Saturday, April 30, 2016

Municipal secretary shot dead in Northern Samar

From GMA News (Apr 29): Municipal secretary shot dead in Northern Samar

The municipal secretary of Palapag town in Northern Samar was shot dead early Friday morning today in what could be the latest of election-related violence in Samar island.

Police identified the fatality as Emil Go, 44, the Sangguniang Bayan secretary of Palapag, a third class municipality of Northern Samar.

The victim is reportedly actively campaigning for Northern Samar gubernatorial candidate and retired priest Fr. Walter Cerbito, who is running against reelectionist Gov. Jose Ong Jr.

Police said Go was gunned down at around 5:30 a.m.  some 20 meters away from his home. The victim was riding a bicycle and was on his way home from the town market when attacked by two unidentified gunmen.

The suspects fled on a motorcycle.

Go was taken to the Palapag Rural Health Unit where he was pronounced dead by the attending physician.

The victim sustained seven gunshot wounds, including one on the head and two on his chest.

Go is highly respected student leader during his college days at the University of Eastern Philippines. He was the associate editor of the school publication The Pillar, chairman of the militant organization League of Filipino Students, and a student council president.

Bayan Muna spokesman Renato Reyes said Go is one of the lead convenors of Bayan and Bayan Muna from 2001-2004 and a convenor of human rights group Katungod Sinirangan Bisayas.

“We condemn this latest extrajudicial killing,” he said on a Facebook post. “Local human rights groups are now looking into the motives for the murder of one of our activist leaders.”

Franklin Robedizo, national chairman of the board of trustees of the Philippine League of Secretaries to the Sanggunian (PLEASES), condemned the killing of Go.

“We implore upon the law enforcement agencies to relentlessly investigate this incident and ensure that justice will prevail,” he said.

300 Army soldiers in Lanao participate in absentee voting

From GMA News (Apr 29): 300 Army soldiers in Lanao participate in absentee voting

Around 300 soldiers from the army's 15th Infantry Battalion took time off to participate in the three-day absentee voting or days ahead of their deployment for the May 9 elections.

According to Lt. Col. Leomar Jose Doctolero, commander of the 15th IB, the soldiers were assigned in different detachments in the hinterlands of Munai and Poona Piagapo in Lanao del Norte.

Col Roseller G. Murillo, 103rd Brigade commander,  told  GMA News Online that they are ready to secure the conduct of elections especially in Lanao del Sur which is one of the nine provinces identified by the Commission on Elections as an an "area of concern".

In Lanao del Norte  the Comelec identified the town of Pantar as a "hot spot" while seven towns — Magsaysay,Tagoloan, Kauswagan, Munai Salvador and Nunungan — were classified as "potential hot spots".

The provincial  and city offices of the Comelec have also been preparing for the deployment of Vote Counting Machines to different voting centers in the cities of  Iligan and Marawi  and the two Lanao provinces beginning May 6.

Ramil Acol, acting elections supervisor of Iligan City, said, "We have just completed the demonstration on how to use the VCM before the teachers who will be members of the Board of Election Inspectors in Lanao del Norte and Iligan City".

A demonstration on how the VCM works was held Thursday at the Iligan City plaza before members of the police force and the military and representatives of the Department of Education and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting. Ten people, acting as voters, were made to cast their ballots using the VCM.

Rev. Rosito M. Claro, Iligan City Diocese Coordinator of Prarish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting said 800 volunteers will be deployed as election watchdogs in  Iligan City and Lanao del Norte.

Suspect in plot to kidnap Kris Aquino, launch attacks in NCR nabbed

From GMA News (May 1): Suspect in plot to kidnap Kris Aquino, launch attacks in NCR nabbed

Intelligence operatives have arrested a suspected terrorist involved in the plot to kidnap presidential sister Kris Aquino and plan to launch bomb attacks in Metro Manila.

Arrested was Reynaldo Vasquez Ilao, a resident of Block 5, Lot 42, Zenia Street, Elvinda Village in Barangay Nueva, San Pedro, Laguna.

Joint members of the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines arrested Ilao during a raid at his house last April 26.

Seized from the suspect was a .45-caliber pistol and a grenade.

Intelligence operatives are also looking for possible information from a mobile phone seized from the suspect.

Authorities said Ilao is part of a group led by Rajah Sulayman Movement leader Mikhail Abrera alias Abdul Asiz, who was arrested in a police checkpoint in Zamboanga City last April 16.

Sources told GMA News that Ilao and Abrera were directly involved in the plot to launch bombings in Metro Manila and kidnap the sister of President Benigno Aquino III.

In a statement sent to the media on Wednesday, President Aquino revealed the alleged plots to kidnap his sister or "one of her children" and Manny Pacquiao.

“As part of their effort to gain favor with ISIS, one of the ASG leaders, Isnilon Hapilon, through his cohorts in prison, has tried to convert other prisoners in New Bilibid Prison to their cause and establish ties with remnants of the Rajah Sulayman Movement purportedly in an attempt to embark on a bombing campaign in Metro Manila,” President Aquino said.

“They allegedly even hatched plots to kidnap Manny Pacquiao or one of his children, as well as my sister Kris or one of her children, with the plan to use them in bargaining for the release of their cohorts.

Threats against my own life have been investigated,” he added.

Aquino released the statement following the beheading of Canadian hostage John Ridsdel, a former mining executive who was captured along with three other people in September 2015 while on vacation on Samal Island in Davao del Norte.

China trains ‘fishing militia’ to sail into disputed waters

From GMA News (May 1): China trains ‘fishing militia’ to sail into disputed waters

The fishing fleet based in this tiny port town on Hainan island is getting everything from military training and subsidies to even fuel and ice as China creates an increasingly sophisticated fishing militia to sail into the disputed South China Sea.

The training and support includes exercises at sea and requests to fishermen to gather information on foreign vessels, provincial government officials, regional diplomats and fishing company executives said in recent interviews.

"The maritime militia is expanding because of the country's need for it, and because of the desire of the fishermen to engage in national service, protecting our country's interests," said an advisor to the Hainan government who did not want to be named.

But the fishing militia also raises the risk of conflict with foreign navies in the strategic waterway through which $5 trillion of trade passes each year, diplomats and naval experts say.

