Saturday, December 5, 2015

Bodies of 2 communists exhumed in Camarines

From Tempo (Dec 6): Bodies of 2 communists exhumed in Camarines

The bodies of two New People’s Army rebels who died in an encounter were exhumed by the Philippine Army and the Philippine National Police at the boundary of Barangay Daguit, Labo and Barangay Tamisan, Jose Panganiban in Camarines Norte last Friday.

Col. Ferozaldo T. Regencia, officer-in-charge of the 49th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, said an NPA returnee identified the bodies as that of “Ka James” and “Ka Omar.” They were exhumed at around 10 p.m.

Regencia said they were buried by their comrades after they were killed in an encounter with the Army in Sitio Namukanan, Barangay Daguit, Labo, last October 31.

Authorities were led to the grave site by the rebel returnee.

Major Marcial M. Lumanga, executive officer of the 49th IB, has coordinated with the PNP Scene-of-the-Crime Operatives for the proper identification of the bodies.

Abu Sayyaf Kidnap: IGP Dismisses Claims Of Another Arrest Made

From the Malaysian (Dec 6): Abu Sayyaf Kidnap: IGP Dismisses Claims Of Another Arrest Made
Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar dismissed claims that a relative of Khadafi Muktadil, one of the suspects in the kidnap of two Malaysians in Sandakan in May had been detained.

"So far, only one person, Khadafi Muktadil has been arrested, at a hospital in the southern Philippines last week after the Abu Sayyaf member was involved in a road accident.

"Another person that has been detained is Saddam Jailani, who was arrested before Khadafi...we believe he was involved in guarding some of the kidnap victims," he said Saturday.

He said the extradition of the two suspects had been acknowledged to the Philippine authorities, and the Foreign Ministry and Attorney General's Chambers would ensure that they would be tried in Malaysia.

Saddam, Khadafi and his elder brother named Mindas are three individuals suspected of being involved in the abduction of a restaurant manager Thien Nyuk Fun and a tourist from Sarawak, Bernard Then Ted Fen at the Ocean King Restaurant in Sandakan.

Thien was released by their captors on Nov 8 while Then was beheaded nine days later.

Meanwhile, Khalid said he was informed by Thai authorities on Friday that the interview to record Xavier Andre Justo's statement relating to the investigation into 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) had been postponed.

"The Thai authorities said they would let me know of the next date for the interview," he said.

Justo who is being detained in Bangkok, Thailand was supposed to give his statement on Tuesday (Dec 8).

In another development, Khalid said the recent series of shootings in Kajang were linked to gangsterism.

He said he had directed police to step up patrols in the area to ease residents' anxiety, while operations to hunt down the group were being carried out aggressively and continuously.

Earlier, he presented prizes to winners of the Royal Malaysian Police endurance competition held in conjunction with the 60th anniversary of the Federal Reserve Unit at Bukit Ekspo, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM).

7 soldiers hurt in road Negros mishap

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 5): 7 soldiers hurt in road Negros mishap

SEVEN members of the 62nd Infantry Battalion were injured in an accident along the national highway of Sitio Bunacan in Barangay Cabungahan, Calatrava town, Negros Occidental, Thursday morning.

Injured were Corporal Egmar Novillo and John Vigo, Private First Class Rex Revillas, Mark Dela Cruz, Marco Regidor, Roldan Cardiente, and Noe Gardose.

The victims were on board a Reo Model M35 Army vehicle driven by Sergeant Warlie Gabriel, 38, who was unhurt.

The victims were rushed to hospitals in Calatrava and San Carlos City.

Police Officer 1 Resty Sevilleno, traffic investigator of Calatrava Municipal Police Station, said the military members were on their way to their camp in Sagay City when the brake of their vehicle malfunctioned.

Gabriel lost control of the vehicle which rammed into a hilly area and turned upside down.

3 killed, 6 hurt in failed arrest of fugitive in Lanao Norte

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Dec 3): 3 killed, 6 hurt in failed arrest of fugitive in Lanao Norte
THREE people died and six others were wounded when a firefight ensued after some 54 members of the police and military failed to serve the warrant of arrest to a prisoner who bolted out from the Lanao Provincial Jail in September this year.

The Lanao del Norte Provincial Police Safety Company (PPSC), Police Regional Intelligence Unit (RIU) and 41st Infantry Battalion of the 5th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army comprised the joint operation conducted in Barangay Piraka in Sultan Naga Dimaporo town in Lanao del Norte on Friday, November, 27.

Police Senior Superintendent Madid Paitao, Lanao del Norte police director, told Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro by phone that there was no coordination from the arresting team with his office.

“Doon sila nag coordinate sa company commander ng PPSC ko parang na-bypass yung office ko,” Paitao said.

Paitao only knew the operation when the team asked for reinforcement.

However, Police Superintendent Gervacio Balmaceda, Police Regional Office spokesperson, denied any lack of coordination since RIU coordinated with Lanao PPSC.

“They coordinated with the police in the locality as part of the standard operating protocols and procedures. The coordination is internal to them,” Balmaceda explained.

Those who died were two female teachers whose van was only passing by Barangay Piraka and an alleged member of the armed group that provided security to the jail escapee, Walid Indie Mandagla.

One of the female teachers is identified as Auxilia Sabaduquia, about 40 years old and a resident in Cagayan de Oro. Her wake is being held in Carbide Village in Iligan City. A bullet was stuck in her heart.

Three others from the van including the driver were also hurt.

“Hindi nakining yung driver ng van at akala siguro nung armed group na isinakay doon yung mga sugatang police at gusto nilang purohan kaya nila nirakrakan yung van,” Balmaceda said.

Balmaceda disclosed that Mandagla found out the arrival of the composite team that gave his armed group time to position and pin down the approaching team resulting to the firefight.

While inside his house, Mandagla held his wife hostage while threatening to lob the grenade he was holding that paved his escape.
Balmaceda said Mandagla has a P500,000 reward for his capture.

He added the team failed to shoot the suspect fearing civilians might be caught in the crossfire as Mandagla's armed group possesses high-powered firearms while shooting indiscriminately.

“Disadvantageous yung grupo at nasa ambush position naman yung armed group kaya panay yung pagpapaputok nila,” Balmaceda said.

Meanwhile, the two police and a soldier who were wounded during the firefight are now in stable condition.

Police Officer 1 (PO1) Arafat Ali and PO1 Craig Ken Leandres of Lanao Norte PPSC and a certain Sergeant Marquez of Alpha Coy of the 41st IB were wounded during the clash. Ali was hit on his left thigh and waist while a bullet hit Leandres’ left chest and Marquez was wounded on his jaw line.

Balmaceda said the armed group was already identified but he refused to name it as the investigation is still ongoing.

“Hinihintay na lang natin yung complainant para makasuhan na itong grupong ito which is malaking grupo talaga kasi kita natin high powered firearms yung gamit,” Balmaceda added.

Military: No presence of Isis in Eastern Mindanao

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 4): Military: No presence of Isis in Eastern Mindanao
A HIGH-ranking officer of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) on Wednesday said that they have not monitored any presence of Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) members in the area of responsibility of Eastmincom.

Brigader General Harold Cabreros, deputy commander of the Eastmincom, said they have not received reports of possible recruitment from the jihadist group in the areas of jurisdiction of Eastmincom.

"Sa ngayon, Isis-free ang ating area. But I cannot make assurance about this," Cabreros told reporters during the recent AFP-PNP press conference held at the Task Force Davao headquarters last Wednesday.

Cabreros assured they are conducting continuous monitoring on any Isis sympathizers and supporters in their area.

"Intensified monitoring ang ginagawa natin ngayon," Cabreros said.

But he clarified that Cabreros cannot determine whether the area of Central Mindanao is also Isis-free, following reports that hundreds of residents in some cities in Central Mindanao have allegedly allied with the terrorist group.

In a report that was aired on GMA's news program "24 Oras", Cotabato City Mayor Japal Gyani Jr. claimed that around 1,000 of his constituents have allied themselves with the international terrorist group.

Gyani also confirmed that most the Isis sympathizers and supporters are from Cotabato City.

Out of the 1,000 Isis sympathizers, at least 30 of them have undergone training under the Ansar Al Khalifah, another group associated with Isis, also tagged in several bombing incidents in Cotabato City in the past weeks.

Cabreros, however, reiterated not to tag or drag the Muslim community with the terrorist group of Isis.

"Majority of the Muslim community is aware of this terrorist group's existence and they won't be swayed easily," Cabreros said.

Eastern Mindanao conflict manageable: Eastmincom

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 4): Eastern Mindanao conflict manageable: Eastmincom 
MAJORITY of the area of Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) is on the verge of normalization except for some areas in Caraga Region, a high ranking officer of Eastmincom said.

Brigader General Harold Cabreros, deputy commander of Eastmincom, said they are already assisting the local government units (LGUS) in majority of these areas for development.

