Sunday, September 20, 2015

MILF: “Peace for Children in Mindanao” campaign in social media gains support

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 20): “Peace for Children in Mindanao” campaign in social media gains support

Photo courtesy of Marc Paul Culong

Photo courtesy of Marc Paul Culong

A campaign calling to support Peace for Children in Mindanao through the social media gain positive response from different sectors in the country. The drive intends to raise awareness among the citizens of the country on the essence of peace to children in Mindanao which are the most affected in times of armed conflict.

In its facebook page, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-Philippines said, “We're calling on people to support ‪#‎peace for children in ‪Mindanao, so that they can enjoy their rights to education, good health and proper nutrition, and protection from violence, abuse and exploitation.”

The drive is in line with the observance of the National Peace Consciousness Month this September.

To manifest support to the campaign, users of the social media can have their own photo holding a printed message which says “I Support Peace for Children in Mindanao” posted in the facebook with the hashtag #partnerforpeace.

Among the individuals and groups which responded to the campaign and signified their support are those from the academe, development workers, students, social workers, media, youth, and professionals.

UNICEF said there has been 366 recorded incidents in areas affected by armed conflict in Mindanao since 2012. Of this eventualities, 170 are armed conflict, 71 are clan feud or Rido and 125 are crime and violence.

The agency have been engaging development partners in implementing programs and projects for the rights of the children to be realized and protected.

MILF: “MILF still open to BBL improvements and enhancement but essential elements of real autonomous gov’t should be included”: Iqbal

Posted to the MILF Website (Sep 20): “MILF still open to BBL improvements and enhancement but essential elements of real autonomous gov’t should be included”: Iqbal

“MILF still open to BBL improvements and enhancement but essential elements of real autonomous gov’t should be included”: Iqbal

Mohagher Iqbal, Chief Negotiator of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said that the Moro front is still “open for improvements and enhancement” of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but the “essential elements of a real autonomous government” should be included in the proposed law.

Both chambers of Congress made different versions of the Malacañan-MILF draft agreed version submitted to leaders of congress on September 10, last year.

The substitute bills, known as the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBARs), carry differences mainly on the exercise of autonomy in the proposed region. 

According to Iqbal, he respects the power of Congress to legislate but is worried the deleted provisions may affect the region.

“The autonomous government should have powers that would really allow that entity to stand on its feet,” he said during a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).

GPH Chief Peace Negotiator Professor Miriam Colonel-Ferrer lamented that the various amendments on the BBL were made “out of distrust and fear that the Bangsamoro will secede.”

She cited examples such as the word “territory” replaced with “area” to identify the geographic scope of the proposed region despite the use of “territorial jurisdiction” for local government units (LGUs) in the Local Government Code.

Ferrer also pointed out the iterations in the amended Senate bill which emphasize the Bangsamoro as “an inalienable part of the Philippines.”

While protecting the powers of LGUs is legitimate, she clarified that these should not hinder the establishment of a genuine autonomy for the region – pointing out that both local and regional autonomy are mandated by the 1987 Constitution.

Ferrer noted that allocation of powers should be balanced and objective.

"The autonomous region plays an integrative role over the LGUs,” Ferrer emphasized.

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), however, continues to build trust and counter fear with peace process stakeholders.

“A personal approach is really helping building trust,” he said. “What is important is you need to open communication.”

“There is some improvement in this regard, especially in the Lower House” Iqbal added.

CPP/NDF: The massacre of a school executive director and two lumad teachers in Lianga is party of the AFP's terror campaign in Mindanao

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Sep 20): The massacre of a school executive director and two lumad teachers in Lianga is party of the AFP's terror campaign in Mindanao

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Press Statement
12 September 2015

The NDFP-Mindanao strongly condemns the brutal killing of ALCADEV Executive Director Emerito Samarca, MAPASU Chair Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo committed by the combined elements of the 36th IB, 75th IB and the bandit group led by Calpet Igwa and Marcos Bocales. They also burned down the cooperative building of Sitio Han-ayan. As a result, over 3,000 residents from the hinterland barangays of five towns in Surigao del Sur and one in Agusan del Sur were forced to evacuate en masse to Tandag City. After the residents evacuated, the same armed groups also burned down 10 houses and a school building of the Panocmoan Lumad community and a corn sheller in the nearby Lumad community of Kabuluhan, all part of Diatagon,
Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Before the Han-ayan massacre, AFP elements and their bandit murdered two Tabugol brothers in Brgy. Siagao, San Miguel, Surigao Sur, last August 28, 2015. In Brgy. Mendez, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, the 1st Special Forces Battallion also massacred five members of the Samia family last August 28, 2015. The number of Lumads in Mindanao who fell victim to summary killings by the Aquino Regime have reached almost 70.

The Han-ayan massacre happened on Sept. 1, six days after Sec. Teresita Deles, of the OPAPP (Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process) together with Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, C.O. Eastmincom AFP, and General Oscar Lactao, C.O. 4th ID P.A., and other high ranking officials presented 42 mostly fake surrenderees in a “Peace” Caravan held in Lianga, Surigao del Sur last August 25. Also, on Aug. 22 AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iribiri, who was born in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur, visited during his hometown fiesta, and in less than a week after he left, he deployed additional troops to Surigao del Sur.

Last Wednesday, Sept. 9, Sec. Mar Roxas visited the 3,000 evacuees in Tandag. Instead of showing sincere sympathy, he rubbed salt to the injury of the evacuees by absolving the military and the bandits, saying that the police is investigating into the alleged NPA shooting in the area that may have caused the displacement and misery of residents from 27 communities. He deliberately and shamelessly brushed off the fact that it is already public knowledge and the evacuees themselves have testified that it was the military and their armed bandits who killed their school executive director and leaders and sowed other forms of terror in the hinterlands of 5 municipalities of Surigao del Sur and one adjoining municipality, Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur. It turned out that his 10-minute visit was to cover-up for the AFP and its bandit group and a photo-op session to boost his sagging survey results.

