Thursday, September 17, 2015

Army officials make courtesy call to Isabela exec

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Army officials make courtesy call to Isabela exec

Newly assigned army officials from Northern Luzon Command (NOLCOM) made a courtesy call to the local chief executive of Isabela recently.

The newly-assigned NOLCOM commanding general Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda was assisted by 5th Infantry Division Philippine Army commander Maj. Gen. Lysander Suerte.

Miranda was former commander of 7th Infantry Division, Philippine Army based in Palayan City, Nueva Ecija before he was assigned in the NOLCOM.

Also present during the courtesy call were Maj. Gen. Raul Del Rosario, commander 1st Air Division, Philippine Army, Col. James Jacob, commander of 502nd Infantry Brigade and Col. Noel Baluyan, operations chief of 5ID.

The top army officials were welcomed by Governor Faustino G. Dy III at capitol guest house and vowed to cooperate in the maintenance of internal peace and security in their area of responsibility.

2-week DAGIT exercises tackles various doctrines

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 18): 2-week DAGIT exercises tackles various doctrines

Various tactical doctrines were explored and completed during the course of the two-week conduct of the 9th Philippine Air Force-Philippine Navy Interoperability Exercise DAGIT.

PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya stressed this as the aerial maneuvers formally ended Friday with short ceremonies at the 15th Strike Wing headquarters, Sangley Point, Cavite.

The 9th PAF-PN Interoperability Exercise DAGIT started on Sept. 7.

The doctrines tackled in the two-week exercise include integrated air defense, maritime security, APEC security operations, search-and-rescue and test of PAF and the PN joint warfare capabilities towards modernization.

DAGIT exercises, which started in 2007, is designed solely for Philippine major military units and equipment.

Its goal is to improve the major services' joint training, rules of engagement, techniques, tactics, procedures in various situations.

"It also further developed and improved existing PAF and PN’s operational capabilities in defending territorial airspace and territorial waters as part of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines)'s mandate," Canaya said.

Significantly, the duration of exercise was increased to two weeks compared to one week in previous years and night operations was introduced this year for the first time on account of upgraded night capability of all PAF helicopters to include the new B-412EPs combat utility helicopters and new thermal-imaging capable AW-109Es.

Also, the C-130 cargo plane was also included for the first time in the air drop of paratroopers in Caballo Island as the venue of a field training exercises.

This year’s PAF-PN joint exercise was participated in by around 230 Air Force personnel along with 16 aircraft which include S-211 jets, S-76 air ambulances, Sokol rescue helicopters, UH-1H and UH-1D and C-130.

Military urges pullout of ‘non-resident’ MILF forces

From the Philippine Star (Sep 17): Military urges pullout of ‘non-resident’ MILF forces

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) forces had figured in hostilities with rival clans, which caused the displacement of innocent civilians. photo

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines - The military on Thursday recommended the pullout of “non-resident” forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in areas beset with clan wars involving local protagonists identified with the group.

Brig. Gen. Emmanuel Salamat, commander of the 1st Marine Brigade based in Lebak town in Sultan Kudarat province, said efforts to settle bloody family feuds easily becomes complicated with the presence of “outsiders” siding with MILF members involved in conflicts.

Police officials agreed the presence of MILF reinforcements from far areas to help their companions fight adversaries worsens tension among parties to the conflict and leads to displacement of villagers.

Salamat, who had facilitated the peaceful resolution of several clan wars in recent months, along with local officials, shared his view on the issue during a police-military peace forum Thursday at the headquarters of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) in Camp Siongco in Datu Odin town in Maguindanao.

The forum was jointly presided over by the commander of 6th ID, Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan and his deputy, Brig. Gen. Noli Orense.

Also present in the event were Vice Mayor Ibrahim Macasayon and Mayor Abubacar Pendatun Maulana of Lutayan and Palimbang towns in Sultan Kudarat and the provincial police director in the province, Senior Superintendent Danny Reyes.

MILF forces had figured in recent hostilities with rival clans in Lutayan and Palimbang towns, which caused the displacement of hundreds of impoverished peasant families.

Pangilinan, who was deputy commander for peace process of the Western Mindanao Command in Zamboanga City before he assumed as 6th ID commander last year, said the forum was meant to build consensus between the military and the police on how to expedite the resolution of clan wars in Central Mindanao to deescalate tension in troublesome areas during the forthcoming election period.

“Generally we all want peace at all times, regardless of whether there is an election period or none. It is part of the security concerns we aim to address in this forum,” Pangilinan told The STAR.

Pangilinan said the immediate settlement of conflicts involving local Moro clans will forestall hostilities in areas where protagonists are identified with local political quarters.

Pangilinan said it is important to involve the ceasefire committee of the MILF and the Malaysian-led International Monitoring Team (IMT) in resolving clan wars.

“We have a peace process governed by security protocols that we need to uphold,” Pangilinan said.

Public officials have long been complaining on what is for them abusive interference by non-resident guerilla forces whenever hostilities between local MILF forces and their adversaries erupt, in total disregard of the provisions of their 1997 interim ceasefire accord with the national government.

MILF guerillas from the towns of Mangudadatu and Buluan, both in Maguindanao, reportedly arrived in Barangay Bayasong in Lutayan town to reinforce Commander Guiamandin and his men as they figured in an encounter with a group led by a village chieftain named Falcon Bansil.

Macasayon, who is a member of the Lutayan municipal peace and order council, said he is thankful negotiators from the IMT and the joint ceasefire committee for helping disengage the feuding groups, whose exchanges of gunfire left three barangay watchmen and Bansil wounded.

Maulana said some of the commanders of seven combined groups who figured in hostilities with rival barangay officials in Napnapun in Palimbang last August also belong to the MILF.

Maulana said Palimbang’s local government unit wants the dispute settled for good to prevent the recurring displacement of innocent civilians in Barangay Napnapun and nearby villages.

Pangilinan said they will welcome the participation of peace-advocacy groups and non-government organizations in the resolution of clan wars in towns inside the area of 6th ID.

The 6th ID and the governor of Maguindanao, Esmael Mangudadatu, settled more than 30 clan wars in the past 24 months with the help of NGOs and religious groups.

“We need the support of religious communities in addressing these family feuds,” Pangilinan said.

Entry of armed people from Philippines drove villagers out, court told

From the Borneo Post (Sep 17): Entry of armed people from Philippines drove villagers out, court told

KOTA KINABALU: The High Court here yesterday heard that the entry of several armed people from the Philippines had driven residents out of a village in Semporna.

