Monday, November 9, 2015

MILF: KPI conducts IPO Peace Building Training

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 10): KPI conducts IPO Peace Building Training

KPI conducts IPO Peace Building Training

The Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute (KPI) conducted two-day Ideological, Political and Organizational (IPO) Peace Building Training with a theme: “Unity and Solidarity towards Peace and Development”, on November 7-8, 2015 at Function Hall, Magatos, Kabacan, North Cotabato.   

The program started with a reading of some verses of the Noble Qur’an, followed by an opening remarks by Abusama Lubalang, and Welcome Address by Datu Manny  Pidtamanan.

Mr. Nasser Mustafa delivered an inspirational message, while Akmad Agao presented the training overview and introduced the participants.

A member of General Secretariat of the Office of the Chairman of MILF Central Committee, lectured on “Lailaha Ilallah Muhammad  Rasulullah”, that means, “There no other God worthy of worship except ALLAH, and Muhammad, is His Messenger”. The Bangsamoro people stand for this as their ideology in relation to the contemporary struggle for right to self-determination.

The program was facilitated by Shiekh Moidjoddin K. Talusob, KDFI Executive Director. 

Prof. Esmael A. Abdula, Executive Director of Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute (KPI) and BLMI Steering Committee member, lectured on various stages of Bangsamoro Struggle. 

In the afternoon, Abdullah Cusain, Head of Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC)-Communications Group, delved on the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).  Salik A. Abdullah, KPI Secretary, moderated the question and answer portion after Cusain’s lecture.

Brainstorming on the hopes and fears on the outcome of BBL in congress followed.

In the evening, Abdula lectured on Psychological Warfare followed by an open forum.

Before the start of the workshop on Annual Action Plan, Abdula presented an outline on how to conduct action plan, and a short background on the creation of Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute (KPI). He told the participants the KPI is an outcome of various peace building programs he conducted in North Cotabato and Maguindanao. 

In 2011 to 2012, his group worked with Cynthia Petrigh, a European representative and expert on International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law in partnership with the International Monitoring Team (IMT).

From 2012 to 2013, Abdula’s group worked with Blas F. Ople Foundation Inc.  funded by OPAPP in the conduct of Speakers’ Bureau Training.  From February to July 2015, Abdula was hired by OPPAP as Project Manager in the conduct of Massive Campaign on Information, Education and Communication Activities on FAB, CAB and BBL, in partnership with Kalilintad Development Foundation Inc. (KDFI) held in various municipalities the of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat and in Tacurong City and Cotabato City.  

Abdula enumerated the KPI’s one year proposed action plan in the realization of its goals and objectives. The participants engaged in workshops and presented their action plan by group. 

Ustadz Kamarodin Pidtamanan in his closing remarks said that the conduct of IPO Training and Capacity Building for the Bangsamoro community leaders and peace advocates are very essential in the pursuit of peace and development in Moro homeland. He as well declared his support to KPI- Kalilintad Peacebuilding Institute programs.

Lumad-focused research and media center launched

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Nov 9): Lumad-focused research and media center launched

A research and media center solely focused on indigenous peoples’ issues was launched Monday morning at Balay Kalinaw in University of the Philippines Diliman campus.

The Mindanao Interfaith Institute on Lumad Studies (MIILS) is a project funded by the European Union. Its website ‘Lumad Portal’ ( was also inaugurated.

“We saw the need for validated data in designing campaign strategies for our human rights advocacy,” said Sr. Maria Famita Somogod, MSM, the project manager of the Healing the Hurt project.

“At the same time, a wealth of data we are able to collect in our work is not properly consolidated. Simply, these are what we want to do by establishing this research institution,” she said.

The research institute is jointly headed by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines – Northern Mindanao Region (RMP-NMR), the lead implementer of the project, and IBON Foundation, an think-tank based in Manila who provides guidance to the institution’s research teams as they take on the first major researches this year.

Among the researches that have already been started are on the extractive industries and their activities in ancestral domains.

“Empirically, we see – and we have assisted – communities evacuating because of the militarization in their ancestral lands,” said Sr. Somogod.

“Later on, we learn that various companies have expressed interest in these areas of conflict. We want what we hear to be supported with concrete data. So right now, we have researches on mining, on monocrop plantations, and on the consequent militarization and the rise of paramilitaries,” she said.

The institution also serves as a repository of stories from the indigenous communities. While researches take time, shorter investigative reports are done by media associates. Other data that will be collected in the other components of the Healing the Hurt project will also be collated and made available to academes, media workers, and other institutions and individuals interested for relevant purposes.

Students who are interested in doing work with the institution are also welcomed and are guided and mentored by the institution’s editorial staff.

Philippine court expected to decide US security deal as constitutional

From Business World (Nov 9): Philippine court expected to decide US security deal as constitutional

THE SUPREME COURT is expected to decide that a new US-Philippine security agreement is constitutional and will announce its ruling before US President Barack H. Obama visits Manila next week for an Asia-Pacific summit, a source said.

This aerial photograph taken from a military aircraft shows alleged ongoing reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, on May 11, 2015. -- AFP

The deal gives US troops wide access to Philippine military bases and approval to build facilities to store fuel and equipment for maritime security, but it was effectively frozen after left-wing politicians and other opponents challenged its constitutionality last year.

The expected ruling comes amid growing tension between the United States and China over Beijing’s island-building in the disputed South China Sea.

“I have seen the draft [ruling]. The court will uphold its constitutionality, denying the petition to declare it unconstitutional,” said a court source who declined to be identified.

The source said the Supreme Court’s 15-member panel still needed to discuss the matter on Tuesday. If no decision was announced at that session, it would happen on Nov. 16 when the court next convened, the source added.

Mr. Obama will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Manila on Nov. 18-19. The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed just days before he last visited Manila in April 2014.

Supreme Court Spokesman Theodore O. Te declined to comment. The court’s official announcement on EDCA is expected on Wednesday yet.

A senior government official told Reuters the government expected a ruling before the APEC summit. “I am very confident the Supreme Court will favor us,” said the official.

Last week, the court source had said the decision would likely come next year, but one Philippine political expert, Rommel Banlaoi, said the court probably acted to avoid political complications due to Philippine elections next May.

“The court is probably worried politicians will use EDCA as an election issue, so it made the decision now,” said Mr. Banlaoi.

“If the court decides the agreement is constitutional, it will be a big victory for President [Benigno S. C.] Aquino [III]. It cements the strong security alliance between the US and the Philippines.[”]

US-Philippine military ties are already robust, after a thaw in relations two decades ago when the Philippine Senate voted to end the lease on US military facilities in the central part of the northern main island of Luzon.

But in less than a decade, the Philippines entered into a visiting forces agreement that this time had the concurrence of the Senate. EDCA is seen as another step in the country’s securities ties with the United States, amid China’s increasing presence in the disputed South China Sea.

Philippine military officials say there has been an increase in US exercises, training and ship and aircraft visits in the past year under Mr. Obama’s “rebalance” to Asia.

