Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines to conduct coordinated anti-piracy patrols in South China Sea

From the Straits Times (May 5): Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines to conduct coordinated anti-piracy patrols in South China Sea

Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed to conduct coordinated patrols in piracy-prone areas over the South China Sea as well as set up crisis centres in their respective countries to better respond to maritime emergencies, said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi on Thursday (May 5).

There will also be a dedicated hotline between them to facilitate faster exchange of information in times of crises at sea, added Ms Retno.

"We have agreed to set up a national focal point among the three countries to facilitate sharing of information and intelligence in a prompt way, and to coordinate in any emergency situation. This way, we can respond faster."

These initiatives will be adapted from the "best practices" of the ongoing Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), which was established in 2006 by the navies of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, said Ms Retno, speaking to the media after a meeting involving officials from Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The trilateral gathering, hosted by Indonesia in Yogyakarta, comes after recent kidnappings in the waters off southern Philippines and north of Borneo, where Indonesia shares a border with Malaysia.
President Joko Widodo told the media after a courtesy call by the Malaysian and Philippine foreign ministers and armed forces representatives, that aside from the crisis hotline, he has also asked that the delegates discuss how patrols will be carried out, the course of action that should be taken when responding to incidents at sea, as well as a common operating procedure between the militaries of the three South-east Asian nations.
"I have encouraged the military commanders to make clear standard operating procedures, so we can carry out our course of action together," said Mr Joko.

Officials attending the discussions include Ms Retno, as well as her counterparts Mr Anifah Aman from Malaysia and Mr Jose Rene Almendras from the Philippines.

Indonesian armed forces chief General Gatot Nurmantyo and his Malaysian counterpart General Zulkifeli Mohd Zin, as well as Philippine navy chief Rear Admiral Caesar C. Taccad were also part of the group.

Ms Retno said the military chiefs from the three countries will follow-up on the operating procedures that will be adopted.

The officials first paid a courtesy visit to Mr Joko at the Gedung Agung presidential palace in Yogyakarta and a joint press statement by the three countries is expected to be issued at the end of the meeting, said Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Ministry.

"The meeting is an Indonesian initiative against the background of the increasing security challenges alarming in the waters between the three countries,” said a ministry spokesman in a statement on Thursday morning.

“These challenges include the rise of armed piracy, transnational crime and terrorism in the region... These challenges are seen as threatening the safety of the citizens and affecting trade and economic activities that cause harm to the welfare of the region.”

The ministry noted that in 2015 more than 100,000 vessels had sailed through the territorial waters off the Sulu Archipelago, in southern Philippines, carrying 55 million metric tonnes of cargo and more than 18 million passengers.

In the past five weeks, 14 Indonesian and four Malaysian seamen were abducted from their boats by gunmen believed to have ties with the Abu Sayyaf terrorist group.

Ten Indonesians seized at the end of March were released on May 1 and have since returned home.

Experts have said the joint patrols between the three countries may take the form of the successful MSP, which consists of the Malacca Strait Sea Patrol (MSSP), "Eyes in the Sky" aerial patrols and the MSP Intelligence Exchange Group.

The MSSP has been particularly successful in tackling piracy in South-east Asia, significantly reducing the number of piracy attacks in the busy sea lane, two experts from the University of Indonesia had said on May 3.

Massive search for missing quartet in South China Sea

From the Star Online (May 5): Massive search for missing quartet in South China Sea

A massive aerial and sea search is underway for the four people who remain missing in the South China Sea for more than 72 hours.

Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) Regional Maritime director Laksamana Pertama Mohd Zubil Mat Som said six aircraft were involved in the search along with six vessels from various agencies.

He said the search covering an area of more than 2,500sq km, or more than 10 times the size of Penang island, was being carried out west of Kudat.

The four – Spaniards David Hernandez Gasulla and Martha Mi­­guel, Tanjung Simpang Mengayau resort owner Tommy Lam Wai Yin and another Malaysian identified as Ms Ella – went missing at about 6pm on Monday.

The search now involves the MMEA’s Dauphin helicopter, an Air Force Beechcraft as well as two other helicopters, a Cessna and a Nomad from Kota Kinabalu-based Layang Layang Aerospace.

Laksamana Pertama Mohd Zubil said also involved in the search were four MMEA vessels, three naval ships and two marine police patrol boats.

The families of the four had reportedly chartered three vessels to help in the search.

The four went missing while sailing from Pulau Balambangan and were supposed to arrive at Tanjung Simpang Mengayau at 8pm on Monday.

The engine of their boat may have malfunctioned, resulting in them being adrift in the sea.

The four are believed to have set off from Tanjung Simpang Men­gayau earlier and the area where they went missing is where the Sulu Sea and the South China Sea meet.

The area is known for strong winds and choppy waters where many fishing boats have capsized over the years.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar said the four went missing amid bad weather and rough seas.

Asked about the possibility of being kidnapped, he said: “We can’t say that because we do not know where they are. Don’t speculate.”

He said this after presenting Ops Daulat medals of valour to 200 police officers and personnel at the Sabah General Operations Force headquarters in Kinarut near here.

MNLF ‘finding ways’ to save Samal Island captives from Abu Sayyaf

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 4): MNLF ‘finding ways’ to save Samal Island captives from Abu Sayyaf

The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) said on Wednesday, it has been finding ways to help secure the remaining captives taken from the Island Garden City of Samal on Sept. 21, 2015 as the Abu Sayyaf released another video, in which the hostages pleaded for help.

Dr. Samsula Adju, chair of the MNLF’s Global Roving Diplomacy and Peace Advocacy, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer they have been studying what measures to take to help end the ordeal of Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipino Maritess Flor.

We want to help in their safe release,” Adju said.

But Adju clarified that the MNLF was not considering any armed confrontation with the Abu Sayyaf.

“The MNLF will try its best again to have peaceful negotiation with the ASG leadership to avoid bloodshed and misunderstanding. Negotiation is the best measure to address the peace and security problem of the province. Military option, I think, is not the solution,” he said.

In the latest video released by the Abu Sayyaf, the hostages pleaded for a stop to the military operation and for help.