Cabreros said there are still areas in Caraga Region that need to be cleared of insurgents first before declaring it as conflict manageable and ready for development.

"We are now in the process of normalizing areas in our coverage except for some areas in Caraga where the presence of the New People's Army (NPA) are still evident," Cabreros told reporters during the AFP-PNP press conference held at the Task Force Davao headquarters last Wednesday.

Lingig town in Surigao del Sur was recently declared as conflict manageable area and ready for development by Eastmincom last week.

Captain Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson for the 10th Infantry Division (ID), said that military units would still deployed in the areas which were declared as conflict manageable.

"Hindi ibig sabihan na conflict manageable and ready for development ang area ay ipu-pull out na natin ating kasundaluhan. Mananatili pa rin sila sa mga areas kung saan sila na-assign to facilitate the peace and order situation in coordination with the Philippine National Police (PNP)," Batchar said who was also one of the panelists in the media forum.

Cabreros also denied allegation of militarization and insisted they are facilitating the entry of developments of the ancestral domains of the Indigenous People's (IPs) or lumads in the hinterland areas.

"We are supporting the development of their areas," he said. But just this week, more internally displaced persons (IDPs) or lumad bakwits from Compostela Valley province have arrived here in the city after they were allegedly harassment of some groups in their communities.

Batchar said that the group lumads are presently staying in of the barangay gymnasium in Matina.

"No it’s not because of militarization. They were allegedly harassed and threatened by an armed group. Tingin naming mga rebeldeng NPA ang responsable dito," Batchar said.

Lumad leaders, however, have been saying that these armed men are paramilitary forces and not rebels as the military claims.

Air Force takes wing with new fighters, choppers

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 6): Air Force takes wing with new fighters, choppers

DECEMBER 05, 2015 President Benigno S. Aquino III accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin,  Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri and Air Force Chief Jeffrey Delgado inspect the newly acquired air assets at the Villamor Air base in Pasay City saturday, December 5, 2015.  Earlier the President arrived from his working visit to France, Italy and Rome.  (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

President Benigno S. Aquino III accompanied by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff General Hernando Iriberri and Air Force Chief Jeffrey Delgado inspect the newly acquired air assets at the Villamor Air base in Pasay City saturday, December 5, 2015.  (Photo by Benhur Arcayan/Malacanang Photo Bureau)

A renascent Philippine Air Force on Saturday took delivery of six brand new attack helicopters, two fighter jets and an airbus, the initial batch of new air asset purchases worth more than P27 billion.

“This is the renaissance of the Philippine Air Force,” said PAF chief Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado at the turnover ceremony Saturday.

The new aircraft are part of government procurements that were arranged since 2013: P3.4 billion for eight AW-109E attack helicopters from the Italian-based Agusta Westland, P18.9 billion for 12 FA-50PH jets from Korean Aerospace Industries and P5.3 billion for three C295M transport aircraft from the Spanish-based Airbus Defence and Space.

With the turnover of some of these purchases on Saturday at the Villamor Airbase—attended by the newly arrived President Aquino, fresh from his official trip to Europe—the Air Force now has in its possession eight new attack helicopters, two of the jets and two of the airbuses that it has purchased.

The last C295M aircraft is to be delivered on Dec. 10, while the other 10 fighter jets are expected to be delivered by 2017.

It is the first time in 10 years that the Air Force has acquired fighter jets, having retired the last of such aircraft in 2005.

The new air assets will boost territorial defense, internal security operations and disaster response, Air Force officials said.

“These FA-50PH will be employed to secure our land, aerospace and maritime territory, to include our [exclusive economic zone],” Delgado said in a speech.

“It can also be used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, air interdiction and close-air support missions,” Delgado said.

Security ops

Based on background documents furnished the media, the jets are particularly intended for security operations in the West Philippine Sea.

In an interview after the turnover ceremony, PAF chief of air staff Maj. Gen. Galileo Gerald Kintanar Jr. expressed the hope the jets could be deployed to the West Philippine Sea by 2018, after the pilots had been trained and the facilities at Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan were ready.

In the meantime, the new jets are to be based at Clark Air Base, while the Basa Air Base in Pampanga and the Subic Air Base are being repaired to equip them to handle “fighter operations,” Kintanar said.

The AW-109E, meanwhile, will “augment the dwindling number of MD-520MGs, the primary attack helicopters of the Philippine Air Force,” Delgado said.

According to a project description furnished the media, the Philippines’ current attack helicopter fleet is “barely capable of supporting the close air support requirements of the unified commands.”

Kintanar said that by the second half of 2016, some of the new attack helicopters would be deployed in Mindanao.

“That’s where the aircraft will be needed for internal security operations. Hopefully, all of them will be deployed by early 2017,” he said.

“This will be a welcome addition in terms of capabilities. What is more important is that it has more capabilities to speak of. It can carry more ordnance and will be firing munitions with precision, and it can operate at night,” Kintanar said of the AW-109E.

Kintanar said the attack helicopters will be stationed in Sangley, Cavite, while the pilots are undergoing training.

The C295M, meanwhile, will be used for “territorial defense, combat support and disaster response missions of the AFP,” Delgado said.

Kintanar said the C295M is primarily for transport, as it can carry close to 70 personnel as well as heavy cargo.

He said the C295M will have its home base in Mactan, Cebu, for maintenance, but will most likely be ferrying cargo and passengers regularly from Villamor Air Base in Metro Manila.

Of General Intelligence Interest: Social media companies step up battle against militant propaganda

From GMA News (Dec 6): Of General Intelligence Interest: Social media companies step up battle against militant propaganda
Facebook, Google and Twitter are stepping up efforts to combat online propaganda and recruiting by Islamic militants, but the Internet companies are doing it quietly to avoid the perception that they are helping the authorities police the Web.
On Friday, Facebook Inc said it took down a profile that the company believed belonged to San Bernardino shooter Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband is accused of killing 14 people in a mass shooting that the FBI is investigating as an "act of terrorism."
Just a day earlier, the French prime minister and European Commission officials met separately with Facebook, Google , Twitter Inc and other companies to demand faster action on what the commission called "online terrorism incitement and hate speech."
The Internet companies described their policies as straightforward: they ban certain types of content in accordance with their own terms of service, and require court orders to remove or block anything beyond that.
Anyone can report, or flag, content for review and possible removal. But the truth is far more subtle and complicated.
According to former employees, Facebook, Google and Twitter all worry that if they are public about their true level of cooperation with Western law enforcement agencies, they will face endless demands for similar action from countries around the world.
They also fret about being perceived by consumers as being tools of the government. Worse, if the companies spell out exactly how their screening works, they run the risk that technologically savvy militants will learn more about how to beat their systems.
"If they knew what magic sauce went into pushing content into the newsfeed, spammers or whomever would take advantage of that," said a security expert who had worked at both Facebook and Twitter, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.
One of the most significant yet least understood aspects of the propaganda issue is the range of ways in which social media companies deal with government officials.
Facebook, Google and Twitter say they do not treat government complaints differently from citizen complaints, unless the government obtains a court order.
The trio are among a growing number that publish regular transparency reports summarizing the number of formal requests from officials about content on their sites.
But there are workarounds, according to former employees, activists and government officials.
A key one is for officials or their allies to complain that a threat, hate speech or celebration of violence violates the company's terms of service, rather than any law.
Such content can be taken down within hours or minutes, and without the paper trail that would go with a court order.
"It is commonplace for federal authorities to directly contact Twitter and ask for assistance, rather than going through formal channels," said an activist who has helped get numerous accounts disabled.
In the San Bernardino case, Facebook said it took down Malik's profile, established under an alias, for violating its community standards, which prohibit praise or promotion of "acts of terror."
The spokesman said there was pro-Islamic State content on the page but declined to elaborate.
Activists mobilize
Some well-organized online activists have also had success getting social media sites to remove content.
A French-speaking activist using the Twitter alias NageAnon said he helped get rid of thousands of YouTube videos by spreading links of clear cases of policy violations and enlisting other volunteers to report them.
"The more it gets reported, the more it will get reviewed quickly and treated as an urgent case," he said in a Twitter message to Reuters.
A person familiar with YouTube's operations said that company officials tend to quickly review videos that generate a high number of complaints relative to the number of views.
Relying on numbers can lead to other kinds of problems.
Facebook suspended or restricted the accounts of many pro-Western Ukrainians after they were accused of hate speech by multiple Russian-speaking users in what appeared to be a coordinated campaign, said former Facebook security staffer Nick Bilogorskiy, a Ukrainian immigrant who helped some of those accounts win appeals.
He said the complaints have leveled off.
A similar campaign attributed to Vietnamese officials at least temporarily blocked content by government critics, activists said.
Facebook declined to discuss these cases.
What law enforcement, politicians and some activists would really like is for Internet companies to stop banned content from being shared in the first place.
But that would pose a tremendous technological challenge, as well as an enormous policy shift, former executives said.
Some child pornography can be blocked because the technology companies have access to a database that identifies previously known images.
A similar type of system is in place for copyrighted music.
There is no database for videos of violent acts, and the same footage that might violate a social network's terms of service if uploaded by an anonymous militant might pass if it were part of a news broadcast.
Nicole Wong, who previously served as the White House's deputy chief technology officer, said tech companies would be reluctant to create a database of jihadists videos, even if it could be kept current enough to be relevant, for fear that repressive governments would demand such set-ups to pre-screen any content they do not like.
"Technology companies are rightfully cautious because they are global players, and if they build it for one purpose they don't get to say it can't be used for anything else," said Wong, a former Twitter and Google legal executive.
"If you build it, they will come - it will also be used in China to stop dissidents."
Trusted flagger
There have been some formal policy changes. Twitter revised its abuse policy to ban indirect threats of violence, in addition to direct threats, and has dramatically improved its speed for handling abuse requests, a spokesman said.
"Across the board we respond to requests more quickly, and it's safe to say government requests are in that bunch," the spokesman said.
Facebook said it banned this year any content praising terrorists.
Google's YouTube has expanded a little-known "Trusted Flagger" program, allowing groups ranging from a British anti-terror police unit to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization, to flag large numbers of videos as problematic and get immediate action.
A Google spokeswoman declined to say how many trusted flaggers there were, but said the vast majority were individuals chosen based on their past accuracy in identifying content that violated YouTube's policies.
No U.S. government agencies were part of the program, though some non-profit U.S. entities have joined in the past year, she said.
"There's no Wizard of Oz syndrome. We send stuff in and we get an answer," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, head of the Wiesenthal Center's Digital Terrorism and Hate project.

