Saturday, February 20, 2016

DWDD: PMA CLASS 1994 GRADS II Assume Key Battalion Post in Sulu, Basilan

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Feb 17): PMA CLASS 1994 GRADS II Assume Key Battalion Post in Sulu, Basilan

SULU / BASILAN (DWDD) – In two consecutive days, four battalion commanders coming from the Philippine Military Academy’s Bantay-Laya class 1994 formally took over the leadership of key battalions in Sulu and Basilan, considered to be the most challenging and critical areas these days for military operations and combat missions.

In a Joint Change of Command Ceremony on Monday, February 15, 2016, Lt. Col. Ramon P. Flores formally assumed command of the 32nd Infantry Battalion upon relief of Lt. Col. Gregorio S. Nieveras, while Lt. Col. Vladimir Lenos T. Villanueva took over the leadership of the 35th Infantry Battalion from Lt. Col. Marces T. Gayat.

On February 16 in Tipo-Tipo, Basilan, Lt. Col. Julius A. Cabarloc assumed command of the 64th Infantry Battalion vice Lt. Col. Melisan Raymund N. Recaido. Immediately after, in Ungkaya Pukan, Basilan, Lt. Col. Ricardo M. Lucero assumed as commanding officer of the 18th Infantry Battalion upon relief of Lt. Col. Enerito D. Lebeco.

MGen. Gerardo F. Barrientos Jr., Commanding General, 1st Infantry Division and presiding officer of the ceremonies, said he personally handpicked the new battalion commanders from among many candidates.

“HIndi sila nag-volunteer dito. I have personally chosen them to lead these units. Matagal kong ni-research kung sino ang mga kukunin ko, the appropriate personalities. I can also assure local governments here that these people will be your partners in peace and development,” Major General Barrientos said. 1DPAO / MCAG


From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Feb 18): HOME OF JUNGLE FIGHTERS II VCSAFP visits H2ID for the 1st time

Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal — Lt Gen Romeo T Tanalgo AFP, Vice Chief of Staff, Armed Forces of the Philippines visited the Home of the Jungle Fighters for the first time on February 17, 2016.

Likewise, according to MGen Romeo G Gan AFP, Commander, 2ID, it is also the first time for the Jungle Fighters to host a Vice Chief of Staff, AFP.

The Jungle Fighters tendered a Battalion-size Military Honors to Lt Gen Tanalgo with Col Fernando V Felipe GSC (OS) PA, Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics, G4, 2ID as the Troop Commander.

As part of the activity during the visit of Lt Gen Tanalgo, Col Lenard T Agustin GSC (INF) PA presented a Unit Briefing at Sierra Madre Officers’ Club House (SMOCH) and apprised the visitor regarding the activities and programs of 2ID in ensuring peace and development within the 2ID’s Area of Responsibility (AOR).

The said briefing was immediately followed by a wind shield tour around Camp Capinpin, Tree Planting at Matikas Park, and “Talk to Jungle Fighters” at the Division Grandstand.

On his message, Lt Gen Tanalgo expressed his deepest gratitude for the warm welcome that the 2ID has given him. “I am really thankful and honored to be tendered with Honors by Officers and Personnel who wear the same uniform that my father used to wear before, “said Lt Gen Tanalgo.

Lt Gen Tanalgo, a member of PMA “Matikas” Class 1983 is a son of an Enlisted Personnel.

After the “Talk to Jungle Fighters,” Lt Gen Tanalgo enjoyed the Testimonial Funshoot at GENSAN Pistol Range, one among the many amenities inside Camp Capinpin.

DWDD: MODERNIZATION || AFP to receive P564-M worth of communication equipment

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Feb 19): MODERNIZATION || AFP to receive P564-M worth of communication equipment

Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, DWDD–The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is receiving an aid of $12 million or P564 million worth of tactical radios and intercom system as part of its communication modernization program.

According to the president of the Tactical Communications, Harris Communication Systems, Brendan O’Connell, the radios will provide the Philippine Army advancement on their command and control and will innovate their real-time situational awareness capabilities.

The Harris Corporation, an American communications firm said on their statement posted on their website that they have received the order that they will provide the radios according to the acquired budget.

Among the stated radios ordered by AFP are the tactical vehicular radios, intercom systems and handheld radios.

Other equipments that will be supplied by the Harris are the Light Armored Division of the Philippine Army with the Falcon RF-7800V Combat Net Radio integrated into the RF-7800I Intercom Systems.

O’Connel also said that they will secure the interoperability with more than 15,000 Harris Falcon radios presently fielded within the AFP.

This will be the latest improvement for the said communication international standardization program of the AFP with the help of the Harris Falcon. (LMC/DMC)

China told: Respect arbitral court or else

From Malaya Business Insight (Feb 19): China told: Respect arbitral court or else

The United States and the European Union warned China on Wednesday to respect an international court ruling expected later this year on its dispute with the Philippines over territory in the South China Sea – or face the costs.

China claims virtually all the South China Sea and rejects the authority of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague hearing the dispute, even though Beijing has ratified the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea on which the case is based.

Amy Searight, US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, said the United States, the European Union, and allies like Australia, Japan and South Korea must be ready to make clear that the court’s ruling must be binding and that there would be costs to China for not respecting it if it lost the case.

“We need to be ready to be very loud and vocal, in harmony together, standing behind the Philippines and the rest of the ASEAN claimants to say that this is international law, this is incredibly important, it is binding on all parties,” she told a seminar at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Searight said the message to China, if it did not respect a negative ruling, should be, “we will hold you accountable.”\

“Certainly, reputational cost is at stake, but we can think of other creative ways to perhaps impose costs as well,” she said without elaborating.

The Hague tribunal has no powers of enforcement and its rulings have been ignored before. Manila has said the court may hand down a ruling before May.

Klaus Botzet, head of the political section of the EU Delegation in Washington, said it is difficult to oppose world opinion.

“A joint Western, a joint world opinion, matters also for Beijing,” he said.

“If we unanimously support that international law as formulated by the international tribunal in the Hague ... needs to be upheld, that’s a very strong message and will be very difficult to ignore,” he said.

In unusually forthright language, Botzet said China’s policy of military buildup was not in its interest.

“It’s investing much more in its military relative to its economic growth; it’s forcing its neighbors into alliances against itself; positions its neighbors otherwise wouldn’t take and the return on investment on this policy is negative,” he said.

The United States had exceptional military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific, Botzet said, adding that the European Union “strongly supports the American guarantee of international law in Asia.”

The US Defense Department on Wednesday said commercial imagery indicated that China had deployed a surface-to-air missile system on Woody Island in the Paracels, and that the action was increasing tension in the South China Sea area.

The Pentagon urged all countries that have staked claims to disputed areas in the region to address their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law, and to commit to peacefully manage or resolve their disputes.

“We call on South China Sea claimants to publicly commit to a reciprocal halt to further land reclamation, construction of new facilities, and new militarization of disputed features,” said Navy Commander Bill Urban, a spokesman for the Pentagon.

