Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Abu Sayyaf bigger threat to Sabah than IS

From The Star Online (Jan 27): Abu Sayyaf bigger threat to Sabah than IS

The southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf militant group poses a bigger threat to Sabah than the Islamic State, says Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS) academic Prof Dr Kamarulzaman Askandar.

He said that IS ideology did not have a foothold in Sabah as the local populace had a high level of religious tolerance.

"In Sabah, you do not get religious extremism as compared to some states in the east coast of peninsular Malaysia,'' said Prof Kamarulzaman, a lecturer with the humanities, arts and heritage faculty.

Prof Kamarulzaman, who specialises in conflict and peace making, acknowledged the large number Indonesian migrants in Sabah, but said they mainly provided manpower needs and unlikely to be involved in propagating IS ideology.
Prof Kamarulzaman said that even if the Abu Sayyaf declared allegiance with the IS, it remained focused on kidnap for ransom activities, and that continued to be Sabah's main concern.

"Abu Sayyaf is not known to carry out suicide bombings,'' he said.

He said the arrest of a 31-year-old man from Sabah working at a hotel in Nusajaya, Johor, could be just a coincidence.

The arrest of the suspect also raised the question whether the man was a Sabahan or an illegal immigrant who obtained a Malaysia identity card from syndicates.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman, who chaired the state security council meeting on Monday, also doubted the suspect's Sabah roots and urged authorities to investigate his background.

On the IS threat, Musa said that the general security situation in the state was "good and under control'' but hoped that the people played a more proactive role and informed authorities of suspicious movements or activities in their respective areas.

He said all agencies had been directed to immediately take steps to monitor signs of possible threats and take preventive actions to ensure security remained at a high level.


MILF forms Task Force to counter ISIS

From the Straits Times (Jan 27): MILF forms Task Force to counter ISIS

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has formed a task force to counter recruitment by the Islamist State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Philippines.

Mr Mohagher Iqbal, the group's chief negotiator, said videos released last month by local Islamist groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIS were "authentic". But he said the MILF, which signed a peace deal with the government in 2014 after fighting a decades-long secessionist war, had yet to verify whether there is already a "formal ISIS organisation" in the restive southern island of Mindanao.

The task force the MILF is forming will consist of "Islamic preachers" tasked to counter "ISIS distortions" of the Koran and Islamic teachings, he said.
Mr Iqbal said ISIS is seizing opportunities as Muslims in the Philippines "are frustrated", especially after the peace pact his group brokered with the Philippines had been bogged down in congressional warnings.
President Benigno Aquino had hoped a Bill creating an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao, the cornerstone of the peace deal, would become a law before he steps down in June this year.

But a botched operation to arrest Malaysian extremist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, last year provided opportunities for opposition lawmakers to stonewall the proposed law.

Over 40 police commandos who engaged hundreds of Muslim fighters, including some who belonged to the MILF, were killed in that operation.

Recent intelligence reports suggest that the Philippines is becoming a breeding ground for Islamist fightters seeking to joing ISIS. Two videos released last week sought to show the militants' purported strength. One showed what appeared to be a training camp on a clearing in the middle of a jungle somewhere in Midnanao. The other claimed that four battalions of militants from the Philippines and Malaysia have merged into a single unit under a leadership council now beith steered by Abu Sayyaf ideologue, Isnilon Hapilon.


New charges await church worker, farmer cleared in Guingona ambush try

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Jan 26): New charges await church worker, farmer cleared in Guingona ambush try

A church worker and a farmer who were recently cleared of the ambush of Gingoog City Mayor Ruthie Guingona are facing a new set of criminal charges, extending their time in detention, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) said on Monday, January 25.

The RMP said Joel Yagao, a lay co-worker, remains in jail, this time to face additional murder cases in Claveria, Misamis Oriental.

Similarly, Modesto Bernas, a member of a farmer association, is facing new charges that link him to an encounter between the New People’s Army (NPA) and Armed Forces of the Philippines in Alagatan, Gingoog City in July 2015.

But Sister Famita Somogod, RMP coordinator in Northern Mindanao, insisted that “at that time, Bernas was already in jail.”

“For lack of a concrete person they could arrest for the ambush, they turned on civilian community workers,” she said.

Yagao and Bernas were among the accused to be responsible behind an New People’s Army-led attack at Misamis aimed to kill the mother of Senator Teofisto Guingona III.

The mayor, however, sustained wounds in the arms and feet, and killed two of the mayor’s bodyguards.

The NPA denied that it was an attack and apologized to the Guingonas for hurting the mayor, saying they only acted in self defense as it was her escorts that fired first.

In a Gingoog Regional Trial Court Branch 43 ruling, the two, including another farmer Reynaldo Gundaya, are cleared of the charges due to the insufficient evidence presented by a lone witness whose “credibility as a witness is put in issue.”

This development would have been a victory for the church-based organization, who petitioned President Benigno Aquino III last year to release one of the suspects. An online petition was mounted earlier to free Yagao, whom they described as to be “actively working on community-based land campaigns for more than five years in the eastern municipalities of Misamis Oriental.”

“That is how incompetent our law enforcers are. They go after the defenseless because they are incompetent against those who have arms to fight them,” said Somogod.


Ms. U visit to recognize valor of wounded troops -- AFP

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Ms. U visit to recognize valor of wounded troops -- AFP

Aside from boosting the morale of wounded military personnel now recovering at the AFP Medical Center in V. Luna, Quezon City, the visit of reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach to the facility on Wednesday aims to show that these personnel are not forgotten and are valued as heroes of the nation.

This was stressed by AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato, stressing that Pia's victory in the pageant in December 2015 also "brought inspiration to all Filipinos."

"Her visit is not only words of inspiration but a manifestation that they are not forgotten. Her visit is a message of peace to the peacemakers," he added.

Around 40 wounded troopers in Heroes Ward 3A will be interacting with Wurtzbach around 1:30 p.m.

Her visit there will last for 30 minutes.

AFP Medical Center head Col. Joseph Acosta said Wurtzbach's visit was arranged by the Makati Medical Center Foundation after learning of her intention to visit wounded soldiers at the said hospital.

Aside from battle casualties, Pia will also meet and talk with some HIV patients brought from outside, Acosta stated.

This interaction with non-military HIV victims is part of the Filipina beauty queen's advocacy.


