Tuesday, November 10, 2015

MILITARY AWARDS // Wounded Personnel Securing Developmental Projects in Camarines Provinces

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 10): MILITARY AWARDS // Wounded Personnel Securing Developmental Projects in Camarines Provinces

CAMP ELIAS ANGELES, Pili, Camarines Sur (DWDD) Two wounded personnel of the Spear Division who were both securing government developmental projects were awarded with Wounded Personnel Medal by BGen Ferdinand F Quidilla, Commander of the 9th Infantry Division of Philippine Army in Bicol during a simple awarding ceremony at Camp Elias Angeles Station Hospital here, 4pm of November 9, 2015. Members of the Multi-Sector Advisory Board and some local officials from the Barangay were there to witness and personally pin the medals to the hero soldiers.

Last October 31, Pvt Leonel W Alarma, was hit at his right leg when SPARU members fired upon them while on marketing with the late Pfc Caceres of 42IB at Brgy Pag-oring Nuevo, Libmanan, Camarines Sur. The government troops are providing security to a 6- kilometer road construction from San Isidro to Bahao of KALAHI Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDS) Project and equipment. Moreover, Private First Class Jhelor P Caranzo of 49IB while defending the bridge construction project at Sitio Namukanan, Brgy Daguit, Labo, Camarines Norte with his Squad, was also wounded at his cheek near his right eye after an encounter with the NPA rebels. Sporadic firefight ensued for about an hour, afterwhich heavily armed rebels withdrew towards different directions and failed to execute their plan of destroying the construction equipment. The bridge is a flagship project of the government located at the Maharlika highway from Labo to Sta. Elena, Camarines Norte.

The WPM are being awarded to these personnel in recognition for their courage, professionalism and willingness to sacrifice for the accomplishment of the mission. BGen Quidilla also conveys his sympathy to the family of the killed troops (Pfc Edmhol Rey Caceres of 42IB, Pvt Rey Mark Regore of 49IB and CAA Anthony Aceron) who were just performing their duties to secure said projects.

BGen Quidilla said that, “we recognize the sacrifices of our forefront soldiers who are dedicated to fulfill their duties ensuring that developmental projects will be implemented on time. These projects are for the residents there who really need roads for accessibility of their produce from their farms.” Despite of the incident, 9ID will continue to secure developmental projects for the benefit of the Bicolanos. 9DPAO / MCAG


LEADERS OF TOMORROW // Youth Leaders Invade Army Camp

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Nov 11): LEADERS OF TOMORROW // Youth Leaders Invade Army Camp

FORT Bonifacio, Taguig City (DWDD) - Dr Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, was right when he once said, a century and a half ago, that the youth is the hope of the fatherland. This could be proven true when some 40 youth leaders from different parts of the country will troop toward the home of the Philippine Army, here, not for war but to build and win the peace.

Some 35 Rotaract leaders, five students from Assumption College of San Lorenzo Village in Makati City, and 20 Army CMO School Civil Affairs students joined forces for a two-day National Academy for Peace Training, November 7 to 8, held at the Civil-Military Operations School (CMOS) inside the CMOG Compound.

The training aims to build trust, to develop productivity and to further enhance the leadership skills of the participants toward peace building. Chosen theme for the training will revolve on “A Unified Movement of Rotaract Clubs and Soldiers toward Building a Culture of Peace.”

The two-day training was the first to be held in CMOS as an initial activity to bind the stakeholder engagement and partnership between CMOS and Rotaract Club of Kabataang West Rembo. The latter is an umbrella organization of the Rotaract Club of Makati Olympia that will assist in the facilitation of the regular conduct of the Peace Academy for its members all over the country.

Contribute to the training were representatives from the Teach Peace, Build Peace Movement, ARMM Manila Liaison Office, and the Assumption College of Makati City. Co-facilitators for the training were CMOS students taking up the Civil Affairs Course Class 16-2015, for them to experience the conduct of actual engagement with non-government organizations, as well as the staff of the Civil Affairs Division, under Research and Production Center, CMOG.

CMOS and the Rotaract Club of Kabataang West Rembo hope to contribute, through the Peace Academy Program, in molding the Filipino youth and students to really be the hope of the fatherland in pursuing the goals of peace and development across the land. CMOS PA / CMOG / MCAG


IN PHOTOS: Inside BRP Ramon Alcaraz

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 10): IN PHOTOS: Inside BRP Ramon Alcaraz

THE BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) is the Philippine Navy’s biggest warships and the second ship of the Gregorio del Pilar class.

The ship was commissioned by the Philippine Navy last 2013 after being acquired under the Excess Defense Articles and Foreign Assistance Act. Previously, it served the US Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter from 1968 to 2012 as USCGC Dallas.

Navy public affairs chief Commander Lued Lincuna said the ship will be one of the Navy’s assets to be used for seaborne security during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation next week.

The ship is commanded by Captain Juario Marayag. It has been used for relief transport during Super Typhoon Yolanda and has participated in several exercises with different countries. It is used for patrolling Philippine waters including its claims in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Below are some of the photos during the visit of Philippine defense media onboard the ship recently.

The BRP Ramon Alcaraz and its bridge and reception area:













No ‘Bagani’ forces in our midst – Army, NCIP

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 10): No ‘Bagani’ forces in our midst – Army, NCIP

The Philippine Army’s Fourth Infantry Division (4th ID) and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Region 10 (NCIP-10) recently issued a joint press statement, denying both agencies’ hand in the reported presence of the “Philippine Bagani Force Tribal Army.”

NCIP-10 Regional Director Robert Almonte and LTC. Romualdo Raymund Landingin of the Civil Military Operations (G7) of the (4th ID) signed the statement, saying that both the 4th Infantry Division and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples in Region 10 “do not have any knowledge of the existence of the Philippine Bagani Force Tribal Army.”

“Hence, if there are people who claim to be (with) such group, they don’t have our authority of mandate,” the statement says.

The same statement said the public must be informed that it is unlawful for any person who is not a member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to wear AFP ranks and uniforms based on Republic Act 3815 or the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines, as amended.

