Friday, October 9, 2015

MILF: Iqbal’s opening statement

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 8): Iqbal’s opening statement

To me and perhaps to everybody else, this Press Conference on the Prospects for and the Status of Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Lower House of Congress is very crucial and timely.

First, it shows how strong the partnership of the Parties to push for the passage of the BBL in Congress; and second, which is more compelling, it is a wakeup call to all concerned, including the two branches of Congress to do some last-ditch belt-tightening measures, otherwise the passage of the BBL is a foregone conclusion. We have witnessed how the various timelines for passing the BBL fell on the roadside: December 2014, June 11, this year, September-October, this year, which will end tomorrow. The only window of opportunity is the next deadline, if I may call it as such, which will be in November-December.  After that, it is all politics that fill the air.

Of course, we can explain why the BBL has not made it through in Congress in all these attempts. But we will not revisit them anymore, lest they will bring back hard memories. On the positive note, we witnessed how everybody joined hands to push for the BBL: The government, the MILF, the international community including the United Nations, European Union, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the World Bank, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Catholic Church of the Philippines led by Cardinals Orlando Quevedo and Luis Antonio Tagle, the various Protestant Churches in the Philippines, the civil society organizations and non-government organizations, both domestic and international, and many more including eminent personalities such as those belonging to the Friends of the Peace Process the likes of former Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Jaime Zobel de Ayala Zobel, Christian Monsod, and Father Joaquin Bernas. And of course, on top of this list and without saying, is President Benigno Aquino III, whose clout with the MILF leadership is still very much intact to this day.  We know how he put into the BBL both his personal and official capacities to ensure its passage.

What should be done, therefore, to save the BBL from being relegated to the dustbin of history?  Who are the lead actors in this process of passing the BBL?

For me, there is no need to state what is obvious; instead, I am making these humble propositions:

First, I appeal to the honourable members of both Chambers of Congress to rise up to the occasion and be statesmen even for one moment in the history of this country. The fate of the BBL is in your hands, and history will judge you on how you dispense with the BBL, which is the key solution to the Bangsamoro Question, a problem that has pestered us not only for decades but even for centuries. And second, I see now the wisdom of certifying it as urgent bill. Certifying a bill as urgent exempts it from the "three-day rule", or the requirement that bills are to be read three times on separate days. It would also mean that the House or the Senate could pass the BBL on second and third readings on the same day.  Both the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) have provided that the BBL should be certified as urgent bill. Without glossing over the validity of the reasons advanced by government by not doing this yet, but I think this time, the BBL should be certified as urgent bill in order to fast tract its passage in Congress.  

Frankly speaking, we have hard time explaining to our constituents why up to this time the BBL is not certified as urgent bill, in spite of the fact that this is part of official agreement of the Parties. It is only our trust of President Aquino, which has been built over the years, which we use to keep at bay those trying to entertain serious doubts on the legislative process right now. Good, they still take our words for it.

I strongly believe that genuine peace with justice is within our grasp. This is through the passage of the BBL. Let us not lose this golden opportunity, so that the long years of conflict will never happen again. Let us bury this hatchet and face the future with renewed hope and true happiness. Let us hasten the path towards real reconciliation.

However, sad to say, many people including some so-called leaders of society and media practitioners are making this reconciliation very difficult to succeed. It seems they want no less than we humiliate ourselves and bow in surrender to them. Sometimes, we feel that this country is not really ready to extend to us the olive branch of peace.

Will the BBL make it in November-December this time?  I cannot answer this question; I can only hope, not do anything beyond that, because, personally, I completely stopped analysing.  The future is not for me to determine. I just do what is required of me as chairman and member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that crafted the BBL.

Thank you and good afternoon.

Iqbal’s opening statement during the Press Conference on the Prospects for and the Status of Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the Lower House of Congress on October 7, 2015.

MILF: BDA joins orphanage management training program in Turkey

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 9): BDA joins orphanage management training program in Turkey

BDA joins orphanage management training program in Turkey

The staff of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) handling its orphanage program have joined the Orphanage Management Training Program at Izmit City in Turkey on October 3 to 6, 2015.

BDA-IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi)  orphanage director Zaida Dimacisil, together with Moniesa Husain, operations assistant attended the said event.

Through lecture and workshops facilitated by experts, the participants learned childhood, adolescence, and pedagogic guidance. The participants also shared about the respective orphanage they are managing.

With the support of IHH, BDA is managing an orphanage in Cotabato City catering 64 in-house and 138 distant orphans.

The orphanage program which targets 1,000 beneficiaries per year was inaugurated in May attended by Turkish dignitaries, MILF and BDA officials.

It provides food and educational assistance to the target children.

For a couple of years already, Turkey has been engaged with BDA providing Qurbani meat during Eid ul Adha and Iftar (food taken to break the fast) during the holy month of Ramadhan.

The communities reached by the provisions have expressed deep appreciation to the Turkish government and its citizens for their benevolence and concern to the Bangsamoro people.

The Holy Qur’an has mentioned orphans as among the beneficiaries of Zakat. (With report from BDA)

MILF: Election fever should not delay BBL passage - GPH Peace Panel

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 9): Election fever should not delay BBL passage - GPH Peace Panel

.Photo courtesy of OPAPP

Photo courtesy of OPAPP

“While we understand that everyone is gearing up for the elections, that is not reason to not come back to work in November to finish all the important pending legislation,” GPH Chief Peace Negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer.

In a news item posted at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process website, it said that the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front Peace Panels together with active members of Congress from Mindanao held a press conference on October 7 “to shed better light on the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) amidst recent uncertainties and continuing delays.”

Coronel-Ferrer disclosed, “We have communicated to our representatives at the House the urgency of apprising the public especially the Bangsamoro people who have been waiting with bated breath for the realization of their aspiration for genuine autonomy.”

“The Bangsamoro want and need the BBL. Let us not drive them to hopelessness by continuously delaying the process and keeping them in the dark of the bill’s status. We don’t want them, or any segment of the Filipino people, losing trust in our government institutions,” she stressed.

The Commission on Elections has set the period for the filing of candidacy on October 12-16 for national and local positions. As the election season kicks off, Congress faces difficulty in constituting a quorum.

Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives have expressed doubt that the BBL could be passed before the October 9 recess of Congress. A new deadline for its passage was set on December 16 this year.

“Why pass it in December if we can do it this November? After all, with the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Conference) here, the world will once again be watching the Philippines and it will be good for the whole country to have a BBL before then.”

The BBL is the legal translation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the fruit of more than 17 years of negotiations between the government and the MILF. It will establish a parliamentary autonomous government that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) if passed by Congress.

MILF: BDA shares experiences to microfinance practitioners

Posted to the MILF Website (Oct 9): BDA shares experiences to microfinance practitioners

 Photo courtesy of Mindanao Microfinance Council

Photo courtesy of Mindanao Microfinance Council

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) has shared its experiences in implementing programs and projects in conflict affected areas to microfinance practitioners.

In a summit hosted by Mindanao Microfinance Council (MMC), Hamodi L. Tiburon, CPA and head of BDA finance division discussed the topic Developing Financial Inclusion Strategy for ARMM (Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao).

