Monday, February 1, 2016

MILF likely to keep weapons for now

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 1): MILF likely to keep weapons for now

With the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) stopped dead in the tracks, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is likely to keep their weapons and other ammunition for now.

The group cannot be compelled to decommission more weapons and combatants until the proposed peace measure is passed by Congress, according to Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Deles.

“The political-legal track centered on the passage of the BBL is at the heart of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro). There is no full implementation of the CAB —specifically, no further decommissioning beyond the 1st batch of 145 – until the law is passed,” Deles said.

Given such scenario, Deles said the government is moving to strengthen mechanisms for the peaceful transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro “which is the core of roadmap for the full settlement of the armed conflict.”
Last weekend, President Aquino ordered Deles to draft an “action plan” promoting the peace process in Mindanao beyond his term after the 16th Congress failed to pass the BBL.  Deles was also directed to consult with various stakeholders including the MILF in firming up the Mindanao peace plan.

In the historic peace agreement with the government in March 2014, the MILF agreed to give up their armed rebellion in exchange of the establishment of a new Bangsamoro political entity. The Bangsamoro peace pact included arrangements on power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization and transitional mechanisms.

The BBL, a pet bill of the President, is supposed to be the legal document that will create the new territory in the south.

So far, only 75 weapons have been turned over by the MILF as part of the normalization process of the peace deal.  At least 145 MILF combatants also volunteered to undergo decommissioning process with most of them planning to venture into farming, start their own business and pursue schooling.

The first phase of the decommissioning process was witnessed by President Aquino in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao in June 2015.

Comval rebel-returnees find hope in government’s integration program

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Comval rebel-returnees find hope in government’s  integration program

COMPOSTELA VALLEY  – On its 3rd batch of presentation, 11 former rebels each received P65,000 worth of check as the government’s Comprehensive Local Integration Program (CLIP) with the turnover rites held during the first regular Peace and Order Council Meeting of the province this year last January 21.

Presenting the check to rebel returnees are Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Provincial Director (PD) Liborio Diana, Vice-Gov. Manuel Zamora, PNP  PD Albert Ignatius Ferro and 1001st Brigade Commander Col. Macairog Alberto of the Philippine Army.The total amount is composed of P15,000 as immediate assistance and P50,000 for livelihood assistance.

Last year, 52 rebel returnees were already given financial assistance under the same program with 2 more batches totaling to 19 beneficiaries set to be awarded this year.

CLIP  is a national government program for rebels who want to go back to the folds of the law and help them live normal lives. The program provides financial assistance and even health and education assistance packages to the returnees.

According to 21-year old “Lisa” (not her real name), she was convinced of the programs and felt the sincerity of the government in helping them. She narrated her past experiences and how it was difficult for her to even visit her partner and 1 year-old kid.

Asked how she will use the financial assistance, she replied, “Plano nako nga magbabuyan ug mu-balhin ug lugar. Gusto na namu magsugod ug bag-ong kinabuhi nga adunay kagawasan.”  (I plan to put up a piggery. We wanted  to start anew).

Meanwhile, 57 year-old “Domeng,” another  recipient of the CLIP,  plans to have his own rice farm. “Maski gamay, plano nako mupalit ug basakan,” he said. Like Lisa, he will also relocate to another town for security reasons.

Opinion: Irresponsible intel leaks

From the SPYBITS column by Babe G. Romualdez in the Philippine Star (Feb 2): Irresponsible intel leaks

The last Senate hearing on the Jan. 25, 2015 Mamasapano massacre was nothing but a rehash of the old testimonies that have been previously made, with nothing really new or explosive, or shocking, disclosed to the Filipino public that patiently listened in via radio and watched it through live streaming from various Internet sources.

But what came across as very disturbing for a lot of observers was the insinuation the Americans were directly involved in the planning and execution of the botched Mamasapano operation, or that the US already knew about the massacre before the other Philippine officials did – something that is totally false and completely malicious. It was not – as some leftists insist – a “joint operation” because for one, no US troops were on hand to participate in the operation to capture Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Filipino bomb expert Abdul Basit Usman.

As US Ambassador Philip Goldberg had explained, the involvement of the United States was all within the bounds of the legal framework agreed upon by both the US and Philippine governments. It’s no secret the US has been providing assistance to help the Philippine government in its fight against terrorism, like what happened when government troops captured notorious Abu Sayyaf terrorist Ghalib Andang alias Commander Robot – who made kidnapping such a lucrative business for himself and the ASG. Besides, it is common practice among governments to exchange intelligence information especially when it comes to transnational crimes such as drug trafficking, gun running and other activities that are also used as sources of funding for terrorist activities. Add to that external security threats which, at this point, our armed forces will find challenging since we are still trying to build up our capabilities, and the AFP has yet to achieve a minimum credible defense posture.

The Visiting Forces Agreement, which has been in existence for more than a decade, allows for US assistance in terms of training (which is why we have the yearly Balikatan exercises) for security, counterterrorism and interoperability purposes. And let’s face it, our closest ally has been instrumental in saving lives during major disasters (think Typhoon Yolanda) and in helping with rehabilitation activities in damaged areas. For those who still conveniently omit whenever they try to criticize and condemn the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement – a key component is humanitarian assistance and disaster response (HADR).

It’s also rather unfortunate that so-called intel “leaks” about US involvement are being bruited about. We have to remember we are dealing with terrorists here, and any information that gives them an “inside look” could work to their advantage – to the detriment of our forces fighting to contain these terrorists. Many can still remember the furor created by Edward Snowden, a former US government contractor who is believed to have passed on classified information involving the US National Security Agency and the UK government’s Communications HQ. Wikileaks (that organization that relishes releasing information regarding the US government whether verified or not) even gave him financial support to seek asylum to Russia.

While it is true governments should be transparent in their dealings and that the people have a right to know what their government is doing – for instance on how taxes are being spent – it is also clear there are areas where prudence would dictate that some state secrets are better left alone, especially when they involve matters pertaining to national security. A few years ago, an Australian government official condemned Wikileaks for being “incredibly irresponsible” in releasing confidential information that disclosed the identity of intelligence information sources which not only compromised operations, but also the safety of the individuals involved.

“The publication of any information that could compromise Australia’s national security – or inhibit the ability of intelligence agencies to monitor potential threats – is incredibly irresponsible,” the official said. This was echoed by the US Department of State that “strongly condemned” the illegal disclosure of classified information that not only put the security of individuals at great risk, but also harmed US national interest and undermined diplomatic relations.

And while there is such as thing as freedom of information and free press, such freedom also comes with responsibility. Just because we can release information does not mean we should be indiscriminate or disregard the implications on national security, which in the end could prove to be more harmful – rather than beneficial – to the public......

MILF: Editorial -- Congress makes reconciliation very hard

Editorial posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1): Editorial -- Congress makes reconciliation very hard

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) has fallen on the wayside. Congress has snuffed its life, citing various, if not shallow, reasons. Lack of time is merely an alibi; other laws including the National Appropriation Bill passed without much hassle. Even if there was no quorum especially in the Lower House, deliberations proceeded.

The Mamasapano outcry is expected. We sympathized with the families of all those who have died as a result of the tragic incident. But did the rest of us do and act rightly and justly?  Most of us showed that we are only ruled by our hatred, biases, and prejudices. In the past, thousands upon thousands of Moros were massacred but this country had never mourned, perchance, only crocodile tears were shed.

