Thursday, November 5, 2015

DWDD: BGen Ballesteros Receives New Insignia

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 3): BGen Ballesteros Receives New Insignia

CAMP NAVARRO, Calarian, Zamboanga City (DWDD) - Brigadier General Maximo J. Ballesteros, the newly promoted Deputy Commander for Operations of the Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom), received his new insignia from Lieutenant General Rustico O. Guerrero, Commander, WestMinCom, during the donning ceremony and arrival honors tendered by the men and women of the Command at the headquarters of the WestMinCom in Camp Navarro, Calarian, Zamboanga City last October 27, 2015. Josephine Jaron Codilla / MCAG

DWDD: Army reacts on the published CHR statement

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 4): Army reacts on the published CHR statement

FORT BONIFACIO, Taguig City – This is a reaction on the published CHR statement that both the AFP and the NPA are involved in human rights violations, extra judicial killings, as well as recruitment of Lumads.

On the recruitment of Lumads, the Philippine Army is recruiting Lumads to be soldiers as part of the equal opportunity given to them by the government.In fact, at least 5% of our current soldiers’ recruitment in Eastern Mindanao are Lumads.
Unlike the force recruitment of the NPAs, the recruitment of the Philippine Army is based on the clamor of the local Lumad leaders. The Philippine Army support the premise of “who else can serve and secure them better than the Lumads themselves.”
Based on the current strength of the Philippine Army today of 85,000, there are 200 indigenous people — 78 officers and 122 enlisted personnel.
It is also important to note here that there are also some Lumads who voluntarily joined the CAFGU service to secure their respective communities.
On the statement that the AFP as human rights violators and doing extra judicial killings, the Philippine Army have been very transparent on the issue. We have already answered openly all the accusations against us in all formal investigations conducted by recognized legal bodies of the government and even by some key stakeholders in good governance.
We have provided the CHR all legal documents needed to express our strict adherence on human rights, international humanitarian law, and the rule of law. We will be asking again the CHR some clarifications on the published news in the PDI in order to clear the issue.
What is clear to the Philippine Army is the number of admission of the NPAs on killing civilians and soldiers inhumanely. It is also clear to us that they are recruiting Lumad minors. Most importantly, it is clear to us the purging that the NPAs did to their comrades in arms that are still happening even now. The killing of the Mayor of Loreto and his son is a clear manifestation of this point.
The Philippine Army is currently checking other efforts of the leftist organizations to distort the truths on the Lumad issue. The Army is giving a special attention on the existence of the fake international fact finding mission composed of six foreign tourists. If they are found violating our immigration laws, they will be deported and be banned forever in entering our country. The Army is also looking into the legal liability of their cohorts.

DWDD: STOP LUMAD KILLINGS // NPA attacks Lumad Village

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 4): STOP LUMAD KILLINGS // NPA attacks Lumad Village

KITAOTAO, Bukidnon (DWDD) – New People’s Army (NPA) bandits stormed a lumad village and abduct 3 people at 2:00 pm today (Nov 4).

The victims were identified as Samuel Paradero, Beltran Paradero and Jovane Rebaca all residents of Sitio Dao White Kulaman, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.

Samuel and Jovane were later released but Beltran Paradero was brought to unknown location.

The bandits threatened to attack anytime soon said village chief Felipe Cabugnason in a statement. AES / MCAG

DWDD: Eastmincom hosts 34th Philippine-Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 5): Eastmincom hosts 34th Philippine-Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference

Eastmincom hosts 34th Philippine-Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference

The 34th Republic of the Philippines and Republic of Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference was convened at the Waterfront Hotel in Davao City on 4-6 November 2015.  The Conference is held annually to discuss areas of mutual concern regarding border issues.
In his opening statement, LTGEN AURELIO B BALADAD, Chairman of the Philippine Border Committee, noted that the Conference showcases four decades of peaceful and harmonious relations between the two countries.  He expressed hope that the existing 1975 Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements would be revised to meet the requirements of the times.  LAKSDA TNI DARWANTO, S.H., M.A.P., Chairman of the Indonesian Border Committee, said that the discussions of the committee aim to enhance cooperation addressing border and maritime concerns of the two biggest archipelagic states of the world.
The Sub-Committee on Border Patrol and Communications discussed the need to  consider the inclusion of civilian maritime law enforcement agencies in conducting coordinated patrols, update the medium of communications used during maritime patrol operations, and cover other transnational and organized crimes (such as drug trafficking and migrant smuggling) in the list of border offenses.
The Sub Committee on Border Crossing and Intelligence discussed matters relating to the implementation of the 1975 Philippines-Indonesia Border Crossing Agreement.  The two  sides discussed the deployment of immigration and customs officers and documentation issues, as well as intelligence and information sharing procedures in the Border Crossing Stations.
In view of recent developments in both countries, parlicularly the signing of the Philippines-Indonesia Exclusive Economic Zone Boundary Delimitation Agreement, both countries agreed to set-up an internal Technical Working Group to review the 1975 Philippines-Indonesia Border Patrol and Border Crossing Agreements.
The 35th Border Committee Chairmen’s Conference will be held in Manado, Indonesia in 2016


MILF: UBJP Gensan executive officers undergo BBL updating

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 5): UBJP Gensan executive officers undergo BBL updating

UBJP Gensan executive officers undergo BBL updating

The United Bangsamoro Justice Party (UBJP) – General Santos City (Gensan) Chapter Executive Officers both from the city and barangay levels underwent updating on the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process and the latest status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Around 67 UBJP – Gensan Executive Officers learned the latest upadtes regarding the proposed measure in their meeting last Tuesday Oct. 27,2015 held at the AVR of Mindanao State University – Gensan Graduate School.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal discussed the hurdle the GPH-MILF peace process has been facing particularly the hanging of the BBL in Congress.

Some congressmen and senators explicitly showed their opposition to the BBL questioning the constitutionality of some provisions of the draft Bangsamoro law. 

Once approved, the proposed legislation will pave way for the creation of an autonomous Bangsamoro political entity that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Iqbal cited the importance of pushing the BBL forward which requires more efforts from the stakeholders. He added that the hope for the BBL is very big but there is no assurance of it passage. However, with Allah’s help, Iqbal said the BBL can be realized.

The chief negotiator, also the UBJP Vice President for Southern Mindanao Region, stressed the importance of continues engagement with the government for the peace process to succeed.

In his Muhadhara, Ustads Sulaiman Ali, Adviser of UBJP-Gensan and Da'wah Committee Chair, mentioned the importance of determination, sacrifice, and good intention to the political struggle through the UBJP.

