Sunday, March 13, 2016

NPA guerilla found guilty of rebellion

From the Catanduanes Tribune (Mar 14): NPA guerilla found guilty of rebellion
A member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who was wounded in a 2012 encounter with the Philippine Army in Virac and later captured has been sentenced to imprisonment for the crime of rebellion.

The Regional Trial Court sentenced Orlan “Ka Junie” Nuquiao Nogas, a native of Cawayan, Masbate, to imprisonment ranging from eight years and one day as minimum to 14 years, eight months and one day as maximum.

“The totality of the evidence presented by the prosecution, uncontroverted by the accused who opted not to testify on his behalf, and the doctrinal rulings of the Supreme Court proved beyond reasonable doubt that the accused committed the crime of rebellion…xxx,” RTC Branch 42 Acting Presiding Judge Lelu P. Contreras said in her 15-page decision rendered last March 3.

Information filed before the Court as well as accounts of the encounter state that on Dec. 1, 2012, the 83rd Infantry Battalion received information from a concerned citizen that “local communist terrorists” led by a certain Jimboy “Ka Jason/Ka Hogan” Lucero, also known as Emerson Capistrano, was conducting extortion activity in the vicinity of Calatagan-Tibang. Elements of the 91st Division Reconnaissance Company led by 1Lt. Evar Louie Magamay were sent to the area to conduct combat operations in the mountainous area just past the Cauayan watershed and reachable only by a two-hour hike.

At 1:30 P.M., the team maneuvered in a skirmish position near an area where they had heard several persons enjoying each other and saw persons armed with long firearms. The Army scout was seen by one of the rebels and a 10-minute firefight ensued with the 15 guerillas in which two were killed outright. 

Sixteen-year old Ronald “Ka Brian” Satairapan was rendered unrecognizable by gunshot in the face while Lucero’s wife, Liezel “Ka Arlene/Ching” Isorena of Porot, Pandan, was shot in the chest. The badly decomposed body of fellow Masbateño, whom Nogas knew only as Lito, was recovered by pursuing Army soldiers two days later.

The encounter also led to the recovery of an M653 Baby Armalite, two M16 rifles, an M14 rifle, three improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with detonating cord, 40 blasting caps, seven cellphones, M16 ammo, three jungle packs, six ponchos, two hammocks, five blankets, 20 batteries, food and personal items.

On Dec. 15, 2012, a civilian informant told the Army that a wounded rebel was hiding in the mountains of Dugui Too, about 18 kilometers from the town proper. Later that day, government troops captured Nogas at an abaca plantation just above a hut (tugod) owned by barangay captain Leo Teleb where the wounded rebel had sought shelter. Nogas was nursing bullet wounds on his right hand and left ankle, and was treated initially by a medic before being brought to a hospital.

During the trial of the case, the defense presented only one witness, Nogas’ mother Magdalena, who told the Court that sometime in September 2012, Orlan asked permission from her to go with his friends to look for a job. She said there was no communication between them as she had no cellphone. It was in December 2012 that they learned that he was already in jail in Virac. When she and her husband visited their son in detention, he told them he was engaged in small-scale mining in Catanduanes before he was charged with rebellion.

Instead of presenting the accused to testify, his counsel argued that the prosecution’s evidence did not prove beyond doubt the elements of the crime and that the accused was a CPP/NDF/NPA member. The counsel also questioned the legality of the warrantless arrest made 14 days after the “alleged encounter”, with the accused not doing any crime and not in possession of any firearms or subversive materials.

In finding no merit in the contention of the accused, Judge Contreras expressed surprise that the legality of the arrest was being questioned when this was never brought out from the time Nogas was arraigned until the presentation of evidence. She cited Supreme Court rulings stating the accused is estopped from assailing the legality of his arrest if he failed to raise such defense before arraignment.

The Court noted that Nogas admitted to the doctor treating him that he sustained his wounds from the encounter with the military. It likewise quoted SC rulings on the communist rebellion and subversion as continuing offense.

Nogas’ capture in a hut 14 days after the encounter, it stressed, is akin to that of an accused guerilla who the Supreme Court said “did not cease to be or became less of a subversive, for purposes of arrest, simply because he was, at the time of arrest,” confined in a hospital.

Tribune files show that Nogas was recruited in Masbate by a certain Ka Pinoy and was met by his unit commander at San Andres port. The fourth son of six children in the Nogas family, he was with the Lucero group operating in Virac, San Andres, San Miguel and Bato when they had an initial encounter with government troops in Dugui Too on Nov. 25, after which their group of eight guerillas hiked to the Calatagan Tibang area. Nogas was scheduled to return home for Christmas but the Dec. 1, 2012 Cauayan clash changed his plans. Eight other alleged NPA rebels are said to be facing rebellion cases in court.

EDITORIAL: Lucrative industry

Editorial in the Philippine Star (Mar 14): EDITORIAL: Lucrative industry


A man wanted for several kidnapping cases in Mindanao was shot dead yesterday by combined military and police teams in Zamboanga Sibugay, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported. Waning Abdusalam was tagged as the leader of a gang behind the kidnapping of an Irish priest and an Australian ex-soldier.

That’s one down, scores more to go. Abdusalam is said to be a rogue member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Members of the MILF’s supposedly breakaway faction, the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, are also using kidnapping to raise funds. In Sulu and Basilan, residents continue to be terrorized by the Abu Sayyaf and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front.

Last week the Abu Sayyaf again threatened to kill two Canadians, a Norwegian and a Filipina seized last year from a resort on Samal Island in Davao del Norte unless ransom was paid. The bandits, whose previous commanders were widely believed to have collected over $20 million in ransom a decade ago in exchange for foreign hostages, are again demanding millions of dollars for their latest captives.

Will the government ever be able to end this scourge? The Abu Sayyaf has been repeatedly decapitated, but new commanders keep popping up, continuing its bloody tradition. Its areas of operation have been cleared several times, in 2002 with the help of US forces, but security gains are not consolidated and the government can’t seem to get the upper hand in the fight.

Local governments play a crucial role in the success of any campaign against extremists and criminal gangs. But there is persistent suspicion that local officials themselves are in cahoots with the bandits,  using kidnapping to raise funds. With the government’s no-ransom policy just meaningless rhetoric, kidnapping has become one of the most lucrative industries in Mindanao.

The Abu Sayyaf and other bandit groups in Mindanao have successfully prevented the development of some of the poorest areas in the Philippines. They continue to give the country a negative image overseas, dampening tourism even outside their areas of operation. The Abu Sayyaf should have been neutralized a long time ago, with a combination of security and development approaches. The government cannot allow this blight to thrive.