Only civilians can be massacred, not the like of the Special Action Force (SAF) commandos.  They were in combat, in fact they were entering an “enemy” territory, using the term of former head police director Getulio Napeñas Jr., and therefore, they are ready to kill and be killed. The is the reason why former military men like Senator Antonio Trillianes and Sen. Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan did not show much enmity or remorse in their faces, because they know that in war death can come any moment.

We abhor to hear the use of the word “massacre”. It was highly misappropriated --- and should not be used at all. Only those who are ignorant of the law of war use it. This is an insult to the integrity of the SAF commandos. They died in the tour of duty. It was only unfortunate that during that precise moment, they were in the wrong time and in the wrong place. Nobody wanted the incident to happen, especially the MILF, but it happened. This is the reason the MILF, without distinction, expressed deep sympathy and condolence to all those who have fallen in Mamasapano on that fateful day of January 2015. 

There are countless exceptions, but generally Filipinos are not ready for reconciliation. Congress had just shown it. They are making it very hard. They are still in the state of denial. Their thinking and what they say are still reminiscent of the bloody days of Spain in this country. They still see the Moro as sub-human, not deserving of equal treatment.

Clearly, justice is only applied fairly for the majority, but not for Moros. Take for instance, the facts of the Mamasapano incident. The SAF commandos, nay their leaders or commanders, especially Napeñas, deliberately violated the provisions of the GPH-MILF ceasefire agreement and the Ad Hoc Action Group (AHJAG) requiring prior coordination in case of movement of troops or police actions. They also tagged a partner in peace, the MILF, as “enemy”, and the 6th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a sister military organization, as “unreliable”. After all these have been said and done and the operation to get Marwan, with a bounty of $5 million in his head, blundered or bungled, still the MILF is the villain and Napeñas the hero. What kind of justice is this?

The BBL is not the first agreement set aside by government. It seems it is already systemic. The Tripoli Agreement of 1976 was deliberately violated by President Ferdinand Marcos. The agreement clearly provided, among others, for only one autonomous entity to be organized, instead he set up Region 12 for Central Mindanao and Region 9 for Western Mindanao. When the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement of 1996 was signed, the laws that were enacted by Congress ignored many of the important provisions of the agreement. When the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA-AD) was initialled by the Parties on July 27, 2008, the government did not only refuse to sign it but it was subsequently declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Now, here comes the BBL falling into the same path. Is this coincidental or part of the pattern, say a conspiracy? We will never know the true answer but just the same, the BBL was not enacted into law.

If the GPH-MILF peace process has reached this point, it was mainly the result of the trust and confidence built over almost six years between the Parties. If the BBL did not pass Congress, we don’t see any role of President Benigno Aquino III in it. It is not to his interest that the legacy of peace through the BBL will not be realized. In fact, he pushed for it vigorously through to the end. Our only question is that the man who was supposed to be the defender of the BBL in the Lower House was the one causing so much confusion, short of an open defiance. Why did the leadership in the House allow the enemies of the BBL to filibuster its passage?

Our only consolation is that all the Moro lawmakers especially Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, Congressman Tupay Loong, and Congresswoman Bai Sandra Sema stood their grounds and proved to be champions of the BBL in the Lower House. They were outnumbered, but they never lost the discourse. Indeed, they are our heroes. We also pay tributes to the contributions of the other congressmen/women, who are Christians, in pushing for the passage of the BBL. Thank you to all of you!

MILF: “The Bangsamoro people are worth fighting for” - Rep. Bai Sandra Sema

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 2): “The Bangsamoro people are worth fighting for” - Rep. Bai Sandra Sema

Photo Courtesy of Norhainah C. Abdul Aziz

Photo Courtesy of Norhainah C. Abdul Aziz

Frustrated with the latest development in Congress that is about to adjourn the session without passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Maguindanao 1st District Rep. Bai Sandra Sema said, “I am disappointed but I am more emboldened today than ever. I will never lose sight of the fact that the Bangsamoro people are worth fighting for.”

In a speech delivered during the 1st ARMM Bangsamoro Women Summit on February 1 held in Cotabato City, Sema said she was not weakened by the way things are unfolding.

“I say that as we are being pushed aside, we are all the more closing our ranks. As we are being divided, we are all the more getting unite,” she pointed out. 

“And as we are being pushed to the wall, we gather our strength and we will push back harder, harder than what we have done before,” Sema stressed.

Sema, together with fellow Mindanao lawmakers, have been fighting in the House of Representatives for the passage of BBL, a measure that is hoped to provide self-governance for the Bangsamoro people through genuine autonomy.

In March 27, 2014, the Government of the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) in a bid to end the decades of conflict in Mindanao and bring peace and development to the Bangsamoro people.

The Aquino Administration created the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) to draft the BBL. The BTC finished its job and submitted to draft Bangsamoro law to Malananang Palace.

The proposed legislation was forwarded to Congress but it gone through a rough sailing because of the perceived unconstitutional provisions which were questioned by some legislators.

Thereafter, Congress has changed the BBL into Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BL-BAR) which is objectionable for the MILF who once pronounced that they will not accept a law that will give an autonomy lesser than ARMM.

The MILF reiterates that the government should fulfil its promise to the Bangamoro people to provide a meaningful autonomous government through the passage of CAB-compliant BBL.

Sema said, “The Bangsamoro Homeland cannot be considered part of the territory of the Philippines, unless its people are also considered people of this country.”

“If they consider the Bangsamoro people as citizens of this country, we should not be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. We must be given the equal protection of the laws---the blood of the Bangsamoro people are as sacred as the blood of the SAF,” she underscored.

The lady lawmaker said the Bangsamoro people must be given access to quality education, must be guaranteed on the rights to practice their religion, and “We must be given our right to pursue happiness, and to enjoy peace and prosperity in our homeland.”

With the dimming hope for the BBL passage, Sema said, “We will bow down to the majesty of the Almighty God, knowing that He will reward those who have chosen the right path, and will punish those who do not honor thy oath.”

MILF: JICA-Cotabato Project Office sponsors CD-CAAM projects’ fieldtrip in Lanao Del Norte

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1): JICA-Cotabato Project Office sponsors CD-CAAM projects’ fieldtrip in Lanao Del Norte

JICA-Cotabato Project Office sponsors CD-CAAM projects’ fieldtrip in Lanao Del Norte

The Japan International Cooperation Agency-Cotabato Project Office (JICA-CPO) sponsored a fieldtrip visit to farmers belonging to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) from Camp Abubakar together with officials of Bangsamoro Transition Commission Socio-Economic Office (BTC-SEO) staff, and the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA)  on January 26, 2016 at Matungao, Lanao Del Norte.

There were twelve farmers that participated in the site visit.

Engr. Aida Silongan, CD-CAAM Program Management Officer of the BDA said the project started in 2012 comprising three sectors- Agriculture, Fishery and Infrastructure.

“The CD-CAAM project have three phases, the first phase includes formulation of basic policy of the project, selection of target municipalities, social preparation and among others,” said Silongan.

“The second phase is the implementation process from November 2013 until 2014; and the third phase was the compilation phase (November 2014-March 2015) that covers ex-post assessment, formulation of community guidelines and operational manual of pilot projects,” she added.

“It is good that the duration of the projects was extended from May 2015 to July 2016 with six pillars as basic operational guidelines,” Silongan disclosed.

“The CD-CAAM pillars is inclusive; this is why it is expanded in Lanao del Norte wherein non-Moro communities are among the recipients,” said Silongan.

Other pillars are balancing development needs and potential, farmer to farmer extension, mobilization and networking with local resources, strong partnership with LGUs, and comprehensive management process.