But the EDCA would take the relationship a step further, partly by giving US forces broad access to the Philippines. -- Reuters

Troops, cops prevent another Abu kidnap plot

From the Business Mirror (Nov 9): Troops, cops prevent another Abu kidnap plot

AUTHORITIES foiled a reported plan by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) to kidnap an Australian family in Agusan del Sur on Sunday after it arrested seven bandit in a joint operation of the military and the police.

The bandit group was supposedly headed by ASG subcommander Muammar Askali, the same bandit leader that was tagged behind the kidnapping last month of four people, including a Norwegian and two Canadians on Samal Island, Davao del Norte.

Insp. Joebert Agpaoa, chief of the San Luis, Agusan del Sur police, confirmed the operations against suspects, but said it was for illegal possession of firearms.

He said the raid against Askali’s group at Purok 4, Barangay Nuevo Trabajo, San Luis, was carried out through the strength of a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms that was issued by a local court.

Agpaoa said that those “invited for questioning” were Nuluddin Astropher, Ricardo Asong, Nuluddin Hadjula, Alvin Ammad, Rolly Delgado Sulapas, Marcela Musa Nuluddin and Kenedy Castro Calderon.

Askali, who was the suspected mastermind in the abduction of Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall and Filipino Maritess Flor, was not with the group.

Agpaoa, however, said the seven were released, adding that some of those that they were taken in were from Jolo, Sulu.

A military official from Agusan provinces said the operations against the ASG was carried out after military intelligence agents monitored the movement of Askali from Sulu to Agusan del Sur, where the terrorists plotted to abduct an Australian and his family.

He said that after confirming that the group was after an Australian couple and their son, government forces took the prospective victims to a safe place before initiating the raid.

“Our technical intelligence group monitored the movement of the group from Sulu to Surigao City via Siargao then they entered Agusan del Sur…we coordinated and found out that they were targeting somebody,” the official said.

“Bits and pieces of information gathered by intelligence pinpointed a farm, believed to the safe house where armed men were spotted,” he added.

The military official said the farm was located at the outskirts of San Luis, which is only a few kilometers away from the area where the Australians were staying.

“As soon as we extricated them [Australians] to safer place, we conducted the raid,” he said.

PCFR condemns foreign meddling in Mindanao

From the Manila Times (Nov 9): PCFR condemns foreign meddling in Mindanao
THE Philippine Council for Foreign Relations (PCFR) is a multi-sectoral grouping composed of retired Filipino diplomats and armed forces flag-officers, business executives, academic and civil society representatives. The PCFR is dedicated to upholding a constitutional mandate for this country to pursue an independent foreign policy. It is against this background that the membership of the council is dismayed by the seemingly inordinate attention that foreign governments have given to what can be considered as a strictly local affair.

It is unfortunate that what should have been treated as a purely domestic issue relating to a constitutionally erected autonomous region has assumed international dimensions with a comprehensive agreement between this nation and its autonomous region in the south – signed, sealed and delivered under the patronizing gaze of so-called foreign sponsors to a Mindanao peace process.

Instead of the whole matter being placed in the hands of the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, the issue now internationalized has fallen into the lap of the Department of Foreign Affairs giving the MILF the status of a belligerent state, which state under international law has given it an importance far above that of its status of an autonomous region of this Republic.

Recently the Council took notice of a manifesto recently \to media by some foreign chiefs-of-mission urging the Aquino government to pass the highly unconstitutional original mission of the CAB and the BBL as the solution to the Mindanao peace and order situation. This the Council deemed as undue interference and a violation of the hallowed principle of non-interference in purely domestic affairs, especially since this matter is still being deliberated in Congress and has been elevated to the Supreme Court making it sub-judicial.

The fact that the spokesman of the group – the British Ambassador whose country questionably annexed Sabah without regard to the Philippines in the early sixties and made it a part of the Federation of Malaysia, which has spawned a lot of hostilities in Mindanao — is perhaps the last person to be the spokesperson of the group in this controversial issue. His public criticism of legislators who stayed away from Congress during the BBL discussions can only be deemed highly inappropriate. Perhaps it is good to remind the British Ambassador that this nation is not a part of Malaysia or the British Commonwealth.

Parenthetically, as Ambassador to the Court of St. James in the UK as well as envoy to the Scandinavian countries, my father in all the years that he served as Chief of Mission in his postings never dared to comment on purely domestic matters nor did he dare to criticize or advise members of parliament. For my part, as Ambassador to Italy, I refrained from commenting publicly on issues discussed by political parties. This simply was not proper protocol.

In the case of the United States, its stepping up activities in the southern Philippines which includes bringing former combatants from Cotabato and Sulu to Manila to attend sessions designed “to help them sort out their self-identity” seems to be at odds with the desire of this nation to develop a multi-cultural society as a road towards peace in an island occupied by Muslims, Indigenous People and Christians.

In the same vein, efforts by the US Embassy, however commendable, to establish legal aid clinics at law schools in Mindanao and Palawan through a legal assistance program in Mindanao, allegedly aimed at “instilling” awareness among youth in Mindanao about legal rights and helping improve access to justice for marginalized Muslim communities in Mindanao fosters exclusiveness which goes against the goal of this country to integrate the Muslim community into the mainstream of a nation composed of different socio-cultural groupings. A US AID internship program that allows university students and recent graduates who live primarily within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to intern in the offices of Philippine lawmakers in Manila allegedly designed to help Muslim youth in conflict-affected areas gain an understanding of democratic values and institutions, governance issues and the process of legislating, seem to be unusual given that Muslim legislators in Congress already pack their offices with Muslim youths who have been inculcated in schools with the virtues of democracy – a task that has been promoted assiduously by our Department of Education in all parts of the country regardless of the local people’s religious denomination.

Finally, the US grant to students from the University of Mindanao in a month-long internship with grassroots organizations that champion human rights, gender equality, and community empowerment and the bringing of legal professionals and law students from institutions based in Mindanao to the United States where they met US government officials and nongovernment sectors involved in civic legal aid and conflict resolution as part of the annual international visitor leadership program is an affront to University of Mindanao officials who have to export their graduates to the US to learn about human rights and community empowerment. We had thought all this time that the school of higher learning had already these basic courses as part of their curriculum.

In this connection, we have to remind the US that it’s “manifest destiny” (an invention of President McKinley) to “civilize” this nation ended with the grant of Philippine Independence in 1946.

The actuations of our foreign allies in the Mindanao peace process, which as we said earlier is a purely domestic issue to be best solved among Filipinos regardless of religious affiliation, has raised a lot of speculations regarding the rectitude of their intentions and raised suspicions that alien interests have hidden agendas and are merely using the MILF as proxies.

In the interest of transparency, therefore, we call upon foreign elements involved or interested in the peace process to place their cards on the table, so to speak. What are these possible interests?