New group of Malaysian peacekeepers arrives

From the Philippine Star (Mar 13): New group of Malaysian peacekeepers arrives

A new contingent of Malaysian peacekeepers will replace tomorrow their outgoing compatriots after observing for a year the enforcement of the ceasefire accord between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Major Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose Bin Mohd Zain of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces leads the incoming group of foreign ceasefire observers for the International Monitoring Team (IMT) 11.

Zain and his men will replace the IMT 10, under Major Gen. Dato Sheik Mokhsin Bin Sheik Hassan.

Hassan and his men completed their year-long monitoring mission in flashpoint areas covered by the 1997 ceasefire agreement.

A large part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is covered by the IMT’s ceasefire monitoring mission.

ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, presiding chairman of the ARMM’s inter-agency, cross-section Regional Peace and Order Council, yesterday said he would extend the same support to the IMT 11.

“This peacekeeping mission plays a very big role in keeping peace in many areas inside the autonomous region. I and my constituent-officials in the ARMM government support the Mindanao peace process extensively,” he said.

The MILF has bastions in the ARMM’s component provinces Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, which are both in mainland Mindanao, and in the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

Hataman said he looks forward to a fellowship meeting with the officials of the IMT 11 after they have settled in.

Officials of the outgoing IMT 10 will turn over their headquarters in Cotabato City to the IMT’s 11th contingent in a symbolic transition exercise tomorrow.

The event will be witnessed by representatives from the government and MILF’s joint ceasefire committee and officials of various peace advocacy blocs.

The IMT is comprised of soldiers from Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, and civilian conflict resolution and rehabilitation experts from Norway, Japan and the European Union.

Group blames Aquino’s ‘divisive’ peace policy for continued conflict in Moro lands

Posted to the online pro-CPP propaganda publication Bulatlat (Mar 12): Group blames Aquino’s ‘divisive’ peace policy for continued conflict in Moro lands

Soldiers and armored personnel carrier posted in Dapyawan village, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao (FILE PHOTO by Kilab Multimedia)

Soldiers and armored personnel carrier posted in Dapyawan village, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao during the “All-out Offensive in 2015. (FILE PHOTO by Kilab Multimedia)

“The Moro people in the past five years under President BS Aquino had only seen aggravating war, poverty, human rights violations and discrimination.”

President Aquino failed to help bring peace to the Bangsamoro Homeland, as his regime “shook hands” with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), but “wielded a gun” at Moro communities and other armed groups seeking change, the Moro-Christian Peoples Alliance (MCPA) said.

It added that the Aquino administration merely followed the failed peace policy of previous administrations, which resulted into a “worsening state of war.” This had endangered and violated the rights, not only of Moro communities, but also of Aquino’s very own government troops, said the group.

“The BS Aquino regime has been unmasked as a treacherous regime that has followed a divisive peace policy that aimed only to contain and pacify armed resistance in the Bangsamoro land,” said Antonio Liongson, MCPA spokesperson, in a statement.


The MCPA called the Aquino regime “a double-dealer” that “has perpetuated the same laws, policies and social system that has oppressed and exploited the Moro people and violated their human rights and right to self-determination.”

It never intended to resolve the poverty of the Moro people rooted in the unequal distribution of wealth and control of resources,” the paper said.

Recently, government troops reported to have quelled the armed group that reportedly attacked a Phil. Army detachment in Butig, Lanao del Sur. The slain Maute brothers, Matti and Omar, were reportedly leading the younger generation of Moro revolutionaries who does not believe in political negotiations. A third brother, Abdullah, has reportedly survived the clashes.

Early this year, Congress failed to enact the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which was supposed to be the charter of the new Bangsamoro political entity. The MILF and the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) – which drafted the BBL – had protested the dilution of certain provisions in House Bill 5811, which made the BBL “worse than the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).”

“Aquino cannot even unite Congress to pass its own Malacañang-diluted version of BBL, let alone one that is truly reflective of Moro right to self-determination and will resolve a century of injustice in the Moro lands,” the MCPA report said.

The MCPA report entitled “The BS Aquino legacy: A worsening state of war and treachery in the Bangsamoro” was released early this week.

Mamasapano civilian: Badrudin Langalan, 18, was found hogtied and dead (Photo from Suara Bangsamoro)

Mamasapano civilian: Badrudin Langalan, 18, was found hogtied and dead (Photo from Suara Bangsamoro)

Troops put at risk in government-initiated offensives

The report said the Mamasapano fiasco, which left 44 police commandoes dead, is but one of four major military offensives in Moro lands in Aquino’s past five years, amid the government peace process with the MILF. Of these, three offensive operations violated the GPH-MILF ceasefire mechanisms and led to the deaths of government troops and MILF fighters.

The paper cited the following incidents in which Aquino ordered a military resolution: “All-out Justice” military operations in Al Barka, Basilan and Payao, Zamboanga Sibugay in 2011; the Sabah stand-off in Feb. 2013, the Zamboanga city siege, also that year later in September, which targeted the mainstream faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by its founding chairman, Prof. Nur Misuari; the Mamasapano fiasco in Jan. 2015, and the subsequent “All-out Offensive” operations against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Mamasapano-2nd month-byja-1

BULATLAT FILE PHOTO: A call for truth and accountability in the Mamasapano tragic encounter (Photo by J. Ellao/Bulatlat)

In the case of Al Barka, on Oct. 18, 2011, Phil. Army Special Forces were sent on an operation deep into MILF territory in Al Barka, Basilan, supposedly to get a wanted MILF official. The ensuing clashes left 19 soldiers and six MILF fighters. Aquino subsequently ordered “All-out justice” military operations in Basilan, and also in Zamboanga Sibugay, where four soldiers and three policemen were reportedly ambushed.

The MCPA report also noted the US government’s continued presence and intervention in the Moro areas, and suspicious involvement in Oplan Exodus, which targeted suspected terrorists wanted by the US.

In their parents’ footsteps

The group lambasted both Aquino and Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for continuing the legacy of their parents – Corazon Aquino and Ferdinand Marcos Sr., respectively – who, in their own time as president, bungled the peace process with Moro rebels, the group said.

“Just as the late President Corazon Aquino circumvented the peace talks and signed into law the ARMM’s creation, the younger Aquino tried to rush its replacement, the Bangsamoro political entity, with its governing law now decimated beyond recognition by those who drafted it. Just as how the Marcos Dictator constricted the 1976 Tripoli Agreement into the framework of the Philippine Constitution, the younger Marcos, as if having the moral authority, rejected the proposed BBL and singlehandedly drafted and filed a contorted substitute bill, devoid of whatever provisions it had in favor of the Moro people,” said the MCPA report.

Continuing Moro resistance

The MCPA said in spite of the decommissioning of firearms started by MILF, in its place remains the MNLF, as well as new Moro armed groups, which “all reflect the Moro people’s discontent and desire to resolve the worsening poverty and national oppression.”

