Thursday, November 19, 2015

Analyst: Showdown in ASEAN looms over disputed sea

From ABS-CBN (Nov 20): Analyst: Showdown in ASEAN looms over disputed sea

A diplomatic confrontation among parties to maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea looms at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, an analyst said Thursday.

The issue was largely sidelined at the main discussions in the just concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting in Manila.

De La Salle University international relations expert Richard Heydarian said the two summits compartmentalize regional issues, with APEC sticking to economic discussions, leaving the gepolitical debates to the ASEAN gathering.

"Ang plano talaga nila sa East Asia summit at ASEAN, doon talaga nila i-confront ang China pagdating sa issue ng freedom of navigation operation. Halos sigurado na pagdating sa ASEAN, lalabas yung issue ng freedom of navigation, papaano iyung mga ginagawa ng China ay threat sa region," he said.

Heydarian said China is already prepared for this.

"Iyung China, nagpe-prepare na sila for a more difficult showdown. Siyempre dun sa China hindi na si Xi Jinping ang andun, number 2 na nila. Nandun si Li Keqiang, diplomatically hindi ganung magiging ka-embarassing kasi sa mga Chinese. Napakamahalaga sa kanila na iyung president nila mismo hindi ma-embarass," he said.
Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Jose Eduardo Malaya III said "the President has something to share about the recent ruling by the Arbiter Tribunal in The Hague wherein the Tribunal decided in our favor on the matter of jurisdiction and admissibility of the case. Meaning, in fact, we probably have been saying all along, we have been right in saying all along that this is an issue which should be decided on the basis of international law particularly UNCLOS, so even on those two points alone, I think, it is very important that the President comes over and attend this summit."

"Now, on the matter of this recent favorable ruling of the International Tribunal in The Hague, I think the President will be listened very attentively by his colleagues within ASEAN because by its recent ruling, we have in a sense, already hurdled successfully the first test. And what we are seeing now, there are a number of ASEAN countries who have turned around and have also, in a raise their voice, with respect to their concerns about what is taking place in the South China Sea and including, of course, our West Philippine Sea portion of it," he added.

"Previously, it was just us and the Vietnamese but after the ruling had been issued by the tribunal in The Hague, we have been hearing a stronger statements not only by the Malaysians, the host country for this summit but also by the Indonesians. So, as far as we can see it from here, we’re seeing a turning around of the opinions of the ASEAN countries from their original skeptical view of the path that we have taken," Malaya said.

"Well, of course, there are people who are saying that a lot of sectors would be benefited while there would be a lot of adjustments to be taken into account with respect to the other sectors which may be adversely affected by the integration. But one probably should look at it from the frame of history or perhaps one needs to take a longer view about it," he added.

ASEAN leaders will gather in the Malaysian capital this weekend. Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak of Malaysia, chair of ASEAN for 2015, will preside over the 27th ASEAN Summit beginning Friday wherein he and his fellow leaders are expected to announce the launch of the ASEAN Community and ASEAN’s vision beyond 2015.

During the summit that takes place at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center, leaders of ASEAN will also engage with the heads of governments of China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.

Heydarian said, "this ASEAN summit will be hosting other countries considered as dialogue partners of the 10-member ASEAN. Doon talaga ilalabas ng mga bansa yung issue na iyan. Most likely even if maapektuhan iyung joint statements dun sa ASEAN or East Asia Summit, mae-expect mo na invidual leaders pati si Aquino, ilalabas na nila more openly and more frankly iyung issue ng West Philippine Sea. Babanat talaga sila. They're open for grilling. Atsaka si Obama, most likely, hihingi din siya ng bilateral talk with Li Keqiang kung di natuloy with Xi Jinping, specifically on the South China Sea."

In the last ASEAN defense ministers' meeting, maritime disputes as well as the specter of terrorism were already discussed. The ASEAN also has condemned the attacks in Paris.

Malaya said the leaders are looking at signing two vital documents and one is the KL Declaration on the Establishment of the ASEAN Community. The other one is on the KL Declaration on the ASEAN 2015 -- Forging Ahead Together.

Malaya added, " The Philippines has a number of priorities in ASEAN, and what formally, this pertains to role of women and peace building, economic participation of women in the ASEAN economic community, emphasis on the regional comprehensive economic partnership and a lot others. "

One of the anticipated highlights in this summit is the declaration by ASEAN Leaders on the establishment of the ASEAN Community.

ASEAN was established in 1967 by the five founding members, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei Darussalam, Viet Nam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia joined later. The summit is ASEAN’s highest policy-making body.

‘Right of way’ triggers NGCP tower blasts - military

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Nov 18): ‘Right of way’ triggers NGCP tower blasts - military

The right of way issue between the landowners and the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) has been the motive behind the toppling of Towers 19 and 20 located at the hilltop of Barangay Sugod in Marawi City on October 29 and the last attempt to topple another tower, 13, in Barangay Karomatan also in Marawi on November 7.

Colonel Gilbert I. Gapay, commanding officer of the 2nd Mechanized Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army ordered his troops based in Lanao del Norte and Iligan City to conduct survey and security measures in the areas where transmission lines are located.

Gapay sent troops to the area, which later reported that one of the NGCP towers based in Barangay Tingin-tingin in Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norted had been pilfered with the volts stolen.

Gapay assures the brigade is closely monitoring the landowners who wants 600 to 700 percent payment from NGCP, which he said ‘is unacceptable.’