Is the US hoping for to be given rights by a Bangsamoro sub-state with its parliamentary system under an MILF Chief Minister beholden to Malaysia? Is this the reason for the inordinate attention that the US has in Mindanao which has seen the frequent visit of American Ambassadors to this part of the country, one of whom even witnessed the drafting of the Comprehensive Agreement in Bangsamoro in Kuala Lumpur?

In the case of Her Majesty’s government, which created the Malaysian Federation after illegally annexing to it a big chunk of the real estate of the Sultanate of Sulu in Borneo, is her interest an attempt to protect her vast economic interests in Sabah    by aligning with her former colony to marginalize the Sultanate and its faithful Tausug supporters in the Sulu peninsula by giving physical and political control of the area to Malaysia’s mercenary army led by the MILF?

These are the questions that need to be answered if a settlement to the peace process in Mindanao can move forward in the next administration because today the Filipino people cannot swallow a comprehensive agreement for peace in Mindanao which can only be described as having been drafted in Malaysia, by Malaysians and for the benefit of Malaysians and their foreign partners and mercenaries.

For all and sundry, and we address this particularly to the so-called foreign peaceniks who are allegedly brokering the peace process in the land of promise, the government of the Philippines represented by the next administration (because this one is stopped from proceeding with its dangerous political experimentation in Mindanao having claimed the ARMM to have been a failed experiment) will surely be able to convert the land of promise from a war-torn danger zone to a zone of peace and prosperity by simply enhancing the constitutionally erected autonomous region in Mindanao through the grant of full fiscal autonomy, allowing it to accelerate its infrastructure and social overhead projects. This is of course premised on one important conditionality: the political will, which this administration never had, to disarm and integrate when possible all the wayward elements in the island starting with the MILF, MNLF, BIFF, Abu Sayyaf, the private armies, the NPA and others.

Presidents Cory and Ramos were able to promote a semblance of peace and development in the area through a policy of attraction and diplomacy while President Estrada degraded if not decimated the MILF. All three administrations contributed to the establishment of ARMM which is now run by 10,000 bureaucrats sans the support of foreign interlopers. Today it is a work in progress and in certainly not a failed experiment.

The hope is that the region becomes a land of peace for all its stakeholders – Muslims, Lumads, Christians etc. All working together harmoniously as they do in other parts of Asia.

Yes indeed we do not need visitors in this country to tell us what to do. We are no longer a colony!

[Ambassador Romero is the president of the Philippine Council on Foreign Relations. He is a founding officer of the Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc.]

Abduction of Australian family in Agusan foiled

From Tempo (Nov 10): Abduction of Australian family in Agusan foiled

Government security forces have foiled a plan by the Abu Sayyaf Group to abduct members of an Australian family from their residence in San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

A military officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that government troops were able to extricate the would-be kidnap victims before the bandit group could get them.

He said joint military and police forces also swooped down on a safehouse of the kidnapers, led ASG sub-leader Muammar Askali, last Sunday and invited seven men for questioning.

The officer said government security forces quickly moved to extricate the Australian couple and their son “a few days ago” after they received reliable information that ASG members from Sulu were planning to snatch the family.

“We decided to extricate the targets safely into a safe location, they were taken out of the place in a nick of time. They are now in a safe place,” the officer said.

He did not identify the would-be victims of the ASG, but said, “we believe the whole family was going to be kidnapped.”

The Australian husband is working in the area, the source said, without elaborating on his specific job.

Based on their monitoring, the group that planned to stage the kidnapping moved from Sulu to Surigao City via Siargao island. “Nung pumasok sila ang next na monitoring result pumasok dito sa Agusan del Sur kaya nag-coordinate sa akin yung mga intelligence at pulis,” said the officer.

He added that their information was further bolstered by reports that armed were sighted in the hinterlands just a few kilometers away from the location of the Australian family.

He went on to say that during the extrication process, they received information that the bandits were monitored near the vicinity. The suspects later dispersed, apparently after they sensed their targets were no longer around.

Gov’t forces foil Abus kidnap try in Agusan Sur

From the Daily Tribune (Nov 10): Gov’t forces foil Abus kidnap try in Agusan Sur

Government security forces foiled a supposed plot by the terrorist Abu Sayyaf group to kidnap a family of a foreign national in Agusan del Sur following a raid at a bandit lair Sunday.

A security official, who asked not to be identified, yesterday said that combined police and military intelligence operatives monitored the movement of the ASG band of Muammar Askali from Sulu to Agusan del Sur, where the terrorists plotted to abduct an Australian and his family.

The official said that the government troops, initially took the prospective victims to a safe place before striking at the hinterland lair of the Abu Sayyaf at around 4 a.m. Sunday.

The operation resulted in seven male factors held for questioning. However, Askali was not with the group.

“Our technical intelligence group monitored the movement of the group from Sulu to Surigao City via Siargao then they entered Agusan del Sur…we coordinated and found out that they were targeting somebody,” the official said.

“Bits and pieces of information gathered by intelligence pinpointed a farm, believed to the safe house…where armed men were spotted,” the source added.

Authorities managed to identify the supposed target of the Abu Sayyaf men –an Australian couple and their son who were immediately extricated to safer place.

According to the official, the Abu Sayyaf men used a farm in the hinterlands of San Luis town as a lair –only a few kilometers away from the area where the Australians were staying.

As soon as we extricated them (Australians) to safer place, a few hours after that...on the spot, and we conducted the raid,” the official said.

Insp. Joebert Agpaoa, San Luis town police chief, confirmed the raid against Askali’s group at Purok 4, Barangay Nuevo Trabajo by virtue of a search warrant for illegal possession of firearms.

Those “invited for questioning” were Nuluddin Astropher, Ricardo Asong, Nuluddin Hadjula, Alvin Ammad, Rolly Delgado Sulapas, Marcela Musa Nuluddin and Kenedy Castro Calderon.

After 2-day search, Army reaches troop battered in NPA clash

From ABS-CBN (Nov 9): After 2-day search, Army reaches troop battered in NPA clash

Military units on Monday recovered the remains of a soldier slain last Friday after a series of encounters with members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Upper Suyan, Malapatan, Saragani.

The Army also rescued five soldiers wounded in the attacks that culminated in a landmine blast at the rebels' camp.

Lt. Col. Felix Ronnie Babac, commanding officer of 73rd Infantry Batallion (IB), said the tension started when the NPA allegedly harassed soldiers building the school donated by Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao on November 1.

The 73rd IB deployed troops in the area and clashed with rebels on Thursday and Friday.

The NPA withdrew Friday while soldiers raided their camp in the mountainous part of Lamsalo, Upper Suyan. Two landmines, however, detonated as the Army searched the NPA camp.

Private First Class Carlo Testado, 25, was killed in the blast. The explosion also wounded Privates First Class Asir Mangsan, Khalid Amboloto, Rene Samolde, Danilo Pacino and Corporal Glen Belasa.

A chopper on Saturday attempted to rescue the group but crashed while trying to land in Malapatan, Sarangani due to strong winds.

At least eight soldiers were injured in a chopper crash. The wounded soldiers are still being treated at a private hospital in General Santos City.

