Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sabah to beef up security with attack helicopters and drones

From AsiaOne (Dec 17): Sabah to beef up security with attack helicopters and drones

The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) will beef up its assets as the government looks to strengthen the security level in Sabah's volatile east coast, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

PUTRAJAYA: The Eastern Sabah Security Command (Esscom) will beef up its assets as the government looks to strengthen the security level in Sabah's volatile east coast, says Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pic).

The Deputy Prime Minister said the Government had already begun deploying more attack helicopters, drones and radars with increased area of coverage.

"The areas in the Eastern Sabah Security Zone, which stretches about 1,700km, faces continuous threats 365 days a year. There are intruders waiting for the perfect moment to sneak in."Therefore, there is a need to beef up our security, in terms of our assets and omnipresence, to protect the sovereignty of the country, particularly the land of Sabah," he said after chairing a high-level meeting on development and acquisitions for Esscom at the Home Ministry building here.

Also present at the meeting were Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed and Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar.Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, said the meeting focused on Esscom's usage of existing assets and to identify its weaknesses so it could be improved.

"We know the intruders use guerrilla warfare tactics we must not fall into their trap. We need to outsmart them and learn from those big countries who faltered against these tactics," said Dr Ahmad Zahid.

KL says yes to Saudi-led anti-terror alliance

From the Straits Times (Dec 18): KL says yes to Saudi-led anti-terror alliance

Malaysia's Defence Minister will visit Saudi Arabia soon to discuss how to face threats

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin says he will be inviting defence ministers from other Asean countries to support the Saudi-led alliance.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin says he will be inviting defence ministers from other Asean countries to support the Saudi-led alliance.

Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said yesterday that he will be visiting Saudi Arabia next year to discuss an announcement by the Arab kingdom of a 34-nation alliance to combat terrorism.

Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it was forming an Islamic military coalition, based in Riyadh.

It said the participating countries include Egypt, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, together with Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan, Gulf Arab and several African states. But Iran, a rival political power to Saudi Arabia, is excluded.

Some of the countries mentioned as members were caught offguard by the announcement of a "military" alliance, wondering if this meant sending their troops abroad to fight.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin said that he had given the Saudis his nod to join an Islamic grouping against the terrorist group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) but needed further discussions with them, New Straits Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
"This visit will not be based on military aspects but more on discussions on how to face the threats posed by Islamic State militants," he told a press conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
The Defence Minister said he will be inviting defence ministers from other Asean countries to support the alliance.

In Pakistan, its Foreign Secretary, Mr Aizaz Chaudhry, was quoted as saying on Wednesday that he was surprised to read the news that Saudi Arabia had named Pakistan as part of the alliance. He had asked Pakistan's ambassador in Riyadh to get a clarification from Saudi Arabia on the matter, the Dawn newspaper quoted him as saying.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian media has reported the death of a Malaysian bombmaker in the Philippines following a firefight with Filipino government troops.

An intelligence source told The Star newspaper that Mohd Najib Husen, a Malaysian who became an expert bombmaker for the Abu Sayyaf Group, was shot during a clash on Basilan island in southern Philippines on Tuesday.

"Mohd Najib, who is also known as Abu Anas, was not killed instantly but died a few hours later," said the source, adding that some 13 Abu Sayyaf members were also killed.

Mohd Najib, 37, obtained a degree in electrical engineering from Universiti Malaya (UM) and was married with five children, added the source. He was running a stationery shop at the university.

He joined the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group with former UM lecturer Mahmud Ahmad and another Malaysian ISIS member, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee.

"The three of them fled to southern Philippines on April 22 last year. Evidence showed that Mohd Najib officially joined the Abu Sayyaf around the same time," another intelligence source said, according to The Star.

The death of Mohd Najib drew sighs of relief from Malaysian security officials.
"Mohd Najib was very dangerous as he communicated with many pro-ISIS youth in Malaysia. He not only taught them more on ISIS, he even gave online tutorials on how to make bombs," an intelligence source said.

Policemen still clueless on RPA man’s location

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (Dec 18): Policemen still clueless on RPA man’s location

A WEEK after the abduction of Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB) member Cirilo Bagnuran, the police are still clueless about his whereabouts.

Senior Superintendent Samuel Nacion, acting director of Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, said on Thursday that so far, they have no update on the incident even after the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted that they abducted Bagnuran.

Nacion called on the rebels to release Bagnuran so he can return safely to his family.
The police are securing the victim’s family, he added.

Nacion also said the police are in the process of securing the affidavits of the Bagnuran family members.

The victim was abducted when group of about 50 NPA rebels ransacked a cock farm in La Castellana, Negros Occidental on the night of December 10.

The cock farm, located in Hacienda Jamandre, Barangay Robles, is owned by Rene Europa, a leader of RPA-ABB now known as Kapatiran Para sa Progresibong Panlipunan after signing peace agreement with the national government.

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

Gov’t troops overrun NPA camp in Samar

From InterAksyon (Dec 17): Gov’t troops overrun NPA camp in Samar

Government troop based in Catbalogan City seized a communist New People’s Army camp and recovered war materials in the hinterlands of Samar, an army official reported Wednesday.

Capt. Isagani H. Viernes, acting chief of the Army’s 8th Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, said the NPA camp located in Barangay Antol, Calbiga, Samar was seized last Friday after an hour of firefight with around 40 NPA rebels manning the area.

