Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Two killed in Cauayan

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 2): Two killed in Cauayan
Unidentified armed men shot and killed a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, and a former government militiaman in the past two days at the barangay poblacion and Brgy. Camindangan, all in Cauayan, Negros Occidental.

Ex-CAFGU member Jimboy Nalagon was gunned down by still unidentified armed suspects at about 5 a.m. yesterday in Sitio La-a, Brgy. Camindangan, Sipalay City, police chief Supt. Frederick Mead said.

The killing of Nalagon came a day after CAFGU member Romualdo Dollente was also killed by four armed suspects believed to be members of the New People's Army at the barangay poblacion of Cauayan town.

Mead said Dollente succumbed to multiple gunshot wounds, including a fatal injury in the head.

Police investigations show that the suspects told witnesses that the NPA was behind the killing of Dollente.

Seven empty shells of caliber 45 pistol were recovered at the scene of incident by Cauayan policemen, who responded to the shooting incident.

Mead said he is inclined to believe that the same suspects were involved in the killing of Dollente and Nalagon, as he noted a similar pattern in their execution.

He admitted having received intelligence reports three weeks ago that the NPA had plans to go down to the Cauayan town proper, that prompted him to place the entire police force on heightened alert status.

Mead also said he has already coordinated with the 6th Manuever Platoon of the PNP and the 79th Infantry Battalion to secure the town.

Maj. Rey Tiongson, Army's 3rd Infantry Division spokesman, said yesterday that they are still confirming on the alleged involvement of the NPA Special Partisan Unit in the twin killings.

MILF: WOMB holds Multi-Sectoral Peace Summit in Cotabato City

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 2): WOMB holds Multi-Sectoral Peace Summit in Cotabato City

WOMB holds Multi-Sectoral Peace Summit in Cotabato City

The Women’s Organizations Movement of the Bangsamoro (WOMB) with Al-Amanah Humanitarian and Development Services, Inc. (AHDSI) as Lead Convenor initiated a Multi-Sectoral Peace Summit with Press Conference held at EM-Manor Hotel, Cotabato City on November 26, 2015. 

The peace summit was aimed to unify multi-sectoral stand and come up with a strong position paper for a “No to BL-BAR (Diluted BBL)” and urged Congress for the passage of a CAB-Compliant BBL.

Guest speakers were Honorable Bai Sandra Sinsuat Sema, 1st District Representative of Maguindanao and Cotabato City and Prof.  Abhoud Syed M. Lingga, Executive Director, Institute of Bangsamoro Studies.  The event was attended by over 250 individuals representing 62 organizations from different sectors.

The speakers highlighted their perspective and understandings about FAB, CAB including the BBL. Hon. Representative Sema updated the audience about the status of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the House of Representatives. She said, “I am very sorry that I cannot inspire you about the BBL because its status is not inspirable or not even calendared in the House.”  However,  despite that she assured the audience to make the most of what can be done on the remaining sessions on the BBL by continue engaging strategically with the legislators specifically with the women legislators.

She called on the WOMB and the youth for a strategic dialogue with the women legislators where she will facilitate so that they can personally feel and listen to the voices and sentiments of the Bangsamoro women and youth. 

She also posed the challenge to the group; for women to inspire their children by supporting their education and for asatidz (pl. of ustadz) to inspire and strengthen the planting of Islamic seed to the minds and hearts of the youth today….as she said, “malay natin doon pa mangyayari ang ating layunin.” 

Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga, highlighted his topic on “CAB Compliant BBL: A Legitimate Solution to the Bangsamoro Question.”  He gave emphasis on deepening the participants’ understanding on FAB, CAB and BBL.  He stressed that the problem of the Bangsamoro is all about political and economic aspects. 

He said that all the issues were actually given detailed answers in the drafted BBL. For him, it must be the Bangsamoro people who should govern its political and economic governance, it is not the other people. He also suggested to the audience to learn a lesson from those experiences and to conduct workshops to master the art of lobbying. 

As he ended, Prof. Lingga inspired the participants to keep holding on to the signed peace agreements between the two parties (the GPH & MILF) and to continue to assert the call for “No to BLBAR (Diluted BBL) – Yes to BBL (CAB Compliant).”  He continued to say that once BBL is not enacted then, we will not accept any revised BBL otherwise the signed peace agreements specifically the FAB and CAB will be useless.

Among the highlights of the peace summit was the signing of the “Multi-Sectoral Groups” Statement on the Passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law” and the signing of the 10’x12’ Tarpauline with “No to BLBAR (Diluted BBL)-Yes to BBL (CAB Compliant BBL) quotation.  The statement was signed by the representatives of the 62 organizations and the tarpaulin was signed by all the participants.

The ABS CBN attended the peace summit and interviewed one (1) representative of the WOMB and also Congresswoman Sema.


Samal hostages under 'tight' security

From the Philippine Star (Dec 2): Samal hostages under 'tight' security

An image posted on Site Intel Group’s Twitter account shows Abu Sayyaf members with four hostages.

Three foreigners and a Filipina taken from Samal island resort, dubbed as “prize catch” are heavily guarded by five Abu Sayyaf groups in the jungle of Sulu, according to an independent source.

“In other words, the security (of the victims) is quite tight because this a prize catch according to them (Abu Sayyaf group),” said Octavio Dinampo, a state-run college professor and a peace advocate leader in Sulu.

Based on the ground information obtained by Dinampo’s people, the four captives are guarded by men of Abu Sayyaf leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Yasser Igasan, Amamas, Idang Susukan, and Radullan Sahiron.

The gunmen seized Canadian tourists John Ridsdel, 68, and Robert Hall, 50, as well as Norwegian resort manager Kjartan Sekkingstad and Hall’s Filipina girlfriend, Maritess Flor last September 21 from Samal Island off Davao del Norte and taken as hostages in Sulu.

Dinampo said negotiation is ongoing for the release of the four kidnap victims.
He refused to identify the Abu Sayyaf leader to whom his people are negotiating with.

Dinampo, a former kidnap victim, warned that the present negotiation might endanger the safety of the hostages.

“This is very fatal because, remember the last time about the two Malaysian victims when they negotiated for the release of the lady, it already killed the bargaining power and subsequently resulted to the death of Bernard (Then Ted Fen),” Dinampo said.

