Wednesday, January 27, 2016

NPA rebel dies in Camarines Norte clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): NPA rebel dies in Camarines Norte clash
A New People's Army (NPA) member died in an encounter with joint forces of the Camarines Norte Provincial Public Safety Company, Regional Intelligence Unit-5 and the 49th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army at 7 a.m. Wednesday in Barangay Magsaysay, Capalonga, Camarines Norte.

A police report identified the rebel casualty as Marlon Villan, 27, single and a resident of Purok 3 of the same village.

The report said the joint government operatives headed by Police Chief Insp. Rommel Labarro, PPSC company commander, were on security patrol in the area when they crossed path with the dissidents.

A 20-minute firefight ensued until the rebels fled, leaving behind their dead companion.

The government troops recovered the body of the slain rebel, a .45-caliber Colt 1911A1 pistol and ammunition for the said type of gun, backpack containing personal belongings, cellphone and documents of the rebels listing its future activities.

The police immediately brought the dead rebel's body to a funeral parlor, where it was claimed later by his relatives for proper wake and burial in his home place.

PHL criticizes visit of Taiwan leader to South China Sea

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): PHL criticizes visit of Taiwan leader to South China Sea

The Philippines on Thursday criticized the visit of outgoing Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou to Itu Aba in the South China Sea as it could further fuel tension in the disputed waters.

Reports said Ma flew to the Taiwan-claimed island on Thursday morning and is scheduled to hold a press briefing upon his return to Taipei.

The US government already expressed disappointment over the trip, saying such move will not help ease tension in the area where several Asian nations have overlapping claims.

"We remind all parties concerned of our shared responsibility to refrain from actions that can increase tension in the South China Sea," the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.

The Philippines and Taiwan do not have formal diplomatic ties because of the 'One-China Policy', which prevents countries from recognizing the self-ruling democratic island as a state.

However, the DFA’s rare statement on Taiwan highlights its concern on the visit that came amid rising tensions in the area, where it says Beijing wants to fully control.

Over the last few years, China, which claims the South China Sea nearly in its entirety, has engaged in massive reclamation transforming submerged reefs into man-made islands, triggering concerns also from Philippine allies, such as the US and Japan.

Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have claims to the waters, which is home to possible rich oil, gas and mineral deposits aside from a major trading route.

The Philippines hopes the arbitration case it filed against China before a The Hague tribunal will invalidate China's claim. A final ruling is expected in the first half of this year.

Dolina named new 3rd ID assistant division commander (Bio data)

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Dolina named new 3rd ID assistant division commander

Officers and enlisted personnel of the Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division formally welcomed their new assistant division commander, Brig. Gen. Dinoh A. Dolina, in a ceremony held on Wednesday.

Prior to his new appointment, Dolina was the commander of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, a field unit of the Catbalogan City-based 8th Infantry Division.

He led the unit in humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations after the onslaught of supertyphoon 'Yolanda' in 2013 while maintaining the 802nd Infantry Brigade's resilience and sustaining the gains in peace and security in its area of responsibility.

“We are fortunate to have Brig. Gen. Dolina joining us as we endeavor to win the peace in Western and Central Visayas. His role as the new ADC (assistant division commander) of this Division will surely help us in securing and advancing our gains in the implementation of our Internal Peace and Security Plan 'Bayanihan' and the Army Transformation Roadmap,” 3rd Infantry Division commander Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros said.

Dolina will also hold the position as the Chief of 3rd Infantry Divison's Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability, an anti-graft office that has an exclusive investigative jurisdiction over active military personnel and regular civilian employees who are involved in major graft cases.

He will also head the Human Rights Office of the unit whose function is to ensure that respect for human rights is being observed by all soldiers within the area of responsibility.

Dolina is a seasoned combat officer who rose through the ranks from being a platoon leader, company commander and later on the commanding officer of the 8th Infantry Division’s 52nd Infantry Battalion in Eastern Samar.

He also held various important positions in the Army and in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Among key positions he held were: Chief of Staff of The General Headquarters and Headquarters Service Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Chief of Morale and Welfare Division, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, J1, AFP and Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, G2, 8th Infantry Division.

Born in Palo, Leyte, Dolina graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1985.

He is also a graduate of Master of Management at the University of the Philippines Visayas in Tacloban City.

His awards in the military include five Distinguished Service Star Medals, two Gawad sa Kaunlaran Medals, numerous Military Merit and Commendation Medals, Long Service Medals, Military Civic Action Medal and various Campaign Medals and Ribbons.

Dolina is married to Susan Tanseco and is blessed with four children.

Gov't security teams disarm IED hurled in parked police vehicle in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Gov't security teams disarm IED hurled in parked police vehicle in Sulu

Government security troops have successfully disarmed an improvised explosive device (IED) hurled by motorcycle-riding men at the back of parked police patrol vehicle in Jolo, Sulu Wednesday night.

Joint Task Group Sulu commander Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, in a message to the PNA, said the incident took place at 7: 20 p.m.

He added concerned residents in Barangay San Raymundo, Jolo town reported seeing two men aboard a "skeletonized Wave 125 motorcycle" throwing an IED at the back of a parked police patrol vehicle in 6 Kasalamatan Village before speeding towards the direction of Barangay Latih, Patikul.

Arrojado said a combined police and military explosive ordnance disposal team quickly cordoned the area and defused the IED at 10:05 p.m.

Investigations are now underway to determine the identities and motives of the suspected bombers.