It also said that Bagani must be treated within the context of customary laws of some indigenous peoples/indigenous cultural communities in Mindanao. It did not specify which IP customary laws.

The two officials say that the 4th ID and NCIP, in coordination with other stakeholders, are continuously working on programs for thebetterment of the IPs.
The Philippine Bagani Force Tribal Army has reportedly been waging strategic warfare against the New Peoples’ Army, giving rise to suspicion that it was being supported by the military and the government.

Last week, three lumads, who were on their way to attend a wedding celebration in Kitaotao, were reportedly abducted by members of the New Peoples Army. Two of them were immediately released.


2016 bets urged not to pay for NPA’s permit-to-campaign fees

From the Philippine Daily  Inquirer (Nov 10): 2016 bets urged not to pay for NPA’s permit-to-campaign fees

The military has appealed to politicians and candidates anew not to give in to the demands of communist rebels for the so-called “permits-to-campaign fees” in Southern Mindanao in the run-up to local and national elections next May.

Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, commander of the Army’s 10th Infantry Division said the New People’s Army would use the money to bolster the NPA’s strength and resolve in bringing down the government.

Money the rebels could generate from politicians and candidates could reach millions of pesos, particularly in Davao and Caraga regions, where the New People’s Army has been strongest, said Valencia.

Documents recovered by soldiers during previous encounters with rebels in Davao del Sur pointed to an elaborate collection scheme of permits-to-campaign fees targeting some local politicians and candidates, Valencia said during a media forum here on Tuesday.

“Amounts run to as low as P40,000 for municipal candidates,” said Valencia, although he did not specify what elective position corresponded to what amount.

The prices for permits could go up in the days approaching the elections, he said, as they have been receiving reports about the rebels making some noise to politicians who have already filed their certificates of candidacy.

Valencia said the 10th ID, covering the regions of Davao and some parts of Agusan, Bukidnon and Sarangani provinces, has been closely coordinating with the Philippine National Police in ensuring the peaceful and orderly elections in 2016.

He said his command’s area of responsibility (AOR) has been designated as the national priority area of the government’s fight to crush the more than 46-year-old communist insurgency, one of Asia’s longest that has killed over 40,000 people and stunted growth in the resource-rich region.

“The NPA is very active in our area of responsibility due to its rich mineral and forest resources, which are the sources of the rebels’ financial and material supply,” said the military official.

He said the 10th ID has been facing 14 guerrilla fronts and their support units. Nine of these operate in the gold-rich Compostela Valley.

Valencia said it would be up to the politicians if they continue giving in to the rebels’ demands.

“The bigger amount candidates give to the rebels, the more damage this could cause to the government,” he said, adding he has already informed Davao del Sur politicians who were named in the NPA documents as would-be extortion victims.

During the 2013 elections, candidates for governor and Congress were asked to pay P1 million each to campaign in NPA-controlled areas in Compostela Valley, said Vice Gov. Manuel Zamora Jr.

“The rate for vice governor and mayor is at P500,000,” Zamora said in a previous interview.

He said he was able to negotiate by giving medicines and footing the P50,000-hospital bill of an NPA leader’s wife, instead.

Zamora said he gave assistance  and not cash for a permit-to-campaign.

“I give assistance to soldiers, civilians or rebels. I don’t distinguish,” the vice governor said.

The military’s Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) has been effective in clearing 1,134 villages in Southern Mindanao of rebels since January, with many of the remaining insurgents driven away to far-flung upland areas, said Valencia.

Since January, Valencia said, 79 rebels have been captured or killed in 129 encounters in 10th ID areas, including 19 key leaders. Twenty-five others surrendered.  These clashes have led to the recovery or surrender of 116 firearms and 120 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), Valencia added.


Last 168 CPLA ex-guerrillas join AFP

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 9): Last 168 CPLA ex-guerrillas join AFP

Camp Melchor Dela Cruz, Isabela — Finally, closure is had with the issue on the integration of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) into the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), with 168 former armed rebels – the last of the CPLA forces – joining the military yesterday.

“This is the end. It is the final closure,” said a triumphant Mayor Gabino Ganggangan of Sadanga, Mountain Province, also the secretary general of the CPLA’s Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA), at the simple rights at this camp in Gamu town.

As part of the final closure, Marcelina Bahatan, chairman of the CBA and Major General Lysander Surte, commander of the 5th Infantry Division (5th ID), signed a document titled “Joint Declaration on the Successful Completion” which would formally end the clamor for integration of the CPLA.

REBELS NO MORE — The last 168 former rebels and members of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) brave the blazing sun (left photo) as Major General Lynsander Suerte (seated left, right photo), commander of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, and Marcelina Bahatan (seated right), chairman of the Cordillera Bodong Administration, sign the Joint Declaration on the Completion of the Military Integration Component of Executive Order 49 at Camp Melchor dela Cruz, Gamu Town, Isabela, yesterday. (Zaldy C. Comanda)

REBELS NO MORE — The last 168 former rebels and members of the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army (CPLA) brave the blazing sun (left photo) as Major General Lynsander Suerte (seated left, right photo), commander of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, and Marcelina Bahatan (seated right), chairman of the Cordillera Bodong Administration, sign the Joint Declaration on the Completion of the Military Integration Component of Executive Order 49 at Camp Melchor dela Cruz, Gamu Town, Isabela, yesterday. (Zaldy C. Comanda)
“There can longer be a CPLA because the government has already made good its promise to integrate our members into the AFP,” added the former rebel leader as he cited the realization of the government’s commitment to the region as contained in Executive Order 220 issued during the term of President Corazon Aquino.
The EO220 was issued by the late former president to prepare for the creation of the Cordillera autonomous region. Ganggangan said that the government has already complied with its commitment and they are thankful for that.

Yesterday, a total of 168 former CPLA members, the last of their kind, have been integrated. Among them are 62 former armed fighters from Kalinga; 52 from Mountain Province; 29 from Abra; 17 from Apayao; four from Benguet; and four from Ifugao.

