Friday, December 11, 2015

Rallyists call for justice

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 11): Rallyists call for justice

About 3,000 protesters marched to the Bacolod Public Plaza to call for justice for the victims of human rights violations on the 67 th commemoration of Human Rights Day yesterday.

The protest called for a stop to Oplan Bayanihan, the counter-insurgency program of the government under President Benigno Aquino III, that has violated the rights of the people in a number of forms, Clarizza Dagatan, Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People's Rights regional coordinator, said.

The protest began at 1 p.m. at two points: the Negros Occidental Capitol Lagoon and Sacred Heart Shrine-Lupit Church, with contingents from the Northern Negros Human Rights Advocates, the September 21 Movement, Bayan-Negros, National Federation of Sugar Workers, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas-Negros, and Promotion of Church and People's Response, she said.

Dagatan said the cultural groups and sectors gathered also to call for the release of the political prisoners, and for attention to the cases of human rights violations in Negros.

She said the “Terminator” effigy, based on the foreign motion picture, shows the protesters' view of the president as a terminator of the rights of the people.

She also said the effigy illustrates how the president has been a puppet of the U.S. government, making him the number one violator of human rights through the AFP, and even by failing the serve the hungry and impoverished Filipinos.*

Authorities hunt lawless elements in NGCP tower bombing

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 12): Authorities hunt lawless elements in NGCP tower bombing

Police and military authorities in North Cotabato are eyeing two groups believed to be behind the toppling of a steel tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) Thursday night, official said Saturday.

Supt. Alexander Tagum, North Cotabato police chief, said the bombing of NGCP Tower No. 68 in Barangay Pagangan, Aleosan, North Cotabato could be the handiwork of outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and extortion gangs.

A series of arrests were carried out by the police and military in North Cotabato that dismantled a crime syndicate with the arrest of suspected bombers.

The two groups were suspected of mulcting the power distribution firm.

Covert and overt operations continue to neutralize the group, police and military leaders said.

Following a 15-hour power interruption caused by the bombing, electricity was back in Cotabato Light and Power Company franchise area and nearby provinces Friday through an alternate source.

An NGCP advisory issued at 12:30 p.m. Friday said: "At 12 noon, NGCP energized the Tacurong-Sultan Kudarat 69kV line to serve as alternate route of the bombed Kibawe-Sultan Kudarat 138kV line to serve Cotabato Light, Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco) and Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco)."

It added: "Reports show that the alternate line failed to energize this (Friday) morning due to vegetation hanging on the lines causing a permanent fault. NGCP has since cleared the vegetation. NGCP continues to assess the damages of the bombed tower along the Kibawe-Sultan Kudarat line."

The 9:28 p.m. Thursday attack in Aleosan caused a 15-hour blackout in dozens of towns in the adjoining North Cotabato and Maguindanao provinces and in all of the 37 barangays in Cotabato City.

Affected areas were six towns in North Cotabato, the whole of Maguindanao and Cotabato City.

Melfrance Bambi Capulong, speaking for the NGCP Southern Mindanao, said today's scheduled preventive maintenance of Kabacan-Sultan Kudarat sub station was cancelled.

Capulong said the schedule was to clear trees and branches along the power lines and would have shut off power from 6 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturday. "But due to the bombing incident, NGCP field workers will attend to the toppled tower," she said.

She said NGCP is doing its best to prevent similar incident in the future and improve power distribution activities to better serve its clients.

Despite the restored direct power from NGCP, Cotabato Light communications officer Arlene Hepiga said a 2-3 hours power rotational brownout has to be implemented in its franchise area.

She said the power provided by the Tacurong substation is still not enough to energized all areas of the Cotabato Light franchise which includes the city and parts of Sultan Kudarat and Datu Odin Sinsuat, both in Maguindanao.

Thursday night’s bombing of NGCP tower was the sixth since January.

Mayor Vicente Suropia of Aleosan has called on all village officials and the residents to help secure NGCP transmission lines.

He said if this problem continues, it has impact on the town's economy and peace and order.

Suropia urged his constituents to report immediately to authorities any suspicious men roaming near transmission towers to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Gov't forces hunting down suspects in bombing of NGCP tower in North Cotabato

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): Gov't forces hunting down suspects in bombing of NGCP tower in North Cotabato

Military and police authorities are hunting down gunmen who set off an improvised explosive device in North Cotabato that sent total blackout in Cotabato City and parts of North Cotabato and Maguindanao, officials said.

Improvised explosive devices were set off at the foot of Steel Tower No. 68 of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Barangay Pagangan, Aleosan, North Cotabato at about 9:28 p.m. Thursday, according to Inspector Jun Napat, Aleosan town police chief.

As a result, total blackout, which started at 9:28 p.m. Thursday until 10:30 a.m. Friday, hit North Cotabato's first district and the whole of Maguindanao.

Melfrance Bambi Capulong, NGCP spokesperson for southern Mindanao, confirmed the bombing and said NGCP field personnel are now in the area to check on the status of the toppled steel tower.

Elements of the 40th Infantry Battalion and Aleosan PNP are following up a lead about the where about of the suspects.

Quoting a report from NGCP, Arlene Hepiga of Cotabato Light said the Kibawe-Simuay 138 KV line was still out as of 10:30 a.m. Friday.

She said NGCP tried shifting of loads for Cotabato Light via Tacurong Sub-Station since 10 p.m. but all three attempts failed overnight.

She said per NGCP notice, linemen were checking on the Salvo-Datu Piang station to Barangay Capiton in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao which tripped during the shifting of power loads.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but previous bombings of NGCP towers were blamed on outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Police in North Cotabato are also looking at a crime syndicate whose leaders were arrested last week as possible suspects in Thursday night's bombing of NGCP tower No. 68 as a form of retaliatory attacks against government forces and installations.

The more than 13-hour power outage in Cotabato City occurred while the city residents have been dealing with rotational brownout of 2 to 3 hours a day for the past two weeks.

NPA rebels ransack cock farm, abduct RPA-ABB member in Negros town

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): NPA rebels ransack cock farm, abduct RPA-ABB member in Negros town

A cock farm in La Castellana, Negros Occidental was ransacked Thursday night by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, who also abducted a member of a breakaway rebel group during the raid.

The cock farm, located in Hacienda Jamandre, Barangay Robles, is owned by Rene Europa alias Maco, a leader of the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB), which has signed peace agreement with the national government.

Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said Friday about 50 NPA members entered the property of Europa, who evaded the abduction.

His fellow RPA-ABB member Cirilo Bagnuran, however, is now in the custody of the NPA.