Female rebel killed, rifle seized in Davao Oriental clash

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): Female rebel killed, rifle seized in Davao Oriental clash

A female New People's Army (NPA) bandit was killed while a M-653 automatic rifle was seized during a clash with 73rd Infantry Battalion troopers in Malita, Davao Occidental Wednesday early morning.

Capt. Rhyan Batchar, 10th Infantry Division public affairs office chief, said the clash took place 5 a.m.

He added government troops were on routine security patrol when they chanced upon 20 rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 71 in Sitio Tinungkaan, Barangay Datu Danwata in Malita, triggering an hour-long firefight.

Killed in the encounter was a still unidentified female rebel whose body was recovered by the soldiers along with the M-653 automatic rifle.

73rd Infantry Battalion commander Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac said they are still determining the identity of the slain rebel.

3rd ID 'neutralizes' 77 rebels in 2015

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): 3rd ID 'neutralizes' 77 rebels in 2015

The Capiz-based 3rd Infantry Division have "neutralized" 77 New People's Army (NPA) bandits during operations in the Western Visayas region in 2015.

Out of the said number, 67 voluntarily surrendered to government troops after realizing the futility of their actions, six were captured during joint military-police operations while four were killed during encounters.

Major Ray Tiongson, 3rd Infantry Division spokesperson, said these figures come from their assessment of 2015's Internal Peace and Security Operations (IPSO).

IPSO data also showed that 44 of the surrendered rebels came from Panay while 23 are from Negros Island.

"Through focused and purposive peace and security operations during the period, the 3ID has recovered 43 firearms and 35 explosive materials," Tiongson pointed out.

In addition, the 3rd Infantry Division was able to facilitate the stability of internal peace and security in the provinces of Aklan and Antique and the declaration of the provinces of Iloilo and Negros Occidental as "Peaceful and Ready for Further Development".

Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros, 3rd Infantry Division commander, attributed the accomplishments to the complementary and concerted efforts of the military, police and other stakeholders who continue to work together in securing and advancing the gains in peace and security in their areas of operation.

“The success in our IPSO is the success of our people who longed for just and lasting peace in this part of the country,” he added.

One of PAF's 'Sokol' up for repairs, maintenance

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 28): One of PAF's 'Sokol' up for repairs, maintenance

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) has allocated the sum of Php15,936,175 for the procurement of spare parts for the repair and maintenance of one of its PZL-W3-A "Sokol" combat utility helicopters.

This is Lot 1 of the repair project, the bid bulletin at the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System said.

Pre-bid conference is scheduled for Feb. 1, 9 a.m. at the PAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Submission and opening of bids is on Feb. 15, 9 a.m. at the same venue.

The PAF has seven W-3A "Sokol" helicopters in its inventory.

Eight were originally delivered in 2012 and 2013 but one crashed due to weather conditions in Lanao Del Sur in September 2014.

Ties that bind MNLF, Abu Sayyaf

From the New Straits Times Online (Jan 27): Ties that bind MNLF, Abu Sayyaf

A three-way meeting was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Monday among three parties that have tried for 40 years to find peace.

The two-day meeting involved the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Philippine government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Judging by the lack of coverage by the media, they may not have found any solution yet.

A senior police officer in Kota Kinabalu said: “That is just a formality. It’s an avenue for them to meet and talk.”

Despite his nonchalance, the officer said anything that involved security in southern Philippines was closely monitored by Malaysia.

Because of historical links and proximity, many ply the sea route between Sabah and Southern Philippines for economic, social and political reasons. But, it is those who commit crime that get the most attention.

Malaysia cannot afford to miss out any development in the area where threats prevail from leftists, terrorists, robbers, smugglers and kidnappers. The Lahad Datu intrusion in 2013 and bandit groups that have struck the state six times, in which a total of nine hostages were taken from November 2013 to May last year, are reasons why.

The beheading of one hostage, Bernard Then, last November by the Abu Sayyaf, a group that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, tells of their notoriety.

On Jan 10, over 2,000 followers of the MNLF converged on Jolo island in Sulu province, triggering anxiety among the Philippine security forces.

Its fugitive leader, Nur Misuari, was also reportedly present in the gathering, which was later revealed to be a meeting to discuss plans for the tripartite meeting in Jeddah.

Misuari is wanted by the Philippine government for his role in a siege in Zamboanga in 2013, where about 200 people were killed and thousands displaced.

According to a report by ABS-CBN News that quoted an interview by Filipino radio station dzMM, MNLF spokesman Absalum Cerveza confirmed the meeting was presided by Misuari.  Cerveza, however, denied speculation that the MNLF was forging ties with the Abu Sayyaf.

He explained the Abu Sayyaf fighters might have been present at the gathering because it coincided with a kanduli (feast), and many of them had blood relations with members of the MNLF.

“It was an open convocation. Everybody was welcomed if they liked to come,” Cerveza had said and denied allegations they were protecting the terrorist organization.
“We have distanced ourselves from the Abu Sayyaf. We do not have control over them just like the military has no control over them.”

On the contrary, a senior military officer under the Zambasulta Joint Task Force (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi) said there were ties that bonded the two groups.

“Based on revelations by rescued kidnap victims, Abu Sayyaf members in Indanan area (Jolo) are always seeking refuge in MNLF communities because of their blood ties.

“There are MNLF commanders who assist Abu Sayyaf members by providing manpower, firearms and bullets, getting a share of the ransom money or other loot in return,” said the officer.

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said the IS, in its ambition to set up a caliphate in the region, had gained support from the Abu Sayyaf, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and Rajah Solaiman Movement in southern Philippines.

The arrest of a 31-year-old man from Sabah, believed to be the leader of an IS cell made up of seven militants in five states in the peninsula, asserts this.