Part of the activities in the gathering was the workshop of different committees where they identified the tasks they should undertake in order to strengthen the UBJP.

The BBL is the legal translation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, a peace truce signed by the government and the MILF last year in their common goal which is to end decades of armed conflict in Mindanao.

MILF: Lack of quorum is “lamest sort of excuse for not passing the BBL”: Business groups

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 4): Lack of quorum is “lamest sort of excuse for not passing the BBL”: Business groups

Business organizations in the country described lack of quorum in congress as “lamest sort of excuse” for not passing the Bansamoro Basic Law (BBL) as they called on lawmakers to act on the “swift passage of an acceptable and meaningful Bangsamoro Law, TV 5 reported.

During a press conference on Tuesday, November 3 in Makati City, the group led by the Management Association of the Philippines, Makati Business Club (MBC), Mindanao Business Council, Bangsamoro Business Club, and American Chamber of Commerce urged legislators to pass the BBL to fight poverty and push investments in Mindanao.

MBC chairman Ramon Del Rosario, Jr. said that there was the concern that there are vast opportunities in Mindanao that deserve development, but, for development to take place, peace should prevail.

Del Rosario appealed, in particular to Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. to use their leadership to nudge lawmakers to work on the expeditious passage of the bill.

For his part, Mindanao Business Council chairman Vicente Lao also acknowledged that poverty was the biggest problem in the Bangsamoro territory.

"Sometimes you cannot blame these people why they take up arms. Because sometimes that's the only way for the guy to put food on the table for his family. In an area where the absence of opportunity for employment is present, you can really not blame them if they look for another way to survive. And sometimes in areas like that, the only way to survive is to join the rebel movement," he explained.

"We need investors to go into the area. We need employment opportunities to be opened up in the area, and we need good governance in the area. All that cannot happen in the absence of peace," he stressed.

Bangsamoro Business Club President Mohamad Omar Pasigan noted that agricultural, industrial, and mineral-based businesses could not thrive without the BBL. "They would have to go out in the field. Going to those places, many of those places are under the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) now," he said.

While business owners could talk to the MILF for assurance that their investments would be protected, like what was done for the La Frutera banana plantation in Maguindanao, this could not always be guaranteed, Pasigan said.

He said the Bangsamoro Business Club had been pitching the region's natural resources to foreign investors in Malaysia and the Middle East, with the expectation that the BBL would be passed soon.

But because of the delay, the foreign businessmen were now taking a "wait and see policy," Pasigan said.

In their statement during the press conference, the business leaders said that the BBL must include the following considerations at the very least:

•BBL must not diminish what was already given to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The Expanded ARMM Organic Act should form the baseline from where an acceptable and meaningful BBL is to be crafted.

•(A)t the very least, the original core territory of the Bangsamoro should be retained.

•To allow the blossoming of genuine political parties and the exercise of true democracy, the original composition of the Bangsamoro Parliament of reserving a greater number of seats to political party representatives must be preserved.

•Given that the poorest and least developed provinces are found in the Bangsamoro, the grant of full fiscal autonomy is essential. Thus, guided by the aim to guarantee the Bangsamoro economy's stability and sustainability through the effective and responsible utilization of its resources, the Bangsamoro must have power over inland waters and 'strategic minerals' within its jurisdiction.

•As a complement to other measures that will assure peace and security in the region, the Shari'ah Court System must be further strengthened through pertinent provisions in the BBL. (Source: TV5)

MILF: BTC-JICA CCDP-B turns-over multi-purpose building in Zamboanga Sibugay

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 4): BTC-JICA CCDP-B turns-over multi-purpose building in Zamboanga Sibugay

BTC-JICA CCDP-B turns-over multi-purpose building in Zamboanga Sibugay

On October 22,  a team from the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, Japan International Cooperation Agency Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (BTC-JICA CCDP-B QIP) along with staff of Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)  turned- over a multi-purpose building in a ceremony at Sitio Barurao,  Pamintayan, Buug , Zamboanga Sibugay.

 Engr. Aida Silongan Project Management Officer of BDA told local residents and members of people organization’s that the building is a dividend of the GPH-MILF peace process. 

She added that more projects will follow once the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is passed by congress.

In his message, Engr. Mohajirin Ali, Head of BTC-CCDP-B said that after the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in March 2014, JICA committed to support the peace process through socio-economic programs for conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

A representative from LGU of Buug town thanked MILF leaders and JICA for selecting their community as recipient of the multi-purpose building.

A representative who spoke on behalf of JICA Head and Chief Leader Mr. Naoyuki Ochiai said that JICA will continue to support the Bangsamoro in Mindanao with or without BBL.

Mr. Mamiscal of Zamboanga Sibugay Political Committee expressed his thanks to JICA and MILF Central Committee for putting-up the building in the village of Pamintayan, in Buug town.

 Meanwhile, the following day, October 23, 2015, another turn-over ceremony was also held at Camp Salman, Datu Tumanggung, Tungawan also in Zamboanga Sibugay.

During the program, an officer of Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) said in his welcome address that “in every struggle and hardships, trials and success are expected, and today’s turnover ceremony of JICA multipurpose building have a big impact on our struggle, although this may not be the whole package of peace process dividends, but a stepping stone towards development”.

In his message, the Base Commander of 113th Base Command at Camp Salman Al Faresee said that the multi-purpose building is the first building built within the vicinity of the camp and hoped that it is not the last for them. He assured the officials in attendance that their efforts will be treasured. He also said that they welcome more projects to be constructed in the camp or in its vicinity. 

Engr. Mohajirin Ali of BTC-JICA CCDP-B QIP said that the leadership of MILF welcomes proposals for the development of the community for the betterment of the tri- people in the area of responsibility (AOR) of the 113th Base Command at Camp Salman Al-Faresee.

“JICA is committed to the leadership of MILF that even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not passed under the Aquino administration, their support for development will continue”, said a representative of JICA Head and Team Leader Naoyuki Ochiai in his message.

Angry Lumads storm DOJ

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Nov 6): Angry Lumads storm DOJ

Seek for Justice

About 500 lumads and human rights groups marched from Liwasang Bonifacio to the national office of the Department of Justice Thursday morning to seek for immediate action on the cases of human rights violations in Mindanao.

Protesters carried photos of victims of extra-judicial killings of indigenous peoples and wrote injustice outside the department’s gate to condemn what they say as the agency’s neglect on the plight of the Lumads.


Delegates of the human rights caravan Manilakbayan called the attention of DOJ to side with the victims of human rights violations in Mindanao “instead of taking the side of the perpetrators.”