"The signature bomb made of mortars were made into an improvise explosive device (IED) with triggering device that toppled the two towers,” Gapay said, adding that some of the landowners have relatives of the “rogue” Moro Islamic Liberation Front members capable of bombing the NGCP pylons.

Gapay added that once the towers in Lanao del Norte will be toppled, 60 percent of Mindanao island will be affected putting it into darkness.

Gapay said that the military is also monitoring the activities of the young radicals also called as “Khilafa,” which is a locally organized terror group based in Butig town in Lanao del Sur. These young radicals are allegedly conducting enlistment, recruitment and indoctrination of other young Muslims.

"The military tagged Khilafa as the prime suspect in the ambush of troops in Pantar town in Lanao del Norted on July 13 this year which killed an Army trooper and wounded seven others," Gapay said.

Gapay chaired a meeting with the Joint Peace Security Command Center Wednesday with the Philippine National Police and the Commission on Elections.

Gapay assured lawyer Reynaldo A. Magbutay, Comelec 10 Regional Executive Director, that the military is extending its full support in the May 2016 elections in the two Lanao provinces.

Pursuit of army transformation road map (ATR) results to your New Army, says official

From the Philippine Information Agency (Nov 19): Pursuit of army transformation road map (ATR) results to your New Army, says official

CATBALOGAN CITY, Samar, November 19 (PIA)—The army’s pursuit of the transformation road map (ATR) has given you, the new army, said Col. Jose H. Narciso, Chief, Governance Strategy Management Office.

“There is a process of how to transform from being reactive, inefficient, barely capable,  with bad image and poorly equipped to a strategy-driven, word class, full-mission capable, ethical, competent and a professional army for following the ATR/Philippine Army Strategy Map,” he added.

These were passionately delivered by Narciso and the  Assistant  Division Commander  of the 8th Infantry division, Brig. Gen. Demy Tejares as they met the press in an orientation on the ATR on November 13-14, 2015 where some 48 media practitioners attended.

Tejares said that AFP is aiming of a 2028 world-class army that is a source of national pride.

“The army is now on its process to develop, organize, train, equip, support and sustain army forces for the conduct of prompt and sustained ground operations to accomplish the AFP mission as a core purpose to serve the people by securing the land and uphold the core values of honor, patriotism, and being responsible on duty.”

There is a certain scorecard being maintained by each army element or official towards this grand aim of serving as new model army.

While some media men doubted the feasibility of the process, some officials have testimonies to this effect.

Captain Isagani Viernes, the 8th ID public affairs chief, said that their soldiers have received high ratings in local and foreign peace keeping operations.  He said that some 12 soldiers from the division had a brief stint in the Golan Heights peacekeeping operations.

In communities, the army elements are also received warmly as they pursue their Bayanihan activities.

Another official said that the surrender of some armed elements or insurgents are also results of the public’s renewed trust to the state soldiers.

It may be a difficult task and an uphill climb especially in the region where some insurgents have yet to be uncovered or persuaded to surrender. Yet, the army believes that the ATR coupled with positive outlook on the projects of the government will complement forces to bring out the model army.

3 wounded as rebels detonate IED

From the Manila Times (Nov 19): 3 wounded as rebels detonate IED

Communist rebels on Thursday detonated an improvised explosive devise during a clash with government troops that wounded three persons in Bukidnon, officials said.

Army Captain Lorenzo Siobal, a spokesman for the 403rd Infantry Brigade, said two soldiers and a village official were wounded when insurgents detonated the explosives while escaping from pursuing military forces in Brgy. White Kulaman in Kitaotao town.

He said the injured were immediately evacuated to a military hospital in Davao City as soldiers continued pursuing New People’s Army NPA rebels who previously harassed villagers in the area.

“The soldiers were conducting security patrol when they encountered the same NPA group that harassed the residents of barangay few days ago. The exchange of fire lasted for about 10 minutes, and thereafter the terrorists withdrew towards unknown direction,” Siobal said.

Siobal did not release the names of the wounded soldiers, but he identified the injured village official as William Ando. It was not known if there were casualties among the rebels.

“This latest incident once again exposes the blatant disregard of the Geneva Convention by the NPA as the continuously use IEDs against government troops and unarmed civilians who do not support their lost cause,” he said.

Letter-to-the-Editor: The deception and temerity of Makabayan

Letter-to-the-editor posted to the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Nov 20): The deception and temerity of Makabayan

This is in reaction to Liza Maza’s reply (“Otazas’ killing offshoot of gov’t’s failure to act on people’s grievances,” Opinion, 11/9/15) to a reader’s challenge for Makabayan to condemn the murder of Mayor Dario Otaza of Loreto, Agusan del Sur, and his son by the New People’s Army.

Maza and her comrades can be expected to challenge the position of Human Rights Watch that the killing was plain murder, but never to criticize the NPA. In fact, she justifies the murder because of the premium she gives to the NPA’s list of Otaza’s alleged crimes. Indeed, she could have saved some media space by using “we” instead of “the revolutionary movement” in her defense of the imposition of the death penalty.

Makabayan has the temerity to trumpet the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) as the appropriate means to seek redress for human rights violations, as if the signed agreement has kept the NPA from using landmines (Part III, Article 2, Paragraph 15) and attacking civilians and nonmilitary targets (Part IV, Article 4, Paragraph 4).

The extreme Left’s deception and misdirection are again at play as Makabayan promotes the CARHRIHL as a ploy to revive the stalled peace talks under the 28-year-old Hague Declaration framework that certainly fits well with the protracted war strategy of the Philippine communists.


