Wednesday, April 20, 2016

NPA rebels raid rice warehouse in Valencia

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (Apr 20): NPA rebels raid rice warehouse in Valencia

THE New People's Army (NPA) raided on Monday a warehouse in Valencia City, Bukidnon as part of its operation called "Bawi sa Bugas."

Bukidnon police said communist rebels seized more than 1,200 sacks of rice worth P2.476 million from Valencia City Councilor Helen Bernal, a rice trader and owner of the warehouse.

The police said about 60 armed NPA members entered the compound and commandeered a truck loaded with about 470 sacks of rice, two forward trucks containing around 400 sacks, and a 10-wheeler truck also loaded with estimated 400 sacks.

The NPA rebels also took two Sony flat screen televisions, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, an automatic voltage regulator, and power tools.

Ariel Magbanwag, spokesperson of the NPA’s South-Central Bukidnon Sub-regional Command, said the seized rice would be distributed to hungry and drought-stricken farmers.

Magbanwag justified the raid, saying the Bernals are considered the “biggest comprador-usurer in the whole rice paddy area in Valencia City and its adjacent towns.”

She said Bernal controls the lives of peasants and small rice traders, adding that even investors are required to negotiate with her before they operate.

The NPA also accused Bernal of involvement in an allegedly anomalous transaction with the National Food Authority (NFA) concerning supposed rice smugglers in Iligan City.

"Despite the worsening hunger situation and the scarcity of rice produce due to prolonged drought, the thousands of sacks of rice owned by the taxpayers were discovered by the NPA attackers hidden in her giant warehouse complex which measures approximately three hectares," Magbanwag said.

Bernal also allegedly imposes high interest rates on debts of the peasants with 7 percent per month for all cash and overpriced farm inputs with the condition that all rice produce of the farmers would be sold only to her.

Magbanwag said Bernal treats her workers as “slaves” and not giving them overtime pay aside from giving unfair wages.

"If Helen Bernal could not extend humane attention to her own workers, how much more could she offer unto the farmers who would be extracted high interests out of debts and in grave cases, grabbed of their lands tilled?" the NPA said.

Meanwhile, Bernal denied she is hoarding thousands of bags of rice in her property.

In a radio interview Wednesday afternoon, Bernal denied the accusation of the NPA that she is hoarding rice.

Bernal said she was grateful that no one was killed or injured during the raid.

She said her warehouse doesn’t have any security guards as she believes her family has no known enemies in Bukidnon.

Bernal said they did not receive any previous warning from the NPA indicating that her family has never been targeted by the rebels.

NPA metes ‘death’ on Abra candidate

From the Manila Times (Apr 20): NPA metes ‘death’ on Abra candidate

The Abra-based New People’s Army confirmed it sentenced a candidate for town councilor with the “death penalty” for being a “government spy”.

Crispin Maguelang, who was running for a seat in the Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Council) of Baay-Licuan town was abducted and later found dead on April 5.

In a statement, the Procopio Tauro Front-Agustin Begnalen Command said Maguelang was taken by guerillas to Sitio Bayabas in the remote villa of Malibcong near the boundary of Kalinga and Abra, where he was meted the “death penalty”.

It said Maguelang was a long-time spy who took part in various operations by the 41st Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, which resulted in harassments, actual detention and killing of innocent civilians in his hometown in Baay-Licuan.

A source of The Manila Times confirmed the claim of the NPA that Maguelan was “executed” for being a “spy”.

Maguelang, the group added, pointed to the government forces the exact locations of rebel camps. “Daytoy ket nagresulta iti pannakatiliw ti maysa a mannakigubat ti NPA ken ti kakaruan ket nagmurdong iti panangmasaker ti 41stIB kadagiti agaama a Ligiw sadiay Sucao, Domenglay, Licuan-Baay idi March 3, 2014,”[Maguelang tipped to government forces resulting in the raid of the camps and the arrest of one of our men and the killings of 41st IB of father and son Ligiw in Sucao, Domenglay in Baan-Licuan on March 3, 2014], the statement said.

The Abra police named two native villagers linked by the Philippine Army in the killing. Abra police director Senior Supt. Antonio Bartolome said a murder case was referred to the Abra prosecutor’s office docketed under National Prosecution Service (NPS) No. I-06-INV-16D-00103 against Jessie Ligiw and Mandu Eduarte.

“Identified sila na taga kabila or maka-kaliwa [they were identified as leftists] as per Army”, Bartolome said.

In March 2014, Ligiw, together with his sibling Edna and Edwin, filed extrajudicial killing complaints before the Commission on Human Rights-Cordillera against the Philippine Army’s 41IB for the murder of their father and two brothers.

Ligiw’s father – 70-year-old Ama Licuben Ligiw – and his brothers Eddie, 42, and Fermin, 30, were brutally killed and found buried in a common shallow grave on March 7, 2014.

The Army belied that they were behind the killing and instead pointed to the NPA as its supposed punishment for the elder Ligiw, who turned his back on the rebel movement.

NPA rebels in Abra also blamed Maguelang for actively recruiting villagers into the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU). They also linked the slain candidate to “criminal and anti-social activities” like leading illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal drugs and other abuses in the communities, including abuses to women.

In a separate statement, the underground youth group Kabataang Makabayan-Demokratiko a tignayan dagiti Agtutubo ti Kordilyera (KM-Datako Abra-Ricardo “Ka Tubong” Reyes chapter) in Abra hailed Maguelang’s punishment.

It said the penalty serves as a stern warning against “spies,” adding that “no matter where you may hide or run, the long arm of the revolutionary justice will reach you,” the statement added.

Assessing Balikatan 2016 and PH-U.S. relations

From CNN Philippines (Apr 19): Assessing Balikatan 2016 and PH-U.S. relations

[Video interview with Ambassador Goldberg]

 The biggest "Balikatan" exercises ended on Friday (April 15).

On Monday night (April 18), CNN Philippines chief correspondent Pia Hontiveros spoke with U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg about the end of the military exercises and the state of the relationship between the United States and the Philippines

Related: Balikatan 2016 officially closes

When asked if it was a good time to show Beijing that the U.S. was serious about freedom of navigation and that no decision has been made about the ownership of the disputed territories in the South China Sea, Goldberg said, "Balikatan was the thirty-second iteration of that exercise and we do it every year."

He added, "It has different edifices at different times but we do practicing on maritime security, we do practicing on different military applications including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And our people also spread out througout the country and do community projects – building projects – and medical missions. So, it's something we do regularly."

Goldberg said it was something to keep in mind during the whole issue of disputed territories.
He said, "Much of what we're doing is what we always do in supporting the Philippines – our ally – helping the Philippines as it goes about building and modernizing its defense."

He did, however, say that "What's different now is what's going on in the South China Sea... the context."

Hontiveros referred to a previous interview with Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua who said that "Freedom of navigation the South China Sea has always been a very  important factor and China is always in favor of freedom of navigation based on international laws. What we cannot accept is that some countries use freedom of navigation as an excuse to intrude upon the sovereignty and interests of our country. I think there has never been a problem of freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and everybody can see that. So, I would urge all countries concerned to truly respect the rights and sovereignty of countries concerned and work together to continue to preserve the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea."

Goldberg replied, "We have been doing freedom of navigation, if that's what you want to call it, for 70 years. What's new is...the context in which this is happening. The building of features, the militarization of those features. The unilateral actions against the wishes of other countries in the region, including allies of the United States, and the flights. So that's what's new. Not freedom of navigation which goes on and will continue to go on, it's an important principle of the United States and every country in this region. Every country has the right to pass through international waters and airspace, so that's what we'll continue to do."

Hidden message?

