China’s island province of Hainan.

It is now “well advanced” and has reached the painting stage, said the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Tuesday.

Satellite photos of another reef, Subi, where nearly four million square meters (988 acers) of land have been reclaimed, show grading work and possible runway construction is being carried out, it said.

And satellite photos taken last week show that a retaining wall has been built on Mischief Reef, creating a 3,000-meter rectangular area, and a cement plant set up, CSIS said, “suggesting another runway could be in the works”. With AFP

The images appear to contradict a claim by China in August that its reclamation activities had stopped.

Mischief Reef is only 21 nautical miles from Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines – whose defense budget is a fraction of China’s – deliberately grounded a landing ship in 1999 to serve as a makeshift base for a contingent of marines.

“A third airstrip on Mischief Reef... would complete the triangle, significantly boosting China’s air patrol and interdiction capabilities over the contested waters and features of the Spratlys,” wrote Gregory Poling of CSIS’ Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative.

It would heighten tensions and present “greater operational headaches for all the claimants as well as outside players like the United States”, he added.

Airstrip building in the Spratlys goes back nearly 40 years and four other claimants already have such facilities, although China’s are much longer and could be used by any of the People’s Liberation Army’s aircraft, analysts say.

China says its reclamations and facilities are intended for civilian as well as military purposes.

The latest satellite pictures -- showing continuing dredging and channel widening -- were taken after Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi said at an Asean summit in Kuala Lumpur last month that land reclamation works were over.

China has already stopped. You look, who is building? Take a plane and look for yourself,” Wang told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting.

Bonnie Glaser of AMTI said the works “underscore Beijing’s unwillingness to exercise self-restraint and look for diplomatic paths to reduce tensions with its neighbours, the United States, and other nations”.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make his first state visit to the US next week and she added: “Beijing appears to be sending a message to President Barack Obama that China is determined to advance its interests in the South China Sea even if doing so results in heightened tensions with the United States.”

South Korea, Philippines in process of establishing strategic partnership

From Ang Malaya (Sep 16): South Korea, Philippines in process of establishing strategic partnership

Philippines and South Korea is in the process of establishing a strategic partnership. The Department of National Defense (DND) said to promote more relevant and practical cooperation towards the goal of establishing a strategic partnership, the DND and South Korea Ministry of National Defense will explore the need for the establishment of an annual Defense Policy Consultation at the vice-ministerial level.

South Korean Defense chief, who was in the Philippines for an official visit, had a bilateral meeting with Secretary Gazmin September 14.

“Both defense leaders manifested their continued support to the further enhancement of its defense relations through the expansion of exchanges at the senior defense and military levels,” DND said.

During their meeting of, Minister Han committed the support of Korean defense industries in the

 Modernization Program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The two also discussed during the bilateral meeting were the regional security situation both in Northeast and Southeast Asia.

Soldier slain, another hurt in NPA ambush

From the Mindanao Times (Sep 16): Soldier slain, another hurt in NPA ambush

ONE soldier was killed and another wounded when they were attacked by rebels after they responded to a distress call from school authorities in Barangay Palma Gil, Talaingod, Davao del Norte on Monday afternoon.
According to the report, student of Nasilaban Elementary School saw armed men early that morning. They told their teachers who, in turn, asked for the help of the authorities. School administrators also suspended the classes.
Responding soldiers conducted clearing operation were able to evacuate the school.
At around noontime, soldiers declared the school safe and told the teachers they could resume classes.
They were on their way back to headquarters around 1:30 p.m. when they were attacked.
“Our soldiers are there to protect the local communities, but even this is being used by the NPAs to sow terror and disrupt our peace and development efforts,” said Lt. Col. Vincent Edgardo de Ocampo, commander of 68th Infantry Battalion.
Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, newly assumed commander of the 10th Infantry Division, honored the sacrifice of the fallen soldier.
“Our commitment to peace to work together to achieved it,” Valencia said.