Municipal councilor, cop hurt in Albay ambush

From ABS-CBN (Nov 20): Municipal councilor, cop hurt in Albay ambush

A municipal councilor and a policeman were wounded in an ambush by suspected members of the New People's Army (NPA) in Barangay Bigao, Daraga, Albay Friday morning.

Municipal councilor Mark Magalona and his group were on their way home after visiting Barangay San Vicente Grande when they were fired upon by the suspected rebels past 9 a.m.

Magalona was hit on the left leg while one of the group's police escorts, SPO4 John Mallorca, was shot in the chest.

Both victims were rushed to the hospital for treatment.

Authorities said hot pursuit operations are ongoing against the suspects.

Authorities are also investigating if the attack was election-related, noting that Magalona is seeking re-election next year.

NPA releases soldier after 4 months in captivity

From ABS-CBN (Nov 20): NPA releases soldier after 4 months in captivity

The New People's Army (NPA) on Friday freed a soldier they held captive for nearly four months in Misamis Oriental.

Private First Class Adonis Jess Losiba of the 58th Infantry Battalion was abducted last July in the height of the military efforts for Community Organizing for Peace and Development (COPD) in Barangay Alagatan, Gingoog City.

In a statement, National Democratic Front spokesperson Cesar Renerio said Losiba's release had been delayed with the government's refusal to suspend military operations in the area.

Church leaders and officials of the local crisis management committee welcomed back the soldier.

He will undergo stress debriefing while the military pushes on with its offense against the rebels.

Suicide bombers in KL and Sabah: Leaked police memo

The Straits Times (Nov 19): Suicide bombers in KL and Sabah: Leaked police memo

The memo reportedly said that the Abu Sayyaf and ISIS militant groups had 10 suicide bombers in KL and eight in Sabah.

The memo reportedly said that the Abu Sayyaf and ISIS militant groups had 10 suicide bombers in KL and eight in Sabah. PHOTO: AFP

Police keeping track of all possible threats and increasing their patrols and intelligence surveillance

Malaysian police yesterday confirmed that a leaked internal police communique indicating the presence of suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur and Sabah was authentic.
Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar confirmed this to online news portal Malaysiakini, saying the police memo was genuine and expressed regret over the leak.

The memo reportedly said that Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) had 10 suicide bombers in Kuala Lumpur and eight in Sabah. The note instructed police to increase patrols and intelligence surveillance.

Tan Sri Khalid said the police were keeping track of all possible threats and were taking measures to neutralise them.

"We will not allow such things (suicide bombings) to happen," Malaysiakini quoted him as saying.

According to the report, the circular, dated Nov 16, originated from the Sabah police headquarters and was based on intelligence information gleaned from a "meeting and planning" between three terrorist organisations, namely the Abu Sayyaf, ISIS and the Moro National Liberation Front.

The meeting in Sulu in the southern Philippines, which is said to have taken place on Sunday, was attended by 14 leaders from the three organisations and 50 members of Abu Sayyaf, who were armed with M16 rifles, pistols and bombs.

The leaders reached several resolutions during that meeting, including agreeing to recruit new members and deploying Abu Sayyaf and ISIS assets to Kuala Lumpur and Sabah, the circular stated.

"These suicide bombers underwent military training in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as prepared (sic) to receive orders from their leaders to launch attacks or bombings," the circular reportedly said, according to Malaysiakini.

Criminologist P. Sundramoorthy told The Straits Times that Malaysian police and other law enforcement agencies and intelligence services here have an excellent track record of neutralising threats from radical and extremist groups.

"The confirmation by the IGP (Inspector-General of Police) clearly demonstrates the fact that the Malaysian authorities are on track," Dr Sundramoorthy said.

He added that the public should not be unduly worried but, at the same time, should not take safety for granted.

On Tuesday, Abu Sayyaf militants reportedly beheaded Malaysian engineer Bernard Then Ted Fen, whom they had kidnapped along with restaurant owner Thien Nyuk Fun at a seafood restaurant in Sandakan, in Sabah, earlier this year.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak strongly condemned the act and urged the authorities to take action against the culprits and bring them to justice.

Abu Sayyaf won’t stop, say counter-terrorism experts

From the Malay Mail Online (Nov 20): Abu Sayyaf won’t stop, say counter-terrorism experts

Malaysia cannot afford to allow radical militant groups like Abu Sayyaf to operate on the fringes of its borders, according to the region’s top counter-terrorism expert.

Singapore-based International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research head Professor Rohan Gunaratna described the situation in the area as a “ticking time bomb”.

 “It has turned into a highway for terrorism. The Abu Sayyaf network, in particular, has proven to be extremely resilient and capable despite significant efforts to destroy it,” he said.

Rohan added that recent developments changed the dynamics of the group and attacks of increasing severity and precision should be expected.

“The group was joined last year by at least six Malaysians. Shortly after, the group’s leader Isnilon Totoni Hapilon pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS). “The allegiance is especially worrying as it may be more than just a marketing tactic. Aspiring militants may now travel to the Philippines rather than the Middle East,” he said.

It was reported last year that former University of Malaya lecturer Dr Mahmud bin Ahmad, now known as Abu Handzalah, had joined the group and was actively recruiting fighters for IS.

 “The infusing of the group with Malaysian citizens represents an escalation that may not have been appreciated at the time,” he said.

Rohan said the group would attempt to wreak havoc in the country by first attacking economic targets such as Sabah’s tourism industry.

 “If they are able to achieve that, the pool of young unemployed men who are disenfranchised may be drawn to militancy. “They may even target Malaysian leaders in an attempt to exploit political tension in the country,” he said.