This brings to 1,564 the total number of former CPLA members who are now formally with the country’s armed forces. There are 49 who became officers; 661 enlisted personnel; and 888 Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit Auxiliary Group (CAFGU-CAA).

Aside from integration, a total of 511 from CPLA were employed as forest guards in the different provinces of Cordillera and a total of 915 peoples’ organization were established for their livelihood program.


Five new naval helicopters likely to be deployed for APEC security work

From the Manila Bulletin (Nov 10): Five new naval helicopters likely to be deployed for APEC security work

AFP, chopper, mb.com.ph, Manila Bulletin

An Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chaplain blesses one of the three newly acquired Augusta Westland 109 Power Helicopters during the commisioning and blessing ceremony of the helicopters at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) headquarters in Manila on December 19, 2013. The helicopters will be used in various naval operations including economic zone protection, surface surveillance, search and rescue and maritime security operations. AFP PHOTO/NOEL CELIS

There is a huge possibility that the Philippine Navy (PN)’s five brand-new AgustaWestland AW-109 “Power” naval helicopters will be deployed to provide additional security for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Meeting in Metro Manila next week.
The five aircraft are ideal for security work as they are all equipped with NVG (night vision gear) equipment which allows their pilots to see possible threats in nighttime.
NVG is an optical instrument that allows images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness.
Aside from this, the AW-109E are also fitted with FLIR(forward looking infra-red) pods.
FLIR uses an imaging technology that senses infrared radiation.
The sensors installed in forward-looking infrared cameras—as well as those of other thermal imaging cameras—use detection of infrared radiation, typically emitted from a heat source (thermal radiation), to create a “picture” assembled for video output, giving idea to operating forces on exact threat composition and location.
The AW-109Es were first used for nighttime patrol during the visit of Pope Francis last Jan. 15 to 19.
Besides this sensing equipment which is capable of seeing targets in the dark, two of the AW-109Es are armed with machinegun and rocket pods giving them the capability to neutralize hostile targets instantly.
The first three AW-109Es were commissioned on Dec. 22, 2013 while the last two units were commissioned only this Aug. 10.
This is part of the five-helicopter deal worth Php1.33-billion, signed by the Philippines with AgustaWestland early 2013.
The AW-109 “Power” helicopter is a three-ton class eight seat helicopter powered by two Pratt and Whitney PW206C engines.
The spacious cabin is designed to be fitted with a number of modular equipment packages for quick and easy conversion between roles.
The aircraft’s safety features include a fully separated fuel system, dual hydraulic boost system, dual electrical systems and redundant lubrication and cooling systems for the main transmission and engines.
The AW-109 has established itself as the world’s best selling light-twin helicopter for maritime missions.
Its superior speed, capacity and productivity combined with reliability and ease of maintenance make it the most cost effective maritime helicopter in its class.
For shipboard operations, the aircraft has a reinforced-wheeled landing gear and deck mooring points as well as extensive corrosion protection measures.
The ability to operate from small ships in high sea state enables the AW-109 to perform its mission when many others helicopters would be confined to the ship’s hangar.
Over 550 AW-109 “Power” and AW-109 light utility helicopters have been ordered for commercial, parapublic and military applications by customers in almost 50 countries.

Will the Philippines Approve a New US Defense Pact Ahead of Obama's Visit?

From The Diplomat (Nov 10): Will the Philippines Approve a New US Defense Pact Ahead of Obama's Visit?

Reports suggest a key Supreme Court ruling may be declared sooner than anticipated.

 Will the Philippines Approve a New US Defense Pact Ahead of Obama's Visit?

The Republic of the Philippines Navy patrol boat BRP Artemio Ricarte during the Balikatan exercises with the United States in 2009. Image Credit: U.S. Navy Photo
Over the weekend, local media outlets reported that the Supreme Court of the Philippines may finally decide that a new U.S.-Philippine defense pact is constitutional more than a year after it was signed and before U.S. President Barack Obama touches down next week in Manila for an Asia-Pacific summit.
The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) – a pact inked in April 2014 between Washington and Manila that, among other things, would give U.S. troops and equipment wide access to Philippine military bases on a rotational basis – has been languishing in the face of a constitutional challenge in the Southeast Asian state.
Though Philippine officials have been assuring outside observers that EDCA’s approval is a question of when rather than if, many in Washington had hoped a decision would be made before Obama attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting that Manila is hosting November 17-18.
Now sources suggest that the court will decide to uphold the constitutionality of the pact before Obama’s trip as many had hoped. Sources close to the judicial proceedings told The Manila Times that the 82-page draft decision of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is expected to declare EDCA “not constitutionally infirm.”
These sources also added that the tribunal would discuss and deliberate the draft decision on November 10 and that depending on whether or not there are objections, there could be a vote either then or on November 16 on the eve of the APEC summit. Separately, a government official also told Reuters that the administration expected a ruling in its favor before APEC.
If true, this would be a significant development both for the Philippines as well as the U.S.-Philippine alliance. Resolving the constitutionality issues around EDCA would allow U.S. and Philippine defense officials to begin actually implementing arrangements – which range from the construction of facilities to the prepositioning of defense equipment – that they have long been talking about (See: “What’s Next for US-Philippine Military Ties?”). These steps are vital to giving the Philippines – still one of Asia’s weakest militaries – what defense planners call ‘minimum credible deterrence’ in the face of a variety of threats including China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea (See: “The Truth About Philippine Military Modernization and the China Threat). As I have noted before, time is not on Manila’s side (See: “A ‘New’ Philippine Naval Base in the South China Sea?”).
Getting EDCA’s issues resolved before Obama’s visit would also no doubt inject some vigor into the bilateral relationship and ease U.S. anxieties about the pact. While some had expected a decision to only emerge by the end of the year ahead of presidential elections next May, an earlier clarification would be better. And even if most expect EDCA to eventually go through, legislative tests on U.S.-Philippine defense questions only conjure up nightmares of September 1991 when the Philippine Senate voted to end U.S. military presence in the country in a razor-thin 12-11 vote.
But while this would be a welcome development for the Aquino and Obama administrations, there are still several lingering questions about the news. First, it is unclear whether a decision would definitively resolve all concerns by opponents of the pact, particularly the most contentious one that EDCA is a new treaty that requires Senate concurrence by a two-thirds majority, rather than an executive agreement in line with the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty as the Aquino administration suggests.
While several other reports are silent on these specifics, the Manila Times article does cite sources as saying that the decision states that Aquino has the authority to sign agreements as head of the executive branch. If this is indeed the court siding with the Aquino administration’s interpretation of EDCA as an executive agreement that does not require Senate concurrence, that would constitute a huge victory. As of now, it does not appear as if the Aquino administration has the necessary two-thirds majority in the Senate. Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, one of the chief opponents of EDCA, shows few signs of slowing her crusade against the pact. This week, she said she intends to sponsor a Senate resolution restating her view about the need for Senate concurrence.
It is also unclear what exactly accounts for the alleged timing of the decision and the leaks about it. The Manila Times article offers little in this regard except an anonymous source contending that the Chief Justice may be trying to curry favor with the Aquino administration. Yet it is far from certain that an early decision before Obama’s arrival as well as news about it before hand would actually boost support for the pact rather than undermine it. Following the news and true to form, opponents of EDCA have already billed the timing of the decision as further proof that the Philippines is kowtowing to its ally by ‘gifting’ the agreement to Obama.
Lastly, it is worth pointing out the obvious: that such disclosures – particularly in democracies like the Philippines – may not actually turn out to be much of anything. Consider the fact that Reuters, which had earlier reported on November 3 that a court source had said the ruling was unlikely before Obama’s visit, reported less than a week later that a ruling was likely before the trip.
All this merely confirms that while the importance of EDCA to Philippine military modernization and the U.S.-Philippine alliance has always been clear to both administrations, how exactly Manila will get to the finish line continues to be much less so.