Malacañang cabinet members and the AFP national leadership have shown such special interest in Caraga to ensure the unhampered plunder of multinational foreign and local mining and plantation firms in the area, and to finally defeat the resilient and advancing revolutionary movement in the region. But such a special interest is not only focused on Caraga, in fact it is beefing up its forces from just about 50% to more than 60% of the total nationwide AFP forces, air and land assets to Mindanao, giving particular focus to three NPA regions of Eastern Mindanao, namely Southern, North Central and Northeastern regions.

Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, C.O. Eastern Mindanao Command, says that “they key to defeating the revolutionary movement in the Philippines is to defeat it here in Eastern Mindanao.” But, with barely eight months left to Aquino III’s term, he is now ever more desperate to turn his regime’s dream of defeating the revolutionary movement into reality by unleashing the most brazen fascism against the people through the escalation of AFP combat and terror operations in Mindanao.

In its terror campaigns, AFP forces are secretly recruiting, training and arming Lumad bandits, calling them by many names such as “Task Force Gantangan” and “Alamara” in Southern Mindanao, “Wild Dog”, “BULIF” and “NIPAR” in North Central Mindanao, “Magahat” and “Bagani” in Northeastern Mindanao and many other groups. These groups are trained to kill even their own kin and terrorize communities whom they suspect to be NPA sympathizers, and they engage in banditry, extortion, illegal drugs and illegal logging to support their vices.

The AFP is trying desperately to project that these bandits are Lumads rising up in arms against the revolutionary movement and that it’s a case of Lumad versus Lumad, when in fact what they are recruiting are mostly the dregs of Lumad communities who, due to their self-interest and vices, are prone to violence and banditry. By employing these cost-effective counter-revolutionary bandits, the AFP can get away from any responsibility of the crimes committed by these groups and can also easily disclaim and dispense them off once there is public uproar.

Benigno Aquino III is currently touring the country to help boost the chances of his anointed successor Mar Roxas in next year’s elections. He is making sure that the country continues to go down the path of his “daang matuwid,” which, in truth, is his legacy of deception and blatant fascism. Roxas himself vowed to continue Aquino III’s legacy, which only means that once he wins in next year’s electoral race, he will continue and even intensify state terror that is detested by the people.

We call on the people of Mindanao and the rest of the country to unite in protest with the countless victims of the US-Aquino III regime’s intensified terror campaign in Surigao del Sur, Caraga and in other regions in Mindanao. The people must further amplify its demands to give justice to all victims of state terrorism, to immediately disarm and dismantle all bandit groups in Caraga and other parts of Mindanao, and to stop all forms of state terror perpetrated either by the military or the para-military.

We call on the New People’s Army to do everything within its capacity to defend the peasants and Lumads by launching tactical offensives against military operations of the AFP and their bandit groups.#

(sgd) Ka Oris

CPP/NDF: The raging US-Aquino III regime's Oplan Bayanihan terror campaign in Mindanao reminds us of the dark days of Martial Law

NDF propaganda statement posted to the CPP Website (Sep 20): The raging US-Aquino III regime's Oplan Bayanihan terror campaign in Mindanao reminds us of the dark days of Martial Law

