Friday, February 26, 2016

PRO-7 chief: 'No such thing as permit to campaign'

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 23): PRO-7 chief: 'No such thing as permit to campaign'

There is no such thing as "permit to campaign," according to police regional director Manuel Gaerlan during an informal press encounter at the Governor's mansion on February 22.

Commenting on the possible entry of rebel groups to seek funds as campaign access fees in communist rebel groups affected areas, Dir. Gaerlan said that "politicians are not paying permits to campaign, but are merely paying for plain and simple extortion."

Military intelligence sources have warned the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) in Bohol over the reported re-entry of communist rebels in time for the elections.

The same military reports bared that the return of the insurgents would be to raise funds from politicians they can threaten into paying "permit to campaign and access fees to rebel-controlled areas," despite the fact that the Philippine Army has declared Bohol free from insurgency since 2010.

Also, PPOC sources added that the rebel's white area committee members have been in a flurry of organizing activities and propping up their mass base to be able to present a threat which would also stir contractors and disaster rehabilitation project implementers into submitting what the former rebels claim as revolutionary taxes from their reconstruction project spending.

Recently, the New People's Army through its legal front the National Democratic Front (NDF) issued a statement urging people to report to them drug lords, criminals, and politicians who are involved in the drug trade.

The press material, signed by Bohol Island NDF liaison officer Jose Ignacio, asked citizens to report to them any person into the illegal drug trade.

Military intelligence sources, however, claimed that the letter was an attempt to fool politicians into thinking that the insurgents have returned, when in fact, there is nothing to support such claims.

C/Supt. Gaerlan asked politicians to reports to anybody they feel comfortable with when they receive any extortion letter demanding for said fees.

"Go and report to the chiefs of police, Camp Dagohoy, the Civilian Armed Forces for Geographical Units (CAFGU) detachment heads, Regional Public Safety Battalion heads or the Army's Special Forces when you get any of these demand letters," Gaerlan said.

Farming strategies keep hostile elements away

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 24): Farming strategies keep hostile elements away

Modern farming techniques  have  been slowly winning locals and farmers to stray away from the clutches of insurgency.

Not only have they been busy tending to their high and rich yielding farms but they have unknowingly led their families to food sufficiency with a little help from the state soldiers.

In the 52nd Infantry Brigade, located in Sta Rita, Samar, Commanding Officer Nedy Espulgar started off with his men inside the camp, then as he moved outside the camp to befriend the locals, he slowly influenced them to emulate what his soldiers do.

The project drew the attention of PAMANA Project Manager Imelda Bonifacio who saw the promise of the project.

“We are transforming military camps to peace  camps with demonstration farms in organic farming, poultry and hog raising,” said Bonifacio.

She added that the project has some P 9 Million funds.

“If we can influence our farmers to sustain their farms as they will be earning and at the same time provide food for the family, then we believe we can draw them away from insurgency,” the lady official of PAMANA said.

Bonifacio said that aside from the fund, he also needs the passion of the commanding officer who has never dwindled from his passion to reach more locals as what he did in Leyte.

“Very soon, we will bring our farmers to  more successful peace camps to show them that it can be done, while winning  peace.”

'Yolanda' did'nt deter KALAHI CIDSS-MCC partnership, project results exceed target

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 25): 'Yolanda' did'nt deter KALAHI CIDSS-MCC partnership, project results exceed target

As the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) funded KALAHI-CIDSS PROJECT nears to end by May 2016, the program implementation has exceeded its target that was set forth by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

In an interview with Marivic Anonuevo, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Millenium Challenge Account-Philippines, she said that about 3, 601 sub-projects were achieved more than the targeted 2, 740 sub-projects notwithstanding the unimaginable destruction brought by the super typhoon.

“Over the past 5 years the implementation of the Kalahi-CIDSS-MCC in the region was achieved not without challenges, “ she said.

Anonuevo was referring to typhoon Yolanda and Hagupit that brought heavy damage to the area.

“We proved, however, that no typhoon can shake the strong partnership that we have established,” Anonuevo added.

The program that was initially implemented in February 2011 with 9 municipalities until it reached 40 municipalities created a positive impact in 1, 232 barangays and in the lives of about 215, 117 households in the region through significant improvement in basic social services and increased participation of the communities in the community-driven development projects.

KALAHI-CIDSS is a poverty alleviation program of the national government with support funding from the US government through the Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) that uses the community-driven development strategy to produce significant results through the strict guidance of accountability and transparency of its projects.

