Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hague court has jurisdiction in PH case vs China

From ABS-CBN (Oct 30): Hague court has jurisdiction in PH case vs China

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

(UPDATED) The Permanent Court of Arbitration said on Thursday it has jurisdiction to hear the case that the Philippines filed against China over disputed parts of the West Philippine Sea.

In its 151-page decision, the arbitration court found that it has jurisdiction to hear several of the Philippines' submissions in the West Philippine Sea row.

A statement issued by the Hague-based tribunal said additional hearings would be held to decide the merits of the Philippines' arguments.

In the case filed before the arbitral tribunal, the Philippines did not argue the issue of who owns the contested islands in the West Philippine Sea.

Instead, the Philippines has asked the arbitral tribunal to declare the features in the disputed sea as "rocks" and not islands.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS), to which the Philippines and China are both signatories, rocks do not generate maritime entitlement beyond 12 miles.

Manila said that a portion of the maritime territory being claimed by China sits within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone.

"We’re not asking the court to say who owns Panatag shoal. We are arguing that they are within our EEZ and therefore under the rules of UNCLOS, we have exclusive rights to fish within that area,” former Solicitor General and incumbent Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza said in a previous interview.

Territorial claims are the jurisdiction of another body, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), and the ICJ only entertains cases if all parties in the dispute participate. China has refused to do so.

Oral arguments for the case were held in July.

The first round of oral arguments, held from July 7 to 8, saw the Philippines explaining to the court why it should take jurisdiction over the case.

The second round, which ended on July 14, was held for the Philippines to address additional questions from the tribunal.

Philippines: Rebel Executions Violate International Law

From Human Rights Watch (Oct 27): Philippines: Rebel Executions Violate International Law

Communist New People’s Army Kills Mayor, Son

The communist New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines executed the mayor of a small town and his son on October 19, 2015, in violation of international humanitarian law, Human Rights Watch said today. Throughout its four-decade insurgency, the rebel group has frequently executed people found “guilty” by its so-called people’s courts, which do not meet basic fair trial standards.

In a statement on October 25, the NPA took responsibility for the killing of Dario Otaza, 53, mayor of Loreto town in Agusan del Sur province, and his son Daryl, 27, calling their execution “revolutionary justice.” NPA fighters, posing as law enforcement agents, raided the Otaza home in nearby Butuan City on October 19. Authorities found the two men’s bodies the next day with multiple gunshot wounds.

“The killing of the Otazas – like other NPA executions – is just plain murder,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The NPA’s actions and claims of revolutionary justice handed down by people’s courts are flagrant violations of international law.”

The NPA accused the Otazas of working for the Philippine armed forces and masterminding the killing of at least three people. They also accused the victims of taking part in attacks on and the forced displacement of indigenous peoples in the province, torturing children, attempted murders, and arson, among other crimes.

As a party to an internal armed conflict, the NPA is obligated to abide by international humanitarian law, including common article 3 to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Second Additional Protocol of 1977 (Protocol II), to which the Philippines is party. International humanitarian law prohibits killing civilians, mistreating anyone in custody, and convicting anyone in proceedings that do not meet international fair trial standards. Article 6 of Protocol II specifies that criminal courts must be independent and impartial, and the accused shall have “all necessary rights and means of defense,” among other guarantees. Those tried by people’s courts are typically convicted in absentia, thus denied the right to be tried in one’s presence before an impartial court.

Claims by the NPA that defendants receive a fair hearing during its people’s court proceedings are not supported by the facts, Human Rights Watch said. Philip Alston, the former United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions who investigated extrajudicial killings in the Philippines in 2007, described the people’s courts as “either deeply flawed or simply a sham.”

The NPA has long admitted to killing government officials and civilians whom the NPA deems to have engaged in acts “against the people.” They have also killed allegedly traitorous NPA or Communist Party members.

On April 21, 2014, NPA rebels shot and killed Mayor Carlito Pentecostes Jr. of Gonzaga town, Cagayan province.  On July 27, 2012, they killed Datu Causing Ogao, a leader of an indigenous people’s group, in Davao City. On February 28, 2011, they killed Jeffrey Nerveza, a civilian, in Albay, Bicol. On August 19, 2011, the NPA killed Raymundo “Monding” Agaze in Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. On July 13, 2010, NPA members shot and killed Mateo Biong, Jr., a former mayor of Giporlos town, Eastern Samar. That same month, they shot and killed Sergio Villadar, a sugar cane farmer, in Escalante City, Negros Occidental. All of these people, the NPA claimed, had been found guilty by its people’s courts.

