Sunday, January 31, 2016

‘US violated no treaty’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 31): ‘US violated no treaty’

Drilon: Americans have nothing more to explain on Mamasapano


BIRD’S EYE VIEW OF KILLING FIELD The flat cornfields of Mamasapano town in Maguindanao province, where 44 commandos of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force were pinned down and killed on Jan. 25 in clashes with Moro rebels, as seen from a hovering drone. REM ZAMORA/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Senate President Franklin Drilon on Saturday said he believed the United States had nothing more to explain regarding its role in the counterterrorism operation in Maguindanao province last year that left 44 Filipino police commandos dead.

Speaking in a radio interview, Drilon said the US role in “Oplan Exodus,” the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (SAF) covert operation to take down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was part of the cooperation among countries fighting terrorism.

“We can’t act on this alone. Intelligence sharing is one thing where all countries cooperate. This is war on terrorism,” Drilon said.

The United States offered a $5-million reward for the capture of Marwan, a suspect in the 2002 bomb attacks on two nightclubs in Bali, Indonesia, that killed 202 people, including seven Americans.

Marwan was killed in Oplan Exodus, but nine members of the strike force, the 84th Special Action Company (SAC), and 35 members of the 55th SAC, which served as the blocking force for the mission, were also killed in gun battles with Moro rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, on Jan. 25, 2015.

Seventeen fighters from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and three civilians also died in the daylong fighting.

Enrile wants explanation

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile said at a hearing on the Mamasapano clash on Wednesday that the government should explain why it allowed US participation in the SAF mission to capture Marwan, which he said was a law enforcement matter.

Enrile wanted to know whether the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) or any other agreement was used as a basis for the US cooperation in the SAF mission.

He pointed out that the VFA covered only military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States, and it did not cover law enforcement, which involved criminal laws.

Criminal laws are strictly territorial, with few exceptions, he said.

Nothing violated

In his radio interview on Saturday, Drilon said the US role in Oplan Exodus did not violate any agreements between the Philippines and the United States.

No US base was set up in the Philippines for the Mamasapano operation so the Constitution was not violated, Drilon said.

“There was nothing violated in our treaty with America [or] under the Constitution,” he  said.

Former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas explained at the hearing on Wednesday that the United States was cooperating with the SAF because the force was the counterterrorism unit of the PNP.

US role

Napeñas said the United States through the Zamboanga-based Joint Task Force Philippines trained the 84th SAC, provided real-time intelligence information to strike force during the operation, helped to evacuate the dead and wounded after the clash, and conducted DNA identification of the slain Marwan.


Transcripts of discussions during closed-door sessions of the Senate Mamasapano investigation released last week showed that the United States provided an “intelligence surveillance reconnaissance” plane to locate the 84th SAC, whose members were carrying a finger of Marwan that they had cut off after killing him for DNA testing.

The US tracking helped a Philippine Army unit locate and rescue the 84th SAC commandos.

Norway pushes for peace talks to continue

From the Business Mirror (Jan 31): Norway pushes for peace talks to continue

In Photo: Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process in Colombia Ambassador Dag Nylander (second from left) with (from left) Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum, Embassy of Norway Ambassador Erik Forner and Moro Islamic Liberation Front chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal.

NORWAY recently urged the Philippine government to continue its peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF).
During the Royal Norwegian Embassy in the Philippines’s “War and Peace in the Philippines and Colombia: Pathways to a Political  Settlement” event, Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process in Colombia Ambassador Dag Nylander said the peace process must continue.
“Sustainable peace depends on parties finding common grounds.  They should find moderates in both camps.  Stay the course even if it is long  and with no certainty of end result,” Nylander said.
He added: “Use of military force is sometimes justified because of national interests.  Military intervention may stop fighting but they do not ensure that political settlement takes hold.”
Nylander said their work in the country’s peace process is part of the international efforts and that they advocate the work of civil society and its role to sustainable peace.
The peace process with the NDF, which negotiates on behalf of the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, began in 1986, but has stalled, with the last formal talks happening in 2013.
Norwegian Special Envoy to the Peace Process Elisabeth Slattum said they are committed long term toward achieving peace in the country.
“Peace processes are marathons, not sprints.  We need to patiently work toward political settlement of the conflict, and drawing lessons and experiences from other peace processes—such as the Colombian—can contribute to creative thinking, leading to progress in the Government of the Republic of the Philippines-NDF talks,” Slattum said.
Norway is the-third party facilitator in the peace process. 

Analysts: US should strengthen ties with Philippines to sustain Asia rebalance

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): Analysts: US should strengthen ties with Philippines to sustain Asia rebalance

The Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States strengthens the latter’s rebalance to Asia strategy. File photo

The United States (US) should extend its efforts to strengthen its alliance with the Philippines to sustain its rebalance in Asia, analysts said.

Analysts Kathleen Hicks and Michael Green said that the US has plenty of opportunities to network with its allies and partners in Asia such as Japan, Australia and India.

"This federated approach to defense should extend to the Philippines and other frontline states that are eager to improve in the face of expanding Chinese naval and air presence in the First Island Chain," Hicks and Green said in an article published on the blog of the Center for Strategic International Studies.

The analysts, however, added that the US should also expand its military ties with China to strengthen its confidence in areas such as humanitarian and disaster relief and crisis resolution.

"The US military must continue to expand and improve its Pacific posture—military forces, footprint, and agreements—to promote stability and deter aggression," the analysts said.

Hicks and Green added that the US expansion should include its access agreements with Australia, consolidation of Marine bases in Okinawa, Japan and opening of new facilities in Guam.

"Moreover, we must continue placing a premium on US military presence in Asia even as budgets contract and global force demand remains high," Hicks and Green said.

The analysts also suggested that the US should focus on building long-term defense capability investments for Asia by reducing known threats to American forces and strengthening its defense against potential military competitors.

The next US administration should have an Asia-Pacific strategy that sets out its goals in Asia, the analysts said.

"The rebalance to Asia should be a cornerstone of the next administration’s foreign policy, regardless of which party captures the White House," Hicks and Green said.
The analysts stressed that these steps would strengthen the rebalance of the US in Asia and ensure its longevity.

Show your proof

From the Mindanao Times (Feb 1): Show your proof

Military asks groups to file case vs. errant soldiers in light of IP harassments

THE MILITARY has challenged progressive groups into filing a formal case over allegations of human rights abuses committed by government troops against Lumad communities.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of the 10th Infantry Division, said they are don’t condone any abuses by soldiers, and would welcome any complaint to be filed against them.
“We hope that at this instance these allegations will go beyond propaganda so that the division can cleanse our ranks of misbehaving soldiers,” Batchar said.
“We will wait for the formal complaints and investigation that will be conducted by the authorities,” he added.
Human rights group Karapatan tagged the military in the series of killings and harassments perpetrated against Lumads in the region.
Teresita Navacilla, 60, passed away on Saturday while she was confined in a hospital in Tagum City. She was attacked inside her house in Pantukan, Compostela Valley on Jan. 27.
The victim was one of the convenors of Save Pantukan Movement, a vocal critic of large-scale mining and the military’s Oplan Bayanihan. Prior to her death, she was a purok chairman of Gumaman in Barangay Kingking in Pantukan.
Alex Josol, chairperson of Indug Katawhan, was also rushed to the hospital after unidentified perpetrator/s slammed a hard and heavy object down his head in Purok Lawaan, Barangay Napnapan in Pantukan on Jan. 28.
They were waiting for him as he was on his way to their tunnel,” Hanimay Suazo, secretary general of Karapatan-SMR, said.
Josol and Navacilla were small-scale miners who have accused troops from the 46th Infantry Batallion of human rights violations.
Reportedly, the manobos evacuated from Talaingod, Davao del Norte because they were allegedly harassed by a paramilitary group belonging to the 68th Infantry Battalion last Jan. 29.
There was also a report that four children of Datu Ginom Adil were abducted by alleged Alamara group in Sitio Tibukag ,Barangay Dagohoy in Talaingod on Jan. 28 at 4 p.m. but they were released on Friday.
According to Suazo, they were abducted because the paramilitary group wanted Datu Andil to stop break away from Salugpongan group. Datu Adil was among the tribal leaders who stayed in UCCP Haran allegedly out of fear for their lives from the Alamara.