KL gains access to Abu suspects

From The Standard (Dec 6): KL gains access to Abu suspects

THE Philippines has agreed to allow Malaysian police to question two Abu Sayyaf extremists who were arrested last week over their supposed involvement in the beheading of Malaysian engineer Bernard Then, according to Malaysian media.

“In the spirit of partnership, the Philippines side is open to granting access to the Malaysian police to these two suspects once a formal request has been made and the parameters for the access are finalized,” the Malaysian daily The Star quoted the Philippine embassy as saying in a statement.

The Star said Kuala Lumpur and Manila will likely use the bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty because the two nations do not have an extradition treaty.

The report said Malaysian authorities want to question suspected Abu Sayyaf members Kadafi Muktadil and Saddam Jailani, two suspects linked to the beheading of Then, the Sarawakian engineer who was taken by militants from a Sabah restaurant in May.

Muktadil is believed to be involved in the May 14 kidnapping of Then and Thien Nuk Fun, the manager of the Ocean King Seafood Restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah, where they were abducted and held for six months.

On Nov. 8, Thien was released unharmed purportedly after the payment of ransom, but Thien was beheaded just as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit was beginning in Manila on Nov. 18.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military’s Joint Task Group Sulu, said Muktadil, who is also known as Khadaffy Camsa, was arrested while undergoing treatment of motorcycle crash injuries at the Integrated Provincial Hospital in Jolo  Friday morning.

Muktadil has an outstanding warrant of arrest for kidnapping issued by courts in Sandakan, Sabah.

Jailani, on the other hand, was arrested in Kabacan, North Cotabato on Nov. 24 after they were found in possession of an automatic rifle, three pistols and 11 magazines.

Jailani was arrested with two other unidentified Abu Sayyaf members, police said.
The three individuals are currently being detained by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police.

The Abu Sayyaf group is still holding two Canadian tourists and a Norwegian businessman abducted in Mindanao in September, along with a Dutch birdwatcher kidnapped in 2012.

They are also widely believed to be holding an Italian pizza restaurant owner snatched in the region in October.

Meanwhile, an Abu Sayyaf camp in Patikul, Sulu, believed to be under the command of subleader Radullan Sahiron, was bombarded by government forces early on Thursday.

The attacks came following the reported presence of Jemaah Islamiyah militants in Mindanao who were said to have established partnerships with the Abu Sayyaf bandits and Muslim rebel factions with links to the Islamic State.

Arrojado said the camp seized by the troops from the Army’s 32nd Infantry Battalion belonged to the group of one-armed Abu Sayyaf leader Sahiron.

“Troops fired six rounds of 81 mm mortars and six 105 mm shells on the ASG position at midnight [of Thursday], causing undetermined casualties on the side on the enemies,” Arrojado said, adding that the camp could accommodate 300.

New attack AW-109s to be used for ISO operations --PAF

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 6): New attack AW-109s to be used for ISO operations --PAF

All of the six newly-commissioned AgustaWestland AW-109E attack helicopters will be based at Danilo Atienza Air Base in Sangley Point, Cavite and will be utilized in internal security operations (ISO).

This was disclosed by Philippine Air Force chief-of-air staff Major Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar on Saturday.

Danilo Atienza Air Base is the headquarters of the PAF's 15th Strike Wing, the Air Force's primary ground attack unit.

"All (AW-109 attack helicopters) will be stationed in Sangley Point, Cavite and (pilots tasked to operate the aircraft) will undergo training to properly operate the helicopter," Kintanar said.

The helicopters will make their first operational deployment in Mindanao by the second quarter of 2016.

"Some of them will be deployed in Mindanao, that is where the aircraft are needed for ISO and hopefully all of them will be deployed by early 2017. So in 2016, we see the initial deployment of a couple of them by the second quarter and as we train more pilots to operate and fly them, all of them will be flying in deployment areas by 2017," Kintanar said.

The first PAF attack AW-109s were commissioned last Aug. 17 while the remaining six were formally accepted for PAF service on Dec. 5.

The Philippines signed an eight-unit attack AW-109E order with AgustaWestland in 2013 for PhP3.44 billion.

Kintanar said the eight attack AW-109es will remedy the dwindling number of MG-520 attack helicopters primarily used for close-air support missions.

"Definitely it will significantly increase our capability for close-air support as the (PAF) commanding general (Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado) said we only have a dozen of the MG-520 so this is a welcome addition of capabilities. What is important is it has more capabilities to speak of, it will be able to carry more ordnance and it can operate at night," he added.

Davao City village chief survives ambush

From the Sun Star-Davao (Dec 5): Davao City village chief survives ambush

A VILLAGE chieftain survived an ambush staged by suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Barangay Alambre, Toril in Davao City around 1:10 p.m. Saturday.

Davao City Police Office spokesperson Milgrace Driz identified the victim as Generoso Bacalso, chieftain of Daliaon Plantation village.

Chief Inspector Driz said Bacalso and village council member Docris Daug were on their way home onboard a motorcycle when three unidentified armed men shot the victim several times.

Bacalso was hit on his hand and was able to speed off his motorcycle towards a safe place.

Government troopers, who were in the area at that time, were able to shoot the perpetrators, killing one of the suspected rebels.

Driz said that according to reports, the victim earlier accused the NPA rebels over the 10 missing workers of a water project in the barangay.

CAFGU killings ordered probed

From the Manila Bulletin (Dec 5): CAFGU killings ordered probed     

Bacolod City, Negros Occ. – Aside from condemning the murder of Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) members Romualdo Dollente and Rene Villar, of Cauayan town, Negros Occidental, the Philippine Army (PA) will file criminal charges against the perpetrators who have been identified as cadres belonging to the New Peoples Army (NPA).

The CAFGU is an auxiliary force under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The Army will file charges against the perpetrators and urge the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and other human rights advocate groups such as Karapatan to investigate the murder of Dollente and Villar and other victims of the NPA.

According to Maj. Ray Tiongson, head, Dvision Public Affairs Office (DPAO), CAFGU member Dollente, 44, a resident of Brgy. Poblacion, Cauayan who was assigned at the Nara Patrol Base in Cauayan, was shot dead last November 30, 2015 by four armed men using .45 caliber pistols at the opublic market in the barangay.

The other murdered CAFGU member meanwhile, Villar, 47, a resident of Sition Pinamay-an, in Cauayan’s Camalandaan Village, was killed at around 5 a.m., Dec. 1, 2015 at Sitio Lucsohan, the same town, by several men also believed to be members of the NPA.

The PA’s 303rd Infantry Brigade Commander, Col. Francisco Delfin said, “These inhumane acts of the NPA must be condemned to the fullest extent. The NPA’s attack on non-combatants is clearly a violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) which the Communist Party of the Philippines New People’s Army (CPP/NPA) and National Democratic Front (NDF) are signatories of. “Any issue against their victims should be brought to the proper court and let them answer to our proper judicial system,” he stressed.

Delfin also said that the NPAs are resorting to this kind of violence such as killing of innocent civilians just to preserve their unit “because of their continuing defeat in the hands of government forces in the Negros Island Region (NIR).”

