Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Russia wants peaceful solution to West Philippine Sea dispute in accordance with international law

From Ang Malaya (Oct 20): Russia wants peaceful solution to West Philippine Sea dispute in accordance with international law

Russia also wants a peaceful solution to the West Philippine Sea issue and that it particularly supports the conclusion of a legally-binding Code of Conduct in the West Philippine Sea, this was expressed by Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov to Senate President Franklin M. Drilon. The Senate chief met with the Russian official October 19 in Moscow.

The Senate President noted that Russia is neutral on the issue of claims “but supportive of peaceful settlement in accordance with international law.” He told the Russian Foreign Minister that “both countries can still work together to strengthen regional peace and stability.”

Drilon and Lavrov discussed pressing global and wide range of issues, including recent developments in East Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

He also handed to Lavrov President Benigno S. Aquino III’s invitation to President Vladimir Putin to attend the 23 APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Manila next month. Foreign Minister Lavrov expressed deep appreciation for the invitation and said that President Putin is looking forward to visiting Manila next month.

“The Senate President is in Russia on the invitation of Mme. Valentina I. Metvienko, Chairperson of the Federal Council, Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation,” the Senate said in a press statement.

Senate President Drilon is also scheduled to deliver a speech at the Plenary Session of the Federal Council on October 21, 2015. He will be the first Filipino statesman to address the Russian Parliament.


Philippines keen on deepening relations with Russia on all fronts

From Ang Malaya (20): Philippines keen on deepening relations with Russia on all fronts

Senate President Franklin Drilon is currently in Russia at the invitation of Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Chairperson of the Federal Council Valentina I. Metvienko. The Senate chief is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Plenary Session of the Federal Council on October 21 2015. “He will be the first Filipino statesman to address the Russian Parliament,” Senate of the Philippines said in a press statement.

While in Moscow, October 19, Senator Drilon met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lagrov. They were able to discuss pressing global issues including recent developments in East Asia, the Middle East and Europe. They also tackled the issue of disputes in West Philippine Sea.

“Our efforts at the regional level should be complemented by our work at the bilateral level. This is why the Philippines is keen on deepening relations with Russia on all fronts. I believe we need not be held back by history and traditional alliances. Pragmatism and imagination should guide us instead,” the senator told the Russian official.

“We are in total agreement and keen on moving forward with our bilateral relations,” Lagrov told Drilon.

“The Senate President said the Philippines is also interested in signing a number of pending agreements from consular protection, to humanitarian cooperation, to trade and investment enhancement, to fighting transnational crimes, including terrorism, to defense and security cooperation, among others,” the Senate said in the statement.


ASG releases kidnapped finance officer in Indanan, Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (21): ASG releases kidnapped finance officer in Indanan, Sulu

Continuing focused military operations has forced the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to release another kidnap victim in Indanan, Sulu Tuesday.

Joint Task Group Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Alan Arrajado said Priscillano Garcia, the finance officer of a Tawi-Tawi-based mining firm, was snatched by the bandits last April 3 in Bongao town, also in Sulu.

Reports regarding Garcia's release reached the military unit 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, prompting Arrojado to order a search for the victim.

Garcia was spotted by Joint Task Group Sulu and Special Action Force units at the Jolo Pier looking for boat trip to Zamboanga City at 7:40 p.m..

The former was immediately transported to Kutang Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo for medical checkup and debriefing.

Garcia was brought to the Jolo Pier at 8:45 p.m. and placed aboard a Navy multi-purpose assault craft for his journey to Zamboanga City.

"Accordingly, the KV (kidnap victim) was released hoping that the operation targeting (ASG sub-commander) Radullan Sahiron would ease a little," Arrojado said.

Meanwhile, troopers from the 32nd Infantry Battalion, on focused military operations, clashed with an estimated 100 ASG members under Sahiron at Sitio Kan Tabia, Barangay Buhanginan, Patikul, Sulu 9:05 p.m. Tuesday.

The firefight lasted for 20 minutes and resulted in the wounding of undetermined number of bandits and no losses for government troopers. Pursuit operations are still ongoing.


China says South China Sea lighthouses are not meant to alter 'status quo'

From InterAksyon (Oct 20): China says South China Sea lighthouses are not meant to alter 'status quo'

The Huayang Lighthouse is pictured during an inauguration ceremony in the South China Sea, in this picture released by China's official Xinhua News Agency dated October 9, 2015. REUTERS/Xinhua

China does not seek to change the existing status of territorial claims in the South China Sea with its newly built lighthouses, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, arguing that Beijing already had "indisputable sovereignty" in the contested waters.'

China says its lighthouses on Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef in the Spratly islands will assist navigational security, but experts and diplomats call them a shrewd move to buttress Beijing's territorial claims.

[Read related story: China uses lighthouses in Spratlys to bolster recognition of claims - expert]

China claims most of the energy-rich waters of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in shipborne trade passes every year. But neighbors Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam also have overlapping claims.

Cuarteron Reef and Johnson South Reef are known in the Philippines as Calderon Reef and Mabini Reef, respectively.

On Monday, the Philippines' foreign ministry said the lighthouses were "obviously intended to change actual conditions" and that Manila would not accept China's "unilateral actions as a fait accompli".

[Read related story: Philippines hits out at Chinese lighthouses in disputed sea]

China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying defended the structures as "completely within China's sovereignty" and said they had no relation to "some people's" comments that China was trying to bolster its hold over the islands.

"I want to stress that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha islands and surrounding waters," Hua said, using the Chinese name for the Spratlys. "We absolutely do not need to build lighthouses to strengthen our sovereignty claims." She added, "There is no issue of changing the status quo."

The United States, which has criticized China's building on artificial islands, has said it would sail or fly wherever international law allows.