Currently, the project site areas are Sultan Mastura, Maguindanao; Panglima Sugala, Tawi-tawi and in Matungao municipality of Lanao del Norte.

After a courtesy call to Matungao Vice Mayor Abdul aziz Liwalug, the team proceeded to Barangay Pasayanon and visited the fish cage culture pilot project. The project beneficiaries briefed and orientated the team on Tilapia fish culture and management.

On the same day, the team also visited a goat production project site in Barangay Somiorang and a vegetable production farm in Barangays Matampay and Puntod.

In a short program held at Barangay Puntod, the Moro farmers said that their exposures provided them essential knowledge that maybe used in their respective communities when they return home. They however urged JICA to put similar projects in their areas.

Naoyuki Ochiai, Head and Chief Leader of the JICA-CPO said during the evening closing program that JICA will continue its assistance to the Moro people.

“…Because we understand that (Moro) people in the ground cannot wait until something is happening in their communities, I am telling you that today is not the end, this is a beginning for our farmers and I hope to see you again in your communities,” told Ochiai.

Basir Calim, of the Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) MILF Coordinator extended his appreciation to the initiatives of the JICA and other sectors. He also said that the activity is consonant to the sacrifices of the Moro people and the MILF combatants for their more than 4-decades of struggle in finding lasting peace, economic development and sustainability.

Nomaire Mustapha, Project Coordinator for Public Service Delivery of the Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro emphasized the need to solve the Bangsamoro question and end Mindanao conflict.

Mustapha said that this is the reason on why Moro people in the conflict affected-areas become unproductive because oftentimes they are displaced. “They cannot engage in farm activities like planting vegetables because every time arm encounters transpire, they are forced to evacuate from their communities,” he lamented.  

The team who visited CD-CAAM project sites in Matungao, Lanao del Norte was composed of BDA-Central Management Office, BDA Team Ranao, IC Net Limited, BTC-SEO, JICA-CPO and Philippine Office, JNC staff and MILF farmers, International Development Journal, Matungao LGU, the 99.0 Voice FM Cotabato, and members of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Last year in December, JICA organized similar activity for MILF farmers in six municipalities at the former Camp Abubakar under the JNC program and visited PhilRice Midsayap; Barangay Gayonga, Northern Kabuntalan; the demo-farm in Barangay Kuden, Talitay and in Barangay Bugawas, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao.

MILF: Hiroshima University alumni share studies and proposals, to enhance capacity building for Moro Youth

Posted to the MILF Website (Feb 1): Hiroshima University alumni share studies and proposals, to enhance capacity building for Moro Youth

Hiroshima University alumni share studies and proposals, to enhance capacity building for Moro Youth

Alumni of Hiroshima Peace-Building Human Resources Development Projects for the Bangsamoro in Mindanao shared their studies and project proposals to various sectors and local agencies last Sunday, January 31 at Em Manor Hotel, Sinsuat Avenue in Cotabato City.

The 1st Batch of selected Moro participants at Hiroshima University was held from May 9 to June, 2014 in Hiroshima, Japan.

Aside from sharing of studies and proposals, the whole day program  was also aimed at enhancing the capacity and competency of Moro youth as prospective public servants was organized in spite of the non-passage of  Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in congress last January 27.

Among the guests during the program were Muhammad Amin, Chief of the MILF Central Committee Secretariat, Mohagher Iqbal, Chair of MILF Peace Panel & Bangsamoro Transition Commission, BTC Commissioners Ebrahim Ali, Timuay Melanio Ulama, & Talib Benito and Datu Michael Mastura, Senior member of the MILF Peace Panel.

Also in attendance were members of the Board of Directors of the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), MILF-GPH Coordinating Committee on Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), Social Works Committee (SWC), Mr. Naoyuki Ochiai, Head and Chief Leader of JICA-Cotabato Project Office, Professors Usamo Yushida, Project Manager, Meg Kagawa, Project Coordinator, Emiko Nakasaka of Graduate School of Social Sciences and Masahiko Togawa of Graduate School for International Development and Cooperation Associate Professor.

In an interview, Iqbal said, “This is a good development because we see that there is a lot of potential Moro youth leaders.”

“We also told JICA to strengthen the capacity training of these trainees so that they can be more effective as public servants of the Bangsamoro government,” Iqbal said.

On his part, professor Yoshida said, “I hope that they can contribute to the future Bangsamoro government. This training will be continued for another 3 years.”

BBL Status

When asked about the status of the passage of BBL, the MILF Chief Negotiator Iqbal admitted that there is no hope for the Aquino administration to pass the BBL.

“We will see what happen next, what matters most is that we did our best.” Iqbal lamented.

In the level of peace panel, Iqbal said that, “The engagement of both parties will continue and tentatively a schedule for a meeting has been set from February 10-11, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to talk what’s the way forward”.

Another batch for those that may qualify for scholarship for 4-week training at Hiroshima University is due to start by July 2016.

NPA says Bukidnon plantations raze done to stop ‘destructive’ expansions

From the often pro-CPP Davao Today (Feb 1): NPA says Bukidnon plantations raze done to stop ‘destructive’ expansions

The series of New People’s Army (NPA)-led attacks in several banana and pineapple plantations in Bukidnon late January this year were carried out to warn multinational companies of their “destructive” expansion in Bukidnon.

Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the NPA in North Central Mindanao Region, said the soil excavation for leveling and planting plantations share a similar impact with mining.

“For every hectare bulldozed, more than 150 tonnes or 70 dump-truck loads of soil would be displaced and eroded into streams and rivers. This would annihilate every standing tree, grass and other undergrowth on the soil, including even the good insects that would be poisoned by insect sprays and fertilizers,” Juanito said in a statement.

Between January 25 and 30, three bulldozers, one generator set, one hummer truck, two boom sprayers, and four blocks of MD2 pineapples measuring around four hectares, were burned by the NPAs in separate attacks in Bukidnon.

On January 25, an NPA unit burned the equipment of Leo Wu, a contractor for Del Monte Philippines, Inc. in Barangay San Juan, Balingasag. The equipment consisted of a bulldozer, a hummer truck, and a generator set.

Two days later, four blocks of Del Monte’s MD2 pineapples measuring around four hectares were razed in Brgy. Lapinigan, Libona, Bukidnon around 9:00 pm.

On Saturday, January 30, the NPAs razed a boom spray for pineapples in Barangay Laguitas believed to be owned by the Lapanday Company, a boom spray for bananas of Dole Skyland, and two D150 Caterpillar bulldozers of Del Monte in Barangay Gabunan, Casisang, in Malaybalay City.

“While the numerous peasants and their families here in our region wallow in intense poverty in the face of El Niño’s torment, the imperialist companies of Del Monte and Dole-Itucho, including Lapanday of the Lorenzo family, continually indulge in expanding their plantations,” Juanito said.

He added that with every hectare of land used by the plantations, another hectare allotted food crop production is lost.

Multinational companies have made a fortune in Mindanao due to its fertile land suitable by producing export commodities such as pineapple and banana.

Lapanday Foods produces more than two million boxes of pineapples annually from its combined 1,000-hectare plantations in Aglayan and Maluko in Bukidnon.

Del Monte Pacific Ltd (DMPL) and its subsidiaries operate the world’s largest pineapple plantation in Mindanao producing about 700,000 tonnes of pineapples annually.

Meanwhile, Dole Food Company is also known as the world’s biggest supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables. In September 2012, Dole sold its two businesses to Itochu Corporation, Japan’s third largest trading company.