On Monday, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein revealed IS had compiled a hit-list of Malaysian leaders, including himself, in response to the country’s counter-terrorism efforts.

Rohan said that a serious regional effort was needed to dismantle the group as the threat was a cross-border one.

 “Turn the rhetoric into action, cooperation into collaboration. There must be effective sharing of intelligence and joint operations against the group,” he said.

Crime analyst Kamal Affendi Hashim said the group’s local informers must be brought to justice or such kidnappings and attacks would continue.

 “Abu Sayyaf has no satellites. They don’t have the hardware to conduct surveillance. What they have are willing collaborators on the ground who feed them information. “These informers need to be arrested. They are traitors and are putting the country’s security and citizens at risk,” he said.

Kamal said these locals also provided logistical support and that booking them would prove to be more effective than armed intervention.

 “Removing these people will be a painful blow to the group. They would be left blinded and would have to take more risks, making armed intervention more effective,” he said.

Kamal described the Abu Sayyaf network as “a bunch of glorified bandits” and that there would not be a slowdown of the network’s activities. “Kidnapping for ransom is a major source of income, if not the most important. As long as they have the information, logistics and opportunity, they are unlikely to stop.”

The terror groups on Southeast Asia's doorstep

From CNBC (Nov 19): The terror groups on Southeast Asia's doorstep

Armed members of the Philippines' Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters.

Armed members of the Philippines' Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. Jeoffrey Maitem | Getty Images
Even as the world reeled over the attacks in Paris last Friday, a terror group in the Philippines was likely preparing to behead Bernard Then Ted Fen.
The engineer, who had been kidnapped in May in the Malaysian state of Sabah, was reportedly killed in the jungles of the Philippines' Sulu province early this week, after militants from the Abu Sayyaf group received a smaller ransom payment than they demanded.
The killing, in the wake of the deadly events in Paris, has brought new attention to Southeast Asia's own terrorist networks, many of which are supporters of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
While the region has seen a number of high-profile attacks in the past two decades, experts say its networks don't pose as great of a threat as those in neighboring South Asia. Still, lawmakers are paying close attention, especially to Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines because they have the biggest terror groups, Control Risks told CNBC.
Here are the key facts on the region's major militant organizations:

Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) has long dominated the country's terror landscape, rising to international fame after it was blamed for the 2002 Bali bombings. Dedicated to establishing an Islamic state, or caliphate, in the region, the group is now largely dormant thanks to a decade-long police crackdown.

Following the clampdown, Indonesia's militant networks have become fragmented, with the launch of a JI splinter group called the Jemaah Anshorut Tauhid (JAT) in 2008 and a JAT faction called the Jamaah Ansharusy Syariah (JAS) in 2014. While both call for implementation of the Shariah, i.e. Islamic law, they are divided regarding their stance towards ISIS.

Members of both groups remain at large but analysts aren't too worried.

"When looking at JAT, we must be conscious that it is a divided movement and it will hardly pose any threat to Indonesia's stability," according to a research paper from the Spanish Institute for Strategic Studies (IEEE) this year.

One of the country's top terrorists is a man known as Santoso, formerly of JAT, according to Control Risks.

"Based in Sulawesi, he has developed a reputation for being a key militant-trainer. He has managed to elude capture from authorities for the past few years and militants from within and outside Indonesia have continued to travel to Sulawesi to contact him," the consultancy said.
Well-known radical clerics such as JAT leader Abu Bakr Bashir and ISIS supporter Aman Abdurrahman are currently jailed but remain influential due to Indonesia's prison system, which does little to deter extremist recruitment.

"Due to overcrowding and limited resources, Indonesian prison officials struggle to isolate jihadist inmates from the general jail population ...Numerous inmates have been converted to Islamic militancy in jail after coming under the influence of terrorist detainees," according to a September report by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

Islamist militants here are mostly located in the Muslim-majority southern provinces, especially the Mindanao island group.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is one of the largest groups that seek an independent Islamic state within the Philippines. MILF has been in peace negotiations with the government over the past year, which could see Manila agree to give Muslims on Mindanao more autonomy. However, there could be an uptick in violence if the deal falls through, warned Control Risks.

Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is a breakaway faction from MILF with the same goals but it has conducted attacks to discourage the latter's peace treaty. The group has been weakened by internal divisions however, with the death of its founder Ameril Umbra Kato this year.

Abu Sayyaf is an Al-Qaeda-inspired group and although it started out with the goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate, it's developed a more commercial focus, as seen by a series of cross-border kidnappings for ransom money to buy arms.

Overall, the ISIS danger to the Philippines is small, Ahmed Hashim, associate professor at Singapore's Nanyang Technolgical University, wrote in a report this year. Presently, "none of the small militant groups have the capabilities to establish a functioning caliphate," he said.

Meanwhile, the communist New People's Army is the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines. While not a high-level threat, they are one of the main non-Islamic groups with a reach spanning across the country, as opposed to the Muslim extremists whose strongholds are in the southern provinces, Control Risks explained.
[Video report: No suitable US presidential candidate to fight terrorism: Eurasia


Unlike Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia lacks a history of terrorism, but there are still active militant cells in the country. Overall, though, the risks aren't as high as its neighbors due to Kuala Lumpur's robust counter-terrorism framework.

Tanzim Al-Qaeda Malaysia, or Al-Qaeda in the Malay Archipelago, is a splinter group of JI, with experienced operatives throughout South Asia and the Middle East. Six suspects were arrested earlier this month.