In its October 25, 2015 statement announcing the deaths of the Otazas, the NPA said it is waging a “people’s war” and it “has been pursuing revolutionary justice by meting appropriate capital punishment against war criminals to remove the continuation of the human rights violations and render justice.”

The NPA killings may worsen the human rights situation in Agusan del Sur and other provinces in the southern Philippines, where the military and its paramilitary forces have been implicated in extrajudicial killings and forced displacement, particularly against indigenous peoples, Human Rights Watch said. Human Rights Watch has documented several of these abuses and has called on the Philippine government to bring perpetrators to justice.

“By resorting to vigilantism in the name of justice, the NPA is only serving to harm its own demands for justice for victims of military human rights violations,” Robertson said. “The NPA should end this charade of unjust ‘people’s courts’ and cease all executions.”

Rebels destroy 13 vehicles, heavy equipment in Isabela attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Rebels destroy 13 vehicles, heavy equipment in Isabela attack

New People's Army (NPA) remnants attacked and destroyed 13 vehicles and heavy equipment units owned by Nickel Asia Corporation in Dinapigue town, Isabela Wednesday.

The assault took place 7 a.m. in Barangay Dimaluade, Dinapigue, of the above-mentioned province, 5th Infantry Division spokesperson Capt. Maricel Parro said.

The estimated 30 NPAs also stole the weapons of the duty guards which consists of a 9mm pistol, . 38 caliber pistol and four shotguns.

Parro said the rebels were headed by one Reynaldo Piñon.

The NPAs also burned two Ford pick-up trucks, one bulldozer, five backhoes, one Isuzu D-Max, one Saddam truck, one service pick-up, and one Terrano.

"The desperate act of terror of the NPA shows that they have lost their ideology and concern to the people they claim to serve. It is apparent that the NPAs have turned into bandits and are vigorously conducting extortion through their usual modus operandi of destroying the properties of civilians," Parro added.

USAID completes new rural health facility in Leyte town

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): USAID completes new rural health facility in Leyte town

Tabontabon town in Leyte gets a newly constructed Tuberculosis Directly Observed Treatment Short course (TB-DOTS) and rural health facility through the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Turned over Wednesday to the local government unit of Tabon was the Php2 million health facility, one of the 12 health facilities being built by the USAID in the province.

Leyte Governor Leopoldo Dominico Petilla said that the province is thankful that local government units are supported in providing facilities for TB patients, recognizing that DOTS remain at the heart of the Stop TB campaign of the national government.

“I am just so thankful too that we are able to open the Rural Health and TB-DOTS Facility here in Tabontabon, Leyte so that we may be able to immediately extend our services in terms of treatment and other care services to our TB patients here,” Petilla said.

USAID made sure this new facility, including those which are being constructed in other towns such as in Carigara, Burauen and Abuyog, to withstand typhoons and earthquakes, so that the devastation that occurred in 2013 does not happen again. Medical equipments were also provided so the facility can be immediately used.

USAID is also partnering with local authorities to build 250 classrooms in the province while helping small entrepreneurs, particularly sari-sari store owners, get back on their feet by building 1,000 stores and supplying them with goods to sell. This is a partnership with U.S. private companies Procter & Gamble and Coca Cola.

On the other hand, farmers and fisher folks are also beneficiaries of the USAID’s planting and aquaculture materials and training that will help them produce alternative crops and high-value species of aquaculture.

Petilla added that with all these help from the USAID and other private organizations, the province can further strengthen its health facilities and programs and help communities become more resilient in the face of health challenges.
The turnover of the health facility was also one of the highlights of the town’s 62nd founding Anniversary this week.

‘Lumads’ denounce atrocities, yearn for peace

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): ‘Lumads’ denounce atrocities, yearn for peace

About 1,000 “Lumads” of various tribes lighted candles on the occasion of the National Indigenous People’s Month in this tribal capital of Northern Mindanao, the military said Thursday.

Capt. Norman M. Tagros, the spokesperson of the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion, said that the Lumads (tribal natives) simultaneously lighted the candles to dramatize the quest for lasting peace in the tribal communities in Mindanao.

The Lumads also denounced the atrocious killings of the tribal leaders purportedly by communist rebels of the New People’s Army (NPA) and enjoined the relatives, friends, and Lumads who have joined the rebel movement to denounce armed struggle and live normal lives.