The event, 1st Microfinance Practitioners Summit, was held at Pinnacle Hotel at Davao City on October 1 to 2, 2015.

Tiboron also tackled Islamic Banking and Finance and even the norms, values, culture and attitudes of Bangsamoro people. He also highlighted Priority Programs on Economy and Livelihood under the Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP).

The BDA finance chief took the opportunity to share to the summit delegates the real condition of the Bangsamoro, a group of marginalized people which have long been suffering from long history of religious, political, social and economic injustices .

He stressed the need for partnership with committed stakeholders towards achieving genuine and lasting peace and development in the Southern Philippines.

BDA is the economic arm of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It has been implementing rehabilitation and development projects with the assistance of various partners such as the World Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nation’s Population Fund (UNFPA), Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi, Insani Yardim Vakfi, among others.

MMC is a national network of microfinance practitioners advocating poverty eradication in the country by providing ethical and inclusive financial and non-financial services.

During its annual general assembly in 2013, MMC has also invited Katiyakap, Inc. to educate its members on Shariah-compliant micro-financing. (With report from BDA)

Six rebel returnees get aid from prov’l gov’t

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 9): Six rebel returnees get aid from prov’l gov’t

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato --- Six rebel returnees in the province recently received assistance from the provincial government under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP).

In a joint Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) and Provincial Development Council (PDC) meeting on Monday, CLIP cheques worth P15,000 each were turned over to the six rebel returnees.

The CLIP which is under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) which focuses in the integration program for the members of the Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and National Democratic Front who have decided to abandon armed struggle and be mainstreamed into society.

Meanwhile, Governor Emmylou Mendoza lauded the joint undertaking of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development, the judiciary and the civil society which led the former rebels to voluntarily disarm and undergo mainstreaming in civilian and productive life.

In line with this, the governor reminded the province’s local officials, especially the chief executive of each local government unit (LGU) to implement stronger peace and order programs.

She said it is important that local officials understand that along with the developments and progress is the fact that criminals and other lawless elements want to take advantage of people.

On the other hand, based on the crime situation presented by the newly installed Cotabato Police Provincial Office (CPPO) Provincial Director PSSupt. Alexander Tagum, Kidapawan City and Midsayap recorded the highest crime incidence as of the 3rd quarter of 2015.

“Hope this will serve as reminder to all our LGU partners to strengthen accomplishment of the PNP and have more innovations to reduce criminality in their respective area of responsibility,” Governor Mendoza said.

Maguindanao wary over security issues

From the Manila Times (Oct 8): Maguindanao wary over security issues

BULUAN, MAGUINDANAO: Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu asked that political candidates to file their Certificate of Candidacy (COC) in the nearest Commission on Elections (Comelec) office next week, citing security reasons.

At the provincial peace and order council meeting here on Wednesday, Mangudadatu highlighted issues including security concerns in hot spot areas during the election.

“We want a peaceful and successful conduct of this coming election, let us forget the past,” the incumbent governor told reporters here at the sidelight of the meeting.

Mangudadatu, who is planning to run for his last term, said he has requested the Comelec to provide a venue in Buluan town for COC filing for those who have security concerns so they do not have to travel to the Comelec office in Cotabato City and also to avoid confrontations with their rivals that may lead to violence.

Maguindanao is known for election-related violence including the Maguindanao massacre on November 23, 2009 wherein 58 people including 32 journalists were killed. They were accompanying the wife of Governor Mangungudatu, who was on her way to the Comelec office to file his COC.

Also present at the meeting were the army’s 6th Infantry Division commanding officer Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, police Provincial Director Sr. Supt. Nickson Muksan, Representatives of the Joint Normalization Committee, government peace panel legal team, Comelec election supervisor lawyer Udtog Tago, mayors, and teacher supervisors.

In their presentation, the military highlighted the recent major violent incidents that occurred in Salvu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak areas and northern parts of Maguindanao.

Since April, there were 35 incidents of harassment, killing and bombing believed to have been committed by the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters whose targets were military personnel and establishments.

Another 46 incidents were recorded in northern parts of Maguindanao where carnapping, shooting, firefight, arson, strafing, looting and grenade explosion were also reported.

The military also expressed their concern over the presence of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front in the area.

Muksan said they plan to augment their forces in six towns namely Sultan sa Borangis, Datu Unsay, Radjah Buayan, Sultan Mastura and Matanog with the support from the military during the filing of COCs.

Schools division Superintendent Meriam Kawit asked for protection for teachers who will serve in the coming polls.

Kawit said many teachers received “death threats” from unknown personalities.

Mangudadatu inaugurates school named after ‘Maguindanao massacre’ plotter

From the Philippine Star (Oct 9): Mangudadatu inaugurates school named after ‘Maguindanao massacre’ plotter

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu (center) huddles with pupils after Thursday's inauguration of a four-classroom building in Datu Unsay Elementary School, a project bankrolled by the provincial government. Unson

Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu on Thursday willingly had himself photographed with pupils in a school named after the main plotter of the Nov. 23, 2009 “Maguindanao massacre” that left 58 people dead, one of them his spouse.

The governor and Major Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division (ID) were at Datu Unsay Central Elementary School in Datu Unsay town to inaugurate a newly-rehabilitated school building which bandits burned down two years ago.

Datu Unsay is the nickname of Andal Ampatuan Jr., who was former mayor of the same municipality.

Ampatuan Jr. was tagged as one of the masterminds in the now infamous Maguindanao massacre incident, the country’s worst election-related violence ever.

His patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., most known as Datu Andal, former governor of the province, died of liver cancer more than three months ago while in detention for his involvement in the massacre.

The repair of the four-classroom building in Datu Unsay was initiated by the Army’s 6th Civil Military Operations Battalion and the 34th Infantry Battalion (IB) led by Lt. Cols. Noman Alcovindas and Edgar Delos Reyes, respectively.

The project was funded by the office of Mangudadatu through the provincial government’s emergency and disaster response group under Lynette Estandarte, who is chief budget officer of the province.

Mangudadatu was accompanied to the Datu Unsay project site by his siblings, Mayor Freddie of Mangudadatu town and Assemblyman Khadafeh, a member of the Regional Legislative Assembly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“Every time I would hear, or read about the name of one of the suspects in the
Maguindanao massacre as if my heart is being torn into pieces but I have no way but engage in this project still because it will benefit school children from families that needs access to quality education, children we want to set free from the bondage of illiteracy,” Mangudadatu said.

Mangudadatu said he willingly acceded to requests by school children for a photo session near an overhead signage indicating the name of their school which reminds him of the Maguindanao massacre, where he lost his wife, Genalyn, and several relatives.

At least 32 of the 58 people that perished in the incident were journalists.

The victims were on their way to the old provincial capitol in Shariff Aguak, to file on Mangudadatu’s behalf his certificate of candidacy for Maguindanao governor during the 2010 elections. Members of the Ampatuan private militia, led by Ampatuan Jr., intercepted their convoy and herded into a nearby hill where they were killed one after another.

Ampatuan Jr. was to aspire for Maguindanao’s gubernatorial post during the 2010 local polls, an ambition Mangudadatu, then vice mayor of Buluan, planned to contest.

Ampatuan Jr. and several members of his family were arrested and subsequently detained in connection with the massacre case, still being litigated in a Quezon City court.