Vice mayor escapes death, 2 injured in Philippine ambush

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jan 26): Vice mayor escapes death, 2 injured in Philippine ambush

A southern Filipino town deputy mayor escaped death, but two other people were wounded when gunmen ambushed them in Misamis Occidental province, north of Mindanao.

Police said the politician, Annabelle Hamoy, was travelling in a vehicle in her town in Don Victoriano Chiongbian when gunmen opened fire at their convoy, hitting her driver and a security aide on Monday afternoon.

The deputy mayor was heading to Zamboanga del Sur province when armed men attacked them.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the ambush and it was unknown if the attack was politically motivated or not. The communist rebel group New People’s Army is also actively operating in the province and notorious for attacking civilians and government targets.

The town is also under the so-called “areas of concern” of the Commission on Elections due to political violence in previous elections.


Philippines: Authorities fear Isis will fan flames of radical Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

From the International Business Times (Jan 25): Philippines: Authorities fear Isis will fan flames of radical Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)

A member of MILF

A member of the Philippine's largest Islamic rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) stands on guard  Reuters

The Filipino government is concerned the spread of extremist Islamic Daesh ideology in south-east Asia could fuel violence from the separatist group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Negotiators with the MILF have called on legislators in the majority Catholic nation to pass an autonomy law granting self-governing powers to the country's Muslim region of southern Mindanao and counter the radical threat.
Al Haj Ebrahim Murad
Al Haj Ebrahim Murad, leader of the Philippine's largest Islamic rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  Reuters
Negotiations, almost as long as the conflict itself, has splintered the Muslim opposition with the MILF now the country's largest Muslim rebel group.

Chief negotiator for the rebels Mohagher Iqbal told Reuters delays to autonomy would frustrate the "rank and file of the MILF". "It's a fact that there is rising radicalism among the youth in Mindanao," he said. "It's there, the videos are spreading and it's very hard to combat ideas."

"The flags have been raised, the danger signals are already there," Miriam  Coronel Ferrer, a chief government negotiator was quoted as saying.

The Philippines and its neighbours in the region have faced an upswing in violence from radical Islamist groups, some of them linked to al-Qaeda and Isis (Daesh). Four civilians were killed in Jakarta in Indonesia when Isis-linked militants opened fire and detonated suicide vests near a busy shopping centre.

Moro National Liberation Front

Moro National Liberation Front (MILF) rebels stand guard near a Barrett sniper rifle along a road at Camp Darapanan rebel base in Maguindanao province.  Reuters

The Filipino jihadist group, also operating in Malaysia and Indonesia, Abu Sayyaf has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, despite claims by officials that there are few formal links between the group and Daesh militants in the Middle East.

Abu Sayyaf is currently holding two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Fillipino, who were abducted in September. Abu Sayyaf has demanded more than $60m (£40m) for the release of the the three foreigners. In October 2014 the group claimed to have been paid 250m peso (£3.4m) for the release of two German hostages who were held for seven months.

Australia's Attorney General George Brandis warned that IS (Daesh) was seeking to establish a "distant caliphate" in south east Asia, specifically in Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country.


Photo: Militant groups conduct anti-US protest

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Jan 25): Photo: Militant groups conduct anti-US protest

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Militant groups express their opposition to the planned U.S. bases in Lumbia during MOnday's rally, January 25, 2016. (Joey P. Nacalaban)

CAGAYAN DE ORO. Militant groups express their opposition to the planned U.S. bases in Lumbia during MOnday's rally, January 25, 2016. (Joey P. Nacalaban)


MEDCAP II 4ID Delivers Free Medical and Dental Services to IPs

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Jan 26): MEDCAP II 4ID Delivers Free Medical and Dental Services to IPs

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City (DWDD) The 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division, Philippine Army delivered free medical and dental services to the indigenous people of Barangay Tignapoloan, Cagayan de Oro City on January 23, 2016.

Medical and Dental Civic Action Program is an another showcase event of the 4th Infantry (Diamond) Division 46th Founding Anniversary that aims to protect, to promote and to maintain the health and well-being of the indigenous people in the far-flung areas.

This activity benefited 138 children and 348 adults, who came in for consultation and physical examination. There were also 13 children and 42 adults who had undergone dental check-up and tooth extraction, which gives a total of 541 beneficiaries on the said activity.

Major General Oscar T Lactao, Commander 4ID said, “As catalyst of the government, it is our duty to bring the government closer to the people by promoting the image of every soldiers as protector of the people against the different threat that may harm  our physical conditions and  our sovereignty,”

“As the father of the Army soldiers in Northern Mindanao, we are concern on the health condition of our poor brothers and sisters. So, we take this initiative to maintain the health and well-being of our brother and sisters,” MGen Lactao added.  4DPAO / MCAG

Army Doctor from 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division performing medical check-up to the patients during the free Medical and Dental Civic Action program at Barangay Tignapoloan, Cagayan de Or City on January 24, 2016.

Colonel Rafael B Jaramillo of 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division, Dental Detachment performing tooth extraction during the free Medical and Dental Civic Action program at Barangay Tignapoloan, Cagayan de Or City on January 24, 2016.

Army Pharmacist from 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division gives medicine to the patients during the free Medical and Dental Civic Action program at Barangay Tignapoloan, Cagayan de Or City on January 24, 2016.


MILF no longer optimistic on BBL

From the Philippine Star (Jan 26): MILF no longer optimistic on BBL

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said there were signs that the BBL would not be passed and there would be frustration in the ranks of the MILF. But the MILF would still pursue the path of peace even if the measure is not enacted. STAR/File photo

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is no longer optimistic that Congress will pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that will create an autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

MILF peace panel chairman Mohagher Iqbal said there were signs that the BBL would not be passed and there would be frustration in the ranks of the MILF. But the MILF would still pursue the path of peace even if the measure is not enacted.

“Signs are already pointing to that direction. There’s lack of quorum in the House of Representatives this afternoon session towards Tuesday and Wednesday. If it would not be passed these three days, I don’t think it would ever be passed at all,” Iqbal said yesterday at the launch of the book “Journey to the Bangsamoro,” a compilation of all agreements signed by the government and MILF.

“I’m no longer optimistic but I’m still hoping this will pass. If the BBL doesn’t pass, I think we’re back to zero.

“But in terms of the peace process, I don’t think we’ll be back to zero, except if a new president would adopt a war policy, that’s another matter,” he added.