During the firefight, two soldiers were wounded while an undetermined number of rebels were wounded or killed as blood stains were seen in their route of withdrawal, said Lt. Col. George M. Domingo, commanding officer of 87th Infantry Battalion, based in Calbiga town.

The army official said the seized NPA encampment had 30 makeshift huts, two kitchens, three "bulwagan" (halls) that can accommodate 50 persons.

Recovered from the scene of the encounter were the following: one M60 general purpose machine gun with 90 rounds of ammunition; one M653 rifle (Baby Armalite); two pieces Claymore-type landmines; one 32”-flat screen TV; one set Cignal cable transceiver; one generator set; one chainsaw; several medical equipment and medicines, assorted foodstuffs and subversive documents.

“The successful operation was the fruit of the ongoing partnership between the 87IB and the local government units of Pinabacdao and Calbiga, Samar headed by their respective local chief executives and the local populace in safeguarding their communities,” Domingo said.

Meanwhile, Maj. Gen. Jet B. Velarmino, commander of the 8ID, thanked the civilians who tipped off the information that led to the successful seizure of the NPA encampment and recovery of war materiel.

This encounter gave a big blow to the NPA rebels who will be celebrating the anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines this coming December 26, Velarmino said.

He added that the landmines recovered from the NPA encampment were in violation of the provisions under the Geneva Convention on the use of landmines in armed conflict.

Velarmino again appealed to our rebel brothers to return to the folds of law and cooperate in halting the senseless killing among fellow Filipinos.

Army operations on vs. NPA ‘kidnappers'

From the Visayan Daily Star (Dec 18): Army operations on vs. NPA ‘kidnappers'

The Philippine Army has launched an infantry brigade-size operation to rescue the kidnapped member of the Revolutionary Proletarian Artmy-Alex Boncayao Brigade and those behind the series of killings of former and active members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit in southern Negros.

Col. Francisco Delfin, 303rd Infantry Brigade commander, said yesterday that the 11th Infantry Battalion has been tasked to rescue RPA-ABB member Cirilo Bagnuran, through back-to-back security operations with 79th Infantry Battalion in southern Negros.

In the past several days, the 79IB figured in four armed skirmishes with suspected New People's Army rebels in Cauayan, Candoni and Hinobaan, that resulted in the killing of three rebels and an Army soldier.

Delfin joined the RPA-ABB and Philippine National Police in calling for the release of Bagnuran, whose abduction is a clear violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Senior Supt. Samuel Nacion, officer-in-charge of the Negros Occidental Police Provincial Office, yesterday said they are coordinating with the family of Bagnuran and other witnesses, for the possible filing of charges against members of an NPA unit who are behind the abduction.

The abduction of Bagnuran was claimed by the Leonardo Panaligan Command, and also the raid on a cock farm and seizure of firearms of the RPA-ABB in La Castellana.

Nacion said they are trying to solve the abduction of Bagnuran in coordination with the AFP.

The NPA said they will put Bagnuran, whom they linked to murder incidents, on trial, by a people's court.

NDRRMC truck ambushed in Samar, 2 hurt

From Rappler (Dec 18): NDRRMC truck ambushed in Samar, 2 hurt

(UPDATED) The military believes the attack was carried out by the New People's Army

NORTHERN SAMAR, Philippines (UPDATED) – Two soldiers were hurt when a government truck with relief goods for typhoon victims in Northern Samar was ambushed by suspected communist rebels Friday morning, December 18, a military official said.

Soldiers from the engineering batallion in Tacloban escorted the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) truck on the way to Northern Samar, when the vehicle was ambushed in the vicinity of Madalunot and Pahug in Pinabacdao, Samar, at around 9 am on Friday.

Colonel Rodrigo Ilustrisimo of the 8th Infantry Division based in Catbalogan City said that two soldiers were wounded in the attack of suspected members of the New People's Army.

Local leaders appealed to all groups not to hamper the delivery of relief goods to communities that had been devastated by Typhoon Nona (Melor), especially in Northern Samar which suffered casualties, and where thousands of people have been affected.

"The people of Northern Samar are in dire need of help at this time," said Ruth Figueroa, village chief of Zone 3 of the University of Eastern Philippines in Catarman.
Catarman Vice Mayor Christian Uy also appealed to the national government to hasten the delivery of food, clothing, tarpaulin, and construction materials for families left homeless by Typhoon Nona.

Data from the PDRRMC showed that 114,200 families in 24 towns in Northern Samar were affected by the typhoon.

The ambush took place 5 days before the start of a unilateral ceasefire declaration by communist rebels. The National Democratic Front had earlier ordered the suspension of all offensive operations against the Armed Forces of the Philippines from the first minute of December 23, until midnight of January 3, 2016.

AFP condemns ambush of post-‘Nona’ response team in Samar

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 18): AFP condemns ambush of post-‘Nona’ response team in Samar

LEGAZPI CITY—The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday strongly condemned the New People’s Army’s (NPA) ambush on and wounding of at least two soldiers who were on board a convoy of military trucks that had just brought relief goods to typhoon-stricken Northern Samar.

READ: Alleged NPA rebels attack soldiers getting relief goods in

The soldiers, belonging to the 546th Engineering Construction Battalion and 81st Division Reconnaissance Company were on a “humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations” (HADR) for typhoon victims when waylaid at the vicinity Barangay (village) Madalunot, Pinabacdao, Samar, the AFP said in statement e-mailed to the Inquirer.

