Friday, March 18, 2016

RP, US show teeth to China with expanded war games

From the Daily Tribune (Mar 19): RP, US show teeth to China with expanded war games

As China steps up its claim over the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), allies the Philippines and United States are set to launch bigger joint war games, with more than 8,000 Filipino and American troops participating in various training in different facilities in the country.

Aside from the huge number of participants, this year Balikatan 2016 (BK16) will involve jet fighters — with the Armed Forces of the  Philippines (AFP) sending its two brand-new FA50 lead-in fighters to exercise with the US Air Force A10 “Thunderbolts and British-made Hawker Hunter.

The AFP will also be sending all its S211 trainer aircraft in the joint war games.
It was gathered that a total of 4,900 US troops and 3,773 AFP personnel will be taking part in BK 16 which will officially open on April 4.

Also, 80 Australian servicemen will be coming as support elements.

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.

The West Philippine Sea is Manila’s term for areas of the South China Sea that it claims as part of Philippine territory, including islands and reefs on the Spratly Islands that it occupies.

Manila’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 remit.
A ruling on the matter is expected before May.

The US Embassy, in a statement, said the 12-day BK16 will involve “rapid reaction” operation between the Filipino and US troops.

“One of the main operations for this year’s exercise will be the implementation of a joint rapid reaction force as part of the distributed operations in the vicinity of Panay, demonstrating the partnered capability in rapid response.,” it added.

Military service members from both countries will also conduct combined simulation supported events and operational events in three main commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (Western Command, Northern Luzon Command and Sothern Luzon Command), and other major Philippine military camps such as Crow Valley, Fort Magsaysay, Clark Air Field, Subic Bay, Palawan and Panay to improve their ability to work together, partnering in capabilities and plan follow-on operations.

There will also be humanitarian civil assistance projects throughout Panay and Palawan areas. Preliminary work on community infrastructure projects begins at the end of March.

The US Embassy said BK 16 will demonstrate cooperation and interoperability between the Philippines and the US, consistent with the Mutual Defense Treaty and Visiting Forces Agreement “as we continue our commitment to train, share information and provide support to each other through a range of military operations.”  
“Throughout BK 16, AFP and US forces will work together to enhance maritime law enforcement throughout the Philippines in order to meet annual training requirements, and enhance techniques, tactics, and procedures as a critical part of interoperability of our forces,” it said.

Jabidah massacre remembered in Cotabato, Corregidor

From ABS-CBN (Mar 18): Jabidah massacre remembered in Cotabato, Corregidor

Progressive groups in Cotabato City on Friday commemorated the 48th year of the Jabidah massacre. Arianne Apatan, ABS-CBN News Central Mindanao

Members of progressive groups on Friday staged a rally in front of the Cotabato City Plaza in commemoration of the 48th year of the Jabidah massacre.

The activists carried placards with words expressing their dismay with the government. They also placed on the road an effigy covered in white cloth, with the word Jabidah beside it.

Suara Bangsamoro spokesperson Jerome Succor said up to this day, they are still seeking justice for the victims of the massacre, which happened during the Marcos regime.

"Hanggang sa kasalukuyan, kung titingnan natin, patuloy yung extrajudicial killings sa mga Moro na civilians. Hanggang ngyayon ay wala pa ring hustisya doon sa mga sibilyan na nasawi na perpetrated by state authority, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Sa ngayon, sa panunungkulan ni President Aquino, zero justice sa mga victims," Succor claimed.

Some say the Jabidah massacre did not happen, but martial law victim Abunawas Kali said he strongly believes that the massacre took place.

"Iyung mga pinatay, mga Bangsamoro. Bangsamoro kami. Masakit sa amin yung pagkuha sa kanila para kunin ang Sabah. Ayaw ng Malaysia na ibigay ang Sabah. Nung panahon na yun, yung mga Muslim hindi naman alam na binalak i-take over yung Sabah," Kali said.

How Jabidah massacre caused Moro rebellion

Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also commemorated the massacre by going to Corregidor.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman said justice must be served. He said the Bangsamoro people should no longer hide in the shadows of the past. He said they will continue finding ways to achieve peace in Mindanao.

Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace panel chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal said incidents like the Jabidah massacre should never happen again.

"We will remember Jabidah massacre. We should not let this happen again. Through historical narrative, we can find solution to the problem," he said.

On March 18, 1968, hundreds of young Moro were brought to Corregidor to be trained by the military for a secret mission to help the Marcos government seize control of Sabah from Malaysia.

They later refused to go and were killed.

The Jabidah massacre was said to be the inspiration of then University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Nur Misuari in forming the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

In 2015, a marker was built in Corregidor acknowledging the Jabidah massacre as part of Philippine history.

MILF: Editorial -- Seeing evil always

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Mar 19): Editorial -- Seeing evil always

Four columnists of The Manila Times, including at times it editorial writer have always seen evils in Moros, Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the peace process in general, and Benigno Aquino III. We are already beginning to doubt whether they are still professing Christians, otherwise, they will be guided by what the Bible had said: “”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they are the children of God.”

The latest of such unrestrained tongue-lashings was hurled against Prof. Miriam Ferrer-Coronel and Chairman Mohagher Iqbal when they attended a forum on the Bangsamoro and Cordillera Peace Processes on March 9 at the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). (Baguio City Mayor Mauricio Domogan also attended). It was described by editorial of the Manila Times on March 13 as “a treason for politicising the military’.

Are the two peace-makers so powerful speakers that they can convince the people running the PMA and its cadets --- and defile the institution --- in just one visit?

If the GPH-MILF peace process had reached this point of almost complete success, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have supported it and played their shares exceptionally well. In fact, four of the 11 government chief peace negotiators were military men.

It is not our policy to hit back every time people wrong us. We are not vindictive and spiteful. We value much the merits of patience, resiliency, and perseverance, but surely we never had embraced negative passivity. We also know how to use stone if hit by stone (but Islam asks us to better pardon).

We think it is time for the management of The Manila Times to restrain the excesses of the four columnists and editorial writer. We are not afraid to be criticised, because, first, we are not perfect, and, second, no one including the Prophets can please everybody, and third, there are people who are genetically already anti-peace or war-thirsty.  Even in the past, as it is now, people continue to rebel against God. So, who are we to be spared of such criticisms?

But the four columnists seemed to have developed a negative and twisted logic if the issues involved are the Moros, BBL, peace process, and the Aquino family. They have never treated in their writings these issues with objectivity, as good journalists are morally bound. They seem to have been controlled by their hatred if not outright bigotry (or they are being for it). Even without mentioning their names, only by their initials: FP, FT, RT, and HA, people will know them.  FT read the declaration of Martial Law in September 1972 and active member of the Opus Dei, an ultra-conservative Christian group; RT was formerly a communist, who learned that the enemy of your enemy is your friend but seemed to have forgotten all those MTT teachings and learned to worship only one woman whom he served during her presidency; FP, not much is known of him, except that the picture he used in his column does not reflect his real age; and HA was once arrested for trying to blackmail a Japanese businessman for four million dollars.