USAID official visits Bohol, renews US commitment to growth

From the Philippine Information Agency (Jan 29): USAID official visits Bohol, renews US commitment to growth

United States Agency for International Development (USAID) General Counsel John Simpkins visited the province of Bohol from January 26 to 27 to renew the US government’s commitment to the province’s inclusive and sustainable development.

Simpkins joined Bohol officials led by Governor Edgar Chatto and Tagbilaran City Mayor John Geesnell Yap II to launch the Stakeholders’ Forum, which was organized by  U.S. Embassy Manila’s USAID through its Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) Project.

SURGE is the flagship activity of USAID’s Cities Development Initiative (CDI), which aims to transform secondary cities into engines of growth.

Tagbilaran is one of the CDI partner cities, together with Batangas, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, and Zamboanga.

Launched in 2015, SURGE supports these cities to become economically thriving and resilient growth centers outside the urban core of Manila, with increased levels of investment, employment and disaster risk preparedness for the city and adjacent rural areas.

Representatives from national agencies, local governments, businesses, and civil society attended the forum where they identified and prioritized SURGE activities for Tagbilaran city.

During the event, Simpkins witnessed the signing of four partnership agreements. “Today marks an important milestone for the province of Bohol and the city of Tagbilaran, as we witness the forging of partnerships that will improve the local economy’s competitiveness and overall development,” he said.

Following the event, Simpkins visited Tagbilaran City Elementary School, where he handed out learning materials to Grade 2 students on behalf of the American people and led a reading activity for the children.

In his interaction with school administrators and faculty, he reiterated the U.S. government’s commitment to help improve the reading skills of students.

Through its basic education program, Basa Pilipinas, USAID is working to improve the reading skills of one million early grade students by strengthening reading instruction for teachers and increasing access to quality reading materials.

Capping Simpkin’s trip was a meeting with local stakeholders to discuss maritime law implementation in Danajon Reef at the Balicasag Marine Protected Area. USAID, through its Ecosystems Improved for Sustainable Fisheries (ECOFISH) activity, supports the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Bohol Province to protect its coastal and marine resources.

Simpkins praised the innovative approach undertaken by government officials and the communities to protect and preserve its natural resources.

Gov’t. provides assistance to former rebels

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Gov’t. provides assistance to former rebels

The government has released P1.3-million livelihood assistance to 20 former rebels in Capiz last year.

Under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP), the 20 former rebels here have already started their lives anew after they ended their arm struggle and decided to go back to the fold of the law and embrace a new life.

Of the 20 rebels of whom 14 are male and six are female, 16 former rebels are from Tapaz, three from Jamindan and one from Maayon town.

In December last year, 12 former rebels each received a P65,000 livelihood assistance under the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) which is spearheaded by the DILG as part of the government's peace and development efforts across the country.

The assistance aims to aid the former rebels in their transition back to mainstream society.

Capiz Governor Victor Tanco with representatives from the Armed Forces of the Philippines and DILG handed over the said check.

In April, eight former rebels also each received the same assistance from the government.

The CLIP implementation is in partnership with the local government units, AFP, Philippine National Police, Department of Social Welfare and Development and civil society organizations that demonstrates the Aquino administration's commitment to pursuing peace and development amid the stalled peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

PAF to acquire brand new combat boots

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 1): PAF to acquire brand new combat boots

Aside from brand-new aircraft and spare parts, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) is also allocating PHP4,357,800 for the acquisition of combat boots for its personnel.

Interested bidders can submit their bids on Tuesday, 9:00 a.m., at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

"All particulars relative to Eligibility Statement and Screening, Bid Security, Performance Security, Pre-Bidding Conference/s, Evaluation of Bids, Post-Qualification and Award of Contract shall be governed by the pertinent provisions of Republic Act 9184 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR)," said the bid bulletin at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System.

The latter also known as "An Act Providing For The Modernization, Standardization And Regulation Of The Procurement Activities Of The Government And For Other Purposes."

This is in line with the government's transparency and accountability efforts.

‘Create 2 federal states in Muslim Mindanao for peace’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirerm(Jan 31): ‘Create 2 federal states in Muslim Mindanao for peace’

With hope dying on the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), an ex-governor has proposed a drastic solution to achieve the “elusive peace” in southern Philippines: Amend the Constitution to allow the creation of two federal states in Muslim Mindanao.

This was the formula proposed by former Tawi-Tawi Gov. Al Tillah, which he presented at a media forum in Quezon City on Saturday.

Tillah suggested that two federal states in Muslim Mindanao could be created—one for the island provinces of Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and the “environs of Zamboanga,” and another for the landlocked provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and neighboring provinces.

“This to me is the only viable solution to end the war in Mindanao,” he said.

Tillah expressed the hope the Philippines “will go with the federal system” and “amend the Constitution” through a constitutional convention.

“This government thinks the 1987 Cory Constitution is the Bible, the Quran. It is not.
The United States Constitution has been amended several times. Why is it not possible to amend the Constitution… to serve the needs and times of our people and country?” Tillah said.

Tillah said the BBL—a key feature of the peace agreement the Aquino administration signed with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and which seeks to create an expanded Muslim region in Mindanao to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao—can only achieve peace “to some extent, but not totally.”

8 bases on table in Edca talks with US

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 1): 8 bases on table in Edca talks with US
TOP Philippine diplomats and defense officials will soon meet with their US counterparts to discuss the implementing details of the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, or Edca, between Manila and Washington, including the designation of at least eight local military bases for US use.

Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma told the Inquirer Sunday that “the decision on which (military) bases will be used jointly by the Philippines and the US will be subject to mutual agreement between the two countries.”

“This is one of the matters that will be discussed during the forthcoming meeting of the Mutual Defense Board and the Security Engagement Board” of the two allies,” he added.

Col. Restituto Padilla, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, earlier said that Manila had offered Washington eight bases where it could build facilities to store equipment under the Edca: Basa Air Base in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Clark Air Base, also in Pampanga; Fort Magsaysay in Palayan, Nueva Ecija; Camp Antonio Bautista and a naval base in Palawan; Camp Benito Ebuen and a naval base in Cebu, and Lumbia air field in Cagayan de Oro City.