Troops tighten security after gunfights in Maguindanao

From the Philippine Star (Nov 10): Troops tighten security after gunfights in Maguindanao

Government troops are performing neutral peacekeeping missions to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s gunfights between two local peasant groups. Philstar.com/File photo

Authorities on Tuesday tightened security at the tri-boundary of three remote barangays in Datu Abdullah Sangki to prevent a repeat of Sunday’s gunfights between two local peasant groups.

The feuding Moro and Ilonggo groups are squabbling for control of a strategic 40-hectare agricultural land located at the center of Barangays Banaba, Talisawa and Guinibon in southwest of Datu Abdullah Sangki.

Lt. Col. Ricky Bunayog, commanding officer of the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion (IB), said they now have a detachment in the area as part of the effort to protect Muslim and Christian residents from possible attacks by either groups.

The 33rd IB has jurisdiction over Datu Abdullah Sangki and surrounding towns in the 2nd district of Maguindanao.

Barangay folks had said five gunmen from both sides perished in Sunday’s encounter, where protagonists traded shots using assault rifles and shoulder-fire 40 millimeter grenade launchers.

Anwar Emblawa, an incumbent municipal councilor, said he received feedback from villagers that five were killed in the incident.

“The report is persistent but we still have to do some validations,” he said.

Emblawa said their mayor, Miriam Sangki-Mangudadatu, is now trying to resolve the conflict via diplomatic interventions.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, chairperson of the provincial peace and order council, said his emissaries are now helping the Datu Abdullah Sangki local government unit (LGU) find lasting solutions to the dispute.

Bunayog said leaders of the two rival peasant groups have been invited to a peace dialogue to be presided over by LGU officials on Thursday.

Bunayog said he had also received information that five were killed in Sunday’s incident, but emphasized he can only confirm the deaths of two, Commanders Hudas and Budoy, both Ilonggos.

The slain commanders both led amulet-wearing armed Ilonggo fanatical followers hostile to Moro rebels.

“We are hoping the feuding groups will agree to a peaceful settlement of that land conflict,” Bunayog said.

He also clarified that the role of his men in the area now is to prevent both groups from getting close to each other while efforts to reconcile them are underway.

“Our soldiers are performing very neutral peacekeeping missions in support of the efforts of the local police to prevent escalation of hostilities there,” Bunayog said.


PNoy won't give up on BBL as plenary vote faces delays

From ABS-CBN (Nov 10): PNoy won't give up on BBL as plenary vote faces delays

Fifteen more lawmakers stand in the way of a plenary vote on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) at the House of Representatives.

House Speaker Sonny Belmonte said the 15 lawmakers are not expected to give short interpellations.

"Fifteen pa ang may gusto. Not everyone is short-winded. We cannot just raise hands and say no. We're still doing our best. We want this to have space,'' Belmonte said.

Belmonte said President Aquino has never failed to remind him of the BBL every time they talk.

''Every time we talk to him, he mentions it. Hindi nawawalan ng interest si PNoy. He can't understand kung bakit hindi magawa. This is one of those things where certain people want to make sure we have a quorum. We have to pass through the eye of the needle,'' he said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said there are only 13 session days left until the Christmas vacation. When Congress resumes sessions in January, it only has nine session days until it goes on another break for the election campaign.

Gonzales has yet to name the fifteen lawmakers. The Lower House has been hounded by quorum woes as not enough congressmen show up and stay for plenary sessions to debate the BBL.

The House has already approved the proposed 2016 budget as well as the amendments to the customs and tariff code, the acquisition of right of way, the coconut industry trust fund, as well as the amendments to the SSS law.

The House ways and means committee today approved the proposed law strengthening the public private partnership scheme for big-ticket infrastructure projects.


Senate adopts reso stating EDCA is invalid without Senate concurrence

From GMA News (Nov 10): Senate adopts reso stating EDCA is invalid without Senate concurrence
The Senate on Tuesday adopted the resolution expressing the sense of the chamber that the country's Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States is invalid without Senate concurrence.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago sponsored the resolution on the floor.

Fourteen senators voted in favor of Resolution 1414, while Senator Antonio Trillanes IV voted against it.

Senate President Franklin Drilon and Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, abstained from voting as the Supreme Court is now hearing petitions against EDCA.