Criticism can only be much appreciated or valid if the one criticising is free from the faults they are seeing in others. Remember also that pointing two accusing fingers at a person, three fingers are pointing back at the accuser.

MILF: BTC Regular Employees undergo Seminar –Workshop on Strategic Performance Management System

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Website (Mar 18): BTC Regular Employees undergo Seminar –Workshop on Strategic Performance Management System

The Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) conducted Seminar-Workshop on Strategic Performance Management System (SPMS) through the facilitation of Civil Service Commission (CSC)-ARMM on March 14, 2016 at Kutawato Hall, Em Manor Hotel, Cotabato City.

The program aims to enhance the knowledge of BTC regular employees in setting performance targets and how those performances are achieved and evaluated to determine their over-all performance for end of the year.

The submission of annual accomplishment report to the CSC and the Office of the President (OP) is true to all government agencies as required by law.

Section 3-Article IX-B of the Philippine Constitution mandates the government to ‘establish a career service; adopt measures to promote morale efficiency, integrity, responsiveness, progressiveness and courtesy in the civil service’.

This provision of the Constitution also mandates to strengthen the rewards and merit system; integrate human resource development (HRD) programs for all levels and ranks, among others.

The law is very clear that a particular employee must achieve a ‘very satisfactory’ rating if not ‘outstanding’ at the end of the year otherwise he/she is at risk of being dismissed from public service especially when he/she gets a consistent ‘poor rating’.

It was also mentioned that the submission of annual performance rating for the year that ended where the employee is holding a regular appointment is a requirement for the payment of ‘performance-based bonus.’

Atty.  Sha Elijah Dumama Alba, BTC Deputy Executive Director in her introductory statement emphasized the importance of one’s performance, target setting and how they are achieved to be able to remain in public service.

The facilitators from the CSC, Mr. Kenneth Mar S. Salcedo and Ms. Zamchemarie K. Puntalan articulately presented and discussed their topics, gave emphasis to the keyword ’performance’.

BTC Commissioners Abdulla Camlian, Pedro Eisma and Timuay Melanio Ulama attended the program, while 22 BTC regular employees were present who attentively listened to the speakers from the CSC.

The workshop outputs were presented with most of the comments for improvements were done by Mr. Salcedo and Ms. Punzalan.

MILF ‘We respect the agreements and obey orders from MILF Central Committee’—BIAF Western Mindanao Base Commands

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Mar 18): ‘We respect the agreements and obey orders from MILF Central Committee’—BIAF Western Mindanao Base Commands

Bongao, Tawi-Tawi—The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Joint Normalization Committee (JNC) chaired by Mohammad Nasif headed the MILF camps visits in Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga Sibugay on March 1-5, 2016.

The MILF-JNC visited the 117th Base Command of the MILF-BIAF at Camp Sultan Shariful Hasim, Languyan, and Camp Maniyupan under the Inner Base Command, National Guard Front in Sapa-Sapa, Tawi-Tawi on March 2 and 3, respectively.

On March 4, they visited MILF forces of the 113rd Base Command, in Camp Salman Tungawan, Zamboanga Sibugay.

Nasif said that the visit in Tawi-Tawi was postponed twice already but his team is glad that they have finally visited their comrades in the area. “I apologize my brothers and sisters in the struggle because our activity was postponed for many times since last year,” he said.

Nasif, also the MILF General Staff for Operations reminded the MILF combatants to avoid provocative actions that might affect the on-going peace process.

Commenting on the concern over the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and the frustrations felt by MILF forces, Nasif asked his colleagues to remain patient and steadfast.

“We have achieved very important agreements in our talks with the Philippine government with the help of international communities, that is why you (BIAF) should never repeat what had happened before when ‘MOA-AD’ was aborted in 2008,” he stressed.

“The Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro and Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro are the fruits of our struggle and we must treasure these gains that we achieved,” said Nasif.

“Why we achieved the CAB because we work harder. And now we need to work much harder than before,” he added.

In the MILF-JNC peace advocacies, it was noted that the BIAF is fully committed to the peace agreements signed by the government and the MILF (i.e. FAB and CAB) especially on the observance of existing ceasefire mechanisms.

 “We respect the agreements and obey orders from MILF Central Committee”, said one BIAF Commander in Tawi-Tawi in an exclusive interview.

Nasif disclosed that the program was closely coordinated with their counterpart in government side.

On the other hand, the Head of Islamic Call and Guidance of General Staff, BIAF-MILF, told the participants to observe patience. “Fighters that have patience will surely win as promised by Allah”.

Lawyer Naguib Sinarimbo gave updates on current status of GPH-MIF peace process and explained the joint normalization process.

“In the current talks, we have only reached Congress. We have more steps to do,” Atty. Sinarimbo said.

He said that in the normalization program, the MILF have done their part. “They did the first decommissioning of their combatants, and weapons, handed them over to Independent Decommissioning Body (IDB) as a true manifestation of its strong commitment to the peace process.

Atty. Sinarimbo further said that since no BBL is passed in the Congress, there is no more succeeding decommissioning of MILF combatants.

“Our approach in doing this is calibrated, if they give, we will also give,” he pointed out.

“The imperative to do right now is strengthen our programs, to widen our political campaign on CAB as gains of the peace process,” said Sinarimbo.

However, the 145 MILF combatants that were decommissioned will continue to benefit from socio-economic programs.

Toks Ebrahim, Administrative Officer of the GS BIAF-MILF and Chairman of MILF-Joint Peace Security Team discussed the BIAF programs that are based on four-point program of the late MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim.

Ebrahim told the participants that in developing Moro communities, the Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA) is mandated to do the work and the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) is task to develop Moro leaders in public administration and governance. These two agencies are products of the peace process.

The MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) Malik Caril presented the tasks of MILF CCCH before the participants.

Meantime, the Batch 300 member Atiollah Jamsuri, along with his Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) batch-mates who attended at the Camp Salman program said that he felt frustrated of the Philippine government in its peace process with MNLF and the MILF.

He said that there were signed agreements like the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, 1996 Final Peace Agreement and the MOA-AD that government failed to comply. 

“The government doesn’t want us Bangsamoro to have our own government as they failed to pass the BBL,” he said.

“At this stage of our life, we never think of ourselves. This struggle is for you and the young generations. We all know that you have sacrificed like what we did before and until now. Sometime we’re thinking of fighting again against the government but once we are gone in this world who else could guide you in our struggle,” Jamsuri emotionally said.

Referring to the agreements signed by the parties-GPH with MNLF and the MILF, Jamsuri told the participants, “Let us wait for another opportunity; if we didn’t achieve the passage of BBL, I know Allah will give us much better than BBL in shaa Allah (God willing).

Jamsuri appreciates much the leadership of MILF through the leadership of MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim for conducting advocacy programs.

“This is good because in this way, we understand each other and builds strong brotherhood. We want to finish this struggle with you,” he said.

The JNC is also co-chaired by Undersecretary Zenonida F. Brosas for the government. The government members include MGen. Ariel B. Bernardo (Ret.) and MGen. Leo Cresente M. Ferrer (Ret.).