Many of these facilities are already AFP “exercise sites,” he noted.

According to Padilla, “the list was prepared many months ago.”

The Americans are also seeking access to three seaports, including Subic Bay, the former US naval base in Zambales, and airfields on Luzon.

Last year, more than 100 US Navy ships reportedly docked at Subic, while two advanced nuclear-powered stealth submarines made visits in early January.

Last month, Philippine and US officials met in Washington to discuss locations Manila could provide access to US forces for their “mutual benefit.”

The high-level meeting was held at the Department of State hours after the Philippine Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Edca signed by the two countries four years ago.

Brink of war

The pact allows American forces, warships and planes access to Philippine military camps.

China’s official Xinhua news agency, in an English language commentary, had warned that the Edca would only escalate tensions and “could push the situation to the brink of war.”

The Philippines “appears to be now turning to Uncle Sam to back its ambition to counter China,” the article said.

The deal, it claimed, was “groundless because China, which sticks to a defensive defense policy, has never coerced any country on the South China Sea issue.”

Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te explained that the high court’s ruling simply affirmed the rotational presence, not the permanent basing, of US troops in the country.

The decision was clear in saying that the Edca should remain within the bounds of both the 1999 Visiting Forces Agreement and the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty.

The high court’s ruling declaring the Edca constitutional bolstered US efforts to assert its presence in Asia and dovetailed with Manila’s desire for American assistance in countering Beijing’s maritime claims in the South China Sea.

‘Lumad’ seek help amid new abuses

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 1): ‘Lumad’ seek help amid new abuses

TALAINGOD, Davao del Norte—Ata-Manobo villagers are crying anew for help to stop what they call another wave of atrocities being committed by suspected anticommunist militiamen in their communities here.

The “lumad” (indigenous) leaders aired their appeal shortly after returning to their homes from a Protestant Church-operated sanctuary in Davao City in May, where they took shelter from alleged abuses committed by the Alamara, a tribal militia unit purportedly propped up by the military for its counterinsurgency activities.

They renewed calls for the pullout of soldiers from their villages and the dismantling of the Alamara.

Maj. Gen. Rey Leonardo Guerrero, Eastern Mindanao Command chief, said the military had never tolerated abuses against lumad communities. He denied that the military was supporting the Alamara, though he acknowledged that it was recognizing legitimate tribal armed groups such as the “baganis” (tribal warriors).

“The bagani is part of the political structure of the tribes. We don’t know about that Alamara. We are consistent with our view that this Alamara is nonexistent,” Guerrero said.

Contrary to claims by human rights groups that the military has been using the Alamara as a proxy against the New People’s Army (NPA), Guerrero said he “has yet to find any evidence that the Alamara has helped in our counterinsurgency efforts.”

Datu Cris Olaño told North Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, chair of the House committee on indigenous peoples, during her visit on Friday that “barely three days after we returned to our homes, killings happened again and the Alamara continues to threaten us.”

Since November last year, hundreds of Ata-Manobo people have gone back to their communities here, months after they descended in Davao City to seek refuge at Haran, which is owned by the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

They spoke of abuses and human rights violations allegedly committed by military units and the Alamara in the hinterlands of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon provinces.
A 17-year old Manobo girl was also reportedly raped by soldiers. The victim has filed charges against her supposed attackers.

In November, more than 200 of the 700 Haran evacuees agreed to return home after government officials and law-enforcement authorities gave assurance that they would be protected this time.

But Olaño said recent incidents, such as the killing of a datu and a 15-year old boy, proved that the words of assurance were empty. Over 170 of the villagers have been forced to flee anew, he said.

“We really wanted to solve their concerns as these have been recurring,” Catamco said. “We brought the national agencies like the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), DOH (Department of Health) and Department of Education to help provide their immediate needs.”

She said she was coordinating with a technical working group that President Aquino created to look into the plight of the lumad communities and find solutions to their problems.

Datu Nardo Bontuas, another tribal leader, said he could not blame anybody else for his people’s predicament but the soldiers and the Alamara.

“We used to eat three meals a day before the military and Alamara came to our village. Now that they pass by frequently, we could eat only once a day,” Bontuas said through an interpreter.

Catamco said she could not prevent the military from entering the villages as it was mandated “to protect the lumad against armed groups out to hamper the delivery of government services.”

But Bontuas said no other armed groups were sighted in the villages, including the communist NPA, which they have been accused of supporting.

Romy Maas, another lumad leader, said the situation in the indigenous communities would end once the military and the Alamara stop labeling residents as communist supporters.

“We’re not NPAs. We’re just farmers and civilians. The Alamara should not target us,” he said.

All the communities want a peaceful existence and that they should be spared from the government’s anticommunist campaign, Maas said.

Guerrero said the soldiers would even hunt down Alamara members if their group really existed. “We will run after Alamara and other lawless elements in upland communities, especially now that elections are approaching,” he said.

Palace accepts BBL’s doom

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): Palace accepts BBL’s doom

With Malacañang accepting that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is doomed in Congress, President Aquino has directed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles to consult with concerned parties on sustaining the peace initiative beyond his term.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., in his regular weekend interview over state-run radio dzRB, yesterday said Deles was told to come up with an action plan for the next administration to consider.

The directive was to “firm up in consultation with stakeholders an action plan for promoting the peace process in the transition period during the remainder of the current administration’s term and up to the assumption of the next administration.”

President Aquino has ordered that special efforts be exerted to ensure the implementation of a peace agreement with Muslim rebels even after his term ends this year, Coloma said.

Congressional leaders have said they are unlikely to pass the BBL before the President’s term ends in June.

Aquino had hoped to sign the BBL to seal a peace accord with the largest Muslim rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

But opposition from some legislators had delayed its passage despite his lobbying.
Senate President Franklin Drilon himself has conceded that there is no more time to pass the measure, considering that there will only be three session days left starting today, for Congress to approve the BBL.

For her part, Deles said the peace panel headed by Miriam Coronel-Ferrer might still conduct consultations with the MILF, which they have dealt with for the past five years of the Aquino administration.

“Measures will include strengthening existing peace bodies and mechanisms to include the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, ceasefire and other joint security mechanisms, joint bodies for socioeconomic interventions,” she said.

“We would want to operationalize the recommendations of the transitional justice and reconciliation commission regarding the healing of the wounds of war, and moving towards sharpened interfaith and multicultural dialogue and cooperation,” Deles added.

And more importantly, there has to be an “undertaking of necessary groundwork to ensure the success of the legal, political track in the next administration.”

“We need to do all that is possible to ensure the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro beyond this administration,” Coloma explained, quoting from the text message of Deles.

Last week, Malacañang acknowledged the imminent doom of the BBL following the remaining three session days of Congress, saying the path to peace is not limited to the passage of the peace measure.

Coloma issued the statement after Drilon and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. conceded that time is running out for Congress to pass the priority measure.

“We have three days left. Let’s see. I cannot be certain about that,” Drilon admitted.

The BBL needs to be ratified by Congress in order to be implemented as the governing law for the Bangsamoro region by replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao that was created during the term of Aquino’s mother, the late Cory in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The House of Representatives, for its part, has ended the period of debates and started the period of amendments.