Aside from Santiago, those who voted for the resolution were Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Nancy Binay, Joseph Victor Ejercito, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Lito Lapid, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Sergio Osmeña III, Aquilino Pimentel III, Grace Poe,  Cynthia Villar and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto.

With her voice breaking, Santiago defended that no treaty or international agreement shall be valid and effective unless concurred in by at least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate.

"This is the only provision of the fundamental law that determines the validity and effectiveness of treaties as law of the land," she said in her speech. "Other than concurrence of the Senate, no authority expressly transforms a treaty into law."

"Hindi puwede na 'yung Presidente lang ang biglang magdesisyon, kailangan ang sang-ayon ng Senado. Yan ang gusto nating liwanagin," she added.

Santiago said the oral arguments presented by the Solicitor General, which represented the executive department, in the Supreme Court clearly described EDCA in the nature of "foreign military bases, troops, or facilities." 

Santiago said this constitutes a judicial admission that the agreement, signed in April 2014, is of the category that "shall not be allowed in the Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred in by the Senate," by authority of the Constitution, Article 18, Section 25. 

She said the textual composition of EDCA in itself shows that it belongs to the category of prohibited treaty, namely, it is a treaty of foreign military bases, troops, or facilities” without the concurrence of the Senate. 

"That such a prohibited 'treaty' has been concluded by the Executive Department as an executive agreement testifies to its inherently prohibitory nature under the Constitution, by reason of EDCA’s substantive provisions dealing with the establishment, location, stationing of the United States military forces and storage of military facilities in Philippine territory," Santiago said.

During the interpellation, Trillanes said that EDCA was just an agreement intended to implement the rights and obligations already previously provided under the Mutual Defense Treaty, Visiting Forces Agreement, and the United Nations Charter.

"It merely amplifies and provides implementing details as to how the parties may exercise such rights and obligations in view of the prevailing circumstances,” he said.

Santiago replied that the Mutual Defense Treaty is obsolete and likened it to a "lonely infant, wondering, unclaimed and unloved in our Constitution."

Explaining his abstention, Enrile said he thought it unnecessary to have a resolution that was just a reiteration of Section 21 of Article VII of the Constitiution.

"It’s a constitutional provision that any treaty, if it is indeed a treaty under international law, then it has to pass the  Senate’s concurrence and so why should we teach or inform the Supreme Court of our position when all of us know the Constitution," he said.

Drilon said he abstained in deference to the SC, which is set to issue decision as to whether or not EDCA is a treaty or executive agreement.

In a press conference after he speech, Santiago said there is no assurance that the United States will help the Philippines with the West Philippine Sea issue.

"It is not for us to make certain presumptions or to rely on the presumption that they will necessarily come to our aid, not necessarily. United States has its own dearest desires of the heart and they will not let us know what it is," she said.

"We will only know when they ask for some things and if we do not give them a categorical answer, they will not give us an answer either.  For example, we know that US needs WPS because of this treaty. Today it has been disapproved by the Senate. Maghanap na sila ngayon ng ibang pagkukuhanan nila," she added.


Photo: Against America

From The Standard (Nov 11): Photo: Against America

Activists picketed the Supreme Court in Ermita, Manila on Tuesday to protest the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement which is set to be discussed by the high court on Nov. 16. DANNY PATA


Reds ransack Coast Guard office in Caramoan resort

From The Standard (Nov 11): Reds ransack Coast Guard office in Caramoan resort

New People’s Army rebels ransacked an office of the Philippine Coast Guard at an inland tourist resort in Camarines Sur Tuesday morning.

Police authorities in the province said the rebels, clad in civilian attire, attacked the Coast Guard  detachment in Guijalo village in Caramoan at about 10:25 a.m.
Caramoan, with its pristine beaches, is touted as a tourist destination in the Bicol region.

Sr. Supt Walfredo Pornillos, director of the Camarines Sur Provincial Police Office, said that at least eight fully-armed NPA members took firearms, communication items and uniforms from the PCG detachment.

The rebels had four high-powered firearms and handguns, Pornillos said.

Seaman First Class Juan Ravago, the lone guard on duty at the time of the attack, was accosted at gunpoint by the NPA raiding group.

Pornillos added that aside from the group that attacked the Coast Guard office, 20 other rebels positioned themselves at the perimeter as blocking force.

The rebels also destroyed the PCG’s rubber boat to prevent possible reinforcement from a nearby military detachment.

They then withdrew and fled towards an unknown direction.

The Army’s 24nd Infantry Battalion together with elements of the Caramoan police responded to the conduct and launched a manhunt against the NPA rebels.

The attack at the Caramoan was the first incident after it became a booming tourist destination, catering primarily to foreign travelers for its beautiful beaches and islands in the Bicol Region.


15 senators vote against PH-US military deal

From Rappler (Nov 10): 15 senators vote against PH-US military deal

But Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago admits that the Supreme Court has the final say on the issue  

'SENATE VICTORY.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago hails the Senate vote against the Philippine-US military deal. Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/Senate PRIB

'SENATE VICTORY.' Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago hails the Senate vote against the Philippine-US military deal. Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/Senate PRIB 

A week before US President Barack Obama visits Manila, the Philippine Senate voted to declare a military deal between the Philippines and the United States “invalid and ineffective.”