Hontiveros then asked if there was a message in the April 15 overflight of Amb. Goldberg, U.S. Defense Sec. Ashton Carter, and Department of National Defense Sec. Voltaire Gazmin to Antonio Bautista Air Base, one of the five designated bases that the U.S. can have access to under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA), as well the visit to the USS Stennis, a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Related: U.S. announces ramped-up military presence in Philippines

Goldbreg said, "The visit to the Stennis was part of the effort we have underway and freedom of navigation. We had Balikatan going on, which was about maritime security and domain awareness, and our presence in the South China Sea is very much part of our alliance responsibilities, but also the principles we've articulated about freedom of navigation."

He added, "Yes, we've had allies come to those ships before and will continue to do so."
Goldberg was then asked if he referred to the area as South China Sea or West Philippine Sea.
He replied, "I refer to it sometimes as both. But we generally refer to it as the South China Sea."

Fair enough sentence?

On the issue of Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton, Goldberg was asked if he thought the U.S. viewed the shortening of Pemberton's sentence to a maximum of 10 years was "fair enough."

Related: Court affirms Pemberton's conviction but reduces sentence to up to 10 years

Goldberg said, "That was for the court to decide and when the court reduced the sentence, that was a decision made by the court based on Philippine law. We respect those decisions. But what we also do is follow the Visiting Forces Agreement, which also takes into account out agreement with the Philippine government about the terms of how he serves the sentence."

Hontiveros then asked about how Goldberg thinks the U.S. government feels about the efforts of the family of Jennifer Laude to have Pemberton transferred outside of Camp Aguinaldo.

Related:  Laude family pleased with court decision affirming Pemberton’s guilt

Goldberg said, "The Philippine-U.S. Visiting Forces Agreement provides for agreement by appropriate officials on where that is going to take place; where the sentence will be served and that's what we're doing."

He added: "We have actually come to very good agreements with the Philippine side throughout this process because we are good friends and allies. We have made sure that justice has been served. We helped, actually, through the NCIS with evidence in the case, making sure that case was resolved very quickly... We've worked very well together, including during the stage where the custody was ours, and now a new stage where we've come to an agreement with the Philippines at Camp Aguinaldo where it's done under the Bureau of Prisons, but also with the U.S. content. So, I think it's a very fair arrangement. One that serves the cause of justice."

Election controversies here and in the U.S.

When asked about how local election controversies compare to those in the U.S., Goldberg said: "We have plenty of them. And I saw...that you have them here, too."

When prodded if he had anything to say about the issue surrounding Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Goldberg said, "I can only agree with the colleague from the Australian Embassy."

Goldberg, however, said, "I'm not going to get into your elections or comment on your candidates.

That's for the people of the Philippines to decide in election. But, any statements by anyone, anywhere that either degrade women or trivialize issues so serious as rape or murder, are not ones that we condone."

Related: Presidential rivals take swipe at Duterte for rape statement

In conclusion, Goldberg said, "The Balikatan Exercise and the visit by Sec. Carter were very important for the alliance. I think they helped further the relationship on the military and security side. We have a leave behind of an air contingent as well as a new setup for secure and classified communications. Sec. Carter announced a $42 million plus up through the maritime security initiative for the Philippines – which will help the Philippines in building its ability to see out into its maritime space, will add to its ability to put sensors on ships, to put an aerostat blimp in the air to see out into the maritime space. So I think all of those things are moving forward are important for the Philippines and the modernization of the armed forces, but also for our alliance and the ability of the United States to be more present here under the rebalance."

Russia calls direct talks way to solve S. China Sea disputes

From the Manila Bulletin (Apr 20): Russia calls direct talks way to solve S. China Sea disputes

 This satellite image shows the Yongshu Jiao of China’s Nansha Islands (Kalayaan Islands in the Philippines). [Photo courtesy of People’s Daily]

This satellite image shows the Yongshu Jiao of China’s Nansha Islands (Kalayaan Islands in the Philippines). [Photo courtesy of People’s Daily]
Russia opposes actions “internationalizing the South China Sea issue” and favors direct negotiation between the countries involved, as China aims to uphold “the authority of the law” by rejecting unilateral arbitration.
The show of support came as a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague prepares to issue a ruling, expected in late May or early June, in Manila’s sovereignty case against China. The tribunal was established in 2014 at Manila’s request, and China has rejected the arbitration process since the request was filed.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, while meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi in Moscow on Monday, said Moscow supports direct negotiation by countries directly involved to resolve disputes.
According to a Foreign Ministry media release on Tuesday, Wang told Lavrov that Beijing’s rejection of the Philippines’ unilaterally proposed arbitration case is a move meant to “uphold the dignity and authority of the law”.

“Both China and Russia should remain alert against behavior abusing the mechanism of compulsory arbitration,” said Wang, who visited Moscow to attend the 14th meeting of foreign ministers of China, Russia and India.

On Monday, Wang said China is “entitled to choose by itself, in accordance with relevant laws, ways for resolving disputes”.

Reuters noted that the court has no powers of enforcement and its rulings have been ignored before.
Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said that the tribunal “has triggered concerns over it assertively expanding its realm of jurisdiction as well as its impartiality”.

Wu said the Philippines and Western supporters, including the United States, are attempting to force China into a corner, and the disputes “will not be resolved by the arbitration, but will flare up and worsen”.

South China Sea Controversy: Beijing Should Reaffirm It Won’t Deploy Military Aircraft On Spratly Islands, Pentagon Says

From the International Business Times (Apr 20): South China Sea Controversy: Beijing Should Reaffirm It Won’t Deploy Military Aircraft On Spratly Islands, Pentagon Says

Spratly Islands

An aerial photo taken though a glass window of a Philippine military plane shows the alleged ongoing land reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, May 11, 2015. Photo: REUTERS/Ritchie B. Tongo/Pool

The United States urged China Tuesday to reaffirm that it had no plans to station military aircraft on South China Sea’s disputed Spratly Islands. The appeal came after China said its military aircraft made its first public landing on the Fiery Cross Reef on South China Sea to evacuate workers at a construction site on the reef after receiving an emergency call.

“We urge China to reaffirm that it has no plans to deploy or rotate military aircraft at its outposts in the Spratlys, in keeping with China’s prior assurances,” Garry Ross, a Pentagon spokesman said, according to Reuters.

Ross also pushed other countries, involved in the territorial dispute, to clarify their claims on the South China Sea in accordance with international law and “to avoid unilateral actions that change the status quo.”

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said that it was “difficult to understand” why Beijing would have had to use a military aircraft for the evacuation of the workers, Reuters reported. Kirby added that it was “a problem” that the workers, in fact, had been working on “infrastructure improvements of a military nature.”

On Monday, the Chinese military aircraft sighting at the Spratlys drew protest from the U.S. military.

“We’re aware that a Chinese military aircraft landed at Fiery Cross Reef on Sunday in what China described as a humanitarian operation to evacuate three ill workers,” Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis reportedly. “It is unclear why the Chinese used a military aircraft, as opposed to a civilian one.”

However, China’s defense ministry dismissed Washington’s comments, saying Beijing has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and that the U.S. did not have any right to comment on the communist country’s building works and defensive facilities.

The defense ministry also said that it was Chinese military’s tradition to “wholeheartedly serve the people” and assist those in need.

“In sharp contrast, the U.S. side is expressing doubts about whether it's a military or civilian aircraft at a time when somebody's life is in danger,” the ministry reportedly said. “We cannot but ask: if a U.S. citizen suddenly took ill on U.S. soil, would the U.S. military look on with folded arms?”