Also present in the event at the Datu Unsay school campus were Mangudadatu’s son, Jhazzer, who is vice mayor of Buluan town and Maguindanao’s appointed deputy governor, Ramil Dilangalen.

The same group of officials opened on Thursday afternoon to Moro students a new two-classroom Islamic school building constructed in Barangay Kulasi in Gen. S.K. Pendatun town by members of the Army’s 33rd IB led by Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog and his superior, Col. Melquiades Feliciano of the 601st Brigade.

Carpenters and masons from the 33rd IB built the two classroom Islamic school building amid the heavy presence of Moro rebels in the surroundings.

Mangudadatu paid for all the materials used in the project, including cement and aggregates supplied by Estandarte’s office.

Mangudadatu awarded Bunayog with a special citation plaque, in the presence of Barangay Kulasi residents, for his role in the construction of the Islamic school building, an extension of a two-classroom structure which members of the 33rd IB constructed last year.

Ongoing Support For Government Communications Demo'd By Inmarsat During Pacific Endeavor Exercise

From Satnews Daily (Oct 9): Ongoing Support For Government Communications Demo'd By Inmarsat During Pacific Endeavor Exercise

[Satnews] Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L) has demonstrated the company's ongoing commitment to support government communications needs worldwide by providing essential capability for both real-time crisis as well as emergency response preparedness and training in the recent Pacific Endeavor exercise.

The event was co-hosted by U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the Armed Forces of The Philippines (AFP) J6 and took place in Manila, Philippines, between August 31 and September 11, 2015. Military representatives from 21 Pacific nations also took part in SatCom Endeavor, a part of Exercise Pacific Capstone event, to jointly train and learn about the latest satellite communications capabilities.

Major Leo Caduyac, a Philippine Army Signal Command Soldier check radio communications during Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015. Sponsored by U.S. Pacific Command and hosted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Pacific Endeavor is a multinational workshop designed to enhance communication interoperability and expedite Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief response in the Asia-Pacific. The workshop will be held until September 11, 2015, and will involve 21 allied and partner nations.  US. Pacific Command Photo by TSgt Todd Kabalan

This type of exercise  is critical to the success and preparation for the next humanitarian aid disaster response (HA/DR) situation. As part of this training, Inmarsat executives provided an overview of the company’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) and Global Satellite Phone Service (GSPS). These services deliver a valuable ‘First In’ SATCOM capability, to first responders entering a disaster area based on its voice quality, small size, global coverage and ease of use.

Underscoring its commitment to meeting and serving the mission-critical communications needs of the first responder community, Inmarsat also offers Global Xpress to deliver end-to-end, seamless, ‘SATCOM as a Service’ capability.  Supported by the only commercial worldwide Ka-band constellation built for mobility, it provides high-throughput communications solutions to government users that can take advantage of its ease-of-use, portability and reliability.

U.S. Marine Corps Major Erika Teichert, from the Naval Post Graduate School, instructs communicators from the Asia-Pacific region on the setup of a mobile satellite system in Makati City, Manila, Philippines, on Sept. 10, 2015.  U.S. Pacific Command, photo by TSgt Todd Kabalan

Inmarsat’s portfolio of reliable, managed satellite communications services help overcome the hazards of both natural and man-made catastrophes. The company offers both voice and data access so responders can assess damage, rescue victims and call for support. They acquire instant phone, broadband and wideband services in critically-hit areas – regions where other communications options have failed—using equipment that is as easy to use as a standard cell phone, and often small and light enough to store in a backpack.

“Communications people are generally some of the first people on the ground,” said Corporal Rochelle Rowe, a Royal New Zealand Air Force communications specialist, and a SatCom Endeavor participant. “If you can get communications up, even with a small 300k link, that’s still something, and getting internet access is really important to access the rest of the world, to call for help.”

When a disaster strikes, many times the location’s basic infrastructure is destroyed. The cell towers, the Internet providers and the backbone of communication infrastructure are gone. Setting up communication quickly after a disaster is vital to saving lives. Hands on training with mobile broadband equipment give these partners a chance to practice and work out any issues.

“Having a system such as the BGAN is important because you can set it up in five minutes,” said Cpl. Rowe.“Even though it’s a simple piece of equipment, it’s quite good to get hands on so when you are in a HA/DR situation, and someone hands you a BGAN, you’re not like, how do I use this thing."

"The BGAN gives five or six people that first-in capability to tell their higher headquarters what the ground truth is, so that that higher headquarters can plan and ensure that the right help is going to the right people, at the right time, and the right place,” said Major Erika Teichert, a Marine Corps officer from the Naval Post Graduate School.

Strengthening relationships and interoperability is the main focus of exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015. SatCom Endeavor in particular, provided the partner nations the ability to build strong relationships in addition to strong networks. These relationships will be vital when the next HADR crisis comes.

“It was good, just interacting with different people from the Asia Pacific Region, and who knows, I might come across someone again,” said Cpl. Rowe.

Exercise Pacific Endeavor 2015 , after its official start on August 31, is comprised of multiple training modules aimed to keep participants ahead of cyber, satellite, and radio technological advances, in case of a disaster. Representatives from the Multinational Communications Interoperability Program (MCIP) are co-hosting the exercise with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help improve interoperability of communications technologies between partner-nations in the pacific region.

Executive Comment

“Global Xpress ensures that first responders have the needed high-speed wideband connectivity throughout any disaster relief effort, making Inmarsat the ‘First In, Last Out’ SATCOM capability of choice,” said Lizzie Greenwood, Inmarsat’s Business Development Director Asia Pacific, Global Government.

“Inmarsat has a proven track record with more than 35 years of experience in delivering mobile satellite communications capabilities to first responders,” said Kai Tang, Inmarsat’s Vice President of Market Development, U.S. Government. “Our customers often have less than 72 hours of notice before moving into an unknown geographic location under very challenging conditions. BGAN is the established ‘capability of choice’ because of its portability and global mobility.  As the HA/DR mission expands and connectivity needs increase, they now have Global Xpress to deliver the demanded high-throughput connectivity with the same benefits of smaller size, ease of use and worldwide mobility.”

Story is courtesy of Inmarsat and Tech. Sgt. Todd Kabalan,
Defense Media Activity – Hawaii News Bureau, U.S. Air Force

‘Morong 43’ rejects mediation

From the Business World (Oct 9): ‘Morong 43’ rejects mediation

THE SO-CALLED Morong 43 have rejected mediation on their P15-million civil suit against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which means the case would have to proceed to trial.
In a statement, spokesperson Alex Montes said the health workers arrested in a 2010 raid have stood pat on their damage suit against Mrs. Arroyo, former national security adviser Norberto B. Gonzales, and Camp Capinpin warden Manuel Tabion.

“Regardless of what the accused, and their camp, does to deny their accountability for the illegal detention and torture of the 43 health workers, we are firm in resisting any form of arbitration, and we wish for the hearings to proceed,” Mr. Montes said.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 81 Judge Madonna C. Echiverri had submitted the case to mandatory mediation through an Aug. 26 order. The case was referred to the Philippine Mediation Center on Friday.