Dinampo was referring to female Malaysian restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun who was released following payment of ransom while Fen was beheaded after negotiations reportedly failed.

Dinampo said negotiation must include all concerned groups.

He said that while the current 4-billion ransom is “so high and impossible to comply,” this can be trimmed down to a most reasonable demand in exchange for the release of all victims.

Dinampo said other groups could also intervene and “finish down the demand to the nearest minimum.”

“We know they need money and that money should be fast,” Dinampo added.

Dinampo said it is possible for the kidnap victims to be released soon. However, he said that no kidnap victim in Sulu had been released without ransom.

“I do not agree with somebody who said the victim walkout, run, or escape. This proved on the ground that it did not happen,” Dinampo said.

He also said they can negotiate for a lower ransom provided that the demand must be met shortly.

Dinampo added that Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan and his men benefited the most from the release of German couple Dr. Stefan Victor Okonek and Henrike Dielen following payment of ransom last year.


Army asked to apologize for red-tagging journalist

From the Philippine Star (Dec 12): Army asked to apologize for red-tagging journalist

Journalists are asking the military to issue a public apology over its statement supposedly linking a former chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) to the communist movement.

The NUJP said Capt. Patrick Martinez, information officer of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division (ID), has been spreading lies in an attempt to clear his office of any responsibility arising from a statement he issued against Inday Espina-Varona.

NUJP secretary general JB Deveza said the 4th ID quoted last week a statement of Col. Alexander Macario, chief of the 401st Infantry Brigade, which showed the military was reacting to an article written by Varona.

In the article, Varona purportedly accused soldiers of committing arson.

Deveza said Varona was merely sharing on her Facebook account an alert issued by the human rights organization Karapatan.

The 4th ID statement, which said the New People’s Army was responsible for the arson, insinuated that the only way for Varona to obtain the news of the incident was from the arsonists themselves.

In a statement published in a Cagayan de Oro community paper, Martinez denied linking Varona to the communist and claimed he merely issued an advisory in response to what she posted on her social media account.

Martinez said his statement was meant to reach out to the public who read Varona’s posts on social media.


‘Samal captives Abu Sayyaf’s prize catch’

From the Philippine Star (Dec 2): ‘Samal captives Abu Sayyaf’s prize catch’

Five bandits are reportedly tightly guarding Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsel and Robert Hall and Maritess Flor, partner of one of the foreigners. Philstar.com/File

Abu Sayyaf bandits are reportedly regarding the three foreigners and a Filipino woman they seized from a resort on Samal Island off Davao del Norte as their prize catch.

Five bandits are reportedly tightly guarding Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, Canadians John Ridsel and Robert Hall and Maritess Flor, partner of one of the foreigners.

The four were seized from the Holiday Ocean View Resort in Barangay Camudmud on Sept. 21 and were taken to the jungles in Sulu.

“The security is quite tight because this is a prize catch according to them (Abu Sayyaf),” peace advocate Octavio Dinampo said.

Citing ground information obtained by his men, Dinampo said the four hostages are being guarded by the followers of Abu Sayyaf leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan, Yasser Igasan, Amamas, Idang Susukan and Radullan Sahiron.

He said the negotiation for the release of the hostages is ongoing.

Dinampo said the negotiators, whom he refused to identify, are talking to only one Abu faction.

Being a former kidnap victim, he said the negotiation could put the lives of the hostages at risk, as he suggested that the negotiation must include all the factions.

He said while the P4-billion ransom demand is too high and impossible to comply with, this could be trimmed down to a reasonable amount.

Dinampo said no kidnap victim had ever been released in Sulu without payment of ransom.


2 Iraqis spotted near clash site

From The Standard (Dec 1): 2 Iraqis spotted near clash site

TWO Iraqi nationals whose mission in the country remained unknown were spotted in Central Mindanao but the military on Monday said the Ansar Khilafa Philippines that government troops were pursuing relentlessly had no direct links to the Islamic State and were known cattle rustlers.

The two Iraqis, an intelligence source said, were spotted by agents monitoring terrorist activities in the area where an Indonesian jihadist and seven others were killed in a firefight with Marines on Nov. 27 on the outskirts of Palembang town in Sultan Kudarat.

“They [2 Iraqis] were seen adjacent to Palembang town last November 23 but could not be located their present location,” said the source.

The reported presence of the two Iraqis brings to 12 the number of suspected foreign terrorists in the country days before the bloody encounter with the AKP.

The foreigners include three Syrians, spotted somewhere at the Cararao Complex in Lanao province, five Malaysians in Sulu and two Indonesians.

Capt. Joan Petinglay, spokesperson of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said ground troops have launched massive search and destroy operations against the AKP, particularly its leader Mohammad Jaafar Maguid, who had a standing warrant for his arrest.

But Petinglay described the AKP as a “criminal group” with a record of cattle rustling.

“So far, we do not have evidence to say that they are linked to ISIS or that they are a terrorist group,” Petinglay said in a phone interview.

On Thursday, eight men, including Indonesian jihadist Sucipto Ibrahim Ali, were killed in a clash with the military and police who were out to serve arrest warrants against Mohammad Jaafar Sabiwang Maguid, alias Commander Tokboy, the alleged leader of the AKP who was able to escape.

National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia said Sucipto, a member of the Jema’ah Islamiyah, has links with the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur, a terrorist group that has direct ties with ISIS.

Petinglay said after the four-hour gunfight, government troops were able to recover ISIS flags, assorted high-powered firearms, and several identification cards of individuals believed to have been recruited by the AKP.

Petinglay, however, insisted that AKP still cannot be labeled a terrorist group even as she confirmed its recruitment activities.

“There is no confirmation yet that they are a terrorist group. Right now, we consider the AKP as a lawless group,” she added.

At least four areas in Mindanao were being used by the jihadists as training camps, an intelligence source told The Standard.

The training camps are located somewhere in the forested areas in Sarangani, Cararao in Lanao province, Barangay Tanum in Patikul, Sulu and Palembang in Sultan Kudarat, where student recruits are being trained for military operations.

On Monday, the Palace denied reports that Filipinos were  among those included in the most recent abductions by terrorist group Islamic State in war-torn Syria.