“Aside from the MILF, MNLF and the BIFF, other revolutionary armed groups carry on the struggle in the Moro lands, such as the Moro Revolutionary Liberation Organization (MRLO), an allied underground mass organization of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),” the report said.

Cordilleran group urges PMA graduates: ‘Be like Heneral Luna’

Posted to the online pro-CPP propaganda publication Bulatlat (Mar 13): Cordilleran group urges PMA graduates: ‘Be like Heneral Luna’

(Photo by Kodao Productions/

An image from the “Heneral Luna” movie at a protest at the US embassy (Photo by Kodao Productions/

A Cordilleran indigenous peoples group is calling on future top military officials who will be graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) to take the side of the impoverished majority, and “to truly serve the people and country with courage, integrity and loyalty.”

“Ask yourselves, which side are you on? Should you defend the status quo, which breeds oppression, exploitation and poverty, or take a stand for system change that breaks the chains of oppression and exploitation which is the correct path in truly serving the people and country?” said Windel Bolinget, chairperson of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA).

The PMA, which is located in Baguio City in the Cordillera Autonomous Region, is the country’s “West Point,” the prime military school from where the future top brass of the military and police come. PMA graduates receive the rank of 2nd lieutenant, or its equivalent in other branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The PMA graduation is tomorrow, March 13.

In the CPA statement, Bolinget advised the young military officers to study the ills of society and the role of the military. The police and military have a long record of human rights violations, as well as corruption among top-ranking officials, he said.
(Image from Heneral Luna movie Facebook account)
(Image from Heneral Luna movie Facebook account)
“As the State armed machinery, the military is being used as investment defense forces for big mining and energy projects and to quell people’s resistance against these projects. The case of the SAF 44 with 14 Igorots who perished in Maguindanao is a clear example of negligence by the President, the Commander-in-Chief who truly serves the few ruling elite,” Bolinget said.

Bolinget said military men should learn from Filipino revolutionary heroes, such as Antonio Luna, a pharmacist by training who became a general in the Katipunan during the Filipino-American War. Luna’s military genius was cut short when he was brutally killed by other Katipuneros, reportedly upon orders from Emilio Aguinaldo, under whose leadership the revolutionary movement lost to the Americans.

“Be like Heneral Antonio Luna, a patriot and nationalist. His love for freedom is exemplary. He despised the local bureaucrats in their attempts to collaborate with the invading power just to maintain the status quo. He did not rely on foreign powers for the liberation of the Filipino people, instead he relied on the people to join the war against the Americans,” Bolinget said.

In contrast, he said the Philippine government had stayed dependent on the U.S. military power thru onerous defense agreements, the latest of which is the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca). Yet, the country remains defenseless in the face of Chinese occupation of Philippine territories in the West Philippine Sea.
“We need hundreds of Heneral Lunas,” Bolinget said.
Lt. Crispin Tagamolila
Lt. Crispin Tagamolila
In recent history, several PMA graduates “crossed the fence,” and joined the revolutionary New People’s Army (NPA). One of them, Lt. Crispin Tagamolila, became known as “Ka Cely” in the underground movement. He was killed in an encounter in Isabela in 1972. A secret society of enlightened officers and men of the AFP was named after him, the Lt. Crispin Tagamolila Movement.

“There are always two sides in society, the oppressed and the oppressor. We ask you to side with the oppressed and not be an instrument of the oppressors. Side with the tormented and not with the tormentors. Side with the people and not with the enemies of the people,” Bolinget said.

Students walk out vs. tuition fee increase

From the often pro-CPP Northern Dispatch Weekly (Mar 11): Students walk out vs. tuition fee increase [By ANAKBAYAN-CORDILLERA (PR)]

BAGUIO CITY – At least a thousand students in Baguio and Benguet walked out of school Friday, March 11, to join Sunduan 2016, a series of protest actions conducted in various universities to stop the yearly tuition and other fees increase in both public and private universities in Baguio and Benguet.


Students of Saint Louis University (SLU), University of Cordilleras (UC), University of Baguio (UB), University of the Philippines Baguio (UPB), and Benguet State University (BSU) converged at Session Road and then at the Igorot Park after conducting localized protests in their respective universities.

According to Kabataan Partylist Cordillera, at the lead of the activity, students are “already disgusted” by the continuous rise in fees being collected by the universities but reciprocate with the lack of improvement in school services and facilities. This year, five local private universities here have already proposed increases for the next academic year.

Kabataan Partylist disclosed that SLU and UC are expected to increase their tuition by 5%. While STI College, AMA University, and King’s College of the Philippines (KCP) also proposed fee increases, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) refused to disclose official information on the increases to the youth group.

“In reality, the CHED remains a mere rubber stamp for these universities. They refuse to release data on the proposed increases just to protect the interest of the owners of universities while at the same time neglecting the welfare of the students,” said Luke Bagangan, secretary general of Anakbayan Cordillera. Bagangan also claimed that in these past years the students were put in the dark on any increases while the school proposals were being assessed by CHED.

According to Anakbayan, CHED is to blame for this lack of awareness due to their incapability to validate if the universities are actually conducting tuition fee increase consultations with the students.

“UC and SLU have already proposed increases but there were no consultations made. They always violate the rules for implementing increases yet their proposals are always being approved by CHED,” said Bagangan.

“Quoting Section 5 of the CHED Memorandum Order 3 “all Higher Education Institutions, public or private, intending to increase their tuition and other school fees for the ensuing Academic Year (AY) shall conduct consultations . . . with their student councils/governments and their faculty, alumni and/or non-teaching personnel associations.” Bagangan further cited that in UC, no proposal for increase were posted in the university’s premises.

Meanwhile, during the mobilization, students were met with oppressive force from the university’s administration and the local police force. In SLU, security guards inside the Navy Base campus forcefully dispersed the protesters without negotiation; in UC, throngs of criminology students blocked the students from joining the action on various entry points inside the university.

At the height of the protest, two unidentified personnel of the local SWAT team forcefully disrupted the group of student activists at the Harrison – Abanao intersection by speeding through the groups in a motorbike which eventually led to an altercation between protesters and the police force.

According to Anakbayan’s secretary general, the act of repression applied on the students in and outside the campus during the protest action clearly shows the utter disrespect of authorities for the student’s democratic rights.

“The fascist treatment we received from school and local authorities is more than a slap against our rights as students. It is justified for the students, and the people to fight and resist the unabated attacks on our democratic rights inside and outside our campuses,” Explained Bagangan.