Grenade explodes in front of fire station in Lamitan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): Grenade explodes in front of fire station in Lamitan City

LAMITAN CITY, Basilan -- A grenade exploded Wednesday night in front of a fire station in this city, the police said.

Sr. Insp. Gean Gallardo, Lamity City police chief, said the incident occurred around 7:20 p.m. along Quezon Boulevard in Barangay Matatag, this city.

Gallardo said no one was hurt but the windshield of a firetruck was partially damaged.

The fire truck belongs to the “Malunggay Fire Volunteer Brigade” that is maintained and supported by the private sector in this city.

Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay told the Philippines News Agency that the police, in coordination with the military, are conducting a thorough investigation to establish the identity of the suspects.

Personnel of the Army’s 39th Explosive Ordnance Demolition (EOD) is sifting the blast site of debris as part of the investigation procedures.

Retired officers' anti-BBL statement puzzles MILF

From the Philippine Star (Sep 16): Retired officers' anti-BBL statement puzzles MILF

Former senior officers said the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is “seriously flawed” because it seek to establish a political entity that has all the makings of a state and therefore has an effect of creating “a state within the state.” photo

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is puzzled by the motive of retired officers who issued a statement expressing alarm over the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The MILF questioned the timing of the statement, noting that the former senior officers spoke out against the BBL as Congress is deliberating on the measure.

“Why did they speak now when the BBL is already on the verge of passing (or not passing) in Congress and the election fever is already felt strongly? The truth is that they may have the best of intentions but the timing seems not perfect,” the group said in an editorial posted on its website

“While we respect their views and the reasons for coming out with the manifesto but we keep asking ourselves why only now and why?” it added.

In a full page advertisement published in The STAR last Tuesday, 31 retired officers from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fire Protection, and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology said the BBL, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) violate the constitution.

“We have experienced the sacrificial demands of war and all its horrors and we realize the need for all Filipinos to be united against any threat, internal and external, that will dismember our nation, degrade our sovereignty and violate the Philippine constitution,” the statement read.

The former officers said the FAB, the CAB and the BBL in its original form are “seriously flawed” because they seek to establish a political entity that has all the makings of a state and therefore has an effect of creating “a state within the state.”

They also believe that it is wrong to presume that the MILF is representative of the major stakeholders like the Sultanate of Sulu, the Moro National Liberation Front, Lumads or indigenous peoples and Christians.

The retired officers also claimed that the agreements have “grievously failed to provide very clear terms of the demobilization of the MILF forces and the decommissioning of all types of weaponry in its control and possession.”

The MILF said it could not figure out why the former officers view the agreements as unconstitutional considering that security forces were deeply involved in the peace process.

“As to their support for the declaration of the CAB as unconstitutional and void, we find it also very hard to understand the wisdom. Such an eventuality would have radical and adverse consequence to the whole peace process and ceasefire with the MILF,” the group said.

The retired officers who signed the statement include Association of General and Flag Officers Inc. president Edilberto Adan, Filipino War Veterans Foundation Inc. chairman Renato de Villa, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Alumni Association Inc. chairman Noli Espejo, Natinal ROTC Alumni Association Inc. chairman Amado Sanglay, Philippine National Police Retirees Association Inc. chairman Van  Luspo, former Armed Forces chief Generoso Senga, KAMPILAN Inc. president Raul Urgello, and former Armed Forces Civil Relations Service chief Emiliano Templo.

Other signatories are former Armed Forces chief Alexander Yano, former Navy chief Tagumpay Jardiniano, Veteran Generals and Flag Officers Federation founder and chairman Rodrigo Gutang, former Armed Forces chief Efren Abu, former Navy chief Eduardo Ma. Santos, former Philippine National Police chief Umberto Rodriguez, former Armed Forces chief Dionisio Santiago, PMA Alumni Association Business, Industry and Retired Chapter Inc. president Melchor Rosales, Cavaliers 57 Inc. chairman Ismael Musico, former Armed Forces Vice Chief Alfredo Filler, retired Navy Commodore Rogelio Dayan, former Marines chief Guillermo Ruiz, former Armed Forces Southern Command chief Jose Magno Jr., and retired Navy commodore Vicente Buenaventura.