Human Rights group Karapatan in Soccsksargen spokesperon Reverend Sadrach Sabella cited the Capion massacre as “one of the cases of extra judicial killings in Mindanao that has not been given justice.”

“The DOJ itself ordered the fiscal in Davao del Sur to re-investigate the case, but more evidence were required. They did not accept the criminal charges filed against the 27th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” Sabella said.

Sabella added that “this just show that the DOJ was never in favor of the victims, but in favor to the big mining corporations and military perpetrators.”

On October 18, 2012, Juvy Capion, who was pregnant and two of her children were massacred allegedly by state forces in their house in Tampakan, South Cotabato. Juvy is the wife of Daguil Capion, who is a known anti-mining advocate.

Ronell Campos, a relative of Dionel Campos, spoke during the protest saying “DOJ acts immediately on other issues, but they are very slow if the Lumads are the ones affected.”

Dionel Campos is the chairperson of an IP organization Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Umaabot (Mapasu). He was one of the three victims killed last September 1 in Lianga, Surigao del Sur. The two others were Emerito Samarca, executive director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development and Datu Bello Sinzo, a lumad leader in their community. They were killed in front of the residents.

The perpetrators of the Lianga massacre were identified members of a certain paramilitary group called Magahat Bagani. Cases have already been filed by the witnesses, but the identified killers are still at large.

Campos said that their community was attacked because their school, ALCADEV, was accused of being built by the rebel group New People’s Army.

“They want to close the schools, but they should instead thank this school for it provided what the government did not provide,” Campos said.

“Our school is included in the list of schools the Magahat Bagani wants closed,” he added.

In previous news reports, Surigao del Sur governor Johnny Pimentel himself said that the Magahat Bagani is a creation of the government forces. The governor has also called on the government to disband and disarm the paramilitary group.

In Talaingod, Davao del Norte, a motorcycle driver, Awing Ampoga confessed during the protest that he has also experience harassment from the military in their community.

Ampoga said that the military in their community are forcing them to be part of paramilitary group to face and hunt NPAs.

“If I will not join the paramilitary, the military will imprison me for 10 years,” he said
Ampoga is one of the evacuees from Talaingod, Davao del Norte who sought refuge at a church compound in Davao City. The bakwits are there for nine months already since they flee their communities last March.

Both Campos and Ampoga said that the DOJ and the government themselves push Lumads to take up arms against the government “so we could protect ourselves and our lands.”

Campos said “time will come, if justice will not be given to the Filipino, they will be forced to take arms.”

Suspected NPA rebs torch truck used in logging

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 5): Suspected NPA rebs torch truck used in logging

Tuguegarao City, Cagayan — Police said yesterday that government security forces are hunting down around 50 heavily-armed men, believed to be New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, responsible for torching a truck used in logging in San Mariano, Isabela province.

Chief Inspector Arnold Bulan, San Mariano Municipal Police Station (MPS) chief, said the empty truck owned by businessman Arsenio Manuel of Cauayan City was set on fire last Wednesday at the boundary of Barangays Kadsalan and Tampa.

Bulan said the truck operator claimed the truck was also being used for the delivery of cassava and corn products.

However, there were earlier reports that the truck was being used to transport timber.
Bulan said the assailants flagged down the truck then ordered the driver and four members of his crew to get out of the vehicle.

At this juncture, the gunmen set the truck on fire.

Meanwhile, police operatives filed robbery and arson cases in court against NPA rebels responsible for the burning of several heavy equipment and vehicles inside the compound of Geogen Nickel Asia Corporation, a mining company in Barangay Dimalwade, Dinapigue, Isabela.

Senior Insp. Mariano Marayag Jr., Dinapigue chief of police, cited that the motive of the suspects in torching two unit Pick-up Ford, one unit Bulldozer, five Back Hoe, one unit D-Max, one Sadam, one Payloader, one service Pick-up, and one Nissan Terrano last October 28 was the refusal of the company to pay revolutionary taxes to the NPA.

19IB spearheads multi-sectoral peace forum in Ormoc City

Just posted to Samar News (Oct 10): 19IB spearheads multi-sectoral peace forum in Ormoc City

19th Infantry Battalion multi-sectoral peace forum

With other speakers, LtCol. Reymondo Delgado answered questions thrown by the attendees during the open forum segment of the Multi-Sectoral Peace Forum.

By 19th Infantry Battalion, 8ID PA
October 10, 2015

KANANGA, LeyteNearly 400 ROTC cadets and students attended the Multi-Sectoral Peace Forum organized by the Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion in Ormoc City.

The forum which was held Saturday, September 19 at the Gymnasium of Sto. Niño College of Ormoc was also graced by competent resource speakers from Ormoc City Government, Ormoc City Police Office and from the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council.

Lieutenant Prolen Bonacua, Civil Military Operations Officer of 19IB said the activity was launched to raise awareness on the significance of sustained peace in the society as the National Peace Consciousness Month is being celebrated this September.

“It is imperative that in this generation, people gets clear information on what the government agencies are doing on issues relative to peace and security”, Bonacua said.

During the three-hour forum, participants were presented with lectures and audio-visual presentations on the peace initiatives of agencies in attendance. They were likewise given chance to throw questions to the resource speakers during the Open Forum segment of the program.

Among those who spoke during the forum was Lt. Col. Reymondo Delgado, Acting Commanding Officer of 19IB who stressed in his lecture two strategic approaches to attain a peaceful society.

The said approaches were namely; whole-of-nation approach and the people-centered approach which were stipulated in his presentation entitled: “Bayanihan as Catalyst of a Peaceful Society”.

Relatively, Superintendent Ibrahim Jambiran, Chief, Police Community Relations of Ormoc City Police Office focused his discussion on the “Effectiveness of Community Policing and Anti-Illegal Drug Operations”.

Ormoc City Mayor Edward Codilla, who has earlier expressed his support in the initiation of the said forum, also presented his assigned topic on “LGUs Role in Keeping the Peace in Ormoc City”.

A representative from the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Council, Mr. Leo Christian Lauzon likewise spoke on the topic: “Peace Advocates of the Modern Society”.

Delgado maintained that the 19th Infantry Battalion, in support to the Internal Peace and Security Plan “Bayanihan” is firm in its campaign of winning the peace rather than winning the war.

“We call on the remnants of the New Peoples Army to peacefully surrender and return to folds of law as taking up arms against the government is no longer significant nowadays”, Delgado concluded.