Armed Forces of the Philippines Western Command chief Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez expressed concern that China may use the missiles to shoot down aircraft that will not respond to its warning against flying in a supposed Chinese territory.

“It has an impact. There is no reason to deploy them if you are not going use them. That’s one thing. It really impacts on the security of the region. If they have that there, they have the intention to use it,” said Lopez.

“What if they use them against civilian aircraft that ignores their challenge?” he asked.

At the opening of the Delhi Dialogue VIII on Wednesday, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa said there is no plan to jointly conduct patrols with the US in the South China Sea.

Wadhil told the delegation of the Asean-India Media Programme in Delhi that all parties should abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).

He added that a Code of Conduct must be developed by stakeholders, and that countries involved in the row should avoid using force and maintain the freedom of navigation in the area.

Fishermen recover US tracking gadget in Zambales waters

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 20): Fishermen recover US tracking gadget in Zambales waters

SUBIC, Zambales—Fishermen in this town recently found an oceanographic instrument believed to be owned by the United States Navy, according to a belated report.

The object bore the markings, “Naval Oceanographic Office USA,” and weighs about 40 kilograms, said fisherman Romy Abastillas, 54.

Abastillas said he and six other fishermen spotted the object, an electric glider, floating in the water on Feb.14 while he was fishing about 80 nautical miles from the disputed Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag Shoal).

The fishermen arrived here on Saturday (Feb. 20) after weeks of fishing in the open sea.

They turned over the object, about 1 foot in length and 10 inches in diameter, to the local police station here on Saturday afternoon.

The telephone number and e-mail address of US Naval Oceanographic Office were etched on one side of the object.

The glider also bore the name of the company, Teledyne Webb Research, that manufactures such instrument.

According to the website, Slocum gliders are used for “subsurface sampling.”

It further describes the object as “carrying a wide variety of sensors.” The site says the glider would be “programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, surfacing to transmit their data to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals, realizing a substantial cost savings compared to traditional surface ships.”

Rebels torch banana farm equipment

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): Rebels torch banana farm equipment

Suspected New People’s Army (NPA) guerrillas stormed a banana plantation and torched three mobile spray tankers in Surallah, South Cotabato on Thursday  night.

The rebels arrived at the equipment depot of the Sumifru plantation in Barangay Lamian at past 10 p.m., according to town police chief Inspector Joel Fuerte.

At gunpoint, the men ordered plantation workers to leave  before pouring gasoline on the equipment.

Fuerte said no one among the workers was harmed.

Kidnappers release 2 fishermen

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): Kidnappers release 2 fishermen

Two crewmembers of a fishing boat seized along with their captain in the waters off Basilan on Wednesday have been released by their kidnappers.

Reports said the kidnappers freed Romeo Rubio, 52, and Wenie Pandiag, 41, after learning that their families could not afford to pay ransom.

The kidnappers did not free boat captain Ronnie Bancale.

Rubio and Pandiag told Pitogo police chief Inspector Orlyn Leyte that they were freed on Wednesday. Their captors did not harm them.

They said the  kidnappers gave them money for their fare. They arrived in this city from Jolo on Thursday.

The victims took a passenger vehicle to Pitogo in Zamboanga del Sur to be reunited with their families.

Police said there was no report about Bancale.

The three were brought to Sulu by their captors, who initially demanded P500,000 ransom for each of the hostages.

The amount had been raised to P1 million.

Blasts topple wind farm towers

From the Philippine Star (Feb 20): Blasts topple wind farm towers

Two powerful explosions the other night destroyed at least two transmission towers of the Northern Luzon UPC Asia Corp., which operates part of the wind farms in Ilocos Norte.

Senior Superintendent Jose Melencio Nartatez Jr. of the Ilocos Norte police said investigators were still determining what caused the explosions.

The towers, each 100 meters high, transmit electricity from the Caparispisan Wind Farm in Pagudpud town. The farm is a $220-million joint venture of AC Energy Holdings, UPC Philippines Wind Holdco and Philippine Alliance for Infrastructure.

Virgilio Calimbas, barangay councilor of nearby Barangay San Juan, said the blasts were so loud.

Lilibeth Gaydowen, communication and public affairs officer of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, said NGCP power lines in the province were not affected.
UPC Asia had not given any statement as of last night.

SC junks Navy officers group’s claim over 47-hectare Fort Bonifacio property

From the Business Mirror (Feb 21): SC junks Navy officers group’s claim over 47-hectare Fort Bonifacio property

THE Supreme Court (SC) has denied with finality a motion for reconsideration by the Navy Officers’ Village Association Inc. (Novai) of the Court’s previous decision allowing the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) to take possession of the 47-hectare Novai property in Fort Bonifacio.
BCDA President Arnel Paciano D. Casanova lauded the Court for the favorable ruling that will benefit the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the national government. The Court’s Second Division denied with finality the Novai’s motion for reconsideration “with finality.”
A notice issued by the division reads: “Acting on petitioner’s motion for reconsideration of the decision dated 3 August 2015 which denied the petition for review on certiorari, the Court further resolves to deny the motion with finality, the basic issues raise therein having been duly considered and passed upon the Court in the aforesaid decision and no substantial argument having been adduced to warrant the reconsideration sought.”
“With the Supreme Court ruling, the BCDA can now proceed in disposing the 47-hectare property and generate billions of pesos to fund the Armed Forces Modernization Program and bankroll government programs and projects,” Casanova said.
He said the 475,009-square-meter Novai property is now estimated to be worth more than 47 billion, based on the current selling price of approximately P100,000 per sq m.
It would be recalled that Casanova had personally pursued the Novai case “with the help of honorable and professional officers of the Armed Forces and the Office of the Solicitor General.”
Novai is a group of retired military officers which claimed ownership of the disputed property located inside the former Fort Andres Bonifacio Military Reservation.
Casanova was general counsel for the BCDA when the latter filed a complaint in the court against military generals involved in illegal settlements inside military-reservation areas.
“Rampant land grabbing, where officers are involved, affects the morale of our soldiers, and eventually weakens our Armed Forces,” Casanova said.
“As early as 2004 and as general counsel then, I made a commitment to the Feliciano Commission that I will do my best to pursue the cases against Southside Homeowners Association [SHAI] and Novai, in spite of some generals who kept on dissuading us from doing so,” Casanova said, referring to the commission’s report that recommended legal action for the recovery of the Joint US Military Advisory Group area and Novai properties.
“My mission for the Feliciano Commission is now accomplished,” he added.

‘Bayanihan Teams’ deployed to Surigao Sur

From the Manila Times (Feb 20): ‘Bayanihan Teams’ deployed to Surigao Sur

THE Philippine Army’s 2nd Infantry Division (ID) based in Tanay, Rizal deployed a battalion of troops in Surigao del Sur to conduct needs assessment survey in the community in the hinterland province.

Captain Welmar Ladlad, 2nd ID Civil Military Operations Officer, said that Bayanihan Teams of 16th Infantry Battalion (IB) have specific assignments in the barangay of Pacuan and Mampi, both in Lanuza town.