Beijing, which has accused the U.S. of militarizing the region, has been expanding its claim in the South China Sea and has built three runways on the Spratly archipelago. However, the world’s second-largest economy has repeatedly defended its actions, saying it does not have any intentions of starting a conflict and that its aircraft facilities will maintain safety in the region.

Various areas in the South China Sea region, which has been long contested, have also been claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

Navy trainee arrested for cracking bomb joke at MRT GMA-Kamuning station

From Coconuts Manila (Apr 20): Navy trainee arrested for cracking bomb joke at MRT GMA-Kamuning station

[ABS-CBN Video report: TV Patrol: Soldier arrested for bomb joke in MRT station]

At around 5pm on Tue, Apr 19, James Thomas Dela Cruz, an enlisted personnel of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), was arrested after cracking a joke about a bomb at the Metro Rail Transit (MRT 3) GMA-Kamuning station.

"Dela Cruz, who is undergoing training to be a member of the Philippine Navy, was brought to the security headquarters of the MRT in Shaw Boulevard," reports ABS-CBN News.

AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said they have been informed of the incident. He explained, "The infraction is something serious and could have caused people to get hurt. We do not condone their actions and will seriously investigate the matter and hold those responsible accountable."

Presidential Decree 1727 prohibits "the malicious dissemination of false information of the willful making of any threat concerning bombs, explosives, and such."

Capiz has 6 repaired classroom, thanks to Balikatan

From the Philippine Information Agency (Apr 19): Capiz has 6 repaired classroom, thanks to Balikatan

ROXAS CITY, Capiz – Six classrooms in two Capiz schools were already turned over by the Balikatan team to school and local officials.The San Nicolas Elementary School in Tapaz town and Jaena Norte Elementary School in Jamindan town each received three classrooms repaired through the joint effort of the United States Armed Forces and Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The classrooms for Tapaz school were turned over last April 15 while that for Jamindan school was done April 16, Spokesperson Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson of the 3rd Infantry Division, Philippine Army said.

Dubbed as US-Philippines Balikatan 2016, the humanitarian assistance is already the second year conducted in Panay Island, which Capiz’ schools are among the project beneficiaries of the engineering work, particularly the repair of classrooms, he said.

Tiongson said that the joint Balikatan Exercise mainly focused on humanitarian civic assistance, cooperative health engagement and disaster response training.

Started last April 4, the bilateral exercise was formally concluded at Matangharon, Dingle Iloilo last April 16.

The repaired classrooms in Western Visayas were those that were destroyed by supertyphoon Yolanda in 2013.

Earlier, the teachers, parents and the entire community of Jaena Norte Elementary School expressed their appreciation to the Balikatan team for the project in their school which will benefit their students.

MILF: MILF PolCom conducts Peace Advocacy

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 19): MILF PolCom conducts Peace Advocacy

The MILF Kutawatu Provincial Committee continuously conducting peace advocacies in its area of jurisdiction with the holding of another advocacy on the “GPH-MILF Peace Process: The Path to Peace” held at Poblacion Guindulungan Gymn, Guindulungan, Maguindanao last April 17, 2016.

“Advocacy programs on GPH-MILF peace process are seen as the answer to the worries and frustrations of KPC constituents due to the non-passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL by the 16th congress of the Philippines. Had the BBL been passed, it would have addressed the centuries-old conflict in Southern Philippines”, Prof. Esmail Abdula, Executive Director of Kalilintad Peaqcebuilding Institute (KPI) and Steering Committee Member of the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) said in his introduction.

Professor Abdula delivered his lecture “PATH TO PEACE” in front of almost 900 participants that came from the municipalities of Guindulungan, Talayan, Datu Anggal Midtimbang and Talitay, Maguindanao.

He emphasized some provisions of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) as the formula for achieving lasting peace in Southern Philippines. He explained further that the draft BBL crafted by the fifteen (15) commissioners of Bangsamoro Transition Commissions (BTC) is still alive but pending in congress. It is the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region (BLBAR), a separate version at the House of Representatives and House of Senate that died. The version at the Senate was authored and sponsored by Sen. Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr, the only son of the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr.

The non-passage of BBL is perceived as intentional by the legislative body due to their own vested interest.

Mr. Nasser Pulindao gave inputs on the GPH-MILF Peace Process and emphasized that the CAB should be implemented through the passage of the BBL. The government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) then have signed the Tripoli Agreement, the Jeddah Accord and the 1996 Final Peace Agreement but the former had never implemented them based on the letter and spirit of the peace deals.

Pulindao also mentioned the GPH and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Peace process that started in 1997 until the CAB was signed in Manila on March 27, 2014. He told the participants that there are no issues to be discussed as both parties had already signed the CAB and the product of which is the BBL.

Once the BBL is enacted by congress under the incoming administration, a new region called Bangsamoro shall be emplaced.

Other personalities that attended were Datu Ali Midtimbang, Municipal mayor of Talayan and Datu Antao Midtimbang of Guindulungan who gave their respective messages. They both told the participants about the importance of the peace process and the significance of the Moro struggle.

Both of them were part of the Moro Front since it was organized and till this day, both are sympathetic and supportive to the GPH-MILF Pace process. Mayor Datu Antao Midtimbang sighted a verse from Holy Qur’an that says, “Allah will never change the condition of the people unless they change it themselves”.

MILF: BLMI, BDA hold Seminar-Workshop on Reproductive Health Integration with Islamic Perspectives

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 20): BLMI, BDA hold Seminar-Workshop on Reproductive Health Integration with Islamic Perspectives

The Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute (BLMI) in partnership with Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA conducted a three-day Seminar-Workshop on Reproductive Health integration with Islamic perspective at Salwa Hotel, Zamboanga City on April 16-18. 2016. The theme of the program was “Strengthening Capacities for Reproductive Health (RH) Services Delivery and Advocacy in the Bangsamoro”. It is also a part of Values Transformation Training (VTT) on Reproductive Health in Islamic perspective.

The participants comprising both male and female came from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces who are Medical practitioners and Islamic Scholars that objectively shared their respective critical opinions on the RH Module developed by BLMI in conjunction with BDA.

In his welcome message, Mr. Aliuddin U. Haron, a BDA Officer and overall coordinator on RH program thanked the participants for their responsiveness and participation towards establishing a prosperous Bangsamoro Society that both BLMI and BDA have been undertaking for its fulfillment.
Sheikh Abdulsalam Alabat, BLMI Officer and Program Coordinator presented the overview and emphasized its concepts and the manner of integration between secular and Islamic perspective that suit to the Bangsamoro understanding, cultural sensitivities and accepted norms in the Bangsamoro area.

During day one session, the “Concept of society” was presented by Mr. Emran G. Mohammad. He said that prosperous society in Islam is based on “Moral foundations” that is in line with one’s commitment and obligations as ordained by Allah.

He also touched on the concept of “good spouse” that plays very important role in attaining an ideal family. Other related components in building a family such as marriage proposal and pre marriage counseling were thoroughly discussed and emphasized.

Topics on the Concept of Marriage and Family planning were tackled on day-two. The Resource person elucidated various Islamic contexts and guidelines as inscribed in the Noble Qur’an and Hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that are related to the topics.

Topics related to Reproductive Health (RH) like Pregnancy and Delivery, and the nature of Breastfeeding as well as the rights of child since inception was lectured by Ms. Oswalda Usman and Ms. Samera Bangahan both registered Nurses and are educated in Arabic.

In day-three session, topics on Child Care and Protection were presented and discussed by Ms. Usman that she enumerated and emphasized vividly.

Alabat, who is a Shari’ah graduate tackled “Comprehensive Gender and Health Education for Youth” and presented the reality of the problems that has been facing the Bangsamoro youth nowadays. He discussed its corresponding causes and effects as well as its preventions in Islamic contexts.