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

While the US and other navies mostly rely on electronic instruments to confirm their ships' positions, visual fixes from lighthouses are still used in certain conditions.

References to the lighthouses are likely to find their way into international shipping charts and registers and the logbooks of foreign navies.

Experts say that could help China to build a long-term legal picture of effective occupation, despite any formal diplomatic objections of rival claimants.


Bureau of Immigration issues deportation order against Pemberton

From InterAksyon (Oct 20): Bureau of Immigration issues deportation order against Pemberton

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has issued a deportation order against American soldier Joseph Scott Pemberton, who is the prime suspect in the death of Filipino transgender Jeffery "Jennifer" Laude in October 2014.

In a five-page resolution, the BI Board of Commissioners issued the deportation order against the foreigner for undesirability.

“Wherefore, we find respondent Joseph Scott Pemberton, American national, to be an undesirable alien and order his deportation, subject to the issuance of a clearance from the Regional Trial Court, Branch 74, Olongapo City and other appropriate government agencies,” said the resolution dated Sept. 16, 2015.

The order also included the name of the foreigner in the bureau’s blacklist which bars him from reentering the country.

The BI also cited the testimonies of Mark Clarence “Barbie” Gelviro before the Senate hearing and Elias Galamos, the cashier of the Celzone Lodge, Olongapo City, and the finding of probable cause by the City Prosecutor and the Olongapo RTC.

“In deportation cases, even an iota of evidence showing that an alien is unfit to remain in the country is sufficient. Considering all the attendant circumstances: (1) Gelviro’s statement before the Senate hearing is credible, clear, and consistent as he directly and categorically narrated how, when, and where Respondent murdered Laude; (2) Elias Galamos, the cashier of the lodge, corroborated Gelviro’s statement. He allegedly saw Pemberton walk out of the room and leave the lodge less than an hour after they checked in; (3) the finding of probable cause by the Office of the City Prosecutor of Olongapo City; (4) the finding of probable cause and issuance of a warrant of arrest by the Regional Trial Court, Branch 74, Olongapo City – is to our mind more than an iota of proof of his undesirability,” the decision added.

The decision stemmed from the case filed by the BI’s Law Division against Pemberton for posing a risk to public interest (undesirability) and included his name in the bureau’s watch list on Oct. 26, 2014.

Pemberton is detained at Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.


Authorities play down politics in mayor’s slay

From The Standard (Oct 20): Authorities play down politics in mayor’s slay

A security official yesterday played down politics as the motive behind the slaying of three-term Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay Mayor Randy Climaco, who was ambushed last week just after he filed his Certificate of Candidacy for vice mayor.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, linked the elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s113rd Base Command as behind Climaco’s ambush.

“The ambushed was not likely politically motivated. It was only timed for the first day of filling of candidacy. We are looking at grudge between the mayor and some elements of the MILF,” the security official said.

Climaco’s Vice Mayor Abison Abduraok, who is running for mayor, five escorts and a driver were wounded in the attack.

It has been reported that Climaco is at odds with some MILF groups over control of rubber plantations in the town.

Philippine National Police chief Ricardo Marquez also said he does not believe politics is the reason for the attack and that he shares the Commission on Elections’ outlook
that the week-long filling of Certificates of Candidacy nationwide was peaceful.

He added that the PNP’s security preparations for the CoC was successful.

The PNP aims to reduce election-related violent incidents posted in two previous national elections in 2010 and 2013, “we have to further reduce election-related incidents. The direction today is adopted whole-of-government approach,” Marquez said.


Pollwatch: MILF won’t join 2016 election but rebels free to cast votes

From the Manila Bulletin (Oct 19): Pollwatch: MILF won’t join 2016 election but rebels free to cast votes

As in past elections, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will not participate in the May 2016 political exercise.  But they will not prevent their members from casting their votes.
“This has been the policy of the MILF since its inception in September 1977,” the group said on its official online portal (Luwaran.com).
The MILF cited the four presidential bets: “Sen. Miriam Santiago, Sen. Grace Llamanzares-Poe, former Secretary Mar Roxas, and Vice President Jejomar Binay.”
“We do not and will not pass judgment on them. It is for the people to determine who is the better leader in their judgement,” the MILF said.
It cited three reasons for its apolitical stance.
First, the MILF is still a revolutionary organization.  Second, the “MILF believes and pursues a different method of choosing leaders of society”; and third, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is still stalled in Congress.
“Therefore, participating in such a highly partisan and divisive exercises, such as in the forthcoming elections in May 2016, will not only bring enmity and animosity among the ranks and file of the MILF but can be a menu for disintegration,” the group said.
The MILF, however will allow its members to vote for candidates of their choice, particularly among the presidentiables.
“If exercised with caution and clear purpose, voting the right candidate, especially if he or she wins, is a great service to this country,” the MILF said in its Editorial piece.
“Good leaders always make a difference in the lives of the people,” the group added.
Without endorsing any presidential candidate, the MILF gave hints as to its possible preference in relation with the Mindanao peace process.
“However, in so far as the search for solution to the Bangsamoro Question is concerned, the choice of candidates should be on the basis of their past and their current actuation, including their pronouncements on the BBL,” the Moro Front said.


4 YEARS AFTER | Army official in 2011 Al-Barka carnage gets new command

From InterAksyon (Oct 20): 4 YEARS AFTER | Army official in 2011 Al-Barka carnage gets new command

Lt. Col. Leonardo Pena (right) accepts his new flag of command responsibility as the new commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Lieutenant Colonel Leonardo Peña, one of four Army officials court-martialed in connection with the October 2011 Al-Barka bloodbath, has already served his sentence and was recalled back to duty as a commander.

Nineteen members of the 4th Special Forces Battalion, then under the operational command of Peña, and 18 other SAF members were wounded in Barangay Cambug, Al-Barka, Basilan when they were attacked by hundreds of combined elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and private armed groups.