Unfavorable weather conditions delayed further rescue operations on Sunday. An added hurdle against the army is the eight hours of climbing needed to bring down Testado's remains from the mountain.

The Army was finally able to reach its troops in Malapatan on Monday morning. A fresh set of soldiers has substituted their comrades in the area.

Testado's kin is grieving his death especially since he is to be married next year. He has left behind his eight-month-old baby.

Despite the sorrow of the Testado family, they also declared pride for the slain soldier whom they consider a hero.

The remains of the soldier will be brought home to Libungan, North Cotabato.

The military will continue patrolling Malapatan and protect the construction of the local school.

AFP pours in additional battalion to SurSur

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 9): AFP pours in additional battalion to SurSur

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has added another battalion to its strength in Surigao del Sur.

Lt. Col. Gaspar Panopio, 2nd Special Forces Battalion commander of the Philippine Army (PA) has already paid a courtesy call on Governor Johnny Pimentel on Wednesday. 

In fact, he was also able to attend the closed-door meeting called by the governor with both officials of the AFP and PNP on the updates of the manhunt operation against Lumad slay suspects—Loloy Tejero, Bobby Tejero, and Garito Layno—all facing murder and other related criminal charges at the Lianga Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Earlier, while waiting for the governor to arrive, Col. Isidro Purisima, 402nd Infantry Brigade commander, told media that aside from 2nd SF battalion, two companies of army Special Forces, respectively from 7th and 9th had already been under him.

These “SF companies” had been tasked as “maneuvering forces,” he added.

It was learned that the new battalion, which came all the way from Bohol province, would set up their headquarters in Barangay Tina, San Miguel town, 31 kilometers south, this city.

With this new development, the province is now home not only to 36IB and 75IB, but also to 2nd Special Forces battalion apart from the two SF companies, it was learned.

5ID, OPAPP, CBA celebrate completion of integration of CPLA to AFP

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 9): 5ID, OPAPP, CBA celebrate completion of integration of CPLA to AFP

GAMU, Isabela - - The 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army (5ID PA), the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA) culminate  today at Camp Melchor Dela Cruz, this town, the completion of one of the components of Executive Order No. 49.

Issued  on  July 4,  2011,  EO 49  mandates the implementation of the memorandum of agreement, entitled, “Towards the Cordillera People Liberation Army’s (CPLA) Final Disposition of Arms and Forces and its Transformation into a Potent Socio-economic and Unarmed Force” and for Other Purposes.

This Closure Agreement  aims to put an end  to the Mount Data Peace Accord signed by the Government and the CPLA on September 13, 1986.

Sec. Teresita Deles of OPAPP is guest of honor and Speaker with governors, mayors and other officials of the Cordillera Administrative Region in attendance.
“Today is a great day for we will witness the completion of the Army integration program of Cordillera peace process” twitted OPAPP.

The 5ID PA hosted the training and integration  of hundreds of CPLAs into the Army.
Administrative Order No. 18  issued in  2001  mandated the integration of the CPLA members into the regular force of the AFP as officers, enlisted personnel and/or active auxiliaries of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units  and provide  livelihood for them.

Other  elements of the closure Agreement include  economic reintegration of CPLA members, development of CPLA communities and inter municipal and interbarangay development projects.

12 new officers join 8th ID

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): 12 new officers join 8th ID

Twelve new second lieutenants formally joined the ranks of the Catbalogan-based 8th Infantry Division Monday.

These new officers recently graduated from the Officers Preparatory Course and from the Officer Candidate School, 8th Infantry Division public affairs office chief Capt. Isagani Viernes said.

The 12 were formally welcomed during the flag raising ceremony at Camp Lukban, Catbalogan City Monday.

"As part of the Army Command’s tradition, the young officers were presented during the flag-raising ceremony and individually, they introduced themselves to the officers, enlisted personnel and civilian employees of the Army Command," he added.

Eight of the newly reported young officers are members of Officer Preparatory Course “LAKANDIWA” Class 63 – 2014 while four are members of Officer Candidate Course “GANDILAN” Class 44 - 2015.

Seven of them are from Luzon while five are from Mindanao.

The new officers are 2nd Lt. Philip R. Umblas, 2nd Lt. Jim Kevin Z. Dagpin, 2nd Lt. Eljing M. Macutob, 2nd Lt. Jay Rodante F. Figurasin, 2nd Lt. Reyzander K. Ga, 2nd Lt Edgardo B. Bernas Jr, 2nd Lt. Floilan I. Valenzuela, 2nd Lt. Rambi C. Onsat, 2nd Lt. Jose Ignacious V. De Leon, 2nd Lt. Jerome Cob D. Dela Cruz, 2nd Lt. Zaldy P. Lim-Ang, and 2nd Lt Bernabe John M. Caro.

Prior to their deployment in the different field units, the new officers will undergo the Platoon Leader’s Course to refresh them of the military knowledge and skills they acquired from their respective military schools they were honed as military officers.

On eve of APEC Summit, PH leaders ignore cost of 'development' on social margins

Posted to ABS-CBN Blog (Nov 9): On eve of APEC Summit, PH leaders ignore cost of 'development' on social margins (by Inday Espina-Varona)

As the Philippines rolls out the red carpet for leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation member-states, its own indigenous peoples are in the spotlight as advocacy groups worldwide ponder how to stop “development” from bulldozing society’s margins.

A decades-long battle for the rich earth and the minerals beneath lies at the root of the upsurge in conflict across a huge swathe of Mindanao’s heartland in southern Philippines.

At the center are the Lumad, non-Muslim indigenous peoples. The Lumad, with a population estimated at 7 million, have fought for centuries against new migrants, retreating in the face of superior arms and socially engineered influx.

On the last frontiers of the Philippines’ “island of promise,” they are making their last, fierce, desperate stand against government-approved mining operations and plantations.

Above them are crags unfit for the cultivation of food. Below them are the teeming urban centers that annually reap the deadly harvest of runaway development. Around them are armed groups of all stripes, battling for their hearts and minds.


Of the more than 60 indigenous folk killed under the Aquino administration, 53 are Lumad, from the last parcels of pristine highlands that are targets of applications for mines and plantations.

The Philippine government largely frames the Lumad problem as an offshoot of Asia’s longest-running communist insurgency. Peace and social welfare national executives fret over the ballooning number of Lumad evacuees but are mum on the causes of displacement.

There have been 14 victims of four massacres. Four of the slain were minors, according to the human rights group Karapatan.

Throw in Lumad advocates, rights workers and environmental activists and the number of extra-judicial killings in Mindanao jumps to 144.

More than 70 indigenous people’s organizations across Asia have signed a statement, calling on Philippine government– host to this year’s APEC summit – to end the killings.

Joan Carling, secretary-general of the Thailand-based Asia Indigenous People’s Pact (AIPP), says at least 13 Lumad, indigenous peoples of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, have been killed this year — four every three months — by either state soldiers or paramilitary troops.