The NPA also carried out similar attacks in December last year in the towns of Impasug-ong and Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon to stop their expansions and environmentally-destructive operations.

“We reiterate our plead onto all Filipino contractors to refrain from transacting with the enterprise of the multinationals and the bourgeoisie compradors who are targets of the revolutionary movement so that their equipment could be spared,” said Juanito.

Americans to build Lumbia facility later this year

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Feb 1): Americans to build Lumbia facility later this year

DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said on Monday an American military facility will be built within the year inside the former Lumbia domestic airport as part of the country’s Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) with the United States of America (USA).

Gazmin, who was the guest of honor during Monday’s 46th founding anniversary of Philippine Army’s 4th Infantry Division (4ID), said the construction of the facility will commence as soon as ‘documents’ are complete.

But Gazmin said the presence of a United States military facility will mean no harm and instead will enhance the delivery of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in this part of the country.

"Magkakaroon sila (US) ng facility na ico-construct para sa kanilang mga gamit, so that kung magkakaroon tayo ng disaster for example hindi na matagal ang pag-release ng mga gamit,” Gazmin said.

Under the agreement, the Philippines will authorize the US Government, through bilateral security mechanisms, 'to preposition and store defense equipment, supplies, and materiel, including but not limited to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief equipment on the agreed locations.’

The access and disposition of the pre-positioned materiel, however, will be under the full control of the US military.

The agreement also states that the Philippines will retain ownership of the ‘agreed locations’ which in this case is the Lumbia airfield.

Major General Oscar Lactao, 4ID commanding general, had earlier said the proposed US military facilities bases would help bring stability in the West Philippine Sea, improve the country’s security, usher modernization of the Philippine military, and contribute to the economy.

"This would mean more interaction between this country's military force and the US," Lactao added.

Gazmin also thanked the city government of Cagayan de Oro for welcoming the use of Lumbia for Edca.

City Mayor Oscar Moreno had said he sees no problem with the use by US forces of the Lumbia Airport, now the home of the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing.

Moreno cited the supposed long-term benefits saying having American troops may contribute to the local economy, aside from the advantages cited by the national government.

But the City Council has expressed support on a bill filed by 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez seeking to transfer ownership of the old Lumbia airport from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines to the City Government.

The councilors said Lumbia airport should be taken over by the City Government to use as it sees fit.

‘Tension brewing between Army, MILF fighters in Lanao Norte over BBL shelving’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 1): ‘Tension brewing between Army, MILF fighters in Lanao Norte over BBL shelving’

Tension is brewing between government security forces and members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who are reportedly massing up in Lanao del Norte province.

Von Al Haq, spokesperson of the MILF’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone that he received a report of tensions around 2 p.m. Monday and immediately alerted their members in the group’s ceasefire committee to defuse the tension.

Al Haq said the Philippine Army’s 15th Infantry Battalion and the 2nd Mechanized Brigade based in Kauswagan town have allegedly warned forces of Commander Abdullah Macapaar, also known as Bravo, of an offensive.

“We have alerted our ceasefire team to immediately go to the area now. We hope we can patch this up,” Al Haq said.

A Philippine Daily Inquirer source said the military wanted Bravo to leave Kausawagan and go back to Lanao del Sur.

The military reportedly positioned themselves in the village of Dilabayan. The military could not be reached for comment.

In 2008, Bravo and then MILF 105th Base Command Ameril Umra Kato simultaneously launched attacks in Mindanao, particularly Lanao del Norte, after the Supreme Court ruled that the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) signed between the Arroyo administration and the MILF was unconstitutional. The MOA -AD would have been the basis for a Bangsamoro juridical entity or a new autonomous region.

In Maguindanao, the MILF has advised their disappointed young fighters to calm down over Congress’ apparent refusal to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), that would have paved the way for a new political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Ghadzali Jaafar, MILF first vice chair for political affairs, told a local radio station Monday that leaders of groups of disappointed young people came to them and asked them to declare war against the national government.

“We told them not to,” Jaafar said.

“The best way to solve the problem is through negotiation,” he said.

Last week, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said that the BBL no longer had a chance of being passed in the 16th Congress.

Belmonte said that the House of Representatives has approved the bill but the Senate has not acted on its version of the BBL.

On March 27, 2014, the administration of President Aquino and MILF peace negotiators signed the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro that provided for the passage of the BBL that would pave the way for the creation of a new Bangsamoro autonomous region with powers of a substate.

Japan aid agency pushes Mindanao development plan without BBL

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 1): Japan aid agency pushes Mindanao development plan without BBL

The Japanese government remains committed to and supportive of the peace process in Mindanao even as the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law or BBL is deemed “doomed to uncertainty,” aid agency Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has assured the Philippines.

JICA and the Bangsamoro Development Agency are nearing completion of the proposed Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) 2, the medium-to-long-term plan that will guide development in the war-torn region, according to JICA.

JICA said 26 anchor projects spanning socio-economic sectors have been set for roll-out to lift the Bangsamoro people out of poverty by 2028. The BDP 2’s peace and development projects aim to reduce poverty in just over a decade, instead of 50 years in previous projections.

In a seminar on BDP 2 Monday, JICA chief representative Noriaki Niwa said that even without the BBL, the agency has been and would remain “committed to support peace and development in Mindanao.”

Niwa said in a statement that JICA “assures strong support and committed assistance” regardless of the outcome of the peace process in the region.

“Through the BDP 2, we look forward to continue working closely with the Philippine government, stakeholders, and other development partners in realizing balanced and equitable development for all the people of Mindanao,” Niwa added.

JICA said BDP 2 was expanded “to act as useful reference or guide for the future development undertaking not just in the proposed Bangsamoro area but also in other regions in Mindanao.”

Under BDP 2, the anchor projects identified by JICA and BDA were as follows: support for agricultural cooperatives; road rehabilitation and upgrading; ports and airport improvement; Greater Cotabato City urban infrastructure; communal irrigation; economic corridor development; economic zones; as well as abaca, coco coir and sugar industrial cluster development.

Also among the anchor BDP 2 initiatives were agri-based projects (such as goat farming and mixed field crop production); seed production center; halal industry promotion; open market; cold chain facilities; community-based forest and coastal management; mini hydropower development; and Mindanao river basin integrated watershed as well as flood management projects, Jica said.

These specific projects were derived from BDP 2’s 16 general programs aligned with the development agenda of “broad-based inclusive growth, pump-priming, alternative socio-economy, and enhanced resources management initiatives to ensure inclusive development in Bangsamoro,” JICA said.

If fully implemented, the BDP would create about 550,000 additional jobs by 2022, while the region’s economy could grow as fast as 7.4 percent annually, the Japanese aid agency said last year.

A 2005 study of the Human Development Network linked the underdevelopment of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the long history of armed conflict in the area. According to the report, the war in Mindanao costs around P5 billion to P7.5 billion annually, which could have been instead used to fund development projects in the ARMM.

The poverty incidence in ARMM was at 55.8 percent in 2012—much higher than the national average of 25.2 percent and 39.1 percent for the whole of Mindanao, Philippine Statistics Authority data showed.

The National Economic and Development Authority has said that while the Bangsamoro entity awaits its formal establishment, P225.7 billion worth of funding is needed to reduce poverty among residents as well as jumpstart the economy of what remains as one of the country’s poorest regions.

In May 2015, the private sector as well as multilateral lenders said they were ready to pour investments worth about $366 million or over P16.3 billion in Mindanao’s conflict areas despite delays in the passage of the BBL.