They were trying as to serve arrest warrants to hardened criminals inside the MILF territory.

Peña then was barely three months at the 4SF Battalion.

The rebels and bandits were led by Long Malat Sulayman and Furuji Indama of the MILF and ASG, respectively.

On Monday, Peña, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Sambisig Class 1991, was installed commander of the 61st Infantry Battalion based in Visayas. He is one of the marchers of his batch.

Aside from Peña, also subjected to court martial were Col. Aminkadra Undug, former commander of the Special Forces Regiment who was convicted for violation of AW 96 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and Gentleman) and 97 (Disorders and Neglect to the Prejudice of Good Order and Military Discipline); Col. Alexander Macario, former commander of the Special Force Task Force-Basilan, who was acquitted of 96 and 97; and Lt. Col. Orlando Edralin, former commandant of the Special Forces School, who was also acquitted of 97.

Originally, Peña was charged for violations of AW 96, 97, and 84 (Willful or Negligent Loss, Damage or Wrongful Disposition). He was acquitted of the charges for violations of AW 96 AND 84.

”The verdict against Lt. Col. Pena is 200 files down in rank and two years suspension both in command,” the court martial CM panel member and now retired Col. Jose Feliciano Loy said.

Wala tayong magagawa, Unang-una, hindi natin ginusto ang nangyari, (We can’t do anything. Firstly, we did wish for it to happen). As far as I am concerned I have to accept the verdict even with a heavy heart. This I can tell you, dito ako nadapa, dito rin ako babangon (I fell here, I rise here),” Pena then said.

The “200 files down” sentence provides that Peña cannot be promoted to the next rank until the 200 officers below him overtakes his current rank.

”He is also being denied command assignment for two years. Meaning, magkasya muna siya sa (he will have to content himself with) office jobs,” he said.

Peña, a native of Batangas, replaced Lt. Col. Victor Llapitan.

Peña is a graduate of Master of Science in Defense Analysis (National Security Affairs) in Naval Post Graduate School in California, and Master in Public Management Major in Development and Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines.


BIFF blamed for killing Army intel agent in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Oct 20): BIFF blamed for killing Army intel agent in Maguindanao

The city police are determining whether the suspects are members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Philstar.com/File photo

The outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) was blamed for Saturday’s murder here of an Army intelligence agent in an attack that left the victim’s companion badly wounded.

The slain plainclothes operative, Private 1st Class Denver Maguate, and his mission buddy, Aldrin Junsay, also of the same rank, were riding a motorcycle together en route to Maguindanao province when they were attacked from behind by gunmen also riding a bike in tandem.

Maguate died on the spot from gunshot wounds in the head while the wounded Junsay, who was hit in different parts of his body, was rushed by responding barangay folks to a nearby hospital.

BIFF bandits had killed 16 off duty motorcycle-riding soldiers and policemen in one attack after another in nearby towns in the adjoining North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces in the past eight months.

Maguate and Junsay both belong to the Army’s 11th Mechanized Company of the 1st Mechanized Battalion.

They were attacked while at a portion of the busy Sinsuat Avenue here, near the city hall, on their way to the Army’s Camp Siongco in nearby Datu Odin town in Maguindanao.

The city police had said investigators are yet to determine the culprits and their motive for the attack.
Intelligence sources on Tuesday said there were strong indications the suspects were members of the BIFF.


Colmenares: PH should not seek US help in South China Sea

From Rappler (Oct 20): Colmenares: PH should not seek US help in South China Sea

The Bayan Muna representative says Manila should not ask help from countries with vested interests, like the United States  

HANDS OFF PHILIPPINES. Group tagged US and China 'bullies' fighting in Philippine 'backyard.'

HANDS OFF PHILIPPINES. Group tagged US and China 'bullies' fighting in Philippine 'backyard.'

Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said that the Philippines must fight for the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) independent of nations with vested interests.

"Let us rely on ourselves like Vietnam and other countries that didn't seek from the United States," Colmenares said in a mix of Filipino and English on Tuesday, October 20.

Colmenares is part of the a group that is pushing for the inclusion of maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) agenda in November.

He said that, if a country like Vietnam, which is economically behind the Philippines, is pursuing its claim on its own, then the Philippines should be able to do so as well.

"Economically nga, mas-lamang pa tayo sa Vietnam eh, so ano'ng pinagkaiba nila sa atin?" he said. (We are more economically advanced than Vietnam. How different are they from us?)

"Kung kailangan nating humingi ng tulong, humingi tayo ng tulong sa international community, huwag sa mga bansa na may national interest," he said. Colmenares said the United States, for instance, is after advancing its own national interest in extending aid to the Philippines.

(If we need help we should seek help from the international community, not from countries with national interest.)

The Philippines has a military agreement with the United States, allowing the two countries' armed forces to conduct joint exercises even near disputed waters. The US has declared it would come to Manila's aid should the latter be attacked over at the South China Sea.

On Tuesday, October 20, the Pilipinong Nagkakaisa para sa Soberanya (PINAS) held its first general assembly at Miriam College in Quezon City.

PINAS anticipates the coming of US President Barack Obama and China President Xi Jinping to the Philippines for the APEC Summit in November.

"We will welcome presidents Obama and Jinping with placard 'Hands off the Philippines,'" said group convenor and former Gabriela Women's Party Representative Liza Maza.

The group – organized in June by Colmenares, former Senator Rene Saguisag, and artist Bibeth Orteza – wishes to bring the issues of China's reclamation and US' increased military presence in the country to the attention of global leaders attending the November summit.

"These two imperialist countries want to control that part of our exclusive economic zone and extend continental shelf for their own economic and military agenda," Maza added.