The 303rd Brigade, meanwhile, has intensified its security operations in the area, even as it continues to track down the NPA members and has provided support for the family of

The 3rd Infantry Division (ID) has provided the necessary support to the family of Dollente.

Brig. Gen. Reynaldo Mutiangpili, Acting Commander of the PA’s 3rd Infantry Division, said “These unlawful killings and blatant violation by the NPA of human rights and the International Humanitarian Law must be stopped. The democratic government and the Filipino people want a justice system that is not served through killings.”

He said the Army in Western and Central Visayas will continue to collaborate with all stakeholders to bring peace and development to the people through “Bayanihan” especially in the countryside.

Mutiangpili also called on “all stakeholders of peace to convince those deceived by the CPP-NPA to follow the path of peace and condemn those who advocate violence and the use of arms against civilians.”

Protesters demand transfer of Pemberton to Bilibid

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 4): Protesters demand transfer of Pemberton to Bilibid


Denouncing the government’s “special treatment” for US Marine Joseph Scott Pemberton, protesters from different sectors—including students in uniform—on Friday trooped to Camp Aguinaldo where the convicted soldier was detained to demand his full Philippine custody.

Dozens of militants, students, and church workers picketed in front of Gate 2 of the Armed Forces of the Philippines national headquarters along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue-Santolan in Quezon City to demand the transfer of Pemberton to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

The rallyists went on with the demonstration despite the “no permit, no rally” sign hanging near the gate.

Among the groups that participated in the protest were the Promotion of Church People’s Response and groups under Bagong Alyansang Makabayan including Gabriela and Bayan Muna.

International League of Peoples’ Struggle’s Liza Maza, a former Gabriela representative, spoke at the rally.

In an interview with, Maza pointed out the disparity between Pemberton and ordinary Filipino prisoners, who endure dire conditions in local prison and detention facilities.

“‘Yung sarili nating kababayan, wala pang kaso nabubulok ng 20 years in jail. Wala pang trial pero nabubulok sila sa kulungan na masikip, halos pagkain ng hayop ang binibigay pero hindi pinapansin ng gobyerno,” she said.

“Pero ito, isang criminal who is an American citizen, a US soldier who committed a crime and he’s given special treatment. That’s the most absurd thing,” Maza said.

Maza criticized the Department of Justice for “acceding” to US to give comfort to Pemberton, who was convicted of homicide for the death of transgender woman Jennifer Laude in Olongapo last year.

“The Philippine government is spending to renovate and construct a special jail for Pemberton who committed murder and giving him special treatment, special food, 18 policemen guarding his cell and in all the comforts and you call that punishing a person? That’s not how you punish a person that has committed a crime,” she said.

Aquino order?

She said the DOJ only acted on the orders of the executive department and President Benigno Aquino III.

“That’s how lopsided our government is,” Maza said.

On the request of US government, Pemberton’s detention barracks at the Armed Forces Custodial Center will be upgraded and improved.

Pemberton is charged with homicide and will serve a six- to 12-year sentence.


Because of the Visiting Forces Agreement between the Philippines and US, Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said even a convicted American soldier received special treatment.

“Also appalling was the response of the Aquino government via the Department of Justice. The executive sided with the US and supported Pemberton’s return to Camp Aguinaldo. Our own officials are spineless. They did not even stand up to US arrogance. They did not assert our national sovereignty,” Reyes said.

The left-wing group also said the homicide charge meted out to Pemberton was not commensurate to the offense done by the soldier.

Maza said this only highlighted the unfair treatment of the society to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“So just because he did not like that Jennifer was a transgender gives him the right to kill a person? That’s not enough justification to kill someone,” she said.

Bayan also fears that the US may still try to overturn the verdict when it appeals the ruling in a higher court.

Student hurt in Army, NPA firefight

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Student hurt in Army, NPA firefight

A 19-year-old female student was wounded when New People’s Army rebels fired upon Philippine Army soldiers at the Gulay Mayer National High School in Barangay Matagangtang, Placer, Masbate at about 8:45 p.m. Thursday, a belated police report said Saturday.

The report identified the victim as Jesel E. Arreglado, a college student and a resident of the place.

Arreglado was hit on her back by shrapnel when an M203 grenade hit the concrete fence of the house of Rebecca C. Catampongan.

Relatives immediately brought her to the Cataingan District Hospital for medical treatment.

They later transferred the wounded girl to the Masbate Provincial Hospital for further medical attention.

The report said joint elements of Charlie Company, 565th Engineering Battalion, 51st Engineering Brigade and the Alpha Company, 9th Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army, led by 1Lt. Olymer C. Bermudez Jr., were harassed and fired upon by an undetermined number of armed men believed to be NPA members.

The firefight lasted for five minutes that resulted in the wounding of Arreglado.

Cops hunt down suspects in North Cotabato grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Cops hunt down suspects in North Cotabato grenade attack

Police authorities in North Cotabato are hunting down two men who tossed a hand grenade on a motorcycle loaded with passengers in Matalam town on Friday night, police said Saturday.

Five persons were wounded in Barangay Poblacion, Matalam, North Cotabato in yet another grenade attack in the province that happened near the town’s welcome rotunda.

Chief Insp. Sonny Leoncito, Matalam town police chief, said the grenade attack occurred at about 11 p.m. leaving five commuters injured.

Leoncito identified the injured as tricycle driver Macmod Kanakan, 24 of Barangay Kilada, Matalam, Dandan Alam, 28, Datu Dilangalen, 32 of Datu Montawala town in Maguidnanao, Gerardo Peralta Jr of Makilala, North Cotabato and Sharon Diaz, 35 of Matalam.

The victims were on board a tricycle driven by Kanakan. They were rushed to North Cotabato provincial hospital in Kidapawan City.

Police believed Kanakan was the target of two motorcycle riding men who tossed the explosive while the tricycle was heading to the town center.

He told police investigators that shortly before the attack, he noticed two or three motorbikes appeared to be tailing on him while he was driving.

Kanakan told police he had no known enemies and that he could not see any reason why he was subjected to grenade attack.

Matalam is a town adjacent to Kabacan where two weeks ago was rocked by a five grenade attacks, leaving six persons wounded.

The prime suspect in the bombing was arrested by North Cotabato police during a raid. Grenades, hand guns and illegal drugs were seized from Omar Sultan, alias “Gani Manok,” believed to be leader of local gun for hire syndicate.

His companions remained at large.

Leoncito could not say whether or not the suspects in Kabacan grenade attacks were the same group that carried Friday night’s bombing in Matalam.

Gov't security forces, GAs gain headway versus insurgency, says Army top official

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Gov't security forces, GAs gain headway versus insurgency, says Army top official

The Government Security Forces and the various government line agencies in the region had gained headway in addressing and fighting insurgency here in the region, a top Army official said.

Major General Oscar T. Lactao, Commander of the 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division, said at a forum in Butuan City that the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the support units and the various government line agencies in a joint efforts dubbed as “Whole Of Nation Initiative” where all the government line agencies reached out to the remote places, particularly the indigenous people to render the needed basic services.

The concerned agencies, Lactao said, jointly addressed five needed areas such as internal security operations: by the AFP, the PNP and other support units; legal: the Department of Justice, the National Commission for Indigenous People and the Commission of Human Rights; development: the Department of Public Work and Highways, Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, DOST, TESDA and DepED; social protection: DSWD, DOH and PhilHealth and the local government units spearheaded by the DILG.

”We cannot stop insurgency by means of arms only. We need the joint efforts of all agencies, the other sectors and stakeholders,” Lactao said.

Here in Caraga region, because of the whole of the nation initiative (WNI), all parameters set up for the declaration of a local government as peaceful and ready for further development in the region are now realized in some and started taking shape and soon to be fully realized in others, Lactao said.

The joint efforts made it hard for the insurgents to recruit more followers in a certain remote area, reduced their number, firearms, logistics and manpower, lessened the number of affected villages and even the NPA initiated violence (NIVI), claimed Lactao.

As for the “normalization process,” 401st Brigade Commander Col. Alexander Macario said that in his area, Butuan City and Agusan del Norte is ready for the declaration as “peaceful and ready for further development.” Macario said that all the parameters in these areas are present and is just awaiting for the appropriate date. The 403rd Brigade Commander Col. Jesse Alvarez also said that in his area, Camuigin, Misamis Oriental and Bukidnon is also ready for the said declaration, and he had already made consultation and coordination with the local government of the said places, and most probably within the first quarter of next year.

Lactao pointed out that social, political, economic and other developments will not be gained overnight. According to him that as soon as the poverty level in the region will be reduced to just 10% the NPAs “will just become irrelevant,” Lactao said.

The Army official said that Caraga during the 80’s had an 80 percent poverty level. Now, he said it goes down to 30 percent. Education during the same period was at 50 percent. Now, it had risen to 90 percent, Lactao claimed.