Iqbal also said that the MILF would raise the BBL with the new administration because of the Aquino government’s failure to do its obligation on the peace process.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said both the House and the Senate have conducted a total of 45 public hearings on the BBL, 40 in the House and 15 in the Senate.

She noted that lawmakers interpellated separately in both chambers in a total of 33 session days up to December 2015 with millions of taxpayers’ money spent.

“Legislators who say the bill is being rushed have all the opportunity to correct whatever perceived flaws they have on the draft BBL since these are all within their powers. But they cannot accomplish the task if they are not inside the session hall during deliberations,” Ferrer said.

“There is still a slim chance that the BBL will pass this Congress. But if it doesn’t, it is up to the next administration and the MILF how they will deal with the matter. But of course, we very much prefer to pass on a solution rather than a problem to the next president, so we are still trying very hard to get our legislators on board,” she added.


Pia to visit wounded soldiers

From the Philippine Star (Jan 26): Pia to visit wounded soldiers

AFP Medical Center chief Col. Joseph Acosta said the Miss Universe's 30-minute visit would be beneficial to the well-being of patients. File photo

Ms. Universe 2015 Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach is scheduled to visit on Wednesday wounded soldiers at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC) in Quezon City.

AFP Medical Center chief Col. Joseph Acosta said the 30-minute visit would be beneficial to the well-being of patients.

“Patients are happy every time a well-known person visits them. If you are happy, it will be easier for you to recover,” he said.

Acosta said Wurtzbach is expected to visit about 40 battle casualties. She will also visit HIV patients who are being treated in other medical institutions.

“The visit surely lift up the spirits of our wounded soldiers and their families. Her (Wurtzbach) visit will not only offer words of inspiration but will also be a manifestation that they are not forgotten.

Her visit is a message of peace to the peacemakers,” Armed Forces public affairs Col. Noel Detoyato said.


Eight partylist solons to lose House seats

From the Daily Tribune (Jan 25): Eight partylist solons to lose House seats

Eight partylist representatives are in danger of losing their congressional seats following their bid to run for other elective posts, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said yesterday.

According to Gonzales, the House is now in possession of election documents which show that they have certificates of nomination and acceptance or CONA from various political parties.

Their CONA was attached to their certificates of candidacy (CoC).

“Partylist representatives who have opted to join other political parties as indicated in their respective CONA’s that they have attached to their CoCs are in danger of losing their seats in the House,” Gonzales said.

Among those partylist representatives are Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares who has a CONA from the Makabayan party for the senatorial seat; AMA partylist Rep. Lorna Velasco who has a CONA from the National Unity Party (NUP) for the mayoralty race in Torrijos, Marinduque; Buhay partylist Rep. Irwin Tieng who has a CONA from United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Others who have a CONA are ABS partylist Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro (from NUP) for the mayoralty race in Sudipen, La Union; 1Care partylist Rep. Michael Rivera (from LP) for the mayoralty race in Padre Garcia, Batangas; Gabriela partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan who is running for councilor in Davao City; OFW family partylist Rep. Roy Seneres who has a CONA from Partido ng Manggagawa at Magsasaka (PMM) and AGap partylist Rep. Nicanor Briones who has a CONA from Partido ng Masang Batangueno for the gubernatorial race in Batangas.

“Section 15 of the Partylist Law provides that by doing so they have forfeited their seats in Congress. The partylist groups concerned would have to name their new representative in Congress in accordance with the law and rules of the House,” Gonzales said.


Revisiting Mamasapano: A disaster for the BBL

From the Business World (Jan 24): Revisiting Mamasapano: A disaster for the BBL

A YEAR AGO today, a remote and little heard-of town in southern Philippines called Mamasapano, one that had been under relative peace in the previous three years owing to a cease-fire agreement between the government and Moro rebels, would suddenly wake up in the early morning hours to bursts of heavy gunfire.

Residents search a corn field, the site of the encounter between police commandos and Muslim rebels, in this 2015 file photo. -- AFP

By now, Mamasapano is a familiar word. One that has come to be associated with controversy and tragedy; a place where five civilians, 18 Moro fighters, and 44 members of an elite police force lost their lives.

It also turned the tide on the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which, until Jan. 25, 2015, was sailing smoothly in Congress with all stakeholders then highly optimistic that the creation of a new geopolitical area that would replace the existing Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was going to take off before President Benigno S. C. Aquino III steps down from office.

Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, the government panel’s chief negotiator, said the Mamasapano incident prompted a myopic view of the decades-old conflict in parts of Mindanao and compromised what was achieved after 17 years of negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“This resulted in three months’ delay in the legislative process on the bill. Also, the involvement of MILF forces in the unwanted firefights with Philippine National Police-Special Action (PNP-SAF) forces troops affected the public perception on the peace process, leading to the public’s negativity,” Ms. Ferrer said in an e-mail response to BusinessWorld. “The wider perspective of addressing the bigger problem of ending the armed conflict with the MILF, enabling them to join the mainstream, and instituting social and political reform was lost,” she added.

For MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, what happened in Mamasapano “is almost the singular incident that spelled the disaster for the BBL.”

The other factor is many lawmakers fear for the Moros, founded on biases, hatred, prejudices that if given enough power and resources they will secede from this country,” Mr. Iqbal told BusinessWorld.

In the months following the Mamasapano clash, the draft BBL -- which is based on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) signed in October 2012 and the succeeding Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed in March 2014 -- was pulled apart and chopped in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The resulting new versions, renamed the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), remain pending in both chambers even as the Senate committee on public order reopens its investigation today on what supposedly really happened in Mamasapano.

The reinvestigation is also supposedly meant to settle who should ultimately account for what became the messy aftermath of the operation against “high-value” terror targets Zulkifli bin Hir (alias Marwan) of Malaysia and his Filipino accomplice Basit Usman. Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, in a statement issued yesterday, welcomed the reopening of the investigation to put closure on the issue.

At the same time, Ms. Deles said the reinvestigation should not affect the schedule for the BBL. “[W]e will keep on pushing and not give up hope on this. It’s a very tight window but those who know the legislative process said that it is still possible,” she said.


At the House of Representatives, Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), chairman of the BBL House ad hoc committee, admitted that lack of quorum continues to be the main stumbling block of the BLBAR, but expressed optimism that enough warm bodies could be mustered before Congress adjourns on Feb. 8 as the campaign season starts for the May elections.