 “The NPAs are continuously and deliberately conduct atrocities like ambuscades against our troops who are only doing their job to assist in Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response (HADR) Operations while securing peace and share the Christmas spirit,” Major General Jet Velarmino, commander of the 8th Infantry Division was quoted in the statement.

The convoy of three trucks—one M35 truck, a Mignon cilian hehicle, and a mini dump truck—led by First Lieutenant Fritz Perez and two personnel from the Department of Social Welfare and Development—were on their way back to Office of the Civil Defense-Eastern Visayas (OCD 8) in Tacloban City after transporting the relief goods to the typhoon victims when they were waylaid by an undetermined number of NPA rebels around 7:20 a.m., the military said.

Two soldiers were wounded and in the ensuing 15-minute firefight, the AFP said several rebels were believed to have either been wounded or killed.

Velarmino, in the statement, said the attack would not hamper the ongoing relief operations for the victims of Typhoon “Nona” in the Eastern Visayas area.

Rebels attack gov’t trucks used for post-'Nona' response in Samar

From the Philippine News Agency (Dec 18): Rebels attack gov’t trucks used for post-'Nona' response in Samar

Suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA) rebel group ambushed on Friday morning government trucks being used to transport relief goods for victims of typhoon "Nona" in Samar provinces.

Initial reports said the ambush took place around 7:30 a.m. between Madalunot and Pahug villages in Pinabacdao town which is about 49 kilometers from this city. At least two soldiers were wounded from the attack.

Trucks were carrying 32 soldiers from 546 Engineering Battalion and 81st Division Reconnaisance Company based in this city. The troops were heading to Tacloban after delivering relief goods in eastern Samar on Thursday.

Capt. Isagani Viernes, spokesman of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division said the three trucks are scheduled to pick up more relief goods in Tacloban on Friday.

The Philippine Army is still gathering more details on the incident.

The military has already sent a reinforcement team from the 87th Infantry Battalion based in Calbiga, Samar to the ambush site.

“The NPAs are continuously and deliberately conduct atrocities like ambuscades against our troops who are only doing their job to assist in Humanitarian Assistance Disaster Response (HADR) Operations, secure peace and share the Christmas spirit,” Viernes said.

The official, however, assured that the attack will not hamper the ongoing HADR operations to help typhoon "Nona" victims in Samar, Northern Samar, and Eastern Samar provinces.

Claiming he was molested, Pemberton seeks acquittal

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 17): Claiming he was molested, Pemberton seeks acquittal

Convicted US Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton on Wednesday asked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) here to reconsider its homicide conviction and acquit him instead.

Lawyer Rowena Garcia-Flores, Pemberton’s lead counsel, said they also asked the court to allow her client to post bail.

Judge Roline Ginez-Jabalde of the RTC Branch 74 ruled on Dec. 1 that Pemberton was guilty of the lesser offense of homicide for the 2014 killing of transgender Jeffrey “Jennifer” Laude. He was sentenced to a six to 12-year jail term which he would serve at a facility in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.

Laude’s sisters, however, want Pemberton to be jailed at the New Bilibib Prison in Muntinlupa City as earlier ordered by the judge. But Jabalde later revised her order and directed Pemberton’s detention at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Custodial Center.

Evidence ‘doubtful’

In an 80-page omnibus motion, Pemberton’s lawyers asked for a “partial reconsideration” and clarification of the court’s decision, asserting that the cause of Laude’s death as established by trial evidence was “doubtful.”

They said Jabalde brushed aside evidence which established that another person killed Laude, including the testimony of defense witness, forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun, that Laude did not die of asphyxia by drowning on the night of Oct. 11 last year.

According to the court narrative, Pemberton at one point held Laude’s head in a choke hold.

“Since it is undisputed that Pemberton did not cause Laude’s death through strangulation, the only logical conclusion of this case is Pemberton’s acquittal,” the lawyers said.

Flores said Pemberton should be acquitted because the prosecution’s evidence showed there was a reasonable doubt that Pemberton killed Laude.

“At stake in this case are the life and liberty of a young man who succumbed to the invitation of two ‘women’ to engage in momentary sexual relations, and ended up being sexually molested and betrayed, and then wrongfully accused of killing one of them,” the lawyers said.

Pemberton was 19 years old when the court ordered his arrest on Dec. 16 last year.

‘Only homicide’

Jabalde’s 60-page decision said Laude’s killing “only amounted to homicide” because the prosecution failed to establish that the American soldier used his superior strength and had employed treachery. She said Pemberton’s actions were provoked by his discovery that Laude was a man.

As this developed, Laude’s sisters yesterday asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the agreements between the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and the AFP regarding the detention of Pemberton in Camp Aguinaldo.

Laude’s sisters Marilou and Michelle, through their lawyer Harry Roque, filed the 34-page petition to strike down the agreement for allegedly violating the equal protection clause and for being an executive encroachment on the power and authority of the judicial department

Arlyn de la Cruz’s ‘Mandirigma’ an omen for Mamasapano clash

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Dec 17): Arlyn de la Cruz’s ‘Mandirigma’ an omen for Mamasapano clash

journalist and director aArlyn De la Cruz

Journalist and director Arlyn de la Cruz directs a scene in “Mandirigma”. FACEBOOK PHOTO

When she penned the script of her latest film “Mandirigma” (Warrior),  journalist-turned-director Arlyn de la Cruz never realized that it would be an omen for another imminent and real-life incident involving the commandos of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Forces.

The film, an entry to this year’s MMFF New Wave section, shows the lives of Philippine Marines as they wage war against the renegade forces in the Mindanao region.