Court ruling on Pemberton case will strengthen US-Phl relations, says President Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): Court ruling on Pemberton case will strengthen US-Phl relations, says President Aquino

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said he believes the court ruling on the case of US Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Scott Pemberton will further strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and the US because the two countries both respect rule of law.

In an interview with the Philippine media here on Friday, the President was asked about his thoughts on the Olongapo court ruling and how it will affect the defense ties between the US and the Philippines.

Pemberton has a right to appeal the court ruling, but his conviction also shows that the country's courts can issue fair judgment, the President said.

"The rule of law happens in our country. It is respected by the other state. Therefore, it redounds to both parties’ benefits na hindi unequal," the President said in the interview.

"Mayroon tayong equality among two equally sovereign states na ‘pag may ginawa kang kasalanan, mayroon kang pagagalitan na dapat niyang pagbayaran."

"Ang diretso ‘non, lalong na-enhance ‘yung ating relationship between us and America."

The President also allayed fears that Pemberton will be given special treatment while in detention especially because he is being held at a military camp and not in the national penitentiary.

Pemberton is actually in a facility controlled by the Philippines, inside the facility of the AFP, which is already being manned by Bureau of Corrections personnel.

In effect, this is an extension of the Bilibid and consistent with the agreements under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), he explained.

Under the VFA there is an "agreed upon detention facility" by both sides for military personnel who will be accused or convicted of crimes.

But putting a convicted military personnel like Pemberton in separate facility rather the usual prison cell doesn't mean he is being given special treatment, he said.

"‘Yung mga ganoong klaseng tanong wala namang kasagutang maayos e. Bottom line, bilang sovereign state, may agreement tayo with another sovereign state," he said."Nandiyan na ‘yan, nag-rule ‘yung ating mga korte; una muna, iniharap si Pemberton sa korte, nasentensyahan ng ating korte at babantayan ng ating mga personnel para i-serve ‘yung kanyang sentence."

An Olongapo court on Tuesday ruled that Pemberton is guilty of homicide and not murder over the killing of transgender woman Jennifer Laude.

Pemberton will face imprisonment from six to 12 years and was also ordered by the court to pay PhP50,000 as civil indemnity and PhP4.32 million to Laude's family as damages for loss of earning capacity.

The accused was also ordered to pay PhP155,255 as reimbursement for the wake and burial of the victim, PhP50,000 for moral damages and PhP30,000 for exemplary damages.

Under the VFA, the confinement or detention of a US personnel shall be carried out in facilities agreed on by US and Filipino authorities, the court noted in its ruling.

President Aquino leads turnover, blessing of new air assets

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): President Aquino leads turnover, blessing of new air assets

Fresh from a three-state European trip, President Benigno S. Aquino III on Saturday led the formal turnover and blessing of newly acquired air assets at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

President Aquino witnessed the turnover of aircraft documents by the respective manufacturers to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and to Philippine Air Force commanding general, Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado.

During the turnover and blessing ceremony, President Aquino poured champagne on the nose of the new air assets, which include two FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets, one C-295 medium lift aircraft, and six AgustaWestland AW-109E attack helicopters.

In his message, PAF chief Lt. General Delgado said the new acquisitions are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

The two FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets are the first of the 12 fighter jets bought from the Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. The two aircrafts arrived from South Korea last week. The 10 fighter jets are expected to be delivered by 2017.

The FA-50PH lead-in fighter jets, Delgado said, shall be employed to secure our land, airspace, and maritime territory, including the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the Philippines.

“It can also be used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions, as well as air interdiction and close air support missions,” the PAF chief said.

The latest C-295 medium lift aircraft is the second delivery from Airbus Defence and Space. The first aircraft arrived last March while the third delivery is expected to arrive before the year ends.

“With the acquisition of three MLA, the airlift requirement of the AFP could be addressed by having an additional aircraft dedicated to operate in any combat support, territorial defense and disaster response missions of the AFP as well as providing support to national development,” he said.

Meanwhile, the six AW-109E attack helicopters complete the eight-helicopter deal with AgustaWestland of Italy. The first two AW-109E attack choppers were delivered and accepted last August.

Lt. Gen. Delgado said these AW-109E attack choppers are projected to augment the dwindling number of MD-520MG, the primary attack helicopter of the Philippine Air Force.

“All these are good indications that we are steady on our course towards realizing our vision of a professional and competent Air Force responsive to national security and development as embodied in our Flight Plan 2028,” he said.

President Aquino, together with the Philippine delegation, arrived in Manila on Saturday afternoon following his successful visit to France, Italy and the Vatican City.

BBL passage is inevitable, says President Aquino

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 5): BBL passage is inevitable, says President Aquino

President Aquino expressed high hopes that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be passed into law within or even after his administration which will pave the way for attaining a lasting peace in Mindanao.

In an interview Friday with the Philippine press here, the President was asked about his views on the delays being encountered by the BBL in Congress especially now that the country gears towards election next year. The lack of quorum is still a problem in Congress.

The President said he doesn't think that there is a deliberate attempt to destroy the chances of the BBL being passed in the legislature although he said there are some who are trying to derail it.

"At the end of the day, next year we face elections," he said in the interview.

"Even at the point that we were negotiating, I did say that the earlier we craft this proposed measure, and farther away from both the budget and next year’s elections, the better the chances of passing it in a timely manner and enabling the transition authority to demonstrate the difference of their governance."

Despite the snag in Congress, he expressed confidence that there is still a very strong push that can be made but passing the BBL should happen sooner rather than later.

"I think the movement towards having the BBL in its present form or with a little modification is really just a question of time. It will happen," he said.

"Pero ulitin ko nga, hindi naman personal kong monumento ito... at sigurado akong mangyayari ito. Kailan mangyayari? Sana sa panahon ko, pero kung hindi, palagay ko inevitable na magkakaroon tayo ng ganyang batas."

The Mindanao peace process was also a major topic during his meeting with Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi last Wednesday.

He briefed the Italian leaders on his administration's thrust towards economic inclusivity to discourage rebellion and extremism in the south.

The Philippines doesn't have the problem of radicalization that exists in other parts of the world although it has concerns on the bandit group Abu Sayyaf in Mindanao.

According to the President, he also emphasized the ongoing confidence-building partnership between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) aimed at seeking a real solution to the Muslim separatism.

Both the Italian President and the Prime Minister expressed their support for the Philippines' pursuit of peace, the President said.

The EU has been supporting the International Monitoring Team and is also a participant in the Mindanao Trust Fund.

The Italian government in particular is assisting the Philippines through the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program.

There are about 53,000 beneficiary families in the provinces of Sarangani and Sultan Kudarat in Region 12 and Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in ARMM under the program, the President said.

To date, the initiative has irrigated 1,500 hectares of lands, installed 80 potable water systems, and built 10 units of warehouse and 54,000 square meters multipurpose drying pavements.

Also, 35,000 hectares of farms were cultivated through crop diversification, and capacitated 25 local government units (LGUs) in planning and implementation.

The Italian development program also trained 87 farmer organizations on agri-enterprise development, he noted.

Abu Sayyaf member Saddam believed to be behind resort murder

From AsiaOne (Dec 5): Abu Sayyaf member Saddam believed to be behind resort murder

Captured Abu Sayyaf member Saddam Jelani is believed to be behind the murder of Taiwanese national Lim Min Hsu during the 2013 kidnapping raid at Pom Pom Resort in Semporna.

Saddam, described as an aggressive member of the Abu Sayyaf group, was reportedly part of the cross-border kidnap gang involved in at least two of the seven kidnap cases in the east coast of Sabah since November 2013.

He is known to work closely with Abu Sayyaf militants aligned to sub-commander Alhabsy Misaya in carrying out kidnap-for-ransom raids in southern Philippines and Sabah.

Filipino intelligence experts suspect that Saddam worked with the notorious Muktadil brothers in the Nov 15, 2013 daring raid during which they killed the 57-year-old Lim and abducted his wife Chang Ah Wei, 58, at the luxury resort.

Saddam is also suspected to be involved in the armed raid and abduction of Chinese tourist Gao Huayun, 29, and Filipina resort worker Marcy Darawan, 40, from the Singamata Reef Resort in April 2014.

Saddam was arrested late last month by Philippines security ­forces on suspicion of being involved with the Abu Sayyaf group that beheaded electrical engineer Bernard Then, 39, on Nov 17.

Filipino investigators are still trying to piece together Saddam's involvement in the beheading though they suspect that he was more involved in cross-border raids into Sabah's east coast.

They believe that Saddam's arrest together with the capture of Kadafi - one of the Muktadil brothers - would help in weakening one of Malaysia's most wanted cross-border, kidnap-for-ransom groups linked to the militant Abu Sayyaf.

Kadafi (whose twin brother Mindas was shot dead in Jolo in May this year) is in Philippines police custody.