The 16thIB is headed by Lt. Col. Andres Ferrer, were deployed on Friday.
“The core purpose of the said Bayanihan Team is to conduct needs and assessment survey through house-to-house visitations, face to face dialogues and small group discussions,” Ladlad said in a statement.

The Bayanihan Teams will also serve as bridge in the delivery of the LGU’s basic services in the villages – livelihood projects, medical services and infrastructure development.

“The primary issue in New People’s Army (NPA) affected areas shall be resolved thus creating an environment that is conducive to socio-economic political and cultural development free of NPA influence,” Ferrer said in the same statement.

PNP launches offensives vs NPAs in Negros Island

From the Manila Times (Feb 29): PNP launches offensives vs NPAs in Negros Island

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) launched counter-actions against the New People’s Army (NPA) in Negros Island following the killing of two policemen in a rebel ambush in Candoni town on Thursday.

PNP spokesman, Chief Supt. Wilben Mayor said Negros Island Police Regional Office is carrying out massive offensive operation against the communist rebels in coordination with Armed Forces (AFP) in the island.

The order, Mayor added, was also issued to all Police Regional Offices across the country that were reminded to be more vigilant against to further attacks by the rebels and other lawless elements.
“They were reminded to be more vigilant, enhance personal security and conduct preventive and proactive operations in coordination with AFP Units against the CPP/NPA, lawless elements and criminal groups to prevent similar incidents,” Mayor said.

Meanwhile, the PNP hierarchy offered sympathy to the families of Police Officer (PO) 3 Joe Harry Peralta and PO1 Henry Pacheco of Candoni Municipal Police Station (MPS) who died in the ambush.

The slain policemen will be accorded appropriate funeral honors befitting their heroism in the police service.

The victims were in the team led by Senior Insp. Varie Villanobos, Candoni police chief, that responded to a hacking incident when attacked by the NPA rebels.

Wounded in the ambush were PO2 Jay Arroyo and PO1 Modesto Bina, and a civilian identified as Rey Duales.

The ambush incident took place a few days after six policemen, who responded to a burning incident by NPA rebels, were also killed in an ambush in Baggao town, Cagayan.

NPA torches trucks

From the Mindanao Newbits section of the Manila Bulletin (Feb 21): NPA torches trucks

The New People’s Army has taken responsibility for the burning of  three trucks rented by a Japanese fruit firm to serve as water sprayers for its banana plantation in Surallah, South Cotabato last Friday.
In a statement sent to local media outlets, Ka Efren, the spokesperson of NPA-Far South Mindanao Region, admitted that local NPA guerillas were responsible for torching the trucks owned by JE Palermo Trucking Services which were contracted by Sumifro Corp. to serve as water sprinklers in its banana plantation in Barangay Lamian, Surallah.
Ka Efren said the burning incident was a gesture of the rebel group’s opposition to the operation of the company in the province for causing  environmental destruction brought about by the aerial spraying of pesticides on its banana plantation in the towns of Surallah, Banga and T’boli.

AFP concerned about increased NPA attacks in Compostela Valley

From the Manila Bulletin (Feb 20): AFP concerned about increased NPA attacks in Compostela Valley

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has expressed alarm over the increasing number of attacks launched by the New People’s Army (NPA) in Compostela Valley province in the month of January alone, with government security personnel and militia men as the main targets of such assaults, a senior military official recently told reporters here.

“The recent attacks by the NPAs in the provinces have become very alarming, particularly in Compostela Valley,” said Brig. General Ronnie Evangelista, deputy commander of the Eastern Mindanao Command (Eastmincom) of the AFP.

 Evangelista took note of the increased attacks launched by the NPAs liquidation squad that have already victimized members of the AFP, particularly the Army, police and Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU).

 The general added that, in Pantukan, Compostela Valley alone, the command was able to record around 20 killings that victimized government forces, police, and CAFGU since January.

The latest victim of the series of liquidations was a former officer of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Davao region (CIDG-11) identified as PO3 Mariano Tambis who was gunned down by unidentified assailants, believed to be members of the NPA in Mabini, Compostela Valley early this week.

 As such, Evangelista has called on government and police forces to be more vigilant and establish good relations with the people in communities and areas of assignment.

“Be extra careful and at the same time seek the support of the people through good relationships. This is not only the problem of the army, police and members of CAFGU but also of the country,” he added.

 Tenth Infantry (Agila) Division (10 ID) chief information officer Capt. Rhyan Batchar said the NPA offensives were part of “Oplan Jupiter” that was launched by the NPAs since January of this year.

 Batchar added that Oplan Jupiter involved sowing threat and actual execution of army personnel and other security forces in the area, including the members of law enforcement groups.

NPA attack stops irrigation project

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Feb 21): NPA attack stops irrigation project

The government suspended a P247-million irrigation project in Baggao town in Cagayan province after communist rebels attacked teams from the police and Army that killed six policemen and wounded 14 others on Feb. 16.

The suspension would affect farmers of nine villages in Baggao town, according to the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

The New People’s Army’s Henry Abraham Command claimed responsibility for the attack and burning of heavy equipment owned by Brostan Corp., which was contracted by the NIA to build an irrigation diversion dam and transbasin tunnels in Baggao.

According to the rebels’ statement, they were certain that the contractor was undertaking a mining operation, which, they said, would threaten the community’s water resources.

The police team had gone to Barangay Sta. Margarita in Baggao to check reports about the burning of government equipment by NPA rebels at the NIA project site.

The team fought the rebels for five hours, with the support of soldiers from the Army’s 17th Infantry Battalion.

“[Due to the attacks], the project has been delayed [although] there is a possibility that we would extend their contract to complete [the tunnels],” said Billy Tuazon, manager of the engineering and operations division of NIA-Cagayan Valley.

Deadline extensions

Brostan Corp., a construction firm led by the family of Santiago City Mayor Joseph Tan, had been granted two deadline extensions because of delays in the project at Sitio Ngarutngot in Barangay Sta. Margarita that had been attributed to the area’s “unworkable condition and unpassable road networks,” Tuazon said.

The project should have been finished on March 26 last year. The latest completion schedule would have been on May 6, but that may change after the rebels torched the firm’s two backhoes, two bulldozers, a dump truck and a pay loader.

Brostan Corp. won in 2013 the P247-million project contract, which called for the building of a 22-meter diversion dam as well as a 1.97-kilometer irrigation channel.

No raps filed vs. Viga resident over IEDs?

From the Catanduanes Tribune (Feb 21): No raps filed vs. Viga resident over IEDs?

As of presstime last week, the Viga police has yet to file formal charges against a resident of barangay Magsaysay who was allegedly caught in possession of three improvised explosive devices last month.

A source, however, claimed that the Catanduanes Police Provincial Office has already directed the Viga MPS to file the appropriate criminal charge against a certain Rodriguez.