Other officers who signed the statement are RAM Foundation Inc. founder Danilo Lim, former dean of PMA College of Professors Cesar Pobre, Fraternal Organization of ROTC Reservists and Veterans Inc. president Miguel Sol, National ROTC Alumni Association Philippine Air Force Chapter president Manuel Ramiro, Kapisanan ng Kawal Mindanao president Liberato Lazo, National ROTC Alumni Association General Headquarters Chapter president Michaelangelo Siscar, retired Police Deputy Director General Agerico Kagaoan, Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attache Association president Carlos Agustin, and The Last Watering Hole Inc. president Ramon Resultay.

Zambo counter-terror unit has new commander

From the Philippine Star (Sep 16): Zambo counter-terror unit has new commander

Col. Andrelino Colina, retired commander of the Task Group Zamboanga, had been instrumental in preventing the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels from taking Zamboanga City during the violent siege in September 2013. photo

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) installed a new commander of the counter-terror unit here after its commander, who defended this city from the rebel siege two years ago, formally bowed out of military service Wednesday.

Col. Andrelino Colina, commander of the Task Group Zamboanga and a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1983, was replaced by Marine Col. Arthur Biyu as the new commander during an indoor ceremony.

Commodore Premitivo Gopo, chief of the Naval forces Western Mindanao (NFWM), represented the AFP and presided the turnover of command.

Colina, 56, who reached the military mandatory age of retirement, was instrumental for his leadership in preventing 400 rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) from taking the city during the violent siege in September 2013.

Prior to the siege, Colina had warned the military about the impending attack but the administration of retired General Rey Ardo downplayed the threat of MNLF leader Nur Misuari.

Colina’s forces, along with other units of the military and police, eventually flushed out the rebels after 21 days.

Only the local government and community recognized Colina’s leadership, who was also instrumental in the prevention of several kidnapping and bombing attempts, including the crackdown of rice smuggling activities in Zamboanga City.

Gopo, who is a ‘mistah’ of Colina in the PMA Class 1983, lauded Colina during the turnover ceremony for leading the multi-tasking counter-terror unit here for more than two years.

Accusations of human rights violations a ‘black propaganda’ – military

From MindaNews (Sep 16): Accusations of human rights violations a ‘black propaganda’ – military

Amid allegations of human rights violations committed by some military personnel, the spokesman of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) hit militant groups on Wednesday, calling their accusations as “black propaganda” to make the government appear that it is not doing its part in addressing the concerns of the lumads in the hinterlands.

Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of the EastMinCom’s Public Information Office (PIO), said during the AFP/PNP press conference at the Garden by the Bay here that the militants want to derail the operations of the military and the delivery of government services to the far-flung areas where the lumads live.

He called the “black propaganda” initiated by leftists that hype up human rights violations as their “way of life.”

“There is no problem with the entry of the Army to the communities. The problem is when these are infiltrated by the New People’s Army (NPA),” he said.

The presence of the rebel forces in the communities, Caber claimed, hamper government services from reaching the indigenous people.

He said that before the Army enters lumad communities, they hold consultations and get the approval of the local government units (LGUs), including the mayors.

Gabriela-Southern Mindanao spokesperson Mary Ann Sapar said militant groups are not putting down the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) but the actions committed by some of their officers.

“Data show how the military abuse the lumads. For example, who raped ‘Tess,’ the 14-year-old lumad in Talaingod? Isn’t the soldiers? How about ‘Jessa’ in Bukidnon?” she asked.

Sapar added that militant groups are there to be watchdogs of the abuses “committed by the AFP so that lumads will live peacefully in their ancestral land away from fear.”

League of Filipino Students (LFS) Southern Mindanao Region spokesperson Joyce Pepetua lamented that the Army calls itself as promoters of peace and development.

“We condemn the AFP’s brutal acts and attack on Lumads. They can’t be called as the Army that promotes ‘peace and development’ but warmongers and chaos-starters,” she said.