Forty thousand people, more than half of them minors, have been displaced by military and paramilitary operations. There have been 188 attacks on schools, hundreds of reported cases of harassment, including and arbitrary detentions, illegal arrests and torture, with children among the victims. Around 8,000 Lumad are now in evacuation camps.

Read: Children are war targets in PH’s last frontiers

These grim figures barely hint at the real cost of the war for occupation of the indigenous people’s lands.


From 46,000 to 50,000 government troops – 55 battalions, excluding engineering and intelligence units and those involved in civilian-military relations – are stationed in Mindanao.

Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

The AFP, after decades of officially taking a back seat to the Philippine National Police (PNP) on matters of internal security, have taken the helm once more in the last phase of President Aquino’s term.

Their official goal: to break the backbone of the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army.

Under the Whole of Nation approach, lifted right out of the US Special Forces’ manual of operations, almost the entire civilian bureaucracy has subsumed the delivery of basic services to fit the military agenda.

In the last year of Mr. Aquino’s rule, Mindanao’s landscape looks no different from the war laboratories under the Marcos dictatorship or his scorned predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Military officials alternate between calling the victims of rights violations rebels and claiming the killings are an offshoot of a tribal war between anti-communist and pro-communist rebels. To an economist and consultant of the AFP’s pacification campaign, any Lumad killed must be considered an NPA rebel.

It is a claim that flies in the face of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) acknowledgement that the August and September incidents in Pangatucan, Bukidnon and Lianga, Surigao del Sur were clearly extra-judicial killings.

National officials complain about the “unsanitary” conditions of the Lumad evacuation camps and the presence of children. But they remain silent on the cause of evacuations.

Lumad have thumbed down the solution broached by the social welfare secretary– resettlement – saying this comes straight from the playbook of those out to take their lands.

Read: Displaced Lumad nix resettlement; vow no surrender of ancestral lands


Mr. Aquino pledged to overturn or “straighten” the errors of the Arroyo administration. Yet his government has adopted his predecessor’s vision of turning one of Mindanao’s most impoverished and conflict-prone region into Asia’s mining capital.

To the embattled Lumad, the main difference is in the land area now controlled by big corporations.

Mining concessions sprawl across more than 500,000 hectares of Mindanao. Eighty percent of these mines are on Lumad lands. Plantations account for 700,000 hectares, 12% of the island’s agricultural land.

These landmarks of economic development, combined with the Marcos government’s logging concessions-award binge to cronies, have gobbled up Mindanao’s forest cover, from 70% in 1900 to just six percent in 2011.

Areas in Mindanao that seldom experienced floods in the past now annually suffer deaths in the thousands, with huge boulders and felled logs crashing down into entire townships.

In the Caraga province of Surigao del Sur, reports of violence against the Lumad happen in areas of the fiercest resistance to mines and plantations.

“In the last three years, every time the soldiers come to our villages, they always demand that Mapasu, our organization, gives up its resistance against mining,” according to Michelle Campos, daughter of slain Lianga Lumad leader Dionel Campos.

Michelle also lost a mentor on the same day her father died. Emerito Samarca, the head teacher of Alcadev, an award-winning Lumad alternative school, was found dead in the school’s main building on September 1. Campos' killers had held him back as they forced students and teachers out of the compound.

Mapasu means “persevering struggle for the next generation” in English. The 22 communities under it are among the last holdouts against mining and plantation concessions in the 60,000-hectare Andap Valley complex.

The Andap Valley, which sprawls across nine municipalities, hosts the biggest remaining coal block reserve in the world. It is also rich in gold ore.

More than 6,200 hectares in Lianga are counted in the blocs of approved mining applications for mineral production sharing under Philex Gold Philippines Inc. and Rosario Mining Development Co., Rosario Consolidated Mining Corporation, and Sta.Irene Mining Corporation.

Philex, is known to have caused the Philippines’ historically largest mine disaster in its mining project in Padcal, Benguet.

Another mining giant, Benguet Corp also has a coal contract that includes Lianga, aside from Marihatag and San Miguel towns.

Aside from Surigao del Sur, the provinces of Surigao del Norte and Agusan del Sur are also rich in coal, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau. The Department of Energy has given the green light to the establishment of coal plants in Surigao del Sur.


The Mapasu community around Alcadev was famed for its self-sufficiency, which came courtesy of the counsel of Samarca and fellow agriculturists.

The school’s 16-hectare compound produces enough crops to feed more than a hundred boarding students and teachers the whole year round. Two other farms, including a village cooperative, produce the surplus that Lumad use to start livelihood in crafts.

The Lianga Lumad have trained a big number of indigenous health workers who volunteer in remote communities that have never seen government medical units. They even sent relief volunteers to provinces hit by super typhoon Haiyan, bringing food from their farms.

Yet that model has always been under siege. Mapasu has paid a high price for its independence and resistance. On Oct. 24 last year, Campos’ predecessor, Henry Alameda, was killed, also in front of his child.

One of the paramilitary men identified in Alameda’s killing surfaced in the aftermath of Campos’ death at a press briefing inside the AFP’s headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo.

Malacañan’s national security cluster also hosted a gathering for bloggers to present Belandres and three other pro-government datus.

Belandres blamed communist rebels for the Lianga massacre. The ex-rebel, who admitted having killed former comrades, demanded that Mapasu turnover its “communist datus” for an “internal Lumad peace pact” so that indigenous peoples could live in peace again.

Yet Belandres does not distinguish between the NPA and civilians, insisting supporters fall under the category of combatants.

When bloggers raised the possibility of Mapasu members standing firm against the entry of mining firms, Belandres called it a communist ploy.

The other pro-military datus in the gathering echoed the message repeatedly heard by Michelle: Mining is good for development and only communists would refuse that. A senior AFP commander in Mindanao also complained to an international human rights worker about stubborn Lumad who do not see the benefits mining firms can give to their communities.
Graphic courtesy of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan

Even back in 2009, military operations served the interests of mining firms. A report by said cited Lodestar Consolidated Holdings as recipient of the rights to mine 6,000 has. in Andap Valley. Opposition by Mapasu led to massive military deployment – and major evacuations by the Lumad.


There is little doubt that the Andap Valley hosts communist rebels. A study by a church group in the1980s said a loose alliance between the NPA and Lumad was able to limit the entry of extractive activities and logging concerns.

Some timber concessions remain in the Andap Valley but Lumad resistance – strengthened by rebel presence – have kept their gold, copper, chromite and coal reserves intact.

Now plantations are making greater inroads into the area. Belandres said his group has asked the government to reward them with livelihood – rubber and palm oil plantations.

Palm oil plantations of Filipinas Palm Plantation Incorporated (FPPI); Agusan Plantation Inc. (API); Dole-Philippines & Sumitomo Fruits (SUMIFRU) already cover almost 15,000 hectares in Caraga.

The new anti-plantation alliance, REAP, says oil palm plantations have doubled their spread in Mindanao from 23,478 hectares to 42,731 hectares in the last 10 years.

Rubber plantations expanded threefold, from 81,667 hectares in 2005 to 214,314.6 hectares by 2014.