“Please stop shooting at us, trying to kill us. These guys are gonna do a good job of that. To the Canadian government I’m told to tell you to meet the demands. I don’t know what you’re doing but you’re not doing anything for us. John is being sacrificed, his family has been decimated and I’m not sure why or what you’re waiting for,” Hall said, referring to retired mining executive John Ridsdel.

Last week, Ridsdel, who was among the Samal Island victims, was killed. A video of his beheading was also posted online and had been shared by several bloggers.
Flor said they badly needed help.

“I’m appealing to the Canadian government, Philippine government, President Noynoy Aquino, Mr. Binay, sa lahat ng tumatakbong presidente, to the owner of the marina kung san kami nakuha, kay Mayor (Rodrigo) Duterte, kay Manny Pacquiao, sa lahat ng celebrities na may malalambot na puso (those who have soft hearts), Miss Kris Aquino, Mr. Robin Padilla, kelangan ng financial na tulong kasi gusto namin makalaya nang buhay (we need financial aid because we want to be freed alive),” she said.

One of the militants threatened to kill all three if their ransom demand was not met.
“I’m appealing to the Canadian government, Philippine government, friends, family, anybody who can possibly help us.  If the demands are not met, we will be executed like my friend John a few days ago,” Sekkingstad, who was the first to speak in the video, said.

The Abu Sayyaf has been demanding P300 million for the release of each Samal Island victims.

Earlier, Habib Mudjahab Hashim, chair of the MNLF’s Islamic Command Council, said Sunday’s release of 10 of the 14 Indonesian captives was the result of the intercession of MNLF chair Nur Misuari.

As this developed, the Abu Sayyaf freed Chinese national Yahong Tan Lim on Tuesday, after holding her in captivity for nearly two years.

A source said the victim’s family paid P300,000.

Supt. Wilfredo Cayat, the Sulu police director, said Lim was renuited with her family after she was released in Barangay Danag in Patikul town.

Lim was kidnapped on May 22, 2014 – together with her mother – Dinah Tan Iraham, a Chinese businesswoman married to a Basilan local. She was 19 then.

The Abu Sayyaf had demanded P30 million for their release.

Dinah was released last year after allegedly paying an undetermined amount of ransom money.

US warship conducts South China Sea operation

From Update.Ph (May 5): US warship conducts South China Sea operation  

A United States Navy Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) has conducted ‘routine patrol’ May 2 in international waters of South China Sea during a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment. USS William P. Lawrence is part of John C. Stennis Strike Group.

“This operation was a great way to show our strike group’s ability to disperse forces for different missions and cover a broad area of water in 7th Fleet,” said Cmdr. Walter C. Mainor, commanding officer, William P. Lawrence.

The exact location where the said patrol was conducted was not mentioned in John C. Stennis Strike Group Public Affairs’ report.

The report said guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) also completed a similar patrol, March 5. US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that in March joint US-Philippines patrol operations was conducted in West Philippine Sea.

“The strike group is exercising our right to operate in international waters,” said John C. Stennis Strike Group commander Rear Adm. Ron Boxall after the March 5 mission . “Our presence here promotes peace and stability in the region. We’ve got vibrant economies in the Western Pacific, and it’s really important for us to be there for our national interests and to ensure that we can keep the sea lanes free.”

The strike group is comprised of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) with Carrier Airwing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110) and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

In recent months, other U.S. Navy ships conducted similar operations including the guided-missile destroyers USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), USS Lassen (DDG 82), USS McCampbell (DDG 85) and USS Preble (DDG 88), the multi-purpose amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), the guided missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), the littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48).

President Aquino firm on stance vs. ASG

From the Philippine News Agency (May 4): President Aquino firm on stance vs. ASG

Malacanang on Wednesday stressed the government’s stance to end the threat posed by the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) after the release of a video online showing how the bandits beheaded Canadian John Ridsdel on April 25, 2016.

The video shows Ridsdel, 68, a former mining executive who was abducted with three others in a resort in Samal Island on Sept. 21, 2015, kneeling with his back against four bandits, one of whom does not have cover on his face. Two of the bandits are holding long rifles while the one who executed him used a knife to behead the victim.

The bandits also issued new set of demand for the release of the other three victims namely Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Filipina Marithes Flor.

In a statement, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Hermino Coloma Jr. reiterated President Benigno Aquino III’s statement on the issue.

The President, in a statement last week said: “The full resources of the State are being brought down on the ASG.”

“Our primary objective is to rescue the hostages and ensure the safety of our civilian population…,” he said.

The Chief Executive stressed that the government has “always believed in the power of dialogue, development, and positive engagement over arms.”

“But we will always act from a position of strength. So, to the ASG, and whoever may aid or abet them, you have chosen only the language of force, and we will speak to you only in that language,” he said.

“We will not stop until the threat they pose to our communities is ended,” he added.

PHL's first strategic sealift vessel now undergoing sea trials

From the Philippine News Agency (May 5): PHL's first strategic sealift vessel now undergoing sea trials

The Philippine Navy (PN) announced that sea trials are now being conducted for the country's first strategic sealift vessel (SSV) which was built by Indonesian builder PT PAL (Persero) in its Surabaya shipyard.

"This week, our SSV is undergoing sea trials and hopefully, (once she completes these) she will be scheduled for an endurance run," PN spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said in Filipino.

Lincuna said these testing phases aim to check the performance of all machineries and equipment of the SSV.

"It is also conducted to check and measure the ship's general performance and seaworthiness," he added.

The first SSV is expected to arrive in the Philippines by the third week of May or well in time for the PN's 118th founding anniversary on May 20.

The Philippines has a two-SSV order with PT PAL (Persero) for Php3,870,000,000 which is sourced from the AFP Modernization Fund.

The SSV acquisition project for the PN was initiated upon the approval of Acquisition Decision Memorandum Number 2012-060 by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin last Oct. 30, 2013.

The Department of National Defense declared Persero as the Single Calculated Responsive Bidder with a bidding price of PHP3.87 billion on Nov. 18, 2014.

The SSVs are programmed to be the PN’s floating command center carrying out their main purpose as military sealift and transport vessels and also for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

The ships are estimated to weigh around 7,300 gross register tons.

Further, these vessels are critical assets for civil-military operations due to their capability of transporting large number of soldiers, logistics, and supplies.