“According  to Ambassador  Nestor Padalhin, our charge d’affairs in Syria, [the]  report of ISIS abduction is not true. There are Filipinos apprehended because of expired Iqamas [or permits]. The embassy and legal counsel are  assisting them to sort out the matter,” said Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a text message to the Palace reporters.

The Philippine government’s repatriation program on Filipinos working in Syria continues.

Last month, 31 overseas Filipino workers from Syria returned to the Philippines.
With the latest batch, the total number of Filipinos repatriated from Syria since the unrest started in 2011 is now at 5,668.

ISIS  has abducted 230 residents, including dozens of Christians, from a central Syrian town captured by the extremists on Sunday, a human rights activist said.

Osama Edward, director of the Christian Assyrian Network for Human Rights in Syria, said that about 60 Christians were initially taken but that about half of them were released and had made it to nearby villages.

Qaryatain lies in the middle of a triangle formed by the cities of Homs, Palmyra and Damascus.


Karapatan blasts AFP ‘evil tactics’

From The Standard (Dec 2): Karapatan blasts AFP ‘evil tactics’

Human rights group Karapatan on Tuesday denounced the Aquino administration for failing to solve the murders of 94  victims of extrajudicial killings by alleged paramilitary groups backed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines as of Nov. 30, 2015.

“The regime’s monstrosity, that even children are not spared, speaks of the evil tactics of the counterinsurgency program of BS Aquino, Oplan Bayanihan. The attempt to pit the people in the community against each other ‘through winning the hearts and minds’ is simply sugar-coating its ‘divide and rule’ tactic. In truth, the AFP provides arms to those who can be used against its perceived enemies,” Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said in a statement.

Palabay dared the Aquino administration and security forces to enforce the arrest warrants against brothers Bobby and Loloy Tejero and Margarito Layno, suspects in the kilings of lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur, who were all members of the Magahat-Bagani group, accused of fronting for the 36th Infantry Battalion/4th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army.

“We call on the Aquino regime to enforce the warrant of arrest against the members of the Magahat-Bagani paramilitary groups involved in the September 1 massacre of Alcadev executive director Emerito Samarca and lumad leaders Dionel Campos and Juvello Sinzo,” Palabay said. “It has been three months since the massacre yet, these AFP-backed paramilitary members and the AFP units responsible for the massacre remain scot-free and continue to sow terror in the lumad communities,” Palabay said.

Palabay said that atrocities against indigenous peoples still pervade with the latest victim being a lumad activist Mankombite Mariano, who was shot then hacked last Oct. 27 by the De la Mance paramilitary group in Bukidnon.   

Mariano, 48, of the Talaandig tribe in the town of Cabanglasan, Bukidnon, was on his way to pick some durian fruit along with 16 others, 12 of them are children. Mariano was hit in the left chest and left hip when the Dela Mance group fired at them.

Mariano’s grandson Ryan Olimbayan, 10, was hit in the left leg but was able to run away and hide. However, he saw how Manlumakad Bocalas of the Dela Mance group approached and hacked his grandfather in the head, left shoulder, and left thigh. Olimbayan survived the attack.   

Palabay also reiterated the group’s call to disband all paramilitary groups and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations among its rank.   

Meanwhile, a lawmaker lauded the military for doing “extremely well in winning the hearts and minds of tne people as shown by a Gallup poll.

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas was referrint to the survey of US-based polling firm Gallup highlighting the people’s rising confidence towards the AFP, from a mere 72 percent when President Aquino assumed office in 2010 to 82-85    percent confidence rating    in 2015.

“As a result of internal and external threats, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III embarked on a military modernization effort shortly after taking office in 2010. This effort, along with military and government involvement in reconstruction after massive typhoons in the early 2010s, likely helped spur higher confidence in the military among the Filipino public,” stated the Gallup survey report entitled “Filipinos Give China’s Leadership Low Approval.”

The Gallup report which centered on how Filipinos feel toward  the leadership of China and that of the    United States was based on face-to-face interviews with 1,001 adults in the Philippines, aged 15 and older, conducted May 2015.

Trenas, vice chair of the House committee on good government, said that this Gallup report indicates that more and more Filipinos are beginning to appreciate the government’s effort to modernize the AFP with the acquisition of new military assets that will definitely boost the military’s capability not only in securing the country’s borders but also in conducting internal security operations.


Military hunting foreign jihadists

From The Standard (Dec 2): Military hunting foreign jihadists

ALTHOUGH the military is already conducting operations against 11 suspected foreign terrorists in the country, Armed Forces chief of staff Hernando Iriberri insisted that the local group harboring these foreigners is only “claiming” to have links with international terrorist groups.

“The Armed Forces is trying its best and doing within its power in order to suppress whatever plan by any group wanting to sow violence in the country,” Iriberri said.

“I cannot give you the details of the operations, but rest assured that we’re doing our best to stop or prevent any terrorist act,” the military chief said in a press briefing after reports that these foreigners are training local jihadists in terroristic activities.

An intelligence source earlier told The Standard the jihadist are believed to have established four training camps in Sarangani province, Cararao in Lanao province, Patikul town in Sulu and Palimbang town in Sultan Kudarat.

Iriberri said the military has been aware of reports that several foreign nationals are hiding out with jihadists in Mindanao since last year.

“I think there was a report that there are about 11 operating in Mindanao, but we have not yet confirmed they are here,” the military chief said. 

Iriberri stressed they have not established the nationalities of the 11 foreigners, but he admitted the military believes that one of the extremists killed in Palimbang, Sultan Kudarat on Thursday is indeed Indonesian jihadist Ibrahim Ali Sucipto.

Aside from Sucipto, reliable sources told The Standard at least three Syrians, two Iraqis, five Malaysians and two other Indonesians were also in the country and are believed to have linked up with the Ansar ul-Khilafa Philippines.

Iriberri admitted that Sucipto indeed had links with the Jemaah Islamiyah, but there is no evidence to establish that he or the AKP was directly linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“Based on our assessment, the group merely intends to bolster its standing particularly in their extortion activities,” Iriberri said, noting that the group has been involved in cattle-rustling in the past.  “We have not really received or monitored any direct link between this group and ISIS.” 