NDFP National Democratic Front of the Philippines 
Press Statement
18 September 2015
On the commemoration of the 43rd year since the declaration of Martial Law on Sept. 21, 1972, the NDFP-Mindanao and all revolutionary forces and masses honor and remember all those who have fought against and died during the Marcos fascist dictatorship, and salute those who have survived through its harrowing years yet continue to fight until today.
We remember the thousands of victims of state terror in all its unspeakable forms –
massacres, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, illegal arrests, maiming, arson, forcible evacuations, closing down of schools and other forms of curtailment of democratic rights –perpetrated by mercenary AFP, Phil. Constabulary and paramilitary units.
We remember the indomitable struggle of the Filipino people against Martial Law, which took the form of the broad anti-fascist movement on one hand and the armed revolution on the other.
After the EDSA uprising of 1986, however, the succeeding regimes, even including that of Cory’s, did not live up to the aspiration of the Filipino people but instead continued and even intensified Marcos’s bloody legacy of state terrorism. Today, under Benigno Aquino III’s Oplan Bayanihan, an intensified terror campaign rages in Mindanao.
The following are but a few proof of this in the island.
On Sept. 1 in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Surigao del Sur, ALCADEV Exec. Dir. Emerito Samarca, MAPASU Chairman Dionel Campos and Lumad leader Juvello Sinzo were brutally murdered by the combined elements of the 35th IB, 75th IB, SFB and the AFP-backed “Magahat/Bagani” bandit group. Samarca, who devoted his life in the service of the Lumads, was hog-tied and his throat slit. The same armed groups also burned the community cooperative and several houses, and caused the evacuation of more than 3,200 from five municipalities of Surigao del Sur and Prosperidad, Agusan del Sur.
On Aug. 18 in Sitio Mando, Brgy. Mendis, Pangantucan, Bukidnon, members of a Manobo-Talaandig family consisting of a 70 year-old blind man, two children and two young adults were massacred by AFP forces. The surviving 13-year old child pleaded mercy for their lives in vain. Hundreds of Ata-Manobo evacuees are still in Davao City because of the marauding of AFP together with bandits, sowing terror in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and North Cotabato. The return of the evacuees is only possible if and when these mercenary forces altogether stop their combat operations. Their schools and homes are used as camps by AFP soldiers. This is also the case for Lumads in Loreto, La Paz, San Luis and Talacogon, Agusan del Sur and a school in Dlumay, Malapatan, Sarangani, which are all terrorized
frequently by AFP and bandit forces.
Since the Mamasapano incident last January, the AFP incessantly terrorized Moro
communities in provinces in Central Mindanao and hundreds of thousands have already been displaced with no hope of adequate support and rehabilitation.
Since Aquino III took over Malacañang in mid-2010 until the 3rd quarter of 2015, victims of state-sponsored extra-judicial killings now add up to more than 282 in the entire country, 57 of whom are Lumad people in Mindanao. Murdering Lumad leaders and their advocates like Mr. Emok Samarca and Fr. Pops Tentorio is intended to terrorize national minority communities and their support groups, thereby subduing any form of resistance against foreign and local big business that aim to exploit their mineral-rich ancestral lands, deplete the country’s natural resources, destroy the environment and displace the Lumad and Moro from their lands.
The reactionary government held so-called “Peace Caravans” in Loreto, Agusan del Sur; Ngan, Compostela Valley; Talaingod, Davao del Norte; and Lianga, Surigao del Sur to camouflage the terror campaign and deceptively create the impression that they have won against the revolutionary movement in these areas. The most intense combat and psywar operations are also in these areas.
Under the Aquino III regime alone, there have been over 1000 persons who fell victim to illegal arrests, 26 to enforced disappearances, 110 to torture, and millions to terrorizing whole communities during combat and COPD operations and forcible evacuations. This military terror campaign, implemented through Oplan Bayanihan, is patterned after the US Counter Insurgency Guide and follows after Martial Law’s template of brazen human rights violations.
When asked about the Lumad killings in Mindanao, Aquino III replied that
“there is no campaign to kill anyone”. However, OPB, with its staggering record of human rights abuses in the past five years, is in truth Aquino III’s brutal strategy and campaign to suppress those who oppose the interests of the ruling classes and its US imperialist boss.
The US-Aquino III regime, as with Marcos before, wields the AFP, PNP, CAFGU and bandit groups as the state’s terror machinery, making sure that, apart from protecting the interests of US monopoly capitalists, the surging people’s democratic revolution, led by the Communist Party of the Philippines and carried out in the main by the New People’s Army, is crushed before its term ends.
EastMinCom CO Maj. Gen. Aurelio Baladad said that “to defeat the revolutionary movement, it has to be defeated here in eastern Mindanao”. No wonder the AFP deployed more than 60% of its combat-effective forces to Mindanao, majority of which are deployed in Southern, North Central and Northeastern Mindanao. However, it has miserably failed in its intent to crush the revolutionary movement in the country according to OPB’s six-year timetable.
When Martial Law was declared, it only pushed more and more people to take the
revolutionary path and caused thousands to rise in struggle against the rotten semi-feudal and semi-colonial system. Similarly, the ruthlessness of Aquino III’s OPB terror campaign today has attained this effect by creating the condition for broader support for the people’s militant movement against social injustice and by ever strengthening the resolve of many to take the path of the armed revolution to smash the reactionary, fascist state.
Thus, on the occasion of commemorating the 43rd year of the declaration of Martial Law, the best way to honor the martyrs and all its victims of state fascism is to stand united in the face of Marcosian policies under the US-Aquino III regime and further strengthen the people’s militant movement against state fascism and imperialist impositions.#
(sgd) Ka Oris

Analysis: Japan takes step toward having a 'normal' military

Posted to the Philippine Star (Sep 20): Analysis: Japan takes step toward having a 'normal' military

In this Friday, Sept. 18, 2015 file photo, a protester holding a sign that reads: "Do not abolish the pacifist Article 9 (of the U.S.-drafted post World War II constitution)" shouts slogans as he is surrounded by police officers during a rally against the Japanese government in front of the parliament building in Tokyo. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Sept. 19, Japan took a step toward having a military in line with most armed forces around the world, one that would be able to take part in combat even when the country is not under direct attack. While Japan’s military remains far from unfettered, the package of bills approved by parliament is a further step in a gradual erosion of the restrictions that has been underway for more than two decades. AP /Shuji Kajiyama, File

In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Japan took a step toward having a military in line with most armed forces around the world, one that would be able to take part in combat even when the country is not under direct attack.

Not everyone agrees that would be a good thing, as the noisy street protests outside parliament and the requisite criticism from China show.

But conservatives in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who have long chafed at restrictions on Japan's military under a constitution imposed by a victorious United States after World War II, want to undo what they consider unreasonable limits on the nation's armed forces.

While Japan's military remains far from unfettered, the package of bills approved by parliament is a further step in a gradual erosion of the restrictions that has been underway for more than two decades. The actual changes under the new laws may not be huge, but Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, over heated opposition, has achieved a significant shift in Japan's security framework, nudging his nation closer to having what proponents call a "normal" military.

Initially after World War II, Japan wasn't supposed to have a military at all. The United States, which occupied Japan from 1945 to 1952, wanted to banish the militarism that led to the war.

Under Article 9 of a new constitution adopted in 1947, the Japanese people renounced the use of force to settle international disputes, and the right to maintain land, sea and air forces for that purpose.

U.S. thinking, though, changed with the outbreak of the Korean War. It began to view Japan as a potential Cold War ally rather than a threat. At American insistence, Japan created what is called the Self-Defense Force in 1954. While some still question its constitutionality, most now accept that Article 9 allows Japan to have what has become a sizeable and well-equipped military to defend the country.

Over time, the government, again often under U.S. pressure, has repeatedly stretched the definition of self-defense to send the military on missions to the Mideast, Africa and elsewhere, though short of actual combat. And more often than not, the moves have met strong public opposition.

The first Gulf War in 1990-91 was a major turning point. Japan, by then an economic superpower, made a major financial contribution to the effort, but was criticized for giving too little, too late and not sending any people.

"The Gulf Crisis forced Japan to judge and cope with many questions which Japan after World War II had not experienced," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a 1991 annual report.

The following year, despite vocal opposition, parliament authorized the military to join U.N. peacekeeping operations around the world, though only in noncombat roles such as building infrastructure and policing.

A decade later, a special law approved in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 allowed Japan to send naval vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel ships in the U.S.-led coalition. In 2004, another special law authorized the one-time deployment of troops to Iraq for construction projects.

The latest legislation formally allows many of these activities. The government will no longer need to enact a special law each time, though parliamentary approval to dispatch troops will still generally be required.