On paper, Caraga is a “model for development.” It has eight wood-based companies and 15 hydropower projects. It hosts 23 of the country’s 48 large operating mines — 20 nickel mines, 2 gold mines, 1 chromite mine and 1 cement quarry.

Kalikasan reports that seven percent of the region’s land area is covered by mineral production sharing agreements (MPSA). The government has also granted 23 existing exploration permits. Thirty applications are pending for production sharing agreements.

The department of environment in 2011 reported that mining projects in Caraga generated more than 1B taxes and fees. Official government statistics say poverty incidence dropped to 34.1% in 2012 form 43 % in 2009, raising its rank from poorest region to sixth poorest.

Yet, the indigenous populations earlier displaced by existing mining concerns remain on the margins. They make do with seasonal work while struggling with damage to the environment and the loss of their culture — supplanted by the politics of patronage imposed by government and big business.

Those who labor to present an alternative to the government’s approved models, in turn, find themselves facing the barrels of its guns.

Abu Sayyaf planning something ‘spectacular’ if demands not met

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 9): Abu Sayyaf planning something ‘spectacular’ if demands not met

FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2015 file photo, Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, watches a video purportedly showing for the first time two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman who were abducted last month from a southern Philippines resort, following a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. Militants from at least four small but violent Muslim insurgent groups in the Philippines pledged support last year to the Islamic State group and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, mostly in videotaped messages posted on the Internet. Philippine security officials say they have found no clear evidence so far of a direct link and active collaboration between Islamic State extremists and any of the groups: Abu Sayyaf, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement, Rajah Solaiman Movement and the Ansar Khalifa. Islamic State-inspired black flags, however, are visible in a video released this week, purportedly by Abu Sayyaf, of four Western and Filipino hostages kidnapped last month in the southern Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File)

FILE – In this Oct. 14, 2015 file photo, Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, watches a video purportedly showing for the first time two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipino woman who were abducted last month from a southern Philippines resort, following a press conference at Camp Aguinaldo at suburban Quezon city, northeast of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez, File

Ever wonder why the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG)​ ​did not ask a ransom as of yet for their Filipino hostage from Samal Island in Davao del Norte?
A source of the Manila Bulletin said, November 9, 2015, this is both good and bad news.

It is good because there is no ransom yet asked by the Sawadjaan ASG faction​ under Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan​, the source said, and the Filipina, Marites Flor, could ​possibly ​be freed along with the three foreigners snatched on Samal Island on September 21​, he said​.
The bad news is that it is​ also​ possible Flor could be made a “sacrifice” if nothing happens with the ransom the ASG is demanding, P1 billion each for the two Canadian​​ and one Norwegian hostages, the source, a senior leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), added.

Requesting his name be not identified, the source from Jolo, Sulu said he was able to speak over dinner yesterday, November 8, 2015 in Zamboanga City with ​a ​military intelligence officer and a Sulu native who are familiar with the ways of the ASG.

​Meanwhile, the Philippine government has maintained its policy on not negotiating with terrorists or kidnappers, as well as not paying any ransom for hostages’ freedom.

The policy of the government does not change. We do not negotiate in instances like this. To us, the ransom demand does not have impact because we don’t negotiate,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said.​

It can be recalled that on November 3, 2015, the United States-based SITE Intelligence Group posted on its website ​a video of the four hostages, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, who spoke about the ransom demands.

The three foreigners were given the opportunity to speak. Flor did not speak, thus, the notion that there is no ransom the ASG wants for her freedom.

The source said the “Sawadjaan-ASG group holding the Samal Island KVs (kidnapping victims) in Patikul (Sulu) put no ransom on Pinay victim as she’s considered “low value”, meaning what they could get for her would be a small change compared to the foreigners’ worth.

“But [my] source/s said when the kidnap group is pressured by lack of attention to their demand, the Pinay could be ‘sacrificed’,” the MNLF leader said.

“Moreover, (the) Group (Sawadjaan) said they may resort to doing other ‘spectacular’ act to prove they mean business,” he added.

When asked what the bandits meant by “spectacular,” he said, “My understanding is that when terrorists say ‘spectacular,’ it could mean horrible, contemptible.”

Records of the ASG in Sulu and Basilan showed they have beheaded some of their hostages, Filipinos and foreigners alike. They have also conducted bombings that killed several people.

Manila Bulletin was not able to confirm this report from other sources as of press time.

MILF: BTC, Bangsamoro PO’s and Cooperatives hold dialogue on Drug Prevention and Continuing Peace Education

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 9): BTC, Bangsamoro PO’s and Cooperatives hold dialogue on Drug Prevention and Continuing Peace Education

BTC Commissioner Hussein Muños stressing his point during the dialogue

BTC Commissioner Hussein Muños stressing his point during the dialogue

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in coordination with Bangsamoro People's Organizations and local cooperatives held a “Dialogue on Drug Prevention and Continuing Peace Education” with the theme, Droga Iwasan para sa Maayos na Kinabukasan at Pag-usapan para sa Katahimikan ng Bayan" attended by 300 participants comprising Moro community leaders, sectoral representatives and government officials from Davao Region, on November 1, 2015 at a  Madrasah Covered Court, Pamuka, Lupon, Davao Oriental.

A representative from the Lujnatul Da'wah in Davao Region delivered the opening remarks and congratulated the BTC and organizers for coming up with the program. He as well stressed the role of every leader in community and society in prohibiting illegal drugs and the importance of continuing collective efforts for peace to reign in the Bangsamoro homeland.

BTC Commissioner Hussein Muñoz discussed important issues including the current situation in the Bangsamoro and the status of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress.

"We are following closely the deliberations on the BBL in both Houses of Congress with our continuing concern for peace despite the uncertainty of BBL being passed by lawmakers. But we must continue to stand for the aspiration of the Bangsamoro people as I reiterate my appeal for patience, cooperation and determination of every one of us as we continue working with the government to ensure peace and security, sustainable development in the Mindanao region and the country as a whole”, Munoz said.

"The world is watching closely the GPH-MILF Peace Process between. The Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by both parties has become a world reference for conflict resolutions. Despite the uncertainties for the passage of BBL, the MILF leadership committed to pursue peace and development in Mindanao”,
Muñoz added."

Muñoz also discussed the drug menace affecting Moro youth and communities. "Community and sectoral leaders must help identify problems and formulate, adopt solutions to control the use, sale and spread of illegal drugs to maintain peace in our society. We are Muslims, so have have to solve this problem to save our youth, our communities against effects of these harmful drugs or Shabu”, Muñoz emphasized.

Moro religious leaders also expressed their strong support for peace and development in the Bangsamoro and their serious concern on the effects of illegal drugs to the youth in the region. They also proposed the rehabilitation of drug users and drug dependents.

Rep. Nelson Dayanghirang of the1st District of Davao Oriental who is running for Governor said, “The government and law enforcement agencies cannot solve drug problem alone. It needs the cooperation of every sector to fight drugs menace. Illegal drugs are a serious and a complex community problem where everyone should help”.