But Senate foreign relations committee chairperson Miriam Defensor Santiago admitted that the Supreme Court has the final say on the issue.
Fifteen senators voted on Tuesday, November 10, to pass a resolution stating that the deal giving US troops wider access to Philippine bases is a treaty requiring the approval of the Philippine Senate. Three others abstained while one senator voted against the resolution. (Read the full resolution below)
The deal known as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) is pending before the Philippine Supreme Court, and there are reports that the Court might rule on its legality ahead of Obama's visit.
“This is a victory for the Senate. And it must shadow – we don't know in what way – the verdict of the Supreme Court. So it might happen that the Supreme Court might issue their own decision very shortly and we are hoping it will coincide, it will be the same as the resolution of the Senate today,” Santiago told reporters.
It's a treaty
Santiago delivered a speech sponsoring Senate Resolution 1414 on Tuesday. The resolution expresses “the strong sense of the Senate” that the deal is a treaty that needs Senate concurrence in order to be valid and effective.
The senator sent the Supreme Court a copy of the resolution in April.
The 15 senators who approved the resolution are:
  1. Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago
  2. Senator Juan Edgardo Angara
  3. Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr
  4. Senator Cynthia Villar
  5. Senator Teofisto Guingona III
  6. Senator Grace Poe
  7. Senator JV Ejercito
  8. Senator Sergio Osmeña III
  9. Senator Aquilino Pimentel III
  10. Senator Ralph Recto
  11. Senator Lito Lapid
  12. Senator Loren Legarda
  13. Senator Francis Escudero
  14. Senator Nancy Binay
  15. Senator Pia Cayetano
Senate President Franklin Drilon, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, the President's cousin, abstained. Senate defense committee chairman Antonio Trillanes IV was the lone dissenter.
'Why teach the Supreme Court?'
Enrile, a former defense minister and a staunch Santiago rival, explained why he abstained from the voting.
“The Senate resolution is just a reiteration of the Constitution. Why should we teach the Supreme Court or inform them of our position when all of us must know the Constitution,” said Enrile, a legal expert.
A former justice secretary, Drilon abstained also to “defer” to the Supreme Court on the issue.
Under the Philippine Constitution, a treaty requires the approval of at least two-thirds of the 24-member Senate.
Malacañang though argued that the EDCA is an executive agreement that does not require Senate approval. The Palace maintains that the deal merely implements previous agreements with Washington like the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty, and the 1998 Visiting Forces Agreement.
The EDCA gives US troops, planes and ships increased rotational presence in Philippine military bases, and allows Washington to build facilities to store fuel and equipment there.
The deal is widely seen as a response to Manila's maritime dispute with China over the South China Sea. It aims to help build the capacity of the Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia.
'We were snubbed!'
Through the vote, the Senate asserted its power to concur with treaties that the President ratifies. Leftist groups who questioned EDCA before the Supreme Court last year also insisted that the deal should pass through Senate scrutiny.
In her speech, Santiago again questioned why Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg were the ones who signed the deal in April 2014. The deal was signed ahead of Obama's state visit to the Philippines.
Obama will again visit Manila next week for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.
To Santiago, since EDCA is a treaty, President Benigno Aquino III and Obama should have been the ones to sign the deal.
“The language is very clear. There is no doubt in our Constitution that any agreement must have Senate concurrence, and then the ones who will sign are just them?”
An international and constitutional law expert, Santiago said the Philippine Constitution does not define the term “executive agreement,” calling it “wandering, unclaimed and unloved” in the charter.
An Aquino ally and EDCA supporter, Trillanes interpellated Santiago, and maintained that the deal merely implements previous agreements. He said the matter should be left to the Supreme Court.
"The EDCA is no different from the Mutual Logistic Support Agreement (MLSA) which was signed in November 2007 and this same agreement between the United States government and the Philippines was not ratified by this august chamber and I believe most of the senators present allowed such a condition, and in fact the MLSA expired back in 2012 without having to go through the same scrutiny," said Trillanes.
Santiago issued a rebuttal. “Kung lahat ng kasulatan na 'di treaty ay tatawaging executive agreement para makalusot at mapirmahan, wala na kailangang Senate consent. Sasabihin lang 'pag executive agreement, 'di kailangan ang Senado. You go around and around. That will be the effect of that argument,” she said. (If all agreements that are not treaties will be called executive agreements just to pass and be signed, you won't need Senate consent. You just say it's an executive agreement, and the Senate is not needed.)
Santiago said: "Para kaming na-echapwera!" (It's like we were snubbed!)
Ernest Bower of the Washington-based think-tank Center for Strategic and International Studies said “history can be made” if the deal is approved in time for Obama's visit. 
“It is incumbent on Aquino and Obama to elevate the U.S.-Philippine alliance by activating the EDCA,” Bower said.

COA questions P24 billion worth of military procurement

From Rappler (Nov 10): COA questions P24 billion worth of military procurement

The audit review of 23 contracts reveals various deficiencies   

IRREGULAR PROCUREMENT. The military failed to complete procurement documentation.

IRREGULAR PROCUREMENT. The military failed to complete procurement documentation

The Commission on Audit (COA) found P24 billion worth of anomalous procurement under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Modernization Program.

Based on an audit report, covering transactions of the AFP General Headquarters (GHQ), the military has violated Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act for employing alternative modes of procurement.

“Review of the procurement activities under the AFP Modernization Program disclosed that no public bidding was conducted for 19 out of 25 projects…during the year 2014," COA said in the report released on November 4.

"The conduct of audit review of 23 contracts disclosed various deficiencies such as the conditions under which the alternative modes of procurement may be adopted were not met."

COA also revealed the AFP-GHQ did not submit a complete documentation of the projects, which impeded the audit process.

Among the questionable transactions was the P18.976 billion contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) as the supplier and Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) as the contractor for the acquisition of 12 FA-50 jets.

AFP-GHQ defended that the Government Procurement Policy Board, through Resolution No 30-2012, recognizes KOTRA as an "agency or instrumentality" of the government of South Korea, and thus, exempting them from public bidding.

But according to auditors, the Korean suppliers did not qualify to be exempted from public bidding because the Defense Cooperation Agreement with the South Korean government signed in May 1994 only allows Seoul to recommend suppliers to the AFP.

“There is nothing in the Implementing Arrangement which forces upon the AFP the selection of (ROK’s) recommended suppliers or which expressly provides for a set of rules other than those under RA 9184,” COA said.

Also deemed irregular was the P4.763 billion procurement of 8 Bell 412EP helicopters from Canadian Commercial Corp (CCC).

Auditors said he helicopter units were acquired through negotiated procurement and must abide by the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the AFP and CCC.

"It is necessary to determine whether or not said MOU can be used as basis by the Procuring Entity to exempt this procurement from the provisions of RA 9184," the report said.

But "from the perusal of the MOU, we did not find any provision expressly providing the use of a set of procurement rules and regulations other than those provided in RA 9184."