The most heated provision enables the military, for the first time in the postwar era, to come to the defense of allies under attack, though only when the situation is also deemed an imminent, critical threat to Japan.

Previous governments have considered collective self-defense, as the concept is known, unconstitutional. Abe's Cabinet unilaterally reversed that finding by approving a reinterpretation of the constitution last year. This weekend's legislation changes laws governing the Self-Defense Forces to allow them to do that.

Approval of the bills was never in doubt — the ruling coalition holds a solid majority in both houses of parliament — but the battle over them sparked larger-than-usual protests, energized a new generation of student activists and came at a political cost to Abe's public support ratings. Protesters saw the legislation as an assault on Article 9 and demanded that Abe resign.

In a way, the U.S. succeeded perhaps more than it now wishes in instilling a strong pacifist chord in the Japanese psyche, which has come to embrace the U.S.-drafted constitution as its own.

U.S. officials today are careful to avoid demanding changes in Japan's military policy, at least publicly. But in the face of China's growing military challenge and North Korean threats, they say they welcome whatever Japan can do to strengthen bilateral military cooperation and contribute more to regional security, within the constraints of its constitution.

Abe is eager for his country to play a larger international role, but voters remain unsure. Though the economy has stagnated, Japan has enjoyed decades of peace under the war-renouncing constitution, paving the way for its economic rise. That's a source of pride, particularly when compared to the war defeat and utter devastation brought on by the military-led government in the first half of the 20th century.

Japanese are not anti-military anymore, in the way they were in the immediate postwar decades, but the pacifist chord remains strong nearly 70 years later, as evidenced by the ruckus inside and outside parliament over the security legislation. Abe's long-term goal is to revise the constitution, but that remains a daunting challenge.

Makabayan solon wants AFP cited in contempt for alleged ‘red baiting’

From GMA News (Sep 20): Makabayan solon wants AFP cited in contempt for alleged ‘red baiting’

A lawmaker on Sunday asked House leaders to cite the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in contempt for insinuating that former and incumbent leaders of the Makabayan bloc are supporters of the communist New People's Army (NPA).

Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap said the military's alleged “red baiting” has put the lives of his colleagues and former fellow lawmakers in danger, especially now that they have been going around Lumad communities in Mindanao to probe the recent killings of their leaders.

“Ipinapanawagan ko sa House leadership na i-contempt ang AFP dahil hindi biro ang 'red baiting.' Ito ay banta sa kanilang [lawmakers'] buhay at kaligtasan. Ang gawa-gawang kaso laban sa kanila ay humaharang sa mandato nila bilang House members, dahil marami silang [resolution] tungkol sa mga Lumad na kailangang i-deliberate at ma-ocular sa Lumad areas,” he said in a text message.

As of posting time, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has yet to reply to GMA News Online's request for comment on whether or not Congress can cite the AFP in contempt.

On Saturday, AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla Jr. denied the existence of a supposed military "hit list" against members of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives and claimed it is the handiwork of people who want to tarnish the armed forces' credibility.

"There is no truth to that said hit list whatsoever. If you will look at the sources, it can be learned that all of them are supportive of the NPA. It is apparent then that this is once again a clear attempt to discredit the AFP and continue on demonizing the organization mandated by law to act as protector of the people,” he said.

Padilla made the statement after former and incumbent progressive lawmakers asked the Supreme Court to issue writes of amparo and habeas data against alleged military and police harassment.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the “hit list” they mentioned in the petition was attached to the criminal complaints allegedly filed by the military against supporters of Lumad evacuees who had fled their communities over the alleged abuses committed by the AFP.

“I'm not surprised at all [with what Col. Padilla said] because the AFP's talking heads can lie through and through even if they're already caught in flagrante,” he said.

In a separate text message, Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said he will have Padilla summoned during plenary debates on the Department of National Defense's proposed budget for 2016 so he could show proof of his claim on the lawmakers' alleged support for the NPA.

“He [Padilla] should show proof of his claim or publicly apologize. If not, then we would file a case against him before the Ombudsman for [violation of] Republic Act 3019 and misusing his office to cover up crimes,” the lawmaker said.

Mindanao groups support original BBL

From the Manila Times (Sep 20): Mindanao groups support original BBL

An organization and business groups in Mindanao are still favoring the passage of the original Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because this would provide genuine autonomy for Muslims in Mindanao.

Deo Palma, secretary general of the Ang Katipunan ng mga Samahang Maharlika, said this was what he found out during his consultations in Region 12 covering the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Saranggni and cities of General Santos, Tacurong, Kidapawan, Midsayap, Koronadal and Cotabato.

Palma said that he is at present conducting a series of consultation and gathering data about the BBL for their research and comprehensive study on what are the advantages and disadvantages on the agreement being pushed by the concurrent administration of President Noynoy Aquino 3rd with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) compared to the agreement signed by former President Fidel V. Ramos on September 2, 1996 with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

He also said that business leaders in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during a conference on Wednesday urged lawmakers to let the original draft of the BBL be considered because it gives the Muslims a chance to gain autonomy.

The business leaders conference titled “Forum on the Economic Impact of the BBL: Original Draft vs. Substitute Bill,” was sponsored by the Regional Board of Investment in the autonomous region.

The business leaders said that bills to substitute the BBL, particularly House Bill 5811 and Senate Bill 2984, must be properly discussed because these are tantamount to the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that was signed between the Philippine government and the MILF last year.

A former municipal mayor of Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat, Labualas Abdul “Samrod” Mamansual, who also attended the business leaders conference, said he favors the BBL but said the MNLF’s call for genuine autonomy should be heeded.

“But let us also consider the fight of the MNLF who also wants the genuine autonomy which we had long fought for almost 30 years in struggle before the final signing of the September 2, 1996 MNLF-GPH peace agreement,” he said, referring to the Philippine government.