Pepetua called on President Benigno Aquino III, as the chief of the AFP, to step down.

She said they are going to White Culaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon to join the “Help! Kitaotao Bukidnon Humanitarian and Peace Mission” to validate and document human rights violations reported. Pepetua allege that on Aug. 26, the Army’s 8th and 23rd Infantry Battalions ransacked a lumad community and detained civilians.

She claimed there have been 58 lumads killed and 20,000 lumad peasants forcibly evacuated since 2010 due to military operations.

“The AFP could lie through their teeth but beyond statistics, lumads stories of anguish will tell the truth. These are not mere black propaganda but a call to stop the killing and the human rights violations,” Pepetua stressed.

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan Southern Mindanao Region, said that the military’s denial of the human violations is a move to evade from the issue.

“The militant support groups are in the forefront of exposing human rights violations perpetrated by the military and its paramilitary groups, that is why the AFP is trying to silence and discredit militants in order to confuse and deceive the public. It is a desperate attempt to hide the truth,” she added.

Duazo alleged the AFP’s Oplan Bayanihan has displaced lumads from their ancestral domains and even killed some of them to allegedly protect the interests of foreign and large mining companies.

“Aquino’s government through AFP unleashed its monstrous attack against the lumads who are defending their ancestral lands. The exodus of thousands of lumads in Mindanao is a form of resistance, a movement with historical significance as they, the lumads, assert their rights against development aggressions and modern ethnocide,” Duazo added.

Teachers from schools run by lumad organizations in Davao del Norte, during the congressional hearing on human rights last month, demanded for pullout of military forces and disbandment of paramilitary group called “Alamara.”

However, Caber reiterated that their troops assigned in the lumad communities cannot be pulled out because they are there to protect the villagers and government projects from the NPA.

USAID, Zamboanga City join hands to promote adoption of e-payment system

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): USAID, Zamboanga City join hands to promote adoption of e-payment system

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in Manila and the city government of Zamboanga signed a new partnership that will allow residents to pay government taxes and fees anytime, anywhere using electronic channels.

USAID’s E-PESO Activity will introduce new electronic payment (e-Payment) systems, using innovative technology,to support the city’s goal of increasing revenue generation through an improved and more transparent tax collection process.

The cooperation is part of the two entities' collaboration under the Cities Development Initiative (CDI). A key element of the Partnership for Growth, CDI focuses on strengthening the economic competitiveness and resilience of secondary cities to become engines of growth.

Under the PFG, the U.S. government is working with the Philippine government, the private sector and civil society organizations to put the Philippines on an accelerated growth trajectory that benefits the majority of its population.

Prior to formalizing the cooperation, Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco signed Executive Order BC 129-2015 to regulate cooperation on electronic payment systems and make Persons-to-Government payments more accessible. The Executive Order also mandated the creation of a technical working group composed of Zamboanga City local division chiefs and key personnel tasked to work with E-PESO counterparts on the project.

To develop the local electronic payments ecosystem, USAID and the Zamboanga City government will also work with local utility companies and businesses. Members of the private sector represented by the Zamboanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., Zamboanga Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc., and the Southern Philippines Deep Sea Fishing Association were on hand to signify their commitment to support the shift to electronic payment systems.

Gazmin to attend Eastern Mindanao Command's 9th anniversary

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): Gazmin to attend Eastern Mindanao Command's 9th anniversary

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin will be the guest of honor and speaker in the 9th founding anniversary of the Eastern Mindanao Command on Thursday.

The event will be held at the grandstand of Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao headquarters in Panacan, Davao City.

Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, Eastern Mindanao Command head, said this year's anniversary theme is: "Team EASTMINCOM: Kaagapay Tungo sa Kapayapaan at Kaunlaran.”

The celebration will start with a thanksgiving mass to be participated in by officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees at the Naval Forces Eastern Mindanao Chapel in the morning.