He was arrested in a Jolo hospital after he suffered head injuries in an accident on Nov 27.

Philippines officials are continuing their hunt for the two other Muktadil brothers - Nikson and Badong @ Adzmil.

Saddam is under investigation for murder charges while Kadafi is being probed for possession of an illegal firearm.

Malaysian police are using diplomatic channels to obtain permission to question the duo on crimes committed in Sabah.

Kadafi was also linked to the Pom Pom kidnapping and the kidnapping of fish farm owner Chan Sai Chiun, 32, from Perak and his Filipino worker Maslan, 20, in Kunak on June 16, 2014.

Peace Process In Mindanao, The Philippines: Evolution And Lessons Learned – Analysis

From the Eurasia Review (Dec 4): Peace Process In Mindanao, The Philippines: Evolution And Lessons Learned – Analysis (By Kristian Herbolzheimer)

Map of the Philippines with Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, highlighted. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

Map of the Philippines with Sultan Kudarat, Mindanao, highlighted. Source: Wikipedia Commons.

The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (2014) marks the first significant peace agreement worldwide in ten years and has become an inevitable reference for any other contemporary peace process.

On March 27th 2014 the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed an agreement to end an armed conflict that had started in 1969, caused more than 120,000 deaths and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is the main peace agreement to be signed worldwide since the agreement that stopped the armed conflict in Nepal in 2006.

Every peace agreement addresses a particular context and conflict. However, the Mindanao process is now a crucial reference for other peace processes, given that it is the most recent.

Of the 59 armed conflicts that have ended in the last 30 years, 44 concluded with peace agreements (Fisas, 2015: 16). The social, academic, and institutional capacities to analyse these processes and strengthen peacebuilding policies have thrived in parallel (Human Security Report Project, 2012). However, no peace process has been implemented without some difficulties. For this reason all peace processes learn from previous experiences, while innovating in their own practices and contributing overall to international experience of peacebuilding. The Mindanao peace process learned lessons from the experiences of South Sudan, Aceh (Indonesia) and Northern Ireland, among others. Currently, other countries affected by internal conflicts such as Myanmar, Thailand and Turkey are analysing the Mindanao peace agreement with considerable interest.

This report analyses the keys that allowed the parties to reach an agreement and the challenges facing the Philippines in terms of implementation. The report targets an international audience and aims to provide reflections that might be useful for other peace processes.

After introducing the context and development of the Mindanao peace process, the report analyses the actions and initiatives that allowed negotiations to make progress for 17 years and the innovations brought about by this process in areas such as public participation. Particular attention is devoted to the security-related agreements (including arms decommissioning by the insurgency) and to the mechanisms accompanying and verifying the agreement’s implementation.


The Philippines is an archipelago comprising around 7,000 islands. Remarkable among them are the largest one, Luzon (where the capital, Manila, is situated) and the second largest, Mindanao. Together with Timor-Leste, this is the only Asian country with a majority Christian popula- tion. Around 100 million people live in a territory covering 300,000 km2. The system of government is presidential and executive power is limited to a single term of six years.

The country owes its name to King Philip II of Spain, in whose service Magellan was sailing around the world when he arrived at the archipelago in 1521. After being a Spanish colony for three centuries, in 1898 the Philippines came under U.S. administration. A detail with far-reaching consequences is that Spain never took real control of the island of Mindanao. Islam had arrived three centuries before Magellan, and the Spanish found a well- consolidated system of governance, mainly through the sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu.

In 1946 the Philippines was the first Asian country to gain independence without an armed struggle (one year before India). It was also a pioneer in putting an end to a despotic regime by peaceful means when a non-violent people’s revolution overthrew the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. In 2001 a second people’s power revolution brought the government of Joseph Estrada – who was accused of corruption – to an end. Even so, the developments that have occurred over nearly 30 years of democracy have been slow. Politics continues to be the feud of a few families who perpetuate themselves in power from generation to generation. Relatives of deposed presidents remain active in politics and enjoy significant support.

Some indicators show advances in poverty reduction, literacy and employment, but neighbouring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand are far ahead in this regard (UNDP, 2015). The persistence of social inequalities feeds the discourse of the New People’s Army, a Maoist- inspired insurgency that has been active since 1968.

Apart from the armed conflict in Mindanao and the communist insurgency, in recent years the Philippines has also suffered the onslaught of cells of Islamist terrorists linked to transnational networks.

Roots and humanitarian consequences of the conflict

The Muslim population of Mindanao has experienced harassment and discrimination since the times of the Spanish colony (1565-1898). The U.S. colonial administration (1898-1945) initiated a process of land entitlement that privileged Christian settlers coming from other islands of the archipelago. This policy of land dispossession continued after independence, coupled with government policies aimed at the assimilation of the Muslim minority. Currently, the Muslim population is in the majority only in the western part of Mindanao and in the adjacent islands that proliferate up to the borders of Malaysia and Indonesia. Ten per cent of the population in this area are non-Islamised indigenous peoples.

In 1968 an alleged massacre of Muslim army recruits in Manila led to the creation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), which started an armed struggle for independence. In 1996 the government and the MNLF signed a peace agreement that granted autonomy to provinces with a Muslim majority. The group demobilised as a result, but a breakaway subgroup, the Islamic Front, rejected the terms of the agreement. However, this insurgency’s preference for a negotiated solution led to the signing of a bilateral ceasefire in 1997 and the start of formal peace negotiations in 1999.

The armed conflict in Mindanao has caused around 120,000 deaths, especially in the 1970s. In the 21st century it has been a low-intensity conflict, but continuous instability has generated a phenomenon of multiple displacements: thousands of people flee when there are skirmishes – which sometimes involve other armed actors – and return to their homes once the situation is stabilised. In 2008 the last political crisis in the peace process triggered the displacement of around 500,000 people in a few weeks in what became the most severe humanitarian crisis in the world at the time.

Structure and development of the negotiations

The negotiations lasted for 17 years (1997-2014) and were initially conducted in the Philippines and without mediation. Since 1999 the negotiating teams comprised five plenipotentiary members, with the support of a technical team of around ten people (a variable number). The intensity and duration of the negotiations oscillated over the years. In the last period (2009-14) the parties met in 26 negotiation rounds each lasting between three and five days.

The negotiations were halted on three occasions, triggering new armed confrontations in 2000, 2003 and 2008. After each one the parties agreed on new mechanisms designed to strengthen the negotiations infrastructure. In 2001 the Malaysian government accepted the request of the government of the Philippines to host and facilitate the negotiations. In 2004 the parties agreed to create an International Monitoring Team (IMT) to verify the ceasefire, comprising 50 unarmed members of the armed forces of Malaysia, Libya and Brunei cantoned in five cities in the conflict area. In 2009 this team was expanded and strengthened: two officers of the Norwegian army reinforced the security component, while the European Union (EU) provided two experts in human rights, international humanitarian law and humanitarian response. In parallel, the IMT incorporated a Civilian Protection Component comprising one international and three local non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

In 2009 the negotiating parties agreed to create an International Contact Group (ICG) to act as observers at the negotiations and advise the parties and the facilitator.1

The ICG is formed by four countries (Britain, Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia), together with four international NGOs (Conciliation Resources, the Community of Sant Egidio, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and Muhammadiyah).

Peace agreements

The negotiations started in 1997 with an agreement on a general cessation of hostilities. In the Tripoli Agreement (2001) the parties defined a negotiation agenda with three main elements: security (which had already been agreed on in 2001); humanitarian response, rehabilitation and development (agreed in 2002); and ancestral territories (2008).

In October 2012 the parties finally adopted the Framework Agreement establishing a roadmap for the transition. In the following 15 months the parties concluded the annexes on transitional modalities (February 2013), revenue generation and wealth sharing (July 2013), power sharing (December 2013), and normalisation (January 2014). Finally, in March 2014 the Comprehensive Agreement was signed in the Presidential Palace.

The central axis of the agreement is the establishment of a new self-governing entity called Bangsamoro, which will replace the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao after a transition led by the MILF. The agreement envisages a process of reform in the new autonomous region that will replace the presidential system that governs the rest of the country with a parliamentary one. The objective is to promote the emergence of programmatic political parties.

The government understands that the insurgency must be part of the solution and must assume the corresponding responsibilities. To this end it has encouraged the transformation of the insurgency into a political movement able to take part in local and regional elections.

In terms of endorsement, the peace agreement must be transformed into a law that will regulate the Statute of Autonomy, called the Bangsamoro Basic Law. After parliamentary approval, a plebiscite will be held in the conflict-affected areas. This plebiscite will also serve to determine the territorial extent of the autonomous region, since the municipalities bordering the current autonomous community will have the option to join the new entity.