The deal with CCC was not a regular transaction because it must be considered for a “long-term cooperation for an effective and uninterrupted implementation” of contracts, AFP-GHQ argued.

Other contracts that did not undergo proper procurement were:
  • P882 million deal with Elbit Systems Land and C4I Ltd of Israel for 14 M113A2 Fire Support Vehicles (FSVs), four M113A2 Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs), six M113A3 Armored Personnel Carrier (APCs), and four Armored Recovery Vehicles (ARVs) from the
  • P188.866 million worth of C4I/GIS computer systems from Triton Communications Inc. and Geodata Systems Technologies
  • P52.599 million purchase of 340 portable radio transceivers from Triton
  • P19.978 million Technical Forensic Upgrade System (TFUS) from Anascomm Electronics Supply Co.
AFP-GHQ insisted that these deals should be qualified under emergency procurement because there was a need for “immediate action…to prevent damage to or loss of life or property and to restore vital public service.”

"It cannot be that the threat is continuous and existing. It is not dependent on an instant calamity because internal security situation is volatile and there is a need to undertake procurement through emergency method,” the AFP added in its defense.


Environmental group leader killed in Negros Occidental ambush

From Rappler (Nov 10): Environmental group leader killed in Negros Occidental ambush

Nelbert Esguiran was president of United Canlusong Upland Reforestation and Development, which works in Enrique B. Magalona town and neighboring areas

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines – The leader of an environmental group here was killed in an ambush by unidentified armed men late Sunday afternoon, November 8, in Hacienda Santa Ana, Barangay San Isidro, Enrique B. Magalona town.

Police identified the fatality as Nelbert Esguiran, 39, president of United Canlusong Upland Reforestation and Development. His companion, 58-year-old Morly Isidro, sustained a gunshot wound on his right arm.

The group is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. It advocates reforestation in the locality and neighboring areas.

Senior Inspector Mark Anthony Karanaig, acting town police chief, said that the victims and their 6 companions were on board a vehicle, on their way home to Barangay Canlusong, when they were waylaid by still unidentified suspects at around 5 pm.

Karanaig said that the 7 armed men, who were wearing black sweatshirts and bonnets, targeted Esguiran.

Esguiran, who was already wounded, tried to escape but was chased down by the assailants until he was killed.

The victim sustained 10 gunshot wounds on different parts of his body and died on the spot, Karanaig said.

The suspects remain at large.

Recovered from the crime scene were 3 slugs and an empty shell of .45 caliber, an empty shell, and a deformed slug of an unknown firearm.

Karanaig said that they have yet to establish the motive of the incident, although the intention of the suspects was to kill the environmental group leader.


PH vs China: Round 2 in The Hague set Nov 24-30

From Rappler (Nov 11): PH vs China: Round 2 in The Hague set Nov 24-30

The Philippines aims to demolish – once and for all – China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)

TEAM PHILIPPINES. A powerhouse team represented the Philippines in The Hague, Netherlands, during the first set of hearings on Manila's case against Beijing from July 7 to 13, 2015. The Philippine delegation is set to return to The Hague from November 24 to 30, 2015, to argue the merits of the Philippines' case. Photo courtesy of PCA

TEAM PHILIPPINES. A powerhouse team represented the Philippines in The Hague, Netherlands, during the first set of hearings on Manila's case against Beijing from July 7 to 13, 2015. The Philippine delegation is set to return to The Hague from November 24 to 30, 2015, to argue the merits of the Philippines' case. Photo courtesy of PCA

Mark this week: November 24 to 30.

During these days, the Philippines aims to demolish – once and for all – China’s expansive claim over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) before a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.
“The oral hearing on the merits of the Philippines-China arbitration case under Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) will be held from November 24 to November 30, 2015, in The Hague, Netherlands,” the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a brief statement Tuesday, November 10.
The merits refer basically to the meat of Manila’s historic case against Beijing.
UNCLOS is the so-called Constitution for the Oceans.
The Philippines is using UNCLOS to debunk China’s claim over the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines' arguments revolve around the right to fish, as well as to exploit other resources, in the West Philippine Sea.
China, on the other hand, is claiming the disputed waters using the so-called 9-dash line, a demarcation that is not found in UNCLOS.
China asserts that the 9-dash line is based on its historical rights. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court, however, says that even China’s ancient maps contradict China’s arguments.
China to Philippines: Meet us halfway
The November hearings come weeks after the Philippines won round one of its case against China in The Hague.
The tribunal in The Hague unanimously decided it has the right to hear Manila’s case against Beijing.
The tribunal effectively rejected China's strongest argument against the Philippines: that the tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague has no right to hear the Philippines' case.
China, for its part, has consistently refused to join the arbitration proceedings.
Still, on Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi held a rare bilateral meeting with Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario – the first in two years. Wang, aside from preparing for the Philippine trip of Chinese President Xi Jinping, wanted “exchange views on how to improve the relationship between China and the Philippines.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei explained: “The bilateral relationship is beset by difficulties due to reasons known to all. This is not what the Chinese side wants to see. The Chinese side attaches importance to its relationship with the Philippines and stays committed to properly resolving relevant issues through consultations and negotiations.”
Hong added: “It is hoped that the Philippine side will meet China halfway, implement the important consensus reached by leaders of the two countries during last year's APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, constructively handle relevant issues, and create the atmosphere and conditions for the return of bilateral relations to the right course of development.”

NPA raids PCG detachment in Camarines Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): NPA raids PCG detachment in Camarines Sur

New People's Army (NPA) bandits raided a Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) detachment in Camarines Sur taking away assorted equipment and one M-16 automatic rifle Tuesday morning.

The incident took place 10: 25 a.m., at the PCG detachment in Barangay Guijalo, Caramoan town, Camarines Sur Provincial Police head Senior Supt. Walfredo Pornillos said.

He added that eight rebels, in civilian clothes, and armed with handguns and high-powered weapons forced their way to the PCG detachment, surprising SN1 Juan Miguel Ravago, who was the only Coast Guard personnel on duty on the time of the raid.