The participants in their culmination messages expressed their profoundest gratitude to BLMI and BDA management and staff for their unprecedented efforts; to the resource persons and facilitators for imparting valuable knowledge in both secular and Islamic perspective. They pledged to apply and share the knowledge they acquired upon their return to their respective communities.

The participants also expressed their heartfelt gratitude to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for its unwavering support to RH program and to the Bangsamoro people.

In their closing messages, BLMI and BDA Officers thanked the participants for their eagerness to develop their level of understanding on RH issues.

Mr. Tirso S. Tahir, BLMI Officer and Peace Advocate facilitated the program.  He is currently engage in “Frustration Management” activities in the Bangsamoro grassroots communities after the non-passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) in Congress.

MILF: Gensan Muslim individuals, groups invited to join actions to address Moro concerns

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Apr 20): Gensan Muslim individuals, groups invited to join actions to address Moro concerns

An alliance of Moro organizations invites Muslim individuals and groups to join in its efforts that will address issues affecting the Moro communities in General Santos (Gensan) City.

In its special meeting held on Sunday (April 17), the Bangsamoro Advisory Council (BAC), a consortium of Moro associations based in Gensan urged any concerned Muslims or Moro organizations to help in the BAC’s advocacies and actions geared to resolve the predicaments of Moro communities in town.

One of the major concerns of Muslim constituents of the city which the alliance sees need to be given immediate action is the absence of public Muslim cemetery.

Poverty, involvement in the proliferation of drugs, transactions with Riba (interest), vices, discrimination, lack of prayer areas in public establishments (hospitals, terminal, schools), lack of awareness on Halal by groceries and restaurants, and absence of Islamic financing institutions are among the major issues the BAC wants to resolve.

After the May 9 elections, the alliance will hold workshop to craft short term and long term plans to be participated by its current and would be members.

The city government has already pledged five million pesos for the purchase of the land to be developed into Muslim cemetery during the incumbency of then Mayor Darlene Antonino.

Establishing public Muslim cemetery is one of the priority projects of the incumbent mayor, Ronnel Rivera, during his administration.

The BAC saw the need for collaboration between the local government of the city and the Muslim constituents for the realization of the proposed project.

BCA convenor Ahmad Bello hopes some concerned Moro leaders or groups will join the alliance because there are still problems faced by the Muslim residents of Gensan.

Moro tribes comprise one-tenth of the town’s population. The Maguindanaon and the Blaans, one of Mindanao’s un-Islamized indigenous people, are the original inhabitants of the city.

Other Moro tribes such as the Maranao, Tausug, Yakan, Sangir, Kaagan, and Badjao were among the migrants of Gensan.

MILF: Military operations in Basilan against ASG highlight the need to continue the peace process: Ferrer

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberations Front Website (Apr 20): Military operations in Basilan against ASG highlight the need to continue the peace process: Ferrer

“The ongoing military operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in Basilan highlight the need to continue with the Bangsamoro peace process in order to curb activities of extremist and terrorist groups, Government of the Philippines chief peace negotiator Prof. Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said in a national televised interview on Thursday, April 14, 2016, the Philippine News Agency (PNA) said in its report on April 15.

“The event in Basilan indicates a very deep and complex problem that you cannot simply solve through military means,” Ferrer said. “It requires the kind of a much nuanced approach across the communities, across the tribes, and across the different armed groups”, Ferrer also said.

Ferrer stressed that the project of putting in place sustainable peace and development should not be held hostage by the violent episodes.

Ferrer said the ASG problem was just an effect of a deeper socioeconomic issue.

“This is basically why we are having the peace process – our goal is to find a solution that would gradually, step-by-step, be able to quell the threat of violent extremist groups and also to bring about social justice so that the roots of the problem can be fully addressed,” she added.

She pointed out that international support for the Bangsamoro peace process is broad because the governments worldwide are acutely aware of the threat to human security across nations posed by various violent extremist groups.

“One Moroccan jihadist was killed by the government forces in the Basilan encounter,” Ferrer noted.

The chief negotiator underscored that the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) should not be hijacked by the hostilities taking place and that it must be refiled in the next Congress for the peace process to continue.

“The new administration and Congress can provide a fresh start to the refiling of the BBL,” Ferrer said.

She appealed to the political aspirants in the May 9 elections to see the bigger picture of the Bangsamoro peace process and understand the causes of the armed struggle.

“There is a big gap between us and in appreciating our Muslim brothers and sisters. There is a clear disparity between the majority and the minority that we should resolve,” she said.

CPP/NDF: Carter visit marks heightened US intervention and war-mongering

Communist Party of the Philippines propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines Website (Apr 16): Carter visit marks heightened US intervention and war-mongering

Communist Party of the Philippines
April 16, 2016

The April 13-15 visit of US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was an outright display of contempt of Philippine sovereignty and US high-handedness. It marks heightened US intervention in the Philippines and war-mongering in the Asia-Pacific region.

The visit of Carter which coincided with the closing ceremonies of the Balikatan 2016 served as an opportunity for saber-rattling and war provocations. It aimed to further entrench the interventionist US military troops in the Philippines and taunt China with a display of military power.

To the Aquino regime, Carter’s visit is relevant as it serves as an affirmation of its master’s support. Carter is currently the US imperialists’ baton wielder orchestrating the deployment and build-up of the giant US machinery in accordance with its Asia pivot aims of further fortifying US military power in the Asia-Pacific region to protect US economic and trade interests and contain the military and economic expansion of China.

1. The 10-day Balikatan 2016 joint exercises saw close to 5,000 US troops descend on Philippine soil to flaunt their war machinery with the aim of projecting US military power in the country and the Asia-Pacific region. It served the aim of the US military to display, promote and test its latest military assets, particularly the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), in the hope of further stimulating the market for US war commodities.

The Balikatan 2016 exercises also served to further raise the interventionist capability of the US military by tightening its control and command mechanisms over the Philippine armed forces. By involving the AFP’s Northern Luzon Command, Southern Luzon, Central Command, Western Command, and the Joint Task Force – National Capital Region, the US military further established its command authority over the ground commanders of the AFP in Luzon and Visayas.

Priorly, the US military has established such command and control mechanisms over the Mindanao-based area commands of the AFP where US military advisers and ground troops have led and participated in intelligence, psywar, and combat operations against the Bangsamoro fighters and the New People’s Army over the past 15 years.

The Balikatan 2016 further promoted US disaster interventionism. To justify the deployment of large numbers of interventionist US troops, their operations and trainings are described as “humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

Under this tactic, the US aims to soften the image of its military by conducting cheap publicity-stunts such as school repair, food drops, blood-letting etc. making use of its gargantuan budget of several hundred billion dollars. On the other hand, it militarizes disaster operations, once the realm of civilian public agencies and private organizations, and subjects these to international conflict.

2. After the Balikatan 2016, Carter later proceeded to board the USS John C. Stennis warship. On boarding the US aircraft carrier, Carter ordered its crew to make provocative approaches to the disputed islands and maritime formations in the area.

For around a month now, the USS Stennis group of warships has been sailing back and forth across the South China Sea and the entire Asia-Pacific region in complete disregard of Philippine territorial sovereignty.

Without notice to Philippine officials, the USS Stennis warship has sailed into Philippine waters, docked at Subic port and made the Philippines as base of its operations. As expected of the puppet regime, Aquino’s officials have raised no opposition and have even welcomed the unannounced entry of US warships into Philippine sovereign territory.