But the long speeches of lawmakers against the measure have taken much time that the prospects of its passage in the chamber next week – where Congress will adjourn for the election campaign – are near impossible.

Even if it breezes through the House, it still has to hurdle the Senate, which has prepared a different, more constitutional version renamed the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.

Spokesman: Marcelino not profiting from illegal drugs

From GMA News (Jan 31): Spokesman: Marcelino not profiting from illegal drugs

A military officer on Sunday denied the police's "insinuation" that embattled Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino is financially benefitting from illegal drugs.

"The bank transactions that PNP-AIDG (Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Group presented were meant to discredit Ltcol Marcelino," Marcelino's spokesperson Major Vonne Villanueva said in a statement.

Villanueva  said Marcelino "categorically denies the insinuations by PNP-AIDG that he is profiting from illegal drugs trade."

The PNP-AIDG announced last Thursday that its investigators are coordinating with the Anti-Money Laundering Council to look into the financial records of Marcelino.

Chief Inspector Roque Merdegia, spokesperson of AIDG, said that also seized 13 bank deposit slips from Marcelino during a drug raid at a townhouse in Sta. Cruz, Manila last January 21.

Seized during the raid were more than 60 kilos of shabu.

Mardegia said that based on the bank deposit slips, Marcelino withdrew at least P2.25 million from May of 2014 until March 2015.

Aside from the drugs and the bank transaction receipts, he said operatives also seized cash -- P2,510, $210, Aus$15 and HK$20 -- from Marcelino.

Marcelino's bag also yielded P86,000 cash, the AIDG spokesperson added.

Villanueva said that Marcelino kept the bank receipts and AFP passbooks "as part of his personal financial records and his confidential operational fund records when he was still with ISAFP (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines)."

"I would not discuss the details in public due to its sensitive nature and the fact that they have not filed another case against him related to these bank deposits," the former military spokesman said.

Villanueva said that the embattled Marine official is willing to sign a waive for AMLC to probe into his bank records "only if his accusers will do the same."

US vows to help PH versus China

From The Standard (Jan 31): US vows to help PH versus China

WHILE the Philippines’ dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea is not covered by the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, the US will abide by its treaty with the Philippines if it turns into a shooting war, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said Saturday.

“Edca isn’t directly related to the South China Sea [West Philippine Sea] issues. It’s about the United States helping its ally, the Philippines, as it goes about building a minimum credible defense,” Goldberg said in an interview with the GMA Network.

“It’s not aimed at any country or the disagreements in the South China Sea,” Goldberg said, but in case of a “shooting war,” the US will be ready to abide by the Mutual Defense Treaty it signed with the Philippines in 1951.

“The Philippines is a treaty ally of the United States. President Obama, when he was here, said that the treaty is ironclad. We take seriously our responsibilities, our obligations under the Mutual Defense Treaty,” Goldberg said.

He, however, said that the US is not anticipating a “shooting war” due to the sea disputes.

“That is a hypothetical situation. You have to know what the circumstances are,” he said.

Goldberg made the remark as he lauded the decision of the Supreme Court, in its first en banc session for the year, to uphold the constitutionality of the Edca, which allows increased rotational presence of US troops in the country.

The high court voted 10 in favor, four against and one taking no part. Those who dissented to the majority ruling were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Marvic Leonen.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio wrote a concurring opinion while De Castro, Brion, and Leonen wrote their respective dissenting opinions.

Under the agreement, the US will be allowed to build structures, store as well as pre-position weapons, defense supplies and materiel, station troops, civilian personnel and defense contractors, transit and station vehicles, vessels, and aircraft for a period of 10 years.

The US envoy also made the remark amid growing fears in Southeast Asia that China’s activities in disputed waters is adding to tensions in the region, Malacañang said.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. stressed that the Philippines is determined to “assert the importance of freedom of navigation and over flight” in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, which China claims almost entirely.

The building of additional runways contributes to heightened tensions in the region, Coloma said.

“We reiterate that these actions by China violate not only pertinent international laws but also the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea of which China is a signatory, along with the member countries of [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he added.

NPA rebels, soldiers clash in Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): NPA rebels, soldiers clash in Masbate

While conducting an internal security operation at about 11:42 a.m. Sunday, elements of the 9th Infantry Division encountered more or less than 12 New People’s Army (NPA) members at the vicinity of Sitio Balalong, Barangay Villa Pogado, Cataingan, Masbate.

A police report said the rebels were believed to be members of Kilusang Larangang Gerilya-South led by Rogelio Suson, also known as Ka Manong.

The firefight lasted for 10 minutes with no casualty on the government side and an undetermined number on enemy side.The rebels withdrew toward southeast direction.

Chief Supt. Augusto M. Marquez Jr., Bicol police regional director, directed all chiefs of adjacent police stations to conduct checkpoint operations and intelligence monitoring in their respective areas of responsibility.

A hot pursuit operation is still being conducted by elements of the 9IB against the fleeing enemies.

PNP Transformation: 25 years in the making --Sarmiento

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): PNP Transformation: 25 years in the making --Sarmiento

Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) recounted on Sunday the Philippine National Police's (PNP) struggle for change since its inception in 1990.

"Twenty-five years ago, the framers of Republic Act No. 6975 wanted to overhaul the police force. The government tried to address the public’s perception of its police and the need to upgrade the capability of the PNP as a whole," said Sarmiento in his message during the celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

R.A. 6975 is the law that established the PNP under a reorganized DILG.

The DILG Secretary said that no matter how promising the law was, the transformation plan back then had a few remarkable strides because it lacked the needed funds. There were only little upgrades in terms of equipment, personnel capability, and training.

However, Sarmiento lauded how the country's police force struggled and evolved throughout the years, especially with the help of a supportive administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

"I am glad that I serve as Secretary of the DILG while a supportive President is in office. With President Aquino, not only did his administration pour in around Php73-billion to upgrade the PNP, we also have in our hands the Patrol Plan 2030," he said.

The DILG Chief also urged the PNP not to forget the basics in fighting criminality, that is by winning the hearts and minds of their true bosses -- the Filipino people.

He further lauded the PNP for establishing its presence in public areas which has helped inculcate in the public that they are allies in keeping the communities safe.

Sarmiento said he is confident that PNP is in the best position in achieving all its targets come 2030.

More Lumad flee homes amid 'harassment'

From Rappler (Jan 31): More Lumad flee homes amid 'harassment'

Lumad from Davao del Norte claim that military and paramilitary forces still threaten their community

 UNDER THREAT. Datu Cris Olaño, a Lumad leader, expresses his concerns during a congressional inquiry on January 29, 2016. Photo by Editha Z. Caduaya/Rappler

UNDER THREAT. Datu Cris Olaño, a Lumad leader, expresses his concerns during a congressional inquiry on January 29, 2016. Photo by Editha Z. Caduaya/Rappler

Indigenous peoples from a village in Talaingod, Davao del Norte again expressed concerns about the alleged harassment by military and paramilitary forces in their area.

A week ago, around 170 Lumad from Talaingod fled to the Haran compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) in Davao City.

One of their leaders, Datu Mard Buntu-ag, told a congressional inquiry on Friday, January 29, that they continue to fear for their safety.

(READ: Is the military innocent in Lumad killings?)