The order provided that should mediation fail, the Judicial Dispute Resolution would proceed on Nov. 11.

The health workers were arrested during a medical training session in Morong, Rizal, on Feb. 6, 2010, and were charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives.
The group, however, said they were subsequently detained and tortured by military and police officers. They were freed in December that year, after 10 months.

Philippines welcomes presence of US Navy ships at Spratlys

From the Business Mirror (Oct 9): Philippines welcomes presence of US Navy ships at Spratlys

DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said on Friday he supports the decision of the US to send navy ships close to the reefs that were reclaimed and occupied by China in the Spratly islands on the West Philippine Sea to prove that there is freedom of navigation in the area.

At the same time, Gazmin said the government will extend any assistance to the US Navy plan, one of which is to allow US ships to dock in Philippine ports and bases.

“We have been allowing all ships to dock in our area… those that have security and defense cooperation with us as part of their port call protocols,” Gazmin said during the anniversary celebration of the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office, one of the agencies under the Department of National Defense.

The US is set to challenge China’s claims over the South China Sea with the plans of sending US Navy ships inside the 22-kilometer territorial limit surrounding the reefs claimed by Beijing in the area also claimed by the Philippines.

The US Navy said it was just awaiting approval to sail.

Sending of navy ships to the area will prove the US’s stance that it does not recognize China’s sovereignty over international waters.

Gazmin said he welcomed the US move of sending ships close to the area reclaimed by Beijing and even conduct overflights, an exercise that US military aircraft had done in the past.

“They have always been doing that in the first place. They said that they will fly…they will sail in those areas as they have been doing before just to prove that there is freedom of navigation,” he said.

“It is some sort of showing that they are following the rule of law,” Gazmin added.

He said the presence of the US in the territories that are being claimed by China is within its rights, since the areas are supposed to be part of international waters, and if the US is challenged, then it will only prove that freedom of navigation does not exist.

“What America will do is within its rights because it has been doing it all along. If it would be challenged, then it would prove there is no freedom of navigation,” he said.

Court junks Palparan’s motion to leave prison

From the Philippine Star (Oct 10): Court junks Palparan’s motion to leave prison

Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan

A court here has denied the  motion filed by  retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan to leave his detention cell so he can transfer his voter’s registration and have his biometrics taken.

Palparan, who has announced his intention to run for senator in next year’s elections, said he wants to transfer his voter’s registration from Pasig to Taguig.

Palparan is detained at a military facility in Taguig  in connection with the kidnapping with serious illegal detention case filed against him before the Malolos Regional Trial Court for the disappearance of University of the Philippines students Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan.

Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and member of the prosecution panel  welcomed the decision of RTC Branch 15, saying  Palparan’s motion is against court proceedings.

Olalia said Palparan could have his biometrics taken in prison and file his certificate of candidacy through a representative.

Narzal Mallares, Palparan’s defense counsel, had expressed optimism their motion would be granted, saying the former general has not been convicted.

It is not yet clear if Palparan will run as an independent or a political party will include him in its senatorial ticket.

Gazmin downplays impact of abduction cases on Apec meet

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 10): Gazmin downplays impact of abduction cases on Apec meet

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin yesterday sought to downplay the negative impact of the recent kidnapping incidents to the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit which will be attended by more than 20 heads of states, including United States President Barack Obama.

Gazmin, during a chance interview by Camp Aguinaldo reporters, said that the Aquino government is well-prepared for the November Apec Summit.

“As far as Apec is concerned, we are very firm that we can rightfully say that we are prepared for any eventuality and we have done all the things that should be done to prevent such activity to happen during the Apec,” Gazmin said.

Gazmin expressed belief that the recent kidnapping of foreigners in Davao del Norte and Zamboanga del Norte have long been planned by the perpetrators.

The Defense chief stressed that government security forces are now conducting continuous operation to track down the perpetrators and safety rescue the victims.

“The special instruction is to focus their military operation in securing and ensuring the safety of the kidnap victims,” Gazmin said.

Relatedly, the military is eyeing a certain group behind the kidnapping of Italian Rolando del Torchio in Dipolog City on Wednesday night.

Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero, commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said that the military and the police are currently conducting operation to address Del Torchio’s kidnapping.

“There is an ongoing joint AFP-PNP pursuit operation so I cannot disclose the details,” said Guerrero.

Asked if the military has identified the suspects, Guerrero replied “we have. At this point, we cannot disclose it.”

Del Torchio, 53, a former missionary priest who served in Sibuco, Zamboanga Sibugay, was kidnapped by more or less 10 armed men right inside his Ur Choice Pizza House located along Quezon Avenue in Dipolog City Wednesday night.

A security official, who requested anonymity, tagged the group of Saher Munloc, alias commander Red Eye, whose members are former fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who have gone into kidnapping and other illegal activities.

The source said Munloc’s group were among the lawless groups operating in Zambonga Peninsula and other provinces in Western Mindanao and is involved in kidnapping, extortion and other illegal money-making schemes. The group has ties with the local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf.

Guerrero said they were looking into reports that Del Torchio had been brought to Sulu, the province were Filipino Maritess Flor and the three foreigners Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad were also taken after they were abducted in Davao more than a week ago.

He said the presence of the kidnap victims in Sulu was the subject of intense validation by the police and the military.

“We are receiving the same information, so we are validating all of these.
Nevertheless, we are continuing our focused military operation and in coordination with the Philippine National Police because there are still nine hostages in Sulu, so our efforts are continuing,” Guerrero said.

Mamasapano case not closed; others may still be charged

From the Daily Tribune (Oct 10): Mamasapano case not closed; others may still be charged

Malacañang yesterday is on the defensive to remedy the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) failure to charge suspects for the deaths of the nine other Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) troopers who perished in the cruel Mamasapano incident in Maguindanao last Jan. 25.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said President Aquino ordered that the charges be filed upon gaining evidence, which prompted the DoJ to allow the process to start immediately despite the lack of suspects for the nine SAF commandos.

Still, the Palace official said that this does not mean that there will be no more charges in the future, noting that the Mamasapano case remains open. Her statement contradicts the earlier statement of President Aquino himself who proclaimed that case is closed on the issue.
“What I understand is that process is ongoing but we needed, as the President said we file cases when there is enough evidence. It does not close the opportunity that in the future there will be more evidence against other people who are not among those named respondents,” Valte said at a Palace briefing.

“I don’t think they consider the case closed in the sense that there is a possibility of new evidence or witnesses coming up. That being said, we need to let the process push through with regard to those who had already been identified and with standing evidence,” the Palace official added.

She said the Palace would defer the statement for the Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to give, particularly on who may still face charged. De Lima had earlier stated that there is no suspect present because there are no witnesses to point at the supposed killers of the remaining SAF troopers.

Valte also warned those allegedly targeting the DoJ for the failing to charge suspects, noting that they should not take advantage of the bereaved families by politicizing the incident.
“Again (saying that it is) a failure to file charges against perpetrators is a blanket because we have seen the list of respondents and sooner or later their participation will be revealed,” she said. “In any case, we will see that if there are those using it to push for political agenda, but we wish they stop.”

She added: Let us not add to the burden of the families by continuing to use their loved ones for political agenda.