The BBL has been suffering from delays due to questions over its constitutionality as well as the clash on Jan. 25, 2015, between the Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force and Moro rebels in Maguindanao that led to the “massacre” of 44 SAF commandos.

China says US island sail-by dangerous and irresponsible

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 2): China says US island sail-by dangerous and irresponsible

China South China Sea

In this May 11, 2015, file photo, an aerial photo taken through a glass window of a military plane shows China’s alleged on-going reclamation of Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. As expectations grow that the US Navy will directly challenge Beijing’s South China Sea claims, China is engaging in some serious image-building for its own military by hosting two international security forums beginning Friday, Oct. 16, 2015. AP FILE PHOTO

BEIJING—China on Monday condemned as “dangerous and irresponsible” the weekend transit of a US warship within 22.2 kilometers (12 nautical miles) of a disputed island in the South China Sea.

Tensions have mounted in the South China Sea over Beijing’s construction of artificial islands.

‘Innocent passage’

The Pentagon said the guided missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur made the “innocent passage” on Saturday off Triton Island in the Paracel island chain, which is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.

The US action was “highly dangerous and irresponsible,” China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang told a regular press briefing, adding it “gravely harmed the peace and stability of the relevant region” in the pursuit of “American naval hegemony.”

A commentary by the official Xinhua news service said the sail-by “violated both Chinese and international law.”

“It is advisable for Washington to contribute more to regional peace and cooperation, rather than making waves in the South China Sea and then pointing a finger at others on trumped-up charges,” said the news agency.

China claims virtually all of the South China Sea, while the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all have rival claims.

Beijing has asserted its claims by rapidly building artificial islands in another South China Sea island chain, the Spratlys, raising tensions in the region.

Fly, sail, operate

Port facilities, airstrips and military buildings have gone up on the man-made islands, prompting US warnings that it would assert its rights to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows.”

While the United States takes no position on the various claims to the islands, it does not recognize any claimant’s right to territorial waters.

In October last year, the US Navy sent a different guided missile destroyer within 22.2 km of one of the Spratlys to press home the point.


The United States has said that China’s construction has led to militarization of the region, and threatens free access to its waters and airspace.

China denies the claims, saying the facilities are mainly for civilian and defensive purposes.

“The US flexing of military muscle under the banner of ‘freedom of navigation’, its manufacturing of tensions, these are precisely the greatest causes currently pushing forward militarization in the South China Sea,” Lu said.

Navy officer nabbed in police raid urges govt to review antidrug agencies’ assets

From the Business Mirror (Feb 1): Navy officer nabbed in police raid urges govt to review antidrug agencies’ assets

THE government should move to look into the assets of all the members of agencies involved in the campaign against illegal drugs in order to determine who among their members were benefiting from drug traffickers and big illegal drug syndicates in the country.

This  proposal was put forward by Marine Col. Ferdinand Marcelino through Army Col. Harold Cabunoc, his former classmate at the Philippine Military Academy, adding his bank deposits are open to anybody who wanted to look into them.

Marcelino was arrested after anti-illegal drugs operatives raided a clandestine shabu laboratory past midnight of January 20. The police raided a house in Santa Cruz, Manila, that operated as a laboratory for shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride), according to police reports. Authorities seized at least 60 kilos of shabu placed in four trays, a stockpile of chemical and drug paraphernalia.

Also recovered from Marcelino were several bank deposit slips in his possession during his arrest.

On January 28, the Philippine National Police-Anti-Illegal Drugs Group (PNP-AIDG) said it has asked the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) to look into the deposit slips.

“The P2.2 million in bank deposit slips are all under one bank.  He [Marcelino] refused to comment on the bank deposit slips each time we ask him about it,” Senior Supt. Leonardo Suan, AIDG chief of staff, said.

Cabunoc said the AMLC should not only look into the deposit of his classmate, but even members of the AIDG and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), with the audit starting from the heads of these two agencies down to their last operative on the ground.

“Lt. Col. Marcelino is willing to sign a waiver for AMLC for the sake of transparency and in compliance with the law praying that his accusers will do the same,” Cabunoc said.

However, Cabunoc said the money was part of the operational needs of Marcelino when he was still with the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Isafp), whose former head, now Army chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Ano also confirmed.

Ano also vouched for the integrity and credibility of Marcelino as an intelligence operative and praised his superior skills in intelligence work.

“The bank transactions that PNP-AIDG presented were meant to discredit Lt. Col. Marcelino. The bank receipt and AFP passbooks were kept as part of his personal financial records and his confidential operational fund records when he was still with Isafp,” Cabunoc said of his classmate.

“I would not discuss the details in public, due to its sensitive nature and the fact that they have not filed another case against him related to these bank deposits,” he added.

On Friday the AIDG transferred Marcelino to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig, from the AIDG headquarters in Camp Crame where he was detained since his arrest.

Marcelino, a former special operations chief of the PDEA turned antidrug crusader, claimed he was inside the shabu laboratory the police raided for an intelligence mission.

At the time of his arrest, Marcelino was the head of the naval candidate course, which is under the Navy’s Naval Education and Training Command based in Zambales.

P1-billion Basilan road project to cut travel by 12 hours

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): P1-billion Basilan road project to cut travel by 12 hours

Basilan District engineer Soler Undug (left) and ARMM Public Works Secretary Don Mustapha Loong inspect a newly concreted road in Basilan province. John Unson

Residents of Basilan now look forward to the completion of a transcentral road that would connect the four corners of the island province through arterial networks in its forested mainland, officials said Monday.

The highway would cut through hinterlands in the Ponoh Mahadje area, where the dreaded Abu Sayyaf established its first ever, but now abandoned camp, in 1994.

People in Basilan, a component province of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), now boast of their newly concreted circumferential orbit road, a joint project of Malacañang and the region’s chief executive, Regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman.

The circumferential road shortened by about 12 hours the time for an overland orbit in the province, passing through several towns, including the cities of Lamitan and Isabela.

The transcentral road project, now being implemented, has two phases, with a total budget of P1.058 billion.

“We ought to thank the Hataman administration and engineers Don Loong and Soler Undug for this colossal project now initially taking shape,” Lamitan City’s vice-mayor, Roderic Furigay, said on Thursday.

Loong is Hataman’s regional public works secretary while Undug oversees all infrastructure projects in Basilan as chief of the District Engineering Office (DEO) in the province.

Undug said the first phase of the transcentral road project, 21 kilometers at P252 million, will traverse Lamitan City, Santa Clara, Bohe Nange and Kapatagan areas.

The second phase of the project, which will interconnect the Maluso, Lower Mahayahay, Upper Mahayahay, Masola and Isabela City areas, will cover 34.30 kilometers, costing P806.05 million.

The arterial network will also include five bridges costing P195 million.

“We are confident of the completion of this project as programmed owing to the good management of projects in the province by the DEO and the DPWH-ARMM,” said Basilan Assemblyman Haber Asarul, a member of ARMM’s 254-seat Regional Assembly.

Asarul, Furigay and other local officials accompanied Undug and Loong in their inspection of infrastructure projects in Basilan early this week.

“We are contented with how the DPWH-ARMM and the Basilan DEO are co-managing these projects,” Furigay said.

The executive department of ARMM has also earmarked the construction this year of P200 million worth of water supply facilities in Basilan.

The ARMM has allocated, since 2013, a total of P9.3 billion worth of infrastructure funds for Basilan.