"The government is not the only one responsible for solving the prevalence of illegal drugs, thus preventing its use and effects requires cooperation among all citizens. We know that even some of our Muslim brethren are also victims of this so-called Shabu. So, I am very thankful to everyone for attending this program spearheaded by BTC officials especially to Commissioner Hussein Muñoz”, Congressman Dayanghirang added.

At the end of the program, the participants said that they will remain united and pledged to join the campaign against illegal drugs in Region 11, in coordination with the government and law enforcement agencies. 

They also expressed support for the rehabilitation of drug users in the region.

Alleged rebel surrenders in Neg. Or.

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 9): Alleged rebel surrenders in Neg. Or.

An alleged member of the New People's Army operating in Negros surrendered to troops of the 79 th Infantry Battalion, 3 rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental, Saturday, the military said.

1Lt. Ronnie Sarmiento, the battalion's Civil Military Operations officer, identified the surrenderee as alias Rbg/Kent/Jai/Jacent/Ryzo , 24, alleged vice team leader of Team 3 of the Armadong Yunit Propaganda, South Eastern Front-Remnants, Komiteng Rehiyon-Negros.

He added the rebel spent eight years as Red fighter, and brought along a .45 Colt MKIV caliber pistol, with serial number 800011, when he surrendered.

The former rebel said he decided to leave the underground movement because he had lost thrust and interest to pursue the armed struggle due to internal conflicts in the organization, a press release from the 70 th IB said.

He added he wants to live in a peaceful community with his family, free from fear and danger, Sarmiento said.

Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, commanding officer of the 79 th IB, said active NPA terrorists who want to lay down their arms and join the mainstream society will be given help, but for those who continue to sow terror, they will be relentlessly pursued, the press release said.

The Comprehensive Local Integration Program of the government awaits those who will take the path of peace. The CLIP offers opportunity for rebel returnees to return to their families and communities, and avail of a comprehensive package, that include initial financial assistance, livelihood training to go with a provision for initial capital, and remuneration for firearms surrendered.

CLIP ensures that a returnee is secured and fully reintegrated back to society. It also capitalizes on the desire of would-be returnees to live normal lives in the comfort of their families, away from harm's way and difficulties of living in the mountains.

Pascua urged other rebels to follow suit and accept the futility of their armed struggle as the government is sincere in helping and assisting them in going back to a normal and peaceful life.

‘Army committed to winning peace'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Nov 9): ‘Army committed to winning peace'

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division has re-affirmed its commitment to win the peace campaign in Western and Central Visayas, and sustain the gains in its peace and security operations, its commander, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, 3ID commander, said.

Guerrero, who presided recently over the change of the 62nd Infantry Battalion leadership from Lt. Col. Rommel Cordova to Lt. Col. Arnel Cabugon in Sagay City, said the successful implementation of the IPSP “Bayanihan” led to the declaration of eight cities and six municipalities that comprise the 1 st , 2 nd   and 3 rd  d istricts of Negros Occidental, and the Lone District of Bacolod as Peaceful and Ready for Further Development.

Cabugon, who has an extensive background in Civil-Military Operations, said he will pursue the best practices that were started by Cordova, and ensure that the gains in peace and development of 62IB area of operations will be sustained by working collectively and collaboratively with the stakeholders.

Guerrero acknowledged the dedication, sacrifices and remarkable accomplishments of the 62IB under the leadership of Cordova that he said contributed much to the accomplishment of the 3ID's mission.

On June 10 this year, the whole province of Negros Occidental was declared as peaceful and ready for further development.

Under Cordova, the 62IB implemented the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Organic Farming Training Program that was conceptualized by the 303 rd   Infantry Brigade in partnership with various stakeholders that benefited 184 farmer students in Toboso, Calatrava and Escalante City.

The 62IB also assisted 12 deserving students from Brgy Bato National High School and Sagay City National High School – Brgy Lope Jaena Extension, as scholars of the LIFE IN YOU Scholarship Program of the Unifier family.

It was also involved in various programs and activities such as medical and dental civic action programs, feeding program to children in far flung barangays, humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, Brigada Eskwela program, Alternative Learning System of DepEd, tree-planting activities, Youth Leadership Summit empowering the youth leaders, blood-letting activities, environmental protection and other socio-cultural activities in partnership and collaboration with those who who continue to work together with the Philippine Army in the spirit of Bayanihan in order to attain just and lasting peace.

Cordova thanked his men and all those who supported them in accomplishing his assigned task as 62IB commander in northern Negros.

Before his designation as 62IB commanding officer, Lt. Col. Cabugon was the Executive Officer of the 301 st   Infantry (Bayanihan) Brigade based in Panay Island. 

Cabugon also served various positions both in command and unit administration, among others, as the Chief of the Division Personnel Management Center of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel of the 8 th   Infantry Division in Samar, Executive Officer of the Joint Civil-Military Operations Task Force of the National Capital Region Command in 2009 to 2010 and later on the Commanding Officer of the 9 th   Civil-Military Operations Unit of the CMOG the Philippine Army in Luzon in 2010 to 2011.

He graduated from the Officer Candidate School in 1992 and was assigned in Mindanao from 1993 to 2000. Before his assignment with 3ID, Cabugon also completed his Command and General Staff Course at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Command and General Staff College (AFP CGSC) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

AFP feigning innocence on lumad slays - activists

From InterAksyon (Nov 9): AFP feigning innocence on lumad slays - activists

Michelle Campos, daughter of Manobo datu Dionel Campos whom activists and lumad groups say was killed by militias backed by the Army, speaks at a rally outside the papal nunciature in Manila in this file photo. On Monday morning, some 700 activists led by the League of Filipino Students marched on Camp Aguinaldo to denounce what they called the AFP's "Pontius Pilate" stance in feigning innocence in the death of lumad leaders like Campos, yet secretly backing the militias who carry out the murders. INTERAKSYON.COM FILE

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) and 700 Lumad participants in the Manilakbayan ng Mindano 2015 marched on Camp Aguinaldo  Monday to denounce what they described as the military’s move to wash its hands of the murders of the indigenous people's leaders.

LFS led other activists in criticizing the military's tactice of distancing itself from the lumad killings, in a protest just outside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) general headquarters in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

It described the Philippine Army (PA) as an indispensable partner of paramilitary units in carrying out the killings of the more vocal lumad leaders and committing other human rights violations in Mindanao - this, while allegedly hiding behind militias it has created and funded, and continues to support.

Admit your crimes, AFP! Drop the Pontius Pilate act! The accounts of hundreds of Lumad in Manila and the stories of thousands who are still in evacuation centers are testaments that the military is responsible for the atrocities in Mindanao,” said LFS national chairperson Charisse Bañez.

According to her, Michelle Campos, daughter of Manobo datu Dionel Campos who was killed in Lianga, Surigao del Sur on September 1, had clearly narrated that her father was taken and shot by a paramilitary group organized by the AFP.