‘Loot-sharing linked to huge Sayyaf ransom demands’

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 5): ‘Loot-sharing linked to huge Sayyaf ransom demands’

The supposed necessity to share ransom money with other Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) factions and civilian allies have prompted the bandit group to dramatically increase ransom demands for hostages and kidnap victims, according to reliable sources.
The other day, the  ASG faction of Hatib Sawadjaan has released their demand for US$21 million (P1 billion) each for their three hostages – Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad who were abducted on September 21 at  the Ocean View Resort in Barangay Camudmud, Babak District, in the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte. The fourth hostage is  a Filipina, Maritess Flor.
The ASG faction of  Al-Habsie Misaya demanded an initial P1.2-billion ransom early this year for their two Malaysian hostages.
Misaya’s ASG faction, aided by the Muqtadir Brothers, abducted the two Malaysians from the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant on May 14 this year, Thien Nyuk Fun, 50, restaurant manager, and Bernard Then Ted Fen, 38, electrical consultant of the restaurant, about three kilometers from Sandakan town proper.
A very reliable source from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu told the Manila Bulletin on Thursday the ASG bandits have to increase their ransom demand because of “tong-pats” (grease money) for some persons he did not identify.
 The source, who requested anonymity, said the ASG also has to share their loot with other ASG factions to maintain their alliance, with armed civilians who are helping them keep watch over their hostages, buy provisions from the town, cook their food, act as lookouts or informants, among other assignments
“Many of our farmers on the island who have arms also flock to the Abu Sayyaf every time there are hostages, knowing they get a share from any ransom received,” the source said.
He said this practice of sharing the loot started more evidently during the ASG’s kidnapping on April 23, 2000, of 21 people, such as Malaysians, and tourists from Europe, South Africa, and Middle East, and a Filipino woman hotel worker from a resort on Sipadan island off Sabah.
He recalled the then Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Qaddafy reportedly paid US$25 million for the European hostages’ freedom.
For the two Malaysian hostages, the source said haggling with Misaya’s contacts in Sabah to lower their P1.2-billion ransom resulted in the lowering to P800 million, then to P500 million.
 However, the source said his information showed the hostages’ relatives and friends can only afford 6 million Malaysian ringgit (about P78 million).
 “The group of Al-Habsie Misaya already received one million ringgit (some P12 million) sometime in July 2015,” he said.

Editorial -- A billion-peso business

Editorial from The Standard (Nov 6): Editorial -- A billion-peso business

The Abu Sayyaf has time and again mocked the intelligence capability of the military. The bandit group early this week released a video of four of its captives demanding P1 billion each for the release of two Canadians and a Norwegian kidnapped six weeks ago.

The military up to now cannot confirm the whereabouts of Canadian tourists John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipina Marites Flor, who were seized from yachts at a marina in Davao on Sept. 21.The Abu Sayyaf, meanwhile, has already released two videos showing proof of life and demanding a ransom of P1 billion each for the three foreigners.

How the military could not trace the general location of the bandits and their hostages is perplexing, considering the long distance they traveled in shuttling their hostages from Davao in the easternmost part of Mindanao to Jolo island in the west.

The military’s poor intelligence has emboldened the Abu Sayyaf to snatch more victims and turn the caper into a billion-peso business.

The Abu Sayyaf is known to be holding three other foreigners—two Malaysians and a Dutch man. An Italian ex-priest, Rolando del Torchio, was also abducted from his pizza restaurant in the southern port city of Dipolog last month. The bandit group, as in the case of the two Canadians and the Norwegian, is expected to demand payment for the release of other hostages.

The bandits are taking advantage of the military’s ineffective intelligence and are succeeding in their terroristic activities despite a massive manhunt purportedly being conducted by the Philippines and the US military. The Abu Sayyaf in October last year claimed it received P250 million in exchange for two German hostages they held captive for six months. The information on the payment of the large ransom seems credible.

The Philippine government has publicly said it does not pay ransom for the release of hostages, but many believe that millions or billions of pesos have been paid for the release of the victims. Poor intelligence and the lack of effort to win the hearts of the Muslims in the south have made the Abu Sayyaf a billion-peso business venture.

DOJ slammed for 'complicity' in oppression of lumad

From InterAksyon (Nov 5): DOJ slammed for 'complicity' in oppression of lumad

Some 500 lumad and human rights activists staged a protest at the Department of Justice Thursday, accusing it of complicity in the oppression of Mindanao’s indigenous people.

The protesters, most of them participants in the Manilakbayan 2015, said the DOJ had been filing harassment suits against lumad defenders and other activists while ignoring the atrocities committed against indigenous people by state security forces and military-backed militias.

The protesters described newly-appointed Justice Secretary Alfredo Caguioa as no different from his predecessor, Leila de Lima, who resigned to run for senator in next year’s elections, saying both have been protecting perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and the government’s counterinsurgency program, Oplen Bayanihan.

"Just like the Commission on Human Rights, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the rest of the Aquino agencies, DOJ has been a party to the commission of human rights violations by implementing OPB, particularly in filing false charges against activists and in deodorizing the crimes of the regime,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

"The pattern of non-prosecution of murderers and torturers in the military and paramilitary groups, and the filing of trumped up charges against known leaders of lumad and of progressive organizations are the key roles of the DOJ in Oplan Bayanihan. It has used the legal system to promote the climate of impunity in the Philippines and to violate the rights of human rights defenders and political activists," she added.

Karapatan said among the cases that remain “frozen” at the DOJ are the murder of Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio, the massacre of the Capion family, and the September 1 murders of school executive Emerito Samarca, Lumad leaders Datu Juvello Sinzo and Dionel Campos.

The latter killings triggered the evacuation of thousands of lumad from their communities in Surigao del Sur.

“None of those who pulled the trigger and the masterminds among the state security forces were actually  arrested or even faced trial. The DOJ's deliberate inaction on these cases has furthered the climate of impunity, encouraging further rights violations in Mindanao and all-over the country," Palabay said.

She also noted that the DOJ, as part of the government’s Cabinet Cluster on Security, “has taken on the role of protecting State forces rather than dispensing justice to the victims of the State.”

In the few cases it has acted due to widespread clamor, top military officers have been freed of accountability and the cases filed against ordinary soldiers have almost always been lower in degree than the actual crimes committed. 

In contrast, Palabay said, rights activists have been slapped with trumped-up criminal charges, such as 22 churchpeople, human rights workers and victims of rights violations who assisted victims of rights violations and conducted a face-finding mission in Sarangani province; and 15 supporters of lumad refugees in Davao City, including Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate.