In October last year, Carter also ordered another US warship, the USS Lassen, to make similar approaches to the disputed areas which the US hypocritically describe as “innocent passages” and part of its “freedom of navigation operations”. Last January, Carter also ordered the USS Curtis Wilbur to challenge the territorial claims of China and Vietnam over the Parcel islands in the South China Sea.

So-called freedom of navigation operations are unilateral US military manoeuvres that specifically aim to challenge the sovereignty claims of countries under the UNCLOS, which considers the waters within 12 nautical miles of a coastal state as part of its territorial sea. This include the territorial waters claimed by the Philippines under UNCLOS, which the US does not recognize and fear may be used to block US assertion of its military might and hegemony and impede the flow of trade of US commodities.

Carter and his boss Barack Obama are big liars when they claim that the deployment of US military forces in the South China Sea are part of its ‘ironclad’ commitment to defend Philippine sovereignty. These public statements are mere image building rhetoric that aim to have the Filipino people accept US violations of Philippine sovereignty.

In his December 22, 2015 report to the US Senate on the USS Lassen’s “freedom of navigation operations”, Sec. Carter was unequivocal in declaring that US military operations in the South China Sea are not in defense of Philippine sovereignty. He said: “The United States does not take a position on which nation has the superior sovereignty claims over each land feature in the Spratly Islands.”

3. Carter has been vigorously pushing for increased presence of US troops in the Philippines. Just before flying to Manila, he declared that the US military will have access to more than five military camps initially indentified under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).

To have the EDCA acceptable, officials of the US and Aquino regime have been describing it as a means to strengthen the capabilities of the Philippine military. In reality, the EDCA is nothing more than a military bases agreement to allow US military forces to use the country as a platform for its interventionist and aggressive operations within the Asia-Pacific region. For more than half a century of “military alliance” with the US, the AFP remains as one of the weakest militaries in the world.

Revealing imperial high-handedness, Carter described the US bases under EDCA as “our favorite way of having a presence, for US forces to operate in and out of the Philippines, in support of our allies, of our broader networks of friends and allies in the region.” Carter’s description of US troops in its military bases as “rotational” is a thin veil that fails to hide the fact that US military troops are, in fact, permanently present in the Philippines. With the Visiting Forces Agreement and the EDCA, the Philippine now serves as one big military base for the US where its warships, jetfighters and troops can come and go anytime the US military wishes.

That the Philippines and the US government are friends is a sham! That the EDCA further cements this alliance and will help strengthen the country’s defense is a double sham! So-called friendship with US imperialism has condemned the Philippines to a perpetual state of backwardness and dependence. If anything, the EDCA has served only to reinforce the status of the Philippines as a subaltern, further relegated as a base for the forward deployment of US forces and for launching its power-projection operations in exchange for the “priviledge” of buying obsoleted US military junk.

The Communist Party of the Philippines condemns heightened US military and political intervention in the Philippines. It upholds the Filipino people’s aspiration for national and social liberation. The CPP and the revolutionary forces support the demand to abrogate such unequal military treaties as the Mutual Defense Treaty, the Visiting Forces Agreement, the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement and the EDCA.

The CPP stands for an end to the presence of US interventionist troops and war materiél in the Philippines.

The CPP joins the Filipino people in opposing the establishment of military bases under the EDCA.

The CPP calls on the Filipino people to wage political mass struggles against the AFP camps hosting US military facilities.

The CPP has also instructed the New Poeple’s Army to launch armed offensives against AFP forces serving as perimeter guards of US interventionist troops.

CPP/NDF: NDF-EV slams Ongs In N. Samar for alleged drugs involvement

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Philippines Website (Apr 18): NDF-EV slams Ongs In N. Samar for alleged drugs involvement

Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas
National Democratic Front of the Philippines
Eastern Visayas

Revolutionary movement investigates illegal drugs in Northern Samar under Ong administration

 The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today expressed concern over illegal drugs in Northern Samar, where second district Congressman Emil Ong and his younger brother Gov. Jose “Jun” Ong, Jr. hold sway. “The revolutionary movement is looking into the administration of the Ong brothers,” said NDF-EV spokesperson Fr. Santiago “Ka Sanny” Salas. “Why is it that under their watch the problem of illegal drugs has become so bad it is being sold even to elementary students and in remote towns where this was previously unknown? This has led to the rise of drug-related crimes like rape that affect women and children. Aside from using drugs, students are also lured into becoming drug pushers. Has the problem of illegal drugs worsened because those in political power are addicted to its dirty money as too lucrative to give up?

“This is all the more worrying because the Ongs obviously want a political dynasty in Northern Samar, with Jun Ong running for reelection, while Emil’s son Edwin will be running in his stead as congressman in the second district. Edwin Ong is widely suspected as the one in charge of the family’s illegal activities. Raul Daza, the Ongs’ erstwhile political rival with whom they now have an unholy alliance, is also known to have ties with the illegal drugs trade through a family member who replaced Manolo Daza, Raul’s brother who was meted the death penalty by the people’s court for being a drug lord as well as for involvement in other criminal activities.”

Fr. Salas said many people alarmed over the Ongs’ political ambitions have approached the revolutionary movement with allegations of the family’s illegal activities. “Anti-narcotics activists allege that the Ong family dominate the illegal drugs trade in Northern Samar. The provincial police controlled by the Ongs pretend to arrest drug pushers who are small fry now and then, but only the ones who are not being run by this family, and the real drug lords are of course untouchable. These anti-illegal drugs crusaders have provided the revolutionary movement with lists of the Ongs’ alleged drug pushers in Catarman, Las Navas, Laoang and other towns in Northern Samar.”

The NDF-EV spokesperson added that the flood of information on the illegal drugs trade could not be ignored and the New People’s Army (NPA) is already looking into it. “The people’s democratic government in Northern Samar has ordered the NPA’s Rodante Urtal Command (RUC) to conduct preliminary investigation into the illegal drugs trade in the province and the possible role of the Ong and Daza families. These alleged drug pushers in various towns can be investigated, and if there is sufficient basis, they could face arrest, trial and punishment by the people’s court.”

Fr. Salas challenged Cong. Emil Ong, his son Edwin, and Gov. Jose Ong, Jr. to submit to the NPA’s investigation and clear their names. “We call on Cong. Emil Ong, Gov. Jun Ong and Edwin Ong to support the NPA’s investigation and have themselves cleared. But if they refuse, and there is evidence they are indeed involved in the illegal drugs trade, the people’s court can order the Rodante Urtal Command to arrest Emil Ong, his son Edwin Ong, and brother Jun Ong. The Ongs and other politicians already know the revolutionary movement rejects anti-social activities such as the illegal drugs trade because it ruins the people, especially the youth, and lead to more crimes. Such anti-social activities and other crimes proliferate under the reactionary ruling system, and involve the politicians, police and military who profit at the expense of the people. Only the people’s democratic revolution can put an end to these crimes and all reaction.”

China should be out of prestigious RIMPAC 2016

From Update.Ph (Apr 19): China should be out of prestigious RIMPAC 2016  

China should be out of the upcoming 2016 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) military exercise with majority of events to be held off the waters of Hawaii. China’s participation to RIMPAC 2016 was addressed by Hawaii Representative Mark Takai during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the 2017 defense budget last March.

“In response to recent provocative actions taken by China in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), I told the Secretary [of Defense Ash Carter] and Chairman [of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford Jr.] that I would follow through with an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act to prohibit their participation if the Department of Defense (DoD) does not revoke their invitation themselves,” Takai said.

Takai noted that the stated goal of RIMPAC is a “unique training opportunity that helps participants foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”

“Yet, China has continually undermined America’s relationships in the Asia-Pacific and threatened the freedom of navigation that serves as the engine of our global economy,” Takai said. “Participation in a joint exercise of this magnitude should be reserved for those that share the common interests and goals of the U.S. and our international partners, not those that seek to undermine them.”