“I urge my colleagues to attend the remaining session in the House so we can decide on the fate of the BLBAR. Sayang (What a waste),” said the congressman, who spearheaded the removal of several provisions from the original BBL, including the creation of the Bangsamoro Command, Bangsamoro Police, and Commission on Audit, Civil Service Commission and Commission on Elections.

Ms. Ferrer does not fully share the optimism of Mr. Rodriguez, but nonetheless assured that both the government and MILF peace panels will continue to push for the passage of the BBL, not the BLBAR.

In an article posted in luwaran.com, a Web site maintained by the MILF, the front said that the ulama (Islamic scholars) have urged lawmakers to pass the original BBL because it “will lay down the foundation to neutralize violent extremism.”

The statement was issued during a forum held by the religious leaders who stressed the need to pass a law that is compliant with the CAB and the peace deal.

“We believe that that proposed law that will create the ideal Bangsamoro autonomous region will lay down the foundation to neutralize violent extremism,” the ulama said as they condemned those behind the killing of civilians in Paris, Istanbul, and Jakarta by radical groups.

“A genuine autonomy can be realized if the terms of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro are retained in the BBL,” the ulama said. Ms. Ferrer pointed out that the CAB “remains a signed document and our peace infrastructure -- cease-fire and normalization bodies -- are in place and will turn these over to the next administration if the BBL will not be passed in this present Congress.”

“[It] is up to the next administration to pick up the pieces and carry the process forward... But, of course, we very much prefer to pass on a solution rather than a problem to the next President so we are still trying very hard to get our legislators on board,” she said.

Incidentally, the MILF peace panel, in cooperation with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue and with support from the European Union Delegation to the Philippines, is launching in Manila today a compilation of three volumes outlining different historical phases in the government-MILF peace process.

Titled Journey to the Bangsamoro, the publication is composed of all the signed agreements between the government and MILF, with accompanying narrative.

Pedro Rufo N. Soliven, governor for the Western Mindanao chapter of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc., gave a conceding and pragmatic view, saying, “Since the BBL will [likely] not be taken up to vote by both houses of Congress... let’s give to the new administration the chance to iron out the kinks if ever that will satisfy both camps.” Ismael I. Musa, the indigenous peoples’ mandatory representative to the Zamboanga City council, insisted that the BBL must be given priority by Congress, but acknowledged that the lingering Mamasapano issues as well as the Zamboanga City Siege in September 2013 carried out by another group, the Moro National Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF), are a manifestation of “how dim or difficult it is to implement the said framework on inter-governmental mechanism.”

Ms. Ferrer, for her part, said, “There have been very good progress in converging the MNLF and MILF tracks under the rubric of the BBL. So no BBL means scuttling this initiative that would have seen most of the MNLF leaders and the MILF working together for peaceful transformation of the region.”


While admitting that conflict-affected communities will be “disappointed” and those supporting the BBL would be “frustrated” by the shelving of the BBL until after the May elections, both lead negotiators are holding on to positive thoughts.“Frustration is toxic; it can lead to many complications. Some aspects of normalization especially decommissioning will not proceed,” Mr. Iqbal pointed out. The first stage of the decommissioning process pushed through in June 2015, but the succeeding steps will have to be undertaken after a Bangsamoro law is passed as provided under the FAB and the CAB.

During the decommissioning ceremony last year, MILF Chief Ebrahim Murad said this marked the beginning of “the long walk towards transformation, not surrender, to a higher struggle -- the start of the transformation of the MILF from an armed revolutionary organization to a political organization ready to govern and serve the Bangsamoro people.”

The leader of a Mindanao-wide civil society organization support initiative, Cardinal Orlando B. Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato City, which is not part of the ARMM but serves as the base of the ARMM government, said the BBL is about changing the “history of governance.”

“The BBL and the MILF movement is a movement not only for self-determination, but to change the history of the Bangsamoro, and the history of governance. They realize that the governance done by political dynasties, clans have not been very good. So, the MILF now is a rebellion against traditional Moro leadership. And the parliament is supposed to take care of that.”Ms. Ferrer said she has full confidence the MILF leadership will stay the course of peace and, “We pray that that there will be no fallout in their ranks.”

Mr. Iqbal said, “I do not want to imagine any grim scenario. Let it be thought by those who are against the BBL. The MILF will continue to look for [a peaceful] settlement of the conflict in Mindanao.”

In a related development, an association of retired police officers has expressed support for the reopening this Wednesday of the Senate investigation of the Mamasapano incident.

Retired Police Chief Superintendent Tomas G. Rentoy III, chairman of the Philippine National Police Academy Alumni Association, Inc. (PNPAAAI), said on Sunday the reopening of the investigation is necessary to “ferret out the whole truth and bring closure to the case.”

He said the investigations thus far by the Senate, House of Representatives, Department of Justice (DoJ), and Philippine National Police (PNP) are still far from unearthing the whole truth.

“What we’ve been hearing also is that some of the benefits promised by the government to the widows and families of the slain 44 SAF men are still unfulfilled. I have strong doubts that justice can ever be served to them under the present regime,” Mr. Rentoy said.

But Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. on Sunday maintained the families of the SAF members killed have received more than P188 million worth of government assistance from the government, Malacañang said Sunday.

Mr. Coloma said that amount includes national government assistance (P151,283,115.49); monthly pensions from April last year to this January (P10,180,349.50); and donations by the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Dasmariñas, Cavite, local government (P26,875,000).

The national government assistance includes lump sum benefits from the National Police Commission and PNP (P68,338,262); livelihood assistance (P15,746,668); housing (P60,800,000); education (P48,578,184); and other forms of assistance (P1,820,000).Mr. Coloma also said aside from the immediate family members (spouses, parents or children), the government also provided assistance to 261 extended relatives (cousins, siblings, in-laws) of the fallen SAF members.


Suspected rebels shoot dead ex-militia man

From Bicol Today (Jan 24): Suspected rebels shoot dead ex-militia man

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

A former member of the Citizens Armed Forces and Geographical Unit (CAFGU) was gunned down by two men riding in tandem on a motorcycle while he was waiting for a ride home in front of a videoke bar in Barangay Puro, Aroroy, Masbate at about 1:15 a.m. Saturday.