About 90 individuals had already been charged by the Justice department over the Mamasapano incident, which lead to the death of 65 people including 44 SAF commandos, 16 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters and five civilians.

Discussions on the Mamasapano incident resurfaced following President Aquino’s fielding of an “alternative version” of the incident, putting to question his trust for the SAF commandos that survived the botched Oplan Exodus.

Now, the Senate is seeking to revive debates on the incident, as it was unable to emphasize and meet the initial objective of the Mamasapano probe in the Upper Chamber which is to create legislation regarding the matter.

President Aquino, who has been tagged as ultimately responsible” for the failed operations, got the lowest ranking yet in trust, confidence, approval and satisfaction following the Mamasapano incident.

He put then suspended PNP Director Alan Purisima in the loop of the operation despite orders of the Ombudsman. The sacked police chief was a close friend to Aquino.

IEDs topple two NGCP towers in Cotabato

From GMA News (Oct 10): IEDs topple two NGCP towers in Cotabato

Some two National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) steel towers in Pikit, Cotabato were toppled by improvised explosive devices (IED’s) Friday night.

Pikit's chief of police Senior Inspector Sindato Karim said that two explosions were heard in Barangay Batolawan at around 11:45 p.m.

When investigators arrived in the area, they found NGCP towers 44 and 45 totally collapsed.

The destruction caused wide power interruptions in Pikit and other towns in Cotabato's first district.

“We are still conducting investigation on motives and identity of the suspects,” Karim said.

DND P2B budget seeks more money for CAFGUs, militias

From InterAksyon (Oct 9): DND P2B budget seeks more money for CAFGUs, militias

File photograph from Mike Gubat.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), through the Department of National Defense (DND), is asking Congress for a budget item of more than P2 billion to fund operations of its so-called "force multipliers."

The militant group Karapatan's secretary-general, Critina Palabay, disclosed on Friday that the so-called force multipliers refer to the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and paramilitary forces.

"Despite the killings and terror committed by its paramilitary groups, the AFP has the nerve to ask for more money to fund them," lamented Palabay, alluding to discussions at the plenary deliberations in the House of Representatives on the DND 2016 budget.

"Straight from the horse's mouth, the DND admitted there are more than 53,000 CAFGUs and paramilitary forces under its jurisdiction. The DND also revealed during the budget hearing that more than half of the CAFGU or about 30,735 are in Mindanao," she added.

Ever since, Palabay claimed. the operational budget and salaries of CAFGUs and paramilitary forces "has never been transparent in any military financial report, if there is any, which has long been suspected to be one of sources of corruption in DND and AFP."

She added that the AFP was also not transparent in reporting the exact number of its CAFGUs.

The government security establishment controls and maintains "a vast army of paramilitary groups – the Civilian Auxiliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU), Special Civilian Armed Auxiliary (SCAA), Investment Defense Force (IDF), and other AFP force multipliers in its counterinsurgency campaign such as Alamara, NIPAR, De la Mance group," Palabay elaborated.

These militias, Karapatan said, "are usually common suspects in the commission of human rights violations just like what's happening to Lumad communities in Mindanao."

Among these paramilitary forces were the Magahat and Bagani, which Karapatan claimed to be liable for the evacuation of almost a thousand residents from Marihatag, Surigao del Sur last week.

"Each year, more than P2 billion are allocated to the AFP for its force multipliers. The DND wants more next year. The AFP definitely wants to strengthen its paramilitary groups, instead of heeding the call to disband them, because they serve as cover for military atrocities in Lumad communities," Palabay said.

"The number of victims will definitely increase, if the AFP will be given more funds for this," Palabay underscored.

She said the military has been forcibly drawing Lumad recruits into the paramilitary groups, such as the Barangay Defense Force and the Alamara paramilitary group, as is the case allegedly in Barangay White Culaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon and in Talaingod Davao del Norte, respectively.

"Those who refused to be recruited were automatically considered as members of the New People's Army," Palabay said.

China will not allow violations of its territorial waters

From InterAksyon (Oct 9): China will not allow violations of its territorial waters

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in this still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the United States Navy May 21, 2015. REUTERS/US Navy/Handout via Reuters

China said on Friday it would not stand for violations of its territorial waters in the name of freedom of navigation, as the United States considers sailing warships close to China's artificial islands in the South China Sea.

A US defense official told Reuters the United States was mulling sending ships within the next two weeks to waters inside the 12-nautical-mile zones that China claims as territory around islands it has built in the Spratly chain.

[Read related story: VIDEO | US Navy mulls sailing near disputed South China Sea islands]

China claims most of the South China Sea, though Washington has signaled it does not recognize Beijing's territorial claims and that the US navy will continue to operate wherever international law allows.

"We will never allow any country to violate China's territorial waters and airspace in the Spratly Islands, in the name of protecting freedom of navigation and overflight," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a regular news briefing.

"We urge the related parties not to take any provocative actions, and genuinely take a responsible stance on regional peace and stability," Hua said in response to a question about possible US patrols.

The United States and its allies in Asia, including Japan, have called on Beijing to halt construction on its man-made islands and the issue is central to increasingly tense US-China relations.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has said China has no intention of militarizing the islands, but Washington analysts and US officials say Beijing has already begun creating military facilities there.

Admiral Harry Harris, commander of US forces in the Pacific, told the Aspen Security Forum in July that China was building hangars on one of the reefs - Fiery Cross - that appeared to be for tactical fighter aircraft.

In May, the Chinese navy issued eight warnings to the crew of a US P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft that flew near China's artificial islands, according to CNN, which was aboard the US aircraft.

The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

Tribal schools 'attacked' 8 times a month since Sept '14 - lumad kids, teachers

From InterAksyon (Oct 9): Tribal schools 'attacked' 8 times a month since Sept '14 - lumad kids, teachers

Participants to the first Lumad Children's Congress in Surigao del Sur sing the national anthem. (photo from Save Our Schools Network)

The September 1 murder of Emerito Samarca, executive director of the award-winning Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development in Han-ayan, Lianga, Surigao del Sur, which triggered the exodus of more than 3,000 lumad in the province, was hardly an isolated incident.

Some 200 schoolchildren and teachers attending the first Lumad Children’s Congress that opened Tuesday in Surigao del Sur’s capital Tandag City said tribal schools set up by religious and nongovernmental organizations throughout Mindanao, and which state security forces have openly tagged as advocating support for communist rebels, have come under attack 95 times, or an average of eight times a month, since September last year, the Save Our Schools Network, which helped organize the event, said.

Among the cases the children reported were the harassment by soldiers and military-backed militias of schools run by the Salugpongan Ta' Tanu Igkanogon Community Learning Center Inc. and the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.

Among the latest incidents is the attempt by the chairman of Barangay White Culaman in Kitaotao, Bukidnon to shutter the MISFI-run Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, a free boarding for Grade 7 and 8 lumad students.

In Davao City, some 700 Manobo, mostly from Talaingod, Davao del Norte have been staying for months at the Haran Mission House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, where they sought refuge after soldiers and the Alamara militia occupied their tribal schools and communities and threatened teachers and students. Even education officials in the province backed moves to close the lumad schools and have soldiers deployed to the tribal villages as “para-teachers.”

