Tuesday, February 2, 2016

BBL death brings hope to MNLF agreements

From the Philippine Star (Feb 3): BBL death brings hope to MNLF agreements

An official of the Moro National Liberation Front has welcomed the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), saying it saved the peace agreement between the government and the MNLF that was signed in Tripoli, Libya in 1976.

“What saves the situation is the death of the BBL. Had the BBL gone through Congress and the Senate and become a law, wala na talaga ang MNLF,” said Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council (ICC).

Hashim claimed that the government violated the Tripoli agreement and the 1996 final peace accords when it signed the framework and comprehensive agreement of the Bangsamoro – blueprint of the BBL – with the MNLF’s rival faction, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

He said the intention was really to erase MNLF and to abrogate the 1976 Tripoli accord.

“So they failed to do that, they have no other choice but to go back to the legal, internationally recognized agreements – the 1996 final peace agreement and the 1976 Tripoli Accord,” Hashim said.

Hashim, who attended the 5th Tripartite Ministerial meeting last week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia between the Philippine government, MNLF and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said the meeting was an indication that the government was going back to deal with the MNLF.

The 5th Tripartite Ministerial meeting saw the conclusion of the tripartite review on the implementation of the MNLF 1996 final peace accord, paving the way for the implementation of four consensus points.

The agreement includes the establishment of the Bangsamoro Development Assistance Fund (BDAF) 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 the Organic Act for the continuation of its devolution process.

Also discussed were the participation of the MNLF in the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) of the envisioned Bangsamoro parliament and the creation of the Tripartite Implementation Monitoring Committee (TIMC), a body that will oversee the implementation of all points of consensus arrived at by the TRP.

The communiqué was signed by Undersecretary Jose Lorena for the Philippine government, and 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 OIC.

Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and Samsula Adju of the MNLF signed as witnesses.


Army honors soldier injured in encounter

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 3): Army honors soldier injured in encounter

The Army's 3rd Infantry Division commended a soldier, who was injured during an encounter with suspected New People's Army rebels linked to the killing of an unarmed member of a Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit in Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental, recently.

Private First Class Ronald Dejilla, a member of the 11 th Infantry Battalion, was conferred the Wounded Personnel Medal by Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros, 3ID commander, at Camp Peralta Station Hospital in Jamindan, Capiz.

The medal   is awarded to members and civilians employed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, who got injured in combat with enemy of the state.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Gayas, 3rd Civil Military Operations Battalion chief, said Dejilla is just one of the dedicated soldiers of the 3ID who continue to secure and protect the populace from lawless elements .

Gayas said the 3ID leadership also ensures that the sacrifices of its personnel are recognized and the wounded is given the best medical care.

Dejilla and his colleagues figured in an encounter with NPA rebels who had killed CAFGU member Uldarico Lumahan Jan. 16 in Himamaylan City.


3ID ‘Transformation Roadmap' supporters recognized

From the Visayan Daily Star (Feb 3): 3ID ‘Transformation Roadmap' supporters recognized

Members of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division Multi-Sector Advisory Board were given recognition Monday for their continued support in promoting continuity, sustainability and shared responsibility for the 3ID Transformation Roadmap.

Brig. Gen. Harold Cabreros, 3ID commander, awarded the certificate of recognition to Dr. Julius Drilon, chief of the Corazon Locsin Montelibano Memorial Regional Hospital in Bacolod City, Roberto Montelibano of PRISM Export Inc., Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas, Dr. Luis Sorolla Jr., president of West Visayas State University, Isabel Grace Villegas - president/founder of Kayang Kayang Mission International, Ana Burgos - director of the National Commission on Indigenous People Region 6, John Patrick Onggao - youth representative for Region 6, Toni June Tamayo - director of TESDA Region 6, Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco, and German Dollete of the Office of Disaster Coordinator, West Visayas University.

Lt. Col. Rey Tiongson, 3ID spokesman, said that Cabreros thanked the MSAB members for encouraging the concept of shared responsibility in good governance, fostering continuity of policies and programs, providing expert opinion and advice on program execution, and helping generate additional resources that contributed to the attainment of the goals of the 3ID Transformation Roadmap.

The 3ID MSAB was organized September 9, 2014, with Treñas as its chairman and with members from key sectors of society in Western Visayas and the Negros Island Region.

Since it was organized, Tiongson said the 3ID MSAB held four meetings that resulted to the formulation and realization of projects, such as the donation of an ambulance to Camp Peralta Station Hospital, conduct of two batches of Computer Hardware Servicing NC II trainings to 3ID personnel and dependents, developing a Performance Survey on 3ID by external stakeholders through the academe (West Visayas State University), and the donation of 32 fishing boats to victims of typhoon Yolanda in Iloilo.