Basilan inaugurates new livelihood center in Tipo-Tipo

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 24): Basilan inaugurates new livelihood center in Tipo-Tipo

Basilan Gov. Jum J. Akbar spearheaded the inauguration and turn-over of the newly-constructed buildings of Basilan Livelihood Assistance Center (BLAC) during formal ceremonies held recently.

Akbar expressed gratitude over the significant support coming from the American government, Tipo-Tipo local government and Armed Forces of the Philippines for ensuring the realization of this project.

This P18 million project that comes from the taxes of the American people features six buildings in a compound with an administrative office, classrooms, comfort rooms, a dormitory, kitchen and mess hall, water reservoir, and a spacious ground area – the only one in Basilan with amenities of its kind.

This project aims to be a training center for skills development for the out-of-school youth in order to stabilize their economic condition. BLAC is nestled in a land area of what has been a rubber plantation in Tipo-Tipo proper. Considered a strategic location for its services, the facility site can also be extended to the nearby municipalities such as Tuburan, Akbar, Sumisip and Ungkaya Pukan.

“If we look at the profile of the criminalities here in Basilan, most of them [criminals] came from this southern part of the area. Most of the out-of-school youth have no knowledge no opportunities to look for permanent jobs because they lack technical know-how or skill,” said Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun G. Istarul.

Army’s Brigade Commander Col. Rolando Joselito D. Bautista also shared his dream of reaching out to other conflict-prone communities outside Tipo-Tipo, so that similar facilities could be erected.

Nagdilaab Foundation Executive Director Miriam Suacito stressed that, “This is not only a livelihood center. This is a formation center because we will give capacity–building not only to the out-of-school youth but to all others from different agencies.”

Suacito also assured that they will continue their community-based trainings in Tipo-Tipo. Since they are also implementing projects with USAID through its Mindanao Youth Development Program, working with TESDA will heighten any program and project they will embark on.

With the Technical Education and Skills Development (TESDA) as its leading light, relevant capability-building programs/trainings now await its beneficiaries.

TESDA-ARMM Director Muida S. Hataman said that this facility in Tipo-Tipo “is an answered-prayer.” Since all of their TESDA-registered schools are based in Lamitan City, conducting community-based trainings outside this city is tough for they have to find suitable venues first.

Hataman added that TESDA scholarships and courses are all set to be offered. “We are just waiting for the training calendar from the center’s administrator for a go signal for implementation. We are looking forward to conduct trainings here,” Hataman disclosed.

In retrospect, the idea of a micro-enterprise and community empowerment center was developed in 2007 to address the need to alleviate poverty by providing a facility that will give capacity-building among its youth and those in other nearby municipalities..

The BLAC is a U.S. Pacific Command-approved and funded Humanitarian Assistance (HA) project that took-off in 2014. This project involves the solicitation, award, and execution of a U.S. Government construction contract, utilizing construction and design firms properly licensed in the Philippines and legally contracted by NAVFAC Pacific for the construction of warehouse, classroom building, dormitory structure, administrative office space, a kitchen and male/female comfort rooms in barangay Poblacion, Tipo-Tipo Proper, Tipo-Tipo Municipality, Basilan.

Livelihood assistance gives way to peace in Zamboanga del Norte

From the Philippine Information Agency (Feb 24): Livelihood assistance gives way to peace in Zamboanga del Norte

The provincial government of Zamboanga del Norte  through Governor Roberto Y. Uy has provided livelihood projects to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel returnees recently in the municipalities of Sirawai and Sibuco, Zamboanga del Norte which gave way to peace in the area.

“Sirawai is now a peaceful municipality because of the interventions by the provincial government giving developmental projects like livelihood to the MNLF members,” Sirawai Mayor Gamar A. Janihim said when asked about the peace and order situation in his municipality.

There were four beneficiaries under this project, namely, the Al Hadaya Farmers and Fisherfolks Association, Balubuan Farmers and Fishermen Association, NASCOM Outer- V Group and the MNLF members.

Among the livelihood assistance given to the beneficiaries were mudboat and thresher, cattle and carabao dispersals, breeder goats and abaca suckers.

MNLF State Chairman in ZN Hadji Asberin N. Kahaluddin based in Panganuran, Sibuco stressed that the said project is really a big help to its members.

MNLF groups from Sirawai under MNLF commanders, Bolling Montong and Sawad Janihim, also received livelihood assistance from the provincial government.

Montong expressed his gratitude for the four cows, including the rice thresher and mudboat that his group received. These were in addition to the fishing boat and fishing equipment they received last year from the government.

Meanwhile, Sawad Janihim of NASCOM-2 Outer 5 of MNLF based in Piakan, Sirawai also expressed his appreciation for the livelihood projects granted to them.