An estimated 20 rebels acted as blocking force.

Before leaving, the NPAs stolen assorted PCG uniforms and an M-16 automatic rifle, one base radio, two hand-held radios and the 201 file of Ravago.

Aside from this, the rebels also fired on the moored PCG speedboat causing undetermined damage.

Pursuit operations are now ongoing as of this posting.


Army pushes court martial vs three soldiers tagged in raping lumad girl in Comval town

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Army pushes court martial vs three soldiers tagged in raping lumad girl in Comval town

Investigation continues against three soldiers accused of raping a 14-year-old lumad girl in Talaingod, Davao del Norte, earlier this year. The girl ran away from the Haran Compound here and was taken custody by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

The rape suspects were identified as Private First Class (PFC) Joffrey L. Galot, PFC Stanly B. Revil, and Private John E. Banilla.

In an interview with 10th Infantry Division, Civil Military Operation Battalion Chief, Lt. Col. Norman Zuniega, it was learned that the 68th Infantry Battalion presented all the gathered evidence before the court martial, despite the "not guilty" plea of the three accused soldiers.
Zuniega said that the presentation of evidence completed Tuesday.

“Basically nag conduct pa ng investigation ang battalion nila 68th IB. Hanggang ngayong araw lang ang court martial, pag aaralan pa nila ang prinesent na evidence (Basically investigation is still being conducted by the 68th IB. The court martial is just until today, they will study the evidence presented),” Zuniega said.

He added that one of the presented evidence was the payment offered by the accused to the family of the girl.

On September, Philippine National Police (PNP) Deputy Regional Director for Operation Sr. Superintendent Aaron Aquino confirmed that the soldiers paid P63, 200 to the family of the victim.

Aquino said the amount was a “settlement money in exchange for the withdrawal of the case”. But Aquino stressed that the Police will pursue the case despite the withdrawal of the parents.

On November 6, the three soldiers individually pleaded not guilty.

The mother of the victim was also presented in the court martial as witness, but her testimony was later terminated.

Aside from the criminal cases that the Police filed against the soldiers, they are also facing charges for violating the Articles of War 97 under the respective charge and specifications.

The court martial said: “In that xxxxxxx, a person subject to military law, while assigned with 68IB, 2ID, PA, 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.”

As to the next trial of the soldiers, Zuniega said that it is “only the general court that can determine”.


Former 'NPA rebel' surrenders to authorities in Negros Oriental

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Former 'NPA rebel' surrenders to authorities in Negros Oriental

A self-proclaimed former member of the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) has surrendered to the 79th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army based in Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

The rebel returnee was formally presented to Negros Oriental Gov. Roel Degamo Sunday afternoon at the battalion headquarters in Tanjay City, during the pinning of ranks ceremony and formal handover of newly procured rifles for the said Army unit.

Philippine Army officials identified the surrenderee as alias Kent, Jai, Ryzo and Jacent, 24 years old, and purportedly the vice team leader, Team 3 of the Armadong Yunit Propaganda, South Eastern Front-remnants of the Komiteng Rehiyun-Negros of the NPA.

The man claimed to have spent eight years in the rebel movement and also turned over a calibre .45 pistol upon his surrender.

He is the fifth former rebel to have surrendered to authorities in Negros Oriental this year.

A few months back, Gov. Degamo also welcomed four former NPA members who had received cash assistance of P65,000 each, representing P50,000 for livelihood and P15,000 immediate assistance, from the government under the CLIP.

The CLIP, or Comprehensive Local Integration Program, is a government initiative that offers former rebels the opportunity to return to their families, start fresh in mainstream society and avail of a comprehensive package for livelihood and cash assistance.

Remuneration for surrendered firearms is also part of the said program for former rebels.


Army battalion receives newly procured rifles as part of modernization plan

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 10): Army battalion receives newly procured rifles as part of modernization plan

The Battalion of Excellence Award recipient, the 79th IB “Masaligan” Battalion is now equipped with the newly procured Carbine 5.56 mm R4 A3 rifles as part of the modernization thrust of the Philippine Army.

In his message, Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, commanding general of the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army in the Visayas, said the activity marked the fulfilment of one of the major thrusts of the Philippine Army to professionalize the organization in terms of the competence of their men and upgrade their capability.

He said the new equipment will boost the firepower capability of the battalion in security-challenged areas of Southern Negros.

The ceremonial handover of was held Sunday afternoon, attended also by 303rd Infantry Brigade commander Col. Francisco Delfin, 79th IB commanding officer Lt Col Harold Anthony Pascua and Gov. Roel Degamo at the base camp of the Masaligan Battalion in Camp Leon Kilat, Tanjay City, Negros Oriental.

During the program, 169 enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officers also received their readiness badge and promotions which the 3rd ID commanding officer said is long overdue.

Guerrero said the mark of distinction given to the soldiers is a symbol of their respective professional competence in different areas such as marksmanship, physical fitness, performance, financial standing, and overall accomplishment of their mission.

Guerrero explained the division was recently given a big quota for promotion so more than 1,000 of its personnel had their pinning of ranks on Sunday.

“So let us not fail our leaders; let us not fail our countrymen and most especially do not fail yourselves,” Guerrero told the newly promoted army troopers.

According to Guerrero, the bearer of the readiness badge symbolizes a transformed army truly qualified and imbued with the values of honor, discipline, and service to God, country and people.

The army official is truly proud of the Masaligan battalion for being one of the very few army battalions that is 100 percent compliant, he said.

Guerrero also said the 79th IB is only one of the two battalions in his division that is equipped with the new rifle, the other one is the 15th IB with almost the same number of troopers with that of the 79th IB.

In his message, Gov. Degamo said he is happy with the promotion of the personnel and as governor, he is all out in support of the mission of the army in this part of the country.

He thanked the army for their efforts in declaring the province as a conflict manageable and development ready province early last year and is optimistic the dream of having a zero insurgency will be achieved this year with everybody extending their cooperation.

Degamo has reiterated his pronouncements that insurgency has no place in Negros Oriental because his administration is doing everything to win the hearts and minds of the people.