According an unconfirmed account of his arrest, an Army patrol spotted several armed men near a nipa hut in sitio Karorongan, Magsaysay sometime in January.

However, spotters of the armed men believed to be members of the New People’s Army tipped off the group, which had already left by the time the government troopers reached the hut.

The soldiers, however, found in Rodriguez’s hut three IED devices, two of them weighing eight kilos and the other four kilos, contained in used paint cans, along with five blasting caps.

The suspect was arrested and brought to the Viga police station and subsequently to Camp Francisco Camacho.

But Rodriguez was reportedly released upon request of a top provincial official.

Then on Jan. 28 at 10:55 A.M., the Philippine Army’s 83rd Infantry Battalion reported that a communist plan to ambush policemen and soldiers conducting COMELEC checkpoints was fouled when the IED the guerillas allegedly planted at the side of the national road in Sagrada, Viga suddenly exploded.

No one was hurt while there was minimal damage to public infrastructure.

The responding soldiers found wires still buried in the earth near the site of the explosion.

In a hot pursuit operation following the Sagrada blast, Army soldiers led by Lt. Jomar Clavel recovered a box purportedly left behind by community guerillas in an abandoned hut in barangay Almojuela at 7:30 P.M.; that night.

The box contained subversive documents, including campaign materials, printed banners and a flash drive.

In a press release on their website, the 9th Infantry Division condemned the NPA for continuously using IEDs in violation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) provisions guaranteeing the security of civilians or non-combatants.

Certain police officers are allegedly dismayed by the failure of the Viga police to file charges against Rodriguez despite the evidence recovered and the subsequent explosion which could have resulted in casualties among checkpoint law enforcers.

The Tribune was not able to get a copy of the blotter report on the incidents at the Viga police station as the police officer on duty said his colleague who was in charge was not present that day.

The same reports were likewise not included in the summaries of incidents passed on by Camp Camacho to the local media.

It may be recalled that last November 2015, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) declared the security situation in Catanduanes as “Conflict Manageable and Ready for Development” and turned over to the provincial government the lead role in undertaking internal peace and security efforts.

The handover was formalized through a Memorandum of Agreement signed by Governor Araceli Wong and 9th Infantry Division commander Major General Yerson Depayso in a capitol ceremony in which AFP Chief of Staff General Gregorio Pio Catapang was present along with local political and religious leaders.

The Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) had earlier recommended the declaration due to the dwindling of the level of insurgency in the province in the past years as evidenced by the continuous decrease of their manpower, firearms, affected barangays and activities.

From more or less 200 members with 150 assorted firearms in the mid-90’s, the New People’s Army’s strength has been reduced to 27 personalities with 14 firearms, with all affected barangays cleared as of the 2nd quarter of 2014, the council reported.

Communist rebels urged: Stop waging war

From the Philippine Star (Feb 20): Communist rebels urged: Stop waging war

Government peace panel chairman Alexander Padilla yesterday urged communist rebels to stop waging war and instead seek ways to bring peace to the country.

Padilla criticized National Democratic Front (NDF) panel chairman Luis Jalandoni for telling half-truths to cover up atrocities of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Padilla denied Jalandoni’s claims that President Aquino snubbed a signed peace agreement with communist rebels in 2014.

“There was no peace deal,” he said.

Padilla said innocent civilians in communities are the ones directly suffering from the attacks of the New People’s Army.

“Instead of continuing to wage armed conflict against our democracy, the CPP/NPA/NDF must seek ways to deliver peace, especially to the communities on the ground that have been sorely affected by their armed struggle,” he said.

Padilla challenged the NDF to go beyond its usual practice of making unreasonable demands then putting the blame on the government for the failure to resume peace talks.

“It is high time for the CPP/NPA/NDF to change its tactic of making impossible demands and blaming the government for the failure to resume peace talks,” he said.

“They have used this tired old rhetoric to cover up for their continuing violence on the ground and their strategy to use the peace process to get as many concessions as they can from government without giving anything in return.”

Padilla said Jalandoni is not telling the whole story.

“What Mr. Jalandoni is referring to was not an agreement,” he said.

“In December 2014, there were reports of peace talks resuming between the government of the Philippines and the NDF. We clarified then that what was happening was, a group of private individuals we consider ‘friends of the process’ was shuttling between the two parties to explore possible parameters for restarting the talks at the earliest possible time. It was this private group that initialed a proposed agreement subject to approval by the two panels.” 

Padilla said the government was studying that proposal and was prepared to discuss it with the NDF panel in January 2015 until the Mamasapano incident happened.

“In February 2015, the private group again went to Utrecht and returned with another proposal from the NDF to resume the talks, this time with a stronger demand for the release of hundreds of its leaders and followers in detention, the withdrawal or dismissal of cases against their detained alleged consultants and other pre-conditions,” he said.

Padilla said the peace talks were stalled because of that.

“With the NDF asserting even more than its usual demands, like many other initiatives undertaken in the past to explore the resumption of the talks, that one also did not pan out,” he said.

Padilla said the government tried all possibilities for the resumption of the peace talks.

“The NDF’s usual strategy is to use the negotiations to get as many concessions as it can from government without giving anything in return. In spite of this, (the government) continued to pursue all possibilities for the resumption of talks,” he said.

Padilla said the government tried twice to get the talks moving in 2015.

“We tried two more times in 2015, based on proposals offered by our Norwegian facilitator to the parties, but to no avail,” he said.

“On the first one, the NDF said they needed more time to consult the ground while the RNG (Norwegian government) and the government waited. On the second one, the NDF expressed its reservation on the RNG’s facilitation process for generating goodwill measures that would benefit the people.”

Alternative version of Marwan’s death baseless – Palace exec

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): Alternative version of Marwan’s death baseless – Palace exec

The alternative version that it was the aide of Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, who killed him during the police raid in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last year was proven to be baseless.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Undersecretary Manuel Quezon III said the alternative version “could be a conspiracy theory that is not borne out (of) facts” and had been dismissed by authorities.

Jesus Agdumag of the Anti-War Anti-Terror (AWAT) Mindanao party-list said Datukan Singgagao was Marwan’s aide who was supposedly recruited as a police asset and assured of reward money.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front also made the same claim in its report on the Jan. 25 Mamasapano incident but evidence and testimonies presented by the police Special Action Force (SAF) showed this could not be true, President Aquino had ruled in September last year.

Based on a series of photographs, SAF operatives were seen entering Marwan’s hut and cutting off his finger for DNA sampling.

This was contrary to the alternative story that it was the aide who handed the finger out to the raiding SAF police commandos.

Quezon stressed Aquino never talked about the alternative version of the story last year like he had believed it.

“If we recall, what the President said was the need for time to really study all angles or all possibilities as to really what happened,” he said.

“We saw…the President was very forthright about it…the President is always very transparent about these things. He said there was this news that we could not set aside and disregard just like that. We need to study, evaluate and look at the evidence. But the President also said that after looking at and studying the evidence, including the independent study of the Senate, it appeared the alternative theory did not have basis,” Quezon pointed out.