Philippine vice presidential candidate escapes car bombing

From the Mindanao Examiner (Feb 2): Philippine vice presidential candidate escapes car bombing

TACURONG CITY – A car bomb exploded on Tuesday afternoon in the southern Philippine city of Tacurong after the convoy of vice presidential candidate Leni Robredo passed near the area – at least 3 people were injured in the blast.

The car was parked near a gas station along Jose Abad Santos Street when it exploded. It was not immediately known whether Robredo was the target of the bombing or not, but the politician was there to campaign ahead of the May national elections.

The bombing occurred just when the locals were celebrating the Catholic feast of Nuestra Señ0ra dela Candelaria, according to Captain Jo-ann Petinglay, a spokeswoman for the 6th Infantry Division.

She also identified the wounded as Freddie Tumindig, 42; Nicole Fobar, 19; and Patrick Pepito, who were all rushed to Quijano Hospital. “The incident is now under investigation by the police and military ordnance division teams and forensic experts,” she told the regional newspaper Mindanao Examiner.

A stringer for the Mindanao Examiner who was in the area said Robredo’s convoy passed just 50 meters away from the car before the explosion.

No individual or group claimed responsibility for the bombing, but it also coincided with the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) which would have given the Muslims an expanded autonomy in the restive region where security forces are battling jihadists and insurgents.

President Benigno Aquino blamed lawmakers for the failure of the BBL, an offshoot of the peace agreement the government signed with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels in 2014.

The MILF has repeatedly warned that violence may erupt if Congress fails to pass the proposed laws that would guide the Muslims in the new autonomous region.

Just in December, MILF rebels – despite the peace deal – attacked civilians and killed at least a dozen of them in Tulunan town in North Cotabato province near Tacurong. The police said the violence was an offshoot of a long standing land conflict.

The MILF is pursuing a wider rule over the Muslim region, but lawmakers rejected the demand and said the BBL that will govern the areas is flawed and unconstitutional. The BBL is still pending in Congress with many lawmakers making sure that it would not pass legislation unless some of its controversial items are removed.

But the MILF, which still maintains its huge armaments and recruited far more members during the long peace talks, said it will not revisit the BBL and insisted on the original draft it submitted to Aquino.

However, many politicians and residents in the proposed expanded Muslim region also rejected the BBL and wanted out of the deal, citing various reasons and the failure of the Aquino government and peace negotiators from both sides to include recommendations submitted by the provinces in the autonomous region.

The BBL was drafted by the 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission appointed by the MILF and the Aquino government.

Last year, villagers in the town of Wao in Lanao del Sur, one of five provinces under the Muslim region, rejected the BBL, saying they do not want to be included in the new Bangsamoro territory.

Villagers said shortly after the peace deal was signed, several Muslim groups have emerged and started claiming farmlands owned by Christians as theirs and invoking their ancestral rights in Lanao del Sur.

Now, many residents have started arming themselves for protection fearing that once the new Bangsamoro autonomous government is installed, Muslims will take away their lands which they inherited from their clan. Majority of the town’s 40,000 inhabitants is Christians.

Some villagers said several groups of Maranao, one of several Muslim tribes in Mindanao, have started putting up markers and began claiming farmlands as their ancestral domain. The markers had been destroyed by landowners.

In Sultan Kudarat province, villagers in the town of President Quirino were also facing the same dilemma, but many also have purchased illegal weapons to protect their families and lands from unjustified takeover by Muslims who warned them that they should leave the town immediately once the Bangsamoro autonomous region is installed because they would take over their farms.

Leaders of Zamboanga City and Isabela City in Basilan, also a province under the Muslim autonomous region, also vowed to fight for their inclusion in the new Bangsamoro homeland, although many of the residents there are Muslims and supportive of the peace deal.

Should Congress have approved the creation of new Bangsamoro region, it would have to be decided on a referendum in the autonomous region and in areas where there are large Muslim communities. The new Bangsamoro region will replace the current Muslim autonomous region that has suffered from decades of poverty, corruption, and conflict.

The mineral-rich region of Mindanao, once under the powerful rule of the sultans, is now home to minority Muslims – about 4 million from the region’s 18 million mostly Christian inhabitants.

The MILF – a breakaway faction of the Moro National Liberation Front which signed a peace deal with Manila in September 1996 – had fought fiercely for decades for self-determination and had been accused of terrorism in the past and coddled Malaysian and Indonesian jihadists.


NPA takes responsibility for attacks on Bukidnon plantations

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 2): NPA takes responsibility for attacks on Bukidnon plantations

The communists New People’s Army (NPA) has issued a warning to multi-national companies operating in the province of Bukidnon about the “destructive” expansion of plantation areas for bananas and pineapples, saying that more attacks will be carried out by the rebels in the future.

The series of NPA-led attacks in several banana and pineapple plantations in Bukidnon late in January this year was carried out to warn multinational companies of their destructive expansions in the area,” said Allan Juanito, spokesperson of the rebels in North Central Mindanao Region in a statement to the media here.