Chairing the State Security Working Committee meeting here two days ago, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman called for cooperation from all to work together in combating terrorism.

“We must not be complacent. At the same time, the people must unite with the government and security agencies, and play their role by providing information on suspicious activities.

“We need to act on all signs or forms of threats that exist and carry out preventive measures.”

The writer, who is NST’s Sabah bureau chief finds solace from the hills, the wild and drama movies. Inspiration comes from long drives on the road, off-road and the fairways.

3 soldiers die in Kalinga encounter

From the Herald Express (Jan 27): 3 soldiers die in Kalinga encounter


BALBALAN, Kalinga – Three government troopers were killed after some 19 members of the 50th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army had an encounter with still undetermined number of members of the New People’s Army (NPA) at Sitio Bulo Dawangan, Balantoy here Tuesday night.

The fatalities were named as CPL. John Rey Dayag, PFC. Jocel Abbacan and PFC. Jose Bolar. The government troopers were conducting a legitimate operation after receiving complaints from residents on the presence of communist rebels in the area which resulted into a 45-minute gun battle.

Operating troops are still in the area conducting hot pursuit operations against the fleeing rebels who allegedly brought with them the bodies of their fallen comrades.

The NPA rebels are members of the Kilusang Larangang Guerilla (KLG) Baggas of the Ilocos-Cordillera Regional Party Committee.

‘Female NPA’ killed in clash in Davao Occidental – military

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): ‘Female NPA’ killed in clash in Davao Occidental – military

DIGOS CITY, Davao del Sur – A suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebel was killed during a clash between soldiers and communist rebels in Malita, Davao Occidental, on Wednesday, the military reported.

Lt. Col. Ronnie Babac, commander of the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion, said the body of the unidentified slain rebel, a woman, was recovered alongside an Armalite rifle following the hour-long clash in Sitio Tinungkaan in Barangay Danwata that started 5:30 a.m.

Babac said soldiers, led by 2Lt. Mark Francis Gatan, were on patrol when they encountered about 20 NPA rebels under a Commander Joey of Front Commitee 71.

No casualty on the government side was reported.

NMCB 3 holds groundbreaking ceremony in Cebu, Philippines

From DVIDS (Jan 26): NMCB 3 holds groundbreaking ceremony in Cebu, Philippines

CEBU, Philipppines – Seabees, from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 3 Construction Civic Action Detail (CCAD) Cebu, Philippines, held groundbreaking ceremony to commence construction of a new, two classroom building at Cantipay Elementary School in the province of Cebu, Dec. 14.

The ceremony marked the beginning of a three-month project in conjunction with the Joint U.S. Military Advisory Group (JUSMAG) Philippines, Armed Forces Philippines (AFP), and the Department of Education Philippines (DepEd) to provide much needed classrooms for the students of Cantipay Elementary School. 

Distinguished Guests included, members of the AFP, DePed, and local community leaders.

The day started with the project crew, AFP, community leaders and school teachers enjoying a traditional Filipino meal. The ceremony began with each countries' national anthem followed by performances of traditional Filipino songs and dances by the elementary school’s children.

The guest speakers included Alvin Tenchavez, the School’s Principal and Maj. Sarino from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The guest speakers all expressed their sincere gratitude toward the U.S. Navy Seabees.

“These events are always a great opportunity for the Seabees to interact and get to know the local community,” said Lt.j.g. Tyler Anderson, CCAD Cebu officer-in-charge. “We are excited to build the school and continue building upon our outstanding relationship with our host country.”

The ceremony concluded with the leaders of the NMCB 3’s project crew and the distinguished guests breaking the ground, officially beginning the construction process. The groundbreaking ceremony was a communal bonding experience between the locals and the Seabees.

As a Humanitarian Assistance project in conjunction with the Armed Forces Philippines, this project allows the Seabees to assist a community in need, while increasing interoperability with Philippine Forces and building the relationships between the two nations. The new classrooms will provide some relief for the overcrowded school located in a rural area of the province of Cebu.

The CCAD's mission is to execute engineering civic assistance projects, conduct skills exchanges with the host nation, and perform community relations events to help enhance shared capabilities and maintain relationships.

Most Pinoys support EDCA, US Amb. Goldberg says

From GMA News (Jan 27): Most Pinoys support EDCA, US Amb. Goldberg says

Contrary to claims by militant groups, US ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg on Wednesday said most Filipinos support the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.
Goldberg also took issue on the emphasis of the "controversial" aspect of EDCA.

In an interview on dzBB radio, Goldberg said, "I notice that EDCA is always preceded by the adjective 'controversial.' I'd like to take a bit of issue into that. I think most Filipinos support a defense relationship with the Philippines as shown in opinion polls."

Asked if people's support is due to the aggressive posture of China in the West Philippine Sea, he said, "People's support for EDCA could be a reaction to China's activities."

But he clarified that "EDCA is not tied to the maritime dispute."

Voting 10-4, the Philippine Supreme Court on January 12 ruled that EDCA is not against the Philippine Constitution.

However, four associate justices—Marvic Leonen, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Estela Perlas-Bernabe—dissented. Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza inhibited.

Goldberg reiterated that EDCA is an extension of the Mutual Defense Treaty and the Visiting Forces Agreement.

"These are the documents on which [EDCA] is based and it will help us to help the Philippines do more in trying to carry out its goal of building a defense that allows it to have some assurance in its maritime space."

According to Goldberg, the Philippines will benefit from the agreement in terms of enhancing a close relationship with the US Armed Forces, creating a minimum credible defense position, and enhancing capability in relief operations.