Travel agency owner donates books, toys to Western Mindanao Command

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): Travel agency owner donates books, toys to Western Mindanao Command

A travel agency owner formally turned over several boxes of books and educational toys to the Zamboanga City-based Western Mindanao Command on Tuesday.

These items are for the use and benefit of the children enrolled at the Camp Navarro Early Childhood Care and Development Center in Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City, Western Mindanao Command head Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero said.

He added that Jonathan Wee, Ticket 1 proprietor, donated the books and stuffed toys as part of the travel agency’s advocacy, dubbed as the “Give a Book, Share a Toy” project.

Guerrero thanked Wee, saying these items can help in the children's education and development.

19th IB troopers donate blood to PRC

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): 19th IB troopers donate blood to PRC

In line with its National Peace Consciousness Month commemoration, 50 officers and enlisted personnel donated blood to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) chapter in Ormoc City last Sept. 12.

Reports forwarded by 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Andrew Linao on Wednesday said the donors were briefed by PRC medical technologist Nepthel Remulla on the importance of donating blood.

The 19th Infantry Battalion troopers were joined by personnel from the Ormoc City Police Office, Coast Guard District Eastern Visayas, Kananga Municipal Police Station, Finest Guardians International Contingent Inc., civilian organizations and even farmers from nearby barangays of Kananga and Ormoc City.

The unit has been conducting bloodletting activities with Philippine Red Cross-Ormoc City Chapter for over six years already.

“In behalf of the Philippine Red Cross, we thank the 19th Infantry Battalion for spearheading the bloodletting event and for spreading public awareness on its importance,” Remulla said.

Paid ad scoring BBL, 2 other treaties part parcel of democratic system-- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 16): Paid ad scoring BBL, 2 other treaties part parcel of democratic system-- AFP
The paid advertisement put up by retired military and police officials denouncing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), was part and parcel of the democratic system, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said Wednesday.

"As in other views expressed by other quarters and civilian organizations, the AFP sees the paid announcement of our former seniors and other retirees as part and parcel of our democratic practices. That is enshrined in our democratic system. Anyone, within the bounds allowed by law, can freely express their opinions, views and stand on matters they deem important to them," Padilla said.

The paid advertisement was asking the Supreme Court to declare as null and void the CAB, FAB, and the BBL as these agreements violate the Constitution.

Padilla said the military respects this and they will work within its constitutional mandate to ensure that this right is safeguarded for benefit of every citizen.

And when asked whether the AFP shared these sentiments of their former commanders, Padilla made this statement:

"As servicemen and women, we set aside our personal biases and work for the common good. The AFP has provided its comments and inputs in the preparation of the BBL and leave it to the collective wisdom of those within the policy and legal branch of government to discern what is best for the nation."

The AFP spokesperson also said the military "supports peace initiatives that will stop violence, silence guns, bring stability and normalcy to our communities, and allow for the economic development of our provinces for the benefit of our citizens. The conversion of the instruments of war into tools for peace is and will always be a welcomed development."

He added that the sentiments of these retired officials would not affect the AFP's support for the BBL, FAB and the CAB.

The “Manifesto of Retired Officers,” which came out in a major daily, was signed by 13 groups, including the Association of General and Flag Officers Inc.; National ROTC Alumni Association, Inc.; Kampilan Peacekeepers Association, Inc.; the Fraternal Organization of ROTC Reservists and Veterans, Inc.; Filipino War Veterans Foundation, Inc.; Philippine National Police Retirees Association, Inc.; Veteran Generals and Flag Officers Federation; Cavaliers 57, Inc.; Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc.; Kapisanan ng Kawal Mindanao; Philippine Defense and Armed Forces Attache Association; the Last Watering Hole, Inc.; and the Reform the Armed Forces Movement Foundation, Inc, called the CAB, FAB, BBL unconstitutional.

Retired PNP chief Umberto A. Rodriguez also signed the manifesto, together with retired AFP chiefs Efren I. Abu, Dionisio R. Santiago, Generoso S. Sengu and Alexander B. Yano. (