Juanito pointed out that for every hectare bulldozed by the said companies more than 150 tons or 70 dump trucks of soil were being 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,” he added.

3 hurt in Tacurong City bomb blast

From GMA News (Feb 2): 3 hurt in Tacurong City bomb blast

Three people were hurt when a roadside bomb went off in Tacurong City, Sultan Kudarat at past noon Tuesday.

Tacurong City police director Superintendent Ranie Hachuela said an improsived explosive device went off along Jose Abad Santos Street, at least 100 meters away from the national highway, at around 12:30 p.m.

Hachuela identified the victims as Fredie Tuminding, Patricio Pepito and Nicole Cobar. They sustained minor injuries, he added.

The police official also said that a box-type Toyota was damaged in the blast.

He said that bomb experts of the Philippine Army found wires and nails at the blast site.

Investigators have yet to determine which group who is behind the blast.


Army in Pangantucan at ‘lumad’ request

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 3): Army in Pangantucan at ‘lumad’ request

The Philippine Army expresses its dismay over Carlos Conde’s commentary titled, “Illegitimate encounters” (Opinion, 1/28/16). Conde identified a number of alleged human rights victims and said, “how and why they died depends on whose account you believe.”

We find it hard to believe that our soldiers ordered a group of people in Pangantucan, Bukidnon, who were preparing for lunch, to leave their hut, then “shot and killed” on the spot a 70-year-old grandfather who at that time was raising his hands.

The Philippine Army did a formal investigation on the issue; we were open to the public on this matter. The police did the same. The National Bureau of Investigation was also directed by the Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation. The Senate, as we all know, went to Mindanao, and did its own inquiry.

In the end, all evidence and accounts about the case revealed that there was really a legitimate encounter. This Conde did not mention.

If the results of the investigations gave us a reason to believe that Conde’s version of facts was true, then the Army could have acted differently. The Army has already put in place a number of “concrete steps” within our organization to address issues relative to human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law. In such issues, facts and evidence are needed, not elements of drama nor a story crafted from figments of someone’s imagination.

Conde cited abuses involving other lumad in Davao del Norte and Surigao del Sur, allegedly perpetrated by paramilitary forces. Again, Conde linked all these to the military; we vehemently deny this. What Conde forgot to mention was the possibility that these incidents happened because of cultural conflicts and, more importantly, that these “paramilitary forces” were organized by the lumad themselves to secure their communities against the New People’s Army. Without considering this possibility, Conde unfairly concluded that this is “reflects a deeply rooted culture of impunity for military abuses in the Philippines.”

Conde also wrote that there is “strong evidence” linking an Army soldier to the killing of Endric Calago, a leader of the leftist peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, and Rosalie Calago, a barangay health worker, in Negros Oriental sometime in May 2015. If only Conde did a simple online research on the issue, he would have learned that the Leonardo Panaligan Command of the NPA claimed responsibility in the killing of the Calago couple who had left the organization in frustration.

But Conde was right: The military “has a legal obligation to do better” in terms of addressing these issues. We would like to inform Conde: the Army aspire to achieve not just to do better but to do the best. In fact, the Army has already done a lot toward this end. Our records in the Commission on Human Rights, which are open to the public, can vouch for this.

Lastly, Conde was correct: The Army is still in Pangantucan, Bukidnon, staying in a multipurpose hall. The local authorities, tribal leaders and the majority of the community members gave us that area because they want the Army to stay. Only the NPA and their cohorts want us out of the place.


Promotion spurs Army reshuffle

From The Standard (Feb 3): Promotion spurs Army reshuffle

FORMER army spokesman and Armed Forces public affairs chief Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. has been promoted to the general staff of the Philippine Army as deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations (G7).

Burgos, the longest serving AFP Public Affairs Office chief having served five chief of staffs, replaced Col. Ramiro Manuel Rey who is being eyed to replace recently promoted Brig. Gen. Ronnie Evangelista, commander of the Special Forces Regiment.

Evangelista was one of the new brigadiers recently inducted by President Benigno Aquino III who is being groomed for a division command.

Aside from Evangelista, other officials promoted to the ranks of brigadier general and commodore were Captain Elson Aguilar, Colonel Cornelio Pelaez, Col. Florentino Rasco, Col. Danilo Chad Isleta, Col. Emmanuel Salamat, Capt. Ernesto Enriquez, Col. Francisco Carada, Col. Nicolas Parilla, Col. Joel Celino, Col. Laurcris Tumanda, Col. Frederick Evans Ramos, Col. Librado Moog, Capt. Virme Torralba, Col. Alan Arrojado, Col. Leoncio Cirunay Jr., Col. Emigdio Guevara Jr., Col. Arleen Gorreon, Col. Rafael Sera Jose, Col. Demy Tejares, Col. Rhoderick Parayno, Col. Raul Farnacio, Capt. Jande Francisco, Col. Maximo Ballesteros, Col. Romeo dela Cruz, Capt. Gaudencio Collado Jr., Capt. Robert Empedrad, Col. Avin Parreno, Capt. Rene Medina, Col. Diosdado Respecio, Col. Archimedes Viaje, Col. Harold Cabreros, Col. Noel Clement, Col. Alvin Francis Javier, and Col. Ronnie Evangelista.