Constitutional reform is a contentious issue. The MILF insists on the need for reform in order to consolidate the agreements. However, the government has been reluctant to initiate a process that could be tedious and could open a “Pandora’s box”. But doubts about some of the agree- ments’ compliance with the constitution suggest that such a reform process might eventually be discussed. Beyond the agreement with the MILF, the peace process in Mindanao could contribute to opening a national debate about the territorial organisation of the country, since important sectors in other regions are demanding broad constitutional reform along federal lines.

Roadmap of the transition

A controversial issue during the negotiations was the expected time line for implementation. The MILF suggested a six-year period, while the government refused to make commitments beyond its presidential term (2010-16), since the Philippine political system lacks guarantees in terms of the continuity of public policies from one administration to the next. Finally, the MILF accepted this argument and the 2012 Framework Agreement defined a roadmap for implementation with a time horizon of the presidential elections of May 2016.

The key implementation institutions are as follows:

The Transition Commission comprises 15 people (seven appointed by each side, under an MILF chairperson). Its main mission was the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which was submitted to Congress for approval in September 2014.

The Transitional Authority will be headed by the MILF and will comprise representatives of various social, political and economic actors from the autonomous region. It will be formally set up after the Basic Law is enacted by Congress. Its mission will be to pilot the transformation of the existing autonomous institutions until the holding of elections for a new autonomous government (initially expected in May 2016, although they might need to be postponed).

The Third Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) is in charge of monitoring the implementation of the agreements. It comprises five members (two representatives of national NGOs, two of international NGOs, and a former EU ambassador to the Philippines who acts as coordinator). The TPMT issues periodic reports for both parties, and public reports twice a year. But its most relevant role – and probably the most controversial – will be to certify the end of the implementation process, which, in turn, conditions the MILF decommissioning process.

Despite the fact that both parties are represented in all the relevant organs, the negotiating teams remain an organ of last resort to resolve potential problems or disagreements. Malaysia – the facilitator country – and the ICG continue to provide support at the request of the parties.

The challenge of normalisation

Apart from enacting the Bangsamoro Basic law and adapting the various regional institutions to the new Statute of Autonomy, the main objective of the transitional period is the consolidation of normalisation, which is understood as “a process whereby communities can achieve their desired quality of life, which includes the pursuit of sustainable livelihood and political participation within a peaceful deliberative society”.2 The concept of normalisation includes what is termed disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration in other contexts, as well as additional elements aimed at the consolidation of peace and human security.

The process of normalisation has four essential elements:

The first is socioeconomic development programmes for conflict-affected areas. The MILF-led Bangsamoro Development Agency will be in charge of coordination, together with the Sajahatra presidential programme of immediate relief to improve health conditions, education and development.

Confidence-building measures include two key processes. Firstly, development programmes will be aimed specifically at MILF members and their relatives in their six main camps. Secondly, the government will commit to using amnesties, pardons, and other available mechanisms to resolve the cases of people accused or convicted of actions and crimes related to the Mindanao armed conflict.3 It is worth noting that neither the MILF nor the government security forces face pending accusations of gross human rights violations or crimes against humanity.

In matters of transitional justice and reconciliation, a three-person team is mandated to elaborate a methodological proposal about how to address the legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro (Muslim) people, correct historical injustices, and address human rights violations, including marginalisation due to land dispossession. The team can also propose programmes and measures to promote reconciliation between conflict-affected communities and heal the physical, mental and spiritual wounds caused by the conflict. This mandate includes the proposal of measures to guarantee non-repetition.

The sensitive issue of security has four elements. The first is reform of the police, since responsibility for public order will be given to a new police force for the Bangsamoro that will be civilian in character and accountable to the communities it serves. The negotiating parties commissioned the Independent Commission on Policing to draft a report with recommendations in this regard. This report was delivered in April 2015.

Secondly, the parties agreed to carry out a joint programme to identify and dismantle “private” armed groups (paramilitaries), which are often controlled by mayors and governors. The operational criteria for this task are still awaiting development.

The third element is arms decommissioning by the MILF. This process is defined as the activities aimed at facilitating the transition of the insurgent forces to a productive civilian life. An Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) is in charge of registering the MILF’s members and weapons, and planning the phases of collecting, transporting and storing weapons.4 There is as yet no agreement among the parties on the final destination of the weapons decommissioned by the insurgency, and they will be temporarily stockpiled in containers and subject to joint supervision by the insurgency and security forces under international coordination.

The MILF has committed to total decommissioning to be undertaken in phases conditioned on the implementation of the agreements, as described in the following table:

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 11.43.36 PM

The Agreement on Normalisation established a time frame of two years to complete the process.

The fourth and last security-related element affects the armed forces, who have committed to carrying out a repositioning to help facilitate peace and coexistence. This repositioning will be based on a joint evaluation of the security conditions.

Other normalisation-related elements

A Joint Normalisation Committee will coordinate the overall normalisation process. In terms of financing, the government will assume the responsibility to supply the funds necessary to sustain the process, while the MILF has the right to procure and manage additional funds.

A Joint Peace and Security Committee has overall responsibility for the supervision of all security-related matters of normalization until the full deployment of the new Bangsamoro Police. On the operative side, Joint Peace and Security Teams (comprising members of the armed forces, police and the MILF) will handle law and order in the areas agreed by the parties. In parallel, the existing mechanisms for ceasefire verification will remain operative (the Coordination Committee for the Cessation of Hostilities, the Ad Hoc Joint Action Group (AHJAG) to combat crime in MILF areas and the IMT).

The Agreement on Normalisation does not refer to the MILF cantonments because this point was discussed in the framework of the 1997 bilateral ceasefire agreement. After intense debates the parties identified major and satellite camps where the combatants and their relatives had

a stable presence and formed rural communities. There was no registry of members of these communities or their weapons, and free individual movement is allowed.

The agreement also established that any movement of troops – by the insurgency or security forces – should be coordinated with the other party.

A special agreement (the AHJAG) allows the police to maintain public order in MILF-controlled areas in prior coordination with the MILF. The state performs its administrative duties under normal conditions in the whole territory.

A difference from the Final Agreement reached with the MNLF in 1996 is that this agreement does not provide for the integration of MILF combatants into the security forces, except for the new autonomous police.

In terms of de-mining, in 2002 the MILF adhered to the Geneva Call against the use of anti-personnel mines. In 2010 the government and MILF agreed to allow the Philippines Campaign against Land Mines to conduct civic education and the identification and destruction of unexploded ordnance.

Enabling factors for the peace process

First and foremost, both parties have long acknowledged the limits of armed confrontation. In 2000 the government broke off the ceasefire to launch “all-out-war”, which led to the MILF’s military defeat in just four months. However, both the government and the security forces realised that the root causes of the problem were not resolved and that the Muslim population retained an unbroken determination to fight for its identity and dignity. From the perspective of the insurgency, since its creation the MILF recognised that armed victory was not possible, and instead focused on the primacy of peace negotiations.

More recently, the reformist government of Benigno Aquino promoted a change in the country’s military doctrine (AFP, 2010) in the framework of its commitment to resolve internal armed conflicts and deal with the growing geopolitical challenges resulting from China’s emergence as

a regional power. The new objective is no longer to “win the war”, but to “win the peace”, and the new doctrine emphasises the establishment of relations of trust with the communities affected by the conflict. The overall goal is the liberation of human and financial resources previously devoted to the internal confrontation in order to be able to better deal with external threats.

Interestingly, the parties have also understood the limits of peace negotiations. Both the government and the insurgency admit that the reforms needed to acknowledge and respect the way of life and history of the Muslim and indigenous peoples demand a wide national consensus. The problems that hampered the implementation of past peace agreements highlight the need for a collective ownership of the peace process and its results by society. For this reason both parties have engaged in intensive consultations with the social, academic, political and institutional sectors with the double objective of strengthening the process with the inputs of those who support it, and listening and responding to the concerns of those who are more sceptical and potentially opposed to the negotiations. On several occasions the MILF has gathered hundreds of thousands of followers in huge conventions to ratify the decisions of its Central Committee.

Apart from these consultation processes, the government and the insurgency have included civil society members in their teams and on several occasions have invited civil society delegates and members of Congress to witness the negotiations. The parties also agreed on the participation of civil society in several of the bodies involved in the implementation of the agreements, notably the TPMT.

These institutional efforts towards inclusion are largely a response to the pressures of an organised civil society that has relentlessly promoted peacebuilding initiatives parallel to the negotiations. These initiatives include the creation of peace zones, inter-religious dialogues, capacity-building in the theory and practice of conflict resolution, the consolidation of citizen agendas, lobbying the armed actors, and the creation of ceasefire monitoring mechanisms such as the Bantay Ceasefire or the Civil Protection Component of the IMT.

Some additional elements help explain the progress of the negotiations:

The parties’ pragmatism and realism: The insurgency abandoned the objective of total independence in the context of negotiations, while the country’s various governments have all recognised the existence of the root causes of the conflict and committed to a solution based on dialogue.