Some of the rebels were Cebuano-speaking, Nacion said.

Meanwhile, Col. Francisco Delfin, commander of the Army’s 303rd Infantry Brigade, said they estimated only 18 armed men were involved in the raid.

Delfin said the NPA rebels took three high-powered rifles, including one attached to an M203 grenade launcher, a sub machine gun, and a short firearm.

He confirmed that Bagnuran was indeed abducted, after he and Europa fought the NPA attackers.

Bullet shells of M16 and AK 47 assault rifles, and four spent casings of M203 grenade launcher were recovered.

Delfin said that a V-150 armed personnel carrier is backing up the combined Army and police troopers, who are pursuing the NPA rebels.

Military holds ‘human rights’ symposium, militants hold rally denouncing rights violation

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): Military holds ‘human rights’ symposium, militants hold rally denouncing rights violation

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- As the various militant organizations hold rally to denounce alleged human rights violations, the military also held a symposium on human rights here.

Both occasions were held to commemorate the 67th National Human Rights Day held every from December 4 to 10, the last day being the International Human Rights Day, in consonance to the United Nations declaration of the commemoration of the World Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, 1948.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) held at the symposium on “Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” to the officers and men of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division in celebration of the Human Rights Day last Wednesday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, the spokesperson of the Army 4 Infantry Division, said that the CHR resource person reminded the government troopers as the protector of the Filipino people.

As the protector of the people, the military is expected to exemplify the character and image that the people would respect and trust, Martinez said.

On the contrary, the militant Karapatan, a human rights advocate in Northern Mindanao, has accused the military of killing the “Lumads” (indigenous people) in the region in the guise of accusing the Lumad as supporters of the communist insurgency movement.

The militant organizations are seeking justice in the separate killings of 10 Lumads in Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental during the months of March, August, and September this year.

The military has denied the accusations and insisted that the death of the Lumad took place after a legitimate encounter with the government troops in various areas in Northern Mindanao this year.

Php 63-M for conflict affected areas in Northern Mindanao eyed

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): Php 63-M for conflict affected areas in Northern Mindanao eyed

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is eyeing the release of Php 63.5 million for conflict affected areas in Northern Mindanao next year.

Ulysses P. Ortega, the DA’s regional spokesperson, said on Friday that the program falls under the Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (PAMANA) project of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).

He said that the DA, being the implementing agency of the PAMANA, supervises the implementation of the projects that consist mostly of livelihood and construction of farm-to-market-roads in conflict areas.

Ortega said it is the OPAPP that identifies the conflict areas and also make the proposed plans and the release of the fund for the project while the DA is only an implementing agency.

As of December 11, 2015, the OPAPP has already identified 157 projects in strife torn areas in the region, 23 has been implemented, 94 on-going, while 40 other projects have yet to start.

Ortega said that these projects are mostly located in the communities of the provinces of Lanao Del Norte and Bukidnon, all form part of the Northern Mindanao region.

“The strengthening of economic activities in conflict communities would impact on the on-going peace initiatives in these areas,” Ortega said.

Police apply to extradite Bernard Then's killers from Philippines

From the New Straits Times (Dec 11): Police apply to extradite Bernard Then's killers from Philippines

KUALA LUMPUR: Police have submitted an application to the Philippine authorities to extradite two members of the Sulu Island-based Abu Sayyaf in connection with the kidnapping-cum-murder of Malaysian engineer Bernard Then.

The suspects were detained last Friday in the island.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the application to extradite the two men was made through the Attorney-General's Chambers and the Foreign Ministry.

"We are waiting for the next process. We have sufficient evidence to charge them in our court," he told a press conference after attending a fire drill at the Federal Police Headquarters in Bukit Aman here today.

On whether the Malaysian police had received Then's DNA test results, Khalid said they were still waiting.

The two suspects were believed to be linked to the murder of Then, 39, on Nov 17.

International media had reported that Then, from Sarawak, was beheaded in a secluded location, believed to be a stronghold of Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines.

The engineer was kidnapped by a group of armed men at a seafood restaurant in Sandakan, Sabah, last May 15, together with restaurant manager, Thein Nyuk Fun, 50.

However, Thien was released by the kidnappers last Nov 8.

In another development, Khalid said police had asked United States-based hotelier Charles Morais - brother of murdered senior deputy public prosecutor Anthony Kevin Morais - to hand over a pen-drive which he claimed contained information pertaining to his brother's killing.

"I have always told him (Charles), (that) he just needed to send the pen-drive (to us) for further investigations, if he refused to meet us.

"Don't blame the police if we are unable to take any action," he said.

The body of Anthony Kevin, 55, was found in a drum filled with concrete near Persiaran Subang Mewah in Subang Jaya near here on Sept 16, after he was reported missing on Sept 4.

He was last seen leaving his condominium in Menara Duta here for work at the Attorney-General's Office in Putrajaya.

Outreach program serves upland Abra community

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 11): Outreach program serves upland Abra community

TUBO, Abra  – Residents of this upland town gladly welcomed agencies and non-government organization who conducted inter-agency outreach program in Poblacion, Tubo last December 4.

Governor Eustaquio P. Bersamin led the contingent composed of representatives from the Provincial Health Office, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and Abra Cadua Group.

The agencies provided medical and dental services, livelihood assistance, seeds and livestock dispersal, animal vaccination and deworming, blood-typing and kilatis-kutis, free massage, haircut, manicure and pedicure, as well as gift giving   and blanket distribution by Abra Cadua.

Bersamin said they chose Tubo for the outreach program because the place embodies a very loving and tranquil community. He commended Tubo for maintaining zero crime rate over the years. He said that respect for life, love for peace and respect for the elders and indigenous peace-making system like ‘Dap-ay’ contributed to peace in Tubo.

Dap-ay, he said is a very good example of peace-making system wherein feuds are settled with the “panglakayen” or elders.

The governor announced that   P2 million will be allotted  from the provincial government funds to augment for the road construction project of Tubo and P5M for the construction of farm-to-market roads.

 Not only peace will be known in Tubo but with the roads nearing completion, development will come as well, said Bersamin.

Mayor Guilbert Ballangan welcomed and thanked Governor Bersamin and all the visitors who have travelled high terrains to deliver goods and services and spread peace in their place.
The activity was part of the Abra Week for Peace 2015 celebration.

Army man nabbed for guns

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 12): Army man nabbed for guns

A 30-YEAR-OLD soldier was arrested after he was caught in possession of unlicensed  firearms in barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.

Pedro Rocososa Ignacio, a member of the Philippine Army assigned in Zamboanga del Sur, failed to prove that the guns seized from his possession were licensed, police said.