MILF members include ‎Atty. Naguib Sinarimbo and Atty. Blo Adiong, Dir. Susan Guadalupe Marcaida and Toks Ebrahim.

MILFL: BTC Chair thankful for Japan’s commitment to support peace process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Mar 18): BTC Chair thankful for Japan’s commitment to support peace process

Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) Chairman Mohagher Iqbal expressed gratitude to the Japanese Government for its commitment to support the Government of the Philippines (GPH)-Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) peace process despite the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)

“We are grateful to Japan for its support to the GPH-MILF peace process,” Iqbal told Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazhuhide Ishikawa last Monday (Mar 14) night during the latter’s visit to the BTC office in Cotabato City.

Ishikawa, together with fellow Japanese embassy officials was in Cotabato City on Monday for a Grant Contract Signing with five local organizations that will implement projects as part of part of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD).

The Japanese envoy reiterated Japan’s commitment to continue supporting the peace process.

Chairman Iqbal said BTC is privileged and honored with the visit of the Japanese diplomats. “This sends a strong message that the partnership we have built throughout the years will continue and live on, with or without BBL,” he said.

The BBL, which the Philippine Congress failed to pass, is a proposed law drafted by the BTC that is hoped to bring sustainable peace and development in Mindanao.

In his message, the BTC chair described the Japanese government as a “close friend” and supporter to the peace process.

“The presence of Japanese Government through participation in major peace mechanisms and even to the extent of granting aid in support of the peace process, has made a great impact to lead us into reaching milestones,” the BTC head disclosed.

The Japanese Embassy expanded grassroots assistance program to MILF areas and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) started a community development project supporting peace and stability in Mindanao in 2006 according to Chairman Iqbal.

He said the project together with previous projects in Mindanao was labelled J-BIRD.

“This was a rare case of Japan entering a conflict-affected region before a peace agreement was reached,” he said.
Chairman Iqbal related that in 2006, Japan joined the International Monitoring Team that was established in 2004 to monitor the implementation of the 2003 ceasefire agreement between the two parties.

Japan dispatched an expert in socioeconomic development to join the peace monitors. The BTC Chair said Japan’s actual projects and programs for socioeconomic development helped facilitate peace negotiations.

He related further that Japan became member of the International Contact Group, an international body that observes the negotiation and ensures the implementation of mutually agreed accords.

Chairman Iqbal also recalled the effort of when the Japanese Government for the peace process when it facilitated the meeting between President Aquino and MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim in August 2011 at a hotel near Narita Airport in Japan.

Currently, JICA is implementing the project called “Comprehensive Capacity Development Project for Bangsamoro (CCDP-B) with the BTC as its counterpart agency from 2013 to 2016.

MILF: Japan reiterates commitment of support Bangsamoro peace process

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Mar 18): Japan reiterates commitment of support Bangsamoro peace process

Commending the Bangsamoro people for staying in the course of the peace process despite the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines reiterated Japan’s commitment of support to the peaceful means of resolving the Mindanao problem.

During their courtesy call to the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) on Monday (March 14) eve, Japanese Ambassador Kazhuhide Ishikawa said, “The main purpose of the visit is to see as many key persons in Mindanao as possible and to deliver the government of Japan’s message to all of you which is to continue to support.”

“Regardless of what is going on in political field in Manila, we will continue to support,” he added.

Ishikawa stressed, “This is our firm commitment and in that sense we really appreciate your party decided to stay on the peace process as before and it is highly appreciated by not only Japan but also the entire international community.”

The Japanese envoy related President Aquino’s state visit to Japan last June where the two heads of state issued a statement saying that there are three pillars of importance in terms of Philippine-Japan relations.

“One is political security including South China Sea, second is economic cooperation and third one is peace process in Mindanao,” he mentioned.

“In that spirit we would like to continue our cooperation and in particular we have expertise and experience in socio-economic development so we will to cooperate with you in that field as much as possible,“ Ishikawa said.

The Japanese ambassador was joined by his subordinates Second Secretaries Bumpei Sugano and Takuhiro Watanabe, First Secretaries Takayuki Nakagawa and Yosuke Tamabayashi, and Kurisu Yoshimoto, chief of the security section.

Together with fellow Commissioners, Bangsamoro Transition Commission Chairman Mohagher Iqbal warmly welcomed the Japanese diplomats and expressed gratitude to Japan’s continuing assistance to the peace process.

MILF: Malacanang directs OPAPP for steps to address grievances and historical injustices

Posted the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Mar 19): Malacanang directs OPAPP for steps to address grievances and historical injustices

In response to the recommendations of the Transitional Justice and Reconciliation Commission (TCRJ) for the government to address grievances and correct historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro people, the Office of the Executive Secretary directed the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to convene and coordinate with agencies to work towards the adoption and implementation of the TJRC recommendations.

In a memorandum issued by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. on March 11, 2016, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Sec. Teresita Q. Deles was instructed to endorse the TJRC Report to the relevant agencies for the agencies’ review and assessment, convene and coordinate with the agencies to work towards the adoption and implementation of the recommendations and identify and mobilize resources to support the programs that may be implemented.

The Executive Secretary further directed Deles to encourage and initiate activities towards the mainstreaming and popularization of the framework for transitional justice and reconciliation.

The Normalization Annex of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed in 2014 provides the creation of the TJRC.

TJRC is mandated to conduct study and make recommendations with the view to promote healing and reconciliation of the different communities that have been affected by armed conflict in Mindanao.

The Commission, conducted “listening process” sessions in more than 210 Moro, Indigenous peoples and settler communities in Mindanao and island provinces.

Respondents of the study included people engaged in peacebuilding, conflict transformation, human rights practitioners, community and religious leaders, academics, experts in Mindanao and Bangsamoro studies, history and culture, public servants and representatives from security and private sectors.

The TCRJ study came with the conclusion that there were “legitimate grievances” of the Bangsamoro people that were political, economic, social and cultural in nature during decades and there were “historical injustices” committed by the colonial governments of Spanish, American and Japanese as well as the Philippine Government.

It further concluded there were human rights violations committed against the Bangsamoro people through extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary arrest, and torture before, during and after Martial law era.

The study has also found out also that there was “land dispossession of the Moro and indigenous peoples” through enforced privatization and titling, government-led settlement and enforced colonization through land laws.

TJRC report was made public at Cotabato City on March 15 and in Manila on March 16 this year.

The body is composed of Ms. Mo Beeker, Special Envoy of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs as the chairperson, GPH delegate Atty. Cecilia Jimenez, MILF delegate Atty.

Ishak Matura, GPH alternate delegate Atty. Mohammed Al-Amin Julkipli, MILF alternate delegate Atty. Rusty Kalim, Senior Adviser Jonathan Sisson of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and Senior Gender Adviser Dr. Ma. Lourdes Veneracion-Ralonza.

DWDD: EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE II Phl Army Achieved Positive Trust and Satisfaction Ratings

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (Mar 18): EXCELLENCE IN SERVICE II Phl Army Achieved Positive Trust and Satisfaction Ratings

FORT ANDRES BONIFACIO, Taguig City (DWDD) – The Philippine Army has achieved positive result of their trust and satisfaction ratings, to include its nation-building contribution index based on the latest nationwide survey conducted by Club Media Asia, Inc.