National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia had earlier said Sucipto was a member of the Jema ‘ah Islamiyah and had links with the Mujahideen Indonesia Timur, a terrorist group that has direct ties with ISIS.

On Monday, sources said two Iraqi nationals whose mission in the country remained unknown were spotted in Central Mindanao but the military maintained the AKP had no direct links to the ISIS and were known cattle rustlers.

The source said the two Iraqis were spotted in the area where Sxucipt was killed, but they could no longer determine where they are currently located.

The reported presence of the two Iraqis brings to 12 the number of suspected foreign terrorists in the country days before the bloody encounter with the AKP.


AFP to Faeldon group: You’re on your own

From the Malaya Business Insight (Dec 1): AFP to Faeldon group: You’re on your own

A GROUP calling itself Kalayaan Atin Ito is set to begin today its 30-day voyage to Philippine-held territories in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea, and the military said it is on its own.
“As much as possible, we don’t want them to go. We discouraged them but if they will proceed, we’re out of it… They are on their own,” said AFP spokesman Col. Restituto Padilla.

The group, led by former Marine Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, has said its objective is to assert the country’s claim over disputed areas, particularly the Spratly Islands, which is also being claimed by China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Brunei.
The group is aiming to gather 10,000 volunteers, mostly college students, who will be boarding 81 boats for the voyage.

Faeldon or other members of the group could not be reached yesterday. The group’s spokesmen and volunteers on Sunday said the trip, which was originally set to start yesterday, would push through instead today. They said bad weather delayed the flight of some participants from the Visayas.

Based on earlier plans, the group will sail from Puerto Princesa City to the nine Philippine-occupied areas in the Spratly group of islands – Ayungin shoal, Rizal reef, and the Kota, Lawak, Likas, Pag-asa, Parola, and Patag islands. It will take about two days to reach the farthest Philippine-held island which is Parola.

Padilla said the military will not be deploying ships or aircraft to monitor the movement of the group. 
“We will monitor but the AFP will not be directly participating,” said Padilla.

Asked how the military will monitor the voyage, Padilla said this will done through the radio of the boats the group is renting.

“Actually, we told them that there are other and better alternative activities to show support (to the country’s claim). If they sail, what will they do when they’re already there?” asked Padilla.

Asked what the military’s last-minute appeal to the group is, Padilla said: “We already asked them (not to proceed) but they are hard-headed.”

“This is not the best time to travel, the waters are rough. That’s why we requested them if they can reconsider their decision and also appealed to them to consider doing other alternative activities,” he said.

Padilla declined to comment on the voyage’s possible implication on the territorial dispute which is being heard by an arbitral court in the Netherlands. The Philippine government has lodged a complaint before the international arbitral court against China’s nine-dash-line claim.

AFP Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez has opposed the voyage due to the “traitorous sea” at this time of the year. Also, he said it may increase the tension arising from the territorial row and affect the country’s case against China.

The Department of Foreign Affairs would not comment on the trip.

DFA spokesman Charles Jose said other government agencies, such as the defense department, have already made known their opposition to the trip.


Rangers deny trespassing on Burgos home

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 1): Rangers deny trespassing on Burgos home

BRIG. Gen. Eduardo Davalan, commander of the First Scout Ranger Regiment, yesterday belied a claim by the family of Mrs. Edita Burgos that his men trespassed on the family’s compound in Bulacan last week during the regiment’s anniversary celebration.
“They did not go inside the Burgos compound,” said Davalan of his men who conducted road security last Wednesday in line with the 66th anniversary of the FSRR in Camp Tecson, San Miguel town.

“We were expecting a lot of visitors during that day, that is why we did that particular security operation,” he said.

Army spokesman Col. Benjamin Hao said the Burgos compound is about 500 meters to one kilometer from the FSRR headquarters.
The anniversary was attended by various personalities, including Davalan, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos, Army Support Command chief Maj. Gen. Elmer Pabale, and retired Brig. Gen. Felix Brawner, a former FSRR commander.

“The Philippine Army denies the allegations that soldiers went inside the Burgos family compound on Nov. 25 at San Miguel, Bulacan as reported in some newspapers,” said Hao, adding the troops positioned themselves along the Camias-Sibul Road.
Reports had it that Mrs. Burgos’ eldest son, Sonny, approached the soldiers, who were in full battle gear and asked why they trespassed in front of his house. One of the soldiers responded they were merely securing the area.

The soldiers left the compound and repositioned outside after being repeatedly requested by the angry Sonny to get out of the Burgos   premises.

Sonny’s brother, peasant leader Jonas Burgos, was snatched by alleged Army soldiers at a Quezon City mall in April 2007 and remains missing. An Army officer had been charged before a Quezon City for the kidnapping.
Mrs. Burgos was not around the compound but asked the AFP to explain the actuation of its personnel.

Reports quoted Mrs. Burgos as saying the failure of the troops to explain their act creates suspicion and alarm, noting her family’s strained relationship with the military brought about by her son’s kidnapping.

“We are willing to cooperate in any investigation, we are open to any investigation. But definitely, we do not have any ill intention (towards the Burgos family),” Hao said.


‘Kalayaan’ trip delayed anew; no new date set

From Malaya Business Insight (Dec 2): ‘Kalayaan’ trip delayed anew; no new date set

THE planned voyage of the group “Kalayaan Atin Ito” from Puerto Princesa City to Philippine-held territories in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea was delayed anew yesterday.
No new day has been set for the start of the trip.
The 30-day trip of the group led by former Marines captain Nicanor Faeldon was originally set to start last November 30. It was moved to December 1, with volunteers saying the flights of volunteers from the Visayas were delayed because of bad weather conditions.

Yesterday, volunteer Jasper Niel Cruz said the new delay was caused by the re-booking of the flight of some of volunteers from the Visayas. Cruz did not say why the flights had to be re-booked.

Cruz said   volunteers continue to arrive at their headquarters in Tanay, Rizal.

As of yesterday, he said there were around 120 volunteers at their headquarters who will join the voyage. He said they are expecting more volunteers to arrive until Thursday but declined to say how many are they expecting.