In recent months, China's construction in the reclaimed waters has been fast-paced. The country has completed the construction of the 10,000-foot airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef in September and two lighthouses on the Cuateron and Johnson South Reefs earlier this month.


China defends actions after Japan scrambled jets

From InterAksyon (Oct 20): China defends actions after Japan scrambled jets

Japanese PC3 surveillance aircraft over Senkaku Isle. File photograph from Reuters

China defended the actions of its air force on Tuesday after Japan said it scrambled fighter jets to prevent possible incursions by Chinese planes a record high number of times in the summer.

Japan jets scrambled 117 times from July to September, up from 103 for the same period last year, although it was lower than the all-time high of 164 times recorded in the final quarter of 2014.

"The actions of China's aircraft in the airspace over the relevant sea are justified and legal," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

"We call on Japan to cease all interfering actions targeting China and make constructive efforts to safeguard China-Japan relations and regional peace and stability."

Japan has long been mired in a territorial dispute with China over a group of tiny, uninhabited East China Sea isles, called the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.

Patrol ships and fighter jets from Asia's two biggest economies have been shadowing each other – which military airmen informally refer to in air force lingo as "playing chicken" – on and off near the islets, raising fears that a confrontation could result in a clash.

Sino-Japanese ties, also plagued by the two countries' wartime past, concerns over Tokyo's bolder security stance and Beijing's increasing military assertiveness, have thawed a little in the last year.


Army targets good governance, performance excellence

From the Philippine Information Agency (Oct 20): Army  targets good governance, performance excellence

The Philippine Army is committed to pursue a program towards the attainment of good governance and performance excellence.

The program,  dubbed Army Transformation Roadmap (ATR) has for its primary objective  to transform the Philippine Army into a better, dynamic, responsive, and more professional Army committed to serve the people and secure the land.

There is a need for us to communicate this roadmap,” said Col. Francisco F. Mendoza, Chief of Staff of the 3rd Infantry (Spearhead) Division of the Philippine Army based at Camp Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz during  the recent Media ATR Orientation Seminar.

Mendoza expressed hope that the people will also appreciate the army’s reform initiatives and he assured that the Philippine Army will always serve the people and secure the land.

Some 24 media from various media institutions in Negros and Panay Islands attended the ATR Orientation Seminar which include the following resource persons: Lt. Co. Von Albert Sumergido, Troop Commander, 6th Light Armored Cavalry Troop, Mechanized Infantry Division; Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova, Commanding Officer, 62nd Infantry Battallion, 3ID, PA; Major Ricky Rafael; Major William Pesase; and Major Alan Tesoro.

The ATR is an 18-year long term program crafted to serve as a reference guide for the Philippine Army leadership and a launching pad for the attainment of the goal by 2018.  

To attain the success of the ATR,  The Philippine Army developed its own performance governance scorecard. This will assess the success of attaining the strategic objectives based on the specified goals, indicators and targets, which can be which can be validated publicly. It will promote transparency and accountability in the fulfillment of its mandate and the performance targets the Philippine Army has committed to reach.

The Army strategic programs include: Army capability development; Character Development; Health service support system; Doctrine development system; PA Training and development; Stakeholder engagement program; Integrated personnel database management system; Network infrastructure development program; Army international defense and security engagement program; Enhancement of the Army logistics system; Army Intel capability development; Institutionalization of Army Resource Management System; Army Housing program; Battalion of excellence program; and Reserve force development program.

In the same seminar, Major Alan Tesoro, Chief, Plans and Research of the Philippine Army Headquarters presented a survey result showing public perceptions that the Philippine Army can help contribute to nation building through building of schools, roads and bridges in far-flung areas; conducting rescue and relief operations during natural and man-made calamities; and conducting medical, dental, civic action and community livelihood programs.


Sultan Kudarat PNP raises alert status after twin explosion

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Sultan Kudarat PNP raises alert status after twin explosion

Police authorities in President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat, have heightened alert by establishing more roadblocks following Monday’s twin grenade blasts in Barangay Katico of the municipality.

Philippine Army soldiers were also deployed to augment local police by establishing separate checkpoints in entry and exit points in the peripheries of the municipality.

Sr. Insp. Badrudin Esmael, municipal police chief, said unidentified men on board separate motorbikes sneaked into Katico village around 9 p.m. and for still unknown reasons hurled the grenades at a vacant lot in the area.

Nobody was hurt in the incident but shrapnel hit the house of one Juanita Villeno in the village.

Responding police and military bomb experts recovered at the blast site two safety levers and metal shards from MK-72 hand grenades.

”The grenades could be intended for anyone in Katico,” Esmael said, adding that the suspects tossed the grenades after residents questioned their presence in the village.

Esmael added that a family feud involving Muslim clans exists in the village of Katico that left two persons dead when the warring families figured in a clash.

Esmael appealed to local villagers to notify a police outpost set up nearby whenever they notice suspicious-looking persons roaming their community especially at night.


Loreto mayor, son found dead by pursuing troops

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Loreto mayor, son found dead by pursuing troops

The operating troops of the Philippine Army’s 23rd Infantry Battalion have found the bodies of Loreto town mayor Dario Otaza and his son Daryl in the vicinity of Purok 2, Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City early Tuesday morning.

This was reported by the Eastern Mindanao Command (EastMinCom) intelligence office here based from the report of the 23rd IB under 2lt. Cris Sabandal.

Army reports said the bodies of Mayor Otaza and Daryl were found hogtied and bore multiple gunshot wounds in different parts of their bodies. 

The bodies of Mayor Otaza and Daryl were found by the Army troops while supporting law enforcement operations.

The area was secured by the Army troops while waiting for the Philippine National Police (PNP) Scene of the Crime Operation (SOCO).