According to Lt Gen Eduardo Ano, Commanding General of the Philippine Army, the organization has maintained an excellent trust rating and has improved their net satisfaction rating and nation-building contribution index this year.

The army has maintained their excellent trust rating of +75, similar to its baseline record in 2015; while in terms of net satisfaction rating, they received a +73 rating, or an increase of +3 points based from its +70 rating last year.

The Philippine Army’s biggest improvement in the survey was its nation building contribution index which got a +74 rating compared to +68 in 2015.

Lt Gen Ano added that these figures indicate that the Philippine Army is traversing thew right track in achieving one of its strategic objective of being an army loved by the people and it also meant that the services they provided were appreciated by Filipinos.

The survey was conducted among 1, 032 respondents from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

This latest achievement is considered another development for the Philippine Army’s Transformation Program after receiving the coveted Island of Good Governance Award from the Institute for Solidarity in Asia in October 2015.

Lastly, Lt Gen Ano reiterated that this is a great anniversary gift for the Philippine Army, on their 199th year of existence and rest assured that their army will continue to serve the people and secure our land as mandated by our Constitution. AES / OACPA / MCAG

‘Terror Warnings’ For Travelers Persist For Malaysia’s Scenic ‘Island’ Getaways

From the Inquisitr (Mar 18): ‘Terror Warnings’ For Travelers Persist For Malaysia’s Scenic ‘Island’ Getaways   

Terror warnings for travelers to Malaysian Islands have persisted after Britain and Australia issued terror alerts in February for their citizens, respectively. The alerts came following fears of possible terrorist attacks in and around the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. British tourists in particular had been cautioned against visiting Malaysia’s east coast islands owning to the increased threat of kidnappings and other criminal activities.
In response to the heightened alerts, a Malaysian Foreign Ministry spokesman had emphasized that all foreign missions in the country’s capital will be kept abreast of emerging security related developments.
“We also acknowledged the fact that foreign missions are at liberty to provide their own assessment of the security situation in their host countries albeit the fact that it may not be accurate or give a true reflection of the situation.”
In January, the Malaysian police said the country was on its highest-ever security alert. Its counter terrorism officers have cautioned against a seemingly surging ISIS influence in the country and expressed grave apprehensions about its impact on the more vulnerable elements of Malaysian society. In recent times, it has been reported that thousands of young men from Far East countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines have been volunteering to join the terror outfit actively engaged in the Middle East.
Kuala Lumpur (Image: Shutterstock)
Kuala Lumpur (Image: Shutterstock)
In January, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak introduced immediate security measures in the midst of an enhanced terror alert across Southeast Asia following bombings in neighbouring Indonesia and the arrests of suspected suicide bombers in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. A 28-year-old man, in addition to three other suspects, was arrested in the same month with evidence linking them to ISIS. These men had, as per Malaysia’s police, confessed to plotting a terrorist attack on the country.

According to counter-terrorism expert Tomas Olivier, Malaysia’s security threat is not necessarily restricted to the Islamic State.
“The presence of Abu Sayyaf, the Moro National Liberation Front and many insurgent (terrorist) organizations in the south of the Philippines have always posed a threat to Malaysia’s northern state of Sabah, and now, given their allegiance to IS, they also threaten the capital Kuala Lumpur.”
Malaysia is home to nearly 900 magnificent islands, ranging from the bustling and accessible, to the tranquil and secluded. Boasting one of the most awe-inspiring and pristine beaches marvelously caressed by sparkling turquoise waters, these idyllic getaways are amongst the most prized tourist destinations on the planet. The islands are divided into those of the western peninsula, the eastern peninsula, and the islands around Borneo.
Malaysian Island (Image: Shutterstock)
Malaysian Island (Image: Shutterstock)
The east coast is predominantly rural, somewhat impoverished, as well as largely conservative in outlook compared to other parts of the country, hence the reason the warnings issued to foreigners in view of safety concerns in this region are more pronounced. Nonetheless, the east offers prime attractions for travelers with some of its most captivating and untouched islands, many of them famous for their extremely rare and rich underwater paradise that remains a tempting lure for scuba-divers flocking in from all across the world.

According to an updated United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advisement, travel warnings for British tourists persist for Malaysia more particularly for all islands off the coast of eastern Sabah. According to the report, there is a significant security threat for foreigners traveling to that part of the country owing to increased instances of kidnapping as well as other dangerous crimes reported in this region recently.

The advisement continues to remain in effect as of now for the nearly 400,000 British nationals who visit Malaysia annually.

Soldier, 7 Abus slain in firefight

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 19): Soldier, 7 Abus slain in firefight

Seven suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists and a soldier were killed during a fierce firefight that erupted in a village of Patikul town in Sulu, the military reported.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, Joint Task Group Sulu commander, said 17 soldiers were wounded in the clash. Six terrorists were also reportedly wounded, including wanted Abu Sayyaf leader Radullan Sahiron, he added.

However, the military said no bodies from the enemy side were actually recovered from the site of the clash.

Arrojado said soldiers from the Philippine Army’s 10th Infantry Battalion clashed with around 100 armed men under the one-armed Sahiron in Sitio Maggi, Barangay Panglayahan, Patikul town, on Friday morning. The firefight began at around 9: 15 a.m. and lasted until 10:40 a.m.

The United States government earlier put up a $1-million bounty for Sahiron’s arrest, apart from the P5-million reward put up by the Philippine government.

Arrojado said additional troops have been deployed to pursue the terrorist group.

Two military helicopters airlifted the lone fatality and the wounded soldiers on Friday morning and brought them to hospitals for medical treatment.

Philippines v. China Won't End South China Sea Disputes

From The Diplomat (Mar 17): Philippines v. China Won't End South China Sea Disputes (By

Despite high hopes for the ruling, Manila’s arbitration case against China won’t solve the South China Sea issue.

Philippines v. China Won't End South China Sea Disputes

Image Credit: YouTube Still Shot / US Navy
Observers of Asian geopolitics are by now familiar with the legal challenge brought by the Philippines challenging China’s maritime claims in the South China Sea. Last year, the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that it had jurisdiction over the main claims brought by the Philippines, rejecting China’s argument that the case presented a territorial dispute beyond the purview of the Court. A ruling on the merits of the case, including a ruling of the legality of China’s “nine-dash line” is expected in May or June of this year.

The case is a landmark for international law as a force in geopolitics. The case is also a landmark for the Court, as it is arguably the highest profile case in its 117 year history. The case also will have a real impact on the region’s geopolitics if the nine-dash line is formally ruled illegal. But no one should be under the impression that this case will end the dispute over control of the South China Sea — far from it. In fact, the Court’s ruling on jurisdiction was written in such a way that protects some of China’s most controversial claims from the scrutiny of legal arbitration and ensures that maritime disputes in the South China Sea will continue. To understand why requires a precise understanding of exactly what the Court said in its ruling on jurisdiction and how China’s arguments in the case effectively narrowed any potential ruling to shield some of China’s most important claims from the Court’s reach.