The man was arrested after a concerned citizen alerted the Guadalupe police that an armed man was spotted in sitio Englis.

Seized from Ignacio were a .45 caliber pistol, a .22 caliber revolver and a 9mm sub-machine gun.

In barangay Duljo-Fatima, Roser Luarez Ong, 42, was arrested for carrying a .38 caliber revolver last Thursday afternoon.

Police said Duljo-Fatima barangay Captain Elmer Abella sought the help of the police after Ong was seen brandishing a gun.

Two indigenous missionaries slain in Philippines

From Mission News Network (Dec 11): Two indigenous missionaries slain in Philippines

 Feliciano Lasawang, "Pastor Cris," at home a month before he was killed. (Photo and caption courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)

Feliciano Lasawang, “Pastor Cris,” at home a month before he was killed. (Photo and caption courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)
An indigenous missionary working in a remote mountain area of the southern Philippines and his 24-year-old son were shot dead as they bathed in a river on Nov. 27. A communist death squad is suspected.

Feliciano Lasawang, known locally as Pastor Cris, and his son, Darwin, were bathing at 6 a.m. in the Culaman River, where they used to conduct baptisms, when gunmen believed to be members of a death squad of the Communist Party of the Philippines fired on them. Pastor Lasawang was 50.

“Pastor Cris was shot three times in the body and his son once only in the face, and they died on the spot,” said a native ministry leader on the island of Mindanao, citing relatives in the pastor’s nearby parsonage who heard the gunshots.

The executions took place on the country’s southern-most island near Culaman, north of Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur Province (technically Davao Occidental Province, but still governed by Davao del Sur until elections in 2016).

Pastor Lasawang leaves behind his wife and 7 surviving children, the youngest two girls, ages 13 and 15. The father and son were evangelists and led food and medical relief efforts in an area of southern Mindanao where both Islamic insurgents and Communist Party rebels pose dangers. The ministry leader said the communist militants are hostile to Christians because church growth hampers their cause.

“We become a hindrance to their mass recruitment of young people, to adults and children joining in their armed struggle against the government,” he said. “In the areas where we have a ministry, a church and pastor, they become unfruitful, and they hate that.”

Pastor Lasawang and his son, natives of the B’laan tribe, were reaching predominantly-Muslim Kalagan and Sama tribes, as well as ethnic Manobo. The church they planted had sent out three evangelists to share Christ with other little-reached peoples in remote areas, the director said. Though Islamic extremists also are active in the area, local Christians believe communist militants pose the greater threat.

The church is stunned and in mourning, but the director said he expects the killings will help it to mature rather than wither.

“They were in shock at first when I talked to them, and they are in pain, but also with hope about what the Lord is going to do next,” he said. “My heart is in deep sorrow knowing how they died, yet glorifying God, knowing where Pastor Chris and his son have gone.”

Pastor Lasawang prays at baby dedication. (Photo and caption courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)

Pastor Lasawang prays at a baby dedication. (Photo and caption courtesy of Christian Aid Mission)

Normally the ministry director visits churches he’s planted once a month, but due to the dangers in Davao del Sur, he had been unable to visit Pastor Lasawang and his team for two years. The pastor had said the director could visit in October, however, if he exercised vigilance. After a long, rough trip over tortuous mountain paths and across rivers, the director on Oct. 27 was able to visit with the pastor he had discipled and trained.

“We arrived with the ministry’s medical team to distribute medicines and challenge them to keep on fighting the good fight of faith,” he said. “It was a short but very sweet fellowship. We talked about the future of the work, how we are going to accommodate the increasing attendance at church and continue the discipleship and evangelism program.”

Pastor Lasawang asked the director to return in December to speak at the church, dedicate children and baptize new believers.

“We both had lively plans, full of hopes, accelerating desires to serve the Servant King,” he said, “not knowing in God’s plan that that would be our last fellowship here on earth.”

Since 2006, the ministry has worked in areas where both Islamist and communist terrorists are present, as the director and his indigenous teams reach pockets where foreign missionaries would be quickly kidnapped or killed. The ministry has planted 18 house churches, 37 churches with buildings and 11 underground fellowships.

The ministry team trains church leaders and evangelists at their center at an undisclosed site in Mindanao and also visits remote areas to conduct week-long trainings. Those wishing to help the church now bereft of two of its leaders can give toward the living expenses of the surviving family members through Christian Aid Mission. They can also contribute toward the costs of young people in the fellowship who wish to attend Bible school and toward the expenses of former communists who now serve as evangelists, the ministry director said.

“We hate communism, but we love the communists, just like we love the Muslims but hate Mohammedanism,” he said. “Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. We will continue to proclaim the gospel and build biblically-sound churches anywhere the Holy Spirit of God leads us.”

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an article posted directly from the website of Christian Aid Mission. Click here to learn more about how this ministry is assisting persecuted believers around the world.]

Mindanao critical areas to be secured by separatist rebs, soldiers, policemen

From the Business Mirror (Dec 12): Mindanao critical areas to be secured by separatist rebs, soldiers, policemen

SECURITY teams, composed of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) guerrillas, soldiers and policemen, will soon be deployed in some areas in Mindanao for security duties.
This, as the government started training MILF fighters, policemen and soldiers for joint peace and order and security operations in “critical areas” in the south under what is called as the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs).
The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Panel (Opapp) said an 11-day training program was recently concluded for a JPST, wherein its members also interacted with each other through their daily “conditioning exercises, classroom discussions and team-building activities.” The training, which was attended by 75 MILF guerrillas, 34 soldiers and 39 policemen, was jointly supervised by the government and the MILF.
“Because of this training, we were able to hear the side of our former enemies in the battleground and we realized that they really do not seek for more discord. They also desire for peace here in Mindanao,” Opapp said in a statement, quoting a member of the team, 2Lt. Emmanuel Ferrer, as saying.
“If it were possible for former enemies to achieve unity in working together toward a common goal, then peace in our country is also possible,” Ferrer added.
The Opapp said those who underwent the training would be deployed as members of JPSTs in critical areas, as “agreed upon by both the government and the MILF to maintain peace and order.”
The JPSTs are part of the transitional mechanisms that will take key roles in the security aspect of the normalization process and will primarily be concerned with transforming conflict-affected areas into peaceful and sustainable communities.
“We play an important role in providing security during the decommissioning of the MILF combatants back to their desired quality of life, in tracking of private armed groups, and in documenting any activities transpiring in our area of deployment,” said Insp. Edwin Tono about his soon to be deployment as JPST member.