Moreover, each SSV has the capacity to house three helicopters. The Navy’s Augusta Westland-109s are programmed to be on-board components of these vessels.

These forthcoming landing platform dock strategic sealift vessels will improve the transport capability of the PN and boost the defense capabilities of the country.

French stealth warship now in Philippines (Photo)

From Update.Ph (May 4): French stealth warship now in Philippines  

PNA photo
PNA Photo

France Marine Nationale (French Navy) La Fayette class multi-role and stealth frigate, the French Navy Ship (FNS) Guepratte (F-714) arrived in the country today. The French warship docked at Pier 15, South Harbor, Manila for four-day goodwill visit which will end on May 7.

The French ship is under the command of its first female skipper, Cmdr. Claire Pothier.

FNS Guepratte is described as a multi-mission Lafayette-class stealth frigate of the French Navy.

The goodwill visit will involve series of confidence building engagements between PN and French Navy personnel such as courtesy call to the PN flag-officer-in-command by FNS Guepratte’s commanding officer along with her party, shipboard tour, receptions and goodwill soccer game.

The La Fayette class are general purpose frigates built by DCNS and operated by French Marine Nationale. Derivatives of the type are in service in Saudi Arabia (Royal Saudi Navy), Singapore (Republic of Singapore Navy) and Taiwan (Republic of China Navy).

China, Russia holding first ever computer-enabled anti-missile exercise

From Update.Ph (May 4): China, Russia holding first ever computer-enabled anti-missile exercise  

The military of China and Russia are set to hold first joint computer-enabled anti-missile defense exercise this May, according to Chinese military website China Military Online.

“This command-and-staff exercise, code-named Aerospace Security-2016, will be held at the scientific research center of Russian Aerospace Defense Forces. It is the first exercise of such kind held by the two countries,” China Military Online said.

According to information provided the main purpose of the exercise is to improve the capability of the two countries in deal with accidental and provocative ballistic and cruise missile strikes on the two countries’ territories through holding such drills of joint air defense and anti-missile defense operations.

It added that the exercise does not target any third party.

Abductions at Sea: A 3-Way Security Challenge for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines

From The Diplomat (May 5): Abductions at Sea: A 3-Way Security Challenge for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines

As Southeast Asian pirates turn to abductions, what can regional states do?

Abductions at Sea: A 3-Way Security Challenge for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines
The Philippine Navy patrol boat BRP Leopoldo Regis (PG-847)
Image Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark R. Alvarez
The tri-border area (TBA) in Southeast Asia is comprised of the maritime zones of three states – the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia – in the Sulu Sea and the Celebes Sea. Numerous shipping arteries traverse the TBA, presenting an alternative to the overcrowded Straits of Malacca (SOM) and carrying roughly $40 billion worth of cargo each year.
Despite the area’s commercial significance, the TBA has been largely overlooked by policymakers and security strategists from all three littoral states, possibly due to a desire to avoid sensitive questions on sovereignty and jurisdiction. However, the recent high-profile abductions of Indonesian and Malaysian sailors by alleged members of the Abu Sayyaf, a militant group from the Philippines, highlight the urgent need to remedy this maritime security gap.
According to reports, the bulk of the piracy and armed robbery at sea incidents in Southeast Asia occur in and around the SOM. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, reported only 11 attacks in the TBA in 2015, mostly involving armed robbery against ships in port. The only confirmed incident of ship hijacking involved a tanker that was boarded in the vicinity of Lembeh Island in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. No one was harmed during the attack and the tanker’s crew was set adrift in a life raft.

The attacks took on a dramatically different turn in the first quarter of 2016. Three out of the four incidents tracked by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Center and the IMB show that the modus shifted from taking ships/cargo to ransoming sailors for exorbitant amounts. Furthermore, it can be seen from the table below that all three incidents appear linked in terms of the identity of alleged perpetrators, type of targets, area of operations, and modus operandi.

Incident Details
No. of Perpetrators
Types of Weapons Used
Treatment of Crew
Losses Sustained
Brahma 12 and Anand 12 (Indonesian)
*Attacked on March 26, 2016 while underway from Kalimantan, Indonesia to Batangas, Philippines*Boarded by armed perpetrators from a speedboat and a wooden-type motorized pump boat
17 (alleged to be members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group)
Firearms (type not determined)
All 10 Indonesian crew members were abducted but were released on  May 1, 2016 following the purported payment of ransom money by Patria Maritime Lines, the sailors’ private employer*Anand 12 and its cargo of around 7,000 metric tons of coal were hijacked and are believed to be in the custody of the perpetrators*Although the tugboat was abandoned, the navigational system (including the GPS and radar apparatus), radio communication system, and fire fighting equipment of Brahma 12 were removed and taken by the perpetrators*Owner of Brahma 12 reportedly paid ransom of PhP 50 million (around $1 million) for the release of the crew
MV Massive 6 (Malaysian)
*Attacked on April 1, 2016 while underway from Manila, Philippines to Tawau in Sabah, Malaysia*Boarded by armed perpetrators from a speedboat at approx. 27 nm southeast of Semporna in Sabah, Malaysia
8 (alleged to be members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group)
Firearms (type not determined)4 Malaysian crew members were abducted, leaving behind 5 other crewmen from Indonesia and Myanmar*Mobile phones and laptops belonging to crew members were taken
TB Henry (Indonesian)
*Attacked on April 15, 2016 while underway from Cebu, Philippines to Tarakan, Indonesia*Boarded by armed perpetrators from a speedboat at approx. 25 nm off Sitangkai Island in Tawi-Tawi, Philippines
Unknown (alleged to be members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group)
Firearms (type not determined)Of 10 Indonesian crew members, 1 was injured while 4 others were abducted*No objects were reported to have been taken from the vessel

The main responses to these kidnap-for-ransom piracy incidents in the TBA have so far been largely domestic. Both the Malaysian and Indonesian governments have both imposed temporary bans on maritime trade between their countries and southern Philippine ports, even instructing ships to avoid the TBA and instead find alternate routes. Indonesian ships already holding permits to sail may only do so if accompanied by a military escort. On the other hand, the Philippine government is actively investigating the incidents and is also deploying its armed forces to address the Abu Sayyaf threat on the ground. All three countries have also vowed to step up maritime security patrols in the area.