The United States has been conducting sea and air patrols near artificial islands China is building in the disputed Spratlys archipelago, including by two B-52 strategic bombers in November.

Washington said in February it would increase the "freedom of navigation" sail-bys around the disputed sea.

Basic military training

The city-level branches of the People's Armed Forces Department provide basic military training to fishermen, said the Hainan government advisor.

The branches are overseen by both the military and local Communist Party authorities in charge of militia operations nationwide.

The training encompasses search and rescue operations, contending with disasters at sea, and "safeguarding Chinese sovereignty", said the advisor who focuses on the South China Sea.

The training, which includes exercises at sea, takes place between May and August and the government pays fishermen for participating, he said.

Government subsidies encourage fishermen to use heavier vessels with steel - as opposed to wooden - hulls.

The government has also provided Global Positioning Satellite equipment for at least 50,000 vessels, enabling them to contact the Chinese Coast Guard in maritime emergencies, including encounters with foreign ships, industry executives said.

Several Hainan fishermen and diplomats told Reuters some vessels have small arms.

When "a particular mission in safeguarding sovereignty", comes up government authorities will coordinate with the fishing militia, the advisor said, asking them to gather information on the activities of foreign vessels at sea.

Row with Indonesia

That coordination was evident in March, when Indonesia attempted to detain a Chinese fishing vessel for fishing near its Natuna Islands in the South China Sea.

A Chinese coast guard vessel quickly intervened to prevent the Indonesian Navy from towing away the fishing boat, setting off a diplomatic row.

Beijing does not claim the Natunas but said the boats were in "traditional Chinese fishing grounds".

China claims almost all of the South China Sea.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and Brunei also have conflicting claims over the islets and atolls that constitute the Spratly Archipelago and its rich fishing grounds.

State-controlled fishing companies dominate the fleets that go regularly to the Spratlys and are recipients of much of the militia training and subsidies, industry sources said.

China has by far the world's biggest fish industry, but depleted fishery resources close to China's shores have made fishing in disputed waters an economic necessity, fishermen and industry executives say.

State-owned Hainan South China Sea Modern Fishery Group Company says on its website it is "both military and commercial, both soldiers and civilians".

One of its aims, the company says, is to let the "Chinese flag fly" over the Spratlys.

"Defending sovereignty is primarily the government's concern," said Ye Ning, the company's general manager, in an interview at his office in Haikou.

"But of course, regular folks being able to fish in their own countries' waters should be the norm. That goes for us too."

The company provides fishermen who sail to the Spratlys with fuel, water, and ice, and then purchases fish from them when they returned, according to a written introduction to the company's work executives provided to Reuters.

'Lot more risky'

"It's gotten a lot more risky to do this with all kinds of foreign boats out there," said Huang Jing, a local fisherman in the sleepy port town of Baimajing, where a line of massive steel-hulled fishing trawlers stretches as far as the eye can see.

"But China is strong now," he said. "I trust the government to protect us."

Chen Rishen, chairman of Hainan Jianghai Group Co. Ltd, says his private but state subsidised company dispatches large fleets of steel-hulled trawlers weighing hundreds of tonnes to fish near the Spratly Islands.

They usually go for months at a time, primarily for commercial reasons, he said. "If some foreign fishing boats infringe on our territory and try to prevent us from fishing there ... Then we're put in the role of safeguarding sovereignty," he said in an interview in Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan.

China does not use its fishing fleet to help establish sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: "This kind of situation does not exist."

China had taken measures to ensure the fishing fleets conduct business legally, he told a ministry press briefing last month.

Rules of engagement Chen said his fishermen stop at Woody Island in the Paracel islands, where China recently installed surface-to-air missiles, to refuel and communicate with Chinese Coast Guard vessels.

They look forward to using similar facilities China is developing in the Spratly Islands, he said.

China has been pouring sand from the seabed onto seven reefs to create artificial islands in the Spratlys. So far, it has built one airstrip with two more under construction on them, with re-fuelling and storage facilities.

"This all points to the need for establishing agreed protocols for ensuring clear and effective communications between civilian and maritime law enforcement vessels of different countries operating in the area," said Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Director of the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, which is helping claimant states design such confidence building measures.

A regional agreement on communications and procedures when rival navies meet at sea applies only to naval ships and other military vessels, he said

US top military official: America should maintain joint force to overmatch any potential adversary

From Update.Ph (May 1): US top military official: America should maintain joint force to overmatch any potential adversary  

United States Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General (Marine Corps) Joe Dunford said before the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee, April 27, that United States should never send American service members into a fair fight. “Rather, we have to maintain a joint force that has the capability and credibility to assure our allies and partners, deter aggression and overmatch any potential adversary,” General Dunford said.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Dunford provided testimony on Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, US Defense Department said.

The five challenges the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request focuses on are Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and violent extremism.

The top American military official said Russia, China, North Korea and Iran continue to invest in military capabilities that look for the soft spot in American defenses. “They are also advancing their interests through competition with a military dimension that falls short of traditional armed conflict and the threshold for a traditional military response,” he said.

The actions of Russia in Ukraine, China in the South China Sea and Iran throughout the Middle East are examples of the challenges the US Defense Department must address, he said.

Improving current capabilities, restoring full-spectrum readiness and developing leaders for the future are key to maintaining the greatest advantage the U.S. military has over any rival – its people, General Dunford said.

Bill seeking opportunities for retiring AFP personnel pushed

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): Bill seeking opportunities for retiring AFP personnel pushed
Party-list lawmakers have filed a bill to open opportunities for retirees as civilian professionals after their service at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

House Bill 5935 or the “Military Transition System Act” proposed by MAGDALO Party-list Reps. Gary C. Alejano and Francisco Ashley L. Acedillo seeks to provide competent men and women of the AFP opportunities for high value jobs after their military service.

Under Presidential Decree 1650, military personnel are required to retire from service at the age of 56.

Acedillo and Alejano pointed out that the productivity of the military personnel extends beyond their age of retirement. It would be beneficial if they will be given the chance to render their skills and expertise as civilian professionals, according to the bill’s authors.

“Their continued employment would help generate income and tax revenues which the government can use to fund programs for basic services. This would also provide smooth transition between sectors and offer active personnel of the military employment opportunities after their service in the AFP,” said Acedillo.

The bill covers all active uniformed military personnel from all branches of the AFP as stipulated under Presidential Decree No. 1638.

The AFP, together with the concerned agencies shall establish a Military Transition Board, Higher Education Course and Prior Training Equivalency Program and Employment Assistance.

The Military Transition System is designed to professionalize the members of the military and promote career development after their service in the AFP.

A Military Transition System Board shall be created to supervise the academic equivalency program and over-all implementation of the Act.

It shall submit an annual report to the Congress regarding its operations, accomplishments and assessment of the implementation of the program.

On the Training Equivalency Program, AFP shall maintain and update periodically a current curriculum of courses necessary to meet the needs of the military and their personnel.

Acedillo said the curriculum should provide character and leadership training, military instruction and other matters pertaining to the required skills and knowledge of personnel’s chosen branch of service.

The Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) may suggest additional trainings along with their list of offered trainings given that the AFP identifies such trainings as beneficial to their personnel and organization.

In terms of the Employment Assistance, the Board shall provide information concerning labor market information, civilian workplace requirements, employment opportunities, job analysis procedures, job search and job interview techniques.

The AFP shall also establish Employment Assistance Centers in appropriate military installations to ensure wider and easier access to the different programs available to their exiting members.

Japan eyes deal to lease MSDF aircraft to Philippines from May

From the Japan Times (Apr 30): Japan eyes deal to lease MSDF aircraft to Philippines from May

Crew members from the Maritime Self-Defense Force's Ise helicopter carrier stand on deck shortly after arriving at the former U.S. naval base in Subic Bay, the Philippines, on Tuesday. | AFP-JIJI

Japan and the Philippines are set to clinch a deal next month on the provision of Maritime Self-Defense Force TC-90 training aircraft to the Southeast Asian country, officials of the two countries said Friday.

Defense Minister Gen Nakatani and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin are likely to reach a basic agreement on the matter in telephone talks, probably Monday, the officials said.

If the planned lease of the MSDF aircraft to the Philippines is realized, it will become the first provision of Self-Defense Forces aircraft to a foreign country.

By assisting the maritime defense capability of the Philippines with the lease, the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe aims to put pressure on China, which has pressed forward with a rapid and massive island-building strategy to assert its sovereignty in the South China Sea.

China has been embroiled in territorial disputes with some Southeast Asian countries in the area, including the Philippines and Vietnam.

After the basic accord, Tokyo and Manila hope to accelerate talks toward an early formal agreement on the lease, the officials said, adding the two governments decided to seal a deal ahead of the Philippines presidential election on May 9.

According to the officials, Japan plans to lease up to five TC-90 training aircraft to the Philippines.

Since Japan cannot grant such aircraft to a foreign country under current law, the two countries are considering inking a lease contract under which Manila’s payment will be reduced, the officials said.

In the face of tensions with China over the territorial row in the South China Sea, the Philippines has sought provision of defense equipment from Tokyo.

The TC-90 is capable of flying about 1,900 km, roughly double the flight range of the Philippine Navy’s aircraft. The provision of MSDF aircraft would therefore strengthen the Philippines’ maritime surveillance capability.

Nakatani had planned to visit the Philippines to reach an agreement on the lease of planes in late April but gave up on the trip to address rescue and reconstruction efforts following the recent powerful earthquakes in Kyushu, the officials said.

On Feb. 29 the two countries signed an accord which allows Japan to supply the Philippines with defense equipment as well as technology transfer.

Capiceño tops soldier’s training course

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 29): Capiceño tops soldier’s training course

A Capiceño has emerged as top one in the recently concluded training of the Philippine Army.

Jovel Jovena, a Bachelor of Science Tourism Management graduate from barangay Oyong, Sigma, Capiz bested the 83 others in the six-month Candidate Soldier Course and Scout Ranger Orientation Course for incoming soldiers.

Lieutenant Colonel Ray Tiongson, Spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 3rd Infantry Division disclosed that Jovena received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award for topping the Candidate Soldiers Class 388 during the graduation rites, April 27 at Camp Peralta in Jamindan town.

He added that Jovena’s general point average in all evaluated subjects both academic and non-academic in the said training was 89.76 percent.

In the Candidate Soldiers Class 389, BS Information Technology graduate Ven Gador from barangay Suay, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental topped the Class with a general point average of 89.80 percent and also received the Commander, 3rd Infantry Division Award.

Jovena and Gador are among the 168 newly enlisted soldiers who will bring peace and development in the countryside.

The new soldiers will be assigned in the different battalions in Western and Central Visayas and the Negros Island Regions to perform peace and development works in the countryside and likewise add to the unit’s strength in said areas, Tiongson stressed.

The joint enlistment, entrustment of firearms and graduation ceremonies of the new soldiers was graced by 3ID commander Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros and Capiz Governor Victor Tanco represented by Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Eleuper Martinez.

The 6-month training that started in October 26, 2015 aimed to provide the candidate soldiers with the basic knowledge and skills of soldiery, develop their character worthy to become members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and prepare them to perform duties as riflemen and automatic riflemen of the infantry squads, Tiongson said.

Army deploys 158 new lieutenants

From the Manila Times (Apr 30): Army deploys 158 new lieutenants

THE Philippine Army announced on Friday the deployment of 158 new lieutenants to the field units in line with its regular deployment program of new officers.

Col. Benjamin Hao, Army spokesman said more or less 30 percent of the officers will go to field units in Mindanao, while the rest will be distributed to the Army field units in Luzon, Visayas and the Army’s special and support units such as Special Operations Command and armor units.

According to Hao, the officers who have recently completed their career orientation conducted by the Army Personnel Management Center were members of the Officer Preparatory Course class 64-2015, Officer Candidate Course class 45-2015, and Philippine Military Academy class 2016.

“The officers are now fully equipped with the right training, knowledge and skills to become officers of the Philippine Army,” he added.

Joma Sison: Duterte victory good for national unity

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 1): Joma Sison: Duterte victory good for national unity

If  Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte is elected president, expect top communist Jose Maria “Joma” Sison to turn up in the country after a 30-year absence.

Living in self-exile in Utrecht in the Netherlands, Sison would relish seeing his relatives and friends and eating home-cooked Filipino food, fruits and delicacies.

“If I were to go, everything must be ready for an eventful homecoming. We’ll hold a family reunion. The first things I will eat are mangoes, coconuts and bibingka,” Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said in Filipino in an online interview on Saturday.
Sison went into exile after the 1986 people power revolt that ousted strongman Ferdinand  Marcos.

Back home, Sison said, he would initiate meetings all around the country to promote his call for  national unity, peace and development.

He believes Duterte, the candidate of the Partido  Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban ng Bayan (PDP-Laban), would reopen the peace negotiations with the National Democratic Front of the  Philippines (NDFP).

Since last year, Duterte has boldly expressed his interest in a  coalition government with the NDFP, Sison said.

Despite his closeness to Duterte, Sison said he would not endorse his candidacy.

“I cannot endorse a candidate because I  represent a revolutionary movement,” he said.

In an earlier interview, Sison said the NDFP would readily negotiate at an accelerated pace with its counterpart in a Duterte administration.

“He has gone so far as to express interest in a coalition government and in  addressing the roots of the armed conflict and working out the necessary  agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to achieve a just and lasting peace. I appreciate and admire his expressed interest in seeking peace and cooperation with the revolutionary movement,” Sison said  in an online interview in July last year.

But he said Duterte should not enforce the government  precondition that the rebels must lay down their arms before the peace  talks could resume.

Sison serves as chief political consultant of the NDFP in the peace negotiations with the government.

Duterte has declared in his stump speeches that as president, he  would order an immediate ceasefire with the NDFP to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks.

Sison said that in a conversation with Duterte on April 26—when the mayor  facilitated the release of five policemen from the New People’s Army (NPA)—Duterte offered a cessation of armed hostilities with the communist guerillas and Muslim secessionist forces once he is president.

Duterte’s publicly declared closeness to Sison and the NPA rebels, however, has caused concern in the military.

Some Army officers, soldiers as well as policemen interviewed by the Inquirer confided their unease over Duterte’s relationship with communist rebels and leaders.

“We admire his tough and resolute stand against corruption and criminality, but his close ties to enemies of the state and special relations with rebel leaders are too chilling for comfort,” a junior Army officer assigned  to Southern Luzon said.

On April 23, speaking at the Lyceum of the Philippines, Duterte said that Sison, as one of his college professors, played a big role in molding his political and ideological views which led him to join the communist-linked student activist group, Kabataang Makabayan, which Sison founded in the late 1960s.

Duterte declared that if he won, he would be the first leftist president of the Philippines.

MILF: Editorial--Woe to the beheaders!

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (May 1): Editorial--Woe to the beheaders!

Mutilating the body of dead person, even if he is an enemy, is against the teachings of Islam. But the Canadians are not our enemy. They are in fact helping resolve the conflict in Mindanao in many ways and means including giving of grants for various projects or programs in the region. They headed the Independent Commission on Policing (ICP) which through their recommendations served as one of the references of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) in crafting the Bangsamoro Basic |Law (BBL).

In no doubt, beheading is one such example of mutilation.
It is for this reason, among others, that the MILF condemns the beheading of Canadian citizen John Ridsdel by Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) last April 25. The beheading is a cold-blooded murder. Woe to the beheader of John Ridsdel!
We join the families and friends of the victim in their hour of bereavement and grief. If we could only have a wish, we would like the body of the victim located and returned to the family. This is not a big deal for the ASG to try to give due regard. After all, we don’t think they are not as human as anyone of us in many aspects. More importantly, we appeal to them to return to the legitimate way of asserting our right to self-determination. Kidnapping will never lead anyone to nowhere. It might be rewarding momentarily, courtesy of the ransom paid, but in the long run, ultimate justice will prevail over what is unjust and immoral. It is the nature of things that evil acts have limit and good deeds have no bound. When the limit of evil acts is crossed, God Almighty will decree that retribution shall take its way.
It is time for government to be more tactful and prudent in addressing kidnapping in Sulu. It seems everything it tried does not produce encouraging results. Using brute force is oftentimes counter-productive; paying ransom encourages kidnappers to step up their evil trade.
Is there a middle ground that is not yet tested?
We do not know and we are not suggesting any. Kidnapping is such an evil that even if you are not a party to the crime, the moment you participate in the negotiation, then you are no longer immune from suspicion that in one or many ways you are connected to it. This is more pronounced if ransoms are paid. How many high profile personalities who were suspected of getting a share of the ransom pie and are still reeling from the negative consequences.
On many occasions, the government had branded the ASG as a spent force. But each time that claim is made, the ASG sprung up from the demise tag and returned to their base in Sulu with fresh kidnap victims. It appeared then and today that such statements are only for media blowout or mileage.
How do we explain the staying power of the ASG? The government should study this phenomenon thoroughly. Do they have the great motivation and support of the people to explain this resilience? Or simply, other players in the province like the MNLF and politicians are not lifting their fingers to help, directly or in their own ways. (The MILF is still consolidating both its political and military organs in the province).

MILF: Sulu Province receives Quick Impact Projects for the Bangsamoro

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 30): Sulu Province receives Quick Impact Projects for the Bangsamoro

Jolo, Sulu – The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) under the Chairmanship of Commissioner Mohagher Iqbal and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) under the new leadership of President Shinichi Kitaoka turned-over multipurpose hall buildings in Barangay Paiksa, Panglima Estino, Sulu on April 20 and another similar project at Barangay Gandasuli, Patikul, Sulu on April 21, 2016.

These quick impact projects were a result of a meeting between the former JICA President Dr Akihiko Tanaka and MILF Chairman Al Hadj Murad Ebrahim in Manila after the signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) between the government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) where they agreed to implement quick impact projects that could easily provide positive impact to economic, peace and security of the communities affected by war in Mindanao.

Dr Norodin Salam, the Project Manager of Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro (CCDP-B) led the BTC Socio-Economic Office during the turn-over ceremonies.

Salam said that the Bangsamoro people through the MILF have exerted all peaceful means for the resolution of the Bangsamoro quest for freedom and right to self-determination. “Our engagement thru political process is now popular that makes this struggle recognized not only by Philippine government but the entire world,” he said.

In the same message delivered at Kasulutan Elementary School, Barangay Gandasuli, Salam pointed out that the project is simple expression of RSD.

Sustaining the gains of the peace process was also given emphasis by Salam. He told his audience “Not to put in mind that if there is no BBL, we will neglect development, no, that is not the case “We would continue to empower our people and develop our communities”, he added.

“In order to achieve this, every Bangsamoro must be determined and have strong faith in Allah…sincerity and open-minded individual that is not radical and extreme”, Salaam stressed.

Hadja Nusida Hajijon, the School Principal of Kasulutan Elementary School at the same time the President of Kasulutan People’s Organization emphasized the importance of unity, “In unity there’s strength,” she said.

“We are one in our goals, purpose and aspiration for the development of our community and we thank you BTC and the JICA for providing us this multipurpose hall”, Hajijon said.

The Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) was represented by Engr. Saud Alon  and presented the background of the QIP. A representative of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and other stakeholders such as the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) and the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) gave their respective message of support.

MILF: UNYPAD 6th General Assembly kicks-off with the president’s State of the Youth Address

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 30): UNYPAD 6th General Assembly kicks-off with the president’s State of the Youth Address

Day 1 of the UNYPAD’s 6th General Assembly on April 29 in Pikit Central Elementary School, Pikit, North Cotabato started with more than eight hundred officers from different parts of the Philippines in attendance. 

This year’s theme “Youth Empowerment: The Best Step Towards Building a Peaceful and Progressive Nation” is reflected with the experiences of the organization in many faces of support to the GPH - MILF peace process as well as the important role its officers and members will play during the transition period.

Ustadz Abdulkarim Muntok opened the program by reading of some Qur’anic verses.
Hon. Pikit Mayor Muyhyryn Sultan-Casi in her welcome address thanked UNYPAD for choosing her municipality as the venue for the historic gathering.

Highlight of the assembly was the delivery of the State of the Youth Address (SOYA) by Dr. Rahib L. Kudto who presented the accomplishments of the organization anchored on its programs and services.

“Under this gloomy hour of the GPH-MILF peace process, we will never give space to some bad elements that would try to destroy our unity and firmness to stand against the wrongdoers and oppressors and never give them the chance to weaken our resolve to fight for our rights, honor, dignity and freedom”, he said.

“Let us safeguard the gains of the peace process and never let the peace saboteurs sneak them before our eyes. We will continue to assert the implementation of the CAB as it is the cornerstone of peace in Mindanao. The BBL was not passed but the discussion in Congress can be a solid foundation on which the 17th Congress can build. The support of international community to the peace process, the establishment of different mechanisms, trust and confidence built between the government and the MILF, among others, are things that we will not lose”, he added.

“We will focus our work for the next two years in advocating the passage of the BBL in the 17th Congress, guard our young people from the influence of violent extremism, continue to capacitate our officers and members, and muster our strengths to help respond to the needs of our communities, he articulated.

Day 2 of the assembly is focused on the delivery of messages from visitors mostly members of the international community while day 3 will be the adoption of the Bangsamoro youth declaration urging the GPH to fully implement the CAB and pass the BBL in the 17th Congress.

133 MILF decommissioned combatants declared TESDA certified

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 30): 133 MILF decommissioned combatants declared TESDA certified
Following the turnover of their firearms during the ceremonial decommissioning last year, 133 of the 145 combatants of the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (BIAF-MILF) are now Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) certified.
The free vocational courses and skills training program is the TESDA’s contribution to the socio-economic package for the decommissioned combatants to help them productively re-integrate back to their communities and their families under the Annex on Normalization of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).
Some 133 TESDA graduates were in attendance to the simple closing ceremony on April 25, held at the Old Capitol, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao – the same venue where the 145 BIAF laid down their firearms on June 16, 2015.
According to the GPH-peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, before the TESDA training, some of them undergo evaluation and the literacy classes organized by the Department of Education (DepEd).
“Out of 145, the 133 chose the TESDA training while the remaining 12 decommissioned combatants chose the educational track,” Ferrer said.
Each trainee received P412.00 per day allowance – P206.00 from TESDA and with the counterpart of P206.00 from OPAPP.
The chair said, it is expected that the cash and starter kits they received will serve as their capital to start a small livelihood business.
Aside from TESDA, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will provide banca to those decommissioned combatants wherein fishing is the main source of income, Ferrer explained.
“Lahat ng ito ay preparasyon para doon sa mangyayaring malakihang decommissioning pagdating ng BBL - libu-libo na ang ating pag-uusapan at mas lalong pang-aayusin ang proseso pagdating sa phase 2 ng Annex on Normalization na mag-uumpisa kapag naipasa na ang BBL sa Kongreso,” she added. (These are all in preparation for the major decommissioning to take place once the BBL will be passed – there are thousands of combatants and all the processes will be improved on the phase 2 of the Annex on Normalization when Congress passes the draft law).
She assured that they will pursue the BBL on the next administration to continue and complete the components of Annex on Normalization which include the component of decommissioning in the transformation process.
Based on the TESDA’s data, 41 decommissioned combatants finished the driving course, 25 on carpentry, motorcycle/small engine mechanic (23), bread and pastry production (13), dressmaking /tailoring (9), cookery/food processing (4), 7 trainees each for welding and electrical installation and maintenance and 2 trainees each for the automotive servicing and entrepreneurship training.

BRP Gregorio Velasquez to help develop PN's ASW capability

From the Philippine News Agency (May 1): BRP Gregorio Velasquez to help develop PN's ASW capability

Aside from helping map the country's vast maritime domains, the BRP Gregorio Velasquez (formerly the US research vessel Melville) will also help develop the Philippine Navy (PN)'s anti-submarine warfare (ASW) capability.

This was stressed by PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a statement Saturday.

"Aside from its primary mission, AGR-702 would also be a valuable platform in reviewing our anti-submarine warfare capability," he added.

Lincuna did not give specifics on this but the PN is in the process of developing its ASW capability after signing a contract to acquire two AW-159 "Wildcat" anti-submarine helicopters with AgustaWestland last March.

The contract is worth PHP5.360 billion, lower than the stated PHP5.4 billion.

These helicopters are expected to be deployed among the PN's large ships which include the two Gregorio Del Pilar-class frigates and incoming two strategic sealift vessels, of which one is expected to be delivered this month, and the BRP Gregorio Velasquez.

Lincuna said the acquisition of the latter ship also aims to address the issues in terms of marine scientific researches/surveys and to gather marine scientific data beneficial to naval operations.

"Also, said vessel will enhance capacity and build capability to support the environmental protection efforts and exploration of the country for economic purpose," he added.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez was formally turned over to the PN last April 26 (American time) in San Diego, California.

Turnover and christening ceremonies were witnessed by Defense undersecretary Jesus C. Millan and Philippine Fleet deputy commander Commodore Narciso A. Vingson.

She is the country's first oceanographic research vessel. The BRP Gregorio Velasquez left the US for its voyage home to the Philippines on Friday, local time.

The BRP Gregorio Velasquez is being manned by a crew of 50 Filipino officers and enlisted personnel who have undergone familiarization and orientation training on various systems of the ship since last March.

"Said vessel is one of the two ships pledged by the President of the United States of America, Barack H. Obama to donate to the Philippines during his visit in APEC Leader’s Summit last November 2015," Lincuna stressed.

He said the research vessel will not only provide the PN capability for hydrographic survey but platform for inter-agency collaboration for partners in the academe and thus improve awareness of the Philippine sub-surface environment.

Per policy, auxiliary research vessels are to be named after national scientists, hence her namesake, Dr. Gregorio Velasquez, a pioneer in Philippine physiology.

Velasquez was elected as academician on 1978 and conferred as National Scientist on 1982.

He was conferred with a Distinguished Science Medal and Diploma of Honor from the Republic of the Philippines (1956), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (1956-57), Men of Science, Division of Biological Sciences in1969, World's Who's Who in Sciences in 1970 and the Republic of the Philippines Cultural Heritage award in 1972.

China Blocks US Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis Access To Hong Kong Port

From Eurasia Review (Apr 30): China Blocks US Aircraft Carrier John C. Stennis Access To Hong Kong Port

China has denied a US request for an aircraft carrier group led by USS John C. Stennis to make a port visit to Hong Kong, the US State Department said on Friday, confirming earlier media reports.

Pentagon spokesman, Commander Bill Urban, said another US warship, the USS Blue Ridge, was currently in Hong Kong on a stop-over and the US expected that to continue.

Urban added that the request for a Hong Kong visit by the carrier and its strike group, which have been patrolling the South China Sea, was recently denied, despite a “long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong.”

The Chinese government, as well as the country’s embassy in Washington did not comment.
The warship requested a port call permit early on Thursday.

The South China Morning Post newspaper, citing the Chinese Foreign Ministry, reported that port calls by US warships and military aircraft had to be approved on a “case by case basis in accordance with sovereignty principles and specific circumstances.”

Aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, two destroyers, two cruisers and a Japan-based US Seventh Fleet flagship sailed into the waters of the South China Sea in early March, to counter the presence of China. The latter has territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea, rich in deposits of natural resources, with Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. To assure its claim over the disputed territory, Beijing has been rapidly setting up defense installations in the area.

Beijing has repeatedly warned against US interference in the region. Despite this the US Navy is actively opposing the Chinese initiative, deploying additional warships to the disputed zone and conducting maneuvers near artificial Chinese islands and flying over them, citing “freedom of navigation” as an excuse.

Earlier this month China accused the US of “sabotaging regional peace” after the Pentagon chief announced a military buildup in the Philippines. Speaking in the Philippines on April 14, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the US will keep nearly 300 troops in the Philippines through the end of the month, despite completing the joint military drills. He added that US troops will have combat aircraft and helicopters at their disposal. ” In response the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement that military exchanges by relevant countries should not target third parties and much less support a few countries in challenging China’s sovereignty and security.

South China Sea: Itu Aba Might Be Key to Philippines v. China

From The Diplomat (Apr 30): South China Sea: Itu Aba Might Be Key to Philippines v. China (By John Ford)

Tiny island will determine the true winner in South China Sea lawfare.

South China Sea: Itu Aba Might Be Key to Philippines v. China

Image Credit: Google Maps
A decision is expected next month in the case of Philippines v. China, currently before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague. While we do not know what the court will rule it does seem how the Court decides to dispose of the issue of Itu Aba will be critical in deciding what the real world impact of the case is.

When the Court accepted jurisdiction over the case, it made clear that it would not be deciding which country owned the various disputed maritime features of the Spratly Island chain. The court will be deciding whether China’s nine-dash line violates international law, and this is the issue that has received the bulk of the media coverage of the case.

But there is another issue the Court is expected to rule on that will matter nearly as much. While the Court won’t be deciding whether any of the disputed features belong to China or the Philippines, it is expected to decide what maritime entitlements each feature in the Spratlys is entitled to. It remains disputed whether the Spratlys are rocks, which are entitled to only a 12 nautical mile territorial sea, or islands, which carry a 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Because China will still be able to maintain its claim to the Spratlys even if it loses the case, the decision on what maritime entitlements individual features have will matter a great deal. If even one of the Spratlys is found to be an island entitled to a 200 mile EEZ, China will be able to plausibly claim that it owns that feature and the 200 mile entitlement that comes with it, a claim that, while not as large as the nine-dash line, would still be quite substantial.

This is where Itu Aba comes in. Itu Aba is a feature in the Spratly Islands spanning about 110 acres in area, or about one-fourth the size of the average American farm. But small as it is, Itu Aba is still the largest natural feature in the Spratlys. If any feature in the chain is going to be declared an island entitled to an EEZ, Itu Aba is the leading candidate.

The Court won’t just look to Itu Aba’s size when making its decision. It will consider other factors recognized under international law, such as whether Itu Aba has a potable water supply, whether it can support agriculture, and whether it is suitable for permanent settlement. There are facts on each point that support the argument that Itu Aba is an island. Itu Aba has ground wells that produce fresh water; there is a functioning farm on the island; and there is a long-term population of about 100 people. It is entirely possible the Court could find that Itu Aba is an island. If it does, China will be in a position to continue to claim Itu Aba and its 200 mile EEZ.

The politics of Itu Aba are further complicated by the fact that it is claimed by more than just China, the Philippines, and Vietnam. The island is physically occupied by a fourth claimant – Taiwan. Taiwan’s status under international law has been in limbo for decades and it remains unclear whether or not it is a country that has any standing in international venues to claim Itu Aba (known in Chinese as Taiping Island). It is China’s position that any claims by the Republic of China (Taiwan) rightfully revert to the People’s Republic of China (Beijing). This leaves Taiwan in the position of making a territorial claim that bolsters the PRC’s position in the South China Sea and puts Taiwan in the rare position of being at odds with the position of the United States on a security issue in Asia.

At the center of this complex web of claims and claimants sits a small maritime feature that even many of the most attentive followers of international affairs have never heard of. When the Permanent Court hands down its final decision later this spring, its decision on Itu Aba may be its most important. If the Court finds that Itu Aba is an island, China will continue to have a plausible claim to a large swath of the South China Sea – a claim that, ironically, will be backed up by Taiwan – even if its claimed nine-dash line does not survive. If, on the other hand, the Court finds that Itu Aba is merely a rock, China’s maritime claims will have been dealt a massive blow.

[John Ford is a captain in the United States Army’s JAG Corps. The views expressed are his own and are not the official view of the U.S. Army. He has written previously in these pages on the legal disputes in the South China Sea. You can follow him on twitter @johndouglasford]

US air carrier should go to Taiwan after snub by mainland: Ted Cruz

From the China Post (May 1): US air carrier should go to Taiwan after snub by mainland: Ted Cruz

Republican presidential nomination candidate Ted Cruz suggested that the U.S. air carrier USS Stennis should be sent to Taiwan after mainland China denied permission for the vessel to make a port call in Hong Kong.

"U.S. carrier denied port visit in Hong Kong. Proof that PRC isnt U.S. partner. We should send carrier to Taiwan instead," Cruz, the U.S. senator from Texas, said on the social media website Twitter on April 29.

A Pentagon spokesman said Friday that China has denied the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Stennis and accompanying naval vessels permission to make a port call in Hong Kong.  It was not immediately known what prompted the Chinese action, but it comes amid growing tension between the two countries over Beijing's moves to assert its claims to much of the South China Sea.  "We were recently informed that a request for a port visit by a US carrier strike group, including the USS John C Stennis and accompanying vessels, to Hong Kong was denied," Commander Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman, said.  "We have a long track record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including with the current visit of the USS Blue Ridge, and we expect that will continue," he added.  It was the first time U.S. naval ships had been denied permission to make a Hong Kong port call since August 2014, Urban said.  The Chinese Foreign Ministry told Hong Kong's South China Morning Post newspaper that port calls by U.S. ships are decided on a "case by case basis in accordance with sovereignty principles and specific circumstances."  U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter visited the Stennis on April 15 as it sailed off the Philippines near the disputed area where China has expanded islets and reefs into islands capable of supporting airfields and other installations.  During a preceding stop in Manila, Carter had emphasized that the United States would support the Philippines and other allies as they faced "coercion and intimidation."  The two countries also announced they have begun joint naval patrols in the South China Sea, and Carter said a contingent of 275 U.S. troops and five A-10 ground attack aircraft in the Philippines for an annual exercise would remain in the country until the end of the month.  China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, through which pass some of the world's most active shipping lanes. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have overlapping claims.

US: China rejects Hong Kong port call by US aircraft carrier

From the Sun Star (May 1): US: China rejects Hong Kong port call by US aircraft carrier

In this photo Dec. 1, 2014 file photo, the aircraft carrier USS John Stennis seen near Bremerton, Wash. China recently denied a request from the U.S. aircraft carrier Stennis for a port visit in Hong Kong, the State Department said Friday, April 29, 2016, in an apparent sign of mounting tension in the disputed South China Sea. (AP photo)

China recently denied a request from a U.S. aircraft carrier for a port visit in Hong Kong, the State Department said Friday, in an apparent sign of mounting tension in the disputed South China Sea.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin visited the carrier, USS John C. Stennis, in those waters two weeks ago, a move that irked Beijing.

Gabrielle Price, spokeswoman for East Asia, said the department was recently informed that a request for a visit by the Stennis and accompanying vessels was denied. She said the U.S. has a long record of successful port visits to Hong Kong, including a current visit by the USS Blue Ridge, and it expects that will continue.

She referred further inquiries to the Chinese government.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post quoted China's Foreign Ministry as saying that port calls by U.S. warships were examined on a "case by case basis."

ISIS in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Threat to the Homeland

Posted to the Soufan Group (Apr 28): ISIS in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Threat to the Homeland

Patrick Skinner Testifies Before U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee: ISIS in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia and the Threat to the Homeland

[Video Testimony: "ISIS in the Pacific: Assessing Terrorism in Southeast Asia & the Threat to the Homeland"
With ISIS’ continued push to recruit and radicalize around the globe, this hearing will examine the current threat ISIS affiliates and supporters pose to U.S. interests and allies in Southeast Asia. Multiple recent terrorist attacks and public declarations of allegiance by local militant groups, and a growing number of ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria from the region, demonstrate the potential danger this poses.]

New WesCom chief named

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 30): New WesCom chief named

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command (AFP-WesCom) has a new commander in Brigadier General Elvin Hermogino of the Philippine Marines, following the retirement of Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez.

Lt. Gen. Glorioso Miranda, AFP Chief of Staff, led the change of command ceremony held in Puerto Princesa, Palawan last Friday.

Hermogino, the No. 2 man in WesCom, assumes the top post in acting capacity from Lopez, who retires from the military service at the age of 56.

The AFP said the designation of all senior military officers assuming their posts during the election period are acting in nature in observance of the constitutional ban on appointments. This shall stay in effect until the Election period appointment ban is lifted and when the new appointing authority can designate a more permanent replacement.

During his speech, Miranda stated that it is clear to everyone in the service that there is no change in the mission of the AFP even if key leadership posts change hands

AFP hoists Phl flag in unoccupied Batanes islet

From the Philippine Star (May 1): AFP hoists Phl flag in unoccupied Batanes islet

Members of the Armed Forces hoist the Philippine flag in one of five unoccupied islets in Itbayat, Batanes yesterday, capping a three-day maritime domain awareness activity

ITBAYAT, Batanes, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) yesterday hoisted the Philippine flag in one of the five unoccupied islets here to support the local government’s call for help to transform the islet into a resting place and shelter area for Filipino fishermen.

The AFP’s Northern Luzon Command (Nolcom) hoisted the flag during a flag raising ceremony at Y’ami Island’s Hill 200, capping a three-day maritime domain awareness activity.

The maritime awareness activities were held amidst growing tensions caused by China’s excessive claims in the disputed areas in the South China Sea and west Philippine Sea, including Philippine territory.

Nolcom and civil society organization volunteers launched the biggest medical and dental mission for thousands of residents, including school children and the elderly in the secluded island town.

Y’ami Island is also known as Mavulis. Itbayat Island is one of the six municipalities of Batanes with a population of almost 3,000 in five barangays.

“We organized this event as part of our patriotic duty. We are here to help our most disadvantaged fellow Filipinos in this particular place. We want them to know that they’re not alone,” said Mon Corpuz, over-all volunteer coordinator.

The patriotic activity of Nolcom with stakeholders from the organizations Go Share and Black Pencil is one of the AFP’s programs to promote peace and order and the solidarity of the Filipino people for national maritime security.

China, Russia rap US meddling in S. China Sea

From the Daily Tribune (Apr 30): China, Russia rap US meddling in S. China Sea

China and Russia yesterday denounced the United States’ interference in the South China Sea as they seek to counter the influence of Washington and its allies, particularly in Asia.

Washington has been lobbying hard to convince countries to state that the court’s ruling, expected in late May or early June, must be binding.

The Philippines has taken a case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague which many expect to go against China.

US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken told a House of Representatives hearing China “can’t have it both ways,” by being a party to the convention but rejecting its provisions, including “the binding nature of any arbitration decision.”

China has a decision to make,” he said. “‘If it ignores the decision ... it risks doing terrible damage to its reputation, further alienating countries in the region and pushing them even closer to the United States.”

“We are looking to Asean, as it did most recently at that summit, to express its support for these basic principles and we would like to see that happen when the arbitration decision is issued as well,” Blinken said.

China has urged Southeast Asian nations to resolve territorial disputes through dialogue and repeated a warning of “negative consequences” if the Philippines wins an arbitration case in The Hague.

Any sort of arbitration goes against the Declaration on the Conduct (DoC) of Parties in the South China Sea signed between 10 nations from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and China in 2002, said Chinese vice foreign minister Liu Zhenmin.

“The arbitration is not by an international court, it’s arbitration brought unilaterally by the Philippine government against China but China took the decision not to participate in proceedings.”

Beijing has refused to take part in any of the Hague proceedings, which it calls illegal, and has said it will not recognize the ruling.

It maintains that the dispute should be resolved between individual claimant countries instead of through the Asean body, and has claimed in the past week that Brunei, Cambodia and Laos back its stance.

The DoC, which was signed between China and Asean in 2002, states that signatories are to resolve disputes through dialogues and diplomatic means.

Calling the DoC the common basis for China and Asean to uphold peace and stability, Liu said it is necessary for peace and maritime cooperation in the region.

“Deviation from the DoC will lead to negative consequences,” he said.

This year the Southeast Asian bloc marks its 25th year of diplomatic relations with China. AFP
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi maintained that it was up to those countries directly involved to find a peaceful resolution through negotiations.

“International society, particularly countries from outside the South China Sea, should play a constructive function in maintaining peace and stability and not contribute to the situation becoming more chaotic,” Wang said.

Wang’s Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, for his part, outside parties should not interfere, a reference to the United States, which has challenged Beijing’s claims.

While the US stressed it takes no position on South China Sea sovereignty claims, it has worked to shore up the military capabilities of the Philippines, a treaty ally.

Bayan Muna slams killing of Samar leader

From the Business Mirror (Apr 30): Bayan Muna slams killing of Samar leader

BAYAN Muna party-list group on Saturday denounced the killing of Emil Go, its Northern Samar lead convenor, by unidentified assailants in Palapag town on Friday.

Party-list Reps. Neri J. Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate of Bayan Muna said in a statement that they condemned Go’s killing “in the strongest possible term.”

Go was shot just 10 days before the May 9 national elections, reports from a local human-rights organization said.

The victim was the lead convenor of Bayan Muna when it was established in Northern Samar in 2001 and became a leader of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) from 2001 to 2004.

He was also the convenor of the human-rights watchdog Katungod in 1999.

Go is a known supporter of the senatorial bid of Colmenares.

“The Aquino administration is now drawing to a close, yet, there is no let up still in the brutalities against the people and progressive members of our society. We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of Emil Go, and demand prompt justice for his senseless slaying,” Colmenares added.

“President Aquino’s daang matuwid is now further heavily drenched by the blood of the innocents—from the massacre of farmers in Kidapawan just earlier this month to the slaying of Emil Go,” he said.

Meanwhile, Zarate noted that the killing could be election-related.

“A bloodless election has yet to happen in Philippine history. Gold, guns and goons have always been in the arsenal of the traditional politicians. It is truly unfortunate and disgraceful that Emil’s life—spent as a long-time activist and human-rights defender—is senselessly snuffed just because of election ambitions and interests,” Zarate said.

“The people has had enough of daang matuwid, and it should end with Aquino’s term. The people should reject this corrupt, brutal, and human-rights violating administration of Aquino, including his putative successor and his minions,” Zarate concluded.

Twin blasts rock Lamitan City

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 30): Twin blasts rock Lamitan City

Two blasts rocked Lamitan City in Basilan in succession Friday night, the Office of Civil Defense of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OCD-ARMM) here said yesterday.

An OCD-ARMM statement said the first explosion of a suspected improvised explosive device (IED) occurred at 7:53 p.m.  Another blast followed four minutes later, it said.

The first IED went off in front of Alliance Church along Flores Street while the second went off in the vicinity of the barangay hall of Barangay Mabini.

The OCD-ARMM reported no casualty in both blasts, as ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman, himself a native of Basilan, ordered the local police and other concerned agencies to conduct a thorough investigation into the twin bombings.

Basilan is one of known areas of operations in the Sulu archipelago by the outlawed Abdu Sayyaf Group (ASG).

Under public condemnation for beheading a Canadian captive, the ASG is also widely blamed for seizing Malaysian fishermen lately that forced Kuala Lumpur to impose the closure of Sabah border to traders and farers from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.