“The students of Cordillera will continue to rise and fight for the kind of education it deserves, an education that is treated as a right for all, and not a privilege for a mere few.” Bagangan ended. #

MILF: Swiss Ambassador Madame Andrea Reichlin visits MILF Administrative Base

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 13): Swiss Ambassador Madame Andrea Reichlin visits MILF Administrative Base

On March 10, Thursday, Madame Andrea Reichlin, Swiss Ambassador to the Philippines paid courtesy visit to Camp Darapanan, the Administrative Base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

Madame Reichlin was welcomed by MILF Chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and some members of the Central Committee.
Ambassador Reichlin expressed her country's continued support to the peace process in Southern Philippines and hope that the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF on August 27, 2014 will be faithfully implemented, including the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).

She praised the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Committee (TJRC) for its comprehensive report that it submitted recently. The TJRC is chaired by Mo Bleeker of Switzerland.
Chairman Murad expressed the leadership's appreciation for the visit of Madame Reichlin.  He relates that the Bansamoro people are very disappointed over the non-passage of the BBL, which is the key mechanism to truly implement the CAB and warns that out of frustration, some young Moros might be attracted to radicalism as an alternative to the peace process.

“Many if not all young Moros were expecting that the Bangsamoro Question and Conflict in Mindanao could finally be resolved and allow the Bangsamoro to govern themselves through the passage of the Bangsamoro law, but it did not come out to be that way as expected”, said Chairman Murad.

Chairman Murad also relates the historical background of the struggle, with emphasis that the Moro struggle started as a response to the injustices against the Bangsamoro people and ignited by the genocidal campaign against them starting the late 60’s and aggravated during the martial law period under then President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

He also told the visiting envoy that the peace process started as early as 1974 through the intervention of the Organization of Islamic Conference (now Cooperation) and between these periods until 2014 there were signed agreements; the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the 1996 Final Peace Agreement signed in Jakarta and the CAB in 2014. However, all these Agreements suffered setbacks during the implementation process.

The chairman assured Madame Reichlin that the MILF leadership remains hopeful and determined to preserve the gains of the peace process, especially the CAB, a result of more than 17 years of extensive negotiation between the Philippine Government and the MILF.

Chairman Murad also mentioned his meeting with Malaysian Prime Minister Datu Seri Najib Tun Radzak, last February 25, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the Bangsamoro peace process, which Malaysia facilitated.  PM Razak assured Murad of Malaysia’s commitment to continue to support and facilitate the peace process with the next President of the Philippines.

Chairman Murad also relates to Madame Reichlin his meeting with His Excellency Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General of the influential Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on February 28, 2016, where they discussed among others the setback to the peace process due to the failure of the Philippine Congress to enact the Bangsamoro Law. 

For her part, Ambassador Reichlin shares the MILF's concern that extremists and radical groups may capitalize the frustration of the people especially the Bangsamoro over the non-passage of the BBL to gain more recruits.

MILF: Peace Monitors leave at times of ‘complexity and challenge’

Posted to the MILF Website (Mar 14): Peace Monitors leave at times of ‘complexity and challenge’

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said on Saturday (March 12) that the 10th batch of the International Monitoring Team (IMT) is leaving Mindanao at a time of “complicated situation and difficult challenge” as the ceasefire observers made its farewell call to the MILF leadership at the latter’s administrative base in Camp Darapanan in Maguindanao.

Obviously referring to the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and its aftermath, Murad said that there is widespread dismay over the failure of government to deliver on its commitments especially on the political track.

He related that in their recent meeting, even Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was also unhappy with the failure of Philippine Congress to pass the legislative measure that would implement the signed agreements.

Malaysia has been facilitating the peace talks between the MILF and GPH since 2001 upon the request of then Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“There always seems to be problem on implementation after every agreement …from 1976 Tripoli Agreement … then to the FAB and CAB,” Murad recounted before the departing 15-man Malaysian contingent of the IMT.

But the MILF head reiterated that they would continue to demand that the Government of the Philippines implement the signed agreements whoever becomes the next president.

Murad acknowledged the strong commitment of the Malaysian government to the peace process.

“In spite of the seeming lull in the peace process, your government still agrees to send another batch of the IMT. We see that as a manifestation of your government’s commitment to the GPH-MILF peace process,” he said.

The 10th batch was headed by MGen Dato Sheikh Mokhsin bin Sheikh Hassan. Their tour-of-duty officially began exactly a year ago and ends today (March 14).

Major Gen. Datuk Wira Zamrose Bin Mohd Zain of the Malaysian Royal Armed Forces, incoming Head of Mission for IMT 11, is already in the Philippines. He joined the outgoing batch in the visit to Camp Darapanan.

On February 27, an online newspaper quoted PM Najib Razak as saying that “Malaysian Defense Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein will be accompanying our new batch of observers in the International Monitoring Team (IMT) during the handing over process in Cotabato City, next month.”

Approximately, a total of 255 officers and personnel from the Malaysian security forces and defense ministry (IMT Batch 10 included) have participated in the peacekeeping mission since September 2004.

Female cadet is PMA ‘goat’

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Female cadet is PMA ‘goat’

THE GOAT New Army 2nd Lt. Jean Carla Bermudez, the goat of PMA Class of 2016, salutes President Aquino during graduation rites on Sunday. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON
THE GOAT New Army 2nd Lt. Jean Carla Bermudez, the goat of PMA Class of 2016, salutes President Aquino during graduation rites on Sunday. EV ESPIRITU/INQUIRER NORTHERN LUZON

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City—The graduating class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) had many stories to tell—one was that the class “goat,” or the graduate at the bottom of academic performance, was again a female.

For the PMA Class of 2016, called Gabay Laya (Freedom’s Guide), the unusual honor fell on newly commissioned Army 2nd Lt. Jean Carla Bermudez.

Observing the ritual, the PMA’s junior class on Saturday dunked Bermudez in the water—after the announcement of the academic awards.

It was the second time a female cadet had copped the goat honor. The first was Air Force 2nd Lt. Ernalyn Fernando of PMA Class of 2014.

A goat refers to the last cadet on the list of graduates. Instead of ridicule, a goat is accorded respect for striving to beat all odds and graduate along with the rest of the class.

Just 63 graduates

The actual graduation ceremony was held Sunday.

But Gabay Laya had many more stories to tell. It was also the smallest graduating class in 40 years—with only 63 graduates.

It was also a time for the valedictorian, newly commissioned Navy Ensign Kristian Daeve Abiqui, to shine.

Abiqui’s speech was dramatic. At one point, he paused and handed his mother a handkerchief he pulled out from his shako (plumed hat).

He said it was the same handkerchief she gave him when he started training at PMA five years ago.

Abiqui also said the class goat should be proud because she bested 20,000 other applicants.

Gabay Laya was originally composed of 123 cadets but only 50 graduated, along with 13 cadets who joined them after being turned back from older classes due to bad grades or ailments.