Anaclito Sagula a.k.a. “Datu Mantungkaban,” one of the respected leaders of the Higa-onon tribal communities, urged the NPA rebels to spare the tribal communities from the armed struggle and leave the ancestral lands.

In his message of peace, Sagula said that the presence of the NPA rebels in the ancestral lands endanger the lives of the Lumads because once the government troopers come, the ancestral land is turned into a strife-torn tribal homeland.

Tagros said that Lumads also offered a prayer for the late Mayor Mario T. Okinlay, the town mayor of Impasugong, Bukidnon and the late Mayor Dario E. Otaza, of Loreto town in Agusan Del Sur.

Both Okinlay and Otaza were Lumads who led their people toward peace and prosperity, but were murdered by the NPAs who, after their brutal executions, made trumped-up charges in order to justify the barbaric killings, Martinez said.
Lt. Col.Lennon G. Babilonia, Commanding Officer of the 8IB based here, thanked the Lumads for the continued support and commitment to peace.

Military fetes 21 gun-salute during burial of town mayor in Butuan City

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Military fetes 21 gun-salute during burial of town mayor in Butuan City

The volley of 21-gun salute broke the sepulchral silence of the graveyards as the bodies of Loreto town Mayor Dario Otaza and his son Daryl were laid to rest here Wednesday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Cagayan De Oro City based 4th Infantry Division, said on Thursday that people from all walks of life braved the scorching heat during a funeral march toward the final resting place of the Otazas at the Uraya Memorial Park in Bancasi, 12 kilometers northwest of Butuan City, Wednesday noon.

The military and relatives denounced the communist New People’s Army (NPA) who admitted the killing of Otaza and his son Daryl out of trumped up charges, which were decided by the rebel’s “kangaroo court,” Martinez said.

“Everyone viewed him (Otaza) as a man of compassion and have a strong political will. Otaza marched his people towards his vision of peace and development,” Otaza’s wife Ligaya recalled during the eulogy Wednesday.

“To my son Daryl, though it is hard to accept, we will miss you. Thank you for taking good care of your siblings. I know God has a reason why this thing happens,” Ligaya stammered in tears and pain as she took a last glimpse of Daryl’s casket.

Otaza, a former NPA rebel, is best remembered for the surrender of 246 NPA rebels in Agusan Del Sur and since then has partnered with national and local government in bringing the services closer to the people, especially among the tribal communities.

In his eulogy, Maj. Gen Oscar Lactao, Commander of the 4IDth, said that he was proud of Otaza who died as a “hero” and vowed to continue protecting and preserving the gains of the former town mayor.

Lactao also warned the NPA rebels of the military’s commitment to support the people of Loreto and Agusan Del Sur amid relentless efforts to run after the killers of Otaza and his son in order to attain justice for the fallen heroes.

Rebels torch 14 vehicles, heavy equipment in Isabela mining site

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): Rebels torch 14 vehicles, heavy equipment in Isabela mining site

Government security forces are now pursuing more than 30 New People's Army (NPA) members who torched 14 vehicles and heavy equipment owned by Geogen-Nickel Asia Corporation in Dinapigue, Isabela, Wednesday.

The attack took place at 7 a.m. in Barangay Dimaluadi, Dinapigue town, of the said province, the Dinapigue Police Station said.

The area is the mining site of the company.

Destroyed were five backhoes, two Ford vehicles, a bulldozer, a 6x6 truck, an Isuzu D-Max 4x4, a Pajero, a payloader, a white pick-up truck, and a blue Terrano.

Motive for the attack is still being determined.

9th ID gets new commanding officer

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): 9th ID gets new commanding officer

The Bicol-based 9th Infantry Division was appointed a new commander in the person of Brig. Gen. Ferdinand F. Quidilla Thursday.

Assumption ceremonies took place 10 a.m. at Camp Elias Angeles, San Jose, Pili, Camarines Sur.

It was presided by Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo M. Año.

Quidilla is a member of Philippine Military Academy Class 1983 and a native of Banga, South Cotabato.

He replaced Major Gen. Yerson E. Depayso as the latter is scheduled to retire on Nov. 1 after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 56.

The designation of Quidilla is part of the Army's continuing career and leadership development program for its senior officers.

Prior to his appointment to the 9th Infantry Division, Quidilla was the assistant commander of Tanay-based 2nd Infantry Division.

He is a graduate of Command and General Staff Course at Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College, Infantry Officer Advance Course at Training and Doctrine Command, Philippine Army, and the Scout Ranger Course at Scout Ranger Regiment, Philippine Army.