The position of Takai is similar to position of Senate Armed Services Committee chair Senator John McCain and ranking member Senator Jack Reed. “Given China’s behavior in the past year alone, including its disregard for the interests of our allies, international law, and established norms, we do not believe Beijing should have been invited to this prestigious U.S.-led military exercise in 2016,” US Senators said early 2015.

However, US government has not revoked its invitation to China to participate in this year’s Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise because the US government is still hoping China may still participate in a “system of cooperative nations,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said April 15 aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).

Iriberri retires Friday; successor not yet named

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 20): Iriberri retires Friday; successor not yet named

THE Armed Forces yesterday said it has yet to receive word from Malacañang as to the successor of AFP chief Gen. Hernando Iriberri who is reaching the retirement age of 56 on Friday.

His tour of duty will unlikely be extended by President Aquino, according to a source.

Iriberri, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1983, assumed the top military post in July last year.

Soldiers and military assets on Monday started rehearsals for turnover ceremonies, said AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla.

Asked if the rehearsals means Iriberri’s term will not be extended, Padilla said it is a “political issue” that the military could not answer.

The AFP chief is usually selected from among the three-star generals and flag officers of the Armed Forces. There are 10 three-star generals and flag officers but three of them are due for retirement this year – Lt. Gen. Nicanor Vivar, chief of the Central Command, retiring in August; Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, chief of the Southern Luzon Command, in September; and Vice Adm. Alexander Lopez, chief of the Western Command, in August.

The seven other three-star officers are Vice Adm. Caesar Taccad, Navy chief, and Lieutenant Generals Glorioso Miranda, AFP vice chief; Eduardo Año, Army chief; Edgar Fallorina, Air Force chief; Romeo Tanalgo, Northern Luzon Command chief; Leonardo Guerrero, chief of the Eastern Mindanao Command; and Mayoralgo dela Cruz, chief of the Western Mindanao Command.

A military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the President is unlikely to extend the tour of duty of Iriberri to at least the end of the President’s term on June 30.

China rejects US query on military flight to Spratlys

From Malaya Business Insight (Apr 20): China rejects US query on military flight to Spratlys

CHINA’S Defense Ministry on Tuesday rejected queries by the US military as to why China had used a military aircraft to evacuate sick workers from a new airport on an island China has built in the disputed South China Sea.

CNN quoted Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis as saying it was unclear why China had used a military aircraft rather than a civilian one in the landing on Fiery Cross Reef.

China’s Defense Ministry said, in a statement, its military’s tradition was to help those in need as part of its commitment to “wholeheartedly serve the people.”

“In sharp contrast, the US side is expressing doubts about whether it’s a military or civilian aircraft at a time when somebody’s life is in danger,” it said.

“We cannot but ask: if a US citizen suddenly took ill on US soil, would the US military look on with folded arms?”

China has indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and the United States has no right to comment on China’s building works and defensive facilities there, the ministry said.

Chinese activity in disputed waters of the South China Sea, including the construction of islands by dredging up sand onto reefs and shoals in the Spratly archipelago, has alarmed rival claimants, in particular the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as the United States.

The United States has repeatedly criticized the construction of the islands and worries that China plans to use them for military purposes. China says it has no hostile intent.

The runway on the Fiery Cross Reef is 3,000 meters (10,000 feet) long and is one of three China has been building for more than a year in the archipelago.

Civilian flights began test runs there in January but the landing by the military aircraft, on Sunday, was the first time China has publicly reported a flight by a military plane to Fiery Cross Reef.

In Manila, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Malacañang is awaiting a report about the incident from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), which is still verifying the reported landing.

Coloma said China’s actions do not match its assurance of non-militarization and only adds to the tension in the South China Sea.

Coloma, in an interview over government run-radio station Radyo ng Bayan, said the Philippines reiterated that the freedom of navigation and flight should be maintained in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea where trillions of dollars worth of international trade pass annually.

He said Chinese President Xi Jinping, during his meeting with United States President Barack Obama at the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Manila in November 2015, assured that China has no plans of militarizing the South China Sea.
Coloma said a lot of nations, even non-claimants, have been expressing concerns over China’s aggressiveness.

Bullets from Kidapawan dispersal not fired from cops’ guns, PNP ballistics report shows

From GMA News (Apr 20): Bullets from Kidapawan dispersal not fired from cops’ guns, PNP ballistics report shows

The bullets recovered from the scene of the violent dispersal that killed three in Kidapawan City weren't fired from any of the guns submitted by the anti-riot policemen for ballistics examination, police officials told the Senate on Wednesday.

The results of the ballistics examination were presented to the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights by Senior Superintendent Alejandro Gunao, chief of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory in Region 12.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano asked Gunao what the basis was for his conclusion that the bullets did not come from the firearms of the police when there was a video footage showing policemen holding rifles that looked like M-16s.

Gunao pointed again to the result of ballistic examination.

"Yun po yung resulta ng ballistic examination, ng mga firearm examiner," Gunao said.

Human rights groups have pointed out that three persons succumbed to gunshot wounds while scores of others required hostpital treatment for similar injuries.

Relieved Cotabato police chief Senior Superintendent Alexander Tagum said he never ordered his men to fire on protesters, some of them throwing rocks and pieces of wood at anti-riot policemen.
Instead, Tagum said the militants could have killed the casualties as they have a witness who allegedly saw some protesters carrying guns. 

“Meron pong witness kaming nakakita na may mga nasa linya ng raliyitsa na may mga hawak na baril at pumuputok sa linya po ng mga kapulisan," Tagum said.

A lawyer for the protesting farmers shrugged off the PNP report.

"Pinakalumang storya na po yan na sinasabi lagi na merong baril sa mga raliyista, panahon pa ni (former President Ferdinand) Marcos 'yan," said National Union of People's Lawyers assistant secretary general for legal services Ephraim Cortez.

Cortez also noted that police immediately cordoned and destroyed potential evidence in the protest site following the incident.

To bolster police claims that there were armed protesters, the PNP said 16 out of 30 farmers who were subjected to paraffin test yielded positive results for gunpowder residue on their hands.

But forensic pathologist Raquel Fortun questioned the reliability of paraffin test, which she said was already discouraged by the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) since 1968.

"The paraffin test was absolutely worthless. It does not distinguish a shooter from non-shooter at all. It is supported by scientific literature that goes all the way back to 1967. In 1968, it was junked by no less than the Interpol," she said.

She said other countries are now using scanning electron microscope for gunshot residue analysis.

"In other countries, they are using the scanning electron microscope. This is supposed to detect trace elements, metals in very very small quantities: antimony, barium and lead. It's very objective. You have to not just determine the presence of these metals but also quantify. And the paraffin test is so subjective," Fortun said.

Fortun was at the hearing to present her findings that two of the caualties died from gunshot wounds.

The forensic expert's findings were contrary to death certificates indicating that one died of blunt trauma to the forehead while the other died of heat stroke.

RSBS assures outgoing fund will have refund for soldiers

From the Business World (Apr 19): RSBS assures outgoing fund will have refund for soldiers

THE Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement and Separation Benefits System on Tuesday (AFP-RSBS) said it is confident that they will have enough money to refund its soldiers their retirement contributions once the agency liquidates its assets.
“We are very confident that we will be able to raise the total amount for refund when we start liquidating our assets,” said Norman C. Legaspi, AFP-RSBS president and CEO said during ceremonies formally abolishing the RSBS.
“We have to refund the contributions and the accrued interest they earned,” he added.
The RSBS needs to refund a total of P15 billion to P16 billion, already including the interests accrued, Mr. Legaspi said, adding that the fund currently has P17 billion worth of assets in book value.