The new brigadiers were inducted at Malacañang along with newly appointed military chief General Hernando Iriberri, Major Generals Ricardo Visaya, Eduardo Año, and Romeo Tanalgo who were promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General, and Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad, who was promoted to the rank of Vice Admiral.

Promoted to the ranks of Major General and Rear Admiral were Brigadier General Edmundo Pangilinan, Commodore Aurelio Rabusa, Jr., Brig. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar, Jr., Brig. Gen. Arnold Quiapo, Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra, Jr., Brig. Gen. Gerardo Barrientos, Jr., Brig. Gen. Rolando Picar, Brig. Gen. Angelito de Leon, Brig. Gen. Alexander Balutan, Brig. Gen. Andre Costales, Brig. Gen. Rodolfo Santiago, and Brig. Gen. Elmer Pabale.


Eight battalions being ranged against 200 Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf

From InterAksyon (Feb 2): Eight battalions being ranged against 200 Sulu-based Abu Sayyaf

An almost division-size fighting force composed of five Army battalions, including elite forces from the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and three Marine battalions are mobilized to go after an estimated 200 fighters of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Sulu.

A battalion is composed of 450 to 500 soldiers, and a division is typically comprised of three brigades having three battalions each.

Meanwhile, a member of the 1st Special Forces Battalion (SFB) was killed when armed men ambushed a group of soldiers Tuesday in Barangay Anoling, Patikul, Sulu.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), said the soldiers were in civilian attire conducting an intelligence operation when fired upon by the suspected terrorists.

Tan said the soldiers fought back, but one of them died during the firefight, and the outnumbered troopers were saved by a convoy of tank reinforcement.

As this developed, Brigadier General Alan Arrojado, commander of the Joint Task Group Sulu, said Marine Battalion Landing Team 2 had just been replaced by MBLT1 as the government forces continued battling the terrorists in the hinterlands of Talipao town.

"The officers and men of MBLT1 had just finished their retraining and were ready for deployment again in Sulu. They will replace MBLT2, which will also undergo retraining for months, maybe a year or so, before they are deployed again for combat missions," Arrojado said.

Navy spokesman Captain Lued Lincuna said MBLT1 is led by Colonel Noel Beleran. The command is deployed under the operational command of Arrojado.

Lincuna explained that the replacement and retraining of combat personnel is part of the military's development of doctrines, education and training, and operational requirements.

Earlier, AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hernando Iriberri directed the operational and ground commanders having jurisdiction in Sulu and Basilan to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf before President Benigno Aquino's term ends.

Iriberri is set to reach his mandatory retirement age of 56 in April and the talk going around is that he would not get an extension from Aquino.

"We'll try our best to accomplish our mission, we'll give it our best effort. There is nothing to do but carry it out," Arrojado said.

The military estimates there are also some 200 Abu Sayyaf fighters operating in Basilan.

According to the latest data of the military, 10 kidnap victims, including foreigners, remain in the hands of the terrorists.

Tan said Westmincom is set to "reorganize" its forces to better match operational requirements.
"The command is bent on quashing the Abu Sayyaf," Tan said.


MILF eyed in Sultan Kudarat explosion

From The Standard (Feb 3): MILF eyed in Sultan Kudarat explosion

TWO people were wounded after a bomb planted in a private vehicle in Sultan Kudarat went off, in an attack that appeared to be carried out by members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in response to the failure of Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law.

The blast came as the military deployed more ground troops in several areas of Mindanao, particularly Sulu, in preparation for any eventualities after the BBL—the lynchpin in the government’s peace pact with the MILF—failed to win passage in Congress.

A security expert said he had received reliable reports that the MILF was preparing for a possible all-out war against government forces.

“The MILF faction led by Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo, who had an autonomous leadership within the MILF, was monitored to be preparing extensively and massing up,” the security expert, who asked to remain anonymous, said.

 The bombing, he said could be the start of a bigger series of actions that could affect the peace and order situation in the region.

“Because of the non-passage of the BBL, there will be a renewed tension in the region,” he said.

MILF chairman Al-Hajj Murad Ebrahim and chief peace negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, along with the head of the government’s negotiating panel, had earlier said that the failure to pass the BBL would change the peace and order landscape in Mindanao.

The bomb went off in a vacant lot near Jose Abad Santos Street in Barangay Poblacion, Tacurong City, wounding three bystanders, days after reports that the MILF have started to mass up in Central Mindanao.

Capt. Jo-Ann Petinglay, public affairs officer of the Army’s 6th Infantry Division, said the explosive device packed with concrete nails and metal fragments was placed in the bumper of a black Toyota car.