A police report said victim Jessie Mina, 24 and a resident of Barangay Cabangcalan, Aroroy, Masbate, was pronounced dead on arrival at the Aroroy Municipal Hospital.

The report said Mina was waiting for a ride outside the Acacia Videoke Bar when a motorcycle stopped in front of him and the back rider shot him with a .45-caliber pistol on his head and body.

The suspects immediately sped away from the crime scene while residents in the area rushed Mina to the hospital but to no avail.

Police suspect that although Mina was no longer a CAFGU member, New People’s Army rebels believed he was still a military-police asset supplying information about their activities.


PNoy urged to demand apology for comfort women

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): PNoy urged to demand apology for comfort women

The Makabayan bloc in the lower house is asking President Aquino to take up the cudgels for the call of Filipino comfort women in World War 2 for an apology from the Japanese government.

This, as Emepror Akihito embarks on a visit to the Philippines.

READ: Filipino 'comfort women' want plight raised with Japanese emperor

In a statement, Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Neri Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate strongly urged President Aquino to demand an apology from visiting Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko for Japan's forcible systematic use of Filipinas as sex slaves or comfort women during World War II.

"The visit of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko is prime time for the Philippine government to finally put to a resolution to war crimes committed by Japan to the Philippines, particularly on the comfort women issue. President Aquino must step up and demand apology and reparations for these war crimes," said Rep. Colmenares, also a Makabayan senatorial candidate.

The two lawmakers, both human rights lawyers, also demanded from the Japanese Diet a full acknowledgement of its wartime policy of sexual slavery committed by the Imperial Armed Forces of Japan, and, a formal official apology from the said acts.

"Foremost, Japan must admit that the women and girls forced into sexual slavery was a wrong committed by Imperial Japan, thus, a state responsibility and not only of some erring soldiers. They must admit that it was Japan's war-time policy to enslave women and girls for sex, and they must apologize for this heinous crime," Rep. Colmenares added.

At the height of World War II, Filipinas and other Asian women were documented to have been placed by Japanese forces in concentration camps or brutalized in their communities.

"Surviving comfort women are in their 80s, and only about 70 of the estimated 1,000 Filipinas forced into sex labor during the Second World War are still alive. We hope that in their lifetime they will be afforded a formal apology and indemnification for the atrocities done to them," Rep. Colmenares said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Zarate said that while Akihito's visit is "mainly about the revolving dynamics of military and economic ties in the Asia Pacific in relation to the growing aggressiveness of China, we call on Pres. Aquino to seriously place in the agenda the protracted issue of Filipina comfort women."

"Our long suffering lolas should not be ignored for the sake of political expediency," Rep. Zarate added.

"A formal apology and indemnification is a matter of justice for our comfort women, and, for the Filipinos, as well. There can never be any closure on this issue for as long as there is no justice and accountability for the war crimes committed by the Japanese Imperial Forces," Rep. Zarate ended.


Gabriela Women's Party Representative Luzviminda Ilagan today called on colleagues anew to immediately act on House Resolution 2618 and come up with policy recommendations on how the Philippine government can support the Filipino comfort women's appeals for acknowledgement, apology and reparations from the Japanese government.

Ilagan reiterated that the country's security concerns against China's incursions into Philippine territory should not get in the way of the comfort women's demands for justice.

READ: Filipino 'comfort women' fear China sea dispute blocks justice from Japan

"The comfort women's call for justice is being set aside as a bargaining chip in exchange of military support from Japan. While we have yet to attain justice for Filipino comfort women sexually abused during the Japanese occupation, the Aquino government is now set to formalize and fully implement a Visiting Forces Agreement with Japan, an agreement that could spawn another generation of Filipino comfort women," said Ilagan.

"Inviting foreign military intervention is like inviting abuse. This has been the historical experience of Filipino women, from the comfort women, to the prostitution hubs located right at the gates of military bases then and now. We do not want another generation of Filipino comfort women, another Nicole or another Jennifer."


On the other hand, Ifugao Representative Teddy Baguilat has invited Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to Ifugao to complete the healing of the relationship between the Philippines and Japan, former combatants during World War II.

Baguilat stressed that Ifugao figured prominently during the last world war, with remains of Japanese soldiers still being found today, thus a visit by the Japanese royals would go a long way in promoting healing and goodwill between the two nations.

It was in the town of Kiangan where on Sept. 2, 1945, Tomoyuki Yamashita, Supreme Commander of the Japanese Imperial Army, surrendered to Filipino and American forces, thus marking the end of World War II.

The Kiangan War Memorial Shrine was erected in 1974 to mark the occasion of the surrender of Yamashita, with his command staff, at the Home Economics building of the Kiangan Central School. From Ifugao, he was brought the next day to Camp John Hay in Baguio City where he officially signed the surrender of the Japanese Imperial Forces to the Philippines.

September 2 is commemorated in Ifugao every year as Victory Day and also became known as the Anniversary of the End of World War II in the Philippines.

Baguilat said that with the 60th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Japan, it would be fitting for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko to bring their message of peace to Ifugao, where the last battles of World War II were waged.

"We would like them to come and see where war ended, and promote healing and goodwill between our two nations. They would also be pleased to see that the former enemies are now firm partners in development," said Baguilat.

He shared that significant Overseas Development Assistance funds have gone to Ifugao.
Among the major projects are a maternal health improvement program, mini-hydro infrastructure deals, and a multi-million-peso reforestation project.

"The emperor will see that the funds from the Japanese people are being used well and have had a positive impact on the province," said Baguilat.

The Japanese royals arrived in the Philippines on Tuesday afternoon as part of their peace mission in Asia. The visit marks the first time that a Japanese emperor and empress visit the Philippines.

During their visit, the Japanese royals are scheduled to meet with beneficiaries of Japanese official development assistance as well as visit World War II memorial sites. Baguilat hopes that even at the last minute, the Japanese royals would find the time and see the need to travel to Ifugao.


Kerry fails to sway Cambodian leaders on S. China Sea

From ABS-CBN (Jan 26): Kerry fails to sway Cambodian leaders on S. China Sea

PHNOM PENH - U.S. Secretary of States John Kerry met Cambodian leaders on Tuesday but failed to secure their commitment to a more robust stance with Southeast Asian nations against China's pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Kerry was in Cambodia after a visit to neighboring Laos as part of an effort to urge unity among leaders of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations before a summit with President Barack Obama in Sunnylands, California, next month.