 Mayor Otaza and Daryl were snatched from their home in the village of Baan, Butuan City, Agusan del Sur at about 6:50 p.m. on Monday. Otaza, himself, was a former rebel and a member of the Manobo indigenous people’s group.

 Since he became mayor, Otaza is a local partner of the national government’s Serbisyo Caravan and helped facilitate the surrender of 154 NPA rebels.


Joint AFP-PNP-PDEA task force formed to restore normalcy in Marawi City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Joint AFP-PNP-PDEA task force formed to restore normalcy in Marawi City

To restore law and order in Marawi City, regional and local government on Monday created a special task force to contain rising illegal drug related crimes which was capped by the recant ambush-slay of the city’s police chief.

The composite group, aptly called Joint Task Force Ranao, is ordered to implement stricter law enforcement against organized crime syndicates in Marawi.

“A total gun ban would be imposed in Marawi as one of the measures to prevent a repetition of policemen being killed in the city,” Chief Supt. Ronald Estilles, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (PNP-ARMM) police director, said.

The PNP-ARMM has administrative and operational control over police in Marawi City, component city of Lanao del Sur.

On October 17, gunmen shot dead in a daring attack Supt. Abner Wahab Santos, Marawi City police chief, as he was aboard alone in his vehicle.

That ill-fated day, Santos was heading back around 2:30 p.m. to Marawi City from a command conference with Lanao del Sur police officers in a nearby area when ambushed by gunmen onboard another vehicle in Barangay Luksadatu, Marawi City.

“Once the city and provincial councils come up with an ordinance, gun ban will be strictly imposed, permit to carry firearms of civilians is suspended,” Estilles said in a phone interview.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, who presided over a joint regional and provincial peace and order council meeting on Monday, said once the ordinance is in place, no police or military personnel are allowed entry, if they have no official business, in the city.

Police or Army officers in civilian clothes carrying firearms would be denied entry or not allowed to roam around the city, Hataman said in a radio interview.

“Permits to carry firearms would also be suspended within Marawi City,” the governor added.

Heavily tinted vehicles, which are common in Marawi City, would also no longer be allowed.

All vehicles’ license plates are also ordered exposed and not covered by any obstruction.

“The agreement is that all stakeholders must participate in our efforts to restore peace and normalcy in Marawi,” Hataman said.

Hataman and Estilles both said the death of Santos could be traced to his successful dismantling of big time illegal drug operators in the city.

"He (Santos) personally led in the campaign to rid Marawi of illegal drug suppliers, pushers, users and peddlers,” Estilles said.


Military deploys 125 IP soldiers in tribal communities in Mindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Military deploys 125 IP soldiers in tribal communities in Mindanao

The military has authorized the deployment of 125 certified members of the Indigenous People (IP) back to their villages in order to assist in the development of their ancestral communities.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the army’s 4th Infantry Division here, said on Tuesday that the 125 IPs are regular members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) with a rank of private to sergeants.

He said that the IP soldiers, most of them of the Manobos and Higa-onon tribes, underwent an alternative learning system (ALS) accredited by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Before the end of this year, the IP soldiers would be deployed to 35 pilot villages to start their own respective ALS cells and hand down mainstream education to members of the tribal communities, Martinez said.

“These soldiers range from privates to sergeants. Unarmed, the IP soldiers would wear the traditional tribal garb once they are integrated back to their villages,” Martinez said.

The 4th Infantry Division maintains military jurisdiction in eight provinces – Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Camiguin, Agusan Del Norte, Agusan Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur and Dinagat. Of these, only island provinces of Camiguin and Dinagat are free of armed communist rebel.


Two warring families in Sulu town sign peace pact

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Two warring families in Sulu town sign peace pact

Two feuding families in the municipality of Kalingalan Caluang, Sulu, have signed a peace pact on Tuesday as they have agreed to settle their differences, a top military official announced.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said this came after the intercession of the police and military authorities as well as that of the town officials, community elders and religious leaders of Kalingalan Caluang town.

Arrojado said the signatories of the peace pact are the groups of Hadja Samla of Barangay Karungdong and Senaida Mawali of Barangay Kambing, both in Kalingalan Caluang town.

The town of Kalingalan Caluang, which consists of nine barangays, is a 5th class municipality in the province of Sulu with a population of 26,848 as of the 2010 census.

The signing of the peace settlement, which was held around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, came a day after the two families engaged in a firefight.

The firefight broke out around 1 p.m. Monday, which Arrojado said the police and other stakeholders successfully pacified paving the way for a peaceful settlement.

Arrojado said there was no report of casualties among the protagonists during Monday’s firefight.

“The parties involved have willfully accepted the terms of settlement and committed themselves to end unconditionally their differences and misunderstandings,” Arrojado said.


N. Cotabato tribesmen condemn successive NPA killing of ex-NPA member

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): N. Cotabato tribesmen condemn successive NPA killing of ex-NPA member

After shooting dead two tribal leaders here recently, members of the New Peoples’ Army (NPA) hit squad gunned down Monday a former Manobo colleague who opted to return to the folds of law and live a normal life with his family.

Sr. Insp. Felix Fornan, Magpet police chief, said that victim Marco Engay Vea, 37, a Manobo and a resident of Barangay Imamaling died on the spot near his home after sprayed with automatic gunfire by the rebels.

Injured in same incident was Rodney Salinas Brandino, 35, a resident of Pulang Lupa, Trento, Agusan del Sur and co-worker of the victim.

The victims were loading cuts of lumber to a vehicle when fired upon by the NPAs positioned at a busy section of the road.

Responding lawmen recovered from the scene several empty shells from M14 rifles that were used by rebels in the attack.

Linda, the victim’s wife, told police that his husband has been receiving threats from his former colleagues after surrendering to the government earlier this year.

Vea was the third Manobo killed by the NPAs here this month.