An orphan

Newly commissioned Air Force 2nd Lt. Karl Angelo Torres from Batangas province was the youngest graduate. He will turn 21 on March 19.

“Being a pilot was my childhood dream,” Torres said.

Newly commissioned Army 2nd Lt. Joseph Stalin Fagsao, an orphan, wished his parents had seen him graduate.

His father died when he was 9 and his mother died the day PMA notified him of his admission to the academy in 2012.

“That was the sad part because I wasn’t able to tell my mother I was going to PMA,” said Fagsao, who ranked fourth in the class.

He said it was her memory that kept him from giving up despite the rigorous training.

He cried when his high school and elementary school teachers came to congratulate him.

‘Perfect moment’

The graduation was a perfect moment for newly commissioned Army 2nd Lt. George Bernard Garcia to catch up with his brothers, Air Force 1st Lt. John Melvin Garcia, who came from Cavite province, and Army 2nd Lt. Jerson Garcia, who flew from Basilan province.

“We are very proud of the achievement of our youngest,” said John Melvin of Class of 2012. Jerson comes from Class of 2013.

A PMA sheet says 10 Gabay Laya members have unemployed parents, while seven have monthly family incomes of less than P5,000. Twelve said their monthly family incomes did not go higher than P9,999.

Seventeen have monthly family incomes of from P10,000 to P19,000. Only 10 graduates have family incomes exceeding P30,000 a month.

Nine graduates are children of farmers, nine have parents who are government employees. One has a mother who drives a jeepney for a living.

Abiqui said in Filipino in his speech: “Like you, we believe talking peace is important. I believe a peaceful society is a progressive society, free from oppression and abuse, and a society that does not tolerate violence and greed.”

Much-improved AFP awaits new officers

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Much-improved AFP awaits new officers

NEW SOLDIERS Philippine Military Academy cadets toss their shakos in the air after their graduation. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

NEW SOLDIERS Philippine Military Academy cadets toss their shakos in the air after their graduation. MALACAÑANG PHOTO
New graduates of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) are fortunate they are entering a much-improved Armed Forces of the Philippines, thanks to efforts to improve soldiers’ welfare and their capacity to protect the country, President Aquino said on Sunday.

Addressing 63 graduates of PMA “Gabay Laya” Class of 2016, Mr. Aquino said 68 “big-ticket projects” worth P58.43 billion had been completed in the almost six years of his term.

He said his administration had also put up 61,378 housing units for soldiers and policemen, livelihood programs for retirees at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija province and increased the soldiers’ monthly hazard pay.

It was the last time that Mr. Aquino as Commander in Chief graced the PMA graduation where he also commissioned the new graduates as AFP officers.

The President said he had very poor impressions about the state of the military when he assumed his post as Commander in Chief in 2010 because some soldiers used “fast-food merchandising” as backups during sensitive operations.

He said soldiers had to “adapt and overcome” these logistical challenges.

“To be frank with you, the price for the equipment we provide the soldiers is nothing to joke about,” he said.

He said a secondhand C-130 cargo plane cost up to $40 million (P1.8 billion), which, he noted, was “equivalent to the cost of building 109 school buildings.”

Mr. Aquino said governance involved establishing a balance between what the military requires and what other sectors need.

“Let us remember that more than 20 percent of our population was impoverished when I started my administration. But by ensuring good governance, we can say that every sector was assisted. No one was left behind,” he said.

Air Force to buy P68.9M worth of spare parts for attack helicopters

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 14): Air Force to buy P68.9M worth of spare parts for attack helicopters
The Philippine Air Force has earmarked P68.9 million to purchase spare parts needed for the maintainance of its new AgustaWestland AW-109E “Power” attack helicopters.

The approved amount is covered by two contracts for the procurement of spare parts for the eight aircraft that the Air Force acquired in 2015.

In a bid invitation, a total of P68,928,376.65 has been allocated for the projects – P31,420,483.32 for Lot 1, and P37,507,893.33 for Lot 2

Last year, the Air Force bought eight of the attack helicopters from Anglo-Italian firm AgustaWestland for P3.4 billion.

The first two AW-109E helicopters were commissioned in August 2015 while the remaining six were delivered and accepted into the Air Force in December last year.

A pre-bid conference will be held on Monday, March 14, at 1 p.m. at the PAF Procurement Center conference room in Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Interested bidders may purchase bid documents for a non-refundable fee of P25,000.
Prospective bidders must have experience in similar project within the last five years.

The deadline for submission and opening of bids will be on March 31, 9 a.m. also at the PAF Procurement Center conference room.

US army explosives found in La Union

From Malaya Business Insight (Mar 14): US army explosives found in La Union

A LARGE cache of explosives with the markings “US Corps of Engineers” was found at the shoreline of Luna town in La Union.

Luna town police investigator SPO2 Aniceto Aragon said the explosives were discovered by Marcel Nelmida last Friday while scavenging at the shores of Barangay Magallanes.

Aragon said Nelmida, 40, was collecting recyclable materials in the area when he saw his son, Justin, playing with a rounded object.

Aragon said Nelmida checked the object and saw it bore markings of “high explosives” TNT,” “1/2 pound,” and “USA Corps of Engineers.”

Aragon said Nelmida checked the area where his son found the object and saw some more explosives, which were covered by sand, prompting him to report the matter to the local police.

“Nu’ng tiningnan ng ama, marami pala, so ang ginawa niya, tinabunan muna ng lupa at saka nagreport samin,” said Aragon.

Aragon said the Luna police station later coordinated with the Explosives and Ordnance Disposal of the PNP Ilocos regional police office which later retrieved a total of 88 pieces of explosives.

Aragon could not immediately say how the explosives got into the area.

“Hindi namin alam. Dating mataas ‘yung lupa dun, ngayon dahil sa pagkuha ng bato, bumaba nang bumaba ‘yung lupa dun,” he said.

The explosives are currently in the custody of the PNP regional office in La Union for safekeeping. Aragon could not immediately say if coordination was already made with US authorities about the recovery of the explosives.

China to put up international maritime court

From The Standard (Mar 14): China to put up international maritime court

China will establish an international maritime judicial center, a report from the country’s top court said Sunday, as it seeks to shore up territorial claims to the South China Sea at the center of a growing regional dispute.

The decision comes as an international tribunal prepares to decide a case related to the country’s claims in the South China Sea, where it has built a series of artificial islands capable of hosting military facilities.

Beijing has refused to participate in the arbitration brought by the Philippines in hopes of settling competing territorial claims in the region, where China has made sweeping assertions of sovereignty.
Zhou Qiang, Head of the Supreme People’s Court
Photo credit,
The new maritime judicial center will help China “implement its strategy of becoming a powerful maritime country,” Zhou Qiang, head of the Supreme People’s Court, said in a report to the annual session of the Communist-controlled National People’s Congress legislature.