In Phnom Penh, Kerry met Hun Sen, Asia's longest serving prime minister, and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong for what Kerry described as "candid and constructive" meetings.

Hor Namhong said Cambodia's position on the South China Sea was unchanged. It believed individual countries should settle disputes among themselves without the involvement of ASEAN, he said.

That mirrors China's position that ASEAN is not a party to territorial disputes, so rows should be resolved bilaterally.

"We want it open to negotiations in the future between countries who made claims in the South China Sea," Hor Namhong said.

China claims almost all the South China Sea, which is believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas, and has been building up facilities on islands it controls. Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines also have claims.

Laos is the 2016 chair of ASEAN. Kerry said Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong told him on Monday that Laos wants to sea a unified association and avoid the militarization of the South China Sea.

When Cambodia was ASEAN chair in 2012, it was accused of obstructing a consensus in the bloc over standing up to China's assertive pursuit of its South China Sea claims.

"Cambodia was not a court that could judge that this island belongs to this or that country," Hor Namhong said on Tuesday.

Kerry did not refer to the South China Sea in a statement after the meetings but stressed that the United States and ASEAN have a strategic partnership "and Cambodia plays a role in fully defining that partnership".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, answering a reporter's question about a U.S. official urging ASEAN to unite to protect maritime rights, said that official did not represent ASEAN.

"I hope the United States can play a constructive role for peace and stability in Asia Pacific region and not sow discord," she told reporters at a regular press briefing.

Cambodia said it would work with the U.S. on efforts to combat Islamic State, Kerry said.

Kerry was due in China later on Tuesday, where he is expected to press Beijing to put more curbs on North Korea after its nuclear test this month and reiterate U.S. concerns about China's behavior in the South China Sea.

He called North Korea's nuclear program "about one of the most serious issues on the planet today, which is a clearly reckless and dangerous, evolving security threat in the hands of somebody who is questionable in terms of judgment and has proven thus to China".

A senior official of the U.S. State Department said Kerry was expected to stress the need for a united front in response to North Korea through additional U.N. sanctions and for a tough unilateral response from China, which is North Korea's main ally and neighbour.


DFA, PIA conduct multi-sectoral forum on West Philippine Sea information and advocacy

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): DFA, PIA conduct multi-sectoral forum on West Philippine Sea information and advocacy

BUTUAN CITY -- The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Public Information Agency (PIA) conducted a multi-sectoral forum on West Philippine Sea Information and Advocacy Campaign today, Tuesday.

The activity held at Dottie’s Place Hotel and Restaurant, J.C. Aquino Ave., this city was attended by representatives from various sectors here in the city which included the various line agencies, Philippine Army, Philippine National Police, Butuan City LGU, indigenous people, academe, business, religious, fisherfolk and farmers.

Guests in the forum were Director Maria Teresa Torres Almojuela, Executive Director, Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office of the DFA, Staff Director Emelyn Libunao, of the Program Management Divison, from the Public Information Agency (PIA) Central Office and PIA Regional Director Abner Caga. Tuesday's event is part of the three-day activity that started with a press forum with the local newsmen on Monday and schools’ visitation and forum on Wednesday.

Invited guest Secretary Herminio "Sonny" Coloma of the Presidential Communications and Operations Office (PCOO) was not able to make it as the Palace was preparing for the visit of Japan’s emperor and empress also today, according to Director Libunao. He, however, greeted the participants through video.

Director Almojuela briefed the participants on the West Philippine Sea issue followed by a dynamic open forum with keen questions posed by the sectoral participants. A focused group discussion was also conducted in the afternoon.

During yesterday’s press forum, PIA Staff Director Emelyn Libunao said that the issue on West Philippine Sea is one of the advocacy campaigns of PIA in coordination with the DFA. “This is one of our activities to help disseminate proper information to our stakeholders especially on the government’s position on this very relevant matter,” Libunao said.

Director Maria Teresa Torres Almojuela of the DFA Maritime and Ocean Affairs Office said “This is actually a usual maritime dispute and in negotiating our claims it should be along the legal laws. We have to fight for our legitimate rights. This is to be a long game but the more we educate our people, the more we will be firm with our position of the case filed by the government before the Arbitral Tribunal,” Almojuela said.


Misamis Occidental town vice mayor escape unscathed in ambush; 2 wounded

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Misamis Occidental town vice mayor escape unscathed in ambush; 2 wounded

OROQUIETA CITY, Misamis Occidental -– A town official escaped unscathed while her two companions were injured in an ambush in the nearby town of Don Victoriano Chiongbian, this province.

Unscathed was Vice Mayor Annabelle Boza-Hamoy of Don Victoriano Chiongbian.

Wounded were Chiongbian’s driver Danny Rabago and Titing Luna, a security escort.

Senior Supt. Leony Roy Ga, police provincial director, told the Philippines News Agency that the ambush occurred around 1:30 p.m. Monday in Barangay Tuno, Don Victoriano Chiongbian town.

Ga said investigation showed that Hamoy’s vehicle was cruising on a blind curve when unidentified gunmen ambushed them that injured Rabago.

He said that Luna, who was driving the lead motorcycle, was also hit.

He said Hamoy and her companions were traveling to Josefina, Zamboanga del Sur at the time of the incident.

Ga has ordered Chief Insp. Edgar Tonico, Don Victoriano Chiongbian police chief, to thoroughly investigate the incident noting the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has declared the town as area of concern.

The declaration was based on two previous elections, 2010 and 2013, where election-related incidents were recorded.

Don Victoriano Chiongbian Mayor Rodolfo Luna, who is also the president of this province’ League of Municipalities, has called for an independent investigation over the ambush.


Army extends dental, medical services to IPs

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Army extends dental, medical services to IPs

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan De Oro City --- The indigenous peoples (IPs) in the outskirts village of this trading capital benefited from the military’s free medical and dental services, an army official said Tuesday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, the spokesperson of the army 4th Infantry Division here, said that 541 IPs in Tignapolo-an, a farming village, 25 kilometers southwest of here availed of free medical checkups and dental extractions.

Martinez said that the medical and dental services were part of the occasion of the 46th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army 4ID.

“The activity was one of the major programs of the 4ID in the protection, promotion and maintenance of the health and well-being of the IPs in the far flung areas within the army’s area of responsibility,” Martinez said.