The goal was to get some 10,000 volunteers, mostly college students, who would set sail on 81 vessels. The objective is to assert the country’s claim to the areas which are also being claimed by China, Brunei, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam. China has become aggressive in its claims in the South China Sea, with its vessels harassing Filipino fishing boats in the areas.
Last Monday, the military said the group is on its own.
Cruz said they would leave Manila for Palawan on Friday aboard boats but refused to say if these are chartered or public vessels.

Asked why they are not proceeding to the South China Sea areas directly from Manila, he said: “No passenger boats ply that route. Chartered boats are not willing to travel from Manila to Pag-asa (island),” he said.

Pag-asa island is one of the nine territories occupied by Filipino troops. It serves as the seat of government of Kalayaan town in Palawan and hosts hundreds of civilians.

Asked when the voyage to the Philippine-held areas will start, Cruz said, “We still have no exact date when but we’re planning to go Palawan on Friday… We will definitely push through with the voyage.”

“We have 120 volunteers so far at the headquarters, but some are still arriving. There are contingents coming from Zamboanga, Isabela and other provinces,” Cruz said.

As to the boats they will use for the voyage, Cruz said they are not yet sure about the number. “As of now, we are still planning. We are trying our best so that the voyage will push through,” he said.


US to continue following VFA following Pemberton's conviction -embassy

From GMA News (Dec 2): US to continue following VFA following Pemberton's conviction -embassy

The US Embassy in Manila vowed to proceed in compliance with the Visiting Forces Agreement after an Olongapo City court convicted an American participant in a joint military exerices in the Philippines of killing a Filipino transgender woman more than a year ago.

In a short statement released on Tuesday, the embassy withheld further comment as regards the conviction of Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton for homicide in connection with the killing of Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude.

"The Embassy notes that the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 has reached a decision in the case of Lance Corporal Pemberton," the embassy said.

 "We will continue to proceed in full compliance with the Visiting Forces Agreement," it added.

US forces in military exercises in the Philippines are covered by the VFA, which provides among others that American soldiers convicted of crime in the Philippines shall be detained in a facility agreed upon by the governments of the two countries.

The court on Tuesday in sentencing Pemberton to six to 12 years in prison initially committed Pemberton to the New Bilibid Prison, where most of the country's convicts are imprisoned.

It, however, issued another order later in the day ordering Pemberton's imprisonment at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Custodial Center inside Camp Aguinaldo.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the custodial center was the detention facility the Philippine and US governments agreed on as regards Pemberton's imprisonment.

Defense lawyers for Pemberton said they will appeal the guilty verdict for homicide against the US serviceman.

In an interview on Tuesday night, lead defense counsel Rowena Flores said they will file their motion before the Court of Appeals within 15 days.

"Hindi po victory yon dahil ayon po sa evidence dapat talaga mapawalang-sala si Pemberton. Hindi po nila naibigay yung tamang amount ng ebidensiya para sa conviction," Flores said.

She added that Pemberton was not satisfied by the decision, and would appeal the ruling for a full acquittal. 


PHL to UN: End China’s ‘Berlin Wall of the Sea’

From the Business Mirror (Dec 1): PHL to UN: End China’s ‘Berlin Wall of the Sea’

While President Aquino was marshaling global support in Paris for countries most at risk from environmental threats and climate change, the Philippine government—in closing arguments at The Hague—highlighted the damage being caused by China’s sea constructions to one of the most diverse marine environments in the world, asking the United Nations tribunal to restrain it from creating a virtual “Berlin Wall of the Sea,” according to a report sent to Palace reporters by Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte from the Netherlands.

Summing up the Philippines’s position as the Permanent Court of Arbitration closed weeklong hearings on the merits of Manila’s case against Beijing over China’s “excessive” nine-dash-line claim in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said “China’s island building not only undermines regional stability, but also  the rule of law. It is moreover inflicting massive environmental damage on the most diverse marine environment in the world.”

China, del Rosario pointed out, “has intentionally created one of the biggest emerging environmental disasters in the world.” Beyond this, he added, “the stakes are still
greater” than just the Philippines’s interest, or those of other claimants in the West Philippine Sea, 90 percent of which is being claimed by China under the dubious nine-dash line. “The Convention’s ‘Constitution for the Oceans’ is itself at risk,” said del Rosario, referring to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or Unclos.

“No state, no matter how powerful, should be allowed to claim an entire sea as its own and to use force or the threat of force in asserting that claim. No state should be permitted to write and re-write the rules in order to justify its expansionist agenda. If that is allowed, the convention itself would be deemed useless.  Power will have prevailed over reason, and the rule of law would have been rendered meaningless,” del Rosario said.

The Philippine government’s legal team has made it “equally clear that there is no issue of overlapping entitlements beyond 12-mile [limit] in the South China Sea,” del Rosario said.

He recalled how, in the November 26 hearing, “Prof. Bernard Oxman made clear what the practical consequences of deciding that even a single feature in the Spratly Islands generates entitlement beyond 12 M would be. China regards its entitlements in the South China Sea as excluding those of the Philippines and of Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam, as well.”

“It has no regard for the entitlements of other states. China is also more than willing to use force and the threat of force to enforce its perceived entitlements, even where it has none.”

At the closing session of the hearings of the merits, del Rosario’s presentation was preceded by the final arguments made by Manila’s counsel, led by Paul Reichler, working closely with Philippine Solicitor General Florin Hilbay.

Del Rosario also alluded to, in his summation, the key arguments  made by Oxman and Andrew Loewenstein, two experts called in by Manila. Loewenstein earlier presented eight ancient maps, one dating back to the Ming Dynasty, which showed the territory it now insists on claiming was not in its own map. They sought to demolish China’s claim of historic title and rights.

“In our view,” said del Rosario in his summation remarks before the PCA, “the Tribunal’s jurisdiction could not be clearer with respect to declaring that China’s claim to ‘historic rights’ in the areas encompassed by the nine-dash line is inconsistent with Unclos.” He then recalled how Reichler, on the first day of the hearings on Merits on November 24, had shown “that the historic rights that China claims are very different from a claim to ‘historic title’ that might be precluded from jurisdiction under Article 298.”

Oxman and Loewenstein “showed that the regimes of the continental shelf and exclusive economic zone under Unclos, and even general international law, plainly exclude” China’s claim of “historic rights” within the nine-dash line, del Rosario added.