The center, Zhou said, will “resolutely defend” China’s “national sovereignty,  maritime rights and interests, and other core interests.”

The country already has a system of maritime courts, which have adjudicated more than 225,000 cases since 1984, the Supreme Court’s spokesperson said last year.

Zhou’s comments provided no details about how the new center would differ from the existing institutions.

China has long-standing disputes over maritime territory in the East and South China Sea, where it has aggressively pursued its claims through an increasingly muscular military posture.

In recent years, the waters of the South China Sea have become the stage for a tussle for dominance between Beijing and Washington, the world’s two largest economic and military powers.

China has never clearly defined its claims to the strategic region through which about a third of all the world’s traded oil passes.

The Philippines and several other littoral states have competing claims in the region, as does Taiwan.

Manilla’s decision to take its dispute with China to an international tribunal based in The Hague has infuriated Beijing, which insists the matter is outside the court’s jurisdiction.

A ruling on the matter is expected before May.

Test case for rights abuse

From the Mindanao Times (Mar 12): Test case for rights abuse

Soldier, 3 others relieved as video of abuse becomes viral

THE 10th Infantry Division ordered to relieve a soldier and three militiamen who reportedly tortured a Tagakaulo famer in Barangay Demoloc in  Malita, Davao Occidental last Feb. 19.
The Philippines is a signatory to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. As a signatory to this treaty,  the state has the duty to respect and implement this covenant.
Capt. Rhyan Batchar, spokesperson of 10th Infantry Division, said they were shocked and saddened by the actions of their soldier and SCAAs perpetrated against Mr. Orlando ‘Kaido’ Engo, 52, and his two grandsons as shown in a Facebook post.
In a facebook post yesterday afternoon, Batchar said: “Pursuant to Articles of War 70, Cpl Sandy Batolbatol and four SCAAs who are possibly involved in the said incident are now placed under arrest by the Commander of 72nd Infantry Battalion at their headquarters at Camp Gen Manuel T Yan Sr, Barangay Tuboran, Mawab, Compostela Valley Province. They shall be restricted to barracks to insure their appearance while the investigation is on-going.
“As of now, the names of the four SCAAs are being withheld until the investigation has clearly established their involvement in said incident. Due process of law shall be strictly observed in the investigation and when evidence warrants, they will be prosecuted with the full force of military justice, including trial by Courts-Martial. The soldier and the CAAs are subject to military laws.
“The command further reiterates that the investigation will not prejudice any investigation that maybe conducted by other agencies and shall make available the soldier and CAAs for such investigation.”
Spokesperson of Bayan-SMR Sheena Duazo said they condemn the violation perpetrated by the soldier and militiamen to the farmer whom they accused of being the mastermind in robbing a small store.  She said that it was a clear violation of the law and they deserved to be punished for what they did to a civilian in the community.
Bayan was one of the first organizations informed of the incident.
Batchar said ““we are further enraged by their acts as described by Father Joey Gánio Evangelista, MJ of Malita Tagakaulo Mission in the said post.”
The division has directed the commander of the 72nd Infantry Battalion to relieve Sgt.  Sandy Batolbatol and the three militiamen  from their detachment in Barangay Demoloc.
Maj. Gen. Rafael Valencia, division commander, also ordered to the soldier to custody pending the investigation to determine the appropriate punishment.
The internal investigation, he said, will not prejudice any other probe that other agencies might conduct.
“We want to assure everyone that the 10ID does not and will not condone or tolerate any abusive behavior of our troops including the Cafgu Active Auxiliaries, especially violations of people’s rights,”Batchar said.
“We therefore urge everyone to report abuses committed by our soldiers and CAAs,”he added. “Rest assured that we shall promptly and appropriately act on these reports.”
In the MindaNews  report, Orlando  was falsely accused of sending his 14-year-old grandson, Ian, to steal from a store in Sitio Matamis.
Fetched by the father of the store owner and three SCAA militiamen at his house on the morning of that day, Kaido proceeded to the barangay hall but was brought directly instead to the SCAA detachment where Batolbatol was waiting for him.
Kaido’s son and Ian were also at the detachment. Batolbatol accused Kaido of masterminding the theft in Matamis.
When Kaido denied the accusation the sergeant started beating the frail-framed Kaido with a piece of wood hitting his behind.
After hitting him 10 times, Batolbatol ordered Ian to beat up his grandfather; the boy complied.
Later, it was the turn of the SCAA militiamen.
They hit Kaido on the head with a piece of wood. They repeatedly hit him with their fists on his side, on the chest and stomach.
Not satisfied with beating up Kaido, the militiamen placed ice under both his armpits, in his trousers by his bottoms and his groin. They then poured ice cold water on his whole body .
Unable to take anymore, Kaido agreed to sign a document admitting to having sent his grandson to steal from the store. He was released soon after that.
On the evening of that same day, Kaido, together with his daughter-in-law, proceeded to Malita to file a police report as well as have himself examined by a doctor.
According to the doctor’s report, Kaido had a 5cm laceration on his head, “contusion hematoma anterior chest, swelling hematoma at left wrist, and hematoma at buttocks area.”
Kaido has asked the help of the Mission.
At the Barangay hearing on Wednesday, Batolbatol offered Kaido P50,000 and his old motorcycle; the barangay officials at the hearing were allegedly pressuring Kaido to accept.
Kaido refused the offer saying he wanted the case settled in court.
This could be a test case for the AFP in ensuring that their soldiers follow the law and do not resort to human rights violations such as the use of torture and other acts that strip civilians of their humanity.

PMA valedictorian: A 3-year-old kid's dream comes true

From Rappler (Mar 13): PMA valedictorian: A 3-year-old kid's dream comes true

From a toddler amazed by military vehicles, Kristian Dave Abiqui is now a full-fledged soldier, graduating at the top of the PMA Gabay-Laya Class of 2016

It was a dream that started when he was only 3 years old, a tiny toddler who was amazed by military vehicles and equipment on display at Fort Gregorio Del Pilar in Bagiuo City.

More than two decades later, Kristian Dave Abiqui stood before the Borromeo Field inside the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), a grown man of 23, the top graduate of the "Gabay-Laya" Class of 2016.

His father, Efren Abiqui, remembers that moment like it was yesterday.

"Nakita niya 'yung mga armored cars na naka display, mga arms. Sabi niya, 'Dad, picture picture!' So pinaupo namin doon habang nagpapicture siya. Then nung pumasok kami sa loob, nakakita siya ng kadete. That time, sabi niya, 'Daddy, picture picture,'" the older Abiqui told Rappler on the sidelines of his son's graduation on Sunday, March 13. (He saw the armored cars on display, the arms too. He said: Dad, take a picture! So we sat him down to take a picture. When we entered the camp, he saw a cadet. Again, he asked me to take a picture.)