“It represents what happens with the Philippine Marines as they go to the frontlines. Sometimes they are victorious, sometimes they are defeated. Whatever the result of the mission, whether there’s a casualty or not, they still go on with their jobs” she said

According to de la Cruz, the main villain in the film was patterned after Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias “Marwan”, who was killed in the Philippine National Police operation that took the lives of 44 Special Action Force (SAF) troopers and reportedly 18 MILF fighters in January this year.

“He is the most wanted terrorist at that time. I would like to highlight that the problem of terrorism has gone region wide that’s why there should be a character Hamda Marawan (portrayed by Mon Confiado),” she said.

De la Cruz wrote the draft of the script in October  last year and finished the final revision in December, or about month before the Mamasapano incident took place.

She said she has no knowledge that during that time, the authorities were already on the lookout for Marwan. It’s clear that she didn’t intend the film to be an allusion to the Mamasapano clash.

“[The film] is a representation of some stories people might have heard in the previous wherein there were ambushes, beheadings and hostage takings the government soldiers have to face,” she said.

“Kahit ilan malagas sa kanila, kahit gaano kasakit yun sa kanila (no matter how many fell [to their deaths], no matter how deep they were hurt [by their comrades’ demise], the following day is just another day sacrificing their lives.”
mandirigma Photo

She said “Mandirigma” is her way of giving tribute to men and women of the Philippine Marines and Armed Forces of the Philippines in general, who have been a big part of her journalistic experience for 25 years.

Believing that credibility is a necessary element of filmmaking, de la Cruz said that before doing any film project, she ascertains that she has a good grasp of the story, especially one that she covered as a journalist.

I won’t make a film if I haven’t completely understood the story or I haven’t witnessed it from a personal experience. I want to do movies that highlight truths in the society…those which I can prove happened in real life,” she said.

This view was also what prompted her to bring to life her directorial debut “Maratabat”, which was reminiscent of the Maguindanao massacre, the worst election-related violence in Philippine history.

And with “Mandirigma”, she absolutely has a clear message to tell. “The soldiers and the rebels…Lahat sila may pinaglalaban…lahat sila may pinanggagalingan..(all of them have a cause to fight for…all of them came from somewhere…) there is no right or wrong sa perspective nila.”

“This would lead to understanding war without condemning both parties. At makakahanap ang mga stake holders naten ng tamang approach on how to go about the problem kasi kung hindi maulit-ulit lamang ang lahat ng ito at hindi matatapos (And all the stakeholders will find the right approach on to how to go about the problem because if not, this will go on and on and will never end).”
The MMFF New Wave 2015 will run from December 17 to 24 at SM Megamall, Glorietta 4 and Robinsons Place Manila. On its fifth year, the MMFF New Wave section showcases the works of indie filmmakers.

MILF: Iqbal still hopes BBL would pass

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 17): Iqbal still hopes BBL would pass

BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong answer mediamen during the former’s visit to the House of Representatives on December 16, incidentally the last session day of Congress. The period of interpellation for the BBL has been terminated officially on the same day.

BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal and Sulu Rep. Tupay Loong answer mediamen during the former’s visit to the House of Representatives on December 16, incidentally the last session day of Congress. The period of interpellation for the BBL has been terminated officially on the same day.

BTC Chairman Mohagher Iqbal continues to maintain his optimism that the draft BBL would still be enacted into law but said that the “day of reckoning” is near.

In a special session of the Commission called on December 17, Iqbal told his fellow commissioners that he keeps believing that the BBL would still be passed under the administration of President Aquino even if both Houses of Congress will go on recess beginning December 19 and no BBL has been legislated thus far. 

In their previous sessions, BTC commissioners have been giving personal assessments on the passage of the BBL in a rating span of 0 to 10 with the latter being the highest point for optimism. Iqbal still gives a 10 as his personal assessment.

Iqbal said that a Muslim must not lose hope even if the situation of the BBL is already bleak.

On December 16 the House of Representatives has just terminated the period of interpellation. Period of amendments will begin on January next year, probably on January 19 to February 5 when Congress resumes session.

Iqbal referred to this period as the “day of reckoning” since it would be known by then whether the BBL would be really passed or not. 

“But we will continue to engage even if BBL is not passed and as long as the BTC is still existing,” Iqbal said. 

On the part of the Senate, the last three sessions for this year saw no discussion whatsoever of the BBL. Even if principal sponsor Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. was present last Tuesday and Wednesday, no interpellation was made inspite of the manifestation of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile that he would do so.

MILF: UMYO holds Seminar-Workshop on Basic Concept and Practices of Parliamentary Procedures

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): UMYO holds Seminar-Workshop on Basic Concept and Practices of Parliamentary Procedures

UMYO holds Seminar-Workshop on Basic Concept and Practices of Parliamentary Procedures

The United Muslim Youth Organization (UMYO) based in Central Mindanao conducted one-day Seminar Workshop on Basic Concept and Practices of Parliamentary Procedures on December 12, 2015 at Ittihadun-Nisa Foundation Inc. (INFO) Training Hall, Crossing Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

The participants are members of UMYO Technical Working Group (TWG) from Davao Region, SokSarGen and Central Mindanao. Engineer Zubair A. Guiaman, a dynamic youth leader and UMYO Chairman facilitated the program.

The program was aimed to enhance the UMYO –TWG Members’ know-how on Basic principles and practices of Parliamentary Procedures which are very helpful in fulfilling the mandate of the youth organization.