Soldiers contribute 5% of their monthly base pay to the AFP-RSBS. In turn, their fund receives 6% interest per annum.
The refund will be given when the soldiers retire or are separated from the military, regardless of the nature of separation.

The RSBS president also said it will be difficult to accelerate the refund and it will depend on the results of its liquidation of assets..

In 2006 and 2007, two executive orders (EO) -- EO 590 and EO 590A -- were signed by then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo mandating the deactivation of the AFP-RSBS.

These were not fully implemented until April 8 when Memorandum Order No. 90 rationalized the effects of both EOs and ordered the agency’s abolition.

“This memorandum paves the way for the system to streamline and wind down its operations in an efficient and orderly manner with the end in view of refunding all of its members’ contributions and accrued interests as they fall due,” a statement by the AFP-RSBS said.

Detained Bicolano farmer remains in fragile condition, Karapatan demands release of ailing political prisoners

From the sometimes pro-Communist Party of the Philippines Bicol Today (Apr 20):  Detained Bicolano farmer remains in fragile condition, Karapatan demands release of ailing political prisoners

Ramon Argente, 53, a peasant organizer from Bicol, shall be operated for a triple bypass surgery his family and SELDA is still seeking for help to complete the huge amount needed for operation expenses. Photo courtesy of

Ramon Argente, 53, a peasant organizer from Bicol, shall be operated for a triple bypass surgery his family and SELDA is still seeking for help to complete the huge amount needed for operation expenses. Photo courtesy of

Human rights group calls on outgoing Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III to release based on humanitarian grounds all the ailing and elderly political prisoners before his term ends.

It includes a Bicolano farmer currently detained at Camarines Norte Provincial Jail who needs continuous medication after his triple by-pass operation in 2013.

Turning 57 years old on november, Ramon Quina Argente is a farmer from San Pablo, Del Gallego, Camarines Sur. He has coronary artery disease and was undergoing medication when he was arrested in February 18, 2013 in Brgy. Muson, Bauan, Batangas.

After the surgery, he was brought back to detention at the PNP Custodial Center and took six months before his motion for hospitalization was granted. He remains in fragile condition, as he still experiences difficulty in breathing and chest pains according to human rights group Karapatan.

“His health worsened while detained at the Camarines Norte Provincial Jail”. Combined with inhuman jail condition. Argente is currently in prison based on more than 11 trumped – up criminal charges. These include murder, arson, robbery in band with arson, double frustrated murder and the Maot case in April 2012.

“It is hard enough to live in cramped and unventilated cells for years. It is even harder for those who are already suffering from ailments, like the 82 political prisoners who are ill,” Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general said.

Among those named for immediate release on humanitarian grounds aside from Argente are Adelberto Silva, Wilma Austria-Tiamzon, Concha Araneta-Bocala, and Alex Birondo. Silva, 68, a consultant for the NDFP, had undergone quadruple angioplasty before he was arrested on June 15, 2015.

Austria-Tiamzon, a peace consultant of the NDFP has spondylolisthesis (forward displacement of vertebra), hypertension and carotid artery occlusion.

The 65-year-old Araneta-Bocala, another NDFP consultant, has weak lungs because of a history of pneumonia. She also has ulcer, recurring lumbar pain due to scoliosis, anemia, vertigo, goiter, and recurring pain in her left eye, which was operated on previously.

Alex Birondo is hypertensive and insulin-dependent because of diabetes. “We don’t want another Eduardo Serrano, Benny Barid, Alison Alcantara or Crisanto Fat who all died while in prison,” Palabay said.

Political prisoner Eduardo Serrano spent his last 11 years in jail because of fabricated criminal charges for a certain Rogelio Villanueva.

Serrano was already waiting for the dismissal of the last two cases against him when he was rushed to the hospital due to heart attack. Serrano died on January 8 at the Philippine Heart Center.

In 2014, Benny Barid died of chronic asthmatic bronchitis with emphysema at the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) Hospital. For three years, Barid was in and out of the hospital. He cannot stand up alone, and needs to be put in a wheelchair to move around. Fellow political prisoners, and not the government, looked for means to provide for his medicines.

In 2013, Alison Alcantara died of pneumonia, sepsis and fatal arrhythmia. He was brought to the Philippine General Hospital only after he fell into a coma at the NBP Hospital.

Crisanto Fat, a peasant leader in Negros Occidental, died of heart enlargement. He was handcuffed in a hospital bed when he died in 2011.

Canada lauds MILF’s commitment to end use of child soldiers

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Canada lauds MILF’s commitment to end use of child soldiers

The Canadian government has lauded the ongoing efforts of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to eliminate child soldiers within their ranks, a move praised by the United Nations as the only successful continuing process in the world.

“I am very pleased to highlight this important final step – the identification and separation of children – as well as to begin the rehabilitation of children who have been recruited for and used in hostilities. Children should not be involved in wars,” said Canadian Ambassador Neil Reeder in a recent visit to MILF’s Camp Darapanan to open a workshop co-sponsored by the Embassy of Canada and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“The promotion and protection of human rights, including children’s rights, are an integral part of Canada’s foreign policy. It is an area of priority for our work here in the Philippines,” Reeder added.

Over the years, insurgent groups like the MILF and Maoist rebels Communist Party of the Philippines- New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) have been criticized by the United Nations and US State Department for giving combat or auxiliary roles to children, which resulted in their killings during armed clashes.

UNICEF said the MILF’s plan of action to end the use of child soldiers was so far “the only successful ongoing process in the world.”

The implementation of the plan will help MILF transition from a rebel movement to becoming a state actor.

A peace deal was signed by the government and the MILF in March 2014. However, the agreement can not be fully enforced without an implementing legislation that was stalled in Congress when some members of the rebel group figured in a firefight with elite Philippine National Police (PNP) commandos hunting down Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, in Mamasapano town last year.

“To be considered a credible state actor, you must be compliant with international conventions, including those on the rights of the child,” Reeder said.

Canada has been a longstanding supporter of international efforts advocating for the protection of children affected by armed conflicts.

It hosted the first International Conference on War-Affected Children in 2000. Then in 2006, Canada established the UN-based Group of Friends on Children and Armed Conflict in New York City and has acted as the chair ever since.

The forum has proven useful in bringing together various UN state members that advocate before the UN Security Council to take stronger measures aimed at those who commit grave violations.

Comply with gov't no-ransom policy -- AFP spokesperson

From the Philippine News Agency (Apr 20): Comply with gov't no-ransom policy -- AFP spokesperson

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday urged everyone to comply with the government's no-ransom policy.

This is in wake of reports claiming that a PHP50-million ransom has been paid to secure the 10 Indonesian crew members abducted off Tawi-Tawi waters last month.

"This is the first time we heard about this development. However the AFP continues to encourage everyone to observe government's no-ransom policy, the observance of the government’s no-ransom policy is because of a very specific reason, it is to discourage this kind of growing 'industry' in the area as well as to avoid providing this group a means to strengthen themselves," AFP spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla said.

When asked on whether the military will prevent Indonesian groups, he said the AFP's primordial concern of the armed forces is always the safety of all kidnap victims.

"There are many operations are ongoing, details of which I cannot disclose but the AFP is doing everything within its power as well cooperating with all other agencies of govt to carry specific instructions in facilitating the rescue of the victims," Padilla concluded.

NPA seizes 1,384 sacks of rice from Bukidnon trader, calls her hoarder

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Apr 20): NPA seizes 1,384 sacks of rice from Bukidnon trader, calls her hoarder

The New People’s Army said on Wednesday, it seized nearly 1,400 sacks of rice from an alleged hoarder in Valencia City in Bukidnon, last Monday.