On comments that EDCA would turn the Philippines into the biggest US  bases, he said, "First of all, EDCA is not a return of the US military bases in the Philippines ... We have a defense relation ... it is mutually beneficial ... nobody could deny that."

He said that Benigno Aquino III's administration has set out for its goal a minimum credible defense position.

"What we are doing is mutually beneficial. But for the Philippines, it means closer relationship... as it builds a minimum credible defense as it works to ensure maritime security, and as it works to give humanitarian assistance."

For the United states, "it allows us to be more present in the region, helps us carry out a 'rebalance' [goal of] the Obama administration so its mutually beneficial."

Not Constitutionally infirm

The SC ruling said the EDCA is "not constitutionally infirm."

"As an executive agreement, it remains consistent with existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement," the ruling said.

The tribunal disagreed with the Senate's position that the EDCA should have first been submitted to the Senate in the form of a treaty for concurrence by at least two-thirds of all its members.

Leonen insisted in his dissenting opinion that the EDCA signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Goldberg is not binding unless concurred in by the Philippine Senate, as stated under Article 18, Section 25 and Article 7, Section 21 of the Constitution.

The associate justice is also of the opinion that the EDCA amended the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows US forces to conduct joint military exercises with Philippine troops within the country's territory.

Bayan seeks FBI’s help to uncover US role in Mamasapano

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): Bayan seeks FBI’s help to uncover US role in Mamasapano

An overseas chapter of militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) has filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request before the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a bid to uncover the supposed involvement of American forces in the ill-fated Mamasapano operation last year.

Bayan’s announcement of the filing on Wednesday coincided with the reopening of the Senate inquiry on the botched police operation that left 44 Special Action Force troopers and several others dead in the hunt for international terrorist Zulkifi bin Hir alias Marwan.

READ: Enrile questions US participation in ‘Oplan Exodus’

“Over 60 Filipinos died and witnesses also saw the body of an American at the covert US-designed Mamasapano operation one year ago, yet the US has still not come clean about the extent of its role in the carnage,” Bayan-USA chair Bernadette Ellorin said in a statement.

“We are filing this Freedom of Information Act request with the FBI because the Filipino and American people have the right to know the full truth about this botched mission,” she said.

READ: No closure over ‘real role’ of US in Mamaspano—Bayan

Bayan-USA’s request asks for documentation on the FBI’s involvement in the operation, including internal correspondence between the FBI Los Angeles Field Office and Philippine authorities on Marwan’s apprehension; manuals or guidelines used by US agents in training the SAF to execute the operation; responses to the requests of the Philippine government for assistance in the evacuation of casualties in the aftermath of the operation; results of the FBI Laboratory’s analysis of Marwan’s DNA; and provision of any monetary award to the SAF or Philippine authorities for the identification of Marwan’s DNA.

Citing official reports by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Senate, Ellorin said the US involvement in the operation previously called “Oplan Exodus” became clear as proven by the presence of six Americans at the Tactical Command Post for the mission, and an American who “ordered a Philippine Major General to fire artillery.”

READ: US participation in Mamasapano operation ‘limited’—de Lima

In a sworn testimony, former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas previously said Marwan’s tissue sample acquired by the SAF was forwarded to FBI agents in General Santos City.

In the probe’s reopening on Wednesday, Napeñas said the US government, through the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines, aided the SAF in terms of “real-time intelligence support, training, equipment, humanitarian support through medical evacuation and investigation.

Ellorin said it would be “senseless” to give the US military increased access to Philippine territory under the controversial Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) if the US government would not admit “any wrongdoing” in the operation.

“The US has dodged accountability for the Mamasapano carnage and countless more military-related crimes against the Filipino people, but (US President Barack) Obama and (President Benigno) Aquino continue to push for the implementation of the Edca,” she said.

Enrile questions US participation in ‘Oplan Exodus’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jan 27): Enrile questions US participation in ‘Oplan Exodus’

Minority Leader Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. FILE PHOTO

Minority Leader Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. FILE PHOTO

Senator Juan Ponce Enrile questioned on Wednesday the involvement of the United States government in the law enforcement operations of the Philippine National Police—particularly the Special Action Force (SAF)—when it is not covered by the Visiting Forces Agreement.

“This is something the government must explain—why allow a police matter to include US participation. I’m not saying I’m correct but this has to be looked at,” Enrile said while grilling former SAF chief Getulio Napeñas at the ongoing Senate probe on the bloody Mamasapano clash.

READ: No closure over ‘real role’ of US in Mamasapano—Bayan

“The VFA, to my recollection, deals with military only. It doesn’t cover police operations which are actually enforcing criminal laws handled by a police organization and these criminal laws are territorial except for a few exceptions,” he said.

Prior to this statement, Enrile asked Napeñas to elaborate the extent of the US involvement in “Oplan Exodus,” the SAF-led operation against international terrorist Zulkifli Bin Hir or “Marwan” on January 25 last year. The raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao resulted in the death of 44 SAF commandos.

Napeñas said through the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) based in Zamboanga City, the US government helped SAF in terms of “real-time intelligence support, training, equipment, humanitarian support through medical evacuation and investigation.”

“The investigation, I’m referring to the finger of Marwan given to them to match his DNA with (that of) his brother,” Napeñas added.

READ: US participation in Mamasapano operation ‘limited’—de Lima

After killing Marwan in his hut in Barangay (village) Tukanalipao, members of the 84th Special Action Company or Seaborne gave his finger to a Federal Bureau of Investigation representative for DNA analysis.