Tirso Tahir, Head of the Institute’s Research Unit lectured on the importance of Parliamentary Procedures by emphasizing its basic concepts, Practices, terminologies and correlated it with Islamic perspective like Shoora (Consultation) and the proper selection of leaders based on Faith, Integrity, competency and dedication.

He pointed out that organizations be it in private or in government, practice and employ parliamentary procedures in order to achieve smooth flow of transactions, carefully and meticulously deliberate agenda and issues before reaching consensus and implementation takes place.

In the afternoon session, workshop was held on how to conduct sessions. Discussions on the issues were simulated as to familiarize the participants on how to make a motion and other pertinent ethics in holding sessions especially during the floor discussions and deliberations.

Mr. Tahir also delved on some updates on the current state of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), urged the participants to do their part in sustaining the gains of the GPH-MILF Peace pact despite its uncertainty due to lawmakers various alibis and excuses.

The UMYO is now in the course of establishing linkages with other youth Organizations in Luzon and Visayas to establish unity in purpose by empowering the youth to become responsive and dedicated, grounded on faith and as a counter-productive mechanisms to the youth prevailing problems brought by modern lifestyle where core values are gradually compromised and taken for granted.

UMYO core programs includes among others to strengthen the Muslim youth attachment to their Islamic Faith that truly conforms to the Noble Qur’an and the Tradition and Practices of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and righteous leaders that made notable  and illustrious achievements in all spectrums of human history.

MILF: CSOs Conduct commuity education on the Peace Process

Posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): CSOs Conduct commuity education on the Peace Process

CSOs Conduct commuity education on the Peace Process

Datu Unsay, Maguindanao – A Community Education on the Peace Process was conducted on December 7, 2015 at the Municipal Hall of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao to raise the awareness of the residents on the narrative and status of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) especially on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
More than one hundred local residents attended the activity composed of different sectors such as women, youth, farmers, elders and others.

Mr. Tungko B. Tadtagan, Executive Director of Bangsamoro Center for Justpeace in the Philippines, Inc. (BCJP) said that the activity was realized with the support of the Local Government Unit of Datu Unsay municipality.

“The leadership of Datu Unsay expressed their appreciation to the organizers for their efforts in educating their constituents regarding the status of the peace process between the GPH and MILF. This is an opportunity for them to understand the real situation regarding the peace process and the ongoing deliberations on the BBL in the upper and lower Chamber of Congress,” he said.

Some salient provisions of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and the BBL were discussed by the invited resource persons. After the discussions, an open forum followed to give the participants the opportunity to ask questions and clarify things not clear to them.

“Most of the participants expressed fears and worries on the present status of the BBL. They are worried that if the said proposed law is not enacted and ratified, there will be another armed confrontations between the GPH and armed groups where the civilians are the one who suffer most,” Mr. Tadtagan said.

In November 27, 2015, similar activity was also conducted in Barangay Digal, Buluan, Maguindanao participated by almost 200 barangay residents which was organized and facilitated by MWDECC in partnership with the Local Government Unit of Buluan, Maguindanao.

Ms. Jehan A. Usop, Project Officer of MWDECC said that this community orientations are part  of a series of activities under the “Popularizing Peace Process” component of the Building Autonomous and Stable Institutions and Communities for Bangsamoro Advancement through National-level and Grassroots Organizations and Networks (B-BANGON) project they are currently implementing spearheaded by Moro Women Development and Cultural Center, Inc. (MWDECC) together with BCJP, Mindanao Action for Peace and Development Initiatives (MAPAD) and Kadtabanga Foundation with support from the Australian Government (AusAid) and The Asia Foundation (TAF).

The B-BANGON is a project that aimed to ensure that the peace process is more credible and widely supported by all stakeholders, and the local mechanisms for averting the escalation of violence is strengthened,” she elaborated.

MILF: Editorial -- Don’t pass the buck to next Congress

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Dec 16): Editorial -- Don’t pass the buck to next Congress

We have been distrusting, or worse, hating, or worst, killing each other since the days of Spaniards in the Philippines, so that to this day, we are still reeling or suffering from the devastating effects of this madness. There is so much mutual hatred, biases, prejudices, or animosities. What did we get in return, progress or development?

This country had been granted independence eleven years ahead of Malaysia, but the latter has surpassed us in terms of development and promotion of racial harmony. The truth is that no country would ever progress and develop unless it succeeds in resolving its internal strife, and to be able to do it, there must not only be equal opportunity and fair treatment for all, but above all, there must be justice. Persecution and oppression can only be committed by the majority and the strong, or in this case, the state, which has the power and resources at its disposal.

As a consequence of this, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is still not passed by both Houses of Congress even after more than one year of deliberation.  According to Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, the reason for this is the hatred, biases, prejudices, and paranoia of the majority population of this country against the Moros or Muslims. This intense toxic feeling is shared by many or most of lawmakers, who are also Christians.

It is time we try trusting each other, or at least be fair to each other; in this case, pass the BBL especially in the Senate. The House had terminated its period of interpellation last December 16 and is ready by January next year for the period of amendment, which can be abbreviated once President Benigno Aquino III certifies the BBL as urgent bill. In the Senate, it hasn’t, but it can still do it, also in January.  But the delivery can be fast-tracked and assured, if for instance, veteran senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Miriam Santiago, who are admittedly two of the most brilliant and experienced, support its passage. Both are graduating senators. We hope they will lead their colleagues in giving the Moros real autonomy, a legacy that the Moros will remember forever.