However, these abductions are multi-jurisdictional problems, requiring multi-state responses.

The foreign ministers of the TBA countries have agreed to meet in Jakarta on May 5 to discuss possible areas of cooperation in addressing these incidents and preventing repeats. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, a number of issues should be considered in order to be able to mount more effective countermeasures.

First, the exact nature and limits of cooperative actions should be determined. Initial media reports reveal something of a disconnect between the cooperation positions of the Philippines and Indonesia. It appears that the Philippines wants to establish separate but coordinated patrols to identify corridors where ships can safely travel. On the other hand, Indonesia seems set on having joint patrols that would involve navy ships from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines patrolling together and having free access into each other’s territorial waters. This issue is one that requires careful discussion, given that it is part of a larger context involving unresolved territorial issues, sensitivities pertaining to the limits of sovereignty, different levels of maritime domain awareness, and unequal maritime monitoring and law enforcement capacities.
In this regard, it may be useful to consider, as a starting point, the forms and limits of coordination outlined in the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy, Armed Robbery Against Ships, and Illicit Maritime Activity in West and Central Africa (Yaoundé Code of Conduct), and the Code of Conduct Concerning the Repression of Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in the Western Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden (Djibouti Code of Conduct). These non-binding Codes have been effective in limiting the number of piracy and armed robbery at sea incidents off the Gulf of Guinea and the Coast of Somalia, while still adhering to the principles of sovereign equality and territorial integrity of States, and the non-intervention of the domestic affairs of other States.

Second, all three littoral states should collaborate in order to achieve enhanced maritime domain awareness (MDA) – defined by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) as “the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment” – in the TBA. The poor MDA level in the TBA is directly linked to the area’s maritime security governance gap and indicates a low-level of prioritization for the area. This situation in turn facilitates the conduct of maritime crime and contributes to the impunity of perpetrators.

One possible course of action is for the three countries to earmark funds from their allocations under the Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative (MSI), a regional capacity building effort meant to help some ASEAN member states (including Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines) and Taiwan to establish a shared MDA architecture, specifically for the TBA. Doing so may help re-focus attention on the TBA and channel the resources needed to detect potential threats, facilitate information sharing, and engage in collaborative security measures. Moreover, utilizing the MSI to establish a comprehensive understanding of MDA factors such as coastal geography, regular area-based activities, established presence of criminal elements, available security infrastructure, and sub-regional socio-cultural characteristics, will certainly influence the type of priority littoral states will give to the TBA. This is an important first step in countering the maritime security governance gap.

Third, the need for Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines to be part of a formal information sharing and capacity building network should be considered. More than helping to facilitate information exchange among the three littoral states, this may help improve incident response. The only network applicable to the TBA is the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery Against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which entered into force on September 4, 2006 and which currently has 20 signatories: Australia, China, Denmark, India, Japan, Korea, the Netherlands, Norway, Sri Lanka, the United Kingdom, the United States, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Notably, Indonesia and Malaysia are not parties to the ReCAAP. Indonesia refused to join over concerns that the agreement would compromise its sovereignty. On the other hand, Malaysia objected to the fact that the ReCAAP Information Sharing Center (ISC), the facility through which the agreement would be operationalized, would be located in Singapore. It felt that doing so would undermine the IMB Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur. Given the possible increase in piracy and armed robbery at sea incidences in the TBA, it may be time for these two countries to revisit their reasons and weigh them against the possible strategic benefits of participation.

Southeast Asian waters are rife with security issues and challenges, often dividing the attention of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines and straining allotted resources to capacity. Compared to more controversial areas such as the South China Sea and the SOM, the relatively benign TBA has been put on the back-burner by its littoral states. As a result of this neglect, the maritime security infrastructure in the area remains underdeveloped and incapable of addressing incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea, which of late have been increasing in both frequency and violence. The recent spate of abductions at sea – a radical departure from previously documented modus operandi – indicate that criminal elements like the Abu Sayyaf are becoming more and more emboldened by the obvious maritime security gap. Unless this gap is immediately addressed, these and other transnational crimes will likely continue.

[Jacqueline Espenilla is a Non-Resident WSD-Handa Fellow at the Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies. She is also a UN-Nippon Foundation Fellow at the Division of Ocean Affairs and Law of the Sea at the United Nations in New York. She received an LL.M. from Harvard Law School, and a J.D. and B.A. from the University of the Philippines.]

Tri-nation plan to fight Abu Sayyaf

From the Star Online (May 4): Tri-nation plan to fight Abu Sayyaf

With the Abu Sayyaf militants moving their kidnapping operations to the high seas after the crackdown in Lahad Datu, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines are now planning attacks at sea to put the pirates out of action.

Foreign ministers and top military officials from the countries will meet in Jogjakarta today to seek the best approaches and security solutions to curb the perennial threat of kidnappings and criminal activities in the shared borders and seas.

The meeting was called by Indonesia amid growing concerns over the security situation in southern Philippines where cross-border criminals linked to the Abu Sayyaf grabbed 14 Indonesians and four Malaysian sailors plying the international maritime waters along the Philippine side of the border in three separate incidents between March 26 and April 8.
Indonesia’s Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Panjaitan said the southern Philippine re­gion might become like waters off Somalia where kidnappings were rampant.

He said protection of trade in the area was a top priority.

Two Indonesian-flagged vessels – the Brahma 12 tugboat and the Anand 12 barge – were hijacked and 10 Indonesian sailors were taken hostage in southern Philippines on March 26. They were released on Sunday.

Four more Indonesian sailors from tugboat TB Henry are still being held by the gunmen in Jolo. Four Malaysian sailors are also in the hands of the gunmen.

Sabah moved to immediately stop the centuries-old sea border barter trade with southern Philippines in a bid to secure its borders while Indonesia temporarily halted its vessels from plying the maritime route between Sabah’s east coast and Tawi Tawi in the Philippines.

Among the proposals that Putrajaya and Jakarta are keen to pursue with Manila is to have joint patrols to secure the Celebes and Sulu seas maritime routes.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, Indonesia’s Retno Marsudi and Phi­lip­­pines’ Albert Del Rosario are sche­duled to meet together with their respective chief of forces to discuss the solutions.