Update: 2 NPA rebels, 1 soldier killed in southern Negros clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): Update: 2 NPA rebels, 1 soldier killed in southern Negros clash

Two members of the New People’s Army (PNA) and a soldier were killed while another government trooper was injured during a clash Friday morning at Sitio Bugtong Lubi, Barangay Damutan in Hinobaan, the southernmost town of Negros Occidental.

The Army’s 3rd Infantry Division identified the slain soldier as Corporal Jonathan Egaran.

The wounded, Corporal Melbin Legaspi, is being treated in a hospital and is now in stable condition.

The identities of the two slain rebels are still being determined as of press time, the 3rd ID said.

Col. Francisco Delfin, commander of 303rd Infantry Brigade which now has jurisdiction of the Negros Island Region, said the encounter took place while a team of 79th Infantry Battalion troopers led by Second Lt. Alex Bunagan were conducting Bayanihan Team activities at about 7:40 a.m.
Lt. Col. Harold Anthony Pascua, commanding officer of 79th IB said their troops “encountered the remnants of the NPA bandits following the report of the residents on the presence of lawless armed elements in their community.”

About 12 rebels engaged in a firefight with the Army soldiers, who eventually recovered the bodies of the two rebels along with an M16 baby armalite assault rifle.

The two Army soldiers were already given medical attention.

Earlier this week, 79th IB troopers also engaged in armed clashes with NPA rebels, particularly on Sunday and Wednesday, in Barangay Gatuslao, Candoni.

An NPA recruit identified as Fred Casipong was captured by Army soldiers, but he was released for humanitarian consideration after undergoing investigations and medical examinations.

Delfin said security defenses of military units in Negros Occidental have been strengthened as the 303rd Brigade has intensified its operations in the hinterlands of southern Negros in the wake of the recent clashes and other atrocities of the NPA.

Troops, NPA rebels clash in Zamboanga del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): Troops, NPA rebels clash in Zamboanga del Sur

Government troops recovered communication equipment abandoned by New People's Army (NPA) rebels following a five-minute firefight in the nearby town of Guipos, Thursday.

Lt. Col. Alvin Luzon, commander of the Army’s 53rd Infantry Battalion, disclosed the clash ensued around 9:45 a.m. in Barangay Datagan, Guipos, this province.

Luzon said the clash ensued when his scout platoon led by 2Lt. Ronald Fuentes were deployed to scour Barangay Datagan following the reported presence of NPA rebels in the area.

Luzon said the NPA fled to different directions leaving behind six radio transceivers, four battery chargers, three antennas, a magazine bandolier, subversive documents of high-intelligence value and personal belongings.

He said the group of NPA rebels that figured in the clash with the troops were remnants of the Sandatahang Yunit Pampropaganda (SYP) Platoon of the Front Committee Kara operating in this province.

He said two persons, including a pregnant woman, who were believed to be NPA supporters were apprehended near the clash site.

However, he said they were released after undergoing debriefing.

AFP gets ready to declare Sorsogon insurgency under ‘manageable' level

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): AFP gets ready to declare Sorsogon insurgency under ‘manageable' level

The New People’s Army (NPA) in Sorsogon province is no longer capable of mounting large-scale operations — a local insurgency situation that is leading government peacekeepers into declaring the province as already a “conflict-manageable and ready for further development (CMRFD)” area.

The 31st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (PA) has said that each rebel unit presently operating within the so-called “guerrilla zones” in the province has dwindled to only a handful of demoralized combatants not capable of major anti-government operations.

This PA contingent, now under the command of Lt. Col. Beerjenson Aquino, is assigned to the internal security of the province by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) from the threats of NPA uprising which since 45 years ago until lately had destabilized the local peace and order situation.

Aquino said the weakening and demoralization of the NPA Sorsogon units were rendered by the massive military operations that resulted in the recent clearing of the remaining 13 barangays that served as the rebels’ last stand and the fall to the hands of lawmen of their two most prominent leaders—Andres Hubilla and Felix Marcayda Jr.

Hubilla, alias Magno, the former secretary of NPA’s provincial committee, was arrested by joint police and military elements in Cavite last Nov. 25, said Aquino who also identified this rebel commander as a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front (CPP-NDF) Bicol Regional Party Committee (BRPC).

He was arrested by virtue of warrants of arrest issued by the Sorsogon Regional Trial Court (RTC) for murder and attempted murder.

Also last November, Marcayda alias Migz, who is a BRPC executive committee member and secretary of Larangan 3, Komite Probinsyal Sorsogon, was arrested by the police and military intelligence operatives in Donsol town based on a warrant of arrest for murder.

No bails were recommended by the court for the temporary liberty of the two ranking NPA Sorsogon leaders.

Aquino said that while there had been some incidents of harassment initiated recently by armed men believed to be NPA rebels against military installations in the province, those were just minor operations intended to show their presence in efforts to collect from candidates in the 2016 general elections “permit-to-campaign and permit-to-win” fees.

The PA commander said the AFP, since late last month, had been preparing for the declaration of Sorsogon as the fifth of Bicol’s six provinces under the CMRFD area tentatively slated on the middle of this month.

Various indicators are being considered in placing the province under this declaration and the most significant were the dramatic decreases in number of barangays affected or influenced by the NPA, actual number of armed insurgents and insurgency-related crime volume, Aquino said.

Earlier declared under CMRFD in Bicol one after the other starting late last year until recently were the provinces of Catanduanes, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay following the forging of separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with the respective provincial governments and the AFP.

Each MOU formalized the declaration of a particular province as CMRD area as recommended by the provincial government through a resolution passed by its local legislative board.

The signing of each MOU, according to the AFP, signaled the "shifting of effort" from clearing of barangays of insurgent affectation supported by socio-economic development to a reverse role.

It also emphasizes the implementation of more socio-economic and development projects that the civil government will implement with the continuous support and protection of the military.

The declarations of peace in these provinces were based on the decreased violent activities of the NPA, the reduction of its potential support system in the barangays and its failed recovery efforts.

The 45-year-old insurgency being waged by the NPA, the armed wing of the CPP-NDF, the AFP said, has been preventing the progress and economic development of all affected localities in Bicol and in the country.

These MOUs brings great pleasure for it is a proof that the efforts of the government and its armed forces to restore peace and tranquility in the provinces have not been put in vain as the military stands by its mandate as the protector of the people and keepers of the integrity of the state, it stressed.

In a statement over this new development, Brig. Gen. Ferdinand Quidilla, commanding general of the PA’s 9th Infantry (Spear) Division (ID) based in Pili, Camarines Sur, said at least Sorsogon is now on its way to development minus the NPA preventing the implementation of government infrastructure projects.