It is not good to pass the buck to the next Congress or President.  That is to leave the fate of BBL to chances. That is in effect shedding off responsibility. It should be passed now, not later. Domestic and international expressions of support are overwhelming and mounting; even Pope Francis during his meeting with President Aquino last December 4 had reportedly asked the latter to pass a “good” BBL.

The prospect of radicalization in Mindanao is not in the figment of imagination. It is real; there is an ongoing recruitment of youths by still unknown groups or personalities. But the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has not taken root yet. This calls not only for vigilance but more importantly, for a reliable partner of government which it can work with and combat this impending menace. But this can only be achieved if the BBL is passed into law thereby giving the MILF and its allies, including factions in the MNLF, the necessary leverage to do so.

China denies damaging reefs in disputed sea

From the Philippine Star (Dec 17): China denies damaging reefs in disputed sea

FILE - In this Monday, May 11, 2015, file photo, the alleged on-going reclamation of Subi Reef by China is seen from Pag-asa Island in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, western Palawan Province, Philippines. China’s campaign of island building in the South China Sea might soon quadruple the number of airstrips available to the People’s Liberation Army in the highly contested and strategically vital region. That could be bad news for other regional contenders, especially the U.S., the Philippines and Vietnam. Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool Photo via AP, File

Beijing on Wednesday denied reports that its construction activities on islands and reefs in the South China Sea damage marine ecological environment.

This follows the report from BBC News that Chinese fishermen are destroying coral reefs in the South China Sea.

"The relevant report is severely biased and misleading. The Nansha Islands are China’s territory. China cares about ecological protection of relevant islands, reefs and waters more than anyone," Chinese Foreign Minsitry Spokesperson Hong Lei said in a press conference.

Hong stressed that China underwent scientific evaluation and argumentation before starting construction in the islands and reefs.

"Placing equal emphasis on construction and protection, China has taken into full account issues like ecological environment and fishery protection, strictly followed environmental standards and requirements during construction, and adopted many effective measures to protect ecological environment," Hong said.

On the other hand, BBC News correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reported how hundreds of white coral branches in the in the Spratly or Nansha Islands have been damaged because of Chinese fishing activities.

Wingfield-Hayes narrated how he went underwater and saw that the sea floor was covered in a thick layer of broken fragments of coral.

"I swam on and on. In every direction the destruction stretched for hundreds of meters, piles and piles of shattered white coral branches. It seemed so illogical. Why would fishermen, even poachers, destroy a whole coral system like this?" Wingfield Hayes said in his report.

The BBC News correspondent described the situation of the sea "complete devastation."

During the hearing on the merits case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands, the Philippines hit China for interfering with fishing activities in the disputed South China Sea.

The Philippine delegation argued that China's construction activities in the region destroy the sea bed.

RELATED: Day 2 at The Hague: China hit for interfering with fishing in disputed sea

Soldiers foil rebel attack

From the Philippine Star (Dec 18): Soldiers foil rebel attack

Communist rebels preventing lumad evacuees from returning to their communities in Surigao del Sur ambushed patrolling Army troopers in the outskirts of Lianga town before dawn yesterday.

The troopers were able to repel the attack despite heavy bombardment from the rebels who waylaid them in Sitio Han-Ayan, Barangay Diatagon at around 2 a.m., according to 1/Lt. Karl Jan Devaras of the Army’s 75th Infantry Battalion.

Reports said the NPA ordered their fighters to burn abandoned homes in Barangay Kilometer 9 and Sitio Han-Ayan to prevent the lumads from returning.

The tribal folk fled to Tandag City several months ago for fear of being caught in the crossfire between the rebels and government security forces.

Devaras said his men were patrolling the area when a band of rebels set off an improvised explosive device and opened fire at them.

He said the ambushers could be members of the Guerilla Fronts 19A and 19B of the NPA’s North Eastern Mindanao regional committee.

As of yesterday afternoon, sporadic fighting continued in the area.

Military truck falls off ravine in Apayao; 2 soldiers killed

From GMA News (Dec 17): Military truck falls off ravine in Apayao; 2 soldiers killed

Two soldiers were killed while four others, including an officer, were hurt when their truck fell into a ravine in Calanasan town in Apayao province on Tuesday, a military official said Thursday.

Killed in the accident were Pvt.  Venerando Paul Kennedy Angeles and T/Sgt. Alberto Agustin, according to Maj. Gen. Lysander Suerte, commander of the Army's 5th Infantry Division.

Suerte identified the injured as Capt. Joel Dingle, Sgt.  Joel Belo, Cpl. Fresco Zalun Jr and Pvt. Vladimir Valdez.

"The dead shall be laid to rest with full honors. We shall take care of those injured, and ensure that they get the best medical treatment and care," said Suerte.

He said the soldiers "were performing their duties" when their vehicle fell off a 10-meter ravine.  He did not elaborate.

"The command’s priorities are to take care of their welfare and that of their families," Suerte said

MILF warns no BLBAR, no disarmament deal

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 18): MILF warns no BLBAR, no disarmament deal

After the Palace raised the possibility of the rise of Muslim militancy, now comes the threat of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) that it will not lay down more arms if the controversial Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) is not passed.

Failure of Congress to pass the BLBAR would freeze the agreement to decommission firearms of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said.