A big chunk of the amount was spent for road projects interconnecting barangays, town centers and public markets, which are needed to hasten the economic growth of the local peasant and fishery sectors.

China sets up new military regions under reorganization

From the Philippine Star (Feb 1): China sets up new military regions under reorganization

China has created five new military regions covering the country as part of a continuing drive to reorganize and streamline the 2.3 million-member People's Liberation Army.

The north, south, east, west and central regions replace the seven previous regions. The new districts are being touted as better suited to command joint operations while further indicating President Xi Jinping's firm hold over the armed forces.

Xi presided at a ceremony Monday establishing the new regions at the Defense Ministry in his capacity as head of the Communist Party and government commissions overseeing the military. Wearing a high-collared olive green jacket, he presented PLA flags to each of the new region's commanders and political commissars.

China also plans to cut 300,000 personnel from the PLA's ranks.

Don’t push Moros too far, lawmaker warns

From ABS-CBN (Feb 1): Don’t push Moros too far, lawmaker warns

Don't push the Bangsamoro too far.

This appears to be the message of one lawmaker as Moro congressmen delivered impassioned speeches bewailing the death of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which is said to be key to lasting peace in Mindanao.

"What seems to be clear now is for the Bangsamoro to patiently wait and to hope and pray that the next Congress will be more understanding and compassionate, not legalistic and unreasonable, when it takes up again the BBL," said Sulu 1st District Rep. Tupay Loong, a former Moro National Liberation Front commander.

"We can only hope that the Bangsamoro will not opt to return to the battlefield and start a shooting war to pursue their aspirations. But we cannot continue to stretch and exhaust the patience of the oppressed people to wait and hope because waiting and hoping have their ultimate limit."

"It is sad to note, Mr. Speaker, that the passage of BBL was adversely affected by one unintended and unfortunate Mamasapano incident of January 25, 2015 when 44 of the more than 300 commandos of the PNP Special Action Force (SAF), on a secret mission to arrest or neutralize international terrorist Marwan, were killed during the misencounter with the elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), and armed civilians," Loong said.

"Many of us felt that the MILF cannot be trusted as a partner in peace-making for killing the 44 SAF commandos despite the peace agreement and ceasefire with the Philippine government. The Mamasapano incident has blurred our views and opinions on the passage of the BBL.

"When the Bangsamoro people accepted so-called autonomy, it was a supreme sacrifice on their part to give up their legitimate rights to fully live and govern themselves, according to their culture, tradition and religion," he said.

"With our inability to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, which President Aquino and the MILF believed will bring comprehensive, lasting and just peace to the nation, we have failed in our role as a legislative body to provide the legislative support necessary to finally end the Bangsamoro secession and bring peace and unity to the country," he added.

WATCH: Belmonte admits passing BBL now impossible

Bai Sandra Sema, also of the MNLF, also delivered a privilege speech along the same lines.

"We don't owe it to the Bangsamoro people to give them real autonomy. We owe it to the Constitution that we have all sworn or affirmed to uphold and defend. At the end of our days, we will be made accountable for what we have promised," Sema said.

"The people of the Bangsamoro homeland looked up to the promises etched in the fundamental law of this archipelago. But our people now wonder, if the elected officials of these islands are really serious every time they take an oath or affirmation to uphold and defend the Constitution.

"The Bangsamoro people must be given the equal protection of our laws. The blood of the Bangsamoro people are as sacred as the blood of the SAF. They must be presumed innocent unless proven otherwise.

"Today, the people of the Bangsamoro homeland wake up to the reality that our dream for a just and lasting peace has crumbled. With the last two days ebbing away in the calendar of this 16th Congress, this representation can say that the Bangsamoro Basic Law is fast reaching ground zero, even as we celebrate Philippine Constitution day tomorrow," she added.

The 1987 Constitution guarantees the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.

The BBL is stuck in the period of "turno en contra" at the Lower House—two periods shy of a vote. After the "turno en contra," bills are put through the periods of individual and committee amendments, which could prove to be contentious since any member can propose an amendment. Should the author reject a proposed amendment, it has to be put to a vote. Once these periods are terminated, only then will any bill be put to a vote on second -- and if certified as urgent by the President -- 3rd and final reading.

The BBL is meant to institutionalize the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, which is seen as the key to a lasting peace in Mindanao which has been saddled with separatist movements.

The House has been dogged by quorum woes as not enough congressmen attended sessions while the MILF and BBL got more unpopular in the aftermath of the Mamasapano incident.

Even if the House passes the BBL, or its amended version, House Bill 5811 or the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, it will have to wait for the Senate's version.

The Senate, however is working on a different bill amending the Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao's organic law. This makes for a rather contentious bicameral conference committee that will be constituted to reconcile different versions of a bill.

The bicameral conference committee version will have to go back to the plenary of both chambers for ratification. Only then can it be sent to the President for his signature.

Advocates of the BBL mounted a silent T-shirt protest at the House plenary on Monday. While there was no scuffle, they were peacefully escorted out of the session hall. They flashed T-shirts in support of the BBL.

Peace agreement still binding even without BBL, says Drilon

From GMA News (Feb 1): Peace agreement still binding even without BBL, says Drilon
While the Bangsamoro Basic Law is now considered dead in the 16th Congress, the peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front still holds, Senate President Franklin Drilon said on Monday.
After he and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte declared the BBL dead under the Aquino administration, Drilon said the next president should continue the peace process with the MILF.
“We cannot finish the BBL by the time we adjourn on Wednesday, but that does not mean that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro is dead," Drilon said.
"I think it is to the national interest that whoever is the next president should pursue the peace process,” he added.
Asked if the Senate could tackle the BBL when Congress resumes its session on May 23, Drilon said he could not say for certain as it would be resuming as the National Board of Canvassers.
“Whether or not we can resume sessions for purposes of the bills that are pending is beyond me to predict at this point,” Drilon said.
He said the BBL was still on the agenda but only for the purpose of finishing the period of interpellations.
“Right now, the parliamentary status is that Senator (Juan Ponce) Enrile is availing of the period of interpellation,” he said.
In a separate interview, Senator Sergio Osmeña III said Monday the next administration should take charge of the BBL.
“I think the peace process is never dead. That peace process has been going on since my lolo’s time and we will continue to find a way to bring about peace in Mindanao,” he told reporters referring to Sergio Osmeña Sr., the fourth president of the Philippines.
The senator said Congress’ failure to pass BBL was a personal disappointment for the President.
“Mamasapano (incident) got in the way. Mamasapano triggered a very strong emotional reaction from the Filipino people and the people of Mindanao,” he said, referring to the operation of Special Action Force commandos to take down Malaysia bombmaker Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan.
A total of 44 SAF members were killed after the commandos neutralized Marwan in known MILF territory on January 25, 2015.
The Senate President indicated on Monday that the next Congress need not start from scratch as regards the BBL.
Drilon said once Congress adjourns its session on February 5 and the BBL is not acted upon, the measure may be refiled in the next Congress and the committee, which will handle it, may consider as reintroduced all the testimonies of resource persons and materials in the present Congress.
“It does not have to go through again all those hearings. The chairman, at his or her discretion, can simply incorporate into the records of the 17th Congress the proceedings in the 16th Congress,” Drilon said.
“In other words, there is nothing that will prohibit the chairman of the committee in the 17th Congress to say, ‘We consider all the testimonies in the 16th Congress as duly incorporated in the proceedings of the 17th Congress’,” he added.
However, a new member can always ask the committee to conduct a hearing.
“It does not prevent any new member of the committee to say, 'We would want to hear,’ but as a process, it is allowed, the matter of incorporating by reference the proceedings in the 16th Congress,” said Drilon.