The wounded were identified as Freddie Tumindig, 42; Patrick Pepito; and Cicole Fobar, 19, who were brought to Quijano and Sandig Hospital for treatment.
Military and police teams were investigating the incident.

Commander Bravo has been blamed for the series of attacks in Lanao province after the Supreme Court rejected the passage of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain during the administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008.

However, Bravo supported the signing of the peace agreement between the government and the MILF on Oct. 12, 2012.

“It is Bravo who initiated the series of attacks in Lanao province and in Cagayan de Oro City after the scrapping of MOA-AD and it’s highly possible that Bravo may be taking the initiative again,” the security expert said, adding that the MILF leadership could not control the actions of Bravo.

He said the presence of five Indonesian jihadists in Lanao province could aggravate the situation, since some of Bravo’s fighters have links with jihadist groups.

An additional Marine battalion was mobilized in Sulu as part of the government’s bigger preparations for possible flare-ups after the BBL’s collapse.

Five Army battalions including elite forces from the Special Operations Command and three Marine battalions are currently deployed to go after an estimated 200 fighters of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu.

A member of the 1st  Special Forces Battalion was killed when armed men ambushed a group of soldiers in Barangay Anoling, Patikul, Sulu  on Tuesday.

Maj. Filemon Tan, spokesman of the Western Mindanao Command, said the soldiers who were in civilian clothes conducting an intelligence operation when fired upon by suspected terrorists.

Tan said the soldiers fought back but one of them died during the firefight and the outnumbered troopers were saved by a convoy of tanks.

Earlier, military chief Gen. Hernando Irriberi urged the operational and ground commanders having jurisdiction in Sulu and Basilan to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf before President Benigno Aquino’s term ends.

Irriberi is set to reach his mandatory retirement age of 56 in April. The military estimates some 200 Abu Sayyaf operating in Basilan.

They are said to be holding 10 civilians—including foreigners—hostage.


JICA-backed plan sets projects for Mindanao's peace, development

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): JICA-backed plan sets projects for Mindanao's peace, development

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) outlined 26 anchor projects for peace and development in Mindanao under the final draft of the proposed Bangsamoro Development Plan (BDP) 2 or the Medium- to Long-Term Development Plan.

The Development Plan is among components of JICA’s Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for the Bangsamoro and is meant to act as useful reference or guide for the future development undertaking not just in the proposed Bangsamoro area but also in other Mindanao regions.

This week, BDA and the JICA study team presented the final draft to local and international stakeholders at a seminar in Manila.

“Regardless of the outcome of the peace process, JICA assures strong support and committed assistance towards achieving peace and development in the Mindanao region,” said JICA Chief Representative Noriaki Niwa.

Through BDP 2, JICA looks 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.

Taking off from the BDP 1 Study prepared for the transitional period, BDP 2 identified anchor projects including support for agricultural cooperatives; road rehabilitation and upgrading; ports and airport improvement; Greater Cotabato City urban infrastructure; communal irrigation; economic corridor development; economic zones; abaca, coco coir and sugar industrial cluster development; agri-based projects (goat farming, mixed field crops); seed production center; halal industry promotion; open market; cold chain facilities; community-based forest and coastal management; mini hydro-power development as well as Mindanao river basin integrated watershed and flood management projects.

Such projects derive from the 16 programs in BDP 2 within 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 noted consultations with Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Regional Government, Mindanao Development Authority (MINDA) and existing government set-up of ARMM will help ensure effective and sustainable implementation of development projects.

BDP 2 aims to create 550,000 additional jobs in Mindanao by 2022 and a 7.4 percent annual GDP.

Japan is a strategic development partner of the Philippines.

Through JICA, Japan has been supporting the peace and development process in the region since 2002 with assistance to the ARMM Social Fund for Peace and Development.

Since then, Japan’s official development assistance to Mindanao totaled some 15.1 billion yen.


4th ID troops pursuing NPA band who gutted 2 sprayer trucks in Bukidnon

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): 4th ID troops pursuing NPA band who gutted 2 sprayer trucks in Bukidnon

Troopers from the 4th Infantry Division are now pursuing the New People's Army (NPA) bandits who torched two sprayer trucks in Malaybalay City, Bukidnon ON Feb. 1 and 2.

The first incident took place 1 a.m. ON Feb. 1 in Sitio Gabunan, Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay City.

Torched was a boom sprayer truck owned by the DOLE Company Banana Plantation.

The second incident took place 4 a.m. in the Alquino Area, Barangay Barobo, Valencia City.

Destroyed was another sprayer truck, this time owned by the SUMIFRU Company.

The two incidents shows lack of NPA respect for the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect to Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL), said 4th Infantry Division Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez.

It can be recalled that the CARHRIHL was agreed upon and was signed by Government of the Philippines and National Democratic Front of the Philippines March 16, 1998 in The Hague, The Netherlands.