In a chance interview, Iqbal said that the decommissioning process would also be stalled as provided for in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

He said that the decommissioning process and the proposed Bangsamoro law should proceed simultaneously.

The proposed Bangsamoro law — the fruit of the CAB — will create the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region which will be governed by the Bangsamoro Parliament that will be elected by the people within the region. 

“Of course (it was delayed) because the decommissioning is tied up with political milestones,” Iqbal said.

“If the Bangsamoro law is passed and ratified, 30 percent of the decommissioning process will be completed. If it moves to third phase or the organization and operationalization of the Bangsamoro police, then another 35 percent of our forces will be decommissioned. The final 35 percent will be decommissioned once all agreements between the parties are implemented,” Iqbal added, referring to the government and the MILF.

Last June, the MILF deactivated only over 75 weapons, including 55 high-powered arms. In the same ceremony witnessed by President Aquino and Iqbal in Maguindanao, the MILF also decommissioned 145 out of its 10,000 armed forces identified as Bangsamoro Islamic Forces.

Under the proposed Bangsamoro law, the proposed Bangsamoro Region will also be receiving an annual block grant which is 2.4 percent of the national tax collection, a Special Development Fund worth P17 billion (P7 billion initially and P2 billion for the next five years) and a P1 billion transition fund for the infrastructure construction and rehabilitation work.

The Bangsamoro measure has recently hurdled the period of debate. The next stage is the period of amendments.

Lawmakers are afraid that the bill will not be approved by the 16th Congress.

They said there are only three weeks left for them to approve the bill before Congress adjourns before the campaign period.

Drilon says BLBAR still kicking

Hope springs eternal for President Aquino’s top ally, Senate President Franklin Drilon, as he disputed Sen. Ferdinand Marcos’ claim that the Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) is dead, saying the bill will pass next year still within Aquino’s term.

Marcos has said major obstacles such as lack of time and the chronic failure at the House of Representatives to muster quorum with the start of the election season has doomed the BLBAR.

Asked if he remains hopeful that it will still be approved and end up as a legacy of the Aquino administration, Drilon gave this reply, “certainly.”

“We will work for the passage of BBL next year...No it’s not yet dead,” Drilon told reporters even as he acknowledged that efforts will only prove to be futile if the House will not do its share of work in expediting the deliberations of the bill.

In handling the deliberations on the BLBAR, Drilon noted the point made by Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile that the measure should be treated as a local bill, which means that the upper chamber will have to wait for the House version of the bill.

“The other side would assert that this is a bill of national application because the national government would yield numerous powers exercise by the national government. Whatever it is, we will take the conservative approach. We will await the passage of the BBL in the House,” Drilon said.

“But we will process and continue to debate on the BBL in the Senate. So that when the House would be able to transmit it’s version to our chamber, we can immediately pass our own version. In other words, what we will intend to do is, debate on it in the chamber. We will process it to the point of probably passing it on second reading, await the approval by the House and pass it on third reading the day we receive it, the House version or the day after,” he added.

Drilon noted precedents in the past where the two Houses of Congress passed bills similarly situated with the BLBAR and in which the Senate proceeded with its deliberations, only voting on it on third and final reading after the House approved and transmitted its version to the upper chamber.

Records would bear him out on this in the handling of deliberations of Republic Act (RA) 60734 or the ARMM Organic Law which was the original law but which the Senate drafted an own version for it.

“The sponsorship speech, in our records, was on Jan. 9, 1989 and it was approved on second reading on March 17, 1989. But we did not approve it until the Senate received the House version on April 17, 1989. After we received it, we approved the Senate version on third reading,” he said.

The same was done in the case of RA 9054 the Act Strengthening the ARMM Organic Law as the House version was transmitted to the Senate on July 28, 1999 and immediately on the same day it was approved on second reading.

“After that, on January 10, 2001 and also on third Reading on the same day, on Jan. 10, 2001, we passed RA 6766, the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera Organic Law, the House version was transmitted to the Senate on April 17, 1989, it was sponsored on Apr. 10, 1989, it was approved on second reading after we received the House version on May 10, 1989 and approved it on third reading on May 26, 1989,” Drilon said.

“In our words, what we’re saying is, our legislative history would support the proposition that the Senate would wait for the approval of the House version insofar as the organic laws are concerned,” he added.

“So that is what we intend to do after the House. We will continue the debates in the Senate, we will try to approve it up to second reading but we will wait until we receive the version of the House before we approve it on third reading,” he said.

Based on his regular discussions on the status of the bill with Marcos, chairman of the local governments committee and sponsor of BLBAR in the Senate, Drilon said they share the common belief that there’s no serious objection on the bill as far as the Senate is concerned.

It’s a reversal of the situation in the House which has been plagued with a quorum problem on top of the strong resistance of a number of congressmen against what is perceived as unconstitutional provisions in the measure.

“There are a lot of interpellations for clarification, maybe amendments to points where there are doubts on constitutionality but we do not see any effort to block,” he said.

“We have no problem of quorum in the Senate. This week we ratified three treaties, which even required a two-thirds vote and we got the two-thirds vote. The problem on the quorum (is in the House), not the Senate,” Drilon stressed.

As to Enrile’s expressed position that the BLBAR is a bill of local application and therefore should be passed and enacted first by the lower house, the matter has not ben established, Drilon said.

“But we will, as I said, we take the conservative position,” he said.