Just this Wednesday, a lumad refugee was stabbed as he walked back to Haran after marketing while motorcycle-riding men tailed and harassed volunteer teachers holding classes for schoolchildren at the refugee center.

The Haran refugees were also the target of a violent attempt in late July to evict them and force them to return to their communities after the military and North Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamco, who chairs the House committee on indigenous people, claimed they were not evacuees but “manipulated” victims of “trafficking” being held against their will by groups, including religious organizations, allegedly sympathetic to the rebels.

Lumad children have been exposed to life-threatening conditions as their schools are continuously being occupied and/or attacked by state security forces,” Professor Mae Fe Templa, SOS Network convenor, said.

At the congress, Roland Dalin, a student of the Salugpongan in Talalingod, lamented: “Nagtapok man ‘mi karon tungod kabalo mi nga naa mi’y matabang labi na sa among eskwelahan nga kanunay gina-atake sa mga militar, ginapasanginlan nga mga NPA ug ginapatay among mga magtutudlo (We are gathered here today because we know that we can help our school that have been always subjected to military attacks, accused of being NPAs and our teachers killed).”

Congress participants were given workshops, at one in which they wrote their demands for President Benigno Aquino III to protect their schools by ordering military and militia units pulled out of their communities.

Rosalinda Pimentel, the wife of the Surigao del Sur governor, joined the congress reading stories to the children.

Governor Johnny Pimentel has demanded that the military “disarm, disband or kill” the militias it created and which he said have been sowing havoc on lumad communities for the past six years.

Rosalinda Pimentel, wife of Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel, reads to participants at the first Lumad Children's Congress. (photo from SOS Network)

Biggest roadblocks to passage of BBL: fear, biases and prejudices

From MindaNews (Oct 9): Biggest roadblocks to passage of BBL: fear, biases and prejudices

The biggest roadblock to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is “the fear of the legislators about the BBL as originally presented,” Mindanao’s lone Cardinal said.

Biases and prejudices that exploded into the public sphere after the January 25 Mamasapano Tragedy also “influenced legislators in their deliberations of the original BBL,” Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, Archbishop of Cotabato and lead convener of the Friends of Peace, told a press conference at the end of the two-day “Conversations Hurdling the Roadblocks to the Bangsamoro Roadmap to peace” on Tuesday.

“They wanted to change the BBL because of these fears and prejudices about not only what happened in Mamasapano but also about what the … Bangsamoro would do if given a lot of authority, if given a lot of power and financial autonomy… There’s a lot of fear also based on prejudice,” he said.

Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, Arcchbishop of Cotabato adn lead convenr of Friends of Peace with Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc., at the press conference Tuesday afternoon after the two-day "People's Conversations on Hurdling Roadblocks in the Bangsamoro Roadmap to Peace." MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, OMI, Arcchbishop of Cotabato adn lead convenr of Friends of Peace with Yolanda Esguerra, national coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc., at the press conference Tuesday afternoon after the two-day “People’s Conversations on Hurdling Roadblocks in the Bangsamoro Roadmap to Peace.” MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Yolanda Esguerra, National Coordinator of the Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. pointed to the understanding of lawmakers on constitutionality. She noted that lawmakers have repeatedly been citing alleged unconstitutionality of the BBL provisions when several legal experts and the Peace Council had carefully studied the BBL and said it is constitutional but “matigas yung position ng mga lawmakers (Lawmakers are firm in their position) maybe because …. of bias and fear,” she said.

Gus Miclat, executive director of the Initiatives for Internatioal Dialogue (IID) said what is more tragic is that “fear sometimes emanates from ignorance.”

He cited an example where they brought a team from the MILF to the Visayas to explain the Bangsamoro peace process and what the future Bangsamoro political entity would be. “Pagkatapos nilang mag-explain, the audience said ‘gusto namin yan, para sa amin din,’” (After they explained, the audience said, ‘we also want that, that’s also for us).

For Dr. Pendatun Pangadil, chair of the Peoples’ CART (Coalition for ARMM Reform and Transformation), “there is really a need to deepen further their (members of the House and Senate) idea of what is really the Bangsamoro.”

He said he hopes legislators find time to know and understand the Bangsamoro identity.

Guiamel Alim of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society said the sentiments of residents at the grassroots are mixed because the fate of the BBL is uncertain. He said residents in conflict-affected areas have been hoping peace would be realized by the passage of the BBL so they could live in peace, send their children to school and improve their livelihood.

Challenges, Roadblocks

In his speech earlier in the afternoon, Quevedo said the substitute bills – HB 5811 and SB 2894 – “were crafted in the wake of Mamasapano, which was truly a disastrous blunder.”

“I must confess that I do not see any party that is free of responsibility from the tragedy. But Mamasapano definitely changed the horizon of the peace process and the BBL. For from Mamasapano came the roadblocks to peace.”

Quevedo said mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear, and paranoia against Muslims have “determined the opinion of the Christian majority population, including so called intelligentsia, church people, media pundits, and media networks” and that this “biased attitude is at the heart of their rejection of any BBL, including the versions being prepared by the legislators, despite ignorance of the actual content of the BBL.”

Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, and Guiamel Alim of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

Gus Miclat of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, and Guiamel Alim of the Consortium of Bangsamoro Civil Society. MindaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO

The Cardinal cited five major challenges confronting peace advocates: “the misperceptions of legislators and their revisions to the original BBL; the continuing dissemination of such misperceptions by media; the fundamental attitudes and misperceptions of the great majority of Filipinos; the overweening desire to win the votes of the majority in the 2016 election; and the inexorable constriction of time for the passage of an acceptable BBL.”

He listed eight major roadblocks to the Bangsamoro roadmap to peace. These are:

-- The perception of legislators and of several legal and constitutional experts regarding the constitutionality of the Framework Agreement, the Comprehensive Agreement, the BBL and many of its provisions; the expert opinion of other legal and constitutional luminaries are ignored;

-- Legislators’ perception that the original BBL was a formula for the establishment of a separate and independent State;

-- That it will result in the dismemberment of the Republic;

-- Their revisions are therefore the result of these perceptions.

-- Therefore, the revisions insist that the powers devolved to the Bangsamoro government should generally be at par with LGUs, thus effectively treating the “autonomous region” as an LGU and less autonomous than the present ARMM.

-- Underlying these perceptions and revisions is an attitude of mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear and even paranoia with regard to the MILF and to Muslims in general – an attitude that exploded into the public sphere as a result of Mamasapano.

-- But such mistrust, bias and prejudice, fear, and paranoia against Muslims have determined the opinion of the Christian majority population, including so called intelligentsia, church people, media pundits, and media networks. This biased attitude is at the heart of their rejection of any BBL, including the versions being prepared by the legislators, despite ignorance of the actual content of the BBL.

-- Already sharing the same attitude as the majority, legislators are driven by public opinion to reject the BBL or support a “watered down” version of it. Revisions and even rejection are in view of the 2016 elections. They want to cater to the votes of the majority. It is not entirely whimsical that three of the most vocal senators against the BBL have announced their candidacy for Vice-President.