Quidilla commanded the 74th Infantry Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division in Central Luzon and the 402nd Infantry Brigade, 4th Infantry Division based in Mindanao.

Among his significant positions in the field of operations were: Chief, Operations Branch of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, Philippine Army; Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations, G3, Philippine Army; Chief, Special Operations Division of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, J3, GHQ, AFP; and Inspector General of the Army's 4th Infantry Division.

Quidilla is married to Frances Joy Bendoval, and they are blessed with three sons. He is set to retire on August 22, 2017.

4,000 troopers to be deployed nationwide for All Saints' Day

From the Philippine News Agency (Oct 29): 4,000 troopers to be deployed nationwide for All Saints' Day
Around 4,000 military personnel will be deployed nationwide as the country commemorates All Saints' Day this coming Nov. 1.

AFP deputy chief-of-staff for operations Brig. Gen. Carlito Galvez on Thursday said that of the 4,000 troops, around 500 to 600 would be deployed in Metro Manila, primarily to cover the Manila North Cemetery and Libingan ng Mga Bayani in Taguig City.

These cemeteries are the two largest in the Metropolis.

Galvez said the troopers would augment the 2,000 police officers deployed to keep All Saints' Day orderly in Metro Manila.

While the remaining 3,600 will serve as checkpoint and chokepoint guards in various areas nationwide.

These soldiers will serve as preventive barrier against groups or individuals thinking to disrupt the annual commemorations.

And while no security threats are detected yet, Galvez said the AFP could not lower its guard and would continue monitoring the situation come Nov. 1.

NPA attacks detachment in Makilala

From the Mindanao Times (Oct 29): NPA attacks detachment in Makilala

ALLEGED members of New People’s Army attacked a patrol base of government militia and torched two prime mover trucks in Barangay Luna, Makilala, Cotabato on Monday evening.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said a five-minute firefight ensued after six communist rebels fired upon a patrol base of 72nd Infantry Battalion at 8:45 p.m.

At the same time, another group of NPAs belonging to Guerilla Front 72 in Far South Mindanao Region forcibly entered the DOLE packing plant two kilometers away from the patrol base.

Reportedly, the NPAs commandeered a water supply truck and held the security guards at gunpoint as they barged into the compound. The rebels then torched two prime mover trucks owned by Sagittarius trucking and Gilvic inside the plant.

The two trucks were partially damaged with an estimated cost of P5 million.

They carted away nine Matabi knapsack compression sprayers; eight rubber boots; four shovels; two computer monitors, printer, shotgun with 16 live ammunitions and icon radio company.

The 39th Infantry Battalion and Makilala police are in close coordination to further investigate the incident while security patrols were also conducted.

In an interview, Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of 10th Infantry Division, said that ongoing operations are being conducted in the area.

Last week, six heavy construction equipment were torched by armed men in separate incident in Sitio Lower Tamugan in Marilog and in Barangay Gumalang in Baguio District.

Reportedly eight men onboard four Honda motorcycles arrived and pointed their guns at the guards.

The suspects then set fire to the two backhoe units and a road roller along San Miguel highway, Barangay Gumalang in Baguio District at 12 a.m. They also burned a grader and a compactor owned by Algons and Sons company.They later fled towards Marilog area.

At least 10 unidentified armed men on board on five motorcycles intentionally burned the said equipment using fuel.

DOJ summons MILF, BIFF leaders over SAF deaths

From Rappler (Oct 28): DOJ summons MILF, BIFF leaders over SAF deaths

At least 13 commanders of the MILF and the BIFF are required to appear during the first preliminary investigation hearing on November 11

At least 13 commanders of the Moro Islamic Liberal Front (MILF) and 6 commanders of its breakaway group, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), are being summoned by the Department of Justice (DOJ) over the deaths of 35 elite cops.

According to Prosecutor General Claro Arellano, the DOJ issued subpoenas against the MILF and BIFF commanders to attend the first preliminary investigation hearing set on November 11.

The commanders are tagged in the deaths of 35 members of the Philippine National Police (PNP)’s Special Action Force (SAF) during an January 25, 2015 operation against Malaysian bomb maker Zulkifli bin Hir alias “Marwan” and Filipino Abdul Basit Usman.