The Kumpulan Mujahidin Malaysia was initially an organization set up to overthrow former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's government but it also nourished dreams of establishing a caliphate and had strong links with southern Thailand, but is believed to be largely defunct now.

Darul Islam Sabah is another such Muslim extremist group that is mainly active in the Sabah province, with links to Abu Sayyaf.

These three groups have come back to public attention amid news reports of efforts to formalize a sort of pro-ISIS coalition in Southeast Asia, together with groups in Indonesia and the Philippines.


The country's Muslim-dominated southern region on the Malaysian border has been engaged in a decade-long conflict over autonomy with the government. But unlike its neighbors, Thailand's conflict isn't a religious one, with independence more driven by racial and socio-economic issues.

This greatly reduces the likelihood of insurgents being drawn to the ISIS cause, according to experts.

"The revival of violence in Thailand's Deep South has spurred fears that radical extremists will make their presence felt there as they have in other conflict zones such as Syria. That fear remains overblown. Other than a handful of training manuals downloaded from the Internet, there have been few proven links to any international movement, including Jemaah Islmaiyah or the Islamic State," a June report by military academy WestPoint concluded.

Meanwhile, the bombing of a popular Bangkok shrine in August this year that killed 20 people has yet to be linked to any terror group. Two foreign passport holders, one Turkish and one Chinese, have allegedly confessed to the crime and their case is currently awaiting trial, but their motive remains unconfirmed.

Lunsmann kidnappers sentenced to life imprisonment

From CNN Philippines (Nov 20): Lunsmann kidnappers sentenced to life imprisonment

Three Abu Sayyaf members were sentenced to life imprisonment for the abduction of a U.S. citizen and two others in Zamboanga City in 2011.

Zamboanga City Police Office City Director Sr. Supt. Angelito Casimiro identified the Abu Sayyaf members as Patik Samson aka Mauck or Samuray, Meijing Jama aka Eyebag, and Jamil Ajilulu aka Robin.

The three were sentenced to life imprisonment without the eligibility for parole for the kidnapping of Gerfa Yeatts Lunsmann, her son Kevin, and another relative.

Lunsmann's group was abducted while vacationing in an island barangay in Zamboanga City in 2011.

It will be recalled that Lunsmann was personally escorted by FBI agents from the United States to personally testify against the suspects last March 24.

The three suspects are former detainees at the Zamboanga City Reformatory Center.

The conviction of the group followed the promulgation of judgment of Abu Sayyaf leader Khair Mundos and four other persons last Monday (November 16).

Samson, Jama, and Ajilulu will be brought to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa to serve their sentence.

Gag order issued by Philippines armed forces on Then’s beheading

From the Star Online (Nov 18): Gag order issued by Philippines armed forces on Then’s beheading

PETALING JAYA: The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has issued a gag order on its ground units in southern Philippines from releasing any information on the beheading of Bernard Then.

According to the Philippine Star, the AFP general headquarters issued the urgent notice Tuesday night, several hours after the Abu Sayyaf terror group beheaded the 39-year-old Sarawakian engineer in Indanan town on Jolo Island.

It was also reported that the order was issued in view of the negative impact that the incident would cause the Philippines, which is currently hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit.

The AFP told its ground units and its public affairs officers to “implement momentary news blackout” and to “desist from answering queries” on the execution of Then while all information on the execution was to be referred to the Philippines’s Anti-Terrorism Council.
Then was beheaded after six months in captivity by the Abu Sayyaf, despite ongoing negotiations by Malaysian negotiators and Filipino emissaries to secure his release.

He was captured at the Ocean King seafood restaurant in Sandakan along with Thien Nyuk Fun, 50 on May 15.

Thien was released on Nov 8 after an alleged payment of RM3mil was made to the group.

Police play Katy Perry to disperse APEC protesters

From Rappler (Nov 20): Police play Katy Perry to disperse APEC protesters

Some protesters did not take the tactic well. 'We just want to make our voices heard,' says one    

ANTI-APEC. Police blast Katy Perry's 'Roar' from speakers to disperse a rally during the APEC summit. In the photo, Militants stage their anti-APEC Protest along Gil Puyat Ave. Mark Z. Saludes/

ANTI-APEC. Police blast Katy Perry's 'Roar' from speakers to disperse a rally during the APEC summit. In the photo, Militants stage their anti-APEC Protest along Gil Puyat Ave. Mark Z. Saludes/

Philippine police played Katy Perry pop songs to disperse protesters at an Asia-Pacific leaders' summit on Thursday, November 19 enraging some demonstrators but amusing others.

Hundreds of left-wing protesters rallied outside a venue where US President Barack Obama and other leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group were meeting.

The rally edged towards violence when protesters tried to break through lines of police, who were carrying riot shields and wooden batons, to reach the summit venue.

Police responded by firing water cannons and scuffled with protesters who were chanting: "Junk APEC."

Then police pulled out their secret weapon: pop princess Katy Perry on giant loudspeakers.

Perry's hit song "Roar" was played at full volume, the top of a demonstration disco playlist aimed at distracting the protesters and drowning out their chants.

Dolly Parton's "Islands in the stream," David Guetta's "Sexy B-tch," and the Bee Gee's "How deep is your love" were among the other songs played against the protesters.

To add a street bass beat, some of the police tapped their batons against their shields in time with the music.

"It's ridiculous," leftist member of parliament Carlos Isagani Zarate told Agence France-Presse (AFP), as the protesters retreated to soul classic "My Girl."