Mistrust and Prejudice

Reducing biases and prejudices is a “life-long task of family upbringing, formal and informal education, reinforced by faith-formation by religious denominations,” Quevedo said. He said this requires engaging institutions, declaring schools as zones of peace and harmony through a dialogue of life, and collaboration among religious denominations through Inter-Religious Dialogue.

He urged parishes, mosque communities, Christian worship services to do advocacy work through seminars, workshops, fora, assemblies, to “know the original BBl, read and learn, form your mind and conscience on the basis of your personal in-depth knowledge of the original BBL and not on the basis of bias and prejudice.”

He also urged the public to “engage your local LGU executives; help them know the original BBL, and disengage them from their misperceptions and biases” and engage as well the Representatives in Congress to “let them know the original BBL and disseminate personally to them a comparative analysis of the original BBL and the versions they are supporting,” and to “point out to them the practical consequences of their revisions that make the Bangsamoro less autonomous than the present ARMM.”

Members of both House of Congress, he said must be made “aware that social justice long denied the Bangsamoro is in their hands, and now is the time not to squander the opportunity of laying down the foundations of a just and lasting peace” and to appeal to their sense of the common good of all “especially of peoples’ long deprived of their right to self-determination accorded by the Constitution.”

Corrected by Constitution

Lawyer Christian Monsod, former chair of the Commission on Elections and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission explained in the morning session that the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao as enshrined in the 1987 Constitution is a social justice issue and was meant precisely to help correct historical injustices committed against the Moro people.

Fr. Joel Tabora SJ, President of the, Ateneo de Davao University and Atty. Christian Monsod, former Comelec chair and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O> ARGUILLAS

Fr. Joel Tabora SJ, President of the, Ateneo de Davao University and Atty. Christian Monsod, former Comelec chair and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O> ARGUILLAS

He said when they drafted the 1987 Constitution, “we recognized the shortcomings of the Christian majority and our failure to celebrate the resistance of the Muslim people against foreign colonizers. We were easily coopted but they refused to be subjugated. And that is as should be, a source of pride, as it should be pride for us and we owe it to them to give it to them, what they fought for with blood and we easily acquiesced to.”

Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University said, “we have to educate the Christians Christian majority. Our treatment of Philippine history, of the Bangsamoro history, the Mindanao history is very deficient and we need to work on this.’

This includes creating new textbooks, he said, a process that takes time because “you’re undoing many decades of poor teaching and lopsided teaching about the Bangsamoro but that has to be done.”
Samira Ali Gutoc of the Young Moro Professional. MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Samira Ali Gutoc of the Young Moro Professional. MIndaNews photo by TOTO LOZANO
Samira Gutoc of the Young Muslim Professionals spoke about the need for networking to correct misconceptions and to spread information to a wide range of audiences. She asked participants, “how do you make the BBL bite-sized in this AlDub generation?” 

At least 8 armed groups operate in Agusan Sur, Surigao Sur – Army

From MindaNews (Oct 9): At least 8 armed groups operate in Agusan Sur, Surigao Sur – Army

At least eight armed groups are operating in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur provinces, an internal report by the 4th Infantry Division on the number of so-called Bagani fighters revealed.

Included in the report titled “Profile on the Indigenous People (IP) Bagani in 4ID AOR”, is the Jomar Bocales and Tejero-Belandres armed group, suspects in the Sept. 1 killing of a Lumad school director and two others in Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

Killed were Emerito Samarca, 54, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development, a school for Lumads, and NGO leaders Dionel Campos and Bello Sinzo.

The killings sparked the evacuation of over 3,000 residents from Barangay Diatagon in Lianga and neighboring areas.

The Philippine National Police has filed multiple murder, arson, robbery and grave threats at the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office in Lianga against Bobby Tejero, his older brother Loloy alias Abab, Gareto Layno, and several John Does of the Bagani paramilitary group who were held responsible for the killings.

The Army report said the Tejero brothers belong to the Bagani armed group led by Jomar Bocales, a Manobo tribal chieftain, that operates in the towns of Lianga, Barobo, San Miguel and San Agustin in Surigao del Sur.

“Although the group is under the leadership of Jomar Bocales, the most vocal warriors are the groups of Bobby Tejero and Marcial Melendrez (another former NPA rebel),” the report said.

Bocales, in an interview with MindaNews, admitted that Bobby Tejero, his brother Loloy and Layno used to be part of the armed group he formed with Datu Calpit Egua in October 2014.

He said Calpit and the Tejero brothers including Layno had a falling-out when their group leader, Hassan Flores, went back to the New People’s Army in Surigao del Sur bringing with him five high-powered firearms last July 11.

NPA commander Ka Emman confirmed that Flores, a former rebel, returned to their ranks bringing the firearms he seized from Bocales and the Tejero brothers.

The military report said the armed group led by Calpit is operating in the towns of Bayugan and  Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur, and San Miguel in Surigao del Sur.

It also identified armed groups that are with Datu Jasmin: Datu Alah, Datu Benhur Mansalunay, and Datu Sunjay.

Bocales said Calpit, who is his uncle, is the richest among the datus (tribal chieftains) having a gold ore mining site in the boundary of Barangay La Purisima in Prosperidad town and Barangay San Juan in Bayugan town, all in Agusan del Sur.

He said it was Calpit not the military who armed the Baganis after a failed attempt by the NPA to overrun his camp in Barangay Sta. Irene, Prosperidad town in July 2014.

Calpit was wounded while his brother, Nestor, died in the attack where at least 13 NPA rebels were killed.

During the Senate public hearing on the Lumad killings in Tandag, Surigao del Sur, Father Glen Acosta, assistant parish priest of Barobo, Surigao del Sur said town residents told him the camp of Datu Jasmin is located near an Army detachment in Barangay Mamis, Barobo.

In the report, Jasmin is described as “sympathetic with government forces especially to the Philippine Army.”

At least one armed group—the Datu Alah tribal group—was described in the report as having been “augmented by elements of the PNP Surigao del Sur Provincial Office” to restore order in Barangay Pantukan in San Miguel town.

The report identified logging and rattan-cutting operations as the main sources of livelihood for most of the Bagani armed groups especially those with Mansalunay.

Several violent incidents involving these groups were mentioned in the report notably the seizure of mining equipment of CNC Mining Company in Carrascal town last May 11. The Baganis reportedly demanded P24 million for the return of the equipment.

The report also said several datus including Romel Alah of Barangay Pantukan, Carrascal were killed by NPA rebels.

Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar has called for the disbandment and disarming of all paramilitary groups that are accused of sowing terror in Lumad communities believed to be sympathetic to the NPA.

Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel has urged the Philippine Army to disband and disarm the Baganis calling them “a security threat to the residents.”

The Army has denied it is supporting and arming the Bagani armed groups.

“Nahirang Class” visits 1st Infantry division, 1st Cavalry Squadron

From the Philippine Information Agency-Zamboanga (Oct 9): “Nahirang Class” visits 1st Infantry division, 1st Cavalry Squadron

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) future officers made their first visit to the 1st Cavalry (Tagapanguna) Squadron, Mechanized Infantry Division at its headquarters in Camp Colonel Jacobo E. Zobel, Pulacan, Labangan on October 2-6.