Among those present during the turn-over ceremonies were Governor Roberto Y. Uy, Vice Governor Senen O. Angeles, 3rd District Representative Isagani S. Amatong, and 3rd Dist. Board Members Dr. Ruth M. Brillantes, Venus Uy and Luzviminda Torrino.

Cops detonate IED in North Cotabato town; bomb explodes due to grass fire in Maguindanao

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Cops detonate IED in North Cotabato town; bomb explodes due to grass fire in Maguindanao

Police bomb experts here detonated on Thursday afternoon a powerful home made bomb left unattended along Sto. Nino Street while a loud blast hit Sultan Kudarat town in Maguindanao, police officials said today.

Supt. Gilbert Tuzon, Midsayap town police chief, said the improvised bomb was found by commuters and pedestrians at a roadside. They quickly alerted the police and cordoned off the street, located few meters away from the Catholic Church.

Tuzon said bomb experts decided to set off the explosive after it was confirmed it contained black powder and cut nails.

"We recovered a mobile phone, believed to be the triggering mechanism," Tuzon told reporters after the IED was deactivated at 4 p.m. about an hour after it was found by motorists.

"No one has claimed responsibility, we have no idea from where was the bomb and to whom it was addressed," Tuzon said in Filipino. The IED was found near Martin building in Barangay Poblacion 6, Midsayap, North Cotabato.

The IED was similar to other improvised bombs set off by outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

Tuzon lauded the people of Midsayap for being vigilant amid continued threat of bombing as the Army intensified its operation against lawless elements in Maguindanao.

Midsayap in North Cotabato is adjacent to the town of Datu Salibo where the Army offensive, both air and ground assaults, were concentrated.

In Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao province, a loud explosion sent fears to residents in Barangay Narra at about noon Thursday.

Police Inspector Bangon Mamako, town police chief, said an improvised bomb left unattended in a grassy portion of Barangay Narra was triggered to explode by a grass fire that hit the area.

Responding bomb experts found four suspected pipe bombs, its composition remained unknown as the pipes have been partly destroyed.

Nobody was hurt in the blast, Mamako said.

USAID slates water audit training in Iloilo

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): USAID slates water audit training in Iloilo

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) Project, will gather Iloilo stakeholders for a four-day water audit training here slated Feb. 29 to March 3, 2016.

The training seeks to help participants “learn how to conduct rapid water audits and evaluate how water is used in their facilities,” a media statement stated.

“This activity is aimed to promote effective water demand management at the local level as a way to prepare for impending water stress and adapt a climate-resilient and sustainable water use,” it added.

The activity is in partnership with the El Niño Task Force of the Iloilo Provincial government and the Iloilo City government through the City Environment Natural Resource Office (City ENRO).

The gathering will have Valerie Pape, an international Water Demand Management (WDM) expert from USA, as speaker and facilitator.

Each PAG member in Masbate gets PHP25,000-PHP50,000 -- Task Force Masbate

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Each PAG member in Masbate gets PHP25,000-PHP50,000 -- Task Force Masbate

Each member of a private armed group (PAG) in Masbate offering services to political candidates receives PHP25,000 to PHP50,000 during election time, a Philippine Nation Police official now temporarily assigned in Masbate said.

Police Chief Insp. Arthur Gomez, Regional Special Police Operation Task Group-Masbate (RSPOTG-Masbate), said this contract price is for a duration of one month before the May 9 election.

Gomez said the payment for a PAG member who does not have a firearm is PHP25,000 while PHP50,000 for one who has his own gun.

The PAG members are those who offer their services to the candidates and usually surface during elections.

Gomez refused to name the PAGs but, he said, one group has 29 members while the other one has 15.

Based on the reports gathered by task force and the Armed Forces of the Philippines troops in the province, the PAGs are usually operating in the second and third districts of the province, near the Visayas area.

In this connection, the police and the military have already dispatched forces in the towns of Balud, Esperanza, Aroroy, Milagros and Cawayan and these are operating for 24 hours.

These and the presence of checkpoints aim to limit the movements of PAGs and other lawless elements in the province.

Gomez said 20 percent of crimes reported in the province were committed by motorcycle-riding men, prompting the task force to intensify their checkpoint and patrol activities.

The PNP official they are still counter-checking the report of the existence of three more PAGs in Masbate and these criminal gangs, he said, are involved in robbery-holdup and are just waiting for calls from politicians.

He said that once the local politicians sign the peace covenant on March 1, this could bring a significant contribution to the success of the campaign of authorities for a peaceful election in the province.