China did not formally participate in the case, though it did publish a position paper that the Court treated as a brief. In its position paper, China argued that the Court had no jurisdiction over the nine-dash line because it is based on underlying claims to territory (namely, China’s claims to the island chains of the South China Sea) and the Court is expressly prohibited from deciding territorial disputes. Essentially, China argued that the Court could not rule on the legality of the nine-dash line because it did not have the power to decide the underlying dispute over control of the Spratly Islands.
China’s paper was right insofar as the Court can’t rule on a territorial dispute. China’s position paper forced the Philippines to find a legal argument that would allow the Court to rule on the nine-dash line without having to rule on the question of which party had the stronger claim to the Spratly Islands. The Philippines chose to argue that even if all of China’s claims to the islands of the South China Sea were accepted as legitimate, the nine-dash line would still exceed what China would be entitled to under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The Philippines argued that even if China’s claims to the Spratlys were accepted, they would still only have either 12 miles of territorial waters (the Philippine position) or a 200 mile exclusive economic zone (the Chinese position). In either case, China’s rights would not come anywhere near the claims made under the nine-dash line.  The Court ruled that it had jurisdiction to decide on the legality of the nine-dash line because deciding this question did not require a ruling on who owned the Spratlys. The line would exceed China’s possible claims regardless of how the underlying territorial question was ultimately resolved.

The Philippines’ argument was a clever solution to a difficult problem, but it also reveals the limits of the Philippines’ lawfare strategy. Because the question of who owns the Spratly Islands had to be removed from the Court’s consideration, none of China’s claims to these islands will be dented at all by the outcome of the case. This means that even if, as is expected, the Court rules the nine-dash line exceeds any plausible Chinese claims under international maritime law, this won’t end the dispute in the South China Sea. China would still be claiming to own the Spratly Islands.

China’s arguments in its position paper didn’t stop the Court from hearing the case but they did get China’s position heard without having to acknowledge the legitimacy of the court’s proceedings. It was also effective in shaping the terms of the debate before the Court. China has managed to ensure that even if the Court strikes down the nine-dash line, many of China’s other claims will survive.

Further, China has essentially gotten the Court to admit it has no jurisdiction to ever decide China’s claims to the Spratly Islands. This ensures that China’s ambitious efforts to militarize the islands will continue and the dispute in the South China Sea won’t ultimately be settled in a courtroom.

[John Ford is a Captain in the US Army JAG Corps and now serves as a reservist. He holds a J.D. and LL.M. and practices with the California law firm Collins Collins Muir + Stewart LLP.]

Group remembers Jabidah Massacre, says no to Marcos as VP

From the pro-CPP online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Mar 18): Group remembers Jabidah Massacre, says no to Marcos as VP



“Today, March 18, is the 48th anniversary of the infamous Jabidah massacre, one of the many blood debts of the Marcos dictatorship to the Moro people.”

An interfaith group called on the public not to vote for vice presidential aspirant Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., whose candidacy, they said, is an insult to the Moro victims of martial law, specially those who died in the Jabidah massacre in 1968.

“Today, March 18, is the 48th anniversary of the infamous Jabidah massacre, one of the many blood debts of the Marcos dictatorship to the Moro people that remains unresolved and cries for justice to this day,” said the Moro-Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA) in a statement.

Antonio Liongson, MCPA spokesperson, called Marcos’s candidacy “an affront to the sensibilities of the Moro people, especially to the families and relatives of the victims of the Jabidah massacre of the Marcos Dictatorship.”

“The families and relatives of the victims of the Jabidah massacre are still crying for justice. But the dictator’s son, Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr is determined to perpetuate the legacy of lying, denial and cover ups of the 1968 Jabidah massacre as he refuses to acknowledge the crimes against humanity committed by his father’s tyrannical rule.” Liongson said.

On that fateful day, some 23 to 28 young Moro recruits were gunned down and killed by their military trainers in Corregidor Island in Manila Bay, after they resisted and complained about the harsh training conditions. The Moro youths were recruited by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for Oplan Merdeka, the Marcos dictatorship’s covert operation plan to destabilize and reclaim Sabah in North Borneo, Malaysia, which the Philippines claims to have historical rights as territory.

MCPA said the incident outraged the Moro community and sparked rebellion in Mindanao, leading to “the rebirth of the Moro people’s armed struggle for freedom and independence” and the formation of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1969.

The Marcos dictatorship responded with an iron fist. “Marcos martial rule has murdered thousands of innocent Moros without mercy — men, women, children and elderly — in its campaign to crush the Moro resistance in Mindanao,” Liongson said.
March 18 is now commemorated as Bangsamoro Freedom Day, in accordance with the Muslim Mindanao Act.

“In remembering and honoring the victims of Jabidah massacre, the MCPA calls on the Moro people to resoundingly frustrate Sen. Bongbong Marcos’ attempt to reclaim his family’s political power by becoming vice-president, a step to the presidency,” Liongson said.

Army, BIFF clash in Maguindanao; 5 rebels hurt

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18): Army, BIFF clash in Maguindanao; 5 rebels hurt

At least five members of the outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) were confirmed injured in a clash with government forces in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao, the military said Friday.

An undetermined number of BIFF gunmen tried to overrun the Sopad Detachment of 24th Mechanized Company of 2nd Mechanized Infantry Battalion in Barangay Sambolawan by firing assault rifles, rifle grenades and grenades at 11 p.m.
The attacks triggered a four-hour firefight, ending at about 3 a.m. Five areas near the military detachments had blood stains, an indication the hostilities left BIFF fighters injured.

The morning after, residents and soldiers witnessed the remnants of fierce armed hostilities as showed by concrete walls riddled with bullet holes, coconut trees with marks of bullet hits, road blocks filled with holes and metal roofing of the detachment with traces of rifle grenade explosions.

Lt. Colonel Warlito Limet, 2nd Mechanize Battalion commander, said soldiers recovered hundreds of empty shells for cal. 45 pistol, M-16 Armalite rifle and Barret rifle.

An abandoned mosque near the detachment was not spared as it bore bullet holes.

"It was a well planned attack but soldiers' alertness and firepower foiled the attempt," Limet told reporters. He said on Tuesday night, the BIFF also harassed the same detachment located along the Datu Saudi Ampatuan-Datu Piang highway, both in Maguindanao.

The road is regularly frequented by commuters, even at night. No civilian casualty was reported.

The morning after the hostilities, soldiers found an improvised explosive device fashioned from 60 mm mortar with fragmentation grenade as triggering mechanism. Army bomb experts later detonated the IED.

Limet said the IED was planted beside a house abandoned by its residents last month.

According to Limet, the attack on Sopad detachment was meant to divert attention from military clearing operations in nearby Barangay Tee, also in Datu Salibo.

The Army official said he is expecting more similar attacks in the future as the military has succeeded in neutralizing the outlawed group.

The Maguindanao conflict started in early February when BIFF attacked a PHP58-million flood control project in Datu Salibo, Maguindanao.

119 new soldiers officially join the army regular force

From the Philippine News Agency (Mar 18): 119 new soldiers officially join the army regular force

Five months after the 123 candidate soldiers undergone the training for soldiery, 119 of them have successfully completed the training and now regular member of the Philippine Army.