"We used to eat 3 times daily, but when the soldiers entered our communities, our lives were endangered. They accused us of being rebels," Buntu-ag said.

Tribal chieftain Datu Cris Olaño also said threats from the Alamara paramilitary group persist. The Lumad believe the Alamara is backed by the military.

"We went home December 30, thinking we will be safe [in Talaingod] and live a normal life, but here again we are threatened," he said.

The military's Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom), however, maintained that they are not backing the Alamara.

"We do not encourage paramilitary groups. We have yet to get evidence that the Alamara is helping the soldiers in our counter-insurgency efforts," said Eastmincom commander Major General Rey Leonardo Guerrero. "We will run after Alamara and other lawless elements in upland communities, especially now that elections are approaching."

Guerrero added that the military regularly conducts foot patrols because it receives reports that New People's Army (NPA) rebels are disturbing the residents.

Datu Intu Sayad, a former NPA rebel, also said that rebels who infiltrate Lumad communities make the indigenous peoples vulnerable to attacks.

(READ: Lumad: Caught in the middle of a war)

"Leave us alone," Sayad said. "We are capable of protecting our communities because we have our own political structure, we have our way of keeping peace. Rebels must be driven out from our lands."

Romy Maas, another Lumad leader from Talaingod, appealed to authorities to spare them from the government’s fight against communist rebels.

"We're not NPAs, we’re just farmers and civilians. The Alamara should not target us," Maas said.

In May 2015, more than 700 Lumad were displaced from Talaingod after alleged government forces and the Alamara occupied several villages in the town. Human rights groups reported cases of harassment and indiscriminate firing.

(READ: TIMELINE: Attacks on the Lumad of Mindanao)

United Nations Special Rapporteur Chaloka Beyani visited the displaced Lumad in July 2015, and urged the Philippine government to defend the indigenous peoples from militarization.

"They described to me their concerns including their alleged forced recruitment into paramilitary groups, known as Alamara, under the auspices of the AFP and harassment in the context of the ongoing conflict between the AFP and the NPA," Beyani said.

Friday's congressional inquiry was led by North Cotabato 2nd District Representative Nancy Catamco, the chairperson of the House committee on indigenous peoples.

Catamco came under fire last July for allegedly insulting the Lumad, but she denied the allegation, pointing out that she herself was an indigenous person. She also insisted that the Lumad were being suppressed at the Haran compound.

(READ: Duterte: Lawmaker to blame for clash in Lumad evacuees' site)

On Friday, Catamco vowed to address the plight of the Lumad.

"We really wanted to solve their concerns and these have been recurring, the health department, the social services and the education directors are all here because we are seriously looking into this situation and we are ready to provide them the urgent and the long-term needs of the community," she said.

Beyond PNoy: moving on in the Bangsamoro peace process

From MindaNews (Jan 31): Beyond PNoy: moving on in the Bangsamoro peace process

“The BLBAR is dead; long live the BBL!”

The Congress-proposed Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) under the Aquino administration is dead, but the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) will continue to live beyond the Aquino administration.

This is what lawyer Ishak Mastura, head of the Regional Board of Investments (RBOI) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, meant when he said “the BLBAR is dead; long live the BBL!.”

Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, chair of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has repeatedly said that in their present form, they would not accept the BLBAR that the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL and the Senate Committee on Local Government substituted for the “agreed version” of the BBL because these versions envision a Bangsamoro that is “less than the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) that it seeks to replace” and the Senate version reduces it into a mere local government unit.

In an interview on January 26, Murad reiterated earlier statements that if the BBL is not passed under the Aquino administration, they will continue, in the next administration, to demand implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which the peace panels signed on March 27, 2014.

There will be no renegotiation of the CAB, he said, because it is a signed agreement, forged after 17 years of peace negotiations, and is in fact already on implementation phase, including the passage of the BBL.

PARTNERS IN PEACE. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on stage at the ceremonial decommissioning on Tuesday at the gymnasium of the old Maguindanao Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

PARTNERS IN PEACE. President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim on stage at the ceremonial decommissioning of MILF combatants and weapons on June 16, 2015  at the gymnasium of the old Maguindanao Capitol in Simuay, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. MindaNews file photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

He said they will not change the draft BBL for submission to the 17th Congress (2016-2019) because “it’s already an agreed version. Napagkasunduan na.”

He said the process of passing the BBL under the next administration will not necessarily go back to zero but to square 1 as the “agreed version” of the BBL will already be ready for submission when the 17th Congress opens and will then go through the legislative mill.

Murad said they are aware that once the draft BBL is re-filed, changes would still be made by the next Congress. “Titingnan natin kasi sa proseso, even though it’s already agreed, kung meron silang pagbabago (Let’s see because in the process, even though it’s already agreed, Congress might introduce changes).”

He said they are open to “improvements” of the draft when Congress deliberates on it, “as long as it will not contradict the CAB… as long as they will comply with the CAB.”

The “agreed version” Murad is referring to is the version drafted by the BTC which was vetted by and agreed upon with the Office of the President, the same version submitted to Congress during ceremonial rites held in Malacanang on September 10, 2014.

This draft BBL became HB 4994 and SB 2408.

After their committee hearings, however, the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law and the Senate Committee on Local Government, filed their respective substitute bills HB 4894 and SB 2408, both titled BLBAR.


In September last year, when deliberations on the Bangsamoro law were already riddled with problems, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel told MindaNews that “amending the BBL by deleting its constitutionally questionable provisions was the easier thing to do – in Congress – than to revise the Constitution” to accommodate the Bangsamoro, a regional government that will be parliamentary in form.

“But, if we are minded to revise the Constitution and offer our Muslim brethren a formula for peace and development that is widely acceptable to them as a people, we might as well propose the adoption of a federal system of government,” Pimentel, a MIndanawon and long-time advocate of federalism, said.

“For a federal system of government for the entire country would not only give the Bangsamoro peoples a chance to govern themselves according to their customs and traditions – with minimal interference by the central government, but will also give the rest of the country’s ‘federal states’ the same status without the latter’s having to rise up in arms as our Muslim brethren had to do over the centuries,” he said.

On January 13, when MindaNews asked Pimentel on the chances that Congress can still pass an “acceptable” Bangsamoro law given only nine session days left to deliberate on it, Pimentel said, “none in law that will satisfy the MILF or the other Muslim factions.”

The MILF found the BLBAR substitute bills unacceptable because it would render the Bangsamoro less autonomous than the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). In the deliberations for what would become RA 9054 in early 2001, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) also found the Congressional draft unacceptable because it would “render the ARMM less autonomous than it already was.”

Pimentel said passing a Bangamoro law in Congress “is another pointless attempt at settling the so-called ‘Moro problem’ in Mindanao.”

“Federalism is the way to go,” he said.

Only one of the four major contenders for the Presidency is espousing federalism.
Shifting to a federal form of government requires amending the 1987  Constitution.

For Dean Tony La Vina of the Ateneo School of Government, the immediate next step is “for government and MILF to negotiate a new timetable.”

The two peace panels will meet in February in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the next steps.

Let Supreme Court rule

Mastura, who earlier served as a lawyer and member of the technical working group of the MILF peace panel, told MindaNews that he believes the “BBL legislative agenda will continue even up to the next administration if there is no more time in this administration” but in the meantime, he hopes the Supreme Court would now act on the cases filed before it that questioned the constitutionality of the 2012 Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsmoro.

“In the meantime, we have to get the Supreme Court involved in jump-starting the process with a ruling on the cases against FAB/CAB so that there are no more time-consuming debates on constitutionality among the executive and legislative departments,” Mastura said.

He said his preferred mode for “next steps” in the Bangsamoro peace process is for the Supreme Court to conduct oral arguments for the cases against the FAB and CAB “and then rule on it to have the parameters and guide on the legislation of BBL that is based on CAB/FAB and to find out if indeed we need constitutional amendment for some of its provisions to be accommodated.”

“Thus, with this move or modality, the whole of government, i.e. the three branches of government — meaning the executive, legislative and judiciary — will be engaged in the Mindanao peace process,” Mastura proposed.

Lawyer Maria Asis of the Bangsamoro Study Group said the next steps would be “continuous assertion of the CAB, one arena of which is the Supreme Court.”

Saturday, January 30, 2016

China strongly condemns US for sending warship near island

From the Philippine Star (Jan 31): China strongly condemns US for sending warship near island

A Navy media team waits for the arrival of foreign dignitaries on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan at the U.S. Navy Base in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin talked to reporters Friday about two of the biggest challenges the U.S. military faces in Asia: North Korea and the South China Sea. He spoke aboard the USS Ronald Reagan. The 20,000-sailor strong 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, covers a region from India to the international dateline in the Pacific Ocean. AP/Ken Moritsugu

China strongly condemned the United States after a U.S. warship deliberately sailed near one of the Beijing-controlled islands in the hotly contested South China Sea to exercise freedom of navigation and challenge China's vast territorial claims.

The missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur sailed within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Triton Island in the Paracel chain "to challenge excessive maritime claims of parties that claim the Paracel Islands," without notifying the three claimants beforehand, Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright said in Washington.

China, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims in the Paracels and require prior notice from ships transiting what they consider their territorial waters. The latest operation was particularly aimed at China, which has increased tensions with the U.S. and its Southeast Asian neighbors by embarking on massive construction of man-made islands and airstrips in contested areas.

In October, another U.S. warship sailed in the nearby Spratly Islands near Subi Reef, where China has built one of seven artificial islands.

Wright said the attempts to restrict navigational rights by requiring prior notice are inconsistent with international law. U.S. officials said that such ship movements would be regular in the future.

China responded swiftly. Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun issued a statement saying the U.S. action "severely violated Chinese law, sabotaged the peace, security and good order of the waters, and undermined the region' s peace and stability," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

According to Yang, Chinese troops on the island and navy vessels and warplanes took actions immediately, identified the U.S. warship and "warned and expelled it swiftly."

He said that the U.S. operation was "very unprofessional and irresponsible for the safety of the troops of both sides, and may cause extremely dangerous consequences."

Chinese armed forces will take whatever measures "necessary to safeguard China's sovereignty and security, no matter what provocations the U.S. side may take," Yang said.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said separately that the Chinese side conducted surveillance and "vocal warnings to the U.S. warship."

China claims almost the entire South China Sea and its islands, reefs and atolls on historic grounds. The area has some of the world's busiest shipping lanes, and U.S. officials say ensuring freedom of navigation is in U.S. national interests, while not taking sides in the territorial disputes.

China seized the unpopulated Triton Island, an area of 1.2 square kilometers (0.46 sq. miles), from former South Vietnam in 1974. In May 2014, China parked a huge oil drilling platform off the Vietnamese coast in the area, prompting Vietnam to sent fishing boats and coast guard vessels to harass the rig and nearby Chinese vessels.
 Skirmishes led to collisions and the capsizing of at least one Vietnamese boat.

6 PAF 'Huey' up for maintenance, repairs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): 6 PAF 'Huey' up for maintenance, repairs

With helicopters playing a major role in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it is procuring spare parts needed for the maintenance of six of its UH-IH "Huey" combat utility helicopters.

The budget for the maintenance project is placed at PHP17,241,236.23.

UH-IH helicopters slated for maintenance are those bearing tail numbers 276, 863, 504, 513, 517 and 507.

Submission and opening of bids is on Feb. 2, 9:00 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

The UH-IH is a military helicopter powered by a single turboshaft engine, with two-bladed main and tail rotors.

It was was developed by Bell Helicopter to meet the United States Army's requirement for a medical evacuation and utility helicopter in 1952, and it first flew on October 20, 1956.

Ordered into production in March 1960, the UH-1 was the first turbine-powered helicopter to enter production for the United States military, and more than 16,000 have been built.

The PAF is known to operate 41 variants of the UH-I helicopters for its transport, medical evacuation and ground support missions.

President Aquino orders OPAPP to promote peace process even beyond his term

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 31): President Aquino orders OPAPP to promote peace process even beyond his term

President Benigno S. Aquino III has directed the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) to firm up consultation with the stakeholders to come up with an action plan for promoting the peace process in the transition period during the remaining months of his administration and up to the next administration.

Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio B. Coloma Jr. told the Radyo ng Bayan on Sunday the directive has been given to the OPAPP through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

According to Coloma, OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles has said the government needs to hold consultations with all the stakeholders, particularly with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the government peace panel in 204.

”But measures will include strengthening existence peace bodies and mechanisms, joint bodies for socioeconomic interventions,” Coloma said, quoting Deles’ statement.

The government, Deles said, wants to operationalize the recommendations of the transitional justice and reconciliatory commission regarding the healing of the wounds of war and moving towards sharpened interfaith and multicultural dialogue and cooperation.

”And also very important, undertaking the necessary groundwork to ensure the legal political track in the next administration. We need to do all that is possible to ensure the full implementation of the CAB beyond this administration,” Deles said.

The signing of the CAB between the Philippine government peace panel and the MILF has resulted in the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which both the Senate and the House of Representatives are still working to get it pass in the remaining sessions of the 16th Congress.

In the Senate, Committee on Local Government Chairman Senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos submitted a substitute bill entitled Basic Law on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR) which, he said, will not violate the Constitution.

The Senate, however, is still deliberating on the BLBAR at the plenary and Senate President Franklin Drilon said the Senate is already running out of time to pass the Bangsamoro bill.

Challenging Chinese claims, US sends warship near Spratlys

From The Daily Tribune (Jan 31): Challenging Chinese claims, US sends warship near Spratlys

Ignoring Beijing’s warning, the United States yesterday sent a warship very close to one of China’s claimed islands in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), a potential challenge to Beijing’s territorial claims in the contested waters.

A Pentagon official said the US Navy guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), sailed within 12 nautical miles of Triton Island in the Paracel Islands, an operation the Pentagon said was designed to challenge efforts to restrict freedom of navigation.

No ships from China’s military were in the vicinity of the warship when it carried out the operation near near the disputed islands, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

“This operation challenged attempts by the three claimants — China, Taiwan and Vietnam — to restrict navigation rights and freedoms,” he stressed.

Earlier, Beijing criticized Harry Harris, commander of the US Pacific Command when he spoke about Chinese territory in the East China Sea last Wednesday at a Washington think tank event.

Harris said the US will continue to challenge China’s position on the South China Sea, adding his personal view is that “those islands do not belong to China.”

But Yang Yujun, the ministry’s spokesman, said: “Such remarks astonish me as they completely lack historical common sense.”

Peace and stability in the South China Sea should be safeguarded by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean), and, “We do not need countries outside the region finger-pointing on this issue, let alone making any ignorant remarks,” Yang said.

The warship docked in Manila last Wednesday for a routine maintenance and crew rest, according to a US Embassy statement.

The ship, which was commissioned in March 1994 and is homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, is an integral part of Battle Force Seventh Fleet which is the US Navy’s only permanently forward deployed naval force.

With a crew of more than 300 personnel, USS Curtis Wilbur has conducted operations in support of Operation Southern Watch (April 1999) and Operation Enduring Freedom (October 2001) and has participated in numerous other exercises.

US Navy ships and submarines have been conducting regular port calls and visits to the country, particularly in Subic Bay and Manila Bay, amid increased tension in the West Philippine Sea.
China began massive dredging operations to turn three reefs into artificial islands in 2014.

In little more than 18 months, Beijing has reclaimed more than 2,000 acres at three main locations in the Spratly Islands — Subi, Mischief and Fiery Cross reefs.

The South China Sea is the subject of numerous rival and often messy territorial claims, with China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam disputing sovereignty of several island chains and nearby waters.

MILF blames OPAPP for shelved BBL

From The Daily Tribune (Jan 31): MILF blames OPAPP for shelved BBL

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has blamed the Aquino administration, primarily the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) for the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

Both Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and Senate President Franklin Drilon had surrendered that the BBL is dead citing the narrow window left until the end of the current session of Congress.

MILF vice chairman Ghadzali Jaafar, in a television interview, blamed the lack of political will in the Aquino administration for the shelved BBL.

“I was told that one of the weaknesses or shortcoming they saw was in the leadership of OPAPP who presumed that Congress will follow the (peace) agreement signed,” Jaafar said.

Jaafar claimed a source told him that the OPAPP did not exert enough effort to come to an agreement with lawmakers.

“Although the MILF regret the lost opportunity, we are not sad and we do not mourn the inability of Congress to pass the proposed law for the Bangsamoro government,” he said. He said the MILF leadership is intact and the rebel group continues to be strong.

“At this point in the struggle, our aim is to maintain and preserve our gains in the negotiations,” Jaafar said.

The MILF, meanwhile, said it may not take up the proposal of Sen. Chiz Escudero for the rebel group to guard the electricity grid in Mindanao which was the target lately of bombing attacks.

In its website, the MILF said “securing the transmission lines of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) for people to continue access to power can well be a recommended act but for the MILF to simply announce that we commit to help secure these lines is more problematic than what meets the eye.”

Both the short and long term implications and complications have far-reaching effects, it said.
The MILF said if the bombing stops, “then some people might suspect that the MILF is behind the act, because it had stopped it if the bombing continues, then the MILF would be pictured as inutile or has not done enough to prevent it from happening.

“Damn if you do, damn if you don’t is still the rule here,” it said.

Pan de sal issue revived

The MILF also denied involvement in the bombings saying it has nothing to gain from the destruction of the power network.

“We are upholding the integrity of the ceasefire and the peace process,” it added.

“More importantly, the MILF is not yet a full-fledged partner or part of the state; peace partners, yes. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is still pending in Congress and its non-passage is more expected than its passage,” it added.

“The success of this undertaking is still contingent to other considerations, say a good and effective Bangsamoro police, because by that time, the MILF weapons and combatants are decommissioned already,” it added.

The MILF, nonetheless, commended Escudero for issuing the proposal saying that “an admission of the capability of the Moros to do more difficult tasks than just being able to bake pan de sal.”

The MILF recalled that “in 2008 at the time the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) was under intense discourse. . .he said that the Moros do not even know how to bake pan de sal, and therefore not fit to run a government.”

“If the NGCP is really serious in seeking the intervention of the MILF, then perhaps the better part of judgment is to send a formal request for a meeting, or better still, to send someone to discuss the issue with the MILF,” it said.

“In such a way, any agreement can be part of the overall scheme to promote peace in the region, and can be linked to relevant organs of the GPH-MILF peace process especially the ceasefire committees of the government and MILF. The MILF is not expert in making casual arrangements,” it added.

FBI slapped with FoIA over Mamasapano

From The Daily Tribune (Jan 31): FBI slapped with FoIA over Mamasapano

Group eyes other US agencies to reveal Exodus documents

A US-based chapter of a militant group has invoked the Freedom of Information Act (FoIA) of the United States on the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for it to produce documents related to its participation in the Mamasapano debacle that resulted in the death of 22 Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in January 25 last year.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-USA said it is now pressing the FBI to reveal its role in last year’s massacre of Filipinos.

The group said similar FoIA requests will be sent to the National Security Division of the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, US Navy, US Army, US Air Force, and US Pacific Command regarding the Mamasapano Incident “to maximize the opportunity to unearth information about U.S. intervention in the Philippines.”

“Over 60 Filipinos died and witnesses also saw the body of an American at the covert US-designed Mamasapano operation one year ago, yet the U.S. has still not come clean about the extent of its role in the carnage. We are filing this Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI because the Filipino and American people have the right to know the full truth about this botched mission,” Bayan-USA chairman Bernadette Ellorin said.

US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg admitted last Friday that the US has a limited involvement in the botched Operation Plan (Oplan) Exodus that targeted Malaysian terrorist Zulkiflu bin Hir alias Marwan.

Goldberg said the participation of American forces in the was in line with agreements that the US and Philippine governments have but which was disputed by local law experts that no such agreement exists since the pact between both countries was limited to the military and not the police force.  

Goldberg also insisted that it was the Philippine government which requested US assistance.
“There was cooperation, that all of this is is done within the legal framework, and that there are agreements, and everything was done consensually or at the request of the Philippine government,” Goldberg said during a television interview.

Bayan-USA’s FoIA request asks for documentation pertaining to the FBI’s involvement in Oplan Exodus, including internal or inter-agency correspondence between David Bowdich, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI Los Angeles Field Office, and the PNP Director General Alan Purisima, sacked SAF commander Director Getulio Napenas, or other Philippine authorities, pertaining to Marwan’s apprehension through the execution of Oplan Exodus; manuals or guidelines used by agents of the US in training the PNP-SAF to execute Oplan Exodus, or other similar operations with the aim of apprehending Marwan; responses to requests from the Philippine government to assist in the evacuation of the dead and wounded in the aftermath of Operation Plan Exodus; results of the evidentiary analysis done by the FBI Laboratory indicating the positive DNA identification of Marwan; and provision of any monetary award to the PNP SAF, or other Philippine authorities in exchange for Marwan’s positive DNA identification, such as the $5 million reward that the US State Department offered for Marwan’s arrest.

Oplan Exodus sent “commandos of the Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police (SAF-PNP) into territory of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), despite a ceasefire agreement and ongoing peace negotiations between the MILF and Philippine government at the time,” Ellorin said.

The ensuing 12-hour battle resulted in the killing of seven civilians, 44 SAF forces and 22 members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“Involvement of multiple U.S. agencies including the FBI became clear as both Philippine government and civilian organizations investigated the operation. Official reports by the (National) Bureau of Investigation and the Senate cited the presence of six Americans at the Tactical Command Post for the mission, including an American who ordered a Philippine major general to fire artillery,” she added.