Filipinos Excited as US Military Returns to Subic Bay

From the Voice of America (Nov 5): Filipinos Excited as US Military Returns to Subic Bay

 A merchant marine ship docked at Subic Bay, Oct. 21, 2015. (R. Jennings/VOA)

A merchant marine ship docked at Subic Bay, Oct. 21, 2015. (R. Jennings/VOA)

More than two decades ago, Philippine officials ordered the U.S. Navy to close its largest overseas base. Filipinos resented the specter of American colonization at Subic Bay and had tired of servicemen causing trouble in hostess bars just off the base. But now the U.S. Navy is back and local people are welcoming the return of military personnel.

For more than a year now, U.S. military personnel have returned to visit their former base at Subic Bay in the Philippines. But it’s not like the post-World War II years.
Now the Armed Forces of the Philippines is in charge of the strategic port and wants American help in resisting China in contested waters off the west coast. Scarborough Shoal, where the two sides were locked in a standoff three years ago, is just 200 kilometers away.

Lance Gboy, a 26-year-old driver by profession, explains why he enthusiastically welcomes Americans back.

“My opinion is, it’s OK the U.S. troops are here in the Philippines. It’s a big help for us, especially the issue on Scarborough Shoal. Also most of my clients are American guys, so we don’t have a problem,” said Gboy.

China has sparred with the Philippines since 2012, when vessels from the two sides entered a two-month standoff at Scarborough Shoal off the Philippine west coast. A year later, Philippine President Benigno Aquino angered China by asking a U.N. tribunal to rule on the legal basis for Beijing’s claim to the most of 3.5 million-square-kilometer South China Sea.

Manila also claims the westernmost part of that sea, which is rich in fisheries - a mainstay of the Philippine economy - and may hold reserves of oil and natural gas.
China’s military ranks third in the world, vastly ahead of the Philippines. So last year Manila signed an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with Washington, the archipelago’s former colonizer and still a staunch military ally.
A jeepney drives through Barrio Barretto, Oct. 22, 2015. (R. Jennings/VOA)
A jeepney drives through Barrio Barretto, Oct. 22, 2015. (R. Jennings/VOA)

That agreement lets the U.S. Navy use the deep-water bay to deliver material and personnel for annual joint military exercises. Six thousand U.S. personnel came to Subic for exercises in April. U.S. ships are also using Subic Bay as a resupply port during routine calls.

When the United States ran the 679-square-kilometer base, as many as 5,800 military personnel would be stationed there. The United States had colonized the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 after some three centuries of Spanish rule. Servicemen earned a poor reputation in the next-door city Olongapo over trouble with Philippine hostesses at as many as 60 bars.

This time the Armed Forces of the Philippines are inviting American personnel back as they sees fit, and that arrangement has eased fears of being colonized again. Olongapo business owner Stephen Lyon said the Philippine military’s control is a sweetener for turning public opinion.

“I think that’s what they’re doing, they’re saying it’s in control. The Philippines has always given the love to America. [But] there’s betrayal and issues in past and worse,” said Lyon.

The Navy now restricts many of its personnel to a zone that excludes the bar district, apparently a rule put in place after a U.S. Marine private first class was charged with killing a local transgender man in an Olongapo hotel room. Military visitors today frequent a high-end mall with 200 stores, including numerous name-brand American chains.

People in Olongapo still expect returning U.S. personnel to stoke business for the 220,000 inhabitants. Mar Amil, a 45-year-old salesman, considered his bottom line as he peddled mobile phones along a busy highway frequented by foreign visitors.

“We like Americans to come back here in Subic. Because, you know the jobs here and the business, that’s why we like Americans to come back in the base. Everybody, 99 percent, they like Americans here. Don’t say something [like] ‘Americans, you’re going to pull out, you [get] kicked out,’” said Amil.

U.S. personnel will go to Subic Bay again in April 2016 for joint exercises.

Philippines, Indonesia hold 34th joint border talks

From InterAksyon (Nov 5): Philippines, Indonesia hold 34th joint border talks

File photograph shows signing rites for Philippine-Indonesia sea border pact.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Eastern Mindanao Command (AFP-EASTMINCOM) hosted the 34th Philippines-Indonesia Border Committee Chairmen's Conference (BCCC) in Davao City.

Held annually, BCCC is the primary platform where the Border Committees of the Philippines and Indonesia discuss border-related issues.

Lt. General Aurelio B. Baladad, AFP-EASTMINCOM Commander, and Rear Admiral Darwanto, S.H., M.A.P. of the Indonesian Navy co-chaired the conference.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and other agencies, such as the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, Philippine Coast Guard and regional offices of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Bureau of Customs, Philippine Statistics Authority and the Maritime Industry Authority, lent supporting roles to AFP-EASTMINCOM in the conference.

Aside from discussing operational issues to enhance border cooperation, the Committee agreed on the need to review and revise the 1975 Philippines-Indonesia Agreements on Border Crossing and Border Patrol in order to attune them to current realities, especially in light of the signing and impending entry into force of the Philippines-Indonesia Agreement Concerning the Delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Boundary, which was signed in May 2014.

Bangsamoro Law Deliberations: Déjà Vu All Over Again?

From The Asia Foundation (Nov 4): Bangsamoro Law Deliberations: Déjà Vu All Over Again? (by Anna Tasnim Basman and Steven Rood

The Philippine Congress resumed session this week, and is potentially in its last stretch in deliberating on legislation that would establish the new Bangsamoro Government. In a recent pronouncement, both houses of Congress declared a self-imposed deadline of Dec.16, 2015, for the passage of the law – two months before the campaign period officially begins for the May 2016 synchronized nationwide elections.

Meanwhile, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has set three possible scenarios that have to be taken into account as all stakeholders try to preserve the gains of the peace process: a good Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a bad BBL (“good” or “bad” being judged with reference to adherence to the May 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro – CAB), or no law at all.

The current situation can be seen as a possible throwback to the experiences of an earlier Congress in 2000 and 2001 as they passed RA 9054, an amended act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) amid objections from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that the bill did not fulfill the 1996 Final Peace Agreement that the MNLF signed with the government.

On July 2000, the 11th Congress began discussing proposed bills that would supplant the original Organic Law – House Bill 7883 and Senate Bill 2129 – both bills allegedly drafted by the government without the participation of the MNLF. Three months later, the jueteng (illegal gambling) furor and eventually the subsequent impeachment trial against then President Estrada snatched the attention of the Congress away from the Bangsamoro bills.

The senators and congressmen who were members of the bicameral conference deliberating the bill “had no energy left” after lengthy discussions on President Estrada’s case. Many advocates decried the “unilateral” process on the part of the government, and lamented a lack of provisions that the bill needed to contain in order to comply with the existing peace agreement between the government and the MNLF.