Mamansual also said President Aquino does not recognize the legitimacy of what Ramos had signed with the MNLF neither does he listen to the voice of the senior leaders of the MNLF.

Make veterans a priority – state auditors

From the Manila Times (Sep 20): Make veterans a priority – state auditors
The Veterans Federation of the Philippines (VFP) should closely monitor the use of its funds and give priority to delivering services, benefits and aid to its members, state auditors said.

This recommendation came in a 2014 audit report by the Commission on Audit (COA) on VFP, particularly on the use of its Corporate Operating Budget (COB).

“The federation incurred expenses totaling P65.15 million in CY [calendar year] 2014 wherein some of its expenditure items exceeded the amount budgeted, a greater portion utilized for personal services and a minimal amount for direct benefits and/or assistance to veteran members, thereby creating doubts on whether or not the purpose for which it was created has been achieved,” the auditors said.

They noted that VFP’s 2014 budget was for, among others, projects for free medicines, medical care, aid to indigent veterans and other welfare programs for veterans.

VFP’s primary purpose under Republic Act 2640, which created the federation, is to provide benefits to Filipino veterans, the auditors said.

According to the audit report, the federation incurred P65.15 million in expenses during 2014 excluding depreciation expense as against the P114.313 million budget or a variance of P49.163 million.

The auditors compared each budget item against itemized expenditures and noted several variances and/or deficiencies.

“Total expenditures for the special program and support services specifically for medicine and burial assistance which are primarily for the assistance and/or benefit of the veterans and their beneficiaries posted a minimal amount of P7.51 million and P1.029 million respectively, as compared with other costs of administration showing that both budgets were underutilized by 69.96 percent and 79.42 percent respectively,” they said.

Medicines had a budget of P25 million while burial assistance had P5 million, based on the audit report.

Meanwhile, total funds spent for Personal Services “exceeded the budget in significant amounts.”

According to the audit report, the VFP spent P7.39 million for Salaries and Wages (Permanent and Casuals), which was budgeted with P6.038 million; P6.848 million for Salaries (Allowances) of Officers, which had a budget of P6.51 million; P5.11 million for Bonuses of Officers and Employees, which had a budget of only P4.23 million; P452,595 for Clothing Allowances (Employees), which had a budget of P223,608; P675,855.50 for Rice Subsidy, which was budgeted with P574,922.

The audit team told the VFP to ensure that programs/projects for veterans’ benefits would be more defined and prioritized in budget preparation, and that the required provisions and cost for activities are well planned to avoid significant variances.

It also told the federation to require its Accounting and Budget Divisions to closely monitor fund use and to assess whether the funds were spent as budgeted.

Further, the VFP was told to “assess the incurrence of expenditures in excess of the budget, as well as the budgeted funds which were not utilized and consider the causes/problems in the preparation of the corporate plans and budget.”

US Navy carrier USS Ronald Reagan finally enters 7th Fleet Area of Operations

From Ang Malaya (Sep 20): US Navy carrier USS Ronald Reagan finally enters 7th Fleet Area of Operations

United States Navy’s only froward-deployed Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), replacing USS George Washington (CVN 73), has finally entered 7th Fleet area of operations on September 17, US Navy reports. USS Ronald Reagan left its home-port for 9 year, Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego August 31. Its new home-port will be in Japan.

The 7th Fleet area of operations includes 36 maritime countries and the world’s five largest foreign armed forces – the People’s Republic of China, Russia, India, North Korea and the Republic of Korea. Five of the seven U.S. Mutual Defense Treaties are with countries in the area – Republic of the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Japan, and Thailand.

“Ronald Reagan is one of the most modern aircraft carriers,” US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Nathan Burke wrote. “The technology Ronald Regan is bringing to 7th Fleet is an example of the U.S.’s commitment to the region and the progress of bringing the newest equipment to operate with the forward deployed naval forces.”

The deployment provides a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. USS Ronald Reagan is deployed with its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5.

Warily Eyeing China, Philippines May Invite U.S. Back to Subic Bay

From the New York Times (Sep 19): Warily Eyeing China, Philippines May Invite U.S. Back to Subic Bay


The crew of a small fishing vessel docked in the waters of Subic Bay. Credit Jes Aznar for The New York Times        