"Habang lumalaki siya, kapag nagscascan siya ng pictures, parang may interest siya sa pagiging uniformed man," added the class topnotcher's father. (As he grew up and looked at those photos again, it seemed like he had an interest in being a uniformed man.)

It wasn't always an easy decision to make, for Kristian Dave, his father, or his mother. The younger Abiqui was already a junior at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, taking up civil engineering, when he finally decided to take a leap in 2011 and join the military.

"It's a crossroads when I was in college. I was ideal back then and I also wanted to instill change in our country and I think the armed forces is one of the most stable institutions to have my own circle of influence as a junior officer," Abiqui, surrounded by family and friends, told media after the graduation rights.

What pushed him to finally enter the military? "This is a once in a lifetime opportunity so hindi ko ma let go yung opportunity na yun, baka next time wala na," he said.
(I couldn't let go of this opportunity because it might not be there the next time.)

Abiqui is set to join the Navy as a second lieutenant at a crucial time – tensions between the Philippines and China over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) are rising, even in the midst of an arbitration try by government officials.

"The Navy is the service of the future. Makikita natin (It's clear) that we're an archipelagic country so we will need a strong Navy," said Abiqui.

As in all graduations, Sunday was a bittersweet moment for Abiqui and his classmates, members of the smallest class the military has seen in decades. As he spoke during his valedictory address, Abiqui waxed nostalgic, leaving messages of thanks to officials in the academy and words of encouragement for his underclassmen.

It was a bittersweet moment too for his parents, who will have to bid goodbye to their only son, as he begins a career in the armed forces. Abiqui would later admit his chosen career in the military remains a bitter pill to swallow for both his parents.

But his father, a technician at the Department of Public Works and Highways in Tuguegarao City, sees it differently. "Kapag kontrahin mo yung interest nila, mag-iiba yung way nila. So this time, moral support ang i-aano namin sa kanya," said the older Abiqui. (If you go against their interests, they'll stray. So this time, we offer all our moral support.)

Aquino to PH military: Stay neutral

From Rappler (Mar 14): Aquino to PH military: Stay neutral

Aquino also sits beside opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay during the PMA graduation rites
Despite endorsing and actively campaigning for Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, President Benigno Aquino III told the Philippine Military Academy's graduating Gabay Laya Class of 2016 – and key officials from the Armed Forces of the Philippines in attendance – to stay neutral as the elections draw near.

BEA CUPIN, REPORTING: The farewells continue for President Benigno Aquino III on Sunday, as he addresses the Philippine Military Academy one last time.
Speaking before the 63 members of the Gabay Laya Class of 2016, Aquino talks about the military's role in democracy, and remembers the armed forces' dark days during martial law.
He thanks the armed forces for their role in his administration's "Daang Matuwid."
He also highlights the upgrades under his watch – 68 big-ticket projects worth P58 billion.
The modernization come at a crucial time for the country's defenses. Tensions between the Philippines and China escalate as extremist ideologies threaten parts of the country.
He reminds the military to stay neutral as the election season heats up even if he endorsed a presidential candidate, Mar Roxas. In today's graduation, Aquino sits beside opposition standard-bearer Vice President Jejomar Binay.
Aquino has over 100 days left in his presidency. And here at the PMA, as in other speeches around the Philippines, the president tells his audience: leave the country a better place than you found it – a recurring theme from a president who's confident about his legacy. 
Bea Cupin, Rappler, Baguio City.

Aquino hits 2 'anti-BBL senators' at PMA graduation

From Rappler (Mar 13): Aquino hits 2 'anti-BBL senators' at PMA graduation

President Benigno Aquino III does not identify the senators, who he says blocked the Bangsamoro Basic Law and failed to offer alternatives

BBL. President Benigno Aquino III raises the issue of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law as he speaks before the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 2016. Photo by Marcelino Pascua/Malacañang Photo Bureau

BBL. President Benigno Aquino III raises the issue of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law as he speaks before the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 2016. Photo by Marcelino Pascua/Malacañang Photo Bureau

BAGUIO, Philippines – In his last hurrah before the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), President Benigno Aquino III did not hold back from hitting "two senators" who, he said, got in the way of a long-awaited peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Standing onstage alongside family and friends of the PMA Gabay-Laya Class of 2016 and ranking officials of the military and government, Aquino highlighted the hard life of the uniformed services in times of conflict.

"Alam po natin ang kasabihan, ang kasundaluhan ang huling magnanais na magkaroon ng kaguluhan. Sila nga ang unang sasabak sa hidwaan, sila ang unang mag-sasakripisyo at sila ang unang malalagay sa peligro," Aquino said on Sunday, March 13, during his address at the Class of 2016's graduation in Baguio City. (We're all familiar with the saying that it's the armed forces that desire conflict the least. They're exposed to war, they're the first to sacrifice, they're the first to be put in danger.)

The Aquino government, said the President, took measures to end decades of conflict in parts of Mindanao.

"Nariyan po ang panawagan ng Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), kasama na ang Framework Agreement at Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Hangad natin: maghatid ng katarungan, kapayapaan, at kaunlaran sa Bangsamoro. Ang masakit po, may dalawang miyembro ng Senado na tahasang hinarang ang BBL," Aquino said. (There's the BBL, the Framework Agreement, and the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. Our goal: to bring justice, peace, and development to the Bangsamoro. Unfortunately, two members of the Senate actively blocked the passage of the BBL.)

The proposed BBL would have paved the way for the creation of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, the result of years of negotiations between his government and the MILF. Both the Aquino government and the rebel group had said its passage would lead to peace in war-torn areas of Mindanao.

Aquino had hoped – and vowed – that the proposed measure would pass before his term ended, a timeline that seemed possible up until January 23, 2015, when more than 60 Filipinos, including 44 elite police commandos, died during clashes in Mamasapano town in Maguindanao.

Police forces were pinned down in hours-long clashes against MILF fighters, members of the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, and private armed groups. The Mamasapano clash triggered anti-BBL sentiments among lawmakers and the public, and cast doubt on the MILF's role in the peace deal.

(READ: With BBL 'dead', Aquino to strengthen Mindanao peace gains)

Up until Congress was adjourned, the Aquino administration had hoped for the measure's passage.