CAB implementation to continue – Ferrer

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): CAB implementation to continue – Ferrer

The failure of Congress to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will not deter the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), government chief peace negotiator Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said yesterday.

While admitting the passage of the BBL remains to be the cornerstone in the peace process, Ferrer said the peace panels of the government and the MILF will continue the programs that do not require legislative action.

On the socio-economic projects for the transformation of MILF camps into productive communities, Ferrer said solar power systems would be installed to provide communities their electricity needs, hanging bridges will be constructed to connect villages and water supply systems will be built in some other areas.

She said that in the next five months before President Aquino steps down from office in June, the panels would attempt to identify more projects for “the remote parts of Maguindanao and Lanao provinces as well as the other island provinces in Mindanao.”

Ferrer cited the report of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) during the two-day meeting of the peace panels in Kuala Lumpur early last week.

The TJRC is the body tasked to work out a program to address the grievances of the Bangsamoro people, correct historical injustices and address human rights violations.

Ferrer said steps are underway to operationalize the TJRC’s recommendations.

Commenting directly on Congress’ collective inaction on the BBL, Ferrer said the peace process is still “on track.”

“No one is backing out in the peace process, not the MILF, not the government, not the international community that supported our efforts and certainly all the mechanisms are fully functional,” she said.

Ferrer also disclosed the recent meeting with two MILF commanders in Maguindanao telling her that they will abide by the orders of their leadership to observe and protect the ceasefire.

PMA alumni homecoming not free from politics

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): PMA alumni homecoming not free from politics

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines – Politics cannot be avoided.

The homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy alumni still showed vestiges of politics yesterday.

Even without the usual streamers and posters that accompany candidates on their campaign, two famous graduates of PMA Class 1971 – Sen. Gregorio Honasan and former senator Panfilo Lacson – showed up to march with their “mistahs” in the annual homecoming ceremonies here.

Honasan is the vice presidential candidate of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay while Lacson is running for the Senate.

Former presidential daughter Luli Arroyo also showed up with the graduates of PMA Class 1991, this year’s Silver Jubilarians.

Dressed in the dark gray suit that is the uniform of the class, Luli was all smiles as she joined her “mistahs” to receive their medallions from the PMA Alumni Association. 

Luli’s class donated P500,000 for the PMA endowment fund and professorial chair fund.

“It is an exemption,” PMA spokesman Lt. Col. Reynaldo Balido Jr. said. “It’s because they are silver jubilarians.”

Balido said the PMA had been successful in preventing politics from entering the military institution.

He said that it has been a long-held guideline that the homecoming should be free from any political activity like overt campaigning.

‘No change in Phl’s defense posture in disputed seas’

From the Philippine Star (Feb 21): ‘No change in Phl’s defense posture in disputed seas’

But Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the Western Command based in Palawan, stressed the military has not let down its guard and is in fact preparing for a worst-case scenario.

There is no adjustment in the country’s defense posture despite China’s deployment of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island in the South China Sea, a ranking military official said yesterday.

But Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, commander of the Western Command based in Palawan, stressed the military has not let down its guard and is in fact preparing for a worst-case scenario.

“That’s how we plan, we plan for the worst. That’s how the military plans, so we take into consideration the worst-case scenario, so the planning is based on that,” Lopez said in an interview on the sidelines of the alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) at Fort Gregorio del Pilar in Baguio City.

He said there is no change in the defense posture “because everything has been laid down already – how we are going to be vigilant, how we are going to be updated, that’s all actual.”

He said the troops are conditioned for a worst-case scenario.

Satellite images showed China’s missile deployment on Woody Island in the Paracels, which are also being claimed by Vietnam.

The Philippine military confirmed the deployment through actual video and photos.
The United States, the European Union and Australia have condemned Beijing’s action. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations has also called on China to stop militarizing the South China Sea.

For vice presidential candidate Sen. Gregorio Honasan, a joint exploration with China of the potentially oil and mineral rich West Philippine Sea should be considered by the Philippines to ease tension in the region.

He said the Philippine government should ask China to explore and find out what resources are there in the disputed areas and craft a sharing agreement with the Asian giant.

“I do not think China wants to go to war,” he said, as he cited ASEAN’s taking a stand against China’s bullying in the region.

“We should do a performance audit on all our bilateral international agreements and see if our economic and security partners come to our rescue with such agreements with them,” Honasan said. “Once we find out that they cannot help at all, why go on with such agreements?”

He said “our audience should be the world, not China,” adding an “unclear foreign policy” may have contributed to the problem.

But such an unclear foreign policy, he explained, is not the fault of a single administration, but all previous administrations that have not crafted a clear economic and security policy. 

In the meantime, Honasan said “we should relish the benefits” from existing agreements like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

“Let’s bear with EDCA at the moment, and let’s build up our strength,” he said.

MILF dismayed by BBL fiasco

From the Daily Tribune (Feb 21): MILF dismayed by BBL fiasco

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has  expressed its deep disappointment and grave dismay over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in the Houses of Congress.

The MILF said its lamentation is “mirrored by the tangible frustration of the great majority of the Bangsamoro people, the peace loving populace not only in Mindanao but also in the entire country, and even those in other nations who have been closely following and keenly observing the unfolding of the more than 17 years of peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.”

It said: “The BBL would have been the key mechanism in implementing the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed by and between the GPH and MILF.”

The MILF said it has done its part by “faithfully complying with all its obligations and responsibilities under the signed agreements,” as a gesture of good faith and sincerity to the peace deal.

The GPH and MILF signed on March 27, 2014 the CAB, witnessed by MILF leaders and members, peace advocates, diplomats, the international community and government officials, which sent a strong signal to the Bangsamoro and Filipino people of the two Parties’ willingness to end the decades of conflict in southern Philippines.

The CAB provides the crafting of the BBL and its passage by the Philippine Congress. The BBL is the legal translation of the peace deal that has promised to provide the Bangsamoro people a self-rule through a parliamentary regional government with more political and fiscal powers.

“It has entrusted the passage of the BBL to the GPH since the process was entirely internal to the latter, and all its concerned structures had the obligation to deliver the law that could have truly implemented the terms of the agreements in letter and spirit It was not an easy decision to make and required a great deal of patience, perseverance and steadfastness,” the MILF said.

“It was also fraught with risks and vicissitudes of legislation. But the BBL was no longer in the hands of the MILF since the process and responsibility of delivering the legislative measure had already shifted to the Philippine government after the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) submitted it to both Houses of Congress.”

The MILF stressed that the peace process will not only benefit the organization but the entire people in the area and the country in general.

The business community had manifested their support to the peace process through their statements issued last year expressing hope for the realization of the peace agreement that will eventually usher development of Mindanao.

“It is at moments like these that we call upon all our Bangsamoro brethren and all peace loving people to join hands, consolidate and vigorously rally behind the cause to pursue with persistence the passage of the BBL and the full implementation of the CAB, be it in the present government or the upcoming administration,” the MILF said.