Anifah said they were hopeful of finding ways to counter the Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and other sea border threats.

“We will explore all possibilities in secu­ring the area, taking into account our li­mited assets,” he said yesterday.

In a statement, Wisma Putra said it was looking at finding ways to strengthen existing coordination to improve maritime security for the three countries in overcoming kidnappings.

Indonesian Ambassador to Malaysia, Herman Pariyitno, said they were keen to pursue joint patrols to ensure it was safe for merchant ships to go through the area where kidnappings were occurring.

During a meeting last month in Manila, Rosario had told Anifah that the Philippines was keen to step up patrols within its borders while Malaysia patrolled its own.

He also suggested that both southern Philippines and Malaysia each have only one sea exit and entry point. Any boat using any other exit or entry point could be stopped by the joint patrols.

Recently, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla said he wanted to work closely with the Philippines and Malaysia to address the rising threat of piracy.

Piracy: Indonesia Recommends Double Watch, Convoy

From The Maritime Executive (May 4): Piracy: Indonesia Recommends Double Watch, Convoy


Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will meet on Thursday to discuss joint maritime security patrols in the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas after a spate of kidnappings. Joint patrols could involve ships from the three navies patrolling together and crossing into each other's territorial waters.

Budhi Halim, Secretary-General of the Indonesian National Shipowners Association has recommended that crews should maintain a double watch (bow and stern) when travelling through high risk areas, reports Channel News Asia. “Secondly, they must move in a convoy, don't travel alone."

Many vessels are also employing armed security guards, said Hanafi Rustandi, Chairman of the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Usually the Abu Sayyaf, the hijackers use small boats which can fit only four to five people, and the armed guards will be able to deal with them, he said.

Until now, the extra cost of employing guards has deterred some ship managers from using them. The Indonesian Shipowners Association provides some assistance to the local industry, as it has a protection and indemnity fund to cover ransom money paid to kidnappers.  

Abu Sayyaf militants in the southern Philippines released 10 Indonesian seafarers on Sunday, ending a month-long ordeal during which a kidnapped Canadian held by the same group was beheaded after a ransom deadline passed.

The growing frequency of maritime attacks has affected coal trade between the Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, the world's largest thermal coal exporter, and the Philippines, which, relies on Jakarta for 70 percent of its coal imports.

Abu Sayyaf, known for kidnappings, beheadings, bombings and extortion, is one of the most brutal militant groups in Muslim south of the largely Christian Philippines.

Outgoing President Benigno Aquino has promised to devote his remaining days in office to crushing the militants. Fourteen rebels have been killed in bombing of the stronghold of Jolo island since Tuesday, a military spokesman said.

Since 2006, the United States has provided nearly $200 million in military aid to strengthen naval forces of the three Southeast Asian countries to combat piracy and militancy.

NPA claims assassination at M. Padilla

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 4): NPA claims assassination at M. Padilla

The New People's Army yesterday claimed responsibility for the assassination of an alleged campaign leader of a mayoralty bet in Moises Padilla, Negros Occidental, on May 1.

Magdaleno “Nonong” Grande, 54, elder brother of Moises Padilla councilor-candidate Agustin Grande, was shot on the head outside a cockpit in Brgy. Inolingan, Moises Padilla.

The NPA carried out the liquidation of Grande based on a decision of their revolutionary court, Ka Ann Jacinto, deputy spokesperson of the Leonardo Panaligan Command, told the DAILY STAR.

The NPA alleged that Magdaleno had served as an informant of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the rebel movement. He was also linked to alleged extortion, holdups, killing, and beatings of farmers, which sources close to the victim denied.

Who released the sailors? Untold story behind hostage rescue

From the Jakarta Post (May 4): Who released the sailors? Untold story behind hostage rescue

Ahmad Baedowi (left), one of the negotiators who helped in the release of 10 members of an Indonesian ship’s crew held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, South Philippines, shakes hands with the ship’s crew coordinator Julian Philip in a jungle in Sulu on May 1, during the release process (Exclusive/

On the heels of the heart-warming return of 10 Indonesian sailors previously held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in the southern Philippines, the details of the release remain cloudy as the government seems reluctant to disclose the events that led to the rescue.

Following the sailors' return, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi asserted on Monday that the release was made possible through intense coordination with numerous parties, including Filipino authorities and the sailors' employers, Patria Maritime Airlines.

However, government officials have not revealed further details, including Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Pandjaitan, who refused to name the groups and non-governmental parties involved in the rescue operation.

While some media reports have named numerous public figures rumored to have led the process of releasing the crewmen, several sources – who personally took part in the rescue efforts but asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information and the safety of other four Indonesians still being held by another group – told The Jakarta Post that the operation actually involved more than just old-school diplomacy.

How much was the ransom?

Sources have confirmed that neither Indonesian officials nor the sailors' employer Patria Maritime Lines paid a ransom demanded by the militant group.

The negotiations instead comprised people-to-people dialogue, involving a respected figure from the Moro National Liberation Front ( MNLF ), which was made possible due to a friendly promise made by the Sukma Foundation's humanitarian team to provide aid to support young generations of the Moro tribe in the Philippines.

The 60-year-old MNLF senior commander, codenamed Grand Alpha, who headed 300 to 400 combatants in the Sulu area, has helped the Sukma Foundation since the beginning of April, when he assisted the humanitarian team to make contact with Tawing Humair, the leader of the kidnappers who hijacked the Brahma 12 tugboat in March.

"Grand Alpha said [to Tawing] that there is bigger opportunity than just transactions [...] bigger opportunities for Moro people's future, education and welfare," the source said, citing what happened during the negotiations.

The Indonesian government mistakenly thought the crewmen had been kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf commander Al Habsi Misaya, who was in fact handed the sailors after Tawing Humair abandoned the hijacked tugboat on his way back from the Tawi-Tawi islands.

Believing Al Habsi was the kidnapper, an Indonesian negotiation team led by retired Army general Kivlan Zein made efforts through contacting Nur Misuari, the founder of the MNLF, who later appointed a subordinate named Tahir to negotiate with Habsi.