Many other protesters also expressed anger at authorities trying to suppress their message of opposition to globalisation and free-trade policies championed by APEC.

"We just want to make our voices heard," 64-year-old mango farmer Candelario Rusasena told AFP.

But others could not hide their amusement.

"That was a rude and desperate move," 54-year-old rice farmer Redo Pena told AFP as he broke into a toothless grin.

A nation of singers

Metro Manila police spokeswoman chief inspector Kimberly Gonzales told AFP the music was aimed at de-escalating tensions.

"Filipinos in general love music and it has a calming effect for everyone. This goes well with our maximum tolerance policy during protests," Gonzales said.

The Philippines has a famous music culture, with karaoke one of the most popular forms of entertainment across all sectors of society.

It is not uncommon for tourists to encounter taxi drivers, supermarket cashiers, and airport security staff spontaneously breaking out into song.

Filipino musicians are also a staple of hotel and cruise ship bands around the world.

And prisoners at the main jail in Cebu, the Philippines' biggest city, have become an Internet sensation by posting videos on Youtube of them dancing to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

Police spokeswoman Gonzales said using music at protests was not an unusual tactic, and there was no intent to trivialise Thursday's rally.

"We understand the seriousness of the issues. We don't mean to insult people," she said.

The protests occurred as Philippine President Benigno Aquino was welcoming Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders for the summit's second and final day.

The protesters said they opposed APEC's free-trade agenda because it favoured big corporations and neglected the poor.

"Aquino should protect his people, globalisation has caused the prices of our goods to go down. We barely break even," 47-year-old rice farmer Nida Floresca told AFP.

"We don't even have irrigation to water our crops. Aquino should think of us first."

Floresca came with several neighbours from their farming town in La Union around 300 kilometres (180 miles) north of Manila. They marched in sandals and straw hats.

One police officer estimated the crowd of protesters at about 2,000, although there were no official numbers given.

More than 20,000 police and soldiers were deployed this week to ensure security during the APEC summit.

Philippine authorities said they had already been planning the nation's biggest ever security operation for the meeting, which was ratcheted up even higher after last week's deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

PH beefs up defense deals amid dispute with China

From the Rappler (Nov 20): PH beefs up defense deals amid dispute with China

On the sidelines of the APEC Summit, the Philippines signs deals with Australia and Vietnam

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP. The Philippines signs a strategic partnership with Vietnam, the third deal entered into by the government this year after Japan and Australia. Photo by Official Gazette

STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP. The Philippines signs a strategic partnership with Vietnam, the third deal entered into by the government this year after Japan and Australia. Photo by Official Gazette

Beyond gaining worldwide reputation as this year's host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, the Philippines managed to seize the opportunity to strengthen its defense agreements with other nations amid its maritime row with China.

The presence of Chinese President Xi Jinping did not stop the Philippines and its allies from strengthening their defense partnerships.

In several bilateral meetings between President Benigno Aquino III and other leaders, their top agenda was enhanced defense cooperation, a move widely seen to be directed at the current maritime disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) involving China and claimant countries such as the Philippines.

There's one agreement though that analysts see as an important step in defusing tensions over the disputes: the deal signed by Taiwan and the Philippines on Thursday, November 19, pledging non-violence in disputed fishing zones.

Taiwan's foreign ministry said the agreement "upholds the spirit and principles underlying the South China Sea Peace Initiative" launched by President Ma Ying-jeou earlier this year, which called for peaceful dealings in disputed areas.

On defense deals, however, it's been a harvest for the Philippines.


On Tuesday, November 17, the Philippines signed a strategic partnership with Vietnam.

The deal between the 2 countries aims to promote “strategic partnership on political, economic, agricultural, defense, maritime, security, judicial and law enforcement cooperation." Details of the agreement, however, were not given.

The 2 countries are among the claimants of the South China Sea and have been the most vocal in their opposition to China’s aggressive reclamation projects in these contested waters.

Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang called the signing of the deal a "historic event" for the maintenance of stability and prosperity in the region.

"Mr. President and I shared our concerns over the recent developments in the East Sea or the South China Sea, affecting trust, peace, security and stability in the region. We also reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the stability, maritime security, safety and freedom of navigation and of flight in the South China Sea, as well as settling maritime disputes on the basis of international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," he said.


The Philippines also signed a “comprehensive partnership agreement” with its longtime ally Australia.

Aquino said the agreement acknowledges the “increasing breadth and depth” of the 2 countries’ relations.

Palace Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the “strategic partnership” invokes an “over-arching framework and states general principles.” Both countries will craft the details of this partnership, he said.

The Philippine leader and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also "exchanged views on regional security challenges, including maritime security, and, with this, committed to continue bilateral consultations on how to address them."

"The Prime Minister and I committed to continue working closely towards more substantive and meaningful activities between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Australian Defense Force to build trust and confidence and enhance interoperability," Aquino added.

Australia supports the Philippines’ stand on the peaceful resolution of the disputes in the South China Sea, even as it continues to provide military training and education to its Southeast Asian ally.

In 2007, the Philippines and Australia signed the Status of Visiting Forces Agreement (SOFVA), which was enforced in September 2012. The SOFVA establishes procedures for joint training and exercises of troops in both countries.


In the case of Japan, the two allies signed in June this year a Joint Declaration for a Strengthened Strategic Partnership and its Action Plan during Aquino’s state visit to Japan. China condemned this.

Both countries stressed that the partnership was meant to "reaffirm their strong commitment to ensuring maritime safety and security, including in the South China Sea, which is a vital element for peace and prosperity of the region."