The MILF said it will remain persevere in upholding the peace process and preserve its gains in spite of the non-passage of the BBL.

“We wish to express our profound gratitude and herein appeal to Malaysia, the facilitating country of the Peace Process, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation , the various countries that supported the process, United Nations agencies and international NGOs, be they part of the formal structures of the GPH-MILF peace process or not, as well as sympathizers to continue and intensify their efforts in supporting the advancement of the peace process and use their influence to ensure that the next Philippine government will uphold and faithfully implement the CAB in accordance with the agreed roadmap.”

The MILF urges all its officers, commanders and members of the MILF Political Wing and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) to strictly follow and abide by the instructions and guidelines of the MILF Central Committee.

The front also calls upon the Bangsamoro people and the other people in the area to remain patient and become the “beacons of hope in the advocacy for peace with justice.”

Meanwhile, the next administration must sustain the momentum of the gains of the Bangsamoro peace process, Sec.  Teresita Quintos Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said yesteday.

Deles likewise emphasized that the challenges encountered in the Aquino administration in pushing for the passage of the BBL brought positive effects.

Soldier killed, 5 hurt in Maguindanao blast

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Soldier killed, 5 hurt in Maguindanao blast

A soldier died while five others were wounded in an explosion in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao on Friday evening.

Ltc. Jose Ambrosio Rustia, 57th Infantry Battalion commander, said the troops were about to rest after conducting clearing operations in Barangay Tee in Datu Salibo when an improvised explosive device went off.

The lone fatality was identified as Private First Class Jury Catalan. He died while on the way to the 6th Infantry Division for treatment.

The wounded were identified as Staff Sergeant Danilo Mondejar, 
SSG Renante Bolivar, PFC Raymundo Madis, PFC Von Chakie Viaje, and PFC Romnick Herminado.

Authorities said the marshland in Barangay Tee that served as a hiding place for members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) seemed to be abandoned now.

But IEDs were scattered all over the area. Three IEDs have been recovered by government forces so far.

"Wala ng resistance sa area so malamang nakatakbo na sa kung saan yung mga yun. Yung IEDs na tinanim nila ganon pa rin, black powder with nails," Rustia added.

It has been two weeks now since tension erupted between the military and the BIFF in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

The BIFF wanted to stop a dredging project in the municipality and even burned two backhoes.

On Thursday, a soldier was also killed while 5 others were wounded in an encounter in the area.

Grenade blast hits Cotabato; 1 hurt

From ABS-CBN (Feb 21): Grenade blast hits Cotabato; 1 hurt

A loud explosion transpired along a national highway in Pikit, North Cotabato on Saturday evening.

Police said two unidentified men threw a hand grenade in front of a gasoline station in Barangay Batulawan at around 7:30 p.m. The perpetrators fled towards an unknown direction.

Authorities said Muslimin Panga, a 19-year-old resident of Barangay Batulawan, was wounded due to the explosion.

The victim was immediately brought to Cruzado Medical Hospital for treatment.

Police are still conducting a pursuit operation and investigation for the possible identification and arrest of the perpetrators.

Pikit police chief Senior Inspector Sindato Karim said they are eyeing ''rido'' or family feud as the motive behind the incident.

Cops rescue boy, nanny; aunt among arrested kidnappers

From GMA News (Feb 20): Cops rescue boy, nanny; aunt among arrested kidnappers

Police rescued a seven-year-old boy and his nanny after a shootout with their abductors on Friday night in Marawi City.

Superintendent Gervacio Valmaceda, spokesperson of the Police Regional Office 10 (Northern Mindanao), the two victims were rescued from their kidnappers at around 6:30 p.m. in Barangay Matampay.

Valmaceda said the victim's aunt was among the suspected kidnappers arrested by policemen.

One of the kidnappers identified as Jun Nasher Barao of Madulum, Lanao del Sur, was killed in a shootout with policemen.

The boy's aunt and two more suspects identified as Gumagadong de Leon and Mante Sultan Macaantal were wounded and arrested during the rescue operation.

Valmaceda also reported that two policemen involved in the operation were wounded.

The boy, a son of a businessman from Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, and his nanny were taken by armed men last February 12 at the Reyes Village in Barangay Bugo in Cagayan de Oro City.

Recovered during the operation were P500,000 cash, which was allegedly paid by the victim's family to the kidnappers.

Also recovered were a Tamaraw FX with plate number UJK 940, .45 pistol, .38 revolver, a hand grenade, and 4 cellphones owned by the suspects.

Charges of kidnapping and illegal possession of firearms and explosives will be filed against the suspect.

3 killed as Abu Sayyaf members clash with MNLF fighter in Sulu

From GMA News (Feb 20): 3 killed as Abu Sayyaf members clash with MNLF fighter in Sulu

Three people were killed and one was wounded in a clash between members of the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and a Moro National Liberation Front fighter in Indanan town in Sulu on Friday afternoon.

An initial investigation showed the incident broke out when Abu Sayyaf men, led by a son of Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Sibih Pisih, shot and wounded a certain Sakur Madjang at around 5:40 p.m. in Sitio Santol, barangay Buanza.

Also, the Abu Sayyaf men burned Madjang's house.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, commander of the military's Joint Task Group Sulu, said Madjang's brother, Gabir, responded and engaged the Abu Sayyaf men in a shootout.

Gabir, an MNLF fighter who had been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the 1996 peace agreement, was killed in the firefight.

Also killed during the 15-munute clash was one Mursid Amdanan, who was with the Madjang brothers; and the son of the Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Sibih Pisih.

Sakur is currently confined at the Sulu Provincial Hospital.

"The said incident is accordingly caused by the previous violent encounters between the MNLF and the ASG," said Arrojado.

According to him, the Abu Sayyaf men had been suspecting the Madjangs were military informants who the ASG blamed for the death of Abu Sayyaf follower Abu Quodama last Feb. 7.

China calls for clear understanding of history, facts of South China Sea

From GMA News (Feb 20): China calls for clear understanding of history, facts of South China Sea

China's foreign ministry has urged concerned countries to study and get clear understanding of the history and basic facts of South China Sea.

"The Yongxing Island is an inherent territory of China. From 1959 on, the Chinese government set up administrative offices and related government facilities on the Yongxing Island. For years, China has been carrying out constructions and been deploy necessary defense facilities. Some concerned countries and people should get clear understanding of the history and basic facts of South China Sea before making remarks," said Hong Lei, a spokesman for the foreign ministry.

Hong made the comments at a routine press briefing on Friday, responding to the remarks made by US State Department spokesman John Kirby, who said the missiles on Yongxing Island -- the largest island in the Xisha Islands group in the South China Sea -- was installed recently and there was no sign of China stopping militarizing the island. Yongxing is known as the Woody Island while Xisha Islands group is the disputed Paracel Islands.

Hong added that China has ample historical and jurisprudential evidences on the sovereignty over the Nansha islands and their adjacent seas.

China's stance of non-militarization in the Nansha Islands is conscientious and serious.