Magpet Indigenous People Mandatory Representative Datu Antonio Taquinan has called on the local government to act on the matter swiftly before more blood would be spilled on the ground of Manobos whom he described as peace–loving people.

The town government has set an emergency meeting this week to address the problem.


War veterans honored in 71st Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): War veterans honored in 71st Leyte Gulf Landings commemoration

Local and foreign officials conveyed their deepest admiration for thousands of allied forces who fought for the country’s liberation during Tuesday’s celebration of the 71st Leyte Gulf Landings.

Flags of four foreign countries, whose soldiers were involved in the World War II in Leyte, were raised during the commemorative program as a sign of remembrance to those who fought for freedom 71 years ago.

The visiting dignitaries were Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell, Minister Tetsurso Amano, deputy chief of mission and consul-general of Japanese embassy; and Iain Mansfield, trade and investment director of embassy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Leading the local officials were Philippine Veterans Affairs Office Administrator Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina, Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla, several Board Members and Mayors.

Carolina said heroism is rooted in three words – “love of country" - which our veterans symbolize.

“It is indeed very relevant that we commemorate events like the Leyte Gulf Landings for it exemplifies the valor that our veterans has done to create the foundation of what we have now," he said.

The PVAO chief urged Filipinos to emulate the ideas that the veterans represent by “being heros of our time in our war against poverty and other challenges.”

Relatively, Petilla honored the veterans for their sacrifices and for bringing a legacy of the historic Leyte Landing.

“Indeed, the brave actions of the World War II veterans endure in the pages of the history. Today, we again remember their call of entry in the battlefield. This legacy of strength and service they brought with them resolved us in the crying times of the province of Leyte,” he said.

For Tweddell, the celebration is an appreciation of bravery and heroism of Filipinos and allied soldiers who died in Bataan, Corregidor, Leyte, Manila and other locations across the country.

“On occasions like this, we are reminded of the courage, resilience and sacrifice of our fellow country men and women in the face of severe adversity,” he said.

During his address, Tweddell also remembered a 92-year-old Australian war veteran who fought in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. The unknown hero died last year during the 70th Leyte Gulf Landings anniversary.

Also, the 20th of October is celebrated as the UK-Philippines Friendship Day, which recognizes the friendship of both countries.

Mansfield said the Leyte Gulf Landings marks the time when United Kingdom and many other allies came together to fight for freedom that is now being enjoyed by the Philippines and other countries

“The end of the Second World War finally gave the people of the Philippines the freedom to determine their own future and destiny in the Republic,” he added.

On October 20, 1944, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, as the head of the largest US fleet of transport and warships, accompanied by Commonwealth President Sergio Osmeña and Gen Carlos P. Romulo landed at Red Beach of this town to reclaim the Philippines from the Japanese.

History says the largest naval battle in the Pacific and the second battle of the Philippine Sea against Japanese invaders was fought and won in Leyte.

The battle was a great victory. It effectively destroyed the Japanese fleet and opened the way for the recovery of all the islands.

Luzon was invaded in January 1945 and Manila was taken in February.

On July 5, 1945, MacArthur announced: “All the Philippines are now liberated.”

The Japanese had more than 425,000 casualties in the Philippines.

With these, Amano expressed his “feelings of profound grief and eternal sincere condolences” for the aggressions and atrocities done by Japanese soldiers during World War II.


Negros solon optimistic PNP Modernization Bill to become law in 16th Congress

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Negros solon optimistic PNP Modernization Bill to become law in 16th Congress

Negros Occidental Fourth District Rep. Jeffrey Ferrer is optimistic that the proposed Philippine National Police (PNP) Modernization Bill will be enacted into law in the 16th Congress.

Hearings by the House committee on public order and safety on the measure are being conducted in key cities around the country, Ferrer, who is the Committee's chairman, said.

One of these hearings was held at the Provincial Capitol’s Social Hall in Bacolod Monday while another one was held in Cebu Tuesday.

Ferrer said another hearing is scheduled in Zamboanga and more are still slated until they cover all the 12 regions.

The hearing on Monday was attended by committee members that include Antipolo Second District Rep. Romeo Acop, Cebu Third District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia, and ACT-CIS party-list Representative Samuel Pagdilao, as well as police officers from the Bacolod, Negros Occidental and Western Visayas.

Ferrer said the hearings is targeted to help solons gather more information and know the sentiments, issues and opinions of the police personnel from the ground level.

Among the issues raised during the hearing are the proposed new police rank, which is the patrol officer; recruiting process and police rank titles, he said.

The legislator said these issues will be included in the draft bill, which he expects to be deliberated at the plenary by the first week of December.

Once it becomes a law, the measure will pave the way for the upgrade of PNP facilities and equipment as well as provide education and training to police officers.

Both Senior Superintendent Melchor Coronel, acting Bacolod City police director, and Senior Superintendent Samuel Nacion, acting Negros Occidental police director, are hoping that the proposed bill can improve the PNP organization.

Coronel said “this can give solution,” as he cited that the organization was bombarded with corruption issues.

Further, he said that he is hoping that the Technical Working Group of the committee will also meet with the stakeholders, not only the police, as well as the academe, the media and the retired police so “there will be balance when crafting the bill.”

It should not be vested on personal interests, he added.

Nacion, for his part, said he favors the proposal to modernize the PNP.


61st IB gets new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): 61st IB gets new commanding officer

The 61st Infantry Battalion, a field unit of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Battalion, was given a new commanding officer in the person of Lt. Col. Col. Leonardo Peña Monday.

Pena replaced Lt. Col. Victor Llapitan who commanded the 61IB since Sept. 16, 2013.

Peña is a native of Batangas and a graduate of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1991.

He is also a graduate of Master of Science in Defense Analysis (National Security Affairs) in Naval Post Graduate School in California, and Master in Public Management Major in Development and Security from the Development Academy of the Philippines.