SAF member slams AFP, maintains his team killed Marwan

From GMA News (Feb 1): SAF member slams AFP, maintains his team killed Marwan

[Video report]

A member of the Special Action Force (SAF) who was part of Oplan Exodus slammed the Armed Forces in last week's reopening of the Senate investigation into the Mamasapano clash, even as he insisted that his team was the one that killed Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan, the target of the operation on January 25, 2015.

In an exclusive interview by Sandra Aguinaldo on "24 Oras," the member of the 84th Seaborne, the SAF's assault team during the operation, said he even heard Marwan's last words before he died.

"Narinig ko na umuungol siya, iyong ungol na may tama na. Tapos sinasabi niya, 'Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar.' Paulit-ulit siyang ganoon. Binigyan ko pa siya ng ilang putok pa," the SAF trooper said.

The SAF member, who refused to be identified because of another sensitive assignment, was denying a recent report that said Marwan, the brains behind the deadly Bali bombing in 2002, was killed by his own close-in bodyguard.

Over 60 people were killed in the operation, including 44 SAF members, now collectively known as SAF 44.

Marwan's identity was confirmed through DNA test. "Iyong approach namin sa bahay ni Marwan, tahimik, napakatahimik. Iyon na siguro ang pinakatahimik na madaling araw sa buhay ko," the SAF member said in the report, recalling moments before they swooped down on Marwan's hut.

AFP video The SAF member also expressed his disappointment on how the SAF was portrayed during last week's reopening of the Senate investigation on the Mamasapano encounter.

 He said he was deeply hurt when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) showed a video that alleged some SAF members did not help their embattled comrades during the height of the encounter.

 "Masyadong nadurog iyong puso namin pati na mga pamilya ng mga namatayan. Ipinakita kasi nila doon na palpak ang SAF. Ang sagot ko sa kanila, paano naging palpak na napatay nga namin si Marwan?” he said.

 The SAF trooper also said he is disappointed with Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Marine officer, for siding with AFP.

 "Ang masakit doon, talagang dinurog ni Senator Trillanes IV iyong SAF. Hindi lang iyong SAF, pati pamilya ng namatayan," he said. Not SAF, just Napeñas

 In a statement, Trillanes clarified that he was not putting the entire SAF down during the inquiry. He said he was just pointing out the mistakes of former SAF Director Gen. Getulio Napeñas and the other officials involved.

 "I made it clear na hindi buong SAF as a unit and palpak kundi si Gen. Napeñas at ang mga opisyal nila na nag-participate sa operation," Trillanes said.

"Na-accomplish sana nila ang kanilang mission na hindi sila namatayan ng mga kasama kung maayos ang pagplano ni Gen. Napeñas at kung namuno ng maayos ang mga company commanders ng 45th, 42nd, and 41st SACs (Special Action Companies)," he added.

The three SACs were supposed to help the 84th Seaborne and the 55th SAC, which served as the blocking force of the assault team.

 Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato, head of the AFP Public Affairs Office, said it was not the intention of the military to put down SAF when it presented the video to the Senate.

"Nakita naman ng lahat, the slides were about the commandership and the leadership and the planning of General Napeñas. It was not about the SAF," he said.

Government troops nab suspected Abu member

From The Standard (Feb 2): Government troops nab suspected Abu member

Operating troops had captured an alleged member of the Abu Sayyaf Group and seized a firearm in the province of Sulu, a top military official announced Monday.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, identified the captured ASG member as Basir Aden, from whose possession a caliber .45 pistol with ammunition was seized.

Arrojado said Aden was captured around 4 a.m. Monday in Sitio Tubig Patong, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu.

Arrojado said the troops from the Army 35th Infantry Battalion were “moving by foot” from Sitio Kantitap, Barangay Buhanginan to a detachment in Barangay Danag when they chanced upon Aden and two others.

“They attempted to run upon seeing the approaching government forces that led to a chase that resulted to the capture of one of the suspects,” he said.

He said the troops have coordinated with the police in Patikul town for the filing of appropriate charges to include violation of the election gun ban.

The gun ban took effect on Jan. 10 that also marked the start of the election period for the May 2016 local and national elections.

The election gun ban ends on June 8.

Navy Seals end Flash Piston

From The Standard (Feb 2): Navy Seals end Flash Piston

EIGHTY naval commandos from the Philippines and United States ended on Monday two weeks of joint exercises at Naval Station Sangley Point in Cavite City.

Dubbed “Flash Point 16-1,” the exercise quietly started Jan. 18 and involved maritime interdiction operations, like vessel boarding and seizures, in addition to medical evacuations and human rights training.

“The activity [was] a great training opportunity for both nations to gain significant experience and strengthen our interoperability,” said Capt. Alfonspin Tumanda Jr., commander of the Philippine Naval Special Operations Group.

“Enhancing capability through this kind of exercise enables the Philippine Navy to assert more efficiency and effectiveness in the conduct of our mandated tasks,” he added.

The US Seals, on the other hand, said the American servicemen not only strengthened interoperability, but also improved cohesiveness of both forces.

“We do Flash Piston exercise to build camaraderie with our counterparts here in the Philippines and to build capacity between ourselves and the NAVSOG. By working together, we exchange our tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Lt. Lowell Bruhn, who lead the Naval Special Warfare Unit 1 that joined the exercises.

According to Philippine Navy spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna, the Philippines and the US have been holding the Flash Piston exercise since 2008.

“To maximize the learning opportunity, more than 60 sailors from the PN participated in the exercise and 20 personnel from the US side,” Lincuna said.

During the first week of the exercise, participants from both nations exchanged their best practices on different topics on medical evacuation procedures, combat military marksmanship, and human rights training during a series of military seminars ashore, he said.

The second week focused on maritime interdiction operation activities, like Visit Board Search and Seizure and Gas/Oil Platform operations and planning.

Joint naval exercises between the Philippines and US is just one of the many exercises that would be conducted under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement that allows US forces and war equipment to be stationed in the country.

The government sees Edca as a deterrent against China’s aggression in the West Philippines Sea where it has been reclaiming reefs.

MILF: BBL killed by House bosses

From The Standard (Feb 2): MILF: BBL killed by House bosses

THE Moro Islamic Liberation Front blamed House leaders Monday for their failure to pass the Palace-backed Bangsamoro Basic Law and said the lack of time was merely an excuse.

“Why did the leadership in the House allow the enemies of BBL to filibuster its passage?” the MILF said in a statement posted on its website, one day after the administration gave up on the law’s passage.

Without naming Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. or Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez who headed the ad hoc committee on the BBL, the MILF said “the man who was supposed to be the defender of the BBL in the… House was the one causing so much confusion, short of… open defiance.”
Disappointed. Members of the group 1Bangsa and other Moro chieftains express dismay over Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law during a media forum in Quezon City on Monday. Jansen Romero
The MILF also acknowledged the impact of public outrage over the killing of 44 Special Action Forces troopers in Mamasapano in January 2015, but said it should not have been branded a massacre, since the commandos were in combat, “ready to kill and be killed.”

The group also blamed sacked SAF commander Getulio Napeñas Jr. for violating the ceasefire between the rebels and the government, when he failed to coordinate the troop movement with the MILF.

“Nobody wanted the incident to happen, especially the MILF, but it happened. This is the reason the MILF, without distinction, expressed deep sympathy and condolence to all those who have fallen in Mamasapano on that fateful day of January 2015,” the MILF said.