Though he is not a lawyer, del Rosario noted, “in my mind, when the convention says that the Philippines’s rights in its continental shelf exist ipso facto and ab initio, and do not depend on occupation, that means there is no room for China’s claim. And when the convention speaks of an ‘exclusive’ economic zone, I take exclusive to mean exclusive. That means it is ours, and what is ours is ours, not China’s.”

The November 25 presentation by Prof. Philippe Sands showed why the guidance of the UN court is  crucial, the Department of Foreign Affairs chief said. “With an assertiveness that is growing with every passing day, China is preventing us from carrying out even the most basic exploration and exploitation activities in areas where only the Philippines can possibly have rights.”

He said China, by its actions, violates two key commitments by signatories in the preamble to the UN Charter, which are “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained,” and “to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.” China and the Philippines are both among the 51 original signatories to the UN Charter.

Del Rosario explained his accusation that China fails on both counts: it fails, he said, to “respect the obligations arising from treaties, specifically Unclos,” and is also “interfering with the Philippines’s sovereign duty to promote the social progress of our people, and our efforts to achieve a better standard of life for all Filipinos.”

Besides the Filipinos, China’s unilateral actions, “and the atmosphere of intimidation they have created, are also trampling upon the rights and interests of the peoples of Southeast Asia and beyond,” del Rosario pointed out.

Its massive island-building campaign shows its utter disregard for the rights of other states, and for international law, he argued, and noted that China started the island building “a year after the Philippines initiated the arbitration,” underscoring the impunity. “It is intent on changing unilaterally the status quo in the region, imposing China’s illegal nine-dash line claim by fiat and presenting this Tribunal with a fait accompli.”


Pemberton to return to Camp Aguinaldo

From Rappler (Dec 1): Pemberton to return to Camp Aguinaldo

This comes after Pemberton's counsel filed an urgent motion asking the court to direct the US Marine's confinement to the custodial center instead of the New Bilibid Prison   

CONVICTED. In this file photo, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (2-R) is escorted from a courtroom in Olongapo City, on March 24, 2015. Photo by Jun Dumaguing / EPA

CONVICTED. In this file photo, US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton (2-R) is escorted from a courtroom in Olongapo City, on March 24, 2015. Photo by Jun Dumaguing / EPA

US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide of transgender woman Jennifer Laude in a Philippine court on Tuesday, December 1, will be temporarily detained at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial Center instead of the New Bilibid Prison, as earlier ordered by the court.

The new order was issued by the Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 on Tuesday, December 1, following an urgent motion for clarification filed by Pemberton's counsel asking the court to direct his confinement to the AFP custodial center instead.

Hours earlier, the court sentenced Pemberton to 6 to 12 years imprisonment and ordered his temporary detention at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, while the governments of the United States of America and the Philippines clarify provisions of the Philippines-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) over where Pemberton should be incarcerated.

Based on provisions of the agreement, convicted US personnel will be detained in a facility mutually agreed upon by the two countries.

Philippine Commission on Visiting Forces executive director Eduardo Oban Jr manifested in open court that Philippine government authorities "agreed that the accused, when necessary, shall be confined at the AFP Custodial Center, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City and under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections."

Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde ordered Oban to submit within 5 days the memorandum of agreement entered into by the VFA commission and the written agreement between representatives of the United States and the Philippines.

In the meantime, the US serviceman will be temporarily detained at the AFP Custodial Center in Camp Aguinaldo under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections.

Pemberton was found guilty more than a year after he was tagged in the killing of 26-year-old Laude in Olongapo City.

In October 2014, the Filipino transgeder woman was found dead in the bathroom of a motel.

Autopsy reports later said that she died by asphyxiation due to drowning and strangulation.

Witnesses identified Pemberton as the last person seen checking in at the motel with Laude, whom he met at a nearby bar. Pemberton had been on shore leave from his US military ship the night he met Laude.

In August 2015, Pemberton admitted strangling Laude but claimed it was in "self defense."


Fate of BBL depends on Moro people’s assertion – MILF peace negotiator

From MindaNews (Dec 1): Fate of BBL depends on Moro people’s assertion – MILF peace negotiator
The future of the Bangsamoro Basic Law depends on the assertion of the Moro people for their rights, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front said Monday.

“Continue your assertion for the next 1,000 years… Thank you for your trust but this is not for us (peace panel). We’re not expecting rewards in this world. This is for the good of the people and Islam,” Prof. Abhoud Syed Lingga told members of Moro civil society groups in a gathering in Davao City.

“Exhaust all local remedies. If the Supreme Court declares the FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) and CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) unconstitutional, it means we have to ask the international community to intervene,” Lingga said.

Lingga, however, expressed fears radical elements would become more aggressive if Congress fails to pass a version of the BBL that’s acceptable to the MILF.

“The MILF is committed to the peace process but this is not a guarantee because some sectors can just start something,” he said.

He said that while a resumption of violence remains a possibility the peace panels will still be there. “They will not be disbanded until after an exit agreement is signed.”

“There are still mechanisms that can contain violence if ever it recurs. But the MILF would be marginalized if the radicals become more aggressive and their narratives dominate,” he added.

Lingga emphasized the [full] decommissioning of MILF fighters won’t happen without the passage of the BBL.

“Decommissioning is tied to the BBL,” he explained.

Both peace panels have earlier clarified that decommissioning would depend on the progress in the implementation of the terms of the peace agreement.

In June this year, during the initial decommissioning involving 75 high-powered and crew-served weapons as well as 75 MILF fighters, MILF chair Al Haj Ebrahim Murad reiterated that “we will only accept a BBL that is in compliance with the letter and spirit of the FAB and CAB and its annexes.”

The Annex on Normalization to the CAB provides that upon the approval of the BBL, 30 percent of MILF forces and weapons would be decommissioned, 35 percent more in the third phase and the last 35 percent in the fourth phase.

“Passing the law is the responsibility of government. Mamasapano has no relationship with the BBL; it was purely a ceasefire violation as the SAF (Special Action Force) entered without coordination. I can’t understand why the BBL became collateral damage,” Lingga lamented.