(READ: Blame absentee, indifferent lawmakers for failed BBL)

"Dito ko naalala ang mga sinasabi ng mga matatanda – sige, maliwanag na ayaw mo. Ano naman ang gusto mo? Ang dalawang miyembro ito ng Senado naiwan nalang sa ayaw, na walang nilalatag na mas mainam na solusyon. Kayo na nga po ang humusga kung sino sa atin ang nagkulang at sino naman ang tumotoo sa inyo," added the President. (During times like these, I remember what old people say: Okay, you don't like this. But what do you want? These two members of the Senate left it at 'I don’t want it' but didn't even offer an alternative. I leave you to judge who failed and who fulfilled his promise to you.)

Aquino did not name the two senators but could have alluded to a handful of members of the Senate, most of which happen to be candidates in the 2016 national elections.

There's Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who chairs the Senate committee on local government. At least two senators – Alan Peter Cayetano and Joseph Victor Ejercito – withdrew their signatures from the bill in the aftermath of the clash.

(READ: Cardinal Quevedo on BBL: 'Peace on the altar of politics')

Senator Grace Poe, meanwhile, chaired the committee that probed the deadly clash.

The draft committee report questioned whether the government should continue its deal with the MILF, noting that the group "refuse(d) to submit the findings of its internal investigations into the incident or disclose the identities of those involved in the massacre."

The MILF eventually released the findings of its probe into the clash but has thus far not released a list of names of members involved.

Marcos and Cayetano are vice presidential candidates while Poe is running for president.

(READ: Next administration must push BBL – Deles)

Aquino was in Baguio City on Sunday for activities related to his two jobs – as the sitting president and the chairman of the ruling Liberal Party. In the morning, Aquino graced the PMA graduation and in the afternoon, led a proclamation rally of his anointed candidates – bets of the LP-led "Daang Matuwid" coalition – in the city.

Aquino's anointed candidate, LP standard-bearer Manuel "Mar" Roxas II, is also in the region for a series of campaign activities in Benguet province, Mountain Province, and Baguio City.

Questions on security issues dominate PMA forum on Bangsamoro peace process

From MindaNews (Mar 12): Questions on security issues dominate PMA forum on Bangsamoro peace process

Questions on security issues concerning the proposed Bangsamoro region dominated the roundtable discussion on the status of the peace process at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) here on Wednesday.

Among the questions posed by PMA cadets was whether government would retain authority over the Bangsamoro in terms of peacekeeping functions.

Another question dealt with organizational and operational systems for the Bangsamoro police and the central leadership of the Philippine National Police.

Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer, chair of the government (GPH) panel in peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) clarified that peacekeeping will remain a function of the Central Government.

Government and MILF peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal hand over some books on the Bangsamoro and the Bangsamoro peace process to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Superintendent Maj. Gen. Donato San Juan III and this year’s top PMA graduate, Kristian Daeve Gelacio Abiqi during a forum on the Bangsamoro peace process on March 9, 2016 at the PMA in Baguio City. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

Government and MILF peace panel chairs Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal hand over some books on the Bangsamoro and the Bangsamoro peace process to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Superintendent Maj. Gen. Donato San Juan III and this year’s top PMA graduate, Kristian Daeve Gelacio Abiqi during a forum on the Bangsamoro peace process on March 9, 2016 at the PMA in Baguio City. MindaNews photo by FROILAN GALLARDO

“In terms of national defense, that remains a reserved power of Central Government so there is only one armed forces of the Philippines and the commander in chief si the President of the Philippines,” Ferrer said.

“In practical terms, pag may national security situation, siempre national security concern yan but you know this is not martial law. The AFP cannot simply barge into any place na hindi man lang sila mag-coordinate sa mga local government units doon,” she said.

The Bangsamoro police on the other hand is under the command and direction of the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief and the administrative control and supervision of the National Police Commission.

Ferrer explained that those who wish to apply as police officers have to follow the requirements set by the law creating the PNP.

Mohagher Iqbal, chair of the MILF peace panel was asked what the rebel group would do with its camps once the peace process is concluded.

Iqbal said the MILF has abandoned “fixed camping” after the all-out war in 2000.
He said the all-out war, where they lost Camp Abubakar, taught them the lesson that as a guerrilla group it is impractical to maintain camps.

“Let’s be frank about it, the AFP is a conventional army. If we fight them using conventional methods, we are no match against them,” he said.

The Annex on Normalization signed by government and the MILF on January 25, 2014 provides for the transformation of six previously acknowledged MILF camps into “peaceful and productive communities.”

Iqbal added MILF fighters and weapons will undergo a decommissioning process that will be commensurate to the implementation of political milestones in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

The CAB was signed on March 27, 2014, ending 17 years of peace negotiations that started in 1997, during the administration of former president Fidel V. Ramos.

Iqbal admitted the difficulty of telling the Moro to part with his gun but assured the MILF will follow the terms of the decommissioning process.

He said the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law has brought frustration to the Moro people but that the organization was trying to manage such frustration.

He cited the recent clashes in Butig, Lanao del Sur between the military and an armed group with suspected links to the ISIS as proof of the people’s frustration.

Ferrer said that despite the clashes in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao the ceasefire with the MILF was holding.

“Security cooperation between the government and MILF has been good,” she said.

She emphasized that once the peace process with the MILF was concluded, “malaking tinik ang mawawala” and the AFP could focus on addressing the Chinese threat in the West Philippine Sea.

Around 250 PMA cadets and 80 journalists attended the roundtable discussion.

Organized by MindaNews in partnership with The Asia Foundation and the Philippine Information Agency, the forum aimed to provide the media and the cadets, some of whom will be assigned in Mindanao, an overview of the peace process and its historical nuances. The media forum was held at noon, after the forum at the PMA.

DWDD: NEW PAF CHIEF | Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina AFP

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 8): NEW PAF CHIEF | Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina AFP


CAMP GEN EMILIO AGUINALDO, Quezon City (DWDD) – The President and Armed Forces of the Philippines Commander –in- Chief Benigno Aquino III named Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina as the new Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).

Lt Gen Fallorina, a native of Jaro, Leyte and a member of PMA Class 1983, currently the AFP Deputy Chief of Staff since June 2015 and will assume his post on Wednesday, March 9, 2016, at Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas.

He will be replacing Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Delgado who will be stepping down days ahead of his retirement date of March 20 due to an election ban on appointments.

TDCS Fallorina

Fallorina is a “proficient helicopter pilot” having been designated as squadron commander of the 206th Tactical Helicopter Squadron in 2002 and Wing Commander of 520th Air Base Wing in 2011.

He also served as deputy commander of 3rd Air Division in 2012; commander of 1st Air Division in 2013 and the Vice Commander of the Philippine Air Force in 2014.

He was a recipient of three Distinguished Service Stars; the Distinguished Aviation Cross, the Silver Wing Medal and numerous Military Merit Medals.
Lt Gen Fallorina is set to retire in 2017. AES / MCAG