Major General Oscar T. Lactao, 4ID commander, said that it is the duty of the government to bring the military closer to the people in order to project the image of the government troopers as the protector of the people.


Airman killed in clash with rebels in Batangas

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Airman killed in clash with rebels in Batangas

An airman was killed during an encounter with an estimated 15 New People's Army (NPA) bandits in Batangas on Monday afternoon.

The clash took place 5:49 p.m. at Barangay Toong, Tuy town, said Southern Luzon Command spokesperson Major Angelo Guzman.

The slain military serviceman was identified as Airman 1st Class Cliff Arvin Alama of the 730th Combat Group, 710th Special Operations Wing.

Alama's unit is under Joint Task Group "Finisher Warrior".

Guzman said Alama and 11 other operatives of the 730th Combat Group were on patrol mission when the clash with the rebels took place.

The victim was hit in the left shoulder and was immediately taken to the to the Medical Center-Western Batangas in Balayan, Batangas.

However, Alama was declared dead on arrival at 8:07 p.m. by attending physicians.

Joint Task Group "Finisher Warrior" head Col. Peale John Bondoc immediately ordered for reinforcements and deployed troops for pursuit operations.

Guzman said the Southern Luzon Command will continue its focused operations to eliminate armed groups including the NPA to preserve its gains in peace and development in Batangas, Cavite and Laguna.


PHL urges completion of Tripartite Review of GPH-MNLF peace accord

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): PHL urges completion of Tripartite Review of GPH-MNLF peace accord

The Philippine government has batted for the completion of the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) it has been conducting with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) under the auspices of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for the past eight years of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement to “do justice to the long struggle of the Bangsamoro.”

In her opening statement at the start of the two-day Ministerial Meeting on the Tripartite Review Process among the OIC, the Philippine government (GPH) and the MNLF from January 25-26 in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles said “it is high time for the TRP – with the government and the Bangsamoro fronts in full and active partnership – to conclude the review and proceed to the implementation of the results of the review.”

The OIC, which brokered the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the Philippine government and the MNLF, has called for the conduct of a high-level tripartite meeting to review the implementation of the peace deal and make its assessment of the progress made as well as obstacles facing its full implementation with a particular focus on Phase II in 2006.

At least four tripartite meetings and two ad-hoc high level group meetings were conducted since the review process started in 2006.

Since then, the process has resulted to several agreements, including the 42 consensus points, which were intended to be amendatory provisions for the Republic Act 9054, before they were integrated into the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

The 5th tripartite review process was initially scheduled on September 16, 2013, but was suspended by the OIC following the three-week Zamboanga Siege, when rogue members of the MNLF attacked the southern port city.

The ongoing meeting is set to tackle the two remaining issues related to the co-management of minerals and natural resources and the full convergence of the FPA with the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) under the broad framework of the BBL.

The MILF signed the CAB with the Philippine government in March 27, 2014 after 17 years of negotiations to the wide acclaim of the international communities, who have been extending financial and other assistance to Mindanao peace programs.

In 2014, the OIC set up the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum (BCF) to unify the two fronts for the specific integration of the FPA with the BBL. MNLF factions are represented in the BCF through a so-called Jeddah formula.

“A review is time-bound. A never-ending review means that agreements will never be implemented. It will mean endlessly looking backwards instead of moving forward,” Deles said in her opening statement.

“I am confident that the parties – the OIC, the Government, and the MNLF – are ready to take all necessary action: to surmount narrow, rigid interests and enter a new era of collaboration for lasting peace and progress,” she added.

Furthermore, through the MNLF-MILF convergence of the FPA and the CAB through the BBL, the MNLF would be given equitable representation in the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) as well as encourage them to field candidates for the elections in the Bangsamoro region.

A Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC) will also be formed to supervise the implementation of all TRP agreements and initiatives.

Deles thanked OIC Secretary-General Iyad bin Amin Madani for personally taking steps to push the TRP and the two fronts’ unification by making an unprecedented trip to the Philippines last year.

During his visit, Madani met with the MNLF and MILF leaders in Davao City and held personal meetings with President Benigno S. Aquino III and the leaders of Congress regarding the enactment into law of the BBL.

In her opening statement, Deles also underscored the strategic implications of the completion of the TRP to the wider of national and regional security.

“The OIC is bending over and exerting extraordinary efforts to make this Tripartite Review Process a way forward, another workable political paradigm for the world’s Ummah in the search for communal harmony and balance, an ideal to which we all also firmly aspire and commit to relentlessly pursue. With the completion of the Tripartite Review Process, Mindanao stands on the threshold to open a new order of peace in a time when the entire global system faces huge, hard challenges, especially in Asia and the Middle East,” Deles said.

This was echoed by Madani, who said in his own statement that the OIC “is very concerned” with the status of the Bangsamoro peace process, and is doing its best to help “bridge” the gaps to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, and encouraged the international community, especially the ones in the Asian region, to continue doing what they can in helping the process.

Deles said the review process is very much ready to proceed to the implementation phase.

“Stepping up the level of convergence of the Bangsamoro fronts with the implementation of 42 consensus points of the Tripartite Review Process and the operationalization of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund and the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee will draw forth more enduring, longer-term international support for the cause of Bangsamoro self-determination. We must view our present and immediate actions through the lens of such essentially long view. This convergence will vindicate and validate all the truths and wisdom in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement as complemented and improved by the 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro, and also therefore do justice to the long struggle of the Bangsamoro,” she said.

“In sum and at this instance, then, we look forward to reach a conclusion of the review process with our esteemed counterparts in the MNLF, under the wise guidance and firm auspices of the OIC,” Deles added.

The Philippine delegation is composed of National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Secretary Yasmin Busran-Lao, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis,Undersecretary Nabil Tan of the Office of the Executive Secretary, Undersecretary Zabedin Azis of the Department of Justice, Undersecretary Jose Lorena of the Office of Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, Deputy-Director General Zenonida Brosas of the National Security Council, Brig. Gen. Buenaventura Pascual of the Peace Process Office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Atty. Anna Tarhata Basman, the Head of the Legal Team of the GPH Peace Negotiating Panel for talks with the MILF, and Regional Governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman and Deputy Regional Governor Yusop Jukiri.