After a meeting with President Aquino on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan is open to Aquino's request to send large patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard, the main agency tasked to secure the almost 40,000-km coastline of the country.

“There was a request from President Aquino regarding the provision of large patrol vessels to Philippine Coast Guard, and Japan would like to consider the specifics of the matter,” Abe said in a joint press statement after the bilateral meeting on Thursday, November 19.

While Japan does not have a stake in the West Philippine Sea, it is locked in a dispute with China over another cluster of islands in the East China Sea.

In June, the Philippines and Japan conducted military training exercises off the coast of Palawan, a move criticized by China.

United States

Aside from Australia, the country has a long-standing defense deal with the United States – the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty. The new Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), which allows the US military to build its own facilities and preposition its defense assets inside assigned Philippine military bases, is pending with the Supreme Court over issues of constitutionality.

After his meeting with President Aquino, US President Barack Obama reaffirmed the US’ “rock solid commitment” to the defense of the Philippines.

The Philippine Navy will be getting a Hamilton-class cutter from the US Coast Guard, the yet to be decommissioned CGC Boutwell, which is the same class as the Philippine warship that Obama visited in Manila on Tuesday, November 17.

The White House said the ship "will provide the Philippines the ability to maintain greater maritime presence and patrols throughout its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone)."

The Philippines is crucial in US’ pivot in Asia. Obama expressed hopes EDCA would hurdle the legal battles in the High Court, saying the deal would allow Americans to “help treaty partners to build up capacity.”

In October, a US warship sailed in the disputed waters, a move widely welcomed by other claimant-countries but strongly opposed by Beijing. (READ: 'Balance of power,' Aquino says of US ship in West PH Sea)

Russia, New Zealand

Other countries, meanwhile, pledged support and expressed willingness to help the Philippines’ military and defense capabilities.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told Aquino that Russia “seeks to open avenues for military and defense cooperation” similar to its agreements with its adjacent states.

While Russia is an ally of China, it has not categorically backed its East Asian ally on the maritime row. (READ:Power play in the South China Sea)

The Philippines' longtime ally, the US, meanwhile maintains a safe distance from Russia – except in the fight against terrorism and ISIS.

New Zealand, for its part, signed a memorandum of agreement on defense cooperation with the Philippines in 2012.

The agreement set out a framework for the conduct of meetings between senior officials and military representatives, education and training exercises, capacity building, and information exchange.

Prime Minister John Key earlier said defense cooperation between Manila and Wellington would yield “real benefits.”

Armed men burn PHP25-M heavy equipment machineries in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): Armed men burn PHP25-M heavy equipment machineries in Batangas
An estimated PHP25-million worth of heavy equipment machineries were burned by armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in San Agustin Village here on Wednesday.

Police reports said that about 20 armed men burned seven heavy equipment machineries and two 10-wheeler trucks owned by businessman Renato Maligalig from San Andres Village Alaminos town in Laguna.

The report said at about 10 p.m. Wednesday, the armed men entered the back portion of the lot where the heavy equipment were parked and using gasoline burned them without resistance from the employees of Maligalig out of fear. After the incident, the armed men left toward the dark portion of the village.

It was reported that before the incident, Maligalig received a letter from a group asking for a big sum of money as revolutionary tax which he failed to comply.

Meanwhile, town police led by Police Superintendent Noel Nunez, chief of police, and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) personnel are conducting investigation.

No-sail, no fly-zones lifted

From the Philippine News Agency (Nov 20): No-sail, no fly-zones lifted
With the successful conclusion of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) Leaders' Summit, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday announced that the "no-sail zone" being implemented in Manila Bay has finally been lifted.

This was disclosed by AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla.

The AFP has earlier implemented a 12-nautical mile "no-sail zone" in Manila as part of the efforts to secure the APEC delegates.

With the lifting, cargo and passenger ships and fishing boats can now sail and fish in Manila Bay.

Padilla also said the "no-fly zone" is now lifted but general aviation operations are to be suspended once an APEC leader or representative departs from the Philippines.

The 40-nautical mile exclusion zone for this still remains, he added.

MILF: Non-passage of BBL does not hinder us to pursue development: BDA

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 19):

Photo courtesy of BDA

Photo courtesy of BDA

“The passage of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) is very important for the Bangsamoro, but non passage of the BBL doesn’t hinder us to pursue the development,” said Ustadz Mohammad S. Yacob, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA).

“Because in BDA, whether there is BBL or none, we should proceed the development aspect because we need it,” he continued. 

Yacob gave this message during the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between BDA and Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) on November 12, 2015 at the Bangsamoro Development Center in Cotabato City.

BDA and TIKA inked the MoU to formalize their partnership to establish sustainable livelihood projects in target Bangsamoro communities.

The MoU covers goat raising, Tilapia farming and chicken farming in through partnership with respective Bangsamoro cooperation and people’s organization.

In his message, Burak Saritarla, TIKA Country Program Coordinator, said the Turkish Prime Minister has decided to set-up an office in Manila seeing the necessity through to have working relation with the government of the Philippines.

He conveyed they are now working with some potential partners to develop sustainable development projects all over the country.

“We are here today to kick-off three projects which we believe it trigger socio-economic development within the region becauce these projects are sustainable, income-generated and employment generating”, Saritarla added.

“These projects mean more than just socio-economic. It is also a preservation of culture and religion”, the Turkish official said.

The projects will be implemented with consideration of the preserving the socio-religious sensitivity of the region.