Confidence-building measures: The lengthy bilateral ceasefire contributed to building trust between the insurgency and military and police commanders, including at the personal level. This trust is currently the main guarantor that there will be no relapse into armed confrontation. Furthermore, both parties recognise international humanitarian law and international human rights treaties (on the recruitment of child soldiers, the prohibition of the use of anti-personnel mines, etc.). These factors have been fundamental in reducing the levels of confrontation and generating trust between the parties and civil society.

Strengthening of capacities: Both the government and the MILF are well aware of the problems that emerged during the implementation of the 1996 agreement with the MNLF. The parties therefore decided early on to strengthen the capacity of the MILF to manage civil institutions: in 2002 they created the Bangsamoro Development Agency and in 2009 the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute, both led by the MILF.

Additional highlights

The main peacebuilding developments in the Philippines emerged during the presidency of Fidel Ramos (1992-98). Ramos was a retired general who had been chief of staff of the armed forces during the Marcos dictatorship as well as during the first democratic government, i.e. of President Corazón Aquino. In 1992 Ramos promoted an ambitious process of national dialogue (Coronel-Ferrer, 2002) for the drawing up of a national peace policy. The result of this consultation was a conceptual framework that identified the structural problems affecting the country and defined “six paths to peace”. The conceptual framework emphasises negotiations between the government and the insurgency as one of the paths to peace, but states that a peace process must necessarily be wider and more inclusive than mere peace negotiations. This innovative national peace policy has coexisted for years in contrast to (and in conflict with) a classic national security doctrine focused on defeating the internal enemy.

In 2003 a crisis in negotiations and the return of violent incidents mobilised civil society to promote an initiative of its own to verify the ceasefire, known as the Bantay Ceasefire. The network was composed of around 200 voluntary members and, despite the financial constraints it faced, became an essential complement to the formal verification commissions, receiving the appreciation of both parties.

An additional element is the outstanding role played by women in the peace process. The Philippines is possibly the country with the best implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security. Teresita Deles holds the position of presidential adviser for peace, while Miriam Coronel was the first woman to lead a negotiating team that eventually signed a peace agreement. Women have also led the legal advi- sory teams of both the government and the MILF. Similar to other contexts, women in the Philippines have a wide presence and leadership role in civil society, with Muslim and indigenous women playing a fundamental role (Herbolzheimer, 2013; Conciliation Resources, 2015).

Implementation challenges

In spite of the positive developments, the implementation of the peace agreement is facing multiple obstacles.

The first limiting factor is time. During the negotiation of the Framework Agreement (2012) the government man- aged to link the transitional period to the end of the presidential term in May 2016. But the negotiating teams have not been able to keep up the agreed pace of negotia- tion and implementation. As a result, the parties will have to agree to an extension of the implementation period.

Responsibility for the delay is shared. On the one hand, the insurgency lacks enough qualified and reliable/trustworthy personnel to take on all the responsibilities derived from the transition. On the other hand, the government negotiating team has to deal with limited buy-in on both the agreement and its implementation by other sectors of the bureaucracy.

At the same time Congress has been dragging its feet in enacting the peace agreements into law, while the judiciary must still assess whether the agreements comply with the constitution. There is a high risk that these two state institutions will raise issues that may further block the implementation of the agreements that have been signed.

Furthermore, in the Philippines, prejudice against Muslims – a heritage from the colonial period – still runs deep.

With less than a year remaining until the country’s presidential and legislative elections (May 2016), some prominent politicians and media outlets are turning to populist rhetoric to antagonise public opinion against the peace process.

Even among better-intentioned political actors, a lack of knowledge about the social, political, and cultural reality of the insurgency in particular and the Muslim population in general results in faulty diagnoses and mistaken responses. Successive governments have associated the Moro problem with poverty and economic marginalisation, thus neglecting the relevance of identity and parity of esteem. On its part, the insurgency has been unable to articulate a political discourse that the whole country can understand and endorse. Only after patient dialogue have the peace negotiators deconstructed some of these erroneous imaginaries, but both the Christian and Muslim sectors of society still distrust each other.

The main security-related problem is the proliferation of arms and armed groups. One reason is that holding weapons is legal in the Philippines. Related to this, successive governments have failed in their attempts to disband paramilitary groups run by local politicians. There is also a proliferation of additional armed groups, which can be classified into three categories: an MILF breakaway group that is sceptical about the government’s political commitment (the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters); extremist cells linked to international extremist violence (Abu Sayyaf, Jemaa Islamiyah); and ordinary criminal organisations.

Other difficulties are inherent to any process of transition from war to peace. Apart from political will, the government needs to prove its capacity to transform words into deeds, which has historically proved to be a challenge. In parallel, the insurgency needs a radical paradigm shift from a semi-clandestine military structure to a social and political movement – a terrain in which it has limited experience and where to some extent it is at a disadvantage compared to more established political actors.

Lessons learned for other peace processes

Each peace process responds to a specific conflict that emerges for concrete reasons and in concrete circum- stances (social, political, cultural and temporal). However, comparative analysis is fundamental in every peace process. Some of the lessons from the Philippines could be relevant to other contexts:

Peace is not a product, but a process. The transformative capacity of a peace agreement and its sustainability over time depend on its legitimacy, which in turn is dependent on the extent that social, political and economic actors feel a sense of ownership of the deliberative process leading to the peace agreements and their implementation.

Negotiations are just one among multiple paths to peace. In parallel to the negotiations between the government and the insurgency, other dialogue processes must build or restore relations between sectors of society that have been or remained divided during the armed conflict. This is essential to achieving the social, political, economic and cultural transformations needed to overcome a protracted armed conflict.

The current context demands efforts to facilitate the participation of historically excluded sectors such as women, victims and ethnic communities. Including these sectors greatly contributes to raising the international legitimacy of a peace process.

The crises that emerge during negotiations are also opportunities to improve the mechanisms that support the talks.

A government involved in a peace process must include the legislature and take into account the perceptions of the judiciary before the signing of an agreement. Constitutional amendments are the best guarantee to consolidate a country’s structural transformation.

Giving an insurgency the opportunity to transform itself into a political movement free of coercion and threats is the best guarantee of the non-recurrence of armed conflict. Such an evolution can be enhanced by preventing the potential social and political isolation of the insurgency, as well as agreeing on transitional measures for the political participation of the insurgency before it can compete on equal terms with more established political movements.

The decommissioning of arms by the insurgency, and the repositioning and reform of the government security sector are gradual and interdependent processes that contribute to confidence-building. The insurgency is aware that the hard-earned legitimacy it has gained as a peace actor can be lost with just one mistake in the management of its weapons, or if it does not allow the state to be fully present and perform its social, administrative and public order duties in the whole territory.

The implementation of a peace agreement can be as difficult as the negotiations. In the Philippines, this has been managed through the creation of hybrid agreement implementation bodies that allow the joint and complementary work of national and international, civil and military, institutional and civil society actors.

The implementation of a peace agreement implies an asymmetric power relationship that is favourable to the state. If an insurgent movement does not comply with the agreement, it loses legitimacy. If the state does not comply, the insurgency has limited means to apply pressure because a return to armed conflict is not an option.

The international community plays a decisive role in accompanying and supporting the peace process. But its role is always secondary and does not replace national leadership. The agenda for negotiations, the time line, the design of consultations, the terms of reference for international support, and other fundamental elements of a peace process are exclusively in the hands of national actors.

About the author:

[Kristian Herbolzheimer
has more than 15 years of experience in peacebuilding affairs, first as the director of the Colombia Programme at the School for a Culture of Peace in Barcelona, and since 2009 as director of the Colombia and Philippines programmes at Conciliation Resources. As a member of the Mindanao International Contact Group he has acted as adviser to the peace negotiations between the government of the Philippines and the MILF insurgency for six years. He has a master’s in international peace studies and is a qualified agricultural engineer.]


This article was published by NOREF as December 2015 Report (PDF)


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1 For more information about this innovative ICG, see <>

2 See the Annex on Normalisation (2014), which is included in this report’s list of references.

3 There is no official data about the numbers of detainees, but they are not large.

4 In the Philippines it is legal to bear arms, and disarmament affects mainly illegal arms. Legal weapons will need to be registered.

[The Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre/Norsk Ressurssenter for Fredsbygging (NOREF) is an independent foundation established to integrate knowledge, experience, and critical reflection into and thereby strengthen peacebuilding policy and practice. NOREF supports the development of competence and resources for peacebuilding efforts in the fields of conflict prevention, conflict resolution and post-conflict rehabilitation, as well as mediation and humanitarian actors in conflict-affected areas. In order to provide resources on peacebuilding, mediation and humanitarian issues to the Norwegian and the international peacebuilding community, the centre collaborates with a wide network of researchers, policymakers and practitioners.]