Enrile then asked if the civilian members of the JSOTF-P came from Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Napeñas said: “The intelligence (personnel) provided real-time (monitoring), they should be working in that outfit (CIA).”

Napeñas added: “But the word “CIA” was not mentioned in our meetings.”

“SAF is a unique unit of the PNP conducting counterterrorism operations. That’s why they (US) are dealing with us,” said Napeñas.

When asked by Enrile if US assistance to SAF is covered by the VFA or “some arrangement” of the US government with Philippines, the senatorial aspirant said: “Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not aware, your honor.”

On January 25, 2015, 44 members of the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in the hunt for Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli Abdhir, aka “Marwan,” in Mamasapano, Maguindanao province. Their mission may have succeeded, but one year later families of the slain SAF44 and affected civilians today continue to seek justice from a government which allegedly broke chain of command and poorly handled the mission. Visit the INQUIRER tribute site at

MNLF optimistic on Final Peace Pact tripartite review

From the Manila Times (Jan 26): MNLF optimistic on Final Peace Pact tripartite review

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) hierarchy is optimistic that a tripartite review on the implementation of the 1996 Final Peace Agreement (FPA) between Manila and the MNLF together with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) would have a positive impact on the peace process.

A tripartite high-level Ministerial Peace Review Process on the FPA was held January 25 to 26 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Ustadz Murshi Ibrahim, MNLF secretary general, told The Manila Times on Tuesday that the Moro people under Chairman Nur Misuari are optimistic that the tripartite review process will have a positive outcome on the peace process.
“The peace-loving people of Morolandia (Mindanao, Palawan, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and neighboring state of Sabah) are optimistic and hopeful that the tripartite peace review talks in Jeddah would generate a positive impact for the resolution of the century-old Moro political problem,” according to Ibrahim.

The MNLF’s representatives to the ministerial peace review included its Secretary General for Foreign Relations Ustadz Abdulbaki Abubakar; Dr. Mashur bin Ghalib Jundam, former dean of the Institute of Islamic Studies of the University of the Philippines-Diliman; Dr. Samsula Adju, former chancellor of the Mindanao State University-Sulu; Datu Kawten Usman and lawyer Randolph Parcasio.

Meanwhile, the Jeddah-based OIC, in its website, reiterated support for the Philippine government’s peace track with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), saying that the passage of a meaningful Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is in harmony with the ongoing Tripartite Review of the 1996 FPA with the MNLF.

“The OIC has maintained ongoing interest and engagement in this process since its inception. OIC member states have, in their annual Council of Foreign Ministers Meetings, welcomed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) and viewed it as a first step toward the fulfillment of the 1976 Tripoli and the 1996 Jakarta Agreements,” OIC Secretary General Iyad Ameen Madani said.

“Allow me to reaffirm our support to the efforts of the Philippine nation in the cause of peace and we remain committed to seeing a just and lasting solution that will benefit all the people of the Philippines,” Madani added.

The OIC secretary general was in Manila last year to help oversee the activation of the Bangsamoro Coordination Forum, a venue where the MILF and MNLF can harmonize their efforts to achieve genuine autonomy as envisioned in the 1987 Philippine Constitution.

Police: Rebs telling Davao pols to pay campaign fees

From MindaNews (Jan 26): Police: Rebs telling Davao pols to pay campaign fees

The city police office on Tuesday said some politicians have allegedly been asked by the New Peoples’ Army to pay permit-to-campaign fees.

City police spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz cited a military report that they have obtained documents on the alleged extortion demands.

But Driz clarified they are yet to verify if the claims of the candidates are true.

She added they will send personnel to areas where the candidates would be campaigning to preempt attacks by any armed group.

She said they are preparing their personnel for the start of the election campaign on Feb. 8.
Driz said the police will work closely with the military to clear the areas of armed groups.

The Police Regional Office 11 placed two areas in the city under category 2 of election watchlist, namely: Paquibato and Marilog Districts.

Category 2 means there is a presence of armed groups in the community.

Earlier, Commission on Elections 11 assistant regional director Marlon Casquejo said that paying permit-to-campaign fees to the NPA is a ground for disqualification.

He said military personnel may file a disqualification case against candidates who pay such fees to the NPA.

He said it can be considered as a form of cash donation, which is prohibited during the election period from January 10 to June 8, 2016. The gun ban also takes effect during this period.

Murad to PNoy in recent meeting: passing BLBAR will throw away peace process

From MindaNews (Jan 27): Murad to PNoy in recent meeting: passing BLBAR will throw away peace process

CAMP DARAPANAN, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao – The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) looks forward to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) but not the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), the substitute bills of the House of Representatives and the Senate, as doing so would throw away the gains of the 18-year old peace process with government (GPH), MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said.

“We are still hopeful na ma-push ng Presidente ‘yang original na BBL na maipasa.. we are sticking to the commitment of the President. We are holding on to that,” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim told MindaNews on Tuesday.

Murad said there has been no change in the President’s commitment and his “persistent assurance na maipasa ang original BBL” during their meeting in Malacanang on January 12.

Murad said that in the meeting that “took us more than one hour, almost two hours,” he reiterated to the President that they cannot accept the BLBAR, the substitute bills to the BBL — House Bill 5811 and Senate Bill 2894 — in their present form as these versions, both titled BLBAR, envision a Bangsamoro “less autonomous than the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) that they seek to replace.”

The GPH and MILF, after 17 years of peace negotiations, signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014 which provides for the creation of a new autonomous political entity called the Bangsamoro, to replace the ARMM whose structural defects make it more of an administrative rather than autonomous region.