Testifying as a protected witness at the hearing into an armed intrusion in Lahad Datu, a communication interception processing officer said the presence of the group in Kampung Selamat had driven its villagers away.

The witness, who went by the initials AVB, was explaining the telephone conversations on Mar 2, 2013, between an unidentified man dubbed ‘Lelaki Sabah’ and an intrusion suspect identified as Datu Amir Bahar.

“Datu Amir Bahar asked if it was confirmed that those who entered (Kampung Selamat) were not the police and Lelaki Sabah said yes.

“Lelaki Sabah also said that most of the villagers of Kampung Selamat fled as soon as they realised the presence of ‘our people’,” said AVB through a court interpreter who wore earphones to follow the testimony of the witness.

The witness was testifying at the trial of 30 individuals linked to the intrusion by Sulu gunmen in Kampung Tanduo, Lahad Datu, in February 2013.

AVB also said that the man told Datu Amir Bahar that the group arrived in speedboats, while the suspect told him that a war had erupted at Pulau Bum-Bum.

In the dock are 27 Filipinos and three local residents who are facing one to multiple charges of being members of a terrorist group and waging war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

They are also alleged to have recruited members for a terrorist group or willfully harboured individuals they knew to be members of a terrorist group.

The offences were allegedly committed between Feb 12 and April 10, 2013.

The hearing before Justice Stephen Chung at the Sabah Prisons Department continues today. — Bernama

Military confirms sightings of Abu kidnap victims in Sulu

From the Philippine Star (Sep 17): Military confirms sightings of Abu kidnap victims in Sulu

At least ten kidnap victims, including foreign nationals and high profile local personality, are still languishing in captivity from the Abu Sayyaf hands in Sulu. photo

The military confirmed fresh sightings of the foreign and local kidnap victims separately held by the Abu Sayyaf factions in the mountains of Sulu province.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said continuous monitoring is being conducted on the exact locations of the victims to prepare the ground troops for a safe rescue mission.
Guerrero declined to give the exact dates of the sightings of the victims, citing operational considerations on the ground.

“There is continuous monitoring to have a very precise operation because we have to consider always the safety of the hostages,” Guerrero said.
The military official said at least ten hostages, including five foreign nationals, have remained captives and held separately by the Abu Sayyaf militants.
“The efforts continued for the rescue of the remaining hostages,” Guerrero added.

Tribal chief in AFP briefing a paramilitary leader, says Surigao gov

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 18): Tribal chief in AFP briefing a paramilitary leader, says Surigao gov
 MEDIA BRIEFING   Marcial Belandres (center), a tribal member who appeared in a military-organized media briefing at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday, is allegedly one of the leaders of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani. He was presented along with Rico Macat (left) and Malapandaw Nestor Apas (right).     JULIE AURELIO

MEDIA BRIEFING Marcial Belandres (center), a tribal member who appeared in a military-organized media briefing at Camp Aguinaldo on Tuesday, is allegedly one of the leaders of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani. He was presented along with Rico Macat (left) and Malapandaw Nestor Apas (right). JULIE AURELIO

The military has repeatedly denied any link with the Magahat-Bagani, which is reportedly behind the killings of three “lumad” persons in Surigao del Sur province last week, but it might have presented one of the paramilitary group’s leaders to support its claim in a media briefing in Quezon City on Tuesday.

The alleged militiaman, Marcial Belandres, appeared with fellow tribal chiefs Rico Macat and Malapandaw Nestor Apas before journalists in a briefing organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines at its main headquarters, Camp Aguinaldo. They said the military was not involved in the killings.

Belandres told reporters that the communist New People’s Army was behind the attacks on indigenous communities that refused to support its revolutionary cause. When asked if he has proof, he said they “do not have right now.”

In a phone interview, Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel said Belandres was a Magahat-Bagani leader and “one of those we want arrested for harassing lumad communities.”

It’s clear that this Magahat-Bagani is the military’s. This means that the military serves as the handlers of this group,” Pimentel said. He had earlier said the paramilitary group was created, trained, funded and armed by the military—an allegation that has been denied by the AFP.


Documents earlier furnished by Pimentel to the Inquirer identified Belandres as a leader of a paramilitary group operating in communities in the boundary of Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur, particularly the small-scale gold mining site in Barangay Bolhoon in San Miguel town and in Barobo town.

“They are said to have a camp in San Vicente in Barobo,” read the documents, copies of which were delivered by Pimentel to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles and Sen. TG Guingona on Monday.

The Catholic Church in Surigao del Sur has also identified Belandres as one of the Magahat-Bagani leaders. In a pastoral statement issued on Sunday, the Diocese of Tandag condemned the harassment and killings perpetrated by the paramilitary group.

It is still not clear if Belandres was involved in the Sept. 1 killing of Emerito Samarca, executive director of Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development (Alcadev); Dionel Campos, president of the tribal group Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (Mapasu); and his cousin, Datu Bello Sinzo.

Alcadev is a privately run secondary school for lumad students in Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon in Lianga.

Some 250 families fled their homes in Bolhoon in San Miguel on Aug. 9 following threats by the militiamen, the pastoral statement said. On Aug. 29, the group killed brothers Crisanto and Elly Tabugol in the village of Siagao, also in San Miguel, it added.

It called for the immediate dismantling, disarming, arrest and prosecution of the Magahat-Bagani leaders and members.

Tribal leaders in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, assert that Apas, one of those presented by the military in Camp Aguinaldo, has long before turned his back from his own people after he joined another paramilitary group, Alamara.

No influence

He does not even have influence over the constituency, especially that he is not staying with the tribe in the hinterlands, Datu Doloman Dawsay said. “You cannot be a datu and stay in the lowlands.”

Dawsay said Apas was staying in his house in Tagum City, where he once slept before the attacks.

A teacher of Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc. recalled an incident on Feb. 6 when some 100 members of the Alamara and government militias led by Lito
Masaloon occupied Sitio Muling in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong town.

The next day, soldiers from the 60th Infantry Battalion led by a certain First Lieutenant Roldan and Second Lieutenant Careño arrived along with Apas, who was wielding an
M-16 rifle, and Matol Masaloon, said the teacher, Ricky Balilid.

On the third day of the occupation, Apas, along with Roldan and Careño, summoned the teachers to the house of Olong Tiklunay, took their pictures and lectured them about the government’s counterinsurgency campaign.