SUBIC BAY, Philippines — In a flash of anticolonialist fervor nearly a quarter-century ago, lawmakers in the Philippines expelled the United States from an enormous naval base here, then the largest overseas outpost of the American military. Promising to break free from the “shackles of dictatorship,” they declared that foreign troops would never return.
But with China forcefully pressing its claim to a vast expanse of sea west of here, the Philippines is now debating whether to welcome the United States Navy back to the deepwater docks, airstrips and craggy shores of Subic Bay, which served as a haven for bruised battleships and weary soldiers during the Vietnam War.
It is also asking Washington for hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to strengthen its own military, one of the weakest in Asia.
The change of heart is just one sign of the shifting strategic calculations in the region as President Xi Jinping of China has sought to reinforce Beijing’s claim to almost all of the South China Sea by turning reefs into islands and putting military facilities on them. Satellite photos taken last week appear to show China preparing to build a third airstrip on one of the new islands.
Renato Etac, 35, the boat’s captain, says Chinese vessels routinely chase and try to ram his ship. “I can’t even count the Chinese ships I see, there are so many,” he said. Credit Jes Aznar for The New York Times  
United States officials have objected to the buildup in contested waters, and the dispute is expected to be high on the agenda when Mr. Xi meets President Obama in Washington on Thursday. Even as China has accelerated construction, though, the Obama administration has struggled to coordinate a response in Asia, where many leaders are not sure how hard they should push back against China, the region’s economic giant, and how much they should rely on the United States, its dominant military power.
Several nations lay claim to parts of the South China Sea, through which pass some of the world’s busiest shipping routes and which is believed to hold significant oil and natural gas deposits. But China’s push to establish the sea as its own has hit closer to home in the Philippines than almost anywhere else.
An island with a civilian Filipino population is in the disputed area, and Chinese forces have occupied reefs and shoals the Philippines once controlled. “The fight hasn’t even started yet, and it looks like the Philippines government has already surrendered,” said Renato Etac, 35, a fishing boat captain who says Chinese vessels there routinely chase and try to ram his ship. “I can’t even count the Chinese ships I see, there are so many.”
Last year, the government in Manila signed a 10-year agreement that would let the United States station troops, weapons and matériel at bases across the Philippines, setting the stage for an American return to several facilities, including Subic Bay and the sprawling Clark Air Base nearby. But the pact has been tied up by a legal challenge.
Filipinos, by a wide margin, hold favorable views of the United States, polls show. There is ambivalence, however, about allowing American troops to be stationed in the country — a concern amplified by the Philippines’ history as an American territory from 1898 to 1946 — and anxiety over how China might respond.
“When the elephants brawl, ants should be spared,” said Rene Augusto V. Saguisag, one of a group of former senators who voted to expel American troops in 1991 and has petitioned the Philippines Supreme Court to block the military agreement. “The U.S. and China should leave us alone and not involve us in the quarrels of the strong.”
Washington has expressed frustration with the delay in carrying out the agreement, which President Obama announced with fanfare during a visit to Manila last year. The case is not expected to be decided in the Philippines Supreme Court until later this fall at the earliest.
If it goes forward, the pact would give the United States the ability to operate a stronghold on the shores of the South China Sea, less than 500 miles from the new islands built by the Chinese. Currently, American forces in the region rely largely on bases more than 1,500 miles away, in Japan and the United States territory of Guam, for repairs.
The Philippines, prized for its deep, sheltered waters, is a linchpin in the Pentagon’s effort to shift resources toward Asia. The Subic Bay base, roughly the size of Singapore, played a role in virtually every American conflict of the 20th century. United States and Japanese forces battled to control it in World War II, and millions of American personnel passed through it every year during the Vietnam War.
The base was reborn as an economic development zone after the American withdrawal in 1992. Luxury villas were erected atop former ammunition bunkers, and a marine park was built along the shore. Outside the local government here, a statue of a woman holding a dove celebrates the American withdrawal and a plaque reads: “Unchain us now.”
 In addition to the legacy of American rule of the Philippines, another hurdle to military cooperation is the decrepit state of the Philippine armed forces, which have long suffered from waste and corruption.
Despite a recent effort to modernize its military, the Philippines still lacks basic equipment, including submarines and fighter jets. The most famous vessel in its fleet may be the Sierra Madre, a decaying World War II-era ship that the government ran aground nearly two decades ago to protect a contested reef. American military aid to the Philippines has increased significantly in recent years, more than doubling last year to $50 million. But that is less than the hundreds of millions the United States provided during the Cold War, when the Philippines was used to counterbalance Soviet support of Vietnam.
 In private talks, the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III has pressed the United States for up to $300 million in aid this year, arguing that it needs a substantial buildup of planes and ships to deter Chinese expansionism, according to a senior Philippine official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because United States officials have asked to keep the talks confidential.
But the Obama administration has so far rebuffed the request because it worries about corruption and the Philippines’ capacity to handle such an influx of resources. A spokeswoman for the State Department noted that the Philippines was already the largest recipient of American military aid in Southeast Asia.
“The issue of the West Philippines Sea is a shared responsibility of the Philippines and the United States,” said Fernando I. Manalo, a Philippine defense official, who used the local term for the South China Sea in arguing for joint investments in military upgradesBut Senator Dan Sullivan of Alaska, a Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, said it would take time to rebuild trust between the two countries.
“If you look at what happened in Subic Bay, that was a pretty abrupt turnaround by the Philippines,” he said, referring to the American expulsion in 1992. “I think memory probably lingers in both the Philippines and the United States.”
On Pag-asa island, home to about 100 residents in territory claimed by the Chinese, Mayor Eugenio B. Bito-onon Jr. has promised to resist what he calls the “Chinese invasion.”
“This is a question of preserving our existence,” he said during a visit to Puerto Princesa, a nearby city, pointing to a wall-sized map that he uses to track the advances of Chinese ships and construction work.
Mr. Bito-onon, 59, said he was worried that the Philippines was too weak to stand up to China, and that allies like the United States were too timid. “We seem to have lots of leaders and allies with no strong direction,” he said.
The Philippines has deployed coast guard ships in an effort to protect reefs and shoals from Chinese advances, and it has announced plans to station fighter jets and frigates at Subic Bay next year. It has also lodged a complaint before an international tribunal at The Hague, arguing that China’s claim to almost the entire 1.4 million square miles of the South China Sea violates international law. Chinese officials have said they will ignore the court’s ruling, contending that territorial disputes should be resolved through direct negotiations between the two countries.
In Manila last month, the top United States commander in the Pacific, Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., told Philippine officials that the United States did not want to take any military action that might distract from the case at The Hague, according to an individual briefed on the talks. But Admiral Harris also said that the United States planned to conduct more patrols in the South China Sea, the individual said.
Some Filipinos are worried that relying on the United States will delay efforts by the Philippines to build its own military. Others are concerned that the United States, despite its mutual defense treaty with the Philippines, is too distracted by its fight against terrorism in the Middle East to help them.
“We can’t simply trust that others will come to save the day,” said Maria Turco, 42, a teacher in Subic Bay. “We have to take ownership.”

Suspected NPA carry out 2 ambush attacks in Cortes, Surigao del Sur

From InterAksyon (Sep 19): Suspected NPA carry out 2 ambush attacks in Cortes, Surigao del Sur

Reports reaching Manila on Saturday indicated that government troops have launched a pursuit operation against suspected NPA rebels who ambushed two police patrols in Surigao del Sur.

The suspected NPA armed partisans waylaid a police patrol at a remote village of the town of Cortes in Surigao Del Sur on Friday morning, the police received at the Philippine National Police (PNP) National Operation Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City indicate.