China summons US envoy, protests arms sales to Taiwan

From the Daily Tribune (Dec 18): China summons US envoy, protests arms sales to Taiwan

China has summoned a senior United States envoy in protest of Washington’s announcement that it would sell warships to Taiwan as part of a massive $1.8 billion arms package, Beijing yesterday said.

Taipei will get an array of missiles, amphibious assault vehicles and two frigates in the latest deal which comes as the United States looks to shore up its Asian friends and allies in the face of growing Chinese assertiveness.

“China staunchly opposes America’s sale of arms to Taiwan,” a statement from the country’s foreign affairs ministry said as US charge d’affaires Kaye Lee was called in for a dressing down.
It said Beijing would impose sanctions on any companies involved in the sale, and warned Washington to cancel the deal to “avoid causing further damage to Sino-US relations.”

Although it has been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, China considers Taiwan a renegade province awaiting reunification.

It regularly lashes out at Washington and other powers for their dealings with Taipei, which it labels “interference” in Chinese domestic affairs.

The US weapons sale — the first to Taiwan in four years — comes at an increasingly febrile time in East Asia, where China’s aggressive position on territorial disputes with its neighbors has raised anxiety levels in the US and among allies from Japan to the Philippines.

Beijing is building islands with military-grade airstrips in the South China Sea, part of what observers say is an attempt to assert control over almost the whole of the body of water.

Several countries — along with Taiwan and the Philippines — also claim parts of the sea.

The US and its allies have carried out high-profile overflights of the sea, nearing the artificial islands, in what they say are routine “freedom of navigation” exercises in international waters.

Beijing says they are provocations and infringements of Chinese sovereignty.

In their meeting last Wednesday, Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told Lee the weapons deal “severely goes against international law and the basic norms of international relations,” adding it “severely harms China’s sovereignty and security interests.”

“US companies’ involvement in arms sales with Taiwan constitutes a severe infringement of China’s sovereignty and security interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said during a regular press briefing, adding “the Chinese government and companies will not conduct cooperation of business with those kinds of companies.”

Washington, which is bound by domestic laws to supply defense materials to Taiwan, played down the impact of the agreement.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the deal was in keeping with long-held American policy and would not affect relations with Beijing.

“As for our relationship with China, that remains an important relationship that we’re going to continue to work at,” he said.

“There’s no other message that needs to be taken away from this, other than we take seriously our commitment to the defense needs of Taiwan.”

Relations between Beijing and Taipei have warmed under current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou.

China’s leader Xi Jinping and Ma met for a historic summit in November, the first leaders’ summit since the 1949 split.

That meeting, and the generally pro-Beijing posture of Ma’s administration, has caused disquiet in Taiwan, where many people fear the growing reach of the world’s second largest economy.

Taipei said the deal was a testament to its right to self-defense.
“The US pays heed to Taiwan’s need to defend itself and would like to help Taiwan maintain sufficient self-defense capabilities,” the island’s defense ministry statement said in a statement.
Observers said the Chinese reaction was predictable bluster from Beijing.

The deal is unlikely to have a significant impact on Sino-US relations, said Bonnie Glaser, a senior adviser for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.

China threatened to impose sanctions on US defense companies who were responsible for the sale the last time the US announced an arms sale to Taiwan, but they didn’t follow through,” she said.

She added Beijing will likely stop short of taking steps this time for fear that Washington might retaliate with its own sanctions.

The deal includes two Perry-class Frigates, Javelin anti-tank missiles, TOW 2B anti-tank missiles, AAV-7 Amphibious Assault Vehicles and a range of other military equipment.

Australia says no plan to stop surveillance flights over South China Sea, tests ‘China’s patience’

From the Business World (Dec 17): Australia says no plan to stop surveillance flights over South China Sea, tests ‘China’s patience’

AUSTRALIA will not bow to Chinese pressure to halt surveillance flights over disputed islands in the South China Sea at the center of rival claims between China and some of its neighbors, Defense Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday.

Australia's Defense Minister Marise Payne--Reuters

The Australian Defense Department said on Tuesday one of its aircraft had flown “a routine maritime patrol” over the South China Sea from Nov. 25 to Dec. 4, just as the US Pacific Fleet Commander warned that a possible arms race could engulf the region.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of world trade ships every year, a fifth of it heading to and from US ports.

Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim parts of the South China Sea.

China is building seven man-made islands on reefs in the Spratly Islands, including a 3,000-meter-long (10,000-foot) airstrip on one of the sites, according to satellite imagery.

Such activity has fanned regional tension. In October, a U.S. guided missile destroyer sailed close to one of China’s man-made islands, drawing an angry rebuke from Beijing. US defense officials say another US patrol this year is unlikely.

Ms. Payne said Canberra would not be deterred by warnings from Beijing, which again responded angrily to the Australian patrol, and described the flights as a routine part of Australia’s role in helping to maintain regional stability and security.

“We always navigate in a very constructive way in the region,” she told reporters in Adelaide.

China’s Foreign Ministry, asked about the Australian flights, said this week countries outside the region should not “deliberately complicate the issue.”

Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said on Thursday he had nothing to add.

Chinese media has not been so restrained. On Wednesday, influential tabloid the Global Times, published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, implied there could be military retaliation if Australia persisted with the patrols.

“Australian military aircraft had better not regularly come to the South China Sea to add to the trouble, and especially not test China’s patience by getting close to China’s islands and reefs,” it said in an editorial.

China and Australia are friends and should act that way, it said.

“It really ought not to happen that one day, due to a freak combination of factors, coincidentally an aircraft was downed and it just happened to be Australian.”