Lingga was referring to the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25 this year which left 44 SAF troopers, 17 MILF fighters and five civilians dead. Reports said that aside from the MILF, other armed groups also figured in the encounter.

SAF members were on a mission to get Indonesian bomber Zulkipli bin Hir alias Marwan and his Filipino aide Abdulbasit Usman.

Marwan was reported killed in the raid based on the DNA test done on one of his fingers that was cut off and sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.


Laude family on homicide ruling: We are not content, but at least Pemberton will be jailed

From CNN Philippines (Dec 1): Laude family on homicide ruling: We are not content, but at least Pemberton will be jailed

Julita, Jennifer Laude's mother, breaks down during a press conference minutes after the court read the ruling on December 1, 2015.

Judge Roline M. Ginez-Jabalde of Olongapo Regional Trial Court Branch 74 convicted on Tuesday (December 1) U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton of homicide in the killing of Filipino transgender woman Jennifer Laude, but her family was dismayed over the court's decision.

Laude's mother, Julita, said that she is not content that Pemberton was only sentenced to six to 12 years of imprisonment.

"Hindi ako kuyntento sinabi na anim na taon hanggang sampu. Ganunpaman, ang importante makukulong siya. Hindi masasayang ang ipinaglaban namin. Hindi masasayang ang buhay ng anak ko," she said during a press conference minutes after the court read the ruling.

[Translation: I am not content with the six to 10 years of imprisonment. But what's important is he will be jailed. Our efforts were not put to waste. The death of my child was not put to waste.]

Related: Joseph Scott Pemberton found guilty of homicide

Julita added that she fears that even if they put Pemberton behind bars today, it may not last for long.
"Baka isang araw lang o dalawang araw, makita yang si Pemberton nagsshopping sa U.S. kapag hindi siya nasurrender," she said.

Jennifer's sister, Marilou, echoed her mother's stance on the judge's ruling.

"Natapos na ang laban pero parang hindi pa totally tapos. Hindi kami kuntento sa binigay na hatol. Ang habol namin murder, pero bakit naging homicide?" said Marilou.

[Translation: The fight is over but we are not content with the ruling. We wanted him charged for murder, but why was he charged with homicide?]

Even though they are not content with the decision, the family and their counsel still find solace in the judge's ruling that Pemberton will be detained temporarily in the New Bilibid Prison.

"Sa ngayon napakahirap na, bakit mas nilalamang pa rin ang taga ibang bansa. Ang U.S. kaysa Pilipino. Mas pinapanigan pa rin," added Malou.

"This is not a complete justice, but we have to recognize that there is victory here," said Atty. Virgie Suarez, the family's lawyer.

Suarez commended Judge Ginez-Jabalde for the ruling that Pemberton be jailed in the national prison.

The family said that all they want as of now is to see Pemberton enter the gates of the New Bilibid Prison.


The Hague hearings: Discussions on merits of PH case vs. China come to a close

From CNN Philippines (Dec 1): The Hague hearings: Discussions on merits of PH case vs. China come to a close

The Peace Palace in The Hague, the Netherlands is the seat of the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

On Tuesday (November 30), Presiding Arbitrator Judge Thomas Mensah of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague officially adjourned hearings on the merits of the Philippines' case against China in a territorial dispute over a portion of the South China Sea.

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Over the past week, the Philippine delegation presented its responses to the questions sent by the Arbitral Tribunal. Principal Counsel Paul Reichler, Lawrence Martin, Professors Philippe Sands, Bernard Oxman, Alan Boyle, and Andrew Loewenstein all took turns at the lectern to respond to questions posed by the Tribunal.

The two expert witnesses called by the Philippines, Professors Kent E. Carpenter and Clive Schofield, also responded to questions from the Tribunal regarding matters covered by their specialization.

Among other things, the delegation alleged that China's reclamation activities were destroying the maritime environment. In a previous hearing, a video simulation was shown to demonstrate how a cutter suction dredger — a machine said to be used by China in its construction activities — supposedly destroys the sea bed and transfers sand to a pre-selected area.

Read: The Hague hearings: PH argues China destroying South China Sea ecosystem

"There are those who think the rule of law in international relations does not apply to Great Powers. We reject that view. International law is the great equalizer among States. It allows small countries to stand on an equal footing with more powerful States. Those who think 'might makes right' have it backwards. It is exactly the opposite, in that right makes might," said Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario in his concluding remarks.

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Del Rosario also stressed the international importance of the issue, and pointed out the presence of observers from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

"We believe this arbitration benefits everyone. For China, it will define and clarify its maritime entitlements."

"For the Philippines it will clarify what is ours, specifically our fishing rights, rights to resources and rights to enforce our laws within our EEZ (exclusive economic zone). And for the rest of the international community, it will help ensure peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea," del Rosario added.

Beijing has refused to accept and participate in the proceedings. It prefers to conduct bilateral talks with Manila instead. The Tribunal is expected to rule on the case by next year.


Abu Sayyaf with six hostages spotted in Patikul, Sulu

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 1): Abu Sayyaf with six hostages spotted in Patikul, Sulu

A Muslim legislator and former leader of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Sulu province on Monday urged the military to mount surgical military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sitio Darayan, Barangay Buhangin, Patikul to free six hostages that they now have in their possession.
The reaction of Sulu 1st District Rep. Habib Tupay Loong came after reports indicated that the locals in Sitio Darayan have spotted the ASG and their six hostages in the area.

“The military in the area, when given the chance, should mount surgical military operations immediately against the group to free the hostages and bring them to safety again,” Loong said.

The district representative said the locals reported to him that the consolidated group of Patikul-based ASG headed by Radulan Sahiron, sub-leaders Hajan Sawadjaan, Harula Asbang, Basaron Arok, and Jamiri Jawhari, with some 200 armed men, were seen around 3:35 p.m. last Friday.

The group is now keeping custody of John Ridsdel and Robert Hall, both Canadian; Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian; and  Filipina Marithes “Tess” Flor, whom they kidnapped at Samal Island off Davao City, including Dutchman Ewold Horn and Filipino-Chinese national Yahong Lim Tan.

The locals reported to Loong that the hostages are being guarded by about 200 fully armed ASG and five ASG sub-leaders.