A joint panel composed of the National Bureau of Investigation-National Prosecution Service (NBI-NPS) earlier filed cases against some 90 fighters from the MILF, BIFF, and private armed groups in relation to the deaths of SAF troopers on the fields of Tukanalipao in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The 71 others being charged were also summoned for the preliminary investigation, said Arellano, who also declined to give the names of those subpoenaed.

All of the 90 charged by the NBI-NPS panel faced 35 counts of direct assault with murder.

In the wee hours of January 25, close to 400 SAF troopers entered Mamasapano in Maguindanao as part of “Oplan Exodus,” an operation against Marwan and Usman. After Marwan was killed and Usman escapred, two SAF companies – the 55th Special Action Company (SAC) and the elite Seaborne Company – were caught in the crossfire as they were trying to retreat.

Thirty-five from the 55th SAC died while 9 from the Seaborne perished during the operation. Some 4 civilians and 17 MILF fighters were also slain during the hours-long encounter.

The bloody Mamasapano encounter has also endangered the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law, the product of years of negotiations between the government the MILF.

2 killed in Cotabato dawn attack blamed on rido

From MindaNews (Oct 29): 2 killed in Cotabato dawn attack blamed on rido

Two persons were killed and another was wounded when unidentified gunmen barged into a coastal village here dawn Thursday, strafed several houses and torched some in what appeared to be an offshoot of a clan war involving Maguindanawon families, officials said.

Quoting witnesses, Senior Supt. Rex Anongos, Cotabato City police director, said 20 to 30 armed men on board a motorized boat disembarked at a village near Timako Hill and launched their attack near a fishpond owned by former Cotabato City Mayor Muslimin Sema.

While Anongos said they have not established the motive yet as investigations are ongoing, Sema believed it could be because of rido (clan war), possibly an offshoot of last Monday’s ambush in the municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat in Maguindanao wherein five people were killed, all belonging to the Ayunan clan.

“I was not the target nor my workers in the fish farm,” assured Sema. “Maybe some residents of the village who have been suspected to have ties with their nemesis [are the targets],” added the chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

But he admitted that the rido has somehow affected him since the warring clans are his close relatives. Sema said he was trying his best to mediate and help settle the family feud to save the lives of civilians, women and children from both sides.

Anongos identified the fatalities in the 5 a.m. attack as Abubakar Guiamalel and Bapa Guia, both residents of Purok Lupapakan, Barangay Kalanganan 2, Cotabato City. Another unidentified villager was wounded.

Ponining Bingbing, a woman in her 70s, was seen leaving the village barefoot and carrying some important belongings. She relayed how she and her family were awakened by a series of gun fires and the eventual burning of several houses.

“We were surprised by the gun fires. We took cover and ran for our lives to different directions as the gunmen continued firing,” she said.

Aside from Bingbing, several villagers also managed to leave the village and hauled their belongings by boats to seek refuge in houses of relatives nearby as long as tension remained in Purok Lupapakan.

Police and members of the Army’s Special Forces responded but the attackers were already gone.

A huge motorboat was left behind, abandoned by the attackers while fleeing on foot to elude the responding government troopers.

The PNP’s Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) recovered at least 75 empty shells from M-16 Armalite rifle, Garand rifle, AK-47 and M-14 rifle, and rifle grenades.

Cotabato City Mayor Japal Guiani Jr. has directed the police, barangay officials and Special Forces to help deploy peacekeepers in the adjoining villages of Kalanganan 1 and 2 and nearby villages to prevent warring families from seeing each other while efforts are underway to settle the conflict.

Last October 26, five persons were killed – including a four-year-old boy, an old woman and her daughters – when they were ambushed in Datu Odin Sinsuat town while travelling from General Santos to this city.

Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, after the Datu Odin Sinsuat ambush, has asked the Maguindanao Task Force on Reconciliation and Unification (MTFRU) to intervene and help ease the tension or settle the clan conflict.

“I am so saddened to learn children, women and innocent civilians were dragged to this senseless killings,” he said.

Rido, according to the book “Rido: Clan Feuding and Conflict Management in Mindanao” published by The Asia Foundation and the USAID, “refers to a state of recurring hostilities between families and kinship groups characterized by a series of retaliatory acts of violence carried out to avenge a perceived affront or injustice.”

Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies , author of the book’s chapter on “Dynamics and Management of Rido in the Province of Maguindanao,” said “conflict becomes rido when a family member of the offended party attempts or carries out violent retaliation.”

“In most cases, conflict becomes rido when it causes the death of a family member from either party. The retaliation and counter-retaliation results in a cycle of vengeance,” he wrote.