“There are countless exceptions, but generally Filipinos are not ready for reconciliation. Congress had just shown it.”

The MILF made clear it did not blame President Benigno Aquino III, who pushed for the passage of the BBL. It also praised the efforts of Muslim lawmakers, particularly Deputy Speaker Pangalian Balindong, and Reps. Tupay Loong, and Bai Sandra Sema.

Opposition lawmakers, on the other hand, said the administration had nobody else to blame but itself for the failure to pass a meaningful peace agreement with the Muslim rebels.

“The failure to pass a meaningful basic law was killed by President Aquino when he allowed the installment… emasculation by his allies of the original basic law submitted by the drafting commission,” said Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate.

Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, on the other hand, said the negotiating panels were to blame.

“If the negotiating panels from the government and the MILF submitted to Congress a perfectly legal peace document, then it would be easy for Congress to work on this,” he said.

Parañaque Rep. Gus Tambunting defended Belmonte, saying it was unfair to blame him for the failure to pass the BBL.

“The Speaker did his best,” he said.

Earlier, Belmonte  admitted that the BBL had no chance of being passed in the 16th Congress.

 “[There is no] question that it won’t become a law even if we pass our version, [because] the Senate has not been acting on it,” Belmonte said.

 BBL advocates in the House such as Balindong said Congress wasted too much time, and admitted that he was no longer hopeful that the bill would pass with only two session days left.

The BBL, the lynchpin in the government’s peace accord with the MILF, was supposed to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with a new Bangsamoro region with more autonomy.

The proposed BBL, if passed into law, shall abolish the current ARMM by creating a new Bangsamoro region which will be given additional autonomy.

But lawmakers objected to provisions that they said were unconstitutional, and efforts to pass the bill were derailed by the Mamasapano massacre.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said even if this Congress does not pass the BBL, the peace agreement is not dead.

“I think it is to the national interest that whoever is the next president should pursue the peace process,” he said Monday.

The BBL, he said, should be filed again in the 17th Congress.

The Palace said the government is continuing to strengthen the mechanisms for a peaceful transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the non-passage of the BBL meant the rebels would not surrender their weapons under the provisions of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

“So what we are doing is strengthening the mechanisms for the peaceful transition from the ARMM to the Bangsamoro, which is the core of roadmap for the full settlement of the armed conflict,” Coloma said.

The government’s chief peace negotiator admitted Sunday that the Bangsamoro Basic Law was dead and urged the next administration to pick up where the Aquino administration left off.

In an interview over radio dzBB, Miriam Coronel Ferrer, who headed the peace negotiations with the MILF, said there was no hope that Congress would pass the Palace-backed BBL with a few session days left.

She also urged the MILF not to use its 10,000 firearms during the coming elections.

Trooper killed, another wounded in Sulu ambush

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Trooper killed, another wounded in Sulu ambush
Suspected members of the Abu Sayyaf's Ajang-Ajang Group shot and killed a trooper while seriously wounding another in Patikul, Sulu Monday morning.

The incident took place 10:30 a.m. at the vicinity of Barangay Anoling, Patikul, Sulu, said Western Mindanao Command spokesperson Major Filemon Tan.

He added the ambushed troopers were aboard a motorcycle at the time of the attack, both are members of the 1st Scout Ranger Battalion.

The fatality was identified only as a Sgt. Capistrano while the wounded trooper was a certain Cpl. Quijano.

Both men were headed back towards their base when six Ajang-Ajang members appeared out of nowhere and began firing on them.

Capistrano died on the spot while Quijano managed to return fire thus attracting the attention of patrolling military troops which prompted the withdrawal of the bandits.

The body of the slain trooper was immediately brought to the mortuary of Kutang Heneral Teodulfo Bautista in Jolo, Sulu.

Army's 3ID spokesman promoted

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 1): Army's 3ID spokesman promoted

The chief of the 3 rd Infantry Division Public Affairs Office, Maj. Ray Tiongson, has been promoted to lieutenant colonel, recently.

The promotion of Tiongson, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1997, was effective December 1 last year. He has been assigned as a member of the Philippine contingent to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Syria.

Tiongson was recently cited by the Philippine Information Agency as the best performing information officer for 2015 in Western Visayas.

He has been serving as 3ID spokesman for more than two years now.

Feature: BBL remains tool for lasting peace in Mindanao

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 1): Feature: BBL remains tool for lasting peace in Mindanao

To government lawyer Beatriz Bayot, of the Office of the Solicitor General and member of the legal team assisting the peace panel since 2010, hopes remain high that the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will pave the way to achieving the Bangsamoro peoples’ right to identity and territory under a meaningful autonomy in Mindanao.

The BBL remains pending at the Senate while the House of Representatives has yet to approve the bill. Congress is set to adjourn on February 5.

“Patuloy pa rin ang commitment ng pamahalaan at maging ng Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to pursue a meaningful autonomy in Mindanao and regardless of the few months will bring, ipu-pursue natin yan in a peaceful democratic manner,” said Bayot.

According to Bayot, the BBL’s creation was based on Article X, Section 15 of the Philippine Constitution, which states that there shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures.

“The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region,” she said.

The BBL seeks to establish a political entity, provides for its basic structure of government in recognition of the justness and legitimacy of the cause of the Bangsamoro people and their aspiration to chart their political future through a democratic process that will secure their identity and posterity and allow for meaningful self-governance.

“Hindi po option sa atin ang bumalik sa gyera dahil malaki po ang nagagastos ng gobyerno sa pang-araw-araw na gyera pero bukod dito, bilangin na lang po natin kung ilan ang namamatay both on the MILF side and on the government side as well,” she said.

Bayot added: “If we feel terrible of our fallen officers, I think we should also feel terrible for the civilians who were caught in the crossfire.”

“Kailangan natin talagang kumapit dito, kasi ito’y isang measure na hindi pwedeng hindi maipasa dahil talagang decades, if not centuries, nang naghihintay ang ating mga kapatid na Bangsamoro para maisakatuparan nila ang kanilang minimithi na right to self-determination,” Bayot said.

Army commits to strengthen partnership with Dgte media

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 2): Army commits to strengthen partnership with Dgte media

The commanding officer of the 303rd Infantry Brigade (IB) of the Philippine Army (PA) based in Negros Island vowed to strengthen the partnership with the local media for timely and accurate dissemination of information.

Col. Francisco Delfin, commander of the 303rd IB, spoke with the media here in a fellowship event held January 29 in Sibulan town.

In his message to the media, Delfin said he already established a Public Information Office (PIO) which they can get in touch with for any information they would like to get from the Army.

He also assured that the information that will be released by the PIO are verified and true.

“I will see to it that the information that will go to you are very timely, genuine, truthful with documents to support it,” Col. Delfin emphasized.

The Commanding Officer also underscored the importance of the Army’s ties with the media in promoting the campaign for peace.

On the other hand, Dumaguete Press Club President Juancho Gallarde also gave a short message during the event.

He reiterated the support of the local media for the cause of peace during the activity and expressed some ideas that the Army can use for faster information dissemination like text blasts.

“What we want in the media is that we are informed immediately if there is an incident or encounter in the hinterlands. We want to get reports coming from your end,” he said.

In response, Delfin noted that he welcomes ideas from the media.

To recall, Negros Oriental has been put under the jurisdiction of the 303rd IB after troops from the 302nd IB of Philippine Army were pulled out from the province in November last year for deployment in Bohol.