In July and September last year, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC), the 15-member joint GPH-MILF commission that drafted the BBL, sent Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte an initial list of 28 issues on HB 5811 and 87 issues on SB 2894 along with their comments on the changes on substantive provisions of the draft BBL, including the autonomy framework.

The draft BBL was vetted and finalized by the BTC with the Office of the President into what is now being referred to by Murad as “original BBL” or “agreed version,” before it was submitted to Congress on September 10, 2014, in ceremonial rites held in Malacanang. This “agreed version” became HB 4994 and SB 2408, later substituted by HB 5811 and SB 2894 after the committee hearings in both houses.

In the House of Representatives, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chair of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL and principal sponsor of HB 5811, has repeatedly said they cannot restore provisions they deleted from the draft BBL into the BLBAR and that they have deleted the controversial opt-in provisions which are provided for in the CAB.

Rodriguez was reported last week to have said they hope to pass the law by January 27.
The House finished its period of interpellation on December 16 and is still on the period of amendments. Between January 27 and February 5 are only four session days. The Senate is still on the period of interpellation.

Murad said that in his meeting with the President, “I clarified to him na hindi natin matatanggap ang BLBAR” (we cannot accept BLBAR).

He said the President “can decide which bill gusto nya tanggapin or hindi nya tanggapin” (which bill he wants to accept or not accept.”

Asked if the President hinted he would veto the BLBAR, Murad replied: “That is one option he has. He knows that if the bill passed is not acceptable to the MILF, then it will mean throwing out the peace process.”

He said there might be a repeat of history similar to what happened with the peace process with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when Congress passed what is now RA 9054 in 2001.

The Final Peace Agreement between government and the MNLF in 1996 provided for an expanded and enhanced autonomy, much more than the ARMM whose creation in 1989 the MNLF objected to. In the deliberations of RA 9054 in Congress, however, the MNLF, chaired by Nur Misuari, repeatedly criticized the proposed law for envisioning an autonomous region that is less autonomous than the ARMM.

The President has three options on bills passed by Congress: sign it into law, let it lapse into law or veto it.

In the case of RA 9054, then newly-installed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, allowed it to lapse into law.

“We are maintaining our partnership with the Office of the President, so whatever action he will take we are hoping kokunsultahin kami kasi we are partners,” Murad said.

Murad had repeatedly said that they would rather have “no BBL” than a watered down basic law.

He said if the President signs a watered down law, “it basically closes the (peace) process… dahil once it becomes a law, then they will proceed with the implementation without the MILF. The MILF will not support its implementation process.”

The CAB provides that there should be no unilateral implementation of the agreement.

Asked if he and the President discussed what to do if the BBL is not passed by the time Congress adjourns next week for the election campaign, Murad replied: “Palagi nyang sinasabi ‘we have no Plan B.’ Sa amin din, we don’t explore Plan B because gagawin na lang natin anong Plan B when time dictates. Sa kanila .. ang tingin nya maipasa pa rin” (He always says ‘we have no Plan B.’ On our part, we don’t explore Plan B because we will do Plan B when time dictates. On their part, he thinks it can be passed.”.

But with a very limited time and the persistent problem of lack of quorum in the House, Murad said that if it is already conclusive that the BBL won’t pass, “then the two panels should sit down and plan what will happen to the peace process.”

The panels are meeting next month in Kuala Lumpur.

Murad said he does not see the MILF accepting the BLBAR if that is the law that will be passed.

“Definitely that will not happen because the peace agreement is a product of hard work so we cannot afford to barter the struggle of the Bangsamoro people, so hindi mangyayari yung ganon. If there are some people who will accept – pero until the MILF as an organization officially declares na yung bill is acceptable — the implementation of the CAB is not unilateral. It has to be agreed upon by the parties. So kahit na merong tatanggap, hindi pa rin binding sa MILF as an organization,” Murad said.

Murad had earlier said that if the BBL is not passed under the Aquino administration, they still have the CAB and they will continue to demand from government the implementation of the peace agreement

Photo: New Guns

From MindaNew (Jan 27): Photo: New Guns


Soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division accept 2,800 new Remington R4 rifles during a ceremony in Camp Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City Tuesday, January 26, 2016. The new rifles are part of the Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program. MindaNews photo by Froilan Gallardo

Chinese Foreign Minister, U.S. Secretary of State hold talks in Beijing

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Chinese Foreign Minister, U.S. Secretary of State hold talks in Beijing

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry held talks in Beijing on Wednesday morning.

Kerry, invited by Wang, is paying a two-day visit to Beijing beginning Tuesday. He is scheduled to meet with diplomats and senior leaders to discuss a series of issues regarding bilateral ties and hot-spot issues.

During his opening remarks, Wang said China is willing to make an in-depth exchange of views with the U.S. on all affairs of common concern so as to enhance mutual understanding.

As two permanent members of the UN Security Council, the United States and China, the largest developed country and the largest developing country, should work for consensus on a lot of issues, Wang said.

He urged the two sides to further implement the important results of Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit to the United States in September to push forward China-U.S. relations in the right way.

He hopes Kerry's visit will further enhance strategic mutual trust and eliminate doubts between the two countries so as to lay a good foundation for bilateral ties in 2016, said Wang.

In his opening remarks, Kerry said that China and the United States have been able to find a level of new cooperation with respect to a number of issues, including the Iranian nuclear issue, climate change, Afghanistan and Ebola.

The two sides also have several important issues that they need to move forward on, Kerry added, including DPRK's nuclear program and the South China Sea affair.

Before his China tour, Kerry visited Laos and Cambodia.