“The command has its full trust and confidence with Lt.Col. Peña as he assumes command of 61st Infantry Battalion. With his competence and extensive knowledge in development and security, I am confident that he will meet or even exceed the expectations of the people in his area of responsibility especially in implementing the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan,” 3rd Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero said.

He also acknowledged the dedication, sacrifices and remarkable accomplishments of Llapitan that contributed much to the accomplishment of the 3rd Infantry Division’s mission.

One of the unit's significant accomplishments was the successful implementation of the IPSP “Bayanihan” which led to the declaration of Capiz and Iloilo provinces as Peaceful and Ready for Further Development last December 2014 and March 2015 respectively.

Llapitan expressed his thanks to the men and women of the 61st Infantry Battalion as well as the stakeholders of the battalion for the unwavering support which made him accomplished a lot of the unit’s tasks that greatly contributed to the accomplishment of 3rd Infantry Division’s mission.

On the other hand, Peña said that he will pursue the best practices that were started and initiated by his predecessor.

He will ensure that the gains in peace and development in the battalion’s area of operations will be sustained by working collectively and collaboratively with the stakeholders.

Among notable accomplishments of 61st Infantry Battalion during Llapitan's watch include eight encounters with the lawless armed elements which resulted to the recovery of various war materiel and voluminous subversive documents of high intelligence value and the discovery of five NPA temporary encampments; the successful conduct of 67 Bayanihan Team Activities (BTAs) which resulted to the clearing of 39 out of 42 affected barangays in its area of operations which further contributed to the area clearing of Capiz and Iloilo provinces;

The recovery of four improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and numerous of its components which prevented the lawless elements from staging sabotage against vital projects and installations and from causing harm to innocent people, and the return of 10 NPA members to the folds of law through peaceful negotiation.

The battalion was also instrumental in the peaceful conduct of major activities in Panay such as the Barangay Elections in 2013; the country’s hosting of APEC 2015 meetings in Boracay and Iloilo City; the RP-US Balikatan Exercise 2015 and the Pacific Partnership 2015.

The Battalion also involved in various programs and activities such as medical and dental civic action programs, feeding program to children in far flung barangays, humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations after the onslaught of typhoon Yolanda, Army Literacy Patrol System (ALPS) dubbed as “Maestro Sundalo” in coordination with the DepEd’s Alternative Learning System (ALS), blood-letting activities, environmental protection and other socio-cultural activities in partnership and collaboration with the stakeholders who continue to work together with the Philippine Army in the spirit of Bayanihan in order to attain just and lasting peace.


Army condemns abduction and murder of Loreto town mayor, son

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Army condemns abduction and murder of Loreto town mayor, son
The Cagayan de Oro-based 4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army has condemned the rebel group New People's Army (NPA) for its wanton abduction and killing of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur and his son.

"The 4th Infantry Division joins all tribal communities and the peace-loving people of Northern Mindanao in condemning the NPA for killing a Lumad peace advocate, Mayor Dario Otaza, and his son Daryl Otaza," 4th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez said.

The bodies of the victims were found in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City at around 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The two went missing 6:50 p.m. on Monday after NPA bandits, disguising themselves as agents of the National Bureau of Investigation, abducted the Otazas from their residence in Barangay Baan, Butuan City.

The senior Otaza was a member of the NPA who later on surrendered after realizing that armed struggle is not the solution to the country’s problems.

As mayor and member of the Provincial Tribal Council in Agusan Del Sur, he liberated his town from NPA exploitation and manipulation.

Otaza was successful in encouraging 246 NPA leaders and members, majority of whom are Lumads, to surrender and return to "normal and peaceful" lives.

“The attack on Mayor Otaza is a clear and undeniable proof of the NPA’s human rights atrocities in Lumad communities. This is also a solid proof of the NPA’s continuing campaign to take control of our Lumads and anyone who gets in their way is killed in the process," 4th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Oscar Lactao said.


PHL-Vietnam hold talks as both sides work towards final strategic partnership accord

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): PHL-Vietnam hold talks as both sides work towards final strategic partnership accord

The Philippines and Vietnam will hold talks in Hanoi on Wednesday with both sides hoping to finalize before yearend a strategic partnership agreement that will bolster their security and defense ties.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario will lead the Philippine delegation to Hanoi for the convening of the 8th Philippines-Viet Nam Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) on Oct. 21.

The JCBC, a Foreign Affairs statement said, "is an important mechanism between the two countries to discuss bilateral and regional issues, as well as plan for joint projects to enhance Philippines-Viet Nam cooperation in areas such as political, economic, security, defense, agriculture and maritime cooperation, among others."

The two countries are currently finalizing the draft of a strategic partnership agreement, which aims to strengthen the two Asian neighbors’ cooperation on several fronts, including defense and maritime security, amid their long-standing territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

One of the possible dates for the signing of a strategic partnership agreement - the Philippines' third after the United States and Japan - that Manila and Hanoi are looking at is at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila on Nov. 18 and 19, Filipino and Vietnamese diplomats said.

Del Rosario, who will co-chair the meeting together with his Vietnam counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, stated that “the meeting is an opportunity to discuss developments in our bilateral relations which have expanded significantly and strengthened and diversified through cooperative activities.”

With rapidly developing economies, Del Rosario said "the future of Philippines and Vietnam is closely linked and it is natural that the bilateral relations of both countries should strengthen and intensify."

Negotiations for a strategic partnership accord was agreed upon by President Benigno S. Aquino III and Vietnam President Tan Sang in 2014 during a meeting on the sidelines of the 26th APEC Summit.