This PA’s 9th ID is in command of three infantry brigades composed of eight infantry battalions and seven support units, including an engineering battalion distributed in all the six provinces of the region.

Bicol’s opportunity to advance to progress with its vast mineral deposits, agricultural lands, rich fishing grounds, exotic tourist destinations, rich natural resources and hard-working people has been stalled by unstable peace situation due to the presence of the NPAs and the culture of violence it has developed among local communities, Quidilla said.

These rebels harass mining companies, extort money in the form of “revolutionary taxes” from businessmen, contractors and even from farmers, and execute those who refuse to remit -- including innocent civilians and civilian government officials, he said.

The decision to declare Sorsogon under CMRD is based on the recommendation of the Area Clearing Validation Board (ACVB) from the 9th ID and the PNP regional office which recently validated reports on the clearing of 13 rebel-affected barangays of the five municipalities of the province.

It is impressing that the security sector has been able to achieve significant gains in addressing the threat situation in the province of Sorsogon, obviously resulting from concerted efforts of different stakeholders in addressing social problems, Quidilla said.

Bicol is now on its way towards becoming a region of peace, progress and prosperity with only the island of Masbate as only the province that is classified as highly infested by the NPA, he added.

Mindanao groups demand Aquino to stop attacks on Lumad schools; revoke DepEd memo 221

From the periodically pro-CPP Bicol Today (Dec 10): Mindanao groups demand Aquino to stop attacks on Lumad schools; revoke DepEd memo 221 



SURIGAO DEL SUR – The Save our Schools Network (SOS) – an alliance of different child’s rights advocates, people’s organization, religious and academic institutions, and individuals – calls the government to act as many of the schools in Lumad communities were either closed or destroyed.

As one of the lead convenors of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao, SOS reiterates the call for the Aquino administration to put a stop to the attacks on Lumad schools and communities.

According to Rius Valle, SOS Network spokesperson for Mindanao, there are 22 out of 162 lumad schools in Mindanao that were closed or classes were suspended due to military harassment and encampment of their schools and communities.

Military operations

Military operations and encampment have resulted to 6,000 Lumad affected by forcible evacuation and displacement from September to November 2015 alone.

“Despite of the concern and sympathy from the public over the killing of a Lumad school executive director and Lumad leaders, there is no let-up in the military operations for the closure of lumad schools. The military not only continued, but has become more bolder in their attacks against Lumad community and people,” said Valle.

Valle added that after the September 1 massacre in Lianga, Surigao del Sur, 18 lumad schools run by the Tribal Filipino Program in Surigao del Sur (TRIFPSS) and Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Development (ALCADEV) were forcibly closed-down as 3,000 Lumad evacuated to Tandag City.

In a report of the recently -held International Fact-Finding Mission in Surigao del Sur dated November 9, 2015, it was stated that out of 18 schools affected, one (1) TRIFPSS school was totally scorched along with several houses, while two (2) were partially burned. A teachers’ cottage of  ALCADEV was also burned down last November 10, 2015 in Barangay Padiay, Sibagat, Agusan del Sur.

Lumad schools burned, closed

In Southern Mindanao region, several Lumad schools in Kitaotao, Bukidnon, Talaingod, Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley were also burned down and forced to stop classes due to military encampment:
  • Three (3) schools in Talaingod and Kapalong Davao del Norte were forced to stop their classes in June this year and were forced to resume in an evacuation camp in Davao City;
  • Another four (4) Lumad schools have been subjected to different forms of military attacks from October to December;
  • In mid-November two (2) lumad schools in different communities of Barangay Palma Gil in Talaingod were forced to stop classes and evacuate the community due to the presence of paramilitary group Alamara;
  • In Compostela, the Salugpongan School and their homes were abandoned by the Matigsalog tribe in Purok 4B, Barangay Mangayon due to the encampment of 66thInfantry Battalion in front of the school and along community houses.

Valle added that while the Lumad leaders of Kitaotao, Bukidnon were in Manila for the Manilakbayan protest caravan from October to November, 24 students of their Lumad school, Fr. Fausto Tentorio Memorial School, were forced to flee as the school was forcibly closed and was demolished by the village chief Felipe Cabugnason along with the 8th Infantry Battalion.

Valle also slammed the connivance by different government agencies and local government units with the military in perpetrating these attacks.

Government conspiracy: military, Malacanang, DepEd, related agencies

He added that under the Aquino adminstration’s Oplan Bayanihan, several government agencies were used to suppress Lumad schools.

Instead of supporting community-initiated lumad schools, the Department of Education (DepEd) complements Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Letter Directive 25 through the issuance of DepEd Memo 221, which allows and legitimizes military presence in schools and other public places.
Other agencies such as the National Commission on Indigenous People and the local government units also kowtow to the military in its implementation of counter-insurgency program by red-tagging the lumad schools and its teachers as well as the community leaders who head the schools.

Valle also reports that in Southern Mindanao, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Peace Process (OPAPP) have been actively participating in military operations aside from complementing military psy-war tactics by providing conditional cash programs to Lumad communities.

Lumad struggle to continue

Valle said that the success of the Manilakbayan ng Mindanao rest on the people who sympathized and supported the campaign of the Lumad people to stop government attacks on their schools.
Aside from donations received, Valles urged support groups to also push the government to revoke its counter-insurgency policies that affects the Lumad people.

“For the sake of the Lumad children and the future of the Lumad community, we urge those who were reached by our campaign to help rebuild Lumad schools that were burned and forced to close down, actively call for the revocation of DepEd Memo 221 and campaign for a stop to military operations in Lumad areas,’ said Valle.

International Human Rights Day: Sorsogon, Masbate under State ‘gunsights’; abuse on human rights getting worse

From the periodically pro-CPP Bicol Today (Dec 10): International Human Rights Day: Sorsogon, Masbate under State ‘gunsights’; abuse on human rights getting worse 

Teodoro Escanilla, Radio anchorman and spokersperson of human rights group Karapatan in Sorsogon province. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Teodoro Escanilla, Radio anchorman and spokersperson of human rights group Karapatan in Sorsogon province. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

SORSOGON CITY, 10Dec2015 – Still fresh in their minds about the killing of old man Teodoro “Ka Tudoy” Escanilla by covert military operatives in first week of August this year, human rights advocates here are firmly resolved to continue the fight for human rights awareness among Sorsogon folks as they prepare Thursday’s observance of International Human Rights Day.

Escanilla was among the 15 victims of assassinations and killings by suspected state security operatives this year in Sorsogon Province.