(News Feature) Wounded trooper awed by Wurtzbach's visit

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): (News Feature) Wounded trooper awed by Wurtzbach's visit

Cpl. Fulgencio Gacutan, a member of the Special Forces Regiment, was visibly starstruck when reigning Miss Universe Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach visited him and other patients of Heroes Ward 3A of the AFP Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon.

The former, who is now recuperating from an AK-47 gunshot wound at the left arm, said he was touched when the beauty queen thanked him for his efforts in defending the country and wished for his speedy recovery.

Gacutan was wounded during an encounter engagement with rebel forces in Agusan Del Sur on November 16, 2015.

"She thanked me for my efforts in defending the country and wished for my speedy recovery," he said in Filipino.

The Cagayan native, who has now served for six years at the Special Forces Regiment, admitted to being in awe when Wurtzbach took time to visit him and 40 other injured soldiers at the AFP Medical Center.

After taking pictures with military battle casualties, Pia also posed for pictures with other patients and medical staff.

Wurtzbach also gave a "Binibining Pilipinas" brown paper bag filled with souvenir items to Gacutan and his fellow comrades.

AFP deputy chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina called the visit of the reigning Miss Universe "uplifting to the spirit of the battle casualties" and "a morale boost" to the patients.

In the same vein, he said Wurtzbach's visit to the AFP Medical Center is the first ever in "recent times" for an international beauty pageant title holder.

"I have to check, but I think, Pia is the first major beauty contest title holder to visit the AFP Medical Center in recent times," Fallorina stressed.

Wurtzbach is the third Miss Universe from the Philippines. The other two were Gloria Diaz in 1969 and Margie Moran in 1973.

PNP operatives hunt down suspects in North Cotabato grenade attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): PNP operatives hunt down suspects in North Cotabato grenade attack

PIKIT, North Cotabato -– Police authorities here have launched massive manhunt against two men who lobbed a hand grenade Tuesday morning at house in a remote village here that left three persons injured, a police official today said.

Police Chief Insp. Sindatu Karim, Pikit municipal police chief, said the grenade attack occurred at 7:20 a.m. in the house of Dawadi family in Barangay Inug-og, Pikit.

Karim identified the injured as 50-year-old Toks Dawadi, a volunteer watchman of National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) tower in Pikit, his daughter Bailanie Usop, a teacher and his one-year-old grandchild.

Police investigation showed that two men wearing crash helmets arrived in the house of Dawadi on board a motorbike.

As soon as the suspects saw Dawadi, one of them tossed a fragmentation grenade and fled on the same motorbike, Karim said.

Neighbors rushed the victims to a hospital in Poblacion Pikit. They had minor shrapnel injuries.

”We are following up a lead on the identities and location of attackers,” Karim said in a radio interview.

He said it was not clear if the attack on Dawadi has something to do with his work as watchman of NGCP towers in Pikit.

He said police investigator are also looking more on a personal grudge angle as the possible motive of the attack.

Army receives 2,819 new US made assault rifles, 200 radios

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): Army receives 2,819 new US made assault rifles, 200 radios

CAMP EVANGELISTA, Cagayan de Oro City -– The Army 4th Infantry Division (4ID) here received 2,819 new US-made assault rifles and 200 Harris radio, a military officer announced Wednesday.

Capt. Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the Army 4ID, said that the newly-acquired weapons are part of the modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Martinez said that the turnover of the newly-acquired firearms was held Tuesday making Mindanao as the early recipients of these assault weapons.

He said that prior to the delivery of the new assault rifles, the government troopers are using the 5.56mm M16 rifle from the United States military, which are leftover during the Vietnam war.

Martinez said that the government troopers would start the turnover of the older firearms on Wednesday in exchange of the new Remington R4 assault rifles.

He said that the 4ID has six line units, which would receive the new firearms. These are the 4th Division Reconnaissance Battalion, 8th Infantry Battalion (8IB), 26IB, 29IB, 30IB, 36IB and the 58IB.

USS Curtis Wilbur arrives in Manila Bay

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): USS Curtis Wilbur arrives in Manila Bay

The USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), an Arleigh Burke class guided missile destroyer, has docked in Manila Bay as part of a routine visit for maintenance and crew rest.

The ship, which was commissioned in March 1994 and is homeported in Yokosuka, Japan, is an integral part of Battle Force Seventh Fleet, which is the U.S. Navy’s only permanently forward deployed naval force. With a crew of more than 300 personnel, the Curtis Wilbur has conducted operations in support of Operation Southern Watch (April 1999) and Operation Enduring Freedom (October 2001), and has participated in numerous exercises.

The USS Curtis Wilbur docked in port January 24. While in Manila some members of the ship’s crew will have the opportunity to meet with the Philippine Coast Guard as a means of continuing to build the relationship between Philippine and U.S. forces.

8th ID in need of 180 candidate soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): 8th ID in need of 180 candidate soldiers

The Catbalogan City-based 8th Infantry Division announced on Wednesday that it in need of 180 individuals to fill up its quota for this year's Candidate Soldier's Course (CSC).

Capt. Ian Andres R. Fabellon, 8th Infantry Division public affairs officer, said interested individuals can start filing their application papers by Feb. 1.

There are slots available for 162 males and 18 females.

Fabellon added the 8th Division Training School will be in charge of the overall training requirements to effectively hone them to be topnotch soldiers, loved and appreciated by the people.

Applicants must be a natural-born Filipino citizen; with 72 units in college, or with any certification of vocational courses and should be at least 18 to 26 years old; at least 5 feet tall; single and without child; and of good moral character.