Col. Jesse Alvarez, 403rd Infantry Brigade commander, stressed that for the past few week, the NPAs have deliberately carried out attacks against civilian populace.

He said, “NPA bandits violated Part 4, Section 4, Article 4 of the CARHRIHL which clearly states that civilian population and together with their property shall not be the object of attack. They shall likewise be protected against arson, strafing, and other similar forms of destroying lives and property.”

In addition to this, the NPA also violated Article 52, Protocol 1 of the Geneva Convention which is the protection of objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops, livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works, for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the civilian population or to the adverse party, whatever the motive, whether in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any other motive.


PN deploys MBLT-1 to Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): PN deploys MBLT-1 to Sulu

The Philippine Navy (PN) has deployed its Marine Landing Battalion Landing Team-1 (MBLT-1) to replace MBLT-2 in Talipao, Sulu.

This was confirmed by PN spokesperson Col. Edgard Arevalo Tuesday.

MBLT-1's sendoff took place Monday at the Marine Base in Cavite City.

"They will be relieving (the) MBLT-2, its part of a regular retraining process, all battalions should be rotated every year but sometimes it is not done due to operational requirements. We rotate battalions because we need to retrain, refresh, and refurbish for future deployments," he added.

Each MBLT consists of 450 to 500 officers and enlisted personnel.

Upon its arrival in Talipao, Sulu on Sunday, MBLT-1 will be use in the ongoing operations to neutralize the Abu Sayyaf and other lawless elements in the province.


Philippine Army vows to keep Luzon provinces insurgent free

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Philippine Army vows to keep Luzon provinces insurgent free

The Philippine Army’s 56th Infantry “Tatag” Battalion based in Barangay Calabuanan here has vowed to maintain the provinces of Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela and Nueva Ecija free from insurgents.

“We pledge to intensify our efforts and our commitment to maintain insurgency free the areas not only in Aurora but also in areas we have operations,” Lt. Col. Joey Escanillas, battalion commander of the PA’s 56th Infantry “Tatag” Battalion.

Escanillas said that after they attained peace, their thrust has shifted from counter-insurgency efforts to the implementation of development projects through the Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) called “Bayanihan.”

”We will continue our support operations, particularly in the aspect of development through intensified coordination with the local government units (LGUs) and other government agencies,” he said.

Last year, he said they conducted book giving activities as sponsored by Rex Bookstore Incorporated in 15 elementary schools and two high schools in Aurora where a total of 6,870 assorted books were distributed.

The battalion commander also recalled that during typhoons Lando and Nona, their teams helped in the disaster relief and rescue operations in Aurora and Nueva Vizcaya.

“We also conducted Brigada Eskwela in 43 schools in this province; 12 schools in Quirino province and 11 schools in Nueva Vizcaya,” he said.

He also said that they conducted medical, dental, ophthalmic mission as well as free haircut that benefited some 3,161 residents in Aurora and Quirino.

Likewise, Escanillas said that the relentless campaign against illegal logging last year has led to the confiscation of illegally cut lumbers with 17,849 board feet in Aurora; 15,216 board feet in Quirino and 500 board feet in Nueva Vizcaya.

“The series of operation became fruitful with the help of our partners from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources(DENR), police, local government units and other sectors who are united in pursuing anti-illegal logging campaign,” he said.

“We also urged our soldiers to donate blood for sick person and for their comrades who are in need of blood,” he said.

Other Bayanihan activities that the Philippine Army conducted include cleanliness drive, tree planting activities, feeding program.

“These are all part of our Bayanihan. We will continue to strengthen our partnership to sustain what we have achieved and strive even further towards peace and development,” Escanillas added.


Troops intercept boat loaded with smuggled goods in Sulu

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Troops intercept boat loaded with smuggled goods in Sulu

The naval component of the Joint Task Group Sulu (JTGS) on Tuesday intercepted and apprehended a wooden-hulled vessel loaded with smuggled goods off the coast of Pangutaran, Sulu.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, JTGS commander, said the vessel, M/L Rossada V, was intercepted around 7:20 a.m. Tuesday at 6.1 nautical miles northwest of Panducan Island, Pangutaran, Sulu.

Arrojado said the Navy personnel aboard Patrol Gunboat-395 (PG-395) were on seaborne patrol in the vicinity 4.7 nautical miles southeast of Panducan Island when they monitored a “suspicious watercraft bound for Jolo.”

According to him, the PG-395 intercepted M/L Rossada which is loaded with undetermined amount of cargoes during an on-board inspection.

He said the PG-395 personnel coordinated with other law enforcement agencies and then brought the vessel to the Jolo pier for proper boarding proceedings and disposition.

He said the naval component of the JTGS is continuously conducting seaborne patrol to block the passage of lawless elements such as smugglers.