The Philippines and Vietnam face a common security concern in the South China Sea: China's increasingly aggressive postures to assert territorial claims that Hanoi and Manila say have impinged on their fishing rights and obstructed efforts to explore undersea hydrocarbon resources well within their territorial waters recognized under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

A strategic partnership will upgrade Vietnam's relationship with the Philippines to a higher level, particularly in the field of security where both countries can intensify military staff exchanges, port visits, information-sharing and joint activities.

The agreement with Vietnam will likewise expand cooperation on economic, trade and investments, and tourism.

Philippine officials have said in the past that the agreement is not aimed against China, but admitted that a closer engagement with Vietnam is “important” in the face of the territorial disputes that also involve other claimants, such as Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

China insists "indisputable" ownership to nearly all the South China Sea - an assertion that has alarmed foreign governments, including the US, Japan, the European Union and G7 nations.

Manila has sought international arbitration before a Netherlands-based tribunal to try to denigrate China's massive claim. The court has yet to rule on the case.


EMC now pursuing rebel group behind abduction, killing of Loreto mayor, son

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): EMC now pursuing rebel group behind abduction, killing of Loreto mayor, son

Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) units are now tracking down the New People's Army (NPA) bandits who abducted and killed Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza and his son, Daryl, Monday.

This was disclosed by EMC chief Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad in an interview Tuesday.

"Pursuit operations are now ongoing," he added.

Baladad also clarified that Otaza is not a supporter of the EMC but only of the government.

"We would like to emphasize (that) Mayor Otaza is a non-combatant, (he is a) civilian government official, so basically his killing is already a violation of the principle of distinction, (of) International Humanitarian Law, they should be separated, on whose a combatant or non-combatant, even worse, (they also his son) who is even more of a civilian that him," the EMC chief stressed.

Baladad said that they are looking at members of the NPA's Guerilla Front 48 as suspects behind the Otazas' abduction and killing, adding that they now have sketches of the 18 rebels who abducted the victims.

The bodies of the victims were found in Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City at around 6 a.m. Tuesday.

The two went missing 6: 50 p.m. after 18 NPA bandits, disguising themselves as NBI agents, abducted the Otazas from their residence in Barangay Baan, Butuan City.

The senior Otaza is the mayor of Loreto town, Agusan Del Sur. He is the icon of the local chief executives in the campaign for peace and development.

The senior Otaza was a member of NPA who surrendered after realizing that the armed struggle is not the solution to the country’s problem.

As mayor and member of the Provincial Tribal Council in Agusan Del Sur, he liberated his town from NPA exploitation and manipulation.

Otaza was successful in encouraging 246 NPA leaders and members, majority of whom are Lumads, to surrender and return to their normal and peaceful lives.

Under his leadership, development has started to set-in in his town of Loreto, benefiting his constituents.


Engine of S-211 jet trainer up repairs

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Engine of S-211 jet trainer up repairs

One of Philippine Air Force (PAF)'s three remaining SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers will be having its engine maintained and replaced.

Budget for this project is placed at PhP25,000,000.

The engine is for PAF S-211 with tail number 008.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for Oct. 21, at 9 a.m. PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City, while submission and opening of bids is on Nov. 10, 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The S-211 is the PAF's sole jet-powered aircraft following the retirement of the Northrop F-5 "Tiger" jet fighter fleet in 2005.

It is now configured for air-to-air and air-to-ground missions pending the arrival of the first two Korea Aerospace Industries F/A-50 "Fighting Eagle" jet aircraft this December.


Palace decries murder of Agusan del Sur mayor, son

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 20): Palace decries murder of Agusan del Sur mayor, son

Malacanang on Tuesday denounced the murder of Loreto Mayor Dario Otaza and his son, Daryl, by suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA).

Initial investigation showed that the Otazas were seized by about 18 gunmen wearing National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) uniform from the family's residence in the village of Baan, Butuan City at about 6:50pm Monday.

In a briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said bodies of the father and son were found hog-tied with multiple gunshot wounds at around 7am Tuesday in Purok 2, Barangay Bitan-agan, Butuan City.

He said the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces have intensified their operations to run after the Otazas' killers.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this cowardly act. We hope that Mayor Otaza's death unites the people of Agusan del Sur, the Manobos and the entire Lumad community, and every decent Filipino in working sincerely towards lasting, meaningful peace," he added.

During the briefing, Undersecretary Manny Bautista of the Cabinet Cluster on Security, Justice, and Peace said they have not determined the identity of the suspects but the methodology used points to the NPA due to the presence of a big group of armed men who aim to intimidate the victim and to kill.

He said Mayor Otaza, who is a member of the indigenous group Lumad and a former NPA member, had bodyguards but they put their guards down a bit when the gunmen arrived because the latter were wearing NBI uniforms.

"He (Mayor Otaza) have received death threats. We are saying the perpetrators are likely members of the NPA until we get evidences but indicators point to the NPA," he said.

Bautista said it is not impossible that the NPAs want Otaza dead because the latter has been a strong partner of the government in making NPA members surrender and become part of the main society again.

Some 154 NPA members turned against the group in the recent Serbisyong Caravan through the help of Otaza but Bautista disclosed that even before that the Mayor was instrumental in the surrender of more than 250 NPA members.

"Definitely it's a big blow to the organization," he said.

Bautista said the government is always open and sincere for the resumption of peace talks with the rebel group.

"Government is always open to resumption of peace talks. What government is against is the setting of preconditions for these talks to resume. But government is sincere in resuming the peace talks whenever they are ready and we have always communicated that," he stressed.

Bautista, thus, urged the NPA to spare the Lumads, who are now in the center of the issue due partly to the issue of ancestral domain, which the rebel group is said to be taking advantage of.

"We appeal to the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army) to spare the Lumads...We appeal to the NPA to end the armed struggle," Bautista said.

Asked for reaction on the allegation that the military might be behind Otaza's death, Bautista said "the Armed Forces is always open to investigation."