He or she should have taken the AFPSAT with a score of at least 45 or PAATB with a score of at least 80 and passed the pre-qualifying physical fitness test and physical medical exam; and must be physically and mentally fit for military training.

Aspirants must bring along the following documents: Transcript of Records (Original Copy); College or High School Diploma (Original Copy); Birth Certificate (NSO Copy) with original receipt; Marriage Contract of Parents (NSO Copy) with original receipt; AFPSAT result with dry seal (If possible attach code number).

Interested applicants may visit the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Personnel, G1 in Camp General Vicente Lukban, Catbalogan City with hotline number 09778033918 or visit 8th Division Public Affairs facebook account (Dpao stormtroopers) with hotline number 09067689682.

GPH-MNLF peace process review ends, moves to implementation of peace mechanisms

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): GPH-MNLF peace process review ends, moves to implementation of peace mechanisms

The Philippine government (GPH), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) formally signed on Tuesday the Joint Communique that marks the conclusion of the Tripartite Review Process (TRP) of the Implementation of the 1996 GPH-MNLF Final Peace Agreement (FPA) that has run for more than eight years.

“This is an important milestone we have reached as it sets the convergence of the two Bangsamoro peace processes,” explained Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process and head of the delegation of the Philippine Government during the two-day 5th Ministerial Level meeting of the TRP.

The Joint Communiqué of the conference stated that the TRP ministerial meeting was held “to define a road map towards the completion of the Review Process and identify ways and means of coordination and collaboration for the implementation of what they agreed upon during the Review Process.”

“What this means is that we have finally finished the eight-year long review of the implementation of the FPA, and we can now move forward towards implementing the agreements reached this time under the TRP,” added OPAPP Undersecretary for Programs Yusuf Jose Lorena.

Specifically, the Joint Communique identified four key areas that the parties agreed to implement:

- The establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund that will be used for socio-economic development projects for MNLF communities;

- The agreement on the Co-Management of Strategic Minerals will be referred to the Oversight Committee created by RA 9054 for the continuation of its devolution process;

- The participation of the MNLF in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission of the envisioned Bangsamoro Parliament; and,

- The creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee, a body that will oversee the implementation of all points of consensus arrived at by the TRP.

The communiqué was signed by Undersecretary Jose Yusuf Iribani Lorena for the Philippine Government, and Atty. Randolph Parcasio and Muslimin Sema on behalf of the MNLF as principals, along with OIC Secretary General Iyad bin Amin Madani for the 57-nation Islamic organization. OPAPP Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and Samsula Adju of the MNLF signed as witnesses.

AFP tells Senate panel: No stand down order from authorities

From the Philippine News Agency (Jan 27): AFP tells Senate panel: No stand down order from authorities

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said on Wednesday there was no stand down order from the higher authorities, including President Benigno S. Aquino III, when the Special Action Force (SAF) troopers encountered Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels and other armed groups while carrying out "Oplan Exodus" to neutralize international terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on Jan. 25 last year.

At the reopening of the Senate inquiry into the Mamasapano encounter that killed 44 SAF troopers, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara asked the resource persons from the AFP as well as from the Philippine National Police (PNP) if the President gave stand down order to prevent the peace process with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from being derailed due to the Mamasapano incident.

AFP Western Mindanao Command chief Lt. Gen. Rustico Guerrero responded: “I did not receive any stand down order directly from any official nor the President.”

Former AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he also did not receive stand down order from the President while National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he was not aware of the order.

Former Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas, who was not informed about the "Oplan Exodus," said there was not such order, “neither I gave that order.”

Former PNP officer-in-charge Leonardo Espina, who was not aware of the operation, said he was not with the President during the 11-hour Mamasapano encounter.

In a PowerPoint presentation, AFP chief for operation Maj. Gen. Angelito de Leon said there was no stand down order from the higher authorities even as the AFP insisted that they, after checking all the locations of the engaged SAF troopers, deployed air assets and mechanized supports.

The same presentation also showed photo of former SAF chief Getulio Napenas smiling in a meeting while the members of the 55th SAF company were engaged in heavy fighting and also suffered many casualties from the combined forces of the MILF, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and private armed groups.

De Leon said Napenas seemed detached from the reality of the SAF operation and unaware of the magnitude of the SAF casualties.

”He also lacks grasp of the gravity of the situation and has no intention to lead from the front. His mindset was a walk in the park,” De Leon said in the presentation.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said the Mamasapano debacle happened “because of the lack of coordination.”

In his defense, Napenas claimed the President had been informed in a meeting attended by then suspended PNP chief Alan Purisima that the AFP would be informed about Oplan Exodus ‘time on target.’

However, Napenas told the Senate Committee on Public Order chaired by Senator Grace Poe that President Aquino did tell him directly not to coordinate with the AFP about the operation ahead of time.

Napenas also said that Purisima told him not to inform Roxas and Espina about the operation.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile blamed the botched Oplan Exodus to what he called paralyzed line of command.

”The line of command was paralyzed that day and that was the reason we lost SAF 44,” Enrile said.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III came in defense of the President, saying there was no basis for President Aquino to be alarmed since the Chief Executive was informed about the casualties only late in the afternoon.

”It is unfair to say that there was no concern on the part of the President. President Aquino was fed with wrong information that the operation was going as planned. Purisima even told President Aquino that the ground troopers were being supported by tanks and other machinery,” Guingona said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon agreed with Guingona, insisting that it was Napenas who crafted alone and carried out the Oplan Exodus.

Drilon also downplayed Enrile’s conclusion that President Aquino compartmentalized the Oplan Exodus.

”If there was somebody who compartmentalized, it was Napenas, not the President,” Drilon said.