Army, police hunting down suspects in Tacurong blast

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Army, police hunting down suspects in Tacurong blast

Police and military authorities here are hunting down two men believed to have planted an improvised explosive device at a parked car along a busy street here Tuesday afternoon.

"Manhunt is on going, we are following many leads," said Supt. Ranie Hachuela, chief of the Tacurong City police director.

The blast which occurred at past 2 p.m. injured three children who happened to be near a parked Toyota BB car in front of La Forteza Pharmacy and Caltex Gas Station along Jose Abad Santos Avenue.

Slightly injured were Freddie Tumindig, 42, Nicole Fobar, 19 and a 9-year-old boy.

The IED was fashioned from explosive charges with nails and fragments of metal used as shrapnel, according to Army bomb experts from Task Force Talakudong, a joint police and military unit task to secure the city and its environs.

Capt. Joann Petinglay, speaking for the 6th Infantry Division, said the Army's 602nd Infantry Brigade investigators are helping the local police.

Following the incident, police and Army checkpoints were put up in all entry and exit points of the city serving as crossroads to Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.

The IED was cellphone-detonated similar to an IED found at a bus terminal in Shariff Aguak on Thursday last week.

No one has claimed responsibility in Tacurong blast, the second this year.

On January 11, an alert fruit vendor prevented an IED blast when she reported her discovery to the local police who quickly deactivated the bomb.

Today's bomb and that of the January 11 incident was similar, investigators, said and could have been carried out by extortion groups.

Last Dec. 27, 2015, three persons were hurt when an IED fashioned from 60 mm mortar exploded at about 10 pm near the city's public market.


Suspects in Tacurong blast captured on CCTV, cops dig deeper

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): Suspects in Tacurong blast captured on CCTV, cops dig deeper

TACURONG CITY -- Police authorities here have identified the two men who allegedly planted an improvised explosive device (IED) under a parked car Tuesday afternoon that exploded at 2 p.m. and left three persons injured, officials said today.

Supt. Ranie Hacheula, Tacurong City PNP, said witnesses told police investigators that two men on a motorbike arrived and left something under the engine of Black Toyota BB car (Temporary Licensed plate 122-680) parked along Jose Abad Santos Avenue.

”Police are reviewing and studying the CCTV footage of an establishment nearby,” Hachuela said.

He refused to give further details in order not to jeopardize the follow up operations.

The blast hurt three persons, identified in the police reports as Pepito Patricio, Arniel Pawaon and Freddie Tumindig.

Hachuela said police investigators are still gathering more evidences and statements from witnesses who may have seen the suspects.

It was the second bombing incident near Caltex Gas Station since January 11 when an attempt was foiled by a fruit vendor who noticed a box near her stall.

That box turned out to be containing IED fashioned from black powder, triggering devices and cut nails as shrapnel.

The same composition that the bomb experts found in Tuesday’s bomb attack.

Hachuela has appealed to the public to remain vigilant and alert the police of any suspicious looking individuals with suspicious items with them.


Rebel leader surrenders in La Union

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): Rebel leader surrenders in La Union

CAMP DIEGO SILANG, La Union-- The government's anti-terrorism campaign scored a major victory when a high-ranking officer of the New People's Army (NPA) operating in the Ilocos and Cordillera regions surrendered on Monday.

Senior Supt Angelito Dumangeng, La Union Police director, identified the rebel leader as Manuel Arpid, alias "Ka Manuel", of Tinglayan, Kalinga province, who served as a political affairs officer of the rebel group.

Arpid also turned over to authorities an M14 U.S. rifle allegedly used by rebel snipers.

Dumangeg said the surrender of "Ka Manuel" was the result of intensified intelligence monitoring by joint operatives of La Union intelligence operatives, the Regional Intelligence Division, Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, and military units.

“The successful and non-violent means to win over our brothers to rejoin the society’s mainstream, is our earnest yearning for them to have healthier and better lives,” Dumangeng said.

Arpid called on his comrades to lay down their arms and live normal lives with their families.

The rebel returnee joined the NPA in 1980. His two-decade armed struggle caused a heavy toll on hishealth. He told reporters he wanted to recuperate and help his family, adding that what he did was a useless struggle.

Arpid was the third insurgent in La Union this year to return to the fold of the law after experiencing the harsh life in the mountains and eventually realizing that armed struggle would not bring them anywhere.

Under the Comprehensive Local Integration Program, a rebel returnee is entitled to receive financial support and other government assistance through the Department of Interior Local Government, Department of Social Welfare andDevelopment and their respective local government units.


DND chief to EMC troops: Remain apolitical in coming polls

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 3): DND chief to EMC troops: Remain apolitical in coming polls

Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Voltaire Gazmin reminded all officers and enlisted personnel of the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) to remain apolitical in the forthcoming May 9 elections.

Gazmin made the statement during his visit to the EMC in Panacan, Davao City on Tuesday.