In December 2000 and January 2001, the MNLF sent a letter to the Senate and House citing the reasons for their objection to the substitute bills. Among these were the alleged absence of formal consultation with the MNLF regarding the provisions of the bills and the non-compliance of the bills to the 1996 Final Peace Agreement.

On Jan. 23, 2001, less than seven days before the Congressional recess, the Bicameral Conference Committee working on RA 9054 agreed to form technical committees (five members from the Senate and six from the lower house) from both houses of Congress to consolidate the amendments done in the Senate bill and the objections raised by the MNLF. However, the deliberations were overtaken by the euphoria of EDSA II and the ascension into office of a new president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, on Jan. 20, 2001. Amid the objections and the hype, RA 9054 was passed into law without the president’s signature on March 2001. (In the Philippines, if the president does not veto a bill it becomes law even if not signed.) The MNLF objected to the passage of RA 9054 and referred to it as the government’s “arbitrary and unilateral act, without consulting the parties concerned like the OIC and the MNLF.”

After the ratification of a law deemed not compliant with the agreement, both negotiating parties struggled to stay the course of the agreed roadmap. The MNLF had internal disagreements, as the Executive Council of 15 tried to proclaim MNLF Founding Chair Nur Misuari as “Chair Emeritus” but he declined to be kicked upstairs. The government went ahead with the plebiscite in August 2001 to ratify the new law (in the course of which Marawi City and the province of Basilan were added to the existing ARMM), but some of Misuari’s followers reacted violently to the events. Misuari fled to Malaysia where he was detained, later handed over to Philippine authorities, and eventually (in 2009) acquitted of charges related to the incidents.
Meanwhile, a MNLF member, Parouk Hussein, was elected governor of the new ARMM in November 2001. However, disputes about the 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the ARMM continue to this day.

The current Congress is now in a better position to enact a “good” BBL due to the fact that the draft submitted to Congress includes agreed upon language from the joint GPH-MILF team of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

However, as in 2000, events outside of Congress have impacted the legislative process. As both Houses of Congress were deliberating the bill, the Mamasapano incident happened in January 2015, putting a major halt on the process and turning the legislators’ attention away from the bill and toward the investigation of the tragedy, which purportedly involved some MILF commanders. Finally, in May and August 2015, the lower House and the Senate released their substitute bills for the BBL.

The substitute bills, however, were seen to be not in compliance with the CAB. In parallel with the earlier MNLF reaction to RA9054, the BTC sent Congress a letter in July citing 28 points that make HB 5811 in conflict with the peace agreement. This led Speaker of the House, Rep. Sonny Belmonte, to meet with the negotiating panels where he explained how hard it would be to change the current House version. A similar dynamic is happening over in the Senate. Many voices have called for a law that complies with the CAB, but Congress has said that changing the current versions after its approval at the committee level will be a big hurdle to surpass.

As stakeholders push for the peace process to go forward, let’s hope that we can at least pull some lessons from the past that foretells of the need to ratify a BBL that is acceptable to the government and the MILF. Otherwise, history could again be trapped in a vicious cycle of endless struggle in the Bangsamoro.

[Steven Rood is The Asia Foundation’s country representative in the Philippines. He tweets as @StevenRoodPH, and can be reached at Anna Tasnim Basman is assistant program officer in the Philippines, and can be reached at The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.]

Youth join summit

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 5): Youth join summit

Negros Oriental youth representatives from Gaba-an Youth Lead, New Ground events, Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation, and Youth For Development joined the Army's 15th Infantry Battalion in the recent Youth Leadership Summit in Lanao del Norte.

The summit gathered more than 700 Muslim and Christian youths for the summit.

Gawad Kalinga Community Development Foundation coordinator, Joseph Ceriales, said the event was highlighted by#TatakSelfie, a self-worth summit module to provide engaging, on-site, interactive learning experiences for the youth with self-awareness to make them stewards or agents of change inthe country.

The activity that bannered the theme “Kapayapaan Nating Minimithi Magsisimula sa Ating Sarili”, also aims to make the youthmore responsible citizens of their communities.

The 15th Infantry (Molave Warrior) Battalion of 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army led some facilitators from across the country, including from Negros Oriental, in organizing the summit to promote peace in the area.

Ceriales said the army battalion headed by 15th Infantry Battalion commanding officer Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero showed their courageous and selfless workin making the huge youth gathering a success.

Pentagon chief visits US carrier in disputed South China Sea, blames Beijing for tension

From InterAksyon (Nov 6): Pentagon chief visits US carrier in disputed South China Sea, blames Beijing for tension

File photo of the USS Theodore Roosevelt. REUTERS

ABOARD THE USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT, SOUTH CHINA SEA - US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter flew to a US aircraft carrier transiting the disputed South China Sea on Thursday and blamed China for raising tension in the region on a visit sure to infuriate Beijing.

Carter's visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt with Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein came just over a week after the USS Lassen, a guided-missile destroyer, challenged territorial limits around one of China's man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago with a so-called freedom-of-navigation patrol.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion in global trade passes every year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have rival claims.

"Being here on the Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea is a symbol and signifies the stabilizing presence that the United States has had in this part of the world for decades," Carter told reporters as the carrier sailed about 150 to 200 nautical miles from the southern tip of the Spratlys and about 70 nautical miles north of Malaysia.

Asked about the significance of his visit at such a time, he said: "If it's being noted today in a special way, it's because of the tension in this part of the world, mostly arising from disputes over land features in the South China Sea, and most of the activity over the last year being perpetrated by China."

Here’s a Reuters video report by John Ruwitch:

[Video report]

The warship was "conducting routine operations while transiting the South China Sea", Carter said on Wednesday after a meeting of defense ministers from Southeast Asia in Malaysia, a forum marred by the US-China disagreements over the sea lane.

Beijing has rebuked Washington over the patrol while China's navy commander has warned that a minor incident could spark war in the South China Sea if the United States did not stop its "provocative acts".

[Read related story: China naval chief says minor incident could spark war in South China Sea]

"China has consistently respected and safeguarded all countries' freedom of navigation and overflight enjoyed under international law," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday when asked about the Carter carrier visit before it took place.

"...What we oppose is waving the banner of freedom of navigation to push forward the militarization of the South China Sea and even provoke and endanger other countries' sovereignty and security interests. In this aspect, we hope the relevant actions and intentions of the US can be made open and above board."

The US Navy plans to conduct patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands in the South China Sea about twice a quarter to remind China and other countries about US rights under international law, a US defense official said on Monday.

[Read related story: US Navy eyes two or more patrols in South China Sea per quarter]

US defense officials have said Carter would not be on any warship carrying out such patrols.