"The current situation is that, the United State constantly increases its military force in South China Sea, frequently sends out military vessels or planes to the South China Sea to carry out high-frequency close-up military reconnaissance, and sends out guided missile destroyers and strategic bombers to the Nansha Islands and its nearby seas and airs. It also allures and presses its allies and partners to carry out joint military drills and cruises in South China Sea. The mentioned activities have intensifies the situation in the South China Sea and militarized the South China Sea," said Hong.

Nansha is called the disputed Spratlys Islands. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Wednesday said that demilitarization in the South China Sea should not be about only one country and there should be no double standards or multiple standards. He added that it requires countries in and out of the region to work together.

Regional Terrorism-Related Event: Indonesia arrests ‘dozens of suspected Islamic radicals’

From GMA News (Feb 21): Indonesia arrests ‘dozens of suspected Islamic radicals’

Indonesian police have arrested dozens of suspected Islamic extremists on Java island, most of whom were allegedly carrying out military-style training on a remote mountain, police and reports said Saturday.

Around 30 were reportedly detained late Friday on Mount Sumbing as they took part in the training, while another five were arrested the same day in raids in the city of Malang.

It was not clear whether they were linked to the gun and suicide attacks in Jakarta last month which left four civilians and four assailants dead, and were claimed by the Islamic State group.

A member of Indonesia's elite anti-terror police, speaking anonymously, confirmed there had been a "raid on an arms training session" taking place on a mountain.

Local media reported that the group of around 30 were from Islamic extremist group Jamaah Ansharus Syariah and the training was on the slopes of Sumbing, in Central Java province.

The arrests came after local villagers reported hearing gunfire, MetroTV reported, citing provincial police spokesman Liliek Darmanto.

Air guns, knives, religious books and flags were seized at a house where some of the participants had stayed en route to the mountain, the report said.

In the separate raid in Malang, five alleged Islamic radicals were seized by police backed by officers from the elite anti-terror squad, said local police chief Yudho Nugroho.

"The five are still being held," he said, adding that police had been "monitoring them for a while".

The attacks in the capital centered around a Starbucks outlet and were the country's worst terror incident in seven years, prompting police to launch a nationwide crackdown.

Authorities said last week that 33 people from radical Islamic groups who were plotting attacks against the airport and other targets in the near future had been arrested, with around half directly linked to the Jakarta attacks.

Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim-majority country, suffered several major bomb attacks by Islamic radicals between 2000 and 2009, but a subsequent crackdown weakened the most dangerous extremist networks.

PMA parade off limits to adopted politicians

From Rappler (Feb 20): PMA parade off limits to adopted politicians

(UPDATED) The PMA spokesperson says that politicians who are not graduates of the academy will be given seats in the grandstand. No presidential candidate however shows up.

PARADE. PMA alumni march on Borromeo Field during homecoming ceremonies on February 20, 2016. Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

PARADE. PMA alumni march on Borromeo Field during homecoming ceremonies on February 20, 2016. Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

This year's Philippine Military Academy Alumni Homecoming parade is off limits to politicians adopted as honorary members of the country's premier military school alumni, a PMA official said Saturday, February 20.

In an interview, Lieutenant Coronel Reynaldo Balido Jr, spokesperson of the PMA, said the PMA Alumni Association (PMAAA) imposed the restriction to prevent politicking in the event.

But Balido said attending politicians, who are not graduates of the academy, will be given seats in the grandstand.

"Those who are not alumni or regular members of the alumni association are disallowed in the Borromeo (grandstand) field because it is a sacred field for the alumni," Balido said.

In last year's alumni rites, adopted members-politicians of the alumni classes were allowed to march in the parade.

Vice President Jejomar Binay and Senator Alan Peter Cayetano were allowed to march in 2015.

"[Ginagawa natin ito] dahil ayaw nating makaladkad at mabahiran ang pangalan ng PMA ng pulitika," Balido added. (We are doing this because we don't want the name of the PMA be tarnished with politics.)

He, however, said that candidates and politicians who are alumni as well will join the ceremonies regularly.

All current presidential candidates are honorary members of PMA classes: Manuel "Mar" Roxas II of the Liberal Party, Maharlika Class of 1984; Jejomar Binay of the United Nationalists Alliance, Maringal Class of 198; Grace Poe, Sambigkis Class of 199; Miriam Defensor Santiago of the People's Reform Party, Class of 1969; Rodrigo Duterte of PDP-Laban, Dimasupil Class of 1967.

None of the presidential candidates attended the ceremony.

Three of the vice presidential candidates are also honorary members: Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr, PMA Alumni Association; Alan Peter Cayetano, Tanglaw Diwa Class of 1992; Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Hinirang Class of 1987.

This year's host is the Sinagtala Class of 1986, the first class to graduate after Martial Law.

Army foils bombing attempt in Sultan Kudarat town

From Rappler (Feb 20): Army foils bombing attempt in Sultan Kudarat town

Authorities say no one was hurt in the incident, considered the first of its kind in the town's recent history   

An army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team foiled on Friday evening, February 19, a bombing attempt at a public market in the town of President Quirino in Sultan Kudarat.

According to Police Inspector Badrudin Esmael, chief of police of the municipal police station, his office received a report from concerned citizens about an unattended baggage outside Edmund Hair Salon located at the public market in Barangay Poblacion.

Police immediately responded and confirmed the presence of a suspected improvised explosive device (IED). After clearing and cordoning off the area, the police sought the help of the EOD team of Tacurong City's Task Force Talakudong.

The EOD team confirmed that the baggage contained an IED and immediately detonated it around 7:35 pm Friday. The Tacurong City police station took custody of the recovered IED for safekeeping.

No one was hurt in the incident, considered the first of its kind in the town's recent history.

PMA Sinagtala Class ’86: Lessons after EDSA

From Rappler (Feb 20): PMA Sinagtala Class ’86: Lessons after EDSA

The Sinagtala class was the first to graduate from the PMA after the restoration of Philippine democracy in 1986, and the first batch of new military officers to serve the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino

CADETS. Students of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) have to survive an extensive military training. Photo from Newsbreak Archives

CADETS. Students of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) have to survive an extensive military training. Photo from Newsbreak Archives

Thirty years after they tossed their hats into the air, members of the Philippine Military Academy's Sinagtala Class of 1986 looked back on the lessons of the popular revolution that they witnessed, and more important, supported.

The Sinagtala class was the first class to graduate from the PMA after the restoration of Philippine democracy, and the first batch of new military officers to serve the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino.

The class – whose name means “light from above” – supported the EDSA People Power Revolution triggered by then military general Fidel Ramos and defense minister Juan Ponce Enrile in February 1986.

Have they lived up to their class name? Have they lived up the lessons of the EDSA revolution, true to the PMA's motto of courage, integrity, and loyalty?

‘Apolitical military’

Marching on Borromeo Field 30 years after their graduation, most of the Sinagtala Class are now high-ranking officials in the police and armed forces. They share the belief that the EDSA revolution taught them a valuable lesson.