Escanilla, a media practitioner advocating human rights in his radio program, was the spokesperson of provincial human rights organization, Karapatan-Sorsogon.

Other provinces also recorded killings by state troops, which human rights observers have taken note as “a pattern of conspiracy of extra-judicial killings on dissidents tolerated or sanctioned by the state.”

In Masbate, state troops few months ago shot and killed four drivers of for-hire motorcycles, and tagged the victims as “rebels”.

The Mindanao provinces are suffering from much graver forms of human rights abuses as thousands of Lumad fled from areas of months-long conflict, and the evacuees are herded in temporary relocation sites lacking full government support.

Same with brutal state military campaigns in Muslim Mindanao where the hunt for Western-branded “terrorists” has, in irony, transformed the state military into “state terrorists” when they turned Muslim communities “upside down, inside out”, after failing to find one “Abu Sayyaf bandit.”

Paralegals here said Sorsogon has suffered the worst of human rights violations committed on civilians by state security forces as compared to other Bicol Provinces.

The state has used iron-hand campaign to destroy insurgency in the province, but the military campaigns have forced physical and economic dislocation among civilians, committing human rights abuses, and forced evacuation from bombings and machine gun strafing coming from helicopter gunships.

And, lately, Masbate is also experiencing rising incidents of rights abuses as security forces are pounding hard on the two provinces in order to attain the state goal for Sorsogon and Masbate as “conflict manageable areas”.

Activists here also pointed at the 31st Infantry Battalion, the 9th ID’s frontline combat unit, as behind the spate of human rights abuses on Sorsogon and Masbate civilians during their military operations.

While in some incidents, the rebel New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas had managed to score some points over state security units by ambushes and harassments, frustrated state troopers in retaliation had turned their anger on civilians, violating their human rights and killing harmless civilians, including children.
Protesters in Sorsogon, in indignation rally over the killing of human rights journalist Teodoro “Todoy” Escanilla, pile up mock coffins of victims of extra-judicial killings infront of police provincial headquarters to dramatize police failure in solving the killings and arrest of the killers. The protesters lambast at the Aquino administration for the worsening poverty and economic woes in the country. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

US-donated APCs give more striking power to AFP's MID

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): US-donated APCs give more striking power to AFP's MID

The arrival of the 77 US-donated M-113A2 armored personnel carriers (APCs) has given the Philippine military's Mechanized Infantry Division (MID) more striking power.

"It's a most welcome development particularly for the (Armed Forces of the Philippines) as it energizes and strengthen (the) MID," AFP spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla said.

These additional assets also enhance the MID's capability to provide fire support to troops engaged in the battlefield.

The US-donated APCs also ensures the protection and mobility of Filipino troops conducting security operations in the field, he added.

Currently, the MID, which consists of five armored battalions, operated 343 APCs of various types.

Seventy-seven M-113A2 units arrived in Subic Bay, Zambales night-time of Dec. 9.

Another 37 units are expected to be delivered by Dec. 14, completing the 114 APCs pledged by the US to the AFP via its Excess Defense Articles (EDA) Program.

The EDA Program grants excess US military equipment, without cost, to qualified allied countries.

The transfer is a result of a formal request made by the AFP to assist in their defense modernization efforts.

The M-113A2 was developed to provide a survivable and reliable light tracked vehicle that allows for troops to be brought forward under armor for dismounted operations.

Suspected rebels gun down retired Army man

From the Bicol Today (Dec 10): Suspected rebels gun down retired Army man

Photo courtesy

Photo courtesy

GUBAT, Sorsogon, 10Dec2015 — Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels peppered with bullets a retired Philippine Army member at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at Barangay Beriran, Gubat, Sorsogon.

A police report identified the victim as Silvestre J. Espidido, 65 and a resident of the village.

The report said Espidido was on his tricycle and waiting for passengers at the vehicle terminal when two young-looking suspects armed with a cal. 9mm and a cal. 45 pistol approached him and shot him in the head and body.

The suspects hurriedly left the area on board another tricycle that they flagged down and headed toward the area of Barangay Sta. Ana, Gubat.

Responding authorities failed to catch up with the suspects.

Blast triggers 5-hour blackout in Cotabato

From ABS-CBN (Dec 11): Blast triggers 5-hour blackout in Cotabato

NORTH COTABATO - Another explosion toppled a tower of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Aleosan town, North Cotabato on Thursday night.

Authorities said an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated at the base of NGCP Tower 68 in Sitio 1, Barangay Pagangan.

The incident caused a five-hour power loss in Cotabato City and nearby towns.

Authorities are still conducting an investigation to identify the perpetrators and the motive behind the incident.

Explosions earlier hit several towers of the NGCP in the province.

JPST training builds GPH-MILF mutual trust, understanding

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): JPST training builds GPH-MILF mutual trust, understanding

The recently concluded training for members of the Joint Peace and Security Teams (JPSTs) was not a mere display of the continuing commitment of both the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to the Bangsamoro peace process but a strengthening of their mutual trust and understanding.

“Because of this training, we were able to hear the side of our former enemies in the battleground and we realized that they really do not seek for more discord. They also desire for peace here in Mindanao,” said 2nd Lt. Emmanuel Ferrer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

His realization was a result of the 11-day training for the JPST that started on November 25 at the Old Provincial Capitol in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao where both government and MILF forces had the chance to interact with each other through their daily conditioning exercises, classroom discussions, teambuilding activities, and during mealtimes.

“If it were possible for former enemies to achieve unity in working together towards a common goal, then peace in our country is also possible,” he said.

The training attended by 75 members of the MILF under the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF), 34 Armed Forces of the Philippines, and 39 Philippine National Police (PNP) personnel was jointly supervised by the government and the MILF.

Participants who undergone the training will soon be deployed as members of JPSTs in critical areas as agreed upon by both the government and the MILF to maintain peace and order. The JPSTs are part of the transitional mechanisms that will take key roles in the security aspect of the normalization process and will primarily be concerned with transforming conflict-affected areas into peaceful and sustainable communities.

“We play an important role in providing security during the decommissioning of the MILF combatants back to their desired quality of life, in tracking of private armed groups, and in documenting any activities transpiring in our area of deployment,” said Police Inspector Edwin R. Tono, one of the trainees from the PNP.

Tono said that the training is a clear indication that the government, with the MILF hierarchy, are doing its part in finding various ways in resolving “the causes of conflict that resulted to loss of lives and property and multiple internally displaced persons.”

He also expressed his appreciation of the teambuilding component of the training. “Ang dating magkalaban ay nagkakaisa, nagtutulungan, nagkakaunawaan tungo sa kapayapaan na matagal na nating minimithi. (Former foes have built unity, cooperation, and understanding toward peace that we have long been aspiring for.)” expressed Tono.