Without Misuari's knowledge, Tahir communicated with Grand Alpha, who said they should hold back their troops and not make any offensive moves against the group as the hostages' lives would be at risk.

Later, Grand Alpha's team decided to step in to the rescue efforts as they knew the Indonesian government had negotiated with the wrong party. They were afraid that if a ransom was paid, the hostages would not be freed as there were a lot of similar cases going on.

Meanwhile, Patria Maritime Lines decided to pay the ransom of Rp 15 billion ( US$1.14 million ) for the hostages' release and brought the money to Zamboanga on April 29, but Tawing refused to hand over the hostages to either the company or the government due to the promise he made with Grand Alpha.

Tawing, reportedly a 30-year-old madrasah ( Islamic school ) graduate, was said to respect Grand Alpha as the senior militant had protected him and Moro youngsters on several occasions. When Grand Alpha called him to negotiate the release of the seaman, Tawing obeyed him reverently.

Promise of humanitarian aid

Edo, not his real name, MNLF member and a distant relation of Grand Alpha, who was also present during the negotiations, said the idea of humanitarian assistance for younger generations of Moro suddenly emerged as part of the trade-off in return for releasing the hostages.

Even though the commitment was still being questioned, Edo said, Grand Alpha had convinced the militants and said Indonesian Muslims were the only Asian neighbor that had good relations and could help Moro people with a peace process, as well as educational assistance and other transformative projects.

"The negotiation team also said younger generations [of the Moro tribe] would have the privilege of being sent to schools in Aceh," Edo said.

The Sukma Foundation, founded by media mogul Surya Paloh, helped child victims of the Aceh tsunami by establishing the Sukma Bangsa school to ensure their access to education, and therefore Moro people believed in it.

When the government's negotiations reached a dead end, the Sukma Foundation's humanitarian team contacted its deputy chairman Rerie L. Moerdijat to ensure the continuance of the operation, a case in which she first consulted with Surya. Later, she deployed a team in the Philippines to immediately help rescue the hostages.

Under the instruction of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the team from Jakarta landed in Manila on on Saturday evening and immediately met the Armed Forces of the Philippines ( AFP ) and the Foreign Ministry.

Ahmad Baedowi ( wearing glasses ), one of the negotiators who helped in the release of 10 members of an Indonesian ship’s crew held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, South Philippines, shakes hands with a ship’s crew in a jungle in Sulu on May 1, during the release process ( )

Sunday’s surprise release

The team stood by in Zamboanga from Saturday night and went down to Jolo, the capital of Sulu, at around 5 a.m. local time on Sunday. They approached the militant's camp located in the jungle at around 7 a.m. and waited for about four hours until midday, when the sailors appeared safe and sound.

While the negotiation team remained hidden, the sailors were brought by Grand Alpha subordinates by car to the house of Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan II, who had been briefed about the hostages' arrival the night before. They were dropped off near a gas station and told to walk directly to Tan II's house.

Julian Philip, a hostage, said following his arrival at the Foreign Ministry office that the sailors' release came as a surprise, telling the same story behind their sudden arrival at the governor's house.

"We were just suddenly put in a car, dropped off at a location and told to find the governor's house," Julian said.

Following the release, the sailors were transported by two Filipino police helicopters to an airbase in Zamboanga, where they underwent verification and health checks, before departing for Balikpapan and onwards to Jakarta on Surya's private jet.

The 10 seamen arrived at Halim Perdanakusumah Airport in East Jakarta around midnight on Sunday, with the assistance of NasDem Party deputy chairman Victor B. Laiskodat and a counsellor from Indonesia's embassy in the Philippines, Eddy Mulya.

The government is now focusing its attention on securing the release of four Indonesian sailors who were taken captive later in April by another group demanding a ransom in Sulu province, which did not have links with Tawing Humair.

Coordinates denoting the location where 10 Indonesian ship crew were held hostage by the Abu Sayyaf group in Sulu, southern Philippines, were released on Sunday. A mobile device using a global positioning system ( GPS ) detected the location. ( JP/Exclusive )

Retno and Luhut attended a meeting with Indonesian Military commander Gen. Gatot Nurmantyo and National Intelligence Agency ( BIN ) chief Lt. Gen. ( ret ) Sutiyoso on Monday at the Office of the Coordinating Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Minister in Jakarta, where they discussed intensifying coordination to release the four crewmen.

The sources said the Sukma Foundation humanitarian team was not yet involved with the government in the efforts of releasing the remaining four crewmen and would only come onto the scene if Jakarta failed in its attempts.

Snack diplomacy’

With a successful and safe release mainly due to civil society and humanitarian-based negotiations, the government should begin to see that diplomacy can also be effective at civil society level.

"Diplomacy does not only mean that we should deploy ex-military generals or intelligence officers; our civil society is also strong," one source said.

Samsu Rizal Panggabean, a researcher from Gadjah Mada University ( UGM ) who is a consultant with the Sukma Foundation, said the operation was made possible through the bond between the Indonesians and local figures of the Moro tribe.

Not only did they share the same Muslim faith, Samsu said, but Indonesian snacks, such as bakpia cakes, tempeh chips and rempeyek crackers, as well as Indonesian cigarettes that the team shared with the Moro people had touched their hearts.

When the Sukma Foundation gave copies of the Koran not only to the Grand Alpha team but also to Tawing Humair, they seemed moved and expressed their thanks.

“We met them as friends. So it [the operation] was based on mutual trust,” Samsu said.

New hope

Edo said a military offensive would not actually tackle the problem of extremism in the Philippines, let alone annihilating Abu Sayyaf, as by using force, the younger generations would instead bear more hatred toward the outside world.

Abu Sayyaf members themselves are in fact sons of MNLF commanders who passed away during the revolution.

Many MNLF and Abu Sayyaf members are related by blood, but they have had different principles and doctrines from the start, as the MNLF struggles for its rights of determination while Abu Sayyaf leans toward extremism. The fact that they have family relations makes the government mistakenly regard them as the same group.

Edo said children in the Abu Sayyaf group were forced to replace their predecessors to keep the leadership relay going because all branches of the militant group had lost hope of entering mainstream society as they could be jailed without dialogue or negotiations, and they are not offered amnesty.