In a closing ceremony held on March 16, 2016 held at 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army Training School, the 119 soldiers were formally sworn as regular members of the Philippine Army with the rank of private.

5ID, PA Commanding General Maj. Gen. Lysander Suerte was the guest of honor during the graduation ceremony attended by relatives of the new soldiers.

Suerte said the soldiers were trained on Jungle Warfare Operations Course and they were transformed from civilian to military discipline.

He said the 119 soldiers were now equipped with the necessary skills and ready to be deployed in various military units of the 5th Infantry Division.

Private First Class Charliemagne Paguyo topped the 391-2015 class from Gamu, Isabela with a grade of 93.67%.

Paguyo expressed thanks for being top 1 among all his fellow soldiers after the 5-month rigid training as he said that he would use the training he obtained to serve the country with pride.

US, Philippines finally agreed on five locations for EDCA

From Update.Ph (Mar 18): US, Philippines finally agreed on five locations for EDCA

The Philippines and United States have agreed on five locations to be used under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) Friday, March 18 during the Sixth Annual U.S.-Philippines Strategic Dialogue in US. The agreed locations include 4 air base/airport and 1 military base/reservation.

These five agreed locations are Antonio Bautista Air Base in Palawan, Basa Air Base in Pampanga, Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, Lumbia airport in Cagayan de Oro, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base in Cebu. These locations will be provided for US for rotation of troops and military hardware.

The meeting was attended by US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel and US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amy Searight, and Philippine Under Secretary of Foreign Affairs Evan Garcia and Philippines Under Secretary for Defense Policy Pio Lorenzo Batino.

“They also discussed next steps for implementation of the EDCA and how it will support the United States efforts to help modernize the armed forces of the Philippines, develop capacity and capability for maritime security and domain awareness, and provide rapid humanitarian assistance to the people of the Philippines,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said.

Analysts: China's nine-dash line confuses oil industry

From the Philippine Star (Mar 18): Analysts: China's nine-dash line confuses oil industry

South China Sea areas claimed by the Philippines such as the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands are also being claimed by China through the nine-dash line shown in red marks. Council on Foreign Relations

Analysts expressed concern over the ambiguity of China's nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea as it confuses the oil industry in the region.

Lucio Pitlo III, lecturer of international relations at the De La Salle University and of Chinese studies in Ateneo de Manila University, said that China's claim in the disputed sea causes confusion for the energy development players in the region.

Pitlo said during a roundtable discussion on oil and gas in Pasig City that the nine-dash line remains without coordinates and remains to be seen as uncontested in the eyes of Beijing.

READ: US gov't study: 9-dash line inconsistent with int'l law

"Most of these fields are clustered near coastal areas - near Palawan, offshore Sabah, Sarawak, offshore Vietnam," Pitlo said.

Energy Resource Development Bureau Director Rino Abad added that the most important issue would be whether the waters enclosed by the nine-dash line covers the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country in the West Philippine Sea.

Abad noted that the EEZ of other neighboring countries are also affected by China's claims in the South China Sea.

"About 80 percent of the EEZ in Sabah and Sarawak facing the South China Sea for Malaysia; for Vietnam, about 50 percent of the total EEZ; for Indonesia, 30 percent of the EEZ facing the South China Sea," Abad said.

Meanwhile, Petroleum Association of the Philippines President Sebastian Quiniones cited examples of joint development of energy resources in disputed areas, particularly in between Malaysia and Brunei.

Quiniones suggested that the country's lawmakers should consider if such arrangements would be beneficial to the country.

"The leadership of the Philippines should also see how exploration, development and production of Philippine petroleum resources may be pursued within undisputed areas both onshore and offshore, including the exploration of the Benham Rise," Quiniones said.

The Asia Pacific Pathways to Progress Foundation, Inc., the University of the Philippines Institute of Maritime Law of the Sea and the Petroleum Association of the Philippines organized the roundtable on oil and gas last February 18.

The Philippines had filed an arbitration case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands in connection to Beijing's extensive maritime claims in the South China Sea. The international tribunal is expected to release its decision by May.

US underscores increased military aid to Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Mar 19): US underscores increased military aid to Philippines

The chair of the US Senate foreign relations committee has recognized the importance of increasing foreign military financing to the Philippines in view of China’s military threat in the South China Sea.

Philippine government officials engaged US legislators to mobilize congressional support for key Philippine advocacies in the US from March 15 to 16 and thanked lawmakers for impelling the US to take necessary steps in safeguarding the rule of law in the Asia-Pacific region.

On March 15, Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. and acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas led the Philippine delegation in separate meetings with Sens. Bob Corker and Ben Cardin, chairman and member, respectively, of the foreign relations committee.

During their meeting, Philippine officials noted the committees’ role in sustaining US interest in the Asia-Pacific region and giving importance to the “rebalancing of power policy.”

“The committee has been influential in the decision-making process of the current US administration. We recognize the considerable impact the committee’s initiatives has had on increasing US foreign military financing to the Philippines and ensuring that the US continues to be engaged in our region,” Cuisia said.

The Philippine embassy in Washington said Corker supported raising foreign military financing to the Philippines “because of China’s behavior.”

Cardin reiterated that while the US maintains its neutrality on the South China Sea dispute, his country takes a strong position against provocative actions.

He also expressed his firm belief in the rule of law and recognized the leadership of the Philippines in developing a regional Code of Conduct.

Rep. Randy Forbes, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and member of the US-Philippines Friendship Caucus, echoed the views of his colleagues in the Senate.

In a statement on March 7, Forbes criticized China’s recent actions in the South China Sea and reaffirmed the importance of the alliance between the US and the Philippines for maintenance of peace and prosperity in the region.

“China’s behavior in the Asia-Pacific has undermined regional stability and unnecessarily antagonized the Philippines and other partners in the region. The United States has an obligation under its decades-old security treaty with the Philippines to resist acts of aggression against our ally,” the statement read.

Forbes expressed the opinion that the US needs to be more present in the South China Sea and that joint patrols would be “hugely important, helpful and useful.”

The Philippines’ campaign to combat trafficking in persons (TIP) was also discussed with the senators.

Corker remarked that TIP, described as “modern-day slavery,” should not have a place in today’s world.

The meetings with the US lawmakers also aimed to shore up greater support for a bill seeking to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the more than 260,000 Filipino veterans of World War II.

The bill titled “Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015” was introduced in the House (HR 2737) and the Senate (S 1555) in June 2015. Cardin and Forbes are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

The bill includes a historical account of the dedicated service of Filipino and Filipino-American servicemen and women during World War II and recognizes them for their courage, bravery and valor as they served under the command of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.

“As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Philippines-US relations this year, let us remember that ours is a friendship forged by the experience of fighting side by side in wars for liberation. It is our fervent hope that our longstanding ties will only grow stronger over time and that our veterans receive the recognition they deserve,” Cuisia said.