“After the EDSA, we have learned our lessons. The military must be apolitical,” Brigadier General Archimedes Viaje, a member of the Sinagtala Class of 1986, told Rappler.

The apolitical characted of the military can be traced when retired Lieutenant General Antonio Sotelo, a colonel then, defied the order of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos to disable the helicopter under the command of the military rebels led by Enrile and Ramos. (READ: #NeverAgain: Martial law stories young people need to hear)

“It (military) must not be involved with politics. We learned that as the protector of the people and the state, you have to stick to our calling,” Viaje added.

He cited the PMA's core values to serve the country and God selflessly, and with honor and excellence.

Viaje, the dean of the Corps of Professors of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that the AFP is fully aware of their “role to be very careful… not to be involved in terms of political exercises.”

Sinagtala bond

CLASS '86. The class photo of Sinagtala Class 1986 on a tarpaulin in Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

CLASS '86. The class photo of Sinagtala Class 1986 on a tarpaulin in Fort del Pilar in Baguio City. Photo by Raymon Dullana/Rappler

For the last 30 years, Viaje said that members of Class '86 continued strengthening their bond as mistahs.

They numbered 174 on their graduation day, but have lost 21 classmates since then.
Twenty-six in the AFP and 15 in the Philippine National Police (PNP) have been promoted to star rank.

Some of the notable members of the class are Major General Jems Molina, Deputy Chief of Staff of the AFP’s Plans and Programs; Brigadier General Rozanno Briguez, Commandant of Cadets in PMA; and Colonel Ronnie Evangelista, Commander of the Special Forces Regiment (Airborne).

Iqbal: official statement on non-passage of BBL “not late but best time to issue it”

From MindaNews (Feb 20): Iqbal: official statement on non-passage of BBL “not late but best time to issue it”

It took the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) 15 days after Congress adjourned without passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) to issue an “official statement” on the non-passage of the law that would have paved the way for the creation of the Bangsamoro, a new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal told MindaNews it was “not late” but “just the best time to issue it.”

In a two-page, nine paragraph statement issued February 18 and signed by MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, the MILF called on the Bangsamoro and other peace-loving people to uphold the peace process and “join hands, consolidate and vigorously rally behind the cause to pursue with persistence” the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the full implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) “be it in the present government or the upcoming administration.”

It expressed its “deep disappointment and grave dismay” over the non-passage of the BBL” but said it will “continue to uphold the peace process and ensure that all the gains will be preserved.”

“Towards this end, MILF will endeavor to sustain the relevant infrastructure of the peace process and our military forces will, at all times, maintain its defensive posture. It will remain as a revolutionary organization until it officially joins the government in accordance with the agreed road map in the implementation process of the CAB,” the statement read.

Asked why it took the MILF 15 days to issue the statement, Iqbal, also chair of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) that drafted the BBL, told MindaNews in an e-mail Thursday night: “the official statement has to be made after the KL (Kuala Lumpur) meeting. It is not late; it is just the best time to issue it.”

“There (are) so much hassles along the way; that is the difference between theory and practice,” Iqbal said.

In his February 10 speech in Kuala Lumpur, Iqbal said that in the next administration (which will start noon of June 30, 2016), “the most immediate step is either the BBL will be refiled in Congress or a new basic law, faithful to the letter and spirit of the CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) will be crafted by the BTC, which will most likely have new faces as members. This is the only way forward.”

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, however, told MindaNews on January 26 that in the next administration, there will be no re-drafting of the BBL because “it’s already an agreed version” and that this will be the version that will be re-filed in the next Congress.

This is the version submitted by the BTC to the Office of the President (OP), vetted by the agencies concerned and finalized with the OP and the principals – President Benigno Aquino III and MILF chair Murad – before it was submitted to Congress in ceremonial rites held in Malacanang on September 10, 2014

Murad said if the next Congress changes parts of the draft BBL, they are open to the changes or improvements “as long as it will not contradict the CAB…. as long as it will comply with the CAB.”

Based on the peace roadmap, the next administration has until 2018 to pass a BBL as the CAB provides at least a year’s transition, from the time of ratification. Once ratified, the CAB provides that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the entity that the Bangsamoro is supposed to replace, will be deemed abolished and the Bangsamoro Transition Authority takes over until the election of the first set of officials of the Bangsamoro.

Unless abolished, the next scheduled elections of the ARMM is on May 13, 2019.

In its latest assessment on the Bangsamoro peace process,, a leading global risk assessment firm led by former intelligence analysts said on February 11 that the MILF “cannot afford to miss its best chance at reaping the fruits of its decades-long fight,” that since it dropped its bid for independence, the MILF “has transformed itself into a primarily political organization” whose “moderate leadership is aging, and its militant capabilities have eroded somewhat.”

“At this point, withdrawing from the peace agreement would threaten an opportunity for the MILF to solidify local support for its fragile authority by delivering greater autonomy to the region. This is why the group has remained engaged and continues to make concessions despite seeing Manila repeatedly renege on agreements. And it will return to the negotiating table if the next administration in Manila opts to redraft the Bangsamoro law. Over the past two years, it has become increasingly evident that MILF leaders lack the leverage to walk away — or the will to return to a full-fledged armed struggle.”

The February 18 statement enjoined all officers, commanders and members of the MILF political wing and the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces, the MILF’s armed wing, to “strictly follow and abide by the instructions and guidelines of the MILF Central Committee.. to uphold the primacy of the peace process while maintaining their vigilance and perseverance as they continue the consolidation and capability building programs of the organization.”

It called on residents in the proposed Bangsamoro to remain patient and to be “beacons of hope in the advocacy for peace with justice.”

“This impasse should not lead anyone of us astray and be swayed by elements unreasonably instigating for radicalism. Let us always make reason and wisdom prevail over emotion,” it said.

In the January 26 interview with Murad, MindaNews asked the nearly 68-year old MILF chair what he was most afraid of. “As far as the organization is concerned, there are second liners already who can take over anytime. I think what I fear most is that itong organization will be dismantled.”

Asked if he meant “magkawatak-watak” (divided into factions), Murad replied he did not want the MILF to end the way of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). The MNLF broke into factions after the failure of implementation of the 1976 peace pact: the MILF under Salamat Hashim of Maguindanao and the MNLF Reformist Group under Dimas Pundato of Lanao del Sur. The MNLF split into more factions after the 1996 Final Peace Agreement whose implementation remains in question to this day.

In the MILF itself, one of its best commanders, Ustadz Amiril Umra Kato, broke away after the skirmishes that followed the botched signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in August 2008. The MOA-AD was already initialed by the government and MILF, but was not formally signed on August 5, 2008, because the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on August 4, barring the government panel from signing the agreement.

Kato resigned from his post as commander of the 105th Base Command of the BIAF in December 2009 and set up the BIFF in March 2010. He suffered a stroke in November 2011 and had not been publicly seen or heard from. He passed away in April last year, leaving behind a BIFF that had broken into three factions.