"They want to change their lives, but they are prompted to continue their terror because they have no hope of going back to the mainstream government," Edo said, adding that the Filipino government should rework its antiterrorism policy.

The fact that Tawing and his compatriots were moved by the offer of education and humanitarian assistance programs was due to the glimmer of hope of ending the cycle of violence in the country, where the wives of rebels are forbidden from visiting the city and children are not allowed to go to school, the source added.

Rerie said over the phone that the Sukma Foundation had released a statement on its involvement as its role in the operation was being questioned.

“But the most important thing is that the 10 sailors have returned safely to Indonesia,” Rerie said.

400 areas tagged as hotspots

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 4): 400 areas tagged as hotspots

AFP file photo

OVER 400 towns and cities in the country—most of them in Mindanao—have been identified as election “hotspots” by the Commission on Elections.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the 421 towns and cities in the election watchlist have been classified into three categories, depending on the type of threat.

Capt. Celeste Frank Sayson, deputy public affairs officer, said the first category, which includes  159 towns and cities, are those where politically motivated incidents occur due to intense political rivalries, and where private armed groups or gun-for-hires are usually tapped.

The second category, which includes 165 towns and cities, are those with the noted presence of rebel groups, such as communist New People’s Army,  the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, the Abu Sayyaf, the Moro National Liberation Front and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front.

The third category, which includes 97 towns and cities, are those where both categories are present.

The AFP did not release the names of the towns or cities in the watchlist but outlined their distribution by region.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has the most number of hotspots at 73, or 12 areas under the first category, three under the second category and 58 under the third category.

This was followed by the Caraga region, also in Mindanao, which has 10 areas under the first category and 47 areas under the second category.

In Luzon, the Bicol region had the most number of hotspots at 44, with 15 of these falling under the first category, 20 under the second category and nine under the third category.

Indonesia’s ‘Global Maritime Fulcrum’: The Case of Abu Sayyaf

From The Diplomat (May 3): Indonesia’s ‘Global Maritime Fulcrum’: The Case of Abu Sayyaf (By Dedi Dinarto)

The militant group’s activities reveal holes in the implementation of Jakarta’s signature policy.

Upon coming to power in 2014, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo proclaimed his country’s ambition to become a “global maritime fulcrum.” The doctrine envisions Indonesia as a maritime power that serves as a linkage point between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. That involves both an economic and security component.

The economic front is chugging along. Data released by the Indonesia Investment Coordinating Board (BPKM) recorded a significant 19 percent increase in foreign direct investment from 2014 to 2015. However, the recent activities of Abu Sayyaf reveal the limits of the security leg of the global maritime fulcrum doctrine.

In March, Abu Sayyaf abducted 10 Indonesian crewmen from ships in the waters off the southern Philippines. The motivation, while unclear, appears to have been mostly economic; Abu Sayyaf demanded ransom for the men’s release. The hostages were released on May 1, apparently unharmed. Others have not been so lucky. Abu Sayyaf, also know as “Sword Holder” (Pemegang Pedang), recently beheaded a Canadian hostage and threatened to decapitate four Malaysian hostages.

Abu Sayyaf’s seizure of two Indonesian boats is an entry point to look at the implementation of the global maritime fulcrum more generally. The doctrine is based on five main pillars, one of them being a commitment to maritime security. That includes working to stop “the sources of conflict at sea, such as fish thefts, violation of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy and pollution,” as the Jakarta Post has put it. 

The recent abduction signals the need for a firmer implementation of Indonesia’s national vision. The case of Abu Sayyaf reveals the currently feeble efforts to secure maritime security and safety. Despite Indonesia’s avowed commitment to maritime security, the non-traditional security threat pose by Abu Sayyaf — and other groups engaged in maritime piracy and other bad behavior — persists, and may be about to get worse. The threat from militant groups such as Abu Sayyaf could culminate in increasing separatist movements under the radical flag of pan-Islamism in Southeast Asia.

However, the transnational nature of the threat has so far prevented Indonesia and the Philippines from finding a solution. Constrained by the ASEAN’s principle of non-interference, Indonesia was not able to intervene militarily  against Abu Sayyaf. The Philippines is given the full responsibility of addressing the threat posed by the group, despite signs that it is ill-equipped for the task. A recent clash between the Philippines military and Abu Sayyf left 18 soldiers dead and another 50 wounded.

More broadly, the incident also revealed the lack of practical coordination mechanisms on maritime security and safety between ASEAN member countries. The existing maritime dialogues — the ASEAN Maritime Forum and ASEAN Regional Forum, as well as dialogues with external parties, including the ASEAN-EU Experts Meeting on Maritime Security, ASEAN-U.S. Meeting on Anti-Piracy and Counter-Terrorism, and ASEAN-Japan Maritime Port and Transport Security — are insufficient to build technical and operational mechanisms for managing maritime security and safety. To date, the issue of maritime security and safety remains under-addressed in ASEAN, especially with regards to confidence building measures (CBM) and operational as well as technical matters.

Indonesia, as the promoter of the “global maritime fulcrum” agenda, must define and affirm on how it will grapple with maritime security and safety issues through national policies. Meanwhile, achieving Indonesia’s vision will also need policy and operational support within ASEAN.

The complexity of maritime security and safety issues in Indonesia and Southeast Asia at large demands new efforts, encompassing both policy institutionalization and operational cooperation. With its global maritime fulcrum doctrine, Indonesia could be the key to drive forward these efforts to achieve maritime security and safety for all of ASEAN.

[Dedi Dinarto is a research assistant at ASEAN Studies Center, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada.]

Abu Sayyaf releases daughter of Chinese trader

From the Manila Bulletin (May 4): Abu Sayyaf releases daughter of Chinese trader

After almost two years, the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) released the daughter of a Filipino-Chinese trader they kidnapped on May 22, 2014 inside a videoke bar in Isabela City.

ASG sub-leader Hairula Asbang released Yahong Lim Tan, 21, about 10:30 a.m. to her mother Dina Lim Iraham, 47, after they paid P 300,000 in ransom to the group.

Police sources at the Sulu provincial police office disclosed that the payment of ransom was done at Sitio Kantitap, Barangay Danag, Patikul, Sulu.