“Apas told us that we should not tell other people, most especially the school administration, about our meeting,” Balilid said. Apas and the military officials repeatedly questioned their teaching methods and curriculum, he said.

The next day, about 10 Alamara entered the school and held the teachers at gunpoint for several hours.

Apas was last seen by the datus and displaced residents at a botched operation to “rescue” Manobo families who sought shelter at a Protestant-run facility in Davao City on July 23.

China needs third runway in Spratly Islands to break US grip in South China Sea if tensions escalate, experts say

From the South China Morning Post (Sep 16): China needs third runway in Spratly Islands to break US grip in South China Sea if tensions escalate, experts say

Comments come after US think tank says satellite imagery indicates preparatory work on third airstrip in Spratly Islands, on Mischief Reef

China appears to be preparing for a runway on Mischief Reef. Photo: Reuters

China appears to be preparing for a runway on Mischief Reef. Photo: Reuters
Beijing needs to build a third airstrip in the South China Sea's Spratly Islands to meet its long-term strategic goal of being a true blue-water navy, Chinese military experts say.

Their remarks came after the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) think tank in the United States said satellite imagery taken on September 8 showed China appeared to be carrying out preparatory work for a third runway, this time on Mischief Reef.

Mischief Reef is one of seven artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago.

INFOGRAPHIC: We reveal the scale of reclamation projects in the South China Sea

Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said the latest images showed a retaining wall around an area 3,000 metres long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs in the Spratlys - at Fiery Cross and Subi.

In this February 25, 2014 file photo taken by surveillance planes, a Chinese vessel is being used to expand structures and land on Johnson Reef, called Mabini by the Philippines and Chigua by China, at the Spratly Islands. Photo: AP

A retired Chinese naval official who requested anonymity said the airstrips would help the navy to break the stronghold the US military maintained in the South China Sea, with help from regional allies like the Philippines and Australia.

"If the PLA wants to achieve its naval supremacy over the South China Sea [in case there is a war], it's a must for the navy to get air control over the Spratly Islands, which is the sole gateway for the Chinese navy to enter the Western Pacific," the retired naval officer said.

It's a must for the navy to get air control over the Spratly Islands [if there's war]
Retired naval officer 
On June 28, satellite imagery showed China had almost completed construction of a 3km airstrip at Fiery Cross Reef, which China calls Yongshu.

The retired Chinese naval official said airstrips would provide comprehensive support for the navy's complex in Sanya on Hainan .

Security experts say 3km airstrips are long enough to accommodate both military and civilian aircraft, giving Beijing greater reach into the heart of maritime Southeast Asia, where it has competing claims with several countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines.

Vietnam agreed with Japan on Tuesday to step up security cooperation in the disputed waters. "I find it highly meaningful that we have shared serious concerns over the continuation of unilateral behaviors that change the status quo and escalate tensions, such as large-scale reclamation and building of outposts in the South China Sea," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a joint news conference, without naming China.

Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, greets Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to their talks in Tokyo on Tuesday. Photo Kyodo

Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong, who is in Tokyo for talks, said through an interpreter:  "We shared understanding that all the disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, using international law including the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea."

On Monday, foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei repeated China's claim to "indisputable sovereignty" over the Spratly Islands and its right to establish military facilities in the area.

Shanghai-based naval expert Ni Lexiong said the three airstrips would allow China's military to project power across the South China Sea, and formally enter the waters of the Asia-Pacific.

News of the work comes ahead of a visit to Washington next week by President Xi Jinping . US worries about China's increasingly assertive territorial claims are expected to be high on the agenda.

A spokesman for the US Defence Department declined to comment specifically on the assessment by the US think tank. But he repeated US calls for a halt to land reclamation in the South China Sea.

Top Ph execs meet Murad, MILF leaders in Mindanao

From the Manila Bulletin (Sep 17): Top Ph execs meet Murad, MILF leaders in Mindanao

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panel Chairperson, Mohagher Iqbal speaks during a press conference between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) regarding a protocol on decommissioning MILF Weapons and Combatants, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 31 January 2015. Fighting between police and Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines on 26 January has left at least 43 people dead, police reports said. Police were trying to arrest two suspected Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists in the town of Mamasapano in Maguindanao province, 960 kilometers south of Manila, when the clash erupted. The rebels belonged to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which signed a peace deal with the government in March, and to its breakaway faction the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, which opposed the agreement.  EPA/AZHAR RAHIM

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace Panel Chairperson, Mohagher Iqbal
Some of the Philippines top business executives traveled to the stronghold of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao, on Monday , an expression of support to the Mindanao process.

Mohagher Iqbal, chief MILF negotiator in the peace talks with the Government of the Philippines (GPH), told the Manila Bulletin Wednesday the “top Philippine business executives have expressed support for the peace process.”

“They are willing to invest (in the Bangsamoro) if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed,” said Iqbal in telephone interview.

He said the World Bank arranged the visit and meeting of the business executives with MILF Chairman Al-Haji Murad Ebrahim and members of the group’s Central Committee, its highest policy-making body.

“We welcomed and the thanked the World Bank and the high-ranking businesse executives for the visit,” said Iqbal.

The meeting occurred on September 14 at the MILF’s Peace Process Secretariat in Camp Darapanan, Crossing Simuay, an hour or so from Cotabato City by car.

Raps OKd vs 90 MILF, BIFF, others in slay of 35 SAF in Mamasapano

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Sep 17): Raps OKd vs 90 MILF, BIFF, others in slay of 35 SAF in Mamasapano

Complaints against 90 individuals tagged in the killing of Special Action Force troopers during the controversial Mamasapano operation would be filed in the Department of Justice’s National Prosecution Service (NPS) next week, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Thursday.

“We now have the clearance from the President to already file the charges. And the team, the joint [National Bureau of Investigation]-NPS special investigation team, is now ready to file the complaint on Monday,” De Lima told reporters in Malacañang.

READ: Aquino puts an end to ‘baseless’ Mamasapano speculation

“The NBI is the primary complainant as the investigative body and supported by about 33 private complainants composed of the next of kin of the victims,” she added.

De Lima explained the complaint of “complex crime of direct assault with murder” would only cover 35 of the 44 SAF troopers killed in Maguindanao. Meanwhile, of the 90 individuals, 26 are from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), 12 from the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and 52 from private armed groups, some connected to the infamous Maguindanao massacre.