Such sentiments were echoed by Mujahid Tennex A. Makalimpas, a BIAF member for more than 30 years and also now a member of the JPST. “Noon hindi kami nagkakaintidihan. At nag-uusap lang kami sa barilan. Ngayon, nagtatrabaho na kami para sa isang hangarin nating kapayapaan para sa kinabukasan ng Mindanao at ng pamilya natin. (Before, we didn’t understand each other. We only talked through the barrels of our guns. Now, we are already working for the common goal of peace for the future of Mindanao and our families.)”, said Makalimpas.

The understanding between the forces may even reached to a point where participants may share their personal problems to other trainees. “Dahil nagkakaisa kaming lahat, dapat alam din namin ang problema ng aming kasamahan at matulungang masolve ito (Because we are united, we must know our colleagues’ problems and help them to solve it),” Canim Ditungalan, a BIAF member, shared.

Power pylon bombed in Southern Philippines

From the Mindanao Examiner (Dec 11): Power pylon bombed in Southern Philippines

A blasted power pylon in southern Philippines.

A blasted power pylon in southern Philippines

Suspected rebels blew up a power pylon in southern Philippines cutting off electricity in at least three provinces, but there were no reports of casualties from the attack, officials said Friday.

The attack late Thursday occurred in North Cotabato’s Pikit town where several rebel groups – Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and jihadists – are actively operating.

The pylons in the region are being operated by the privately-owned National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), but it was unknown why it failed to detect or stop the bombing despite repeated attacks since early this year. The military said NGCP has its own personnel guarding the steel pylons.

The blast affected the provinces of Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato and Maguindanao in the Muslim autonomous region. It was the 11th attack this year alone.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but the attack occurred just a day after NGCP proposed to “criminalize the planting of tress and other activities beneath transmission lines.”

NGCP said it has teamed up with local governments in Mindanao to solve the escalating right-of-way violations in the region by lobbying for the passage of a provincial ordinance to back up its proposals.

It said the intentional planting of trees under transmission lines adversely affects power delivery to the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Zamboanga City, and the rest of the grid.

Land owners have repeatedly rejected NGCP’s demand unless it pays them for the use of their estate. NGCP holds the 25-year concession contract to operate the country’s power transmission network.

DND in the market for 10.5-M rounds of 5.56mm M855

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): DND in the market for 10.5-M rounds of 5.56mm M855
The Department of National Defense-Government Arsenal (DND-GA) is allocating the sum of Php49,350,000 for the acquisition of 10.5 million rounds of 5.56mm M855 bullets.

This is the round used by all M-16 automatic rifles and M-4 carbines in the Armed Forces of the Philippines' inventory.

Delivery of the goods is required within one 180 calendar days from the issuance of contract and notice to proceed.

Bidders should have completed, within the last five years from the date of submission and receipt of bids, a contract similar to the project.

The DND-GA will hold a pre-bid conference this coming Dec. 18, 10 a.m. at DND-BAC Conference Room, Basement, Right Wing, DND Building Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Bid-opening is on Jan. 7, 2016, 10 a.m. at the same venue.

Of General Intelligence Interest: North Korea claims it has hydrogen bomb

From CNN Philippines (Dec 11): North Korea claims it has hydrogen bomb

North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un (file photo)

North Korean state media indicated Thursday (December 10) that the reclusive nation has added the hydrogen bomb – also known as a thermonuclear bomb – to its arsenal, a development that, if true, would represent an upgrade to its nuclear weapons capabilities.

Observers in recent years believed that North Korea may have been working toward, but didn't yet have the capability to produce, a thermonuclear bomb, which can be hundreds of times more powerful than an atomic bomb.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made the claim, according to state media outlet KCNA, while touring a historic weapons industry site in the country.

The communist country has been turned "into a powerful nuclear weapons state ready to detonate self-reliant A-bomb and H-bomb to reliably defend its sovereignty and the dignity of the nation," Kim said, according to the KCNA report.

An expert who spoke to South Korea's Yonhap news agency responded skeptically.

"It's hard to regard North Korea as possessing an H-bomb. I think it seems to be developing it," said Lee Chun-geun, a research fellow at the Science and Technology Policy Institute, according to Yonhap in a report Thursday.

Chang Yong-seok, a researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, told Yonhap that this appears to be the first time that Kim claimed to have a hydrogen bomb.

Unlike atomic bombs, which employ fission, thermonuclear bombs release power from uncontrolled fusion reactions.

AFP Iriberri awarded one of Malaysia's highest decorations

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): AFP Iriberri awarded one of Malaysia's highest decorations

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Gen. Hernando DCA Iriberri was given an honorary Malaysian decoration during a visit to the Southeast Asian country Monday.

This was disclosed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato in a statement Friday.

Iriberri was given the Honorary Award of the Malaysian Armed Forces Order of Valor, First Degree of Gallant Commander, with four stars, during a specially arranged ceremony at the Malaysian Ministry of Defense.

The award, the highest in its category, is known in Malaysia as "Pangkat Gagah Angkatan Tentera" or Order of Valor Award.

It is given only to the highest ranking officers of the Malaysian Armed Forces for eminently outstanding services to the nation.

Detoyato said this is only awarded to deserving foreign generals and admirals for exemplary accomplishments rendered in advancement of their countries' and Malaysia's mutual interests.

The Medal of Valor was conferred on him by Defence Minister Honorable Dato' Seri Hishammuddin Bin Tun Hussien and Chief of Armed Forces General Tan Sri Dato' Sri (Dr.) Zulkifeli Bin Mohd Zin at the Perkasa Room at Level 5 of the Ministry of Defense.

The awarding also proceeded complete with arrival and departure military honors for Iriberri.

The awarding ceremony was originally scheduled in October for conferment by the Malaysian King himself.

In contrast to the traditional awarding in numbers in the past, Iriberri was the lone recipient this time.

The latter's award was in recognition of his transformational leadership as former commanding general of the Philippine Army and military chief, his inspiring improvement of the soldier's welfare and morale and ethical values, and solid contributions to the military relations between the AFP and the Malaysian Armed Forces.

"I am deeply honored and humbled to receive the award. This is not only for me. I proudly share this to all the gallant soldiers, airmen, sailors and marines of the AFP. But this is not really about me or my leadership, but more about the relations between our two Armed Forces," General Iriberri said.

"I am most privileged to be in a position to enhance the mil-to-mil relations between the AFP and the Malaysian Armed Forces and to help draw our forces together for common ends," he added.