Michelle had also revealed that soldiers were watching and laughing while her father and his cousin were being slaughtered,.

Bañez said there are more than enough documents and testimonies proving the accountability of AFP. "For the military to continue feigning innocence even as it masterminded the killings is an infuriating insult to the people.”

Bañez counted 144 victims of extra-judicial killings in Mindanao, including 56 Lumads; she said 13 massacres were also recorded. Common in all these cases, she said, is the involvement of the AFP.

The deployment of more than half (56 percent) of the AFP in Mindanao is proof not only of heavy militarization but also of their role in planning and executing tactical operations to eliminate the “enemies of the state,” a euphemism, she added, for those opposing logging and mining operations and demandingn control over ancestral domains.

She said insurgency has become a convenient excuse for attacking IP communities and pushing them out of their traditional settlements.

She lamented that the AFP and its backers like the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), as well as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (Opapp) and the Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) have insisted that up to 74 percent of New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas in Mindanao come from indigenous communities.

The government, she said, is using the Oplan Bayanihan (OPB) counter-insurgency campaign to propagate "the irrational policy that those who support the NPA or are deemed to be backing the guerrillas do not enjoy human rights and are fair game to the military and its underlings," like the Magahat Bagani Force (MBF) that activists accused of murdering Campos.

The policy mirrors the US counterinsurgency (Coin) doctrine inculcated in the minds of AFP officers who were taught at Ft. Bragg in the US, she noted.

PAF set to receive first 2 Korean FA-50 jets

From InterAksyon (Nov 9): PAF set to receive first 2 Korean FA-50 jets

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is set to receive the first two of 12 Korean-made trainer jet fighters worth P18.9 billion ordered by the government from manufacturer Korean Aerospace Inc. (KAI), which developed the aircraft with the American aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

According to PAF spokesman Colonel Enrico Canaya, the jets, however, are not combat-ready and only capable of patrolling the country's airspace.

"This is before the end of the year," Canaya said, but declined to give an exact date because, he explained, the schedule of delivery might change any time.

Canaya said that PAF chief Lt Gen. Jeffrey Delgado had himself experienced the test flight last November 6 in South Korea.

The two-seater jet's test flight was piloted by an officer of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) with Delgado at the rear seat as "co-pilot".

Canaya said Air Force officials are excited about the arrival of the jets, which could bring PAF back again into the air with "speed" after the decommissioning of its F5 fleet several years ago.

"Of course we're excited, because we will be having a new kind of jets with MAC 1.2 speed capability in our inventory. MAC 1.2 is faster than the speed of sound so that's supersonic flight and we have not had this kind of aircraft in our inventory after the decommissioning of our F5. It's the comeback of the jet and supersonic age of the Air Force," he said.

As stipulated in the contract, KAI will complete the delivery of the 12 jets by 2017.

Canaya said the first two jets will be delivered at "touchdown" on Philippine soil.

"They will be refueled somewhere, I don't know yet where, before their final leg to touch down on our airstrip," he said.

He still can't tell, however, if the jets will be piloted by PAF men.

The addition of the trainer jet fighters will be a big boost to the country's air domain patrol, especially over the West Philippine Sea.

Three soldiers in Lumad girl rape case plead not guilty

From InterAksyon (Nov 9): Three soldiers in Lumad girl rape case plead not guilty

The three soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old Lumad girl entered a not-guilty plea before a General Court Martial (GCM) that was convened to hear their case for violation of Articles of War 97, the military said Monday.

The girl was among families of Lumads who sought refuge inside a church compound who fled their homes because of militarization that disturbed the peace in their village.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, public affairs head of the Army's 10th Infantry Division, identified the accused as Private First Class Joffrey L. Galot, PFC Stanly B. Revil and PFC John E. Banilla.

" ... while assigned with 68IB(Infantry Battalion), 2ID (Infantry Division), PA (Philippine Army), stationed in the province of Davao Del Norte, sometime in the period from June 20, 2015 to July 03, 2015, impelled with lustful desire, willfully and feloniously, by means of force, violence and intimidation did, then and there, have carnal knowledge with one Alias Jovie (not her real name), a fourteen year old girl, against her will and consent, which conduct cause and bring discredit upon the military service to the prejudice of good order and military discipline. Contrary to military law," the charge reads.

The court martial was led by Lt Col. Pepito B. Lolor with Maj Rick Brian DC Luneza and Maj. May C. Garingarao acting as Trial Judge Advocate/Prosecutor.

The accused had Lt. Col. Joel R. Cabanero and Capt. Bethoven A. Abuzo as counsels.

"During the arraignment of the accused duly assisted by their military defense counsels, they individually entered their not guilty plea," Batchar said.

The pre-trial had the prosecution's first witness, the mother of the victim. Her testimony was finished on the same day.

This was followed by other prosecution witnesses, such as 1st Lt. Eric Sumaliday, Corp. Richard Ladra, PFC Roland Pamposa, Police Officer 1 Princess Tenebro, and Barangay Chairman Pablo Tagnipes.

"But all their testimonies were dispensed with, due to the fact that the purposes of the testimony were already stipulated by the prosecution and the defense," Batchar said.

On November 07, Batchar said the prosecution filed its formal offer of documentary evidence in all of the three cases.

Chopper crash almost became fatal – officer

From the Mindanao Times (Nov 9): Chopper crash almost became fatal – officer

NINE were injured after a Philippine Air Force helicopter crash landed in Sitio Lamsalo, Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan, Sarangani while on a casualty evacuation mission at 9:40 a.m. on Saturday.

The chopper was supposed to evacuate a slain soldier and five others wounded during the encounter in Sitio Datal Kampong, Barangay Upper Suyan at 12:30 noon on Friday.

In a phone interview yesterday, Col. Rony Villanueva, commander of 1002nd Infantry Brigade, said while the troops were approaching the landing zone, they encountered a strong wind.

“The helicopter was pushed to the limits because of the narrow landing zone prepared by our troops,” he said. “They are supposed to insert supplies to the troops.”

Onboard the helicopter were two pilots, the two-member crew and five soldiers of the 73rd Infantry Battalion, whose names are witheld.

“When the chopper was near the ground, the troops and crew jumped which is why they sustained fractures,” he said. “But the pilot got the worst of the injuries although the still managed to crawl out.”

The injured were brought to the Socsksargen Hospital for treatment.

Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesperson of Eastern Mindanao Command, said they already dispatched additional helicopters from the Tactical Operations Group (TOG-XI) in the ongoing evacuation and rescue operations.

Villanueva said the troops encountered the NPAs under alias Dodong of Guerilla Front 71 in Far South Regional Committee.

“While they were approaching the encampment of NPA, the rebels were already in defensive position and laid down landmines which caused injury to the troops,” he said.

Villanueva said that last Nov. 1, the soldiers were already attacked by the same group of rebels who wanted to stop the ongoing construction of school building in Sitio Akbal, Upper Suyan in Malapatan.

“The troops of 73rd IB serve as security when they were attacked,” he said.