“You have to remain apolitical and not get involved in any partisan political activity,” he added.

In the same vein, Gazmin also lauded all the officers, men and women of the EMC led by Major Gen. Rey Leonardo B. Guerrero for making huge steps in winning the peace in the region.

He also highlighted major acquisition in the ongoing military modernization program.

The DND chief's presence at EMC headquarters at Naval Station Felix Apolinario, Panacan, Davao City is part of his field visits to the unified commands to personally meet military field commanders and units and assess the security situation in the area.

SC junks with finality Laude family's bid to transfer Pemberton to regular local jail

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): SC junks with finality Laude family's bid to transfer Pemberton to regular local jail

The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday dismissed with finality the petition of the Laude family seeking the transfer of detention of United States Marines Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton to a local jail.

In a press conference, SC Public Information Office (PIO) Chief and Spokesman Atty. Theodore O. Te said that "the Court denied with finality the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners from the Court's Decision dated November 24, 2015 dismissing their Petition."

Pemberton was convicted of homicide by the Olongapo City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 74 for strangling to death Filipino transgender Jeffrey "Jennifer" Laude in Olongapo City on Oct. 11, 2014.

The petition was filed by Marilou S. Laude and Mesehilda S. Laude, Jennifer's mother and sister, respectively.

"Wherefore, premises considered, the Petition for Certiorari is dismissed for lack of grave abuse of discretion resulting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The prayer for the issuance of a writ of mandatory injunction is likewise denied for lack of merit," the SC ruled.

In dismissing the petition, the SC cited the petitioner's failure to comply with the three-day notice rule is unjustified.

It also cited the separate filing of the urgent motion to compel the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to surrender custody of accused to the Olongapo City Jail without the conformity of the public prosecutor is unjustified as every criminal case is filed in the name of the People of the Philippines, represented by the public prosecutors.

The SC noted that the petitioners have not shown any reason for exceptional treatment.

Likewise, the SC cited the petitioner's challenge to the constitutionality of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) is a collateral challenge which is not the "lis mota" in this case.


Military not to proceed with plans to cut AFP Museum's power supply

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 2): Military not to proceed with plans to cut AFP Museum's power supply

The Armed Forces of the Philippines will not go ahead with its plan to cut the power supply of the AFP Museum in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

"I coordinated with the AFP Headquarters Support Command head, Brig. Gen. Vicente Yordan, and the (power supply) disconnection will not proceed," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Noel Detoyato said in Filipino on Tuesday.

The AFP Museum was originally scheduled to have its power cut on Wednesday after racking up Php1.3 million arrears in its payments of electrical services.

Detoyato did not give reasons for the reprieve nor how long it would last.

"We are aware of the importance of the role of the AFP Museum and the foundation running it, that is why the Command is willing to sit down with them to jointly find a solution to alleviate the present situation," he said.

The AFP Museum's Php1.3-million worth of arrears started accumulating from November 2013 up to December 2015.

Originally, when the facility was established in 1996, there was a verbal agreement between military leaders then and founders of the museum that the AFP will be subsidizing the utilities.

Elizabeth Dapiton, AFP Museum administrator, said the agreement was inked during the time of AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Arturo Enrile.

"When the museum started way back in 1996, there was a verbal agreement that the AFP will be subsidizing the utilities of the museum. So it went on until late in 2013, to be specific in November, when they started billing the museum for our consumption of electricity," she added.

Since the AFP Museum was created not for profit, Dapiton said they are having a hard time to raise funds to pay for their day-to-day operations.

She added that the average monthly electrical consumption of the AFP Museum is Php40,000 to Php50,000.

Disconnection notices were served last Jan. 25, 27 and 29, with the AFP Museum being given five working days to come up with the payment.

"We really cannot pay... We only depend on the dividend income that we get from our capital endowment fund, and even when there are cash donations, those are geared for specific projects, for example, we do get our regular support from the Philippine Veterans Affairs Office but the funding that they give us is for a specific project," Dapiton pointed out.

Once the power supply is cut, there is danger that molds will start growing on the various uniforms and documents stored in the museum.

Dapiton said the Php20 fee they are charging from every visitor at the AFP Museum is not enough to bail them out.

Asked why the AFP started billing them in 2013, after more than 16 years of subsidizing their electrical bills, Dapiton said the military decided to consider them as "concessionaires" or "tenants."

"We’re using their place, we’re in their land, (and in return) we have to pay for the utilities," she added.

Although the facility is under the AFP Museum and Historical Library Foundation Inc., it is not under the AFP plantilla and could not get operating funds from the military.

"We are (acting as) the repository of the collections of the AFP, and in a way with their displays and exhibits here we are giving them a good image to the students, we’re marketing them to the students," Dapiton said.

The AFP Museum is home to pre-colonial, revolutionary and modern-day weapons, insignias, decorations and uniforms of the Filipino military. It is also host to various revolutionary letters and documents.