Gomez cited the significant contribution of the Masbate Peace Advocates, headed by Judge Igmedio Emilio F. Camposano, towards this goal.

The MPA is composed of religious organizations, businessmen, government agencies, members of the judiciary and private individuals.

Troops overrun terrorists’ stronghold in Lanao del Sur

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Troops overrun terrorists’ stronghold in Lanao del Sur

Forty-five people, including 42 terrorists, were killed while 11 others were wounded as the government forces overran the enemy stronghold in Lanao del Sur, a military official revealed Friday.

Maj. Felimon Tan Jr., Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) information officer, said the troops have captured the stronghold of the terrorists before sunset Thursday in the municipality of Butig, Lanao del Sur.

Tan disclosed three of the 45 people killed were soldiers as well as all of the 11 wounded.

Tan did not release the names of the slain and wounded soldiers except to say they belong to the Army’s 103rd Infantry Brigade.

He said they received intelligence reports “from the ground” that the ISIS-inspired terrorists suffered 42 fighters killed.

He said the troops have recovered high-powered firearms that included: two Rocket-Propelled Grenade (RPG) launchers; two M-16 Armalite rifles; and, a homemade calibre .50 rifle.

He said the offensive “continues until today” against the terrorists “who are on the run.”

The fighting in Butig, Lanao del Sur erupted local extremists assisted by foreign-looking terrorists who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), attacked last Saturday an Army detachment.

Last Feb. 23, Tan also reported the death of Omar Maute, the head of the local terrorist organization, who spearheaded the attack on the detachment of the 51st Infantry Battalion in Butig, Lanao Del Sur last Feb. 20.

An estimated 40 to 80 lawless elements took part in the raid which lasted until early Feb. 21, along with Omar's younger brother.

Tan based this claim on intelligence reports which claimed that the bandit leader was killed in the constant air and artillery strikes against them.

The Mautes are believed to be allied to elements of the Jemaah Islamiyah and have connections to a foreign terrorist neutralized in 2012.

Third party monitoring team lauds renewed commitment of GPH, MILF to peace process sans BBL

From the Philippine News Agency (Feb 26): Third party monitoring team lauds renewed commitment of GPH, MILF to peace process sans BBL
The Third-Party Monitoring Team (TPMT) on Friday commended both the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for their reaffirmed commitment to stay the course of peace despite the 16th Congress’ failure to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

“The past year has been a difficult one, with the tragic events at Mamasapano casting a dark shadow over the peace process throughout the year, and with Congress being unable to complete its deliberations on the BBL,” said Alistair MacDonald, Chair of TPMT, which was tasked to monitor, review, and assess the implementation of all peace agreements signed between the GPH and MILF.

Despite the setbacks, MacDonald noted that the overall success of the past year lies with both parties remaining fully engaged with the process, and fully committed to building the sustained peace foreseen in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

This was confirmed at the most recent meeting of the Panels in Kuala Lumpur on Feb. 10 to 11, where both parties signed a joint agreement reflecting their shared commitment to peace. It also contains their vow to sustain the existing peace infrastructure and to work for the early passage of a BBL in the next Congress.

It was further confirmed in the MILF statement issued on Feb. 18, expressing disappointment at the non-passage of the BBL, but underlining that the MILF would continue to uphold the peace process and preserve its gains. It also called on the Bangsamoro people to remain patient and to rally behind the full implementation of the CAB.

“It is encouraging that there has been no violent reaction from the MILF to the non-passage of the BBL,” commented MacDonald.

The five-member team detailed the significant progress made in a number of areas during the past twelve months including the successful completion of the first, ceremonial, stage of decommissioning of MILF weapons and forces on June 16, 2015 and the completion of the work of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TJRC) last December.

There are also relatively visible developments in other aspects of normalization, in preparing support for former combatants and their communities, and in strengthening the footprint of the Independent Commission Body, among others.

Further, the ceasefire mechanisms continued to work smoothly throughout the rest of the year, notwithstanding the fact that these mechanisms had been ignored and put at risk in Mamasapano, said MacDonald.

He also noted that there has been an upwelling of both domestic and international support for the peace process, such as the Citizens’ Peace Council and many other civil society efforts.

Formally established in 2013, TMPT has five members (two nominated by the GPH, two by the MILF, and a jointly-nominated Chair) : Karen Tañada (Gaston Z Ortigas Peace Institute, Philippines), Steven Rood (The Asia Foundation, USA), Rahib Kudto (UNYPAD, Philippines), Huseyin Oruç (IHH, Turkey), and Alistair MacDonald (Chair, former EU Ambassador to the Philippines, now retired).