RPA-ABB closure agreement may be inked by next president

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 4): RPA-ABB closure agreement may be inked by next president

The signing of the closure agreement between the Philippine government and the Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas- Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (Tabara-Paduano Group) may be passed on to the next administration, after all.

While signing a closure agreement with the RPM-P/RPA/ABB, “has taken a bit more time,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace ProcessTeresita Quintos-Deles said this was because the government was determined to undertake due diligence in terms of the agreement to avoid the mistakes in previous peace agreements.

The term of President Benigno Aquino III ends June 30 this year. 

But Deles said some components of the agreement have, however, already proceeded, particularly putting in place implementing guidelines, mechanisms, and structures that will support the agreement with RPM-P/RPA/ABB once signed.

The national government has earmarked P66 million for the Department of Interior and Local Government–PAMANA projects for the three RPM-P-RPA-ABB (Tabara Paduano Group) sites, which are located in Brgy. Tagucon, Kabankalan City, Brgy. Celestino Villacin in Cadiz City and Brgy. Bagonbon, San Carlos City.

In a statement issued by OPAPP, Deles stressed the importance of the “closure process” with the RPM-P/RPA/ABB and Cordillera People's Liberation Army, as these show that the government can be trusted to do fulfill its pledge or commitment, she said. 

The Visayas-based RPM-P/RPA/ABB converted itself into the Kapatiran para sa Progresong Panlipunan (Brotherhood for Social Progress), a legitimate socio-economic and political organization pursuing social justice as a key to lasting peace and genuine progress.

“[The] government does not play around with peace agreements,” Deles declared. “It will hold these sacred and deliver on their promises.”

But she admitted that the most difficult peace table is still the one with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army- National Democratic Front.

She recalled that when the Aquino administration was able to break the impasse it inherited in 2010, the negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF “started off as well as the MILF peace process.” 

Deles lamented that this early optimism in the peace table with the CPP/NPA/NDF was a short-lived period, and by the middle of 2011, they (CPP/NPA/NDF) had suspended talks. 

She also said that the Aquino administration is proud of its achievements in the negotiations to end the conflict in the Bangsamoro as it pursued a framework of convergence in the peace tables with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the Moro National Liberation Front.

Deles said the better position for government was achieved in the peace process under the present administration.

“The administration of President Aquino will turn over to the next President a peace process that is better-positioned than it was six years ago,” Deles said.

She said the signing of closure agreement with CPLA marked one unfinished business that will not be passed on to the next administration.

The CPLA turned over 337 firearms, while 27 explosives have been detonated. A total of 168 CPLA members have been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The OPAPP, meanwhile has already profiled more than 700 RPA-ABB members, including several hundreds of firearms and explosives.*

NPA admits killing mayoralty bet’s aide

From the Sun Star-Bacolod (May 4): NPA admits killing mayoralty bet’s aide

THE Leonardo Panaligan Command of the New People’s Army (NPA) in Central Negros has claimed to be behind the killing of the political campaigner of Moises Padilla mayoral bet Magdaleno Peña.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, May 3, Ka An Jacinto said that Magdaleno “Nonong” Grande was killed because of the alleged human rights violations he committed against civilians in the area.

“He was asked to explain his side but he never showed up, and instead sent military personnel to arrest our members who were supposed to talk to him,” Jacinto said.

Grande was gunned down outside a cockpit in Sitio Coyaoyao, Barangay Inolingan, Moises Padilla, on Sunday, May 1.

He was with his brother Agustin, who is running for councilor, when he was shot by an unidentified gunman at around 4:30 p.m.

The NPA added that Grande was spying on them and was responsible for harassment and physical abuse of some farmer.

Grande was also accused of extortion, the NPA added.

Militiaman killed in ambush by suspected NPA rebels

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 4): Militiaman killed in ambush by suspected NPA rebels

Suspected communist guerrillas shot dead a militiaman in a hinterland village in Laak, Compostela Valley, the police reported Wednesday.

 Chief Insp. Conrado Canaleja, Laak police chief, identified the victim as Leopoldo Trinilla, 50, a Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) member assigned in Sitio Candiis in Barangay Aguinaldo.

 Canaleja said the victim was working at his farm with his wife when four suspected New People’s Army rebels identified as Dennis Rodenas alias Revo, Muyen Rodenas, Diego Rodenas and Ariel Badiang attacked him around 8 a.m. on Monday.

 The victim, who suffered 9 gunshot wounds in different parts of the body, died upon arrival at a local hospital, he said.

“Prior to the incident, the victim had allegedly been warned (by the rebels) he would be killed if he won’t stop working as CAA member,” Canaleja told the Inquirer by phone.

Opinion: Wenceslao: Duterte and the Left

Opinion piece posted to the Sun Star-Cebu (May 3): Wenceslao: Duterte and the Left (By  Bong O. Wenceslao)

I PROMISED months ago not to write about the revolutionary Left out of respect for those who are still “serving the people.” I realized I had written negative articles about them, especially on the conduct of electoral alliances, that I may have alienated myself from my old friends. So I largely skipped analyzing the Left’s moves in this election to the extent that I became ignorant of the alliances it is keeping with presidential candidates in the May 9 polls.

But that was before I read on Facebook a post quoting a line from retired judge Meinrado Paredes’s speech during a recent forum wherein a group called the Alliance Against Tyranny, Incompetence and Greed or Astig was formed. Paredes said:

"This is my challenge to the left and to my former comrades. If you support Duterte and Sison and extra-judicial and enforced disappearances, atubangon ta mo. You are traitors to the cause of human rights. To the followers of Duterte, do not entertain the illusion that the coalition government between Duterte and Sison is good for the growth of the masses.”

That Paredes dare had me surfing Google for updates about the Left and its moves in the current electoral struggle. I ended up watching a video clip of a conversation on Skype between PDP-Laban standard bearer Rodrigo Duterte and the Netherlands-based Jose Ma. Sison or Joma, founding chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), after the release on April 25 of of five police officers who were nabbed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the CPP.

Has the Left forged an alliance with Duterte? It seems likely, if one considers Joma’s talk with Duterte alone. So what happens to Partido Galing at Puso’s standard bearer Grace Poe, who has forged an alliance with the militant Makabayan coalition, which has fielded Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares as its candidate for senator in the May 9 polls?

But again, