Wednesday, January 13, 2016

MILF against reopening of Mamasapano probe, says its a closed case

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): MILF against reopening of Mamasapano probe, says its a closed case

Reopening investigation on the Mamasapano encounter in Maguindanao would “open the already healed wound,” an official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) on Thursday said.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF vice chair for political affairs, said the MILF sees the reopening of the probe as an “investigation in aid of legislation.”

“It’s already election season, so reopening it is an opportunity for candidates to grand stand,” Jaafar said in Filipino in a radio interview.

“We consider the very unfortunate Mamasapano incident closed,” Jaafar added.

He said now is the time to move on, learn the lesson and prevent similar incident in the future.

At least 65 persons were killed, 44 were police special unit, 17 MILF fighters and the rest were outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)





Insurgency still a threat to 2016 polls in Region 8 - Army

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Insurgency still a threat to 2016 polls in Region 8 - Army

Insurgency is still a primary concern of the Philippine Army on its bid to achieve honest, peaceful and orderly elections on May 9, 2016.

“The New People’s Army (NPA) is the number one threat at the national level and our major challenge in the region as well. We are closely monitoring their activities as part of our security preparations,” said Col. Cesar Idio, Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division assistant commander.

The military expects the armed rebels to collect fees on permit to campaign, permit to win, and permit to enter. The money generated through “extortion” will be used to launch more attacks against the government, according to the military official.

“Their activities aimed at embarrassing the government, but these are under our control,” Idio added.

Despite recent attacks launched by the NPA against the military in Samar provinces, the official is optimistic of the peaceful situation ahead of Election Day due to intensified security operations.

“But we are not complacent as we prepare mitigation plans and possible security measures for every possible scenario,” he told reporters.

The military and the police are deputized by the Comelec to ensure honest orderly and peaceful elections.

Meanwhile, Idio reminded soldiers to remain non-partisan since voters are depending much on government troops in “upholding their best interest.”

“The success that we can attain in the coming elections will showcase how we have matured as an institution. We, the Comelec and the police are the last bastion of people during elections.”

“During this period, the watchful eyes of the people are on us, waiting for us to do our mandated tasks, while others are there to see if we do otherwise,” Idio added.

Suspected NPA rebel killed, another captured in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Suspected NPA rebel killed, another captured in Bukidnon

A suspected member of the rebel group New People's Army (NPA) was killed while another was captured in a firefight with the military in Kibawe town, Bukidnon province on Jan. 12.

In a statement forwarded Thursday by Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, 4th Infantry Division spokesperson, the 40-minute firefight that ensued took place around 6 p.m. at Barangay Kagawasan.

Rebel presence in the area was reported by concerned residents to nearby military units, prompting the deployment of 1st Special Forces Battalion troops to the barangay.

Martinez said the rebel band was on extortion and harassment mission when cornered by government troops.

Along with the slain rebel, also recovered were an M-16 and M-14 automatic rifles, three improvised explosive devices and five backpacks with subversive documents with high intelligence value.

Personnel from Kibawe Municipal Police Station proceeded at the encounter site to conduct a probe.

The body of the rebel was turned over to local officials for proper disposition.(

Only HADR equipment to be stockpiled in EDCA selected bases

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 14): Only HADR equipment to be stockpiled in EDCA selected bases

US forces, allowed access to Filipino military bases under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), are only allowed to stockpile humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) equipment.

This was disclosed by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesperson Col. Restituto Padilla Wednesday.

"The storage of equipment right now is limited to HADR equipment, so no tanks, no war fighting equipment for the moment," he added.

This is to allow quick response of Filipino and American units in case another disaster or calamity strikes the country in the near future.

HADR equipment to be stockpiled include water purifiers, generators, lighting equipment, trucks and other heavy lift vehicles, the AFP spokesperson pointed out.

Possible Filipino military bases to be opened under the EDCA include Fort Magsayay in Nueva Ecija; Crow Valley in Tarlac; Basa Air Base, in Floridablanca, Pampanga; Benito Ebuen Air Base in Mactan, Cebu; Camp Lapu-Lapu, Cebu; Camp Macario Peralta in Jamindan, Capiz; Naval Station San Miguel in San Antonio, Zambales, Antonio Bautista Airbase, Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Lumbia Airfield in Cagayan De Oro and Edwin Andrews Air Base in Zamboanga City.

Department of National Defense (DND) spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said the EDCA, which was declared constitutional by the Supreme Court (SC) last Jan. 12, will help boost Philippine maritime security and HADR capabilities.

"The DND welcomes the ruling of our SC declaring EDCA constitutional. With this development that builds upon our mutual defense treaty, we look forward to advancing our defense modernization and strengthening maritime Security and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief capabilities," he added.

The SC, Tuesday, voting 10-4-1, declared EDCA as constitutional.

It also upheld the position of the government that the EDCA is an executive agreement and does not need the Senate concurrence.

In the same vein, Galvez said this puts the Armed Forces of the Philippines in a better position to improve inter-operability with the US military aside from improving the AFP's capabilities.

Finalized after eight rounds of talks that began in August 2013, EDCA, which signed in 2014, allows US troops access to designated Philippine military facilities, the right to construct facilities, and pre-position equipment, aircraft and vessels, but rules out permanent basing.

Philippines offers eight bases to US under new military deal

From ABS-CBN (Jan 13): Philippines offers eight bases to US under new military deal

The Philippines has offered the United States eight bases where it can build facilities to store equipment and supplies under a new security deal, a military spokesman said on Wednesday, amid rising tension with China over the West Philippine Sea.

Last year, the Philippines and the United States signed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) granting Washington increased military presence in its former colony, rotating ships and planes for humanitarian and maritime security operations.

"The list has been prepared many months ago when we had earlier discussions," Colonel Restituto Padilla told reporters, saying five military airfields, two naval bases and a jungle training camp were offered to the United States.

"These are still subject for approval and we're going to hold final discussions about these areas."

Three of these bases are on the main island of Luzon in the northern Philippines, including Clark airfield, a former U.S. air force base, and two are on the western island of Palawan, near the South China Sea.

The Americans are also seeking access to three civilian seaports and airfields on Luzon, including Subic Bay, a former U.S. Navy base, a senior defense official told Reuters.

Last year, more than 100 U.S. Navy ships docked in Subic and two advanced nuclear-powered stealth submarines made visits in the first two weeks of this year.

"Subic is important to the Americans because it is one of the few areas in the country where they can actually dock safely," said a defence official, who declined to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the press.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said security cooperation with the U.S. had become more intertwined amid increasing tension over the South China Sea.

The Philippines has filed a protest against China's test flights from an artificial island in the South China Sea, a foreign ministry spokesman said, describing the actions as "provocative" and a violation of an existing informal code.

Every year more than $5 trillion of world trade is shipped through the South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, which China claims almost entirely. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

China's official Xinhua news agency, in an English-language commentary, said the EDCA would only escalate tension and "could push the situation to the brink of war".

"The deal is groundless because China, which sticks to a defensive defence policy, has never coerced any country on the South China Sea issue," it said.

Of General Intel Interest: Postwar Semantics in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces

From The Diplomat (Jan 13): Postwar Semantics in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces (by

What’s in a name? Pride, honor, and history.

Postwar Semantics in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces

Image Credit: REUTERS/Yuya Shino
The Japan-U.S. alliance is one of the strongest in the world. Not only does it include a vast array of economic and diplomatic agreements, but the average observer can easily point out the degree to which their militaries cooperate. Japanese Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) personnel can be found side-by-side with American forces during most of Asia’s major military exercises, and ongoing capability building and technology exchange has made the U.S.-Japan military partnership the most robust and advanced in Asia. Both nations share operating bases. both patrol the same waters, and both practice in the same airspace. In short, Japan-U.S. military cooperation is extensive and well established.

A foreign officer in Japan, however, soon encounters a phenomenon peculiar to the JSDF: Military terms were revised in the post-World War II lexicons. If seeking his infantry or artillery unit counterparts, he will have trouble finding anyone who knows the words “infantry” or “artillery.”
While searching for captains, majors, and colonels to speak with, the same officer would only find curiously numbered personnel (1-rank, 2-rank, 3-rank, and so on). A naval officer looking for information on “destroyers” or “cruisers” will find himself at a loss as to which terms to use in his search.

So what’s the cause of these verbal contortions? In short, the post-World War II Japanese military has sought to separate itself from the wartime-legacy of the Japanese imperial forces, and all the negative press that comes with it: military coups, overthrow of the constitutional order, and rapacious conquest. To this end, the rearmament of Japan beginning in 1951 explored an unprecedented idea: If units, specialties, vessel classes, and even military ranks were given more innocuous names, it would decrease the possibility of a return to militarism and downplay the extent to which the JSDF is an actual military force.

New Force, New Names
Chief among the institutions to be torn down by the American occupiers immediately after the war was the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy; troops repatriating home were demobilized quickly and former Imperial officers found themselves on the street with little use for their wartime experience, and an occupying force with even less will to re-employ them. Despite the thoroughness of the imperial demobilization, however, Cold War imperatives spurred special negotiator John Foster Dulles to demand in 1951 that Japan raise an armed force for national defense (and deterring the Soviets). Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru agreed to establish land, sea, and air forces with 50,000 personnel, eventually rising to 75,000. With the old army and navy thoroughly dismantled, Japan would have to start almost from scratch – and the U.S. found itself responsible for training and equipping this new armed force, just as quickly as it found itself responsible for tearing the old one down.

To this end, an American Army officer named Colonel Frank Kowalski took charge of the rearmament, which included two major objectives relevant to this article: to ensure that no nefarious imperial influences find its way into the officer corps in order to prevent a resurgence in militarism, and to form a defense force as mentally separate as possible from the wartime military establishment. This led the U.S. trainers to develop brand new names for old military concepts; even the everyday terms used by Japan during World War II were frightening enough to conjure up images of the imperial banner marching across Asia. The U.S. architects of Japan’s National Defense Force were determined to avoid such images from causing potential Asian allies to flee their sphere of influence, or accidentally rekindle war fervor in Japan proper. The primary objective of the name changes, therefore, was to create as much distance (and difference) as possible between the prewar and postwar Japanese military image. This has critical implications when considering military morale, pride, and how the civilian population views the JSDF, even today.

The change in words from prewar to postwar form is difficult to understand unless one has daily encounters with the JSDF; the subtle differences are unavailable in English since both prewar and postwar Japanese military terms are translated as the same word. For example, a novice translator may translate the word “infantry” as 「歩兵」(hohei), which literally means “walking soldier,” and was certainly used to describe infantry during World War II and before. In practice, however, this is a dead word in postwar Japanese; the correct word today is 「普通科」(hutsuuka), which literally means “normal soldier” but is now also used to denote “infantry.” Term after term, postwar Japanese words for older military concepts create a sense of separation with the past in attempts to soften the formerly rigid specter of the military martinet.

Here is a list of some more prominent terms that have been changed. The list is not all-inclusive, but the objective is clear: Modern Japanese terms attempt to soften or redirect a “military” image as much as possible. (An expanded list can be found here.)

English Word
Prewar Term
Postwar Term
Effect of Change

将校 (shoukou)士官 (shikan) or 幹部 (kanbu)The term shoukou conjures images of a military coup in the 1930s. “Shikan” and “kanbu” imply mere government officials.

歩兵 (hohei)普通科 (hutsuuka)Subtly softens the image of a soldier. Literal translation: “standard type.”

火砲 (kahou) or大砲 (taihou)特科 (tokka), often represented as 特科隊 (tokkatai)Completely removes all references to artillery in favor of the term “support,” which indirectly refers to artillery as a support role for the infantry.

Destroyer (vessel)
駆逐艦 (kuchikukan)護衛艦 (goeikan)Downplays the “destroy” aspect, and emphasizes the “escort” role of modern ships. The literal change is from “destroyer” to “defensive escort vessel.”

軍曹 (gunsou)3曹Eliminates the use of the “military” (軍) character. Literal translation: from “military person” to “No. 3 person”

2nd Lieutenant/Ensign
少尉3尉Numerical values imply a more corporate role vice a military one. Literal translation: from “Junior company grade” to “3rd class company grade”
大尉1尉“ “
Major/Lt Commander
少佐3佐“ “
Colonel/Captain大佐1佐“ “

Largely spared from the list is the Air Self-Defense Force. During World War II, the Japanese air force, like America’s, was split between the Army and Navy; a separate service did not exist. As such, the words for “fighter,” “bomber,” “transport,” and the like came directly from the U.S. rather than evolving separately from postwar wordsmiths, and Air Self-Defense Force words and U.S. Air Force words remain largely identical in translation.

Pride, Not Militarism

From the JSDF’s perspective, most personnel are ambivalent about these word differences, finding them silly or ingratiating. After all, a large part of being an effective fighting force is pride, and pride is difficult to come by serving in a framework whose daily operating terms remind one of past humiliations and sever contact with one’s history. Indeed, daily conversation between JSDF and foreign military personnel often slips into the prewar terms, especially when discussing rank and titles. A conversation that begins discussing the “航空自衛隊” or “Air Self-Defense Force” might end with each party referring to themselves as “空軍” or “Air Force,” an image the JSDF has tried to avoid in public statements and in conduct. Additionally, the traditional terms for the military services imply a full offensive capability. In fact, the JSDF are restricted to defensive operations only and the Japanese government has taken great pains to establish this image. Any term that takes away from this effort, therefore, is frowned upon, especially from a policy level.

Despite irrational fears sometimes found in East Asia, this return to the old terminology doesn’t betray a wicked desire to return to prewar militarism; rather, it occurs because the prewar terms are the terms still used by other nations and cross all international boundaries, including some like Sweden or Switzerland that haven’t fought a war in more than two centuries. This makes them easy to use in regular conversation. Indeed, among themselves JSDF personnel often use the simpler terms “Army,” “Navy,” and “Air Force” not only because they’re easier to use but also because they reflect a broader tradition of military history and culture. The JSDF has only been a “defense force” for 65 years; it was an “armed force” during its formative years in the 19th century, and its tradition reflects such a history. A similar analogue can be found when the United States changed its “Department of War” to the “Department of Defense;” historically difficult to part from, the name change carries subtle differences in goals and reflects a changing policy world, yet the traditions of the War Department live on in the Department of Defense and in each individual service, unchanged by the name.

Today’s Implications

The name changes have had several notable implications. Some U.S. officers, now wishing for a more active defense partner in the Pacific, look upon the name changes with a combination of curiosity and regret. In most estimations, it was an experiment designed both to satisfy GHQ’s idealistic goals of demilitarization, best represented by Article IX of the constitution, and to minimize any chances of Japan returning to militarism in the way Germany did during the interwar period. Nevertheless, the new names became custom, and custom has become tradition; a change back to more direct and “warlike” terms will most likely only accompany a return to full-fledged Armed Forces status.

Adding new terms and eliminating old ones has also served to increase the gulf between the JSDF and the civil population. Already unpopular in Japan, by changing the ranks and names of basic service functions, everyday citizens who shunned military matters lost even more of their basic military awareness. In contrast with the average U.S. citizen who at least has heard the word “sergeant” and may grasp the basic differences between the services, for a long time Japanese, from the lowliest pauper to the highest policymakers, actively scorned the JSDF. Facing neglect from their own countrymen and forced to use names that intentionally emasculate them, it is no wonder the JSDF revert to the old names on occasion; to do otherwise would not only be to ignore their own history but would also be self-deprecating and potentially harmful to unit morale.

No matter the opinion, the postwar military terminology changes reflect a substantial though rarely discussed facet of everyday JSDF life that affects JSDF operations and reputation in ways seldom understood. Essentially possessing two lexicons, each politically charged in a different way, the JSDF continue their precarious balancing act between historical pride, postwar loathing, and reputation concerns in their daily operations, an unenviable position that other militaries have the luxury to be without.

[John Wright is a U.S. Air Force officer and pilot. He is currently assigned to Tokyo as a fellow for the Mansfield Foundation, which is dedicated to U.S.-Japan cooperation via intense US federal employee exchange and placement in the Japanese government.  The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and not those of the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Government, or Government of Japan.]

Who Is a Terrorist?: Lessons from Thailand and the Philippines

From The Diplomat (Jan 13): Who Is a Terrorist?: Lessons from Thailand and the Philippines (by Patrick Barron)

In Thailand and Philippines, it’s worth digging into the precise definitions of “terrorism.”

The 2015 Global Terrorism Index was recently launched by the Institute of Economics and Peace. The timing of the report, released just three days after the Paris attacks, was sadly opportune. The main message—that terrorism is on the rise and its reach is widening—chimes with a new assertiveness from political leaders who have competed to emphasize that the values of liberty must be preserved and, somewhat in contradiction, that terrorists should be rooted out by military or other means. This may portend an era of liberal interventionism, with participants including unlikely bedfellows such as Russia and China. The GTI, which ranks countries by their experience of terrorism, purports to point to those where anti-terrorist efforts should focus.

Problematically, this is based on a flawed understanding of what terrorism is, who does it, and what it looks like. The report employs a definition of terrorism that conflates many types of violence by many types of non-state groups, including sub-national secessionist movements, ideologically-motivated insurgents and political protesters. This, accompanied by inconsistencies in what is deemed a terrorist act and what is not, leads to misleading findings.

This is dangerous given how states, particularly since 9/11, have consistently used counter-terrorism rhetoric to repress dissent at the expense of finding political solutions to complex problems.

Thailand and the Philippines: Where the Terrorists Roam?

The issue is perhaps best reflected in the inclusion of Thailand and the Philippines high up in the GTI rankings. Thailand comes tenth in the GTI with the Philippines following in eleventh, higher than Egypt and South Sudan, for example.

According to the report, two-thirds of Thailand’s terrorist incidents in 2014 (234) took place in the country’s Deep South. There, an insurgency has ebbed and flowed for more than a decade, claiming over 6,000 lives. The GTI categorizes violence by the several separatist groups, which include the Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) and the splinter Runda Kumpulan Kecil (RKK), as acts of terrorism. Around half of the remaining incidents occurred in Bangkok, in the form of various sniper attacks and small explosions that accompanied the anti-government protests early that year. (The 2015 bombing of the Erawan shrine, which claimed 20 lives, falls outside the time period covered by the report.)

The GTI notes that deaths from terrorism fell in the Philippines in 2014 but that they were still the second highest on record. While the report claims that Filipino terrorism is tied up with separatist sentiments in the country’s south, the New People’s Army (NPA), a longstanding armed communist group operating nationwide, was responsible for 32 percent of the year’s terrorist deaths.

Terrorism and Insurgent Wars

Should the acts of groups such as the NPA and BRN be classified as terrorism? The GTI defines terrorist acts as those where violence or force is used by non-state groups for political, economic or religious purposes. Battle and other related deaths that occur in the context of conflict are not counted. (Most of the deaths in Syria, for example, are counted as being scars of war and are not included in the GTI.)

Yet there appears to be significant inconsistencies across countries in what is counted as terrorism. The NPA and BRN are non-state groups that use violence to try to achieve political goals—to overthrow the Philippines state and to achieve independence or more autonomy for Thailand’s Deep South, respectively. But both are fighting wars against the state. Why would deaths from these conflicts be included as terrorist acts whereas those from the Syrian war are not?

Coders for Syria clearly have major challenges in separating out what is a battle-related death and what is a terrorist act. Yet this becomes even more difficult in places like southern Thailand (or, in the case of the NPA, areas scattered throughout the Philippines), where civil wars are asymmetric and non-conventional. Rather than armies battling to control territory, violence tends to take the form of guerilla attacks and state counter-insurgency operations. Sometimes citizens are targeted to instill loyalty through fear, but operations more often focus on hard targets such as military personnel or government officials. If these acts of violence are excluded, the incidence of terrorist acts in the Philippines and Thailand plunges.

Terrorism and Violent Political Action

The other large block of terrorist incidents recorded for Thailand comes from the anti-government protests that eventually led to a coup d’état. Such incidents are deemed to be terrorist acts because: (a) they are violent; (b) they involve non-state actors; and (c) the objective is political, in this case the removal of the government.

But such a wide definition includes many incidents of violence that should not be classified as terrorism. The Bangkok protests differ in both scale and objective from many of the genuine terrorist incidents—conducted by groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Pakistan’s TPP—detailed elsewhere in the report. Rather than purging domestic or global society of infidels or modern beliefs, they were manifestations of an (albeit unsavory) strategy aimed at securing domestic political power. A quick reading of Thailand’s modern political history, where cycles of protest and low intensity violence have typically and frequently preceded changes in political power, shows both how normal and effective such strategies are. Indeed, the use of violence, or threats of it, are a common strategy for securing political and economic power in much of the developing world and beyond—at both the national and local levels. Inter-communal riots in India, organized crime in Guatemala, local land conflicts in Indonesia: each involves the use of violence by non-state groups for political-economic purposes. If one is to include such acts in a definition of terrorism, and consistently code them as such, the number of terrorist acts would rise exponentially in most countries.

Labels and the Search for Peace

One of the enduring impacts of the 9/11 attacks was the labeling by governments of subnational movements and political dissenters as terrorists. The language was used, for example, to legitimize violent state crackdowns against secessionist groups in Xinjiang (China), Aceh (Indonesia), Sri Lanka, and anti-government parties in Cambodia.

Yet experience has shown that it is only when such groups are seen and accepted as legitimate political players that progress towards peace can occur. Peace tends to require negotiation and negotiation requires recognition.

In Aceh, this was necessary for peace talks to commence, which ultimately resulted in 2005’s successful Helsinki peace accord. In the Philippines, the government has repeatedly had to state that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who (with other separatists) fought a long war for autonomy in Mindanao, are not a terrorist group to bolster peace talks. This eventually led to a comprehensive peace agreement and sharp drops in violence emanating from separatism. In 2011, the Government of the Philippines delisted the NPA from its list of terrorist groups as it sought to make progress on a peace process, which has been stalled on other grounds. In Thailand, the refusal of the government to recognize southern separatists as negotiation partners was a factor in the failure of 2013 talks and may well halt current dialogue.

Rather than classifying particular groups as ‘terrorist’, it is more helpful to think of terrorism as one tactic amongst many others that some groups use at certain points as they push their agenda. Labeling the BRN and NPA as ‘terrorists’ blocks opportunities to find solutions to violence.

Toward New Understandings of ‘Terrorism’

Conflating different forms of violence and political action—and inappropriately labeling various groups as ‘terrorist’—can counteract attempts to build peace. With the specter of fresh terrorist attacks real, in Europe and beyond, it is increasingly important that we develop new ways to talk about and measure terrorism. As Andrew Glazzard and Raffaello Pantucci argue in their useful expert contribution to the GTI report itself, the group of actors deemed terrorist in the report is so broad as to lose coherence. There is a need to find new ways to disaggregate forms of political, ideological, separatist, and religious violence—by motives, tactics, targets, and geographic scope. Only then can differentiated approaches be adopted that will lower terrorism risks without creating new grievances or undermining prospective peace settlements.

[Patrick Barron is Regional Director for Conflict and Development at The Asia Foundation. The views here are his alone and not those of the organization. He can be reached at]

Beijing rejects PHL note verbale on Fiery Cross overflights - DFA spokesman

From InterAksyon (Jan 13): Beijing rejects PHL note verbale on Fiery Cross overflights - DFA spokesman

File photo of Kagitingan Reef, handout from the Public Affairs Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Manila and Hanoi are protesting China's recent flights over the reef. On Wednesday, the DFA said Beijing had rejected Manila's note verbale protesting the flights.

Beijing has verbally rejected the Philippines' protest over the recent test flights of China over Fiery Cross Reef (called Kagitingan Reef by Manila), the Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson said Wednesday.

Manila's note verbale was officially forwarded by the DFA on January 8 to the First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy; however, the Chinese diplomat quickly responded that China is not violating any laws as it has indisputable sovereignty in the South China Sea. In short, "China simply repeated that of course, they have indisputable sovereignty and it's within their rights," said Assistant Secretary Charles Jose in an interview. Asked if that is a clear manifestation of rejection, Jose replied, "ah yes!"

On Wednesday morning, the DFA released a statement on the contents of its note verbale, emphasizing that China's provocative actions have raised tensions and anxiety in the region; are restricting the freedom of navigation and overflights in the West Philippine Sea; and are a definite violation of the spirit and letter of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea.

The DOC is a nonbinding political accord signed in 2002 by China and ASEAN members Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar that would precede the proposed regional Code of Conduct.

It discourages aggressive actions and bars construction of new structures in the contested region that could spark armed conflicts.

However, many regard the 2002 accord as lacking in teeth and a dispute-settlement scheme to effectively deal with the territorial disputes, sparking calls for a more effective and legally-binding Code of Conduct.

Vietnam, which is also claiming the Fiery Cross, also protested China’s actions.

The 10-member ASEAN bloc has aspired to hammer a regional code with China that would prevent conflicting territorial claims in the vast potentially-oil rich region from erupting into violent confrontations or worse, an economically-devastating major conflict.

Such a goal has acquired urgency due to China’s rapid and massive island-building on previously submerged reefs disputed by other claimants such as Vietnam and the Philippines. The reclamation has also triggered concerns from several states, such as the United States, Japan and Australia.

2+2 meeting in Washington

Meanwhile, in Washington, the so-called "2 + 2 meeting" between Philippine defense and foreign affairs officials and their counterparts has been concluded, the DFA reported. While the 2+2 meeting had long been scheduled, it came at a crucial time: the renewed aggressive action of China in the West Philippine sea with the provocative flights over Fiery Cross, and the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) forged between Manila and Washington in 2014.

Manila was represented by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert Del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia. On the other-hand, US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter represented the US government.

The meeting lasted for two hours and 15 minutes and discussed a broad range of topics including bilateral relations, security and defense cooperation, economic cooperations and climate change, the DFA said.

Aside from the substantial support of America in the modernization of the Philippine military, issues on maritime security were tackled, especially the dispute in the South China Sea, the DFA reported.

EDCA implementation 

Assistant Secretary Jose could not give further details on whether or how the Supreme Court's decision favoring EDCA affected the atmosphere of the 2 + 2 meeting. However, Jose cited the possible next steps after EDCA was declared constitutional in a 10-4-1 vote of the high tribunal, in a decision penned by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

According to Jose, the details of that post-ruling scenario will likely be tackled at the next Mutual Defense Board and the Security Defense Board. National government mechanisms on how to implement EDCA will be set up, added Jose, but pointed out that the timeline of the implementation is "not yet clear."

The DFA, meanwhile, slammed the critics of the SC's decision on EDCA, stressing that they should respect the high court's finding that it is not violating the Philippine Constitution, especially in the matter of putting up US military bases.

Our Constitution clearly states that foreign military bases are not allowed here. Now, if the Supreme Court says that EDCA does not violate the Constitution, that means rhe EDCA does not allow the US to open their military bases in the Philippines. That is not in EDCA," explained Jose, speaking partly in Filipino.

House to investigate bombing of transmission towers in Mindanao

From the Business World (Jan 12): House to investigate bombing of transmission towers in Mindanao

LAWMAKERS on Tuesday filed a resolution calling on the House committee on energy to probe the bombing of transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) in Mindanao.

House Resolution No. 2603, filed by Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd district) and Abamin Party-list Rep. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Jr., directs the committee on energy to “conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation.... [T]his serves notice to all concerned, particularly the Department of Energy, the Energy Regulatory Commission, NGCP, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and other agencies and entities which may shed light and resolve the issue.”

“There is a need to look into this very dire situation and find solutions to the problem and further determine how to prevent it from happening again,” the lawmakers said.

They cited reports from the NGCP that 16 transmission towers have been bombed as of November last year.

According to the resolution, the NGCP has been able to finish repairs on some of the towers “but have not been able to repair others, allegedly, because of uncooperative landowners... who refuse entry to the personnel of the NGCP.”

The lawmakers said it is the responsibility of the AFP and PNP, specifically their intelligence services, “to prevent these bombings.”

“Both the AFP and the PNP have yet to capture those responsible for the bombings despite a long period of time having passed since the latest bombings and worse, it seems that they have not elaborated yet the motive of the bombings,” the resolution read.

“If these bombings continue, Cagayan de Oro City and the entire Mindanao will suffer devastating brownouts,” it further read.

Last week, Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said the Department of Energy is coordinating efforts to ensure continuous and reliable power supply in Mindanao.

He said the provincial government of Lanao del Sur is working with other concerned local government units, as well as the NGCP, “to beef up security for these transmission towers and to address right-of-way issues with landowners where these towers are located.”

Mr. Coloma earlier said the Office of the Executive Secretary has coordinated with the Defense and Interior departments “to secure clearing operations under the transmission lines.”

No constitutional crisis over EDCA ruling — experts

From CNN Philippines (Jan 13): No constitutional crisis over EDCA ruling — experts

Filipino and American soldiers in a joint military training activity

The two branches of government are at two opposing views when it comes to the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

The military deal between the United States and the Philippine governments has become controversial, especially when questions on its constitutionality were raised in the Supreme Court (SC).

At one hand, the Senate said EDCA must have its approval. But there is also the SC ruling that says there's no need for that.

See: SC rules EDCA is constitutional

For lawyer Harry Roque, one of the petitioners, this created constitutional crisis. But experts believe otherwise.

Trident Defense president Kristoffer Purisima, for one, said he doesn't see a brewing constitutional crisis over the EDCA ruling.

“There will be constitutional crisis if one or more of the branches of government assumes or dares to assume more than its allocated sphere of power under the constitution,” said Purisima.

He pointed out that as the final arbiter of the Constitution, the high court could solely interpret the law.

“I believe in this case that the litigants before the Supreme Court including the Senate, although they may and are entitled to exhaust every legal remedy available to them, eventually would accept and respect the decision of the Supreme Court whatever it may be,” explained Purisima.

Purisima said EDCA is not a stand-alone agreement. But it should be viewed consistent with the Visiting Forces Agreement and the Mutual Defense Treaty.

And contrary to perceived fears, he thinks that EDCA doesn't lead to the surrender of Philippine sovereignty to a foreign power—in this case, the United States.

“The EDCA effectively does not impose any new burdens or require any additional obligations on the part of Philippine government in terms of its relationship with the US,” said Purisima.

Related: A quick look at what EDCA is all about

According to Purisima, there is always a possibility that a ruling maybe overturned or modified. But when it comes to the court's ruling on EDCA, it stands on firm legal ground.

Geopolitical analyst Richard Heydarian agreed with Purisima that a constitutional crisis is out of the picture.

Heydarian admitted though, he was surprised with the decision where an overwhelming majority voted in favor of EDCA. He expected it to be a close vote.

“To be honest I'm beginning to feel that the Supreme Court over the past few years has been more and more in line with public opinion. If you've got a public opinion the Filipinos are the most appreciative of America's role in the international community,” said Heydarian.

For Heydarian, it is totally understandable. Especially that there is growing paranoia over China's aggressive response towards issues on territorial disputes.

Also read: Philippines, United States ‘reinforce alliance’ through EDCA

The Philippines, he said, has to do a lot of catching up in terms of strategic ground. And when you have an "ocean" of goodwill towards the US, EDCA is something that will sit well with majority of Filipinos.

“I think the whole national discourse right now is focused on how do we protect our interests in the Spratlys,” said Heydarian.

More than the issue of whether EDCA should take the form of an executive agreement or a treaty—Heydarian said the question now is how properly and urgently the government would implement it.

PH vows ‘prompt, mutually beneficial’ implementation of EDCA

From Rappler (Jan 13): PH vows ‘prompt, mutually beneficial’ implementation of EDCA

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario says the Supreme Court ruling on EDCA 'opens up new opportunities to further deepen our enduring alliance with the US'

PH-US 2+2. (L-R) Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Philippine Secretary of Defense Voltaire  Gazmin and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter pose for a photo opportunity before the second Philippines-US Two-plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue on January 12, 2016, at the US Department of State in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC

PH-US 2+2. (L-R) Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, US Secretary of State John Kerry, Philippine Secretary of Defense Voltaire Gazmin and US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter pose for a photo opportunity before the second Philippines-US Two-plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue on January 12, 2016, at the US Department of State in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC

The Philippines on Tuesday, January 12, vowed to work on the "prompt and mutually beneficial" implementation of the PH-US Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), following the Philippine High Court’s decision upholding the constitutionality of the executive agreement.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario made the statement after the 2nd Philippines-US 2 plus 2 Ministerial Consultations at the US State Department in Washington, DC, where he and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin met with their US counterparts, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter.

“The recent validation by the Supreme Court of the constitutionality of the EDCA opens up new opportunities to further deepen our enduring alliance with the US, and we have committed to work towards the prompt and mutually beneficial implementation of this agreement,” Del Rosario said.

EDCA is an executive agreement that gives US troops, planes, and ships increased rotational presence in Philippine military bases, and allows Washington to build facilities to store fuel and equipment there.

Proponents say the deal aims to help build the capacity of the Philippine military, one of the weakest in Asia, especially in the face of challenges posed by the country's dispute with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Del Rosario said that during the dialogue, which lasted for two hours and 15 minutes, the officials "welcomed the renewed focus on the area of maritime security and maritime domain awareness."

"In terms of defense and security, we discussed concrete ways to leverage the alliance to contribute to the stability and prosperity of our region," Del Rosario said.

The officials also reviewed "robust" bilateral cooperation on defense and security, and on trade, investments, tourism, and development; and common challenges posed by "violent extremism" and climate change," Del Rosario said.

'Increasingly intertwined security interests'

The dialogue, convened months away from the 70th anniversary of the establishment of PH-US bilateral ties, took place as tensions continue to rise in the South China Sea.

In his opening remarks at the ministerial consultations, Del Rosario cited the "tremendous progress" made by both countries in further revitalizing their alliance since the first meeting in 2012.

"I believe that our relations are truly at [their] best at this point. One factor behind this is the conscious effort of our leaders to invest in our enduring engagement. Another factor is the emergence of regional challenges that have underscored the need for concerted effort to protect our common values," he said.

"Our defense and security engagement has never been stronger nor more focused. Our cooperation in the area of maritime security and maritime domain awareness benefits not just for our mutual defense, but also contributes actively to maintaining regional stability," Del Rosario added.

STRONGER ALLIANCE.  (L-R) Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr listen to their US counterparts' remarks at the working lunch of the 2nd Philippines-US Two-plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue, on January 12, 2016, at the US Department of State in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC

STRONGER ALLIANCE. (L-R) Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, and Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr listen to their US counterparts' remarks at the working lunch of the 2nd Philippines-US Two-plus-Two Ministerial Dialogue, on January 12, 2016, at the US Department of State in Washington DC. Photo courtesy of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC

In his opening remarks at the ministerial consultations, the Philippine defense chief noted the “increasingly intertwined” security interests of the Philippines and the US.

“While we grapple with non-traditional security concerns and natural and man-made disasters, traditional security challenges to include territorial and maritime disputes remain to be fundamental concerns. Given this strategic context, we should be in a position to address such common concerns, as well as contribute to regional peace and stability,” said Gazmin.

“It is timely for the Philippines and the US to focus on building a credible defense posture and enhancing interoperability for territorial defense, maritime security and maritime domain awareness, and humanitarian assistance and disaster response,” he added.

Gazmin also noted that the Aquino administration has provided “unprecedented levels of funds” for the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ modernization, in pursuit of its mandate not only “to protect the State but also to fulfill our obligations as an ally and an active contributor to regional peace and stability.”

On the economic front, Del Rosario noted the resolution of issues hampering the growth of PH-US trade ties, such as the termination of the US Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) labor review on the Philippines, the removal of the Philippines from the Special 301 Watchlist, and the reinstatement of the Philippines to US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Category 1 status.

"Moving forward, we remain in close consultations with the US on how the Philippines can accede to the Trans Pacific Partnership at the soonest possible time," the Philippine official said.

(READ: Aquino seeks Obama's help on Philippines' bid to join TPP)

Del Rosario also said the Philippine officials welcomed the 2nd Millennium Challenge Compact for the Philippines, “which will build on the success of the first compact which has contributed to poverty alleviation, inclusive growth, and elimination of corruption.”

Experts warn PH: Don’t underestimate ISIS

From Rappler (Jan 13): Experts warn PH: Don’t underestimate ISIS

Exclusive: In the age of ISIS and lone wolf attacks, is it even helpful to distinguish between what are 'ISIS-directed' and 'ISIS-inspired' activities?

ISIS or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, also known as IS, ISIL, or its loose Arabic acronym, Da’esch, is set to exploit homegrown conflicts in Southeast Asia, with risks of a mass casualty attack growing significantly higher in the Philippines, according to counter-terrorism and security officials from 4 different countries interviewed by Rappler.

In a 7-minute video released on January 4 and announced last week in Arabic on ISIS’ official newsletter, Al-Naba, Filipinos and Malaysians united 4 “battalions” in the Philippines, and their leaders pledged allegiance to ISIS’ self-appointed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, formed a shura or leadership council, and named Abu Sayyaf ideologue Isnilon Hapilon their leader.

"The next step ISIS is likely to take is the proclamation of wilayat Mindanao," terror expert Rohan Gunaratna told Rappler over the weekend.

The military has not only dismissed our report on this. It also declared, through its public affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato, that "there is no ISIS here."

Detoyato said: “There is a difference between ISIS-directed and ISIS-inspired.”

It’s a distinction that many consider moot in the age of ISIS and lone wolf attacks, especially since the Filipino groups are following the steps outlined in ISIS manuals and publications, and their videos are shared by ISIS propaganda outlets.

“Given the attack in Paris, the attacks in San Bernardino, the growth of Boko Harum, the growing strength of the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu and Basilan, the upcoming elections and the failure of the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law), I think people need to lean towards being alarmist and not complacent,” said Justin Richmond, a former US army special operations operative who later worked on stabilization projects for USAID and other international aid groups. As a forward deployed engineer with Palantir Technologies, he designed a platform for stability and resilience in Syria that he adapted to the Philippines

The AFP are the only people dealing with this, but they are grossly incentivized to NOT tell the truth,” said Richmond, “because any sort of rebel groups that are growing underneath their noses is a threat to their credibility and effectiveness. This is exactly the way ISIS grew. This is the way Boko Haram grew.”

This video signals a shift, according to former US Special Forces Colonel David Maxwell, who commanded two missions of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P). He is now the Associate Director for the Centre for Security Studies at Georgetown University.

“Four ISIS ‘battalions’ in the midst of ongoing conflict that adopts ISIS tactics and strategy could significantly change the security situation and undo much of the progress, particularly with the MILF peace settlement,” wrote Maxwell in an email to Rappler.

Steps to declaring a province

Hapilon, the declared ISIS leader in the video, is the ideologue and last of the 5 Abu Sayyaf leaders who in 2000 kidnapped 20 hostages, mostly Western tourists, from an island in Malaysia. He carries a $5 million reward on his head.

While all 4 groups had pledged their individual loyalty earlier, their convergence in the video fulfills the 4th of 5 steps before ISIS declares a wilayat or province. This would allow the Southeast Asian group to receive funding and support from what may be the world’s richest terrorist organization.

ISIS succeeded where al-Qaeda failed, capturing and holding territory in Syria and Iraq. It has taken over as the inspiration for jihadist groups around the world, sparking a global movement that has brought an estimated 30,000 foreign fighters to the core conflict and inspired small groups to carry out their own attacks in their home countries with minimal or no supervision.

(Watch: Q&A: ISIS in Southeast Asia)

Issue 7 of ISIS’ multi-language Dabiq magazine outlines the application process for a wilayat in detail: moving from an active propaganda campaign highlighting the bay’at, the public declaration of allegiance to al-Baghdadi; unifying the jihadist groups in one area; then creating a ruling council and choosing a leader.

The next step is to craft a military strategy and set plans for future operations that would allow ISIS to consolidate territory in the region. The proposal must then be presented to ISIS leadership for approval.

ISIS has officially recognized several provinces outside its base in Iraq and Syria, within Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghatnistan, Pakistan and the Northern Caucasus.

In March 2015, Nigerian-based Boko Haram became the largest and most lethal jihadi group to create a province and receive support from ISIS. It followed the same strict process now nearly concluded by the the groups in the Philippines.

Mass-casualty attacks to follow?

Shortly after declaring allegiance like the Filipinos and Malaysians did in the video, groups applying often carry out an attack or act of brutality to show their capability and commitment to ISIS.

“That’s how you get money,” said Richmond. “That’s how you show you’re for real,” he added. He referred to the potential of “attacks like the Bali bombing in the Philippines. I think we might see some fairly large attacks because security’s so poor in the south, and that’s an immediate existential threat to people who are living out there.”

Australian Southeast Asian expert Greg Barton agrees.

“There is reason to be concerned that ISIS will succeed in inspiring a Paris November 13 style mass casualty attack in Southeast Asia in the coming year,” Barton wrote in an email response to questions from Rappler.

The Philippines is vulnerable,” he continued, “because there is a very strong correlation between terrorist movements and lack of good governance. The south remains fraught with problems of governance and groups like the Abu Sayyaf have for decades been free to operate with a relatively high degree of freedom and lack of hindrance in their movements.”

“Preparations to proclaim an ISIS branch in the southern Philippines reflect its growing influence in the region,” wrote Rohan Gunaratna in response to questions from Rappler. Gunaratna is the author of Inside al-Qaeda and the head of the International Centre for Political Violence & Terrorism Research in Singapore. “In addition to enforcing the ISIS brand of Islam, ISIS-type beheadings and mass killings and attacks are likely,” he added.

“ISIS is determined to declare at least one province in Asia in 2016.”

Back to the future

Video clips released by ISIS social media accounts in the last 3 months show training camps in the southern Philippines, which once acted as the training hub for Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), once al-Qaeda’s arm in Southeast Asia.

“The Philippines emerged as the training ground for Indonesians, Malaysians, Singaporeans, Thai Muslims and Arabs,” wrote Gunaratna. “Most of the instructors were non-Filipinos. They were either Indonesians or Arabs trained by al-Qaeda. In addition to the Sulu archipelago transforming into a base for training and operations, the area is a strategic bridge linking the Philippines and Malaysia.”

In November 2015, a group calling itself “ISIS in Mindanao” released a video on social media threatening to attack the APEC summit attended by 17 world leaders.

Intelligence and security officials consulted by Rappler said another video released in December 2015 shows the same area in Central Mindanao as the November video.
This latest video uploaded on a dark web jihadi forum Shumukh al-Islam on January 4, 2016 shows 41 militants, most armed, carrying the black flag now associated with ISIS.
Here is a transcript of the video (the translation of bay'at is at the end of the article):
“Sheikh Abu Abdullah Ustadz Isnilon Hapilon is recently named by the Council (Ahlus Shura) to be our overall emir in the Philippines. He is the emir of Al Harakatul al-Islamiyah in Basilan, which was headed previously by our martyred Sheikh Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani (may Allah bestow his mercy upon him). And this is brother Abu Anas Almuhajir, emir of Ansar Sharia Battalion. Here is another brother Abu Haris from the Ma’rakapt Al-Ansar Battalion in Sulu, whose leader is brother Abu Ammar.”
“All of these battalions have previously pledged allegiance to the Caliph. May Allah protect him. At this point in time, we will declare our pledge of allegiance to be led by our new leader brother Ustadz Abu Abdullah. May Allah reward him well.”
ISIS is grafting onto the same networks once used by al-Qaeda. The more extremist members of the MILF and the Abu Sayyaf, who supported JI, splintered off to form many of the groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS.
3 Malaysians
One of the groups in the video is Ansar al-Khilafa, which pledged allegiance to ISIS in August, 2014. Shortly after, it released a video threatening to deploy suicide bombers and make the Philippines “a graveyard” for American soldiers. The Philippine police, working with their Indonesian counterparts, foiled at least 2 attempts to transport weapons to Mujahidin Indonesia Timur, another JI offshoot in Indonesia.

At least 3 Malaysians are identified among the Filipinos in the video: University Malaya comparative religion lecturer Mahmud Ahmad, known as Abu Handzalah; and, former municipal council employee Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee. Both are on the Malaysian police’s wanted list since April 2014.
The third Malaysian is the leader of the Ansar Sharia Battalion, Abu Anas al-Muhajir. Abu Anas is Mohammad Najib Hussein, an engineer and sundry shop owner, whom the Philippine military claims was killed in Basilan in December 2015. There has been no independent verification and no body recovered at this time.
After the undated ceremony in the video, the Islamic State said: “The unification of the Mujahideen under one leadership and banner of the Caliphate is seen as a huge threat to the tyrants of the Philippines and is an important step in order to liberate areas in Southeast Asia in general.”
Maxwell emphasized that the Philippine government has tools to address this.
“I wonder if the government could co-opt the MILF to address this threat as ISIS must be nearly as much a threat to them as to the Philippine government," he said in an email.
The MILF, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the largest Muslim separatist group, has been negotiating for peace with the Philippine government for nearly two decades. In 2014, both sides signed a peace agreement that proposed the creation of an autonomous region in the south, but the bill it created, the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), has failed to pass Congress.
That is creating feelings of insecurity and emphasizing failed promises for the 5% Muslim minority in the Philippines, Asia’s largest Roman Catholic nation.
Military denial
“They are not ISIS,” said AFP public affairs chief Colonel Noel Detoyato on January 11. He was echoed a day later by military spokesman Colonel Restituto Padilla, who told reporters, “There is no credible, verified and direct link established and the possibility of establishing a satellite is unlikely.”
Barton warned against underestimating an enemy as sophisticated as ISIS.
It would be unwise to underestimate ISIS and the growing threat in the region,” warned Barton. “They have been effective – more effective than any other terrorist group in history – at recruiting.”
“You have vulnerable rural populations that are being extorted. They’re being exploited and lack the defences to protect themselves,” added Richmond. “These groups are largely able to operate with impunity until they cross the line, like posting a video - at which point they’re usually strong enough to hurt the AFP, and there really isn’t any inter-agency, governmental and international effort to mitigate this. And that’s the problem.”
Shift to elections and China
Starting January 10, commanders of the Philippine National Police have been reassigned to guard against election violence across the Philippines, preparing for the May 2016 presidential elections, when more than 54 million voters will elect more than 18,000 officials.
It doesn’t help that the US special forces which once worked in Sulu, Basilan and Central Mindanao against the Abu Sayyaf and other extremist groups since 2002 ended their mission last year. The new agreement between the Philippines and the United States, declared constitutional by the Philippine Supreme Court Tuesday, January 12, redeploys forces against the maritime threat posed by China in the South China Sea (in Philippine waters, it’s the West Philippine Sea).
“The US remains committed to working with our coalition to degrade and destroy ISIL,” US Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer told Rappler when asked about the video. ISIL is what the US government uses to refer to ISIS. “We continue to monitor the issue of ISIL influence globally, including in the Philippines in collaboration with our partners in the police and military.”
“The Philippine military commanders never brief anything but success, and I don’t fault them,” said Richmond, who has seen the threat landscape evolve.
“The marines down there are the only ones doing anything for counter-radicalization so I want to cast them in a good light. However, they aren’t the tools for this job. They probably only cover 10-15% of the entire mission. The fault really lies with local government, the national government, and obviously the international parties that are concerned with this.”
Below is the translation of the Ba'yat or Pledge of Allegiance:
In the name of Allah, the most gracious and the most merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Universe. Peace and blessings be upon Prophet Mohammed and his family and upon his nible companions.
God said in the Koran, "And hold fast to the rope of Allah and do not be disunited." The messenger of Allah said, "Whoever dies without having ba'yat on his neck, he dies the death of ignorance."
We declare our pledge to the Caliph, Sheikh Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi Al-Awwad bin Ibrahim al Hussayni al Qurashi, to hear and obey in hardship and ease, and in times when we are active and otherwise, to endure being discriminated against, and not to dispute with people in authority, and to speak the truth wherever we are, and not to fear in Allah, the blame of a blamer, and not to disagree with He to whom we listen and obey, except in explicit disbelief for which we have proof from Allah.
Allah is the witness to what we say.
Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!