Marcelino sharing illegal drugs information -- PA chief

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 26): Marcelino sharing illegal drugs information -- PA chief

Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Eduardo Año on Tuesday confirmed beleaguered Marine Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino was sharing information on illegal drug activities with the PA Intelligence and Security Group.

He added that this sharing of information is part of Marcelino's crusade against illegal drugs which is also in line with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)'s efforts to identify military personnel taking narcotics or involved in drug-trafficking.

The project is known as "Oplan Moses" in the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and "Oplan Midas" in the AFP.

"Lt. Col. Marcelino, because of his extensive experience ( in the campaign against illegal drugs) shares information with us and other intelligence agencies from time to time," Año said in Filipino.

The PA chief made the statement when asked about the certification the Army Intelligence and Security Group issued regarding Marcelino's sharing of information against illegal drugs.

This was submitted by Marcelino's legal counsel, Atty. Dennis Manalo, to the Department of Justice on Jan. 22.

Año is hopeful that this certification will show Marcelino's personal crusade and convictions against the illegal narcotics trade.

However, the PA chief said he does not know on whether this will justify the latter's presence in Felix Huertas corner Batangas Streets, Sta. Cruz, Manila on Jan. 21 where 64 kilograms or PHP320 million worth of shabu were seized.

Also arrested in the operation conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was 33-year-old Chinese national Yan Yi Shou.

"Those are legal matters, and investigations are being conducted by PDEA and other agencies, by this time they should have collaborating information that support the accusations against Marcelino," he added.


Left stages protest rally to mark Mamasapano tragedy

From the Mindanao Times (Jan 26): Left stages protest rally to mark Mamasapano tragedy

MEMBERS of the leftist group Bagong Alyansang Makbayan (Bayan) in Southern Mindanao conducted a protest rally at Freedom Park yesterday afternoon to mark the first annivesary of the Jan. 25 Mamasapano tragedy.

“One year after the Mamasapano incident, we condemn the Aquino government for betraying the SAF 44 and sacrificing sovereignty and our Filipino people with their deception through Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA),” said Sheena Duazo, secretary general of Bayan.

The encounter in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao left 66 persons dead: 44 from the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF), 17 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and five civilians.

Duazo claimed that the Mamasapano operation was planned and trained by US counter-terrorism personnel stationed in Central Mindanao that led to admission from a retired US special ops commander, Col. David Maxwell, that the operation was bungled.

According to Duazo, after the Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the EDCA between the Philippines and the United States it will lead to nationwide Mamasapano-like incidents.

“We are angered that Aquino and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have not only surrendered the sovereignty of our country with EDCA and the similarly unconstitutional Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which was used as the basis of the new accord.”

She added, “They have also surrendered the protection of our citizens, farmers, children, young people, and women from the attacks of the state security and the US military war machines.”

Duazo also recalled the abuses experienced by Filipinos in the former US military bases in Subic and Clark, murder of Gregan Cardeño, the rape of Nicole and the murder of Jennifer Laude as the disadvantage of the EDCA

Duazo stressed that the Filipino people should continue to fight for the national sovereignty and protection of our land and people from foreign exploitation and oppression.

“We demand the rejection of EDCA, VFA, and US military intervention,” said Duazo adding that “one year after the Mamasapano incident it seems the Aquino government hasn’t learned the folly of serving the US military and imperial interests at the expense of Philippine sovereignty.”


SAF: Tagaligtas

From Rappler (Jan 26): SAF: Tagaligtas

The PNP Special Action Force marks the first year 44 of their brethren were killed in the Mamasapano clash

The Special Action Force (SAF) is a lot of things to a lot of people. It's the Philippine National Police (PNP)'s elite striking force, its go-to unit for anti-terrorism and anti-insurgency missions.
But for the men and women who don the distinct black beret, it's more than that. It's a family of "warriors who know how to die."

ISIS recruiting in Central Mindanao, says MILF

From Rappler (Jan 26): ISIS recruiting in Central Mindanao, says MILF

The MILF says some students and young professionals are encouraged to join ISIS out of frustration

BLACK FLAG. Filipinos carry the black flag in the southern Philippines. Sourced by Rappler

BLACK FLAG. Filipinos carry the black flag in the southern Philippines. Sourced by Rappler

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) said Tuesday, January 26, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq (also known as ISIS, IS, ISIL or Da’esch) is indeed recruiting members in at least 3 provinces in Central Mindanao.

MILF chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said this is a concern for the MILF, which has signed a peace agreement with the Aquino administration and has vowed to shun terrorism.

The MILF central committee formed a task force to look into reports that personalities claiming to have links with ISIS are recruiting young professionals in Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces, according to Iqbal.

“The recruitment as well the video of their training that came out are authentic,” Iqbal said.

He’s referring to the video that began circulating early January and which showed Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon marching with other extremist leaders from Sulu and Basilan, pledging allegiance to ISIS.

“Whether or not there is already a formal organization of the ISIS in Mindanao, that is still a subject for validation,” Iqbal said.

But while the Philippine government and military remain steadfast in their statements that there are no operational links between ISIS and Filipino groups, a traditional "order of battle" analysis may be moot in today’s threat landscape given ISIS’ ability to spark homegrown attacks like in Paris, wrote Rappler Executive Editor Maria Ressa. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: ISIS in Southeast Asia)

On October 26, 2015, 8 armed men carrying the flag of ISIS, including a suspected Indonesian national, were killed in an encounter with government forces in Sultan Kudarat. The government troops recovered from the scene 5 ISIS flags and documents including radios, firearms and explosive materials.

Iqbal said that as part of the MILF's efforts to promote peace in the region they formed a task force that will study and correct the wrong teachings of Islam used by ISIS recruiters.

“Our task force is composed of members of influential Islamic preachers in Mindanao. Islamic teachings were used in the recruitment but it's distorted. They are going to study it and correct the teachings,” he said.

Iqbal cited two primary reasons why students and young professionals in the region are being encouraged to join ISIS.

They are frustrated. They think their Muslim leaders in the MILF and Moro National Liberation Front have abandoned their struggle. The failure passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is also a source of frustration,” he explained. The BBL suffered delays in the aftermath of the Mamasapano clash in January 2015.

Maguindanao Governor Ismael Mangudadatu maintained his province is ISIS-free.

“There might be in other areas of Mindanao but I can assure you that our province is still free,” the governor said.

The military has also dismissed reports that ISIS may soon declare a province in Mindanao, saying these statements are more aspirational than real.