European envoys visit Cotabato to back peace process

From the Philippine Star (Mar 18): European envoys visit Cotabato to back peace process

In this December 2015 file photo, European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen dialogues with Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chairman Al Haj Murad. EU in the PH

Ambassadors and officials from the European Union visited Cotabato City from March 14to 16 to reinforce the EU's commitment to the Mindanao peace process and development in the region.

"Our visit to Cotabato City highlights the EU and its member states' continuing support for the Mindanao peace process and development in the region. Our hopes remain high that the positive gains achieved in the peace process will be sustained despite some challenges, especially as the parties remained engaged and committed to continue their journey to peace," EU Ambassador Franz Jessen  said.

"We shall continue to support the efforts of the parties that recently have been reconfirmed in Kuala Lumpur," he added. "We are looking forward to supporting the agenda for peace of the next Administration as we carry on our collaborative efforts with all the concerned stakeholders for peace."

Those who joined were Ambassadors Marion Derckx from the Netherlands, Thomas Ossowski from Germany, Chargés d'Affaires Mihai Sion from Romania, Nigel Boud from the United Kingdom, Deputy Ambassadors Fabio Schina from Italy, Xavier Leblanc from Belgium, Gabrielle Zobl-Kratschmann from Austria, Maria del Carmen Barcia-Bustelo from Spain, Laurent Legodec from France, Attachés Riccardo Dell'Aquila from Italy, Diego Sanchez from the EU Delegation and Programme Manager Edoardo Manfredini who is also from the EU Delegation.

During the tour, the group of ambassadors met with ARMM Representatives, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad and officials of the MILF Central Committee, the Mindanao Humanitarian Team, non-government and civil society organizations involved in peace and development initiatives in Mindanao and the business community.

Over the years the European Union has adapted its funding programs to the changing needs of the peace process.

In December last year, the European Union Delegation to the Philippines has launched a new program in support of the peace process and is providing €5.5 million (P275 million) to allow for a smooth transition and to create conditions for the establishment of the autonomous region of the Bangsamoro and the election of its government.

The program contributes to peace building and conflict mitigation, support the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro and strengthen local institutions and political processes.

The grants are being chaneled through Conciliation Resources; NGOs such as the Non Violent Peace Forces, Fondation Suisse de Deminage, Konrad Adenaeur Stiftung; United Nations Development Programme and Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

PH officials lobby in D.C. for military aid, Filvets, W. PH Sea

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Mar 19): PH officials lobby in D.C. for military aid, Filvets, W. PH Sea

2 Meeting with Sen Cardin

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. and Philippine Acting Secretary of Justice Emmanuel L. Caparas co-lead the Philippine delegation in a meeting with Sen. Ben Cardin, ranking member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“China’s behavior in the Asia-Pacific has undermined regional stability and unnecessarily antagonized the Philippines and other partners in the region. The United States has an obligation under its decades-old security treaty with the Philippines to resist acts of aggression against our ally,” a portion of Forbes’ statement read.

Forbes expressed the opinion that the United States needs to be more present in the South China Sea and that joint patrols would be “hugely important, helpful and useful.”

The Philippines’ campaign to combat trafficking in persons was likewise discussed with the Senators

3 Meeting with Sen Corker

Philippine Defense Undersecretary Pio Batino (left), Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr., Rep. Randy Forbes, Executive Director of the Presidential Commission on the Visiting Forces Agreement Eduardo V. Oban, Jr., and Philippine Acting Secretary of Justice Emmanuel L. Caparas

The meetings with the U.S. lawmakers also aimed to shore up greater support for a bill seeking to award a Congressional Gold Medal, collectively, to the more than 260,000 Filipino veterans of World War II.

The bill entitled “Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015,” was introduced in the House (HR 2737) and the Senate (S1555) in June 2015. Cardin and Forbes are among the bill’s co-sponsors.

The bill includes a historical account of the dedicated service of Filipino and Filipino American servicemen and service women during World War II and recognizes them for their courage, bravery, and valor as they served under the command of the United States Armed Forces of the Far East.

Protesters block Davao-Agusan highway

From Rappler (Mar 18): Protesters block Davao-Agusan highway

The police has been negotiating with the protesters to clear the road and allow vehicles to pass through

BLOCKED. Protesters demand a pullout by military troops on March 18. Photo by Editha Caduaya/Rappler

BLOCKED. Protesters demand a pullout by military troops on March 18. Photo by Editha Caduaya/Rappler

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Gridlock.

The Davao City Davao-Agusan Highway was locked in traffic for more than 5 hours as of mid-afternoon Friday, March 18, leaving commuters stranded.

Militant groups and Lumad protesters from nearby provinces held a lighting rally at the main entrance of the Eastern Mindanao Command in Panacan, Davao City starting at 8:30 this morning.

Stranded vehicles and commuters amounted to thousands on the highway connecting the north- and south-bound vehicles.

Davao City Police Office Spokesperson Chief Insp. Milgrace Driz said that the police chief assigned to the area had been negotiating with the protesters to peacefully dismantle their barricade and allow the vehicles to pass through.

Driz told Rappler, “We are still negotiating until now.” City Administrator Melchor Quitain and Kerlan Paragel of Pasaka talked; Quitain tried to negotiate but failed.

NEGOTIATION. City administrator Melchor Quitain tries to speak to protesters to clear the highway. Photo by Editha Caduaya/Rappler

Driz estimated the number of protesters to reach 2,000, coming mostly from as far as Agusan del Sur and Davao del Sur.

Militant groups Bayan and Pasaka led the protesters who were shouting for the pullout of military troops in their areas. The protesters blocked the Davao-Agusan highway and refused to leave their post as of this writing.

Sasa Police Station Commander PSI Merlito Tubag tried talking to the protesters to clear the road but they were adamant.

An alternate road was the Cabantian Road in Buhangin but the sudden increase in volume of vehicles passing the road caused traffic to build up.

In a statement, the Eastern Mindanao Command (EMC) said they “welcome and strongly support investigations” on the allegations and that they are willing to provide the needed assistance to investigating bodies “in accordance and adherence to the rule of law”.

“The EMC will continue to be a partner in maintaining and sustaining gains of all our peace and security efforts,” EastMinCom said.

Ex-Sulu mayor ambushed in Zamboanga City

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 18): Ex-Sulu mayor ambushed in Zamboanga City

An unidentified gunman ambushed a former Sulu town mayor who was supposed to stand as a key witness to the 2010 suicide bombing at the Zamboanga International Airport that targeted then Governor Sakur Tan and his family.

Police said Ahmad Nanoh, former mayor of Pangutaran town, was fatally shot on Thursday afternoon while driving his pick-up truck in the village of Tetuan. The motive of the killing is being investigated by the police.

Tan and his son Samier – now mayor of Maimbung town – survived the suicide bombing believed masterminded by political opponents of the governor.  Two persons had died from the blast, including the man who brought the bomb, while dozens were wounded in the attack.

Nanoh, who had previously challenged Tan’s rule, reportedly wanted to turn witness and tell the police what knew about the bombing.  It was unknown whether this was connected to the ambush, but Nanoh himself had been implicated also in the bombing and he wanted to turn state witness and identify those behind the bombing.