They are closely monitored by Sr. ASG leaders Hatib Hajan Sawadjaan with 85 fully armed members and over-all ASG leader Radulan Sahiron with 45 fully armed close-in followers.

The report, according to Loong, also said that the militants stayed in Darayan for five days along with their hostages.

Meanwhile, the group of Abu Sayyaf leader Yasser Igasan and sub-leaders Angah Adji and Idang Susukan with 90 armed men were also seen by the locals at the border of Sitio Kanjimao and Sitio Darayan in the same barangay.

Accordingly, the group came from Barangay Bukid, Parang, Sulu, and stayed there for two days.

The two groups were seen about 1.5 kilometers apart as they shift locations to escape the ongoing military operations against the group in the municipality.


Government offers PHP65,000 to each rebel returnee

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Government offers PHP65,000 to each rebel returnee

The government offers PHP 65,000 as livelihood to each member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who would surrender, a military commander said on Tuesday.

Lt. Col. Lennon Babilonia, commanding officer of the army’s 8th Infantry Battalion here, said that the financial assistance is availed through the government’s Comprehensive Livelihood Integration Program (CLIP).

He said that the offer is an opportunity for an NPA rebel to start a new chapter of his or her life by engaging a profitable livelihood with minimal investment.

Babilonia said that there are various government line agencies who could be tapped to help the rebel returnees return to normal lives with their families and children.

Aside from the CLIP, the military also has the “Balik Baril” program where surrendered serviceable firearms are paid for in addition to the other cash incentives, he said.

He said that the government’s financial offers are not meant to entice the communist rebels to surrender, but are extended to dramatize the government’s sincerity in welcoming “our lost brothers” back to the fold of the law.


Notorious ASG member arrested in Jolo, Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Notorious ASG member arrested in Jolo, Sulu

Joint military and police operatives have arrested a notorious member of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the province of Sulu, an official announced Tuesday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the arrested ASG member as Mussin Luddin, listed as number nine most wanted person in the province.

Arrojado aid Luddin was arrested around 3:10 p.m. Tuesday in Barangay Busbus, Jolo, Sulu.

Arrojado said Luddin has a standing warrant of arrest for multiple murders and serious physical injuries.

He said Luddin is a follower of the late Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Juhurin Husien.


Army: Soldier nabbed for 'shabu', grenade possession no longer in active status

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Army: Soldier nabbed for 'shabu', grenade possession no longer in active status

Military authorities here announced today, Tuesday, that the alleged soldier nabbed in Midsayap, North Cotabato for illegal drug pushing was no longer connected with the military.

Lt. Colonel Joel Mamon, commander of the military's 40th Infantry Battalion based in Aleosan, North Cotabato, told reporters that the man collared by police authorities for keeping a huge volume of methamphetamine hydrochloride has long been discharged from military service due to absence without official leave.

Mamon said a man the police identified as Corporal Dres Endaila was a former member of 40th IB but is now officially discharged.

Mamon said Endaila has been charged before the provost marshall for theft of government firearms and illegal drug pushing before he was arrested by police in Midsayap.

Armed with arrest warrants, the Midsayap PNP, led by town police director Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, swooped down on the house of Endaila where the raiding team seized shabu, a hand grenade and unlicensed guns.

Mamon said Endaila opted to go on AWOL because he knew pretty well that the military does not tolerate its men engaged in illegal activities like illegal drug pushing and using.

Endaila is now detained at Midsayap PNP local up cell while charges for violation of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act and illegal possession of firearms and explosives are being prepared against him.


86th IB completes retraining program

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): 86th IB completes retraining program

The San Mariano town, Isabela-based 86th Infantry Battalion completed its two month-long retraining program Monday.

The training started Oct. 1 and ended on Nov. 30 at the Division Training School at Camp Melchor F. Dela Cruz, Upi, Gamu, Isabela.

The 86th Infantry Battalion is commanded by Lt. Col. Jose Vladimir Cagara.

The closing ceremony started with the capability demonstration wherein the troops demonstrated troop leading procedure, battle drills, marksmanship and disaster rescue and relief operations.

On this occasion, 5th Infantry Division commander Major Gen. Lysander Suerte awarded medals to deserving personnel.

“We look forward to more accomplishments from you, you have proven your capability and skills during your retraining and I believe that you can translate it in the actual performance of your duties in serving the people," he added.


Solon lauds AFP for winning hearts and minds of Pinoys

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 1): Solon lauds AFP for winning hearts and minds of Pinoys

Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas on Tuesday lauded the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for doing extremely well in winning the hearts and minds of the people.

Trenas cited the survey of US-based polling firm Gallup highlighting the people's rising confidence towards the AFP, from a mere 72% when President Aquino assumed office in 2010 to 82-85% percent confidence rating in 2015.

"As a result of internal and external threats, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III embarked on a military modernization effort shortly after taking office in 2010. This effort, along with military and government involvement in reconstruction after massive typhoons in the early 2010s, likely helped spur higher confidence in the military among the Filipino public," stated the Gallup survey report entitled "Filipinos Give China's Leadership Low Approval."

The Gallup report which centered on how Filipinos feel towards the leadership of China and that of the United States, was based on face-to-face interviews with 1,001 adults in the Philippines, aged 15 and older, conducted May 2015.

Trenas said that this Gallup report indicates that more and more Filipinos are beginning to appreciate the government's effort to modernize the AFP with the acquisition of new military assets that will definitely boost the military's capability not only in securing the country's borders but also in conducting internal security operations.

Trenas said that Defense Secretary Volatire Gazmin and Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri should be credited for the AFP's success restoring the people's trust and confidence to the military because of their commitment in ensuring that the modernization program is finally being realized.

"The AFP is winning the PR war under Secretary Gazmin and General Iriberri. Our people are now seeing the reforms in the AFP. They are beginning to see the difference when we had an Airforce that has nothing but air with no force and now that we actually have modern supersonic jets. They now appreciate the fact that we now have an increasing number of naval ships that can help us secure our maritime borders instead of relying on a worn out BRP Sierra Madre that was grounded at the Ayungin shoal and manned by Marines with nothing but rifles to defend themselves," he said.

"The AFP modernization program was launched two decades ago but it is only now under the Aquino administration that we are actually acquiring equipment to modernize our armed forces. ," Trenas explained.