Napenas admitted under sworn testimony that the tissue sample of alleged terrorist target Marwan was immediately brought by the SAF to American FBI agents waiting in General Santos City, bypassing PNP Headquarters or any other Philippine agency. “Witnesses cited by the Philippine media also reported seeing among the dead the body of a white American male, who is believed to have been involved in the operation even though the Philippine Constitution prohibits the participation of foreign troops in military operations on Philippine soil,” Ellorin said.

“In November 2015, participants in BAYAN-USA’s Peace Mission went to Mamasapano, where they spoke with widows of MILF fighters who shared accounts of white soldiers being sighted in the encounter, further pointing to US military involvement,” she said.

“The US has dodged accountability for the Mamasapano carnage and countless more military-related crimes against the Filipino people, but Obama and Aquino continue to push for the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. It is senseless to give the US military increased access to Philippine territory for its war games, when it won’t even admit any wrongdoing in an American operation that resulted in the killing of so many people,” said Ellorin.

“When government agencies like the FBI refuse to willingly be transparent about their actions, the public has the responsibility to use FoIA requests and all the tools at our disposal to hold government to account,” said BAYAN-USA Legal Desk member Jackelyn Mariano.

“In addition to requesting information from the FBI, BAYAN-USA plans to file FoIA requests with other agencies of the US government, including the Navy and the Army, to exercise our right to know the full truth about the US role in Mamasapano,” added Mariano.

“Operation Exodus at Mamasapano clearly shows how the U.S. is carrying out its ‘War on Terror’ with no regard for the lives of Filipinos, whether combatants or civilians. It carries out its war on terror without regard for the national sovereignty of the countries where the alleged terrorists are supposedly hiding. In many countries, the US employs drones to target so-called terrorists, often ending up killing civilians. We demand an investigation into the US role in Operation Exodus and for the termination of agreements like the EDCA which embolden the US to carry out violent, covert operations with impunity. We demand accountability for the lives lost and the violation of Philippine sovereignty,” Ellorin said.

Man in the Palace

The “mama sa palasyo” (man in the Palace), President Aquino, should be charged accountable over the death of the SAF 44, a retired Police General and a former SAF trooper himself said.

In a phone interview with the Daily Tribune, retired Gen. Diosdado Valeroso, who holds with him the so-called critical audio evidence that will accordingly confirm the President’s supposed effort to cover-up the infamous Oplan Exodus carnage, said that he is convinced that there’s nobody directly liable but the President himself.

“Every policeman will recognize who and what is defective with the Mamasapano massacre. And since there seems to be an oplan to cover up, obviously those who are summoned are expected to say what their higher ups would want them to say,” Valeroso said.

“I share the logic of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. (SAF chief Gen. Getulio Napeñas) acted on higher orders. But since (resigned PNP Director Gen. Alan Purisima) was then suspended, and with the three of them, including the President, who was Napeñas’ immediate superior? A suspended PNP Chief or the PNP’s Chief Executive, the President himself? Obviously, its the President,” he explained.

Valeroso, who is withholding the identities of those involved in the taped conversation he holds, said that he finds it unfair and unjust for the President, through a supposed emissary, to request a cover up of the carnage just so to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before Congress.

Malacañang’s BBL version is criticized by legislators for its supposed infirmities with respect to the Constitution as it seems to be a major compromise to the demands of the insurgent Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The MILF, together with the breakaway group BIFF, were the ones who relentlessly gunned the SAF 44, yet by far, nobody among the rebels are charged, Valeroso laments.

The retired Police official also decried that the lack of accountability and admission of guilt from the President’s and Purisima’s part and their “seemingly diversion of guilt on Gen. Napeñas” shows that Malacañang seems to be pressured by the MILF.

“It seems that they are afraid of the MILF. It seems that they do not have the courage and man up for justice for those who day by day risk their lives to fight for peace,” an agitated Valeroso lamented.

“If it is peace that they want, then the President himself should exert his might to give justice to the 44 young men who died while following a mission he plotted,” he added.

The fallen SAF 44 were killed on their mission of arresting wanted terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in who was situated in the insurgent Moros’ territory in Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Valeroso also took swipe of the Senators who are trying to bar him from making the controversial audio recording public.

Prominently, among those who scared Valeroso of raps in having a supposed wiretapped possession is Senate President Franklin Drilon, President Aquino’s thorough Liberal Party (LP) ally, who, too, was the one who exerted much effort to divert the issue of President Aquino’s direct guilt into grilling Napeñas — who seemingly wasn’t given the chance before the Senate floor the premises set by Malacañang allies in the Senate — to seemingly absolve the President from any charge.

Ironically, Drilon, together with then legislator Noynoy Aquino, was among those who upheld to make then controversial Hello Garci tapes of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo public before.
Valeroso said that their reluctance to make his tape public shows “the true colors of the administration”.

“Are they afraid? Afraid of what? Of the truth? If they are guilty, then they must be afraid. But I tell them. With my evidence, they must be terribly afraid,” Valeroso warned, adding that he might publicize the audio recording within the week.

The retired General also fired back at his critics who accuse him of dipping his fingers too much on the case that he’s not involved in the case and that he’s a close ally of persistent anti-BBL legislator Sen. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.

“Those who say such do not have the balls to stand face to face with me. I’m not a politician, so why join or elaborate about my friendship with Sen. Marcos?” he said.

Coronel: It’s SAF’s fault

For Malacañang’s representatives in the negotiations with the MILF, it is the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) that should be blamed in the botched oplan Exodus that lead to the bloody Mamasapano massacre of 44 elite commandos.

Chief government negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer insisted yesterday that the SAF, before pursuing wanted Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan in an MILF territory in Baranggay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao should have first coordinated with the rebel groups first.

“Had the SAF coordinated with the ceasefire mechanisms, there could never have been a Mamasapano (carnage) as we have seen in the past,” Ferrer said yesterday during the National Union of Journalists in the Philippines’ (NUJP) 9th national congress in Punta de Fabian, Rizal.

The 44 SAF troopers were relentlessly gunned by members of the MILF and its breakaway group Bangaamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). Despite such, not one from any of the suspect groups were charged.

The GRP chief negotiator also blames the SAF for not subscribing to the MILF’s ceasefire mechanisms, which is apparently a compromise set - not by the state — but by the MILF since 2002.
“As an organization, we dont see the MILF participating in the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao and national elections,” Ferrer added.

She further explained that the MILF has a standing policy and a recent statement that they won’t participate in elections.

The government’s negotiator also kept on insisting that the criticized Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should still be passed, contradicting the critics who already said that it won’t prosper and that it now seems to be dying a natural death in both the House of Representatives and in the Senate.

Ferrer particularly scored the  major proponent of an alternativee BBL at the Senate, Sen. Ferdinand’ ‘Bongbong ‘ Marcos Jr. who was very vocal against the Malacañang-MILF version of the BBL due to accordingly unconstitutional provisions.

Ferrer also said that the not passing of the BBL hinders a lot of projects and programs in the Bangsamoro region. She added that as of January 2016, the MILF’s 30 percent done with its decommissioning of arms process.