Tan, who is now running as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, previously suspended Nanoh in relation to alleged anti-graft acts so that he would not influence the investigation.

Tan’s supporters also accused online news site Rappler of maliciously implicating the politician, who is now the vice governor of Sulu, to supposed death threats that Nanoh had allegedly received following an altercation in 2008 at the domestic airport in Manila. The report, they said, was politically motivated and without basis, and could only muddle the ongoing investigation into the murder and confuse Nanoh’s families.

Tan, a philanthropist and a respected politician, had previously said that he confronted Nanoh for always being absent. Tan said he only defended himself after Nanoh acted as if he was going to attack him. Tan also escaped a roadside bombing in 2009, but the attack wounded him and the mayor of Pandami town Hatta Berto and 9 others who were with him on a convoy. Police said the bombing was perpetrated by Abu Sayyaf rebels and masterminded by Tan’s political foes.

Also 2007, Nanoh’s son Darwin was also killed in a clash with Basit Ismael in Pangutaran town which also left 4 people wounded.

Nanoh’s son clashed with the group of Basit Ismael, who was appointed as new port collector by the Regional Ports Authority of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.  Apparently the group of Ismael arrived in the town and wanted to take over immediately as port collector, a position held by Nanoh and there was an altercation which ended in a firefight.

Philippine jihadists execute ‘spy’ in troubled South

From the Mindanao Examiner (Mar 18): Philippine jihadists execute ‘spy’ in troubled South

Jihadists allied with the Islamic State (IS) militant group have beheaded a man they accused of being a police spy in the southern Philippine province of Sarangani, reports by an international research organization and foreign media said Thursday.

The SITE Intelligence Group said members of the Ansaru’l Khilafah (Supporters of the Caliphate) Philippines captured Tuesday the 43-year-old man and was immediately beheaded.

A video of the gruesome killing was also uploaded on IS channel with accompanying statement, saying, “This jāsūs (spy) was roaming and sniffing around the area of the Ansaru’l Khilafah Philippines in Sarangani Province.”

The man was said to be a resident of General Santos City, according to the news website NT News ( The clip could not be independently confirmed, and police and military authorities have not issued any statement about the brutal execution.

There was also no other information about the man released by the jihadist group, which, along with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Khilafah Islamiyah Movement (KIM), had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), which burst on to the international scene in 2014 when it seized large swathes of land in Syria and Iraq.

The radical militants in Indonesia and Malaysia, as well as the Southeast Asian terror group Jema’ah Islamiyah also pledged allegiance to the IS last year.

Last year, the jihadists also released a video of the IS’s Alhayat Media Center, which shows the Philippines as among countries in Southeast Asia where they were planning to expand the “Khilafah” (caliphate).

Most of the Ansaru’l Khilafah members are based in Sultan Kudarat province and operate in nearby areas of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte, where the BIFF and KIM are active.

They now use the black IS (Daesh) flag, just like what the Abu Sayyaf does, in the provinces of Basilan, Tawi-Tawi and Sulu – all in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) – to which Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur belong.

Basilan also has become the bastion of power of the Abu Sayyaf after its leaders pledged allegiance to the IS. And in a propaganda video released this year by the Abu Sayyaf and picked up by international media, more than two dozen gunmen – including child warriors – led by rebel leader Isnilon Hapilon, were seen hiking in the hinterlands of Basilan while chanting “Dawlah Islamiyah (Islamic State)” after which they recited an Arabic script of bayah, or pledge of allegiance.

Hapilon, alias “Abu Abdullah,” was named as the new leader of the “Harakatul Islamiyah” (Islamic Movement), the name given to the Abu Sayyaf by its founder Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani – who was slain in a police shootout in Basilan in Dec. 1998.

The Abu Sayyaf evolved to a notorious group known for having carried out kidnappings, bombings and other criminal activities in southern Philippines.

The US government has offered a $5 million bounty for Hapilon’s head – dead or alive.

In the video, Hapilon was shown with Abu Harith Al-Filibbieni, who is reported to be deputy commander of the al-Ansar Infantry Division of the IS, and Mohd Najib Husen (Hussein), alias “Abu Annas Al Muhajir,” a division head of the Ansar al-Sharia of the IS.

The rebels explained in the video that they had previously done the bayah, but did it again in front of their new leaders. It was unknown when the video was recorded, but it was released just after Philippine authorities claimed that Husen was killed during offensive operations against the Abu Sayyaf in the troubled province of Basilan in December.

Husen was with other Malaysian jihadists – Mahmud Ahmad, Muhammad Joraimee Awang Raimee, Amin Baco and Jeknal Adil – who fled to southern Philippines reportedly to recruit militants and send them to “Dar al-Harb” (Place of War), referring to Syria and Iraq, where the IS established its own caliphate state.

Kalahi-CIDSS to continue amidst elections

From the  Philippine Information Agency (Mar 18): Kalahi-CIDSS to continue amidst elections

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) commits to sustain its partnership with local government units and citizens in helping ensure that their basic needs will be met through the continuation of implementation of the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (Kalahi-CIDSS) amidst the upcoming elections.

Kalahi-CIDSS is implemented by the residents of the covered municipalities of the program, following its community-driven development (CDD) strategy. Through CDD, the program seeks to empower citizens by training them so they can develop, implement, and maintain projects that would address their most pressing needs.

The program will not halt its operations given the agreements between DSWD, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank, as a large percentage of Kalahi-CIDSS’ funding comes from the two latter institutions.

Kalahi-CIDSS seeks to cover 19,283 barangays in 825 municipalities across the country in 2016.  As of February 2016, it was able to reach 18,049 barangays in 766 municipalities, training 504,272 citizens as its community volunteers. The program also funded the implementation of 14,393 community projects, most of which come in the form of small-scale infrastructures.

According to DSWD Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman, the program’s community volunteers serve as the reason for continuing implementation of Kalahi-CIDSS despite the elections, as their potential for change cannot be paused given their needs.

Soliman referred to her personal experiences as a community organizer, saying that sustainable change happens only when the projects and programs brought to them are responsive to the needs of the people and take their own needs into account.

She said citizens have the right, responsibility, and the capacity to instigate the changes in their lives. She added that the government’s role is to provide mechanisms and an enabling environment that would allow people to pursue their development, which would in turn change the country.

“Ang susi ng pagbabago diyan ang mga mamamayan, ang mga mamayan na nakikiugnay sa atin. Ang mga mamamayan ang susi ng kanilang  pagbabago (The citizens are the key to change, the citizens who link with us in the government. The citizens are the key to their own development),” Soliman said.

Kalahi-CIDSS aims not only to capacitate these people so they will have ownership of their projects. They can also explore additional opportunities even beyond the program.

Kalahi-CIDSS links their citizens to their local government units (LGUs) so they can make their elected officials more responsive to their needs. The program seeks to make LGUs sustain the environment of participation, transparency and accountability to and for their constituents.

“Ang pinakamahalaga ay ang malaking paniniwala ng mga mamamayan na kanila ito, dahil sila ay nanindigan (What is important is that the citizens believe that this is theirs, that they were the ones who held strong),” Soliman said. (DSWD)