At least one policeman was killed and another law enforcer was wounded in the ambush that took place at around 9:00 am Friday in Purok-5, Poblacion, Cortes.

Ambushed was a mobile patrol vehicle of Cortes Municipal Police Station. SPO4 Jesus Labastilla died, while another policeman, identified as PO2 Joy Turaja, was wounded.

The Surigao del Sur Provincial Police Office (PPO) said that four Cortes police officers were conducting a routine patrol mission in the area when the ambush was sprung by an undetermined number of armed men suspected to be NPA rebels.

Labastilla was reportedly killed on the spot, as the law enforcers fought back the attackers in a fierce firefight lasting for about 15 minutes.

The report said that the armed men quickly withdrew from the area on board a Star-Ex van and an Elf van heading north toward the direction of Lanuza and Carmen also in the same province.

The patrol vehicle managed to return to Cortes MPS driven by PO3 Rogelio Bagnol and SPO2 Venzon Sanchez after the firefight subsided, the police report said.

The report indicated that another ambush took place in the afternoon the same day, when another group of armed men ambushed a patrol jeep of the Provincial Public Safety Company (PPSC) led by Supt. Noguera, the deputy provincial director of Surigao Del Sur PPO.

The second ambush took place at around 3:30pm in Math town on a route heading toward Cortes.

The patrol jeep was passing through the area when a loud explosion went off from a suspected landmine accompanied by a burst of automatic gunfire, prompting the policemen to fire back at the attackers.

Units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) near the area responded immediately, providing air support. SPO2 Herminio Ermila was wounded and the police patrol jeep was damaged in the attacked.

Combined elements of the Surigao del Sur PPO and the Army’s 36th Infantry Battalion supported by two MG520 attack helicopters from the 402nd Infantry Brigade conducted pursuit operation.

The reinforcements were joined by troops of the Second Maneuver Company of the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the Caraga regional police command, led by Insp. Darwin Abainza.

Attempt to silence journalist on Lumad story 'cheap, desperate' – NUJP

From Rappler (Sep 20): Attempt to silence journalist on Lumad story 'cheap, desperate' – NUJP

Inday Espina-Varona, former national chair of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, is the target of a Facebook post linking her to communist groups

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) condemned the alleged attempt to “silence and intimidate” its former national chairperson Inday Espina-Varona.

In a statement released on Sunday, September 20, the NUJP called the Facebook post which painted Verona as a “propagandist” of communist rebels “cheap and desperate.”

The post came after her reports on the September 1 killings of Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur by paramilitia allegedly linked to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). (READ: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

“[This] is a cheap and desperate move to discredit a highly respected and multi-awarded journalist who has consistently fought for the rights of journalists and against unjust and oppressive acts on the marginalized,” the group said.

The post, published on the “Justice and Truth shall Prevail” Facebook page, said that Varona’s reporting shows her as an “asset” of groups like the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army, and the National Democratic Front.

Varona, former editor-in-chief of the Philippines Graphic magazine and a Marshall Mcluhan fellow in 2007, has been vocal in her posts and reporting on issues relating to the indigenous people in Mindanao.

This includes the misrepresentation of the AFP Eastern Mindanao Command on the statement of United Nations Special Rapporteur for Internally Displaced Persons Chaloka Beyani on the Lumad evacuation from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon. (READ: Military grossly distorted my views on Lumad evacuees – UN rapporteur)

In a Facebook post on Saturday, September 19, Varona said that despite the “madness of the logic,” threat still exists.

“Journos recognize a threat when we see one,” she wrote. “The madness of the logic does not minimize the threat, especially because we know what people are capable of when they can no longer distinguish between criticism and dissent and rebellion.”

The veteran journalist added that these should be reported to “send notice and to show people what kind of people issue these threats.”

“The view that espouses that is the threat,” Varona said. “We must expose that mindset, whether it targets a journalist, an activist, a priest, a lawyer, a judge.”

NUJP said the red-tagging against Verona is alarming and indicates the existence of "martial law mentality" almost 30 years after the fall of the Marcos dictatorship.

“(Red-tagging) is a tactic that has been used against activists and political dissenters, many of whom were subsequently targeted in summary killings, abduction and persecution through the filing of trumped-up criminal charges,” the group said.

“We demand that authorities investigate and apprehend those behind these attempts to intimidate Varona and other journalists exposing human rights violations and other injustices,” it added.

Sulu Sultan Esmail Kiram II dies

From Rappler (Sep 20): Sulu Sultan Esmail Kiram II dies

Kiram's brother, Datu Phugdal Kiram, will succeed him as the leader of the Sulu sultanate 

SABAH CLAIM. Sultan Esmail Kiram II gestures during a press conference on the 2013 Lahad Datu, Sabah standoff. The briefing was held in Makati in March 2013. File photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

SABAH CLAIM. Sultan Esmail Kiram II gestures during a press conference on the 2013 Lahad Datu, Sabah standoff. The briefing was held in Makati in March 2013. File photo by Rolex Dela Pena/EPA

Sulu's sultan Esmail Kiram II died on Saturday, September 19, due to kidney failure.

Kiram's niece, Princess Jacel Kiram, told Rappler that the sultan passed away at 6:25 pm of Saturday at the Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital. She said her uncle was 77 years old.

Sultan Kiram's body was set to be brought to Jolo, Sulu on Sunday at 12:30 pm.

Princess Jacel Kiram said that the elder Kiram's brother, Datu Phugdal Kiram, will succeed him.

The late sultan became leader of the Sulu sultanate in October 2013 upon the death of his eldest brother, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III, the father of Princess Jacel.

The Sulu sultanate was established in 1390 by Rajah Baginda and rose to be the richest and most powerful in the region.

After the United States' occupation of the Philippines in 1898, following its victory in the war with Spain, the power and prestige of the sultanate diminished. Under US colonization, the Sultanate of Sulu was virtually abolished and the Sultan reduced to a mere religious figurehead.