Yacob expressed gratitude for the partnership saying, “This is very significant and blessing for us and it is also a manifestation of being assertive to have many programs for the Bangsamoro”

For few years now, Turkey have been extending support to the Bangsamoro people through BDA. It has provided relief goods, Qurbani meat and Iftar. It also sponsors college scholarship for Moro youth and funds an orphanage program. (Info Source: BDA)

MILF: Ulama prepare to convene at Davao to discuss Islamic financing challenges and prospects

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 19): Ulama prepare to convene at Davao to discuss Islamic financing challenges and prospects

Ulama prepare to convene at Davao to discuss Islamic financing challenges and prospects

Twenty-eight selected Ulama from different regions of the country have already confirmed their participation to the First National Ulama Consultation on Islamic Financing to be held at El Bajada Hotel at Davao City on November 22-25, 2015.

The activity aims to draw support from the Muslim religious leaders of the country to help in the elimination the of Riba (interest) and develop Islamic financing.

Organizers are also looking forward for the participants to form a national advisory body of Ulama on Islamic financing.

The forum is being organized by Katiyakap, Inc. and Ma’haddul Hikma, two NGOs which advocates Shariah-compliant financing, a financial system practiced in Muslim countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan that has been instrumental in freeing poor Muslims from the bondage of poverty. 

In the latest research on microfinance sector, it is evaluated that Islamic financial system provides the best solutions for poverty alleviation and social sustainability.

Muslim scholars namely Dr. Abdussalam Disomimba, Dr. Hassanor Makaalapa, Dr. Parouk Abdulrashid, Dr. Aboulkhair Tarazon and Ustadz Abdulmanan Harid will deliver lectures.

Ustadz Akman Abtahi, President of Ma’haddul Hikma, enjoins Ulama to help in addressing the problem on Riba saying, “There are Bangsamoro people which access to interest-based financing that is forbidden in Islam.”

He said the Holy Qur’an explicitly warns Muslims not to involve in transactions with interest.

The lead organizer said there is a need to Muslim stakeholders be it from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front, government sector, traditional leaders and civil society organizations to act together to address the problem on poverty among the Bangsamoro people particularly through Islamic financing.

“We are a non-partisan group and what we want is to build partnership with concerned stakeholders to combat poverty in the Bangsamoro,” Abtahi said. He added that part of the discussion in the consultation are prospects of Islamic financing. 

He said the conventional financial institutions have seen that Islamic banks and other Shariah-compliant financial firms were not affected by the global economic crisis.

“We should learn about Islamic financing and apply it in the Bangamoro and that we can help attain economic stability,” he suggests.

The consultation is being supported by the Peace and Equity Foundation.

MILF: Australian gov’t allots $4M assistance in support to peace process

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 19): Australian gov’t allots $4M assistance in support to peace process

Photo courtesy of Julie Bishop

Photo courtesy of Julie Bishop

The government of Australia reaffirmed its support the Mindanao peace process, pledging $4-million assistance over the next three years for the joint security and justice mechanism of the peace process.

In a report by Manila Bulletin on November 17, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in her meeting with Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles that she confirmed Australia’s commitment to promoting development and prosperity in conflict affected regions of Southern Philippines.

Bishop said Australia’s support to the joint security and justice mechanisms of the peace process will be implemented through partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).

The foreign minister said Australia’s support and expertise through NGOs which includes The Asia Foundation and International Alert has also increased the capacity of the two parties to implement the peace process.

Australia is one of the countries which have been supporting the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process.

The government and MILF has inked the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro in 2014 which provides the creation of Bangsamoro region that will replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Like other countries providing aid to Mindanao, Australia hopes the establishment of the autonomous Bangsamoro political entity through legislation will be realized.

The measure is hoped to usher the establishment of good governance and economic stability in the region which has been gripped with poverty for decades due to protracted armed (conflict).

MILF: MILF condemns beheading of Malaysian kidnap victim

Posted to the MILF Website (Nov 19): MILF condemns beheading of Malaysian kidnap victim

MILF condemns beheading of Malaysian kidnap victim

For the second time, in less than a week apart, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has issued another strong statement condemning, this time, the beheading of a Malaysian kidnap victim by members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) last Tuesday in the village of Taran in Indanan, Sulu.

On Saturday, November 14, it released a statement condemning the attacks of civilians in Paris, France that killed more than 129 people and wounding several hundred others. The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) perpetrated this heinous crime.

The murdered Malaysian man, Bernard Then, was kidnapped in May this year from a seaside restaurant in Malaysia's Sabah state, about 300 kilometres from the Abu Sayyaf's Jolo stronghold. A Malaysian woman, Thien Nyuk Fun, was seized along with him, but she was released last week following negotiations. A ransom was reportedly paid.

Currently, the ASG has still in their captivity a number of victims including a Dutch, two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian resort owner.

The statement of the MILF on the Malaysian beheading follows:

“We join the Malaysian government and people in condemning this dastardly act of terrorism and share the grief and sorrow of the nation. Our hearts go out to the friends and family of the victim of this despicable tragedy.

We call upon the Abu Sayyaf Group to abandon their kidnapping activities, being against Islam and human dignity and civility. Kidnapping will bring your group to nowhere.

We also call upon the leaders of the Sulu Province, including the politicians, MNLF and the claimants to the Sultanate of Sulu to pool their efforts together to stop or at least neutralize these kidnapping activities.

We also call upon the military to reconsider other options to address the kidnapping menace from purely  military  to multi-pronged approaches. Bombing and shelling will not only  hit the  kidnappers, but  the civilians as well as the  kidnapped victims."