Ariel “Inda” Magbanwag, spokesperson of the NPA’s South-Central Bukidnon Subregional Command, said the mission dubbed as “Operation Rice-Seizure” was given a green light and launched at the private warehouse of Helen Bernal in Purok 11, Barangay Batangan, at around 6 p.m. Monday.

Within 15 minutes, the NPA confiscated 1,384 sacks of rice and loaded them into four trucks. Also confiscated were two Sony flat screens, CCTV monitors, an Automatic Voltage Regulator and sander tools,” Magbanwag said.

The communist leader accused Helen Bernal and her family of being the “biggest comprador-usurer in the whole rice paddy area in Valencia City and its adjacent towns.”

The seized rice will be distributed to areas affected by the drought, according to the NPA spokesperson.

5 cops abducted by NPA not prisoners of war, says Davao Region’s top cop

From MindaNews (Apr 20): 5 cops abducted by NPA not prisoners of war, says Davao Region’s top cop

The five police officers who were reportedly abducted by the New People’s Army (NPA) last Saturday in Paquibato District in this city are not prisoners of war (POW), according to the region’s highest ranking police officer, Chief Supt. Manuel Gaerlan.

This after a certain Rigoberto Sanchez, who claimed to be the spokesperson of the NPA Regional Operations Command-Southern Mindanao Region, admitted that the group’s 1st Pulang Bagani Command was behind the abduction and held the five officers as captives for being prisoners of war.

During a joint AFP-PNP press conference at the Task Force Davao headquarters Wednesday, Gaerlan maintained that the abductees were only responding to the community upon receiving report from the residents that a civilian was hurt in a clash between government forces and a “lawless armed group” around 7 a.m. on Saturday.

Chief Insp. Leonardo V. Tarongoy, the station commander of Paquibato Police Station, PO3 Rosenie L. Cabuenas, PO3 Rudolf Pacete, PO3 Abdul Azis A. Ali Jr. and PO2 Neil C. Arellano, and civilian driver Ronald Dordas were on board their patrol vehicle en route to Brgy. Salapawan when they were flagged down in Brgy. Mapula.

Gaerlan maintained that the captives were only performing their regular functions and were armed only with handguns.

In a press statement, Capt. Rhyan B. Batchar, chief of the 10 Infantry Division’s Public Affairs Office, said that 60 members of an “armed lawless group” attacked a detachment at Sitio Quiman-anao, Brgy. Salapawan, Paquibato District.

Injured were Mario Carliaman, member of the CAFGU Active Auxiliary, and Randy Ramirez, a civilian who was shot on his right shoulder while gathering firewood.

The CAFGUs reportedly retaliated but immediately escaped when the attackers, who carted away 19 assorted high-powered firearms, burned the detachment.

Last Monday, soldiers of the 84th Infantry Battalion engaged in two encounters NPA guerillas at Sitio Banban, Brgy. Lumiad, Paquibato District.

Batchar said they were the same group who attacked the Quiman-anao Detachment in Brgy. Salapawan last Friday.

The clash killed two from each side and left another two soldiers wounded.

Chief Supt. Wilben M. Mayor, spokesperson of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said in a statement issued Wednesday that they condemned the attacks against the law enforcers, saying that the police officers are civilians and not even members of the military.

“The Philippines is not at war, there is no declaration of war, nor is there any existence of conditions of war. Therefore, their continued detention is illegal under existing Philippine or any international laws. The Police Officers are civilians and not military personnel or combatants,” he said.

Gaerlan added that a Special Investigation Task Group (SITG), headed by Davao City Police Office (DCPO) director Vicente Danao, is gathering information that will lead to the location of the rebel group and their abductees.

But he suspected that they are still in Paquibato area as police have set up new checkpoints and strengthened the existing ones going to and from the area to prevent the rebel group from transporting the five abducted policemen to another place.

Gaerlan said they already alerted police authorities in Northern Mindanao and Caraga regions to keep watch of suspected rebels entering their areas of responsibility.

He called on the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to do its investigation as they received reports that his men were tied or handcuffed to makeshift animal cages under subhuman conditions.

Moles in shipping industry?

Posted to the Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide Website (Apr 19): Moles in shipping industry?

Security intelligence has warned of an intricate network that links terror groups to players in the economic sector.

This “brotherhood”, security experts say, serves to provide easy passage to terror groups, in particular global terror groups, such as the Islamic State (IS), seeking to strengthen their foothold in this region.

IS, which has since last year established a partnership with the southern Philippines-based Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), has set its eyes on the volatile area as its base for the Southeast Asian region to spread its ideology and influence for the establishment of a caliphate.

Counter-terrorism specialist Andrin Raj said the spate of kidnaps-for-ransom carried out by the ASG, which saw several vessels ambushed and many crewmen kidnapped in recent days, also suggested that ASG’s allegiance with the IS has brought with it support from those backing the group led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

They are also holding in their stronghold in Jolo Island, a Canadian, Norwegian and Filipino whom they had abducted in September.

Intelligence suggests that there are more than 20 foreigners in ASG’s “custody” to date.

The ASG has this time upped its ransom rate by at least two-fold.

In the case of the Canadian and Norwegian, the ASG had made it clear that they would be beheaded if their governments failed to pay their ransom of 300 million pesos (RM25 million, reduced from the earlier one billion pesos/RM84 million).

Heavily armed and equipped with maritime assets, the ASG terrorists would snatch their targets from Sabah-Philippine waters.

Of late, their targets had been slow-moving vessels, particularly tugboats towing barges.

In sounding the warning, security experts have asked regional authorities to look closely into the backroom operations of their country’s shipping industry.

“There is a serious threat of an ‘insider’ colluding with the operatives of ASG. They also know that the areas in the disputed waters are not being patrolled, so it’s easier for them to mount attacks as no maritime authorities can manoeuvre within these disputed waters.

“But the trail leads back to their sources in the shipping industry and the authorities need to investigate the source of the leaked information,” Raj, Southeast Asia regional director for the International Association of Counter Terrorism and Security Professionals, told the New Straits Times.

Global security agencies are also drawing links to the latest IS propaganda mouthpiece which has lumped Malaysia along with several other countries, including Egypt and Turkey, as an apostate state, to governments that must be fought.

IS, they said, would drum up this ideology and infiltrate governments as part of their aggressive campaign to establish their foothold in this region.

They believed Malaysia was vulnerable and would make it easier to infiltrate the country.

They said the IS would use ASG and Suluk recruits for their attacks.

“In the case of ASG and IS, there is a clear link between the two as the nexus of terrorism and transnational criminal groups are evident. They complement each other in times of need.

“The ASG, on its part, will become more prudent in its operations as it now has the IS as its main supporter and sponsor,” said an expert.

The experts, in commending Malaysian authorities for bolstering the country’s security, said efforts to safeguard national security should also be shouldered by the public.

“It is crucial for the public to play their role where they can, including the commercial sectors. It is the joint-community support policing that Malaysians must uphold.”

Raj said Malaysia had become an IS target since last year when its authorities started clamping down on IS recruits and returnees.

“The threat is real and IS will try to hit high-value commercial and industrial targets as they have done ground operational surveillance in the region and are aware of the first responders’ protocols in Malaysia.

“This region, where IS has established its base, is a safe haven as they believe there won’t be any major offensives from the armed forces as compared with Iraq and Syria and some places within the Maghreb where military operations to dislodge them are taking place every day, with coordinated and sustained ground and airstrikes.

“IS believes this will not happen in this region,” he said.