In February 2013, Sultan Jamalul Kiram III sent over 200 members of the sultanate's Royal Security Force to assert the throne's unresolved claim to Sabah, which Malaysia considers as a state. The standoff between the sultan's followers and Malaysian forces led to the death of 60 people, 52 Filipinos and 8 Malaysian policemen.

Jamalul Kiram III sent his other brother, Agbimuddin to lead the so-called Lahat Datu invasion. Agbimuddin died in January 2015.

Malaysia's The Star reported that the son of Sultan Esmail Kiram II is detained in Kota Kinabalu under the Security Offences Act in relation to the standoff.

The sultanate claims it leased Sabah to the British North Borneo Company in 1878. The state fell under British control after the second world war, and joined Malaysia in 1963.

NPA rebels seize soldier in Agusan del Sur

From InterAksyon (Sep 20): NPA rebels seize soldier in Agusan del Sur

Police on patrol near the Agusan del Sur-Surigao border. File photograph by Erwin Mascarinas

Reports reaching Manila indicated that more than 30 heavily-armed New People's Army (NPA) rebels on Saturday seized a soldier in civilian garb who was astride a motorcycle driven a barangay councilor in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The incident happened near the Km 16 marker around 9:00 a.m. at Barangay Policarpio, according to the report received Sunday from Capt. Alberto Caber, public affairs chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom).

Caber identified the soldier as Corporal Adriano Bingil, a member of the Philippine Army's 26th Infantry Battalion.

"Barangay Kagawad Reneboy Galino, who was driving the motorcycle, reported that they were flagged down by the armed NPA and the rebels forcibly took the soldier away," Caber said.

He said among the band of rebels were five female fighters.

Caber said the rebels were led by a certain Cai, all of them believed to belong to the North Central Mindanao Regional Committee.

"Pursuit operations have been launched to rescue the soldier while the local PNP is conducting investigation," Caber said.

Sultan Esmail Kiram succumbs to kidney failure, successor named

From InterAksyon (Sep 20): Sultan Esmail Kiram succumbs to kidney failure, successor named

Portrait of the late Sultan Esmael Kiram, from his Facebook page.

Sultan of Sulu Esmail Kiram II has died of kidney failure, and his younger brother, Datu Rajah Mudah Phugdal Kiram, has been named successor, the Sultanate's spokesman Abraham Idjirani announced Sunday.

He succeeded his brother Jamalul Kiram III, who died in 2013 in Manila.

"He passed away last night at around 6:15 o'clock at the Zamboanga Peninsula Hospital because of kidney problem," Idjirani said in a telephone interview Sunday.

He said Kiram's health started to deteriorate two months ago after he suffered at least three successive strokes.

"Datu Rajah Mudah Phugdal Kiram will be announced as the rightful successor of late Sultan Esmael Kiram II after the burial," Idjirani said.

The late sultan was 76 and his brother successor is 72.

Idjirani said the sultan had refused to be taken to the hospital but his family insisted on it.

"His remains will be transported to Maiming, where his remains will be buried at the ancestral burial plot of the Kiram clan," he said.

Kiram's daughter, Princess Jacel Kiram, who married an Army major, has been reported as being eyed for a senate slate in the presidential bid of Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Meanwhile, Idjirani said the Kiram's brother successor is a public school teacher with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Education.

"He taught in the elementary school until retirement. He was also a professional referee in the Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP)," Idjirani said.

Eastmincom chief calls on Lumads to sign peace pact

From MindaNews (Sep 20): Eastmincom chief calls on Lumads to sign peace pact
The chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) has called on what he described as “feuding” Lumads (Indigenous Peoples), to sign a peace pact to restore peace in their communities in Surigao del Sur.

In an e-mailed statement, Lt. Gen. Aurelio B. Balalad, Eastmincom chief, said the forging of a peace pact or “Tampuda” will be an instrument to “win the peace in the indigenous peoples (IPs) or Lumad communities in Caraga Region.”

The call was made three weeks after the Sept. 1 killing of Emerito Samarca, 54, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (Alcadev), Dione Campos, chair of the Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU), and Bello Sinzo in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur by some 20 unidentified armed men, believed to be members of the paramilitary group Magahat-Bagani.

But Joyce Perpetua, spokesperson for League of Filipino Students-Southern Mindanao Region (LFS-SMR) hit the military for calling for a peace pact among the alleged “feuding” Lumads.

“There is no feud among the Lumads,” Perpetua said. “Their traditional Bagani forces were peacemakers until the AFP scattered blood and started to break the unity among Lumads,” she said, claiming the military “created and armed the paramilitary forces of Lumads” to drive a wedge between the IPs.

In a text message, Capt. Alberto Caber, chief of the Public Information Office (PIO) and spokesperson of the Eastmincom said Lumad leaders have yet to inform them when the signing of the peace pact will take place.

Balalad claimed that the move is supported by local government units (LGUs) and concerned stakeholders in the provinces of Caraga. Caraga region comprises the two Agusan and two Surigao provinces and Dinagat Island.

“We strongly support this pact among Lumads because this is the key to peace within their ancestral lands. We respect their culture,” he added.

The statement added that the Tampuda is “the highest gesture of unity among the warring tribes that is seen to bring resolution to the conflicts and misunderstanding among the Lumads.”

“Tampuda is proper and recognized among the IP communities as the key to lasting peace. The military as an institution recommends that move with the support of concerned stakeholders,” he said.

Perpetua alleged that what the military is up to is to cover up the militarization it started, which led to the killings.

Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan Southern Mindanao Region, called the peace pact “misleading and irrational” and a “futile attempt to evade the issues on human rights violations.”

“If this is about the issue on the killings in Lianga, Surigao del Sur and other parts of the region, then this call is misleading and irrational for what happened is not a tribal feud but extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the military themselves,” she said.

Duazo urged President Benigno Aquino III to heed the “legitimate call of the IPs to disarm and dismantle paramilitary groups and end militarization/Oplan Bayanihan that grossly violates human rights.”