"Teddy Roosevelt's presence there and our visit is a symbol of our commitment to our rebalance (to Asia) and the importance of the Asia-Pacific to the United States," Carter said on Wednesday.

In July, Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the US Pacific Fleet, was on board a Boeing P-8 surveillance plane as it carried out a seven-hour flight over the South China Sea.

Swift said his flight was routine, but it drew a rebuke from China. In May, Beijing called a US P-8 surveillance flight carrying a CNN team over the South China Sea "irresponsible and dangerous".

No consensus

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) scrapped a joint statement to be issued after their meeting on Wednesday because they were unable to agree on whether it should refer to the South China Sea dispute or not.

The United States had lobbied for inclusion of a reference, while China had argued it had no place in the statement. Carter and his Chinese counterpart attended the meeting.

[Read related story: Asia-Pacific defense chiefs scrap joint statement over South China Sea woes]

US Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Washington believed that the US commitment to freedom of navigation was welcomed by ASEAN.

"People want the United States to be present, people want to know that the United States is going to be a stabilizing force ... but they also want us to have a good relationship with China," said Rhodes, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

The United States says it takes no position on the South China Sea claims. China denies it's impeding freedom of navigation or overflight in the waterway.

Euan Graham, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, said the fact Hishammuddin was with Carter spoke to the Southeast Asian solidarity with Washington that the United States wanted to project.

"But in the actual demonstration of freedom of navigation, I think the reverse question currently applies: Is the US doing enough?" Graham asked.

"It's not so much the provocative statement of the photo opportunity of landing on the deck of the 'big stick' ... If you dig into this carefully enough, you will find, I think, extreme caution in how the US is going about the freedom of navigation assertions."

Last week's patrol by the USS Lassen, which has since joined the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group, was the first such mission close to China's holdings in the Spratlys since 2012.

The Lassen's commanding officer, Robert C. Francis Jr, said the ship came within six to seven nautical miles of the nearest Chinese formation during the patrol.

Hague tribunal ruling hints of eventual decision on PH case vs China - Carpio

From InterAksyon (Nov 6): Hague tribunal ruling hints of eventual decision on PH case vs China - Carpio

Map of the South China Sea showing China's claim in red and the EEZs of surrounding countries as defined by the UNCLOS in blue

The international tribunal hearing the Philippines’ case against China over disputed territory in the West Philippine Sea may have hinted of its eventual decision when it ignored China’s so-called nine-dash line, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said.

On October 30, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that it has jurisdiction over the case, handing Manila a victory in the first-round issue of admissibility.

The tribunal has scheduled the hearing on the merits of the case from November 24 to 30 and is expected to hand down its final decision by mid-2016.

Discussing the ruling, Carpio, speaking at a forum in Quezon City Thursday, highlighted the section on the Philippines’ claim regarding Scarborough Shoal, which it called “merely a rock above water at high tide and incapable of sustaining human habitation of its own.  Thus, Scarborough Shoal is entitled only to a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, and not to an EEZ (exclusive economic zone) or ECS (extended continental shelf).”

To this, the tribunal ruled, “there is no sovereignty or sea boundary delimitation issue involved. Maritime entitlement is separate from maritime boundary delimitation.”

“There is also no geologic feature claimed by China or any other state with possible EEZ or ECS that reaches Scarborough Shoal,” it added.

Carpio said this means China’s nine-dash line “do(es) not generate maritime zones that can overlap with Philippine EEZ or ECS.  This implies that if Scarborough Shoal is merely a rock, the Philippines has a full 200 nautical miles EEZ in the northern sector, excluding territorial sea of Scarborough Shoal.”

“The nine-dashed line (is) totally ignored,” he said.

Beijing routinely outlines the scope of its claims with references to the nine-dash line, which takes in about 90 percent of the 3.5-million square kilometer South China Sea, which Manila calls the West Philippine Sea.

“I was just trying to give you the mindset of the tribunal,” the magistrate explained. “They don't really consider it as material in determining exclusive economic zone … This could be an indication of how they will rule -- the nine-dash line has no effect at all.”

The tribunal deferred ruling on several other claims of the Philippines, either because these involved the merits or because of possible overlapping EEZ and ECS claims in the disputed areas.

Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyan Island in Chinese, became the focus of a confrontation between the two countries in 2012 when Beijing ordered its coast guard vessels to stop Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fisherman allegedly poaching in the area.

The nine-dash line was first officially published on a map by China's Nationalist government in 1947 and has been included in subsequent maps issued under Communist rule, according to an earlier report by Reuters.

Carpio reiterated that activities by China to enforce the nine-dash claim violate the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. Such activities threaten peace, security, and stability in the region.

In 2002, China, along with member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed that the South China Sea dispute should be resolved “in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.”

The UNCLOS grants each nation 200 nautical miles of EEZ.

Carpio acknowledged that even if the Philippines gets a favorable final ruling, compliance on the part of China is likely the next hurdle.

Nevertheless, he cited several precedents in which smaller nations took their case against powerful countries before international courts.

In the 1970s, Nicaragua sued the United States before the International Court of Justice over the latter’s support for contra rebels and deploying mines in the Latin American country’s harbors.

In 1986, the ICJ decided in favor of Nicaragua and ordered the US to pay damages.
Carpio said that, like China’s attitude toward the Philippine case, the US refused to participate in the ICJ proceedings.

Nicaragua filed a resolution before the UN every year demanding enforcement of the court’s decision, with the US wielding its veto power to reject the claim until the UN General Assembly urged the American government to pay up. The US has also been heavily criticized by the international community for not abiding by the ruling of the international court.

“If you look at the records, 97 percent of the cases came out saying that the parties to this dispute must abide by the ruling,” Carpio said.

He said that the Philippines is not alone in its battle against China, with fellow ASEAN countries and claimants Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei standing to gain from a favorable ruling on Manila’s case.

And, in the end, he added, “China needs the world to survive,” noting that Beijing needs to fulfill its plan of building the Maritime Silk Road, which will pass through South China Sea.

EDITORIAL - Rich rewards

Editorial from the Philippine Star (Nov 5): EDITORIAL - Rich rewards

See what ransom payments do: Abu Sayyaf bandits, in a video released yesterday, are demanding $21 million or about P1 billion each in exchange for two Canadians and a Norwegian kidnapped on Sept. 21 in a resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte.

The foreign hostages spoke in the video but their Filipina companion did not, and it was not clear if the bandits were also demanding another $21 million for her release. There is also no word on whether the bandits are the ones holding an Italian former missionary who was seized last month from his pizza restaurant in Dipolog City. So far there has been no ransom demand, according to security officials.