“That does not cover the nine casualties from the 84th Seaborne because we were not able to find eyewitnesses from their end,” she said.

The 84th Seaborne or Special Action Company (SAC) is the SAF group tasked to serve the warrant of arrest to Marwan. Marwan was allegedly killed during a gunfight with the 84th SAC. Meanwhile, the 35 troopers are from the 55th SAC, which suffered the most casualties.

The 55th SAC was supposed to cover and support the 84th as it attempted to extract Marwan.

However, the group was caught in a firefight with armed groups which killed 35 of its members and spared only one. The survivor is PO2 Christopher Lalan.

De Lima was among the Cabinet members who attended President Benigno Aquino III’s press conference on new findings on the Mamasapano incident which resulted in the deaths of 44 SAF troopers, 17 MILF fighters and at least three civilians.

Aquino showed photographs of international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, the target of the operation, to prove that it was the SAF that cut off his finger for DNA analysis. He said that the photographs clearly debunked reports that it was not the SAF that killed Marwan and delivered his finger to authorities.

DFA conducts training on International Humanitarian Law

From the Philippine Information Agency (Sep 17): DFA conducts training on International Humanitarian Law

As part of the series of activities organized in observance of the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) Month with the theme: "Pagkilala at Pagpapahalaga sa IHL, Responsibilidad ng Lahat," the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the Office of the United Nations and International Organizations (UNIO) and in coordination with the IHL Ad Hoc Committee and the Ateneo Professional Schools, conducted a one-day Training on International Humanitarian Law on August 27 at the Ateneo Professional Schools, Rockwell Drive, Rockwell Center, Makati City.

The training sought to provide participants with an overview of IHL's key principles; Philippine efforts to implement IHL in the country; a discussion on groups affected by the practice or non-practice of IHL and emerging concepts and developments in the international humanitarian security agenda.                        

The training commenced with Atty. Evecar Cruz-Ferrer discussing the basics of the IHL; followed by an overview of the Philippine RA 9851 or commonly known as the IHL Law. The morning session was capped by Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Atty. Herminia T. Angeles discussing the Philippine accession to the Rome Statute or the creation of the International Criminal Court.

In the afternoon, Dr. Maria Lourdes V. Rallonza of the Ateneo Political Science Department discussed how vulnerable groups such as women and children are given special protection under IHL while Atty. Cecilia Jimenez of the Commission on Human Rights discussed the nature and protection needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Atty. Lorna Kapunan discussed the Emblem Act or RA 10530, which enshrined the sanctity of the Red Cross, Red Crescent and Red Crystal symbols for humanitarian assistance.

Assistant Secretary Jesus R.S. Domingo of the United Nations and Other International Organizations of the Department of Foreign Affairs presented developments under the World Humanitarian Summit, Human Security Agenda and Partnerships, such as the Montreux Document, Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC) as well as the Geneva-Manila Network, which cements the humanitarian partnership between the two cities.

Undersecretary Severo S. Catura of the Presidential Human Rights Committee lauded the training's goal of promoting peace and developing norms that would help countries or combatants act in a more humane manner in times of conflict.

One hundred and twenty (120) representatives from law schools in Manila participated in the training, namely: San Beda College of Law, University of the Philippines' College of Law and Ateneo Law School and College of St. Benilde, as well as government agencies and civil society organizations.

The IHL Ad Hoc Committee is led alternately by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defense (DND) and  includes the International Committee of the Red Cross-Philippines (ICRC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Presidential Human Rights Committee-Secretariat (PHRC), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), the Philippine National Police- Human Rights Affairs Office (PNPHRAO), Armed Forces of the Philippines-Human Rights Office (AFPHRO), The Philippine Air Force HRO, Philippine Navy HRO, Philippine Army HRO, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the Philippine Coalition for the International Criminal Court (PCICC).

Makabayan bloc sets Sept. 30 convention to pick top bets for 2016

From GMA News (Sep 17): Makabayan bloc sets Sept. 30 convention to pick top bets for 2016 

Eleven progressive parties under the Makabayan coalition will hold a convention on Sept. 30 to finalize who it will endorse for president and vice president in the May 2016 elections.

The date for the convention was disclosed Thursday by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, leader of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives.

“We will make the final decision on who to support as president and VP in the Makabayan convention,” he said.

Colmenares, however, confirmed there have been talks between leaders of the progressive bloc and representatives from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Nacionalista Party (NP), and National Unity Party (NUP) to back the candidacy of Senator Grace Poe for president.

“May mga different political parties— NP, NUP, NPC, Makabayan—na nag-uusap-usap sa platform ni Sen. Poe,” he said.

In a separate text message, Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the member parties are expected to endorse Colmenares' bid for senator at the convention.

"The Makabayan will be discussing the current political and economic situation leading to the 2016 elections. I'm also expecting Makabayan will formalize the endorsement of Rep. Colmenares' candidacy for senator," Ridon said.

The Makabayan coalition is composed of the following parties: Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan, Courage, Migrante, ACT-Teachers, Katribu, Akap Bata, Piston, Kalikasan and Aking Bikolnon. The group has seven party-list representatives in Congress.

While the Makabayan bloc has yet to name who it will support for president and vice president, Colmenares admitted he is inclined to support Poe because her agenda jibes well with his personal advocacies.

“I’m inclined to support Grace because she promises a new hope for the nation. We had cooperative relations with her on some issues in the past and based on our talks, she is committed to carry certain pro-poor and pro-people’s agenda,” he said.

Poe announced her candidacy for president at the University of the Philippines Bahay ng Alumni last Wednesday.

Earlier Thursday, Sen. Francis Escudero was named as Poe's running mate.

AFP-PNP joint task force to pursue suspects in Lumad killings

From GMA News (Sep 17): AFP-PNP joint task force to pursue suspects in Lumad killings

A joint task force composed of members of the military and the Philippine National Police (PNP) has been created by the provincial government of Surigao Del Sur to maintain peace and order in the province and to pursue suspects in the killing of three Lumad leaders in Lianga town.

“The reason why we created this JTF [Joint Task Force] is to immediately arrest Bobby Tejero and his group who are responsible for the killing last September 1, 2015 and also to disarm other threat groups in the province,” Surigao Del Sur governor Johnny Pimentel said in a press statement.

On September 1, Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvillo Sinzo were killed in Barangay Diatagon in Lianga.

A cooperative store owned by Malahutayong Pakigbisog alang sa Sumusunod, of which Campos was chairman, was also burned down.

Charges of multiple murder, arson, robbery, grave threats and grave coercion were filed against suspects Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero, and Gareto Layno before the Provincial Prosecutors Office in Lianga.

The joint task force is composed of personnel from the Surigao del Sur Police Provincial Office and the Philippine Army's 402nd Infantry Brigade.

“This is to immediately respond to the situation concerning the recent killing incident at Brgy Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur. Together with the Philippine Army we will bring these suspects to the folds of law for the speedy resolution of the situation in the area,” Police Regional Director Chief Supt. Vert Chavez said.

For the military's part, Major General Oscar Lactao, commander of the Philippine Army's 4th Infantry Division said the soldiers in the area will be purely on a “peacekeeping mission.”

“We will provide necessary resources to support the PNP in this law enforcement operation, especially on the immediate arrest of the suspects to shed light on the crimes they’ve committed,” Lactao said.

“Our presence in the area is for a peacekeeping mission to prevent further bloodshed on this tribal conflict situation,” he added.

The human rights group Karapatan earlier tagged the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as being behind the incident, saying that the suspects belong to Magahat Bagani force, a para-military group allegedly organized by the AFP.

Human rights advocates and progressive organizations have accused the AFP of training and arming the Bagani/Magahat — an accusation repeatedly denied by military officials.

The AFP has denied that it trained and armed the Magahat Bagani. It also said that the killing of the three men was the result of tribal conflict in the area.

On Tuesday, the AFP presented to the media three Lumad leaders who said the military were not involved in the incident.

The Lumad leaders said it was the New People's Army (NPA) who are behind the recent killings and harassment of the Lumad communities in Mindanao.

‘Caucasian’ clash casualty in video is her husband, SAF widow says

From GMA News (Sep 17):  ‘Caucasian’ clash casualty in video is her husband, SAF widow says

[Video report]
A widow of one of the slain members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force said the Caucasian-looking man in video footage that recently surfaced is her late husband.
In a report on GMA's “QRT” on Thursday, widow Virgie Viernes said there was no doubt that the man in the video was none other than her husband, PO1 Oliver Viernes, a SAF trooper.
There had been reports of an American soldier among the casualties of the Mamasapano clash, which happened during a covert SAF operation against international terrorists in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.
The US Embassy has repeatedly denied that American soldiers were on the ground during the operation and the firefight that followed.
Still, Viernes said she was in favor of reopening the investigation of the Mamasapano case particularly with the involvement of the president, former PNP chief Alan Purisima and retired SAF chief Getulio Napeñas Jr. in the incident.
On January 25, SAF troopers stormed Mamasapano in Maguindanao to neutralize Marwan. They were successful in the operation but at the cost of the lives of 44 SAF troopers.

Senator McCain calls for US to challenge China claims with patrols near islands

From GMA News (Sep 18): Senator McCain calls for US to challenge China claims with patrols near islands

The head of the US Senate's military committee criticized the Obama administration on Thursday for failing to challenge China's building of artificial islands in the South China Sea by sailing within 12 nautical miles (22.2 km) of them, saying this amounted to de facto recognition of Chinese claims.
Assistant Secretary of Defense David Shear responded to Senator John McCain, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, by saying that such patrols had not been conducted since 2012, but were among future US options.
The exchange at a hearing of the committee came ahead of a visit to Washington next week by Chinese President Xi Jinping, when US concerns about China's pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea will be high on the agenda.
McCain said it was time the United States conducted patrols within 12 nautical miles of China's artificial islands in the Spratly archipelago.
"The administration has continued to restrict our Navy ships from operating within 12 nautical miles of China's reclaimed islands," he said. "This is a dangerous mistake that grants de facto recognition of China's man-made sovereignty claims."
McCain said the restrictions had continued, even after China sent naval vessels within 12 nautical miles of the Aleutian Islands off Alaska last week.
McCain said sailing within 12 miles of the artificial islands would be "the most visible assertion of freedom of the seas."
Shear responded by saying: "We have in recent years conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the vicinity of those features, and doing so again is one of the options, one of the array of options we're considering."
US Pacific commander Admiral Harry Harris said China's building of airfields on the artificial islands and their further militarization was of "great concern militarily" and posed a threat to all other countries in the region.
"China is building three runways of 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) length, which is only a thousand feet shorter than would be required for landing a space shuttle," he said.
"And they're also building deep-water port facilities there, which could put their deep-water ships, their combatant ships, there, which gives them an extra capability.
"And if you look at all of these facilities then you can imagine a network of missile sites, of runways, their fifth-generation fighters and surveillance sites and all of that, it creates a mechanism by which China would have de facto control over the South China Sea in any scenario short of war."
Third airstrip

A US expert on Monday said China appears to be carrying out preparatory work for a third airstrip on Mischief Reef, one of seven artificial islands China has created in the Spratly archipelago.

The images show a retaining wall around an area 3,000 meters (3,280 yards) long, matching similar work by China on two other reefs in the Spratlys, Subi and Fiery Cross, said Greg Poling, director of CSIS's Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).

The Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said it is verifying if the said report is true.

For his part, however, Armed Forces Western Command chief Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez said it is unlikely that China might be building a third airstrip as the reef's shape is "irregular" and slightly "oblongated."
China claims about 90 percent of the South China Sea, displaying its reach on official maps with a so-called nine-dash line that stretches deep into the maritime heart of Southeast Asia.

The Philippines has filed a case against China at the Netherlands-based Permanent Court of Arbitration seeking to invalidate China's massive claim over the South China Sea.

Troops trained on neutralizing weapons of mass destruction

From the Business Mirror (Sep 17): Troops trained on neutralizing weapons of mass destruction
THE military is building up its capability in dealing with nonconventional threats by training some of its men in addressing attacks using chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE) weapons, so-called weapons of mass destruction.

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) do not have in its stocks these types of weapons, it was nevertheless training some of its troops in handling them and ensure they are prepared to deal with them if these weapons are used.

The ongoing specialized training for soldiers was disclosed on Thursday by AFP Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina after he led other officials in accepting P1 million worth of CBRNE equipment from the US government.

This is the first time we have had these equipment, Fallorina told reporters. “But this capability development has been going on for quite some time.”

Fallorina explained the AFP “started out with a small number [of trainees].” “Now we have a platoon size with the corresponding equipment,” he added thanking the Americans for the anti-CBRNE gear.

The military viewed the training in handling CBRNE as complementing the ongoing AFP modernization program and defending the West Philippine Sea. The latter is being claimed by the country’s neighbors.

One of the claimants, China, is a nuclear weapons-ready state, Fallorina said. He said training and equipping troops should be replicated in other units of the military until it has a sizeable number that can deal with these kinds of threat.

“This will be replicated in other major services until such time that we have a substantial number of personnel really qualified for CBRNE activities.”

He, however, could not say if the military would ever deal with threats posed by nonconventional weapons, expect for disasters.

“We really can’t tell about the future. But if we look back in history, we have a lot of major disasters. Suffice to say it’s always better to be prepared rather than be sorry when the time comes,” he said.

“With the competing priorities in terms of capability development of the Armed Forces, we really, shall we say, late in developing this capability. But thanks to our counterparts, we are given some support and we’re able to start the capability development for this specific, basically a capability gap because we don’t have that yet,” he added.

Fallorina said soldiers, or those trained in dealing with CBRNE, would be the first responders should threats arise from these types of weapons.

“They are highly trained and they basically are mobile. We have the equipment as you see. It can be transported either by land through the M35. And if it requires to other islands in other parts of the country, it can be transported through the C-130s.”

Col. Gerry Amante, chief of Army munitions control center, said the trained troops “are ready to respond to any incident whether it be nuclear, chemical, biological or radiological incident.”

“We are also preparing for any eventuality with regards to calamities, especially brought about by the possible earthquakes where there will be industrial leaks,” Amante added.

MILF: A Peace Exhibit on the Bangsamoro Basic Law

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 16): A Peace Exhibit on the Bangsamoro Basic Law

“You only live twice or so it seems
one life for yourself and one for your dreams.”

This is the first line of the song of the same title and of the film of the same title. It is the fifth spy film in the James Bond series, and the fifth to star Sean Connery as the fictional M16 agent James Bond.

I likened this afternoon activity to one real life for the BBL simply because we have with us the main pillars of the Lower House of Congress, the Honourable Speaker Sonny Belmonte Jr. and, of course, Chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, Honourable Congressman Rufus Rodriguez, as well as the other stalwarts of the Lower House whose hands one half of the fate of the BBL are put firmly.

Frankly, I never imagined the BBL as one of a dream, as the song says so, because President Benigno Aquino III, as well as the leaders of Congress have long committed to have peace reign in Mindanao and to pass a good law in the form of the BBL to solve the armed conflict in Mindanao. Up to now, despite the difficulties and rigorous process we see in the House especially, I still trust the collective wisdom of Congress to pass this law.

In the first part of the program, a supposed video presentation was made. The title is “Who are the Bangsamoro”. If I were to answer that question I would say the Bangsamoro are Filipinos, all rooted in the Malayo-Polynesian sub-race of the great Mongoloid race. Examine our more than 100 dialects, all the basic terms are practically the same or similar with each other. For instance, a Maguindanaon, Maranao, or Iranon, or even a Tausog --- of course with slight variations --- would count: isa, dua, telo, pat, lima, nem, pito, walo, siyao, sapulo, while a Tagalog or some other tribes would say: isa, dalawa, tatlo, apat, lima, anim, pito, walo, siyam, sampo. Being a Bangsamoro does not confer extra privileges to the Bangsamoro except a matter of identity, as all of us are either known as Ilocano, Ilonggo, Pampanggo, Igorots, Bisaya, etcetera; or in the larger sense, as Filipinos or Indigenous peoples.

It just happen that we are Muslims, most Filipinos are Christians, and the IPS are basically clinging to their traditional beliefs. But for us Muslims, this is no reason to divide us or cause of debate. In Islam, this issue was settled by the Qur’an 1,400 years ago by this surah: “There is no compulsion in religion; unto you your religion and unto me my religion.” Where therefore is the issue of religious conflict as far as we are concern?

To me, our diversity is a blessing rather than what other people might think otherwise. Remember the rainbow; it is very beautiful. It is made up of seven colours: Red, orange, yellow, green, violet, indigo, and blue. Also remember of an orchestra or even this ensemble. There are so many players, each touching a particular key of different sounds but in the end, they make music.

Finally, let me hope that this exhibit is the best evidence that the BBL is alive and kicking. The problem with the lck of quorum is a fleeting one and eventually this will be addressed by the House leadership. I have full trust and confidence that the House leadership will be able to address this soon.
Thank you and good afternoon.

Mohagher Iqbal’s Message during the Peace Exhibit on the Bangsamoro Basic Law at the Gallery of the Lower House of Congress in Quezon City on September 15, 2015.

Surigao Sur under state of calamity

From the Philippine Star (Sep 18): Surigao Sur under state of calamity

In this Friday, Sept. 4, 2015 photo, a protester spray-paints a seal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) during a protest to condemn the killings of three indigenous people known as "Lumads" in Surigao Del Sur in Mindanao at the AFP general headquarters in Quezon City. The protesters accused a paramilitary group and the military in the killings on September 1 of three "Lumad" leaders. The military denied the accusation. AP/Bullit Marquez

The provincial government of Surigao del Sur has declared a state of calamity due to the influx of lumads to this city, following the killing of their leaders by an armed group claiming to be anti-communist.

The lumads have been staying at the provincial sports complex arena since Sept. 1.

The declaration was contained in Resolution No. 076, which was passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in a regular session on Wednesday.

Gov. Johnny Pimentel said the declaration was made after villagers from five towns fled their homes on Aug. 9 due to the killing of two of their leaders in San Miguel.

“This was followed on Sept. 1 when two more lumad leaders and a chief of a tribal school were killed in Lianga town,” Pimentel said.

Provincial administrator Efren Rivas said three other Surigao del Sur towns were affected by the lumad unrest and evacuation.

Rivas said the province is running out of relief goods and funds to assist the evacuees. He said their stock is good only until Sept. 21.

Governor summons military, police over Lumad killings

From InterAksyon (Sep 17): Governor summons military, police over Lumad killings

Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel.

Reports reaching Manila indicated that Surigao del Sur Governor Johnny Pimentel has summoned top local military and police commanders to discuss and put to a stop the spate of killings in lumad communities in the province.

According to Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, public affairs chief of the Army's 4th Infantry Division, the discussion resulted in the creation of Joint Task Force "Tejero".

JTF Tejero refers to the group of Bobby Tejero, known as the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary force reportedly organized and armed by the military. This militia force is being held responsible for the Lumad killings on grounds that they suspected the victims were sympathizers or supporters of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Earlier, the military confirmed that Tejero's group, numbering more than 20 armed men, was behind the killings, and disclosed that complaints have been filed against them.

The human rights group Karapatan blamed security forces for the killings, although the military repeatedly issued denials in the face of personal accounts of witnesses that soldiers were the ones directing the killings as part of the counter-insurgency operations.

Pimentel lambasted the military for creating a monster by arming such a group to kill their own fellow tribesmen, which Karapatan head Cristina Palabay described as the military's "divide and rule tactic".

The military claimed that Lumad communities are becoming the breeding grounds for the NPA as more than 70% of rebels in CARAGA region are believed to be comprised of indigenous people.

Pimentel expressed hopes that Task Force Tejero will expedite the arrest of all the perpetrators of the killings.

But Palabay insisted that military personnel who served as "handlers" of Tejero's group should also be brought to justice.

Karapatan also believed that some of the killers could be soldiers.

China's island airstrips to heighten South China Sea underwater rivalry

From InterAksyon (Sep 17): China's island airstrips to heighten South China Sea underwater rivalry

Subi Reef is shown in this handout satellite image dated September 3, 2015 and provided by CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/Digital Globe September 14, 2015. REUTERS/Handout via Reuters

China's apparent construction of a third airstrip on its man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea could fill a gap in Beijing's anti-submarine defenses, complicating operations for the US Navy and its allies, Chinese and Western experts said.

While most attention has been on the power projection China would get from its new islands in the Spratly archipelago, China could also use them to hunt rival submarines in and beyond the strategic waterway, they said.

Possessing three airstrips more than 1,400 km (870 miles) from the Chinese mainland would enable Beijing to extend the reach of Y-9 surveillance planes and Ka-28 helicopters that are being re-equipped to track submarines, the experts added.

A Pentagon report in May noted China lacked a robust anti-submarine warfare capability off its coastline and in deep water.

Strengthened anti-submarine capabilities could also help China protect the movements of its Jin-class submarines, capable of carrying nuclear-armed ballistic missiles and which are at the core of China's nuclear deterrence strategy, said Zhang Baohui, a mainland security specialist at Hong Kong's Lingnan University.

"That would provide greater security for China's nuclear submarines to survive ... and if necessary to execute their orders in wartime," Zhang told Reuters.

"They would be safer than in open oceans where China cannot provide adequate support."

The artificial islands, built on seven reefs over the last two years, will be high on the agenda when Chinese President Xi Jinping has talks with President Barack Obama in Washington next week.

Washington has criticized the reclamation and construction.

China, increasingly confident about its military firepower, has repeatedly stressed it has "indisputable sovereignty" over the entire Spratlys, saying the islands would be used for civilian and undefined military purposes.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday said "necessary" construction work would improve conditions on the islands.

Triangle of airstrips

Satellite photographs show construction is almost finished on a 3,000-meter-long (10,000-foot) airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef..

Recent images showed Subi Reef would also have a 3,000-meter airstrip, Greg Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington, said on Monday.

Poling, citing images taken last week, said China also appeared to be doing preparatory work for an airstrip on Mischief Reef.

Together, the three islands form a rough triangle in the heart of the Spratlys, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have competing claims.

While a noisy and relatively shallow operating environment for submarines, the South China Sea has several deep water channels giving access to the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Asked if Washington was concerned the airstrips would enhance China's anti-submarine capabilities, a Pentagon spokesman, Commander Bill Urban, said the United States was monitoring events in the South China Sea.

In a speech on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the United States would "fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows".

"Turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit," Carter told a US Air Force conference.

One mainland-based naval analyst said China was trying to improve sonar and other detection equipment carried aboard its Y-9 patrol planes and Ka-28 helicopters.

China was also expected to put detection devices on the seabed around the new islands, creating "an electronic gateway", he added.

Nuclear deterrence

Zhang has previously said ballistic missile submarines are more important for China's nuclear deterrent than other powers given Beijing's policy, dating back to the 1960s, of only using nuclear weapons if attacked with them first.

This means China's land-based weapons would be vulnerable to a first strike if Beijing stuck to its "no first use" policy in a conflict.

Chinese media and international military blogs this year have shown photographs of Jin-class submarines operating from a naval base on Hainan Island off southern China.

It's unclear if they have been armed with long-range JL-2 nuclear ballistic missiles.

The Pentagon report said four Jin-class submarines were operational, with a fifth expected to be added.

"China will likely conduct its first (submarine) nuclear deterrence patrol sometime in 2015," the report said.

The importance of that deterrence means China is likely to eventually impose an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over part of the South China Sea, security experts say, mirroring its declaration of such a zone over the East China Sea in late 2013.

In a return to Cold War-style cat-and-mouse operations undersea, rival submarines were already trying to track each other, said Western and Asian naval officers with experience of anti-submarine warfare.

They said the United States would be trying to identify and track individual Chinese submarines, just as it stalked then-Soviet Union missile submarines across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans during the Cold War.

Japan's ultra-quiet diesel-electric submarines were also increasingly active while, over time, Vietnam's emerging fleet of advanced Russian-built Kilo-class submarines would be another headache for China.

"We're looking at them, and now increasingly they are looking at us," one retired Asian-based naval officer said of China's growing undersea operations.

VIDEO | Defense confident of Pemberton's acquittal in Laude murder case

From InterAksyon (Sep 18): VIDEO | Defense confident of Pemberton's acquittal in Laude murder case

US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton. (AFP photo/Jay Directo/File)

The camp of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton believes that he will be acquitted of the crime of murder over the death of Filipino transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude in October 2014.

Pemberton’s lawyers insist that they have strong evidence to support their claim that Laude was killed, not by Pemberton, but by another person. Included in the evidence was the angle that Laude lost some P20,000 when he was found dead in the bathroom of the Celzone Lodge in Olongapo City.

The Olongapo Regional Trial Court on Thursday announced that it might hand down a decision in the murder case earlier than December.

Laude’s lawyers said the allegations of the defense were not sufficient.

Harry Roque, counsel for the victim’s family, said the defense’s claims were theories which were not proven in court.

Meron mga DNA ng pangatlong tao sa leeg ni Jeffrey. ‘Yon pong DNA na ‘yon ang nakakuha ay NCIS mismo. Mismong witnesses ng prosecution [There were traces of the DNA of a third person found on the neck of Jeffrey. That DNA was taken by the men of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service) which are witnesses for the prosecution],” Rowena Garcia-Flores, one of Pemberton’s counsels, said.

Here’s a News5 video report:

[Video report]

BIFF insists they killed Caucasians during encounter with SAF

From MindaNews (Sep 17): BIFF insists they killed Caucasians during encounter with SAF

A spokesman of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) involved in the killing of 44 elite police troops has confirmed they killed three Caucasian-looking warriors in the cornfields of Sitio Tukanalipao during the January 25 bloody encounter with Special Action Force (SAF) troopers.

As this developed, the group Suara Bangsamoro urged the government and civil society organizations to investigate further the Mamasapano clash, saying it will closely look “into the alleged direct involvement of the United States in military operations in the country.”

BIFF spokesman Abu Misry Mama said over the phone Wednesday that based on their assessment, they are convinced they killed at least three foreign fighters.

“Based on our analysis and assessment after watching closely the fallen enemies, we are assured 100 percent they are Americans. They did not have the usual Filipino build, they were tall, blue eyed, long nose, tall Caucasian-looking men,” he said.

Dozens of BIFF fighters were among who those who traded bullets and mortar fires against the operating troops of SAF. They are the armed local dwellers in the area near the battlefield in Sitio Pimbalkan where most wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Bir Hir alyas Marwan was killed inside his hut.

BIFF men were among those who seized the firearms of fallen commandos after the gun battle where they pinned down the police operatives.

Meanwhile, the Army’s 6th Infantry Division based in Awang, Datu Odin Sinsuat, where most of the slain commandos were brought, has assured there was no Caucasian-looking victims brought to their morgue

Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson Jerome Succor Aba said “the only way to clear the issue is to conduct another investigation on the Mamasapano clash.”

“The video of a Caucasian casualty in Mamasapano in the Jan. 25 clash where the SAF 44 members were killed coincides with the results of our previous investigation,” he said in a statement.

News reports the past days mentioned of a white man shown in a video clip as among the casualties in the Mamasapano clash.

“The evidence we gathered from witnesses from the village of Tukalanipao in Mamasapano and the video released in the internet is enough to prompt another investigation on the issue,” Aba said.

Suara Bangsamoro during the People’s Fact-Finding mission found out that one American soldier was involved in the fierce battle between the moro armed groups and members of the Special Action Force – Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP),” the group said.

It added that the results of the new investigation “could provide us new information about the violation committed by the US on our national patrimony and sovereignty.”

LOOK: New PAF plane lands at Clark Air Base

From the Philippine Star post to ABS-CBN (Sep 17): LOOK: New PAF plane lands at Clark Air Base

The second C295M Medium Lift Aircraft of 220th Airlift Wing, Philippine Air Force with tail number 140 touched down runway 02R of Clark Air Base, Pampanga at exactly 5:30 pm, September 15, 2015. Photo from Philippine Air Force Facebook page

The second of three brand-new transport airplanes that the government purchased for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) landed at Clark Air Base in Pampanga yesterday afternoon.

Col. Enrico Canaya, PAF spokesman, said pilots of Airbus Defense and Space (ADS), manufacturer of the C295M medium-lift fixed-wing aircraft from Spain, flew the plane to Clark.

The PAF Technical Inspection and Aerospace Committee (TIAC) shall undertake the necessary inspection and acceptance procedures before the aircraft is sent to Villamor Air Base in Pasay City for the formal turnover and blessing ceremonies to be scheduled later, Canaya said.

The Medium Lift Fixed-Wing Aircraft (MLFWA) acquisition project worth P5.29 billion for the purchase of three planes is one of the projects nearing completion under the AFP Modernization Program that would boost its capabilities in the medium tactical airlift requirement for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response (HADR) and transport of troops and logistics.

Canaya said the third aircraft is expected to be delivered before yearend.

“Based on a contract approved in March last year, the supply and delivery of the three aircraft were expected in October this year, February and June next year,” he said.

While awaiting delivery of these aircraft, PAF also sent six of its pilots and a 19-man maintenance team to Spain for training in flying and repair of the new planes.

At present, the Air Force has three operational C-130 cargo planes and the new C295Ms would bolster the relief operations and military capability of the Air Force.

The C295M can carry 70 passengers and is designed for short takeoff and landing that makes the aircraft ideal for re-supply and troop rotation operations in military bases with short runways like Pag-asa Island.

Pag-asa is one of nine areas occupied by Filipinos troops in the Kalayaan Island Group (KIG) in the West Philippine Sea.

The KIG is part of the disputed Spratly Islands that is being claimed in whole or in part by the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei.

Army installs new commander in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Sep 17): Army installs new commander in Samar

The Philippine Army has installed a new commander of a brigade that covers the provinces of Samar and Eastern Samar.

Col. Perfecto M. Rimando is the new commander of 801st Infantry Brigade based in Camp Daza, Fatima, village, Hinabangan, Samar.

Rimando succeeded Brig. Gen. Leoncio A. Cirunay Jr., who assumed the position as commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Reserve Command.

Prior to taking the helm of 801st Infantry Brigade, Rimando was the chief of Philippine Army Human Rights Office (PAHRO) based in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila.

Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, commander of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division presided the turnover of command on Monday.

Rimando vowed to continue to support the initiatives of the local government units and closely collaborate with the stakeholders in line with the AFP Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan”.

“I can still remember when I first set foot on the island of Samar 29 years ago as a platoon leader, and now I am here again as a brigade commander and have noticed many changes and improvements through the years. I am grateful to be here once again to do the task and mission that our people and our country expect from me,” Rimando said.

Velarmino, in his message, acknowledged Cirunay’s contribution to the relative peace that Samar and Eastern Samar provinces are now experiencing.

Likewise, he challenged the new commander to continue the plans and programs initiated by his predecessor that fit the current situation and work hard towards the realization of “Insurgency Free” Samar and Eastern Samar provinces.

“I commend Brig. Gen. Cirunay for his immeasurable contributions to the accomplishments of 8ID mission. With Col. Rimando as the new Commander of 801st Infantry Brigade, I know it is in good hands and with his past experiences in this area and support of the men and women of the 801st Brigade,” Velarmino said.