Iriberri was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week for the 2nd South and Southeast Asian Chiefs of Defense Dialogue, where he shared with his counterparts the lessons learned by the Philippines in recent humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations, particularly from the AFP's experience in addressing the impact of Supertyphoon Yolanda in 2014.

P1.2M reward out for each of three slay suspects in SurSur September 1 lumad killings, “dead or alive!”

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 11): P1.2M reward out for each of three slay suspects in SurSur September 1 lumad killings, “dead or alive!”

TANDAG CITY, Surigao del Sur – A monetary reward of P1.2 million each is out “for the arrest, surrender or death” of the three slay suspects on the Lumad killings here on September 1.

Col. Isidro Purisima, commander of the 402nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (PA), bared that said bounty had been “signed/approved” by Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The army official also sent the text message regarding NAPOLCOM Memorandum Circular No. 2015-136.

The said MC dated November 23, 2015 contains other important details including the names in particular of “wanted persons Bobby Tejero, Margarito Layno and Loloy Tejero.”

Governor Johnny Pimentel confirmed this latest turn of events.

However, he clarified that his earlier offer of P200,000 each on the head of the three suspects would no longer be included as agreed upon due to this  development.

It can be recalled that the brutal killings of Emerito Samarca, Dionel Campos, and Bello Sinzo had triggered the mass evacuation of about 3,000 lumads from Kilometer 16 of Sitio Han-ayan, Barangay Diatagon, Lianga town, where the incident took place, 90 kilometers south, this city.

Most of the evacuees have continued to take shelter at Surigao del Sur Sports Center since then.

People’s participation in peace process gets needed backing

From the Philippine Information Agency (Dec 11): People’s participation in peace process gets needed backing

The government’s peace office has endorsed the proposal to include the symbolic turn-over of the results of the education and advocacy component of the Yes For Peace-Bayanihan para sa KKK (Kapayapaan, Kaunlaran, at Kasaganahan) in the program of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.

According to Yes For Peace lead organizer Ernesto Alcanzare, the move by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) could be considered a bright light at the end of the dark tunnel traversed by the Philippine peace process since People Power re-established democracy in 1986.

“We welcome this move by OPPAP amidst the dimming prospects on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the increasing threats of the eruption of violence in Mindanao to fight for the right of the Bangsamoro people to self determination and autonomy,” Alcanzare said.

In his letter to EDSA People Power Commission Executive Director Maria V. Montelibano, OPAPP Undersecretary Luisito G. Montalbo described Yes For Peace as a campaign “initiated in 1988 as a non-governmental initiative to help in the mobilization of a national consensus for peace, as well as mobilizing people’s participation in open and participatory peace negotiations.”

Earlier, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Armin A. Luistro favorably endorsed the suggestion to President Benigno S. Aquino III, “Considering that the Yes For Peace was implemented and has surpassed its target of Ten Million (10,000,000) as an unfunded project that depended largely upon the Bayanihan  spirit of teachers of public and private schools nationwide, the undersigned agrees with the proposal. It is perhaps the most cost-effective and resource-efficient event to once again underscore People Power in addressing national concerns.”

Montalbo also informed Montelibano that, “in fact the hard copies of Yes For Peace responses of about Eleven Million Two Hundred Thirty Six Thousand Nine Hundred Eighteen (11,236,918) are now with the Philippine Postal Corporation (PHLPOST).”

For her part, Engr. Mama S. Lalanto, al Haj, a member of the PHLPOST Board of Directors hailed OPAPP’s endorsement, “This is a welcome development now that the BBL is experiencing rough sailing in both houses of congress. We now need People Power to underscore the fact while ordinary people in the Bangsamoro are clamouring for the immediate enactment of the BBL into law, a greater majority now reject armed struggle as a means to our desired end.”

Meanwhile, Ronaldo S. Tuason, another board director who moved for the adoption of Yes For Peace as PHLPOST’s contribution in mobilizing people’s participation in the peace process is optimistically said, “I look forward to the conduct of peace negotiations in any campus of the University of the Philippines System after all armed groups fighting for the rights of the Filipino realize and accept the truth that violence is not an option as far as the greater silent majority is concerned.”

Historical papers of UP include a “Board of Regents Resolution Declaring All UP Campuses a Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN),” which means that, “UP shall offer its campus as a possible venue for open and multilateral peace talks between the government and all a armed revolutionary groups and serve as a mediating institution for peace talks”.

Notably, a similar move to declare all public schools a Zone of Peace is fast gaining ground across the country, according to DepEd Undersecretary for External Relations Mario Derequito.

3rd and final C-295 now in PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 11): 3rd and final C-295 now in PHL

The Philippine Air Force (PAF)'s third and last C-295 medium-lift transport aircraft finally arrived at Clark Air Base, Angeles City, Pampanga Friday afternoon.

PAF spokesperson Col. Enrico Canaya said the plane departed from Seville, Spain last Dec. 4 and made stopovers in several countries before landing in the Philippines.

The last C-295 transport aircraft was flown by pilots of Airbus Defense and Space in Space, the plane's manufacturers.

It will still undergo technical inspection and acceptance process before it will be turnover to the PAF, Canaya said.

Last Dec. 5, President Benigno S. Aquino graced the turnover of the second C-295, two FA-50PH supersonic lead-in fighter jets and six AW-109E Attack Helicopter at 250th Presidential Airlift Wing Ramp,Villamor Air Base while Secretary Voltaire Gazmin led the turnover of the first C-295 last March 30.

The three C-295 medium-lift fixed-wing acquisition program is part of the PAF modernization program amounting to Php5.3 billion.

The 220th Airlift Wing of the PAF will operate and maintain the above-mentioned aircraft.

The PAF uses the medium lift aircraft for tactical and medium airlift requirements, and are essential to internal security operations in ferrying personnel and logistical requirements of different line/combat units to any part of the country.

The timely deployment of troops and supplies is vital to ensure the success of any military operations.

With the acquisition of thre C-295, the present and future needs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines could be addressed having an additional aircraft dedicated to operate in any combat support, territorial defense and disaster response missions of the AFP as well as the national development.

The Airbus Military C-295 is a new generation, very robust and reliable, highly versatile tactical airlifter able to carry up to nine tonnes of payload or up to 71 personnel, at a maximum cruise speed of 260 kt /480 km/h.

Fitted with a retractable landing gear and a pressurized cabin, it can cruise at altitudes up to 25,000 ft, while retaining remarkable short take-off & landing (STOL) performance from unprepared short, soft and rough airstrips, as well as low level flight characteristics.