The Officers Candidate Course (OCC) “Nahirang Class 45-2015”  composed of 58 soldiers (51 male and 7 female) led by LtCol. Robert Beatisula, assistant commandant of the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Camp O’Donnel in Capas, Tarlac visited the unit as part of their educational tour and exposure before their graduation on December 9, this year.

Earlier, the group made their visit to the headquarters of the 1st Infantry (Tabak) Division, Philippine Army and 1st Field Artillery Battalion, respectively prior to their visit to the 1st Cavalry Squadron.

In an interview, Beatisula said the TRADOC has chosen the unit as one of the places to be visited for them to learn the skills and capabilities of the armor personnel and to obtain a better understanding of the real situation on the ground.

Accordingly, they already had their exposure in the different Philippine Army units, namely: the Special Operations Command and Special Forces Regiment (Airborne) in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija;  First Scout Ranger Regiment, San Miguel, Bulacan; Western Mindanao Command, Zamboanga City; and 104th Brigade, Basilan City.

Meanwhile, 1st Cavalry Squadron commanding officer LtCol. Charlemagne F. Batayola, Jr. said the officers demonstrated tactical decision games, squad qualifications skills, conducted static display of weapons and provided them the opportunity to experience riding Simba fighting vehicles.

“They were also taught how to disassemble and reassemble rifles,” Batayola added. 

Batayola said the OCC “Nahirang Class 45-2015” also conducted information drive and silent drill exhibition at the Western Mindanao State University- External Studies Unit (WMSU-ESU), Zamboanga del Sur National High School, Pagadian City to promote the school and to encourage poor but deserving students to take up the OCC to become young and aspiring officers like them in the future.

Batayola mentioned that  the 1st Cavalry Squadron has 2 officers who are graduates  of OCC.

“I am referring to Capt. Donny Val Gamao, intelligence officer and Capt. Jonathan Escandor, operations officer who are performing their job competently and efficiently,” Batayola proudly said.

He said graduates of this school are commissioned as Second Lieutenants and Ensigns in the AFP Regular and Reserve Forces by the President of the Philippines who is also the Commander-In-Chief of the AFP.

GPH, MILF panels urge Congress to prioritize BBL passage

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 9): GPH, MILF panels urge Congress to prioritize BBL passage

The peace negotiating panels of the Philippine government (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) have called on lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) when Congress resumes by November.

“We realized that two important matters have taken the front seat at this time: number one is the budget which is also a very important annual bill that has to be passed before the end of the year. Number two is the filing of candidacies. But we see no reason why come November, when Congress returns for its next session from November 3 to December 16, the BBL can’t be prioritized by our Congress,”‎ government chief negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a press conference at the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

Ferrer was joined by MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL vice chair Rep. Bai Sandra Sema of Maguindanao and Cotabato City 1st District, Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL member Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman of Anak Mindanao partylist, and Dr. Jasmin Galace, executive director of the Center for Peace Education in Miriam College and national coordinator of the Women Engaged in Action (WE Act) on 1325.

“Pagpasok sana ng Nobyembre, ito talaga ang inaasahan natin: na mabigyan (ang BBL) ng pansin. (When November comes, this is really what we are expecting: that the BBL will be prioritized),” Ferrer added.

Ferrer said it is important to have movement with regard the BBL deliberation, hoping that the basic law can be passed by the House of Representatives by early November in order for the people, especially the Bangsamoro, to not lose hope in their government.

The House of Representatives and the Senate failed to pass the BBL during their plenary sessions between July and October. The leadership of both Houses agreed on a new deadline on December 16 this year for the bill’s passage.

However, Ferrer said there was no reason to “wait for the bill’s natural deadline,” especially that the country is expected to host the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting next month.

“This is going to be our message to the APEC community: that we will not squander the opportunity that is provided for in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro as well as in the passage of the law that will provide that kind of environment to really jumpstart peace, security, and development in the region,” Ferrer explained.

In 2014, the government and the MILF signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) that served as basis for the original draft of the BBL. Together with the CAB, the BBL aims to end the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao and provide the Bangsamoro with genuine autonomy as envisioned in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

“The world is watching this process. They are fully supportive of this. We can see that from all the support we have received internationally, aside from the domestic support,” Ferrer said.

“Kung mangyari ang APEC at ang message na lumalabas sa buong mundo ay ‘Hindi natin masusulusyunan itong problema natin dito na nangyayari sa Mindanao, it is not going to be a good sign for the APEC community who is really pushing for economic integration that is founded on very secure societies of the Asia-Pacific that are able to address the security and economic challenges that the whole world is facing,” she added.
Higher sense of responsibility

Maguindanao and Cotabato City 1st District Representative Bai Sandra Sema, who is serving as one of the vice chairs of the Ad hoc committee on the BBL, committed that Congress would prioritize the BBL once they return from recess.

“We are here to show our support that the BBL will be tackled after budget deliberations and Congress recess,” Sema said.

Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman of Anak Mindanao Party-list, for her part, urged the general public to not give up on the BBL. “We want the whole country to know that we should remain positive and hopeful on the BBL even though time is against us.”

She also commented that the quorum issues that have plagued the House since July couldn’t be attributed to the BBL alone as there are several factors. “What we can say is that hindi kami mapapagod na paalalahanan ang mga kasama namin tungkol sa kanilang tungkulin sa BBL (What we can say is that we will not tire of urging our colleagues in the House with regard their duty to the BBL),” Hataman said.

“We will do our best to convince our fellow lawmakers to finish the work on the BBL. Ayaw naman natin na ang kukumbinsi sa kanilang magtrabaho ay isa na namang malaking giyera sa Mindanao (We don’t want another war in Mindanao that will do the convincing for them),” Sema added.

Echoing the Bangsamoro legislators’ statements, Ferrer added that all they could do now was to continue appealing to lawmakers. “We can only appeal to our lawmakers’ higher sense of responsibility on quorum issues and filibustering. Again, we can only appeal to their higher sense of responsibility to finally pass the BBL.”

MILF supportive of peace process, President Aquino

MILF negotiating panel chair Mohagher Iqbal vowed that their group would stay the course of peace even though no BBL, or a not good enough BBL, would be passed. When asked to expound on what he meant as a good enough BBL, Iqbal mentioned the original provisions that didn’t make it in the substitute versions endorsed by the House ad hoc committee on the BBL and the Senate committee on local government, respectively, for plenary debates.

At least 28 provisions had been deleted by the House committee while the Senate version, according to peace advocates and stakeholders, will render the Bangsamoro government weaker than the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

“We are hoping that the restoration of the deleted provisions will happen during the period of amendments,” Iqbal said.

Iqbal, who also serves as chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the body that drafted the original version of the BBL, also urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to certify the draft bill as urgent. “Frankly speaking, we are having a hard time explaining to our constituents why the BBL remains not certified as urgent.”

According to legislative rules, the President only has the power to declare a bill as urgent once it has passed the first reading. Certifying a bill as urgent would mean collapsing the second and the third readings into one. As it stands now, the BBL has yet to pass the first reading in both Houses of Congress.

Despite the uncertainties and delays, Iqbal stressed that the MILF leadership trusts and supports President Aquino. “President Aquino has been very supportive of the Bangsamoro struggle. His clout remains intact as far as the MILF is concerned.” (OPAPP)