The bandits, who are also holding a Dutch birdwatcher and two Malaysians, left a South Korean hostage to die of an illness. The remains of the victim were found recently.

Ransom payments have surely helped keep the Abu Sayyaf alive despite the loss of its top commanders in the past decade. One of its commanders, Ghalib “Robot” Andang, made the group notorious for kidnapping after reportedly receiving $20 million from the Libyan government in exchange for 10 mostly European tourists kidnapped from the Malaysian island resort of Sipadan in April 2000. Also kidnapped were a Filipino dive instructor, a Malaysian police officer and 19 Malaysian resort workers.

Robot was later captured and killed in a siege at the Camp Bagong Diwa detention facility in Taguig. But he left behind a legacy of profiting richly from criminal activities, with local government and military officials widely suspected to be in cahoots with bandit groups.

Government officials have insisted that the country has a no-ransom policy. In fact kidnapping for ransom has become one of the most lucrative activities in the country. Kidnapping is down in Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon but it remains a top industry in Mindanao, where ransom is euphemistically described by the government as “board and lodging fee.”

If ransom is paid, the act of paying must be used to track down the kidnappers or at least recover the money. This is not being done. In October last year, the Abu Sayyaf crowed that it earned P250 million for keeping two Germans in captivity for six months. The claim has not been adequately refuted by authorities.

With that kind of easy money, it is not surprising that we have this latest hostage crisis in our hands, involving the same group. Profiting from crime is the best guarantee of impunity.

P10-million in damage as heavy equipment torched

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 5): P10-million in damage as heavy equipment torched

A BACKHOE worth more or less P10 million was torched by unidentified men in Sitio Pangi, Barangay Mandug around 2 a.m. of Nov. 3.
Caretaker Lorie Generalao, 65, resident of Km. 8, Tigatto, Buhangin District, said that he was roused by barking dogs. When he went out to check, he saw two men douse the heavy equipment with gasoline before setting it on fire. They escaped after the incident.
Recovered from the area were two empty gallons with kerosene residue.
Around 2:40 a.m., another equipment was burned at Sitio Sto Nino, Barangay Mandug.
According to the stay-in guard of Horizon Concrete Products, Nilson Diwan, 33, under Shanghai Security Agency, four men entered the compound and torched the crusher before leaving the area. He tried to extinguish the fire but the electrical wirings sustained damage.
Recovered from the area were four empty plastic gallons smelling of kerosene. The men left the place fled to the direction of Sitio Lapoy, Bangay Mandug Davao City. The backhoe and crusher were owned by Jaime Lao, owner of  Horizon Concrete Products.
The Buhangin Police Precinct is investigating the incidents.

NPA in region weakening: army

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 5): NPA in region weakening: army

THE EASTERN Mindanao Command said the influence of the New People’s Army in the region is “dwindling,” as two soldiers were turned over to Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday afternoon.
Lt. Gen. Aurelio Baladad, head of the EastMinCom, said the return of Pfc. Nino Alabazo and Marjon Anover, abducted last Sept. 30 in Barangay Casoon, Monkayo, Compostela Valley only serve to prove their assessment that the NPA is weakening because it’s operations are limited to “soft targets.”
“In January this year, their forces in Eastern Mindanao numbered to 1,982, and as of Nov. 1, we currently have 430 of their members,” said Baladad in an interview with media at Camp Felix Apolinario in Panacan.
“That is about 22% of their forces [that went down],” he added.
Alabaso and Anover were on board a motorcycle after leaving their detachment in Barangay Banlag when flagged down by an NPA checkpoint.
Mayor Rodrigo Duterte facilitated the release of the soldiers in Monkayo and also accompanied them to the army camp in Davao.
“I am not aware of any conditions that they set for the release,” said Baladad, adding they were not involved in the communication process between Duterte and  the New Peoples Army.
While Baladad expressed that NPA forces in their jurisdiction were lessening, he said this did not mean abductions of army members might stop entirely.
“[We] cannot rule out any more abduction, but with what they are doing, they are only hitting the soft targets. But the AFP is in a better situation regarding the NPA than at the start of the year,” he said.

Carpio: China wants all the resources in South China Sea

From CNN Philippines (Nov 5): Carpio: China wants all the resources in South China Sea

Supreme Court Senior Associate said there are speculations that after securing South China Sea, China will move beyond the first island chain in the Western Pacific.

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in an exclusive interview of CNN Philippines on Thursday (November 25), said the maritime dispute in the South China Sea is a clash over resources.

For China, it's about asserting itself as a regional power when it controls the area.

"Definitely China wants all the resources in the South China Sea. They want all the fish, all the oil and gas," Carpio said.

"That's why when we tried to bid out internationally areas 3 and 4 in the Reed Bank they sent us note verbale. They said 'we own areas 3 and 4 in the reed bank.' In fact the entire reed bank, that's their position. So it's a fight over resources."

Carpio said China may influence countries around the South China Sea if it controls resources in the area.

Located in northwest of Palawan, the Reed Bank or Recto Bank is the site of an oil drilling project by Forum Energy which Philex Petroleum is a majority owner.

But government temporarily stopped the service contract on December 2014 as the drilling site is within the disputed area subject to a United Nations arbitration.

The arbitrary tribunal ruled it has jurisdiction over the country's case against China.

But Carpio said the country shouldn't eagerly lift the moratorium on oil drilling because of the ruling.

"The case has not been finished yet. We have to wait for the outcome. It's still pending," said Carpio.

He added: "if the tribunal rules that the Reed Bank belongs to the exclusive economic zone of the Philippines, then of course we have all the right to proceed because under the law of the sea -- we have the exclusive right to exploit our EEZ.

China to move beyond South China Sea?

According to Carpio, there are also speculations that after securing South China Sea, China will move beyond the first island chain in the Western Pacific.

The Supreme Court justice said he doesn't know if China will do that-- but that seems to be the direction China is taking.

"If they do that, if they can control the South China Sea economically and militarily -- then there will be no law of the sea anymore. There will be no UNCLOS. That's why we went to the tribunal and asked the tribunal to apply the law of the sea in South China Sea."

Carpio said the Permanent Court of Arbitration's ruling on jurisdiction can be considered as "an initial victory for the Philippines." He adds it's "the ruling that we wanted."

On the seven submissions that the tribunal deferred ruling, he said this is expected.

"They have to know the facts. We have not presented the facts. Doesn't mean anything really. We expected that."

Carpio said the Philippines can expect a ruling not later than mid-2016.

He also believes the tribunal will rule that China cannot claim the entire South China Sea, but will be limited to what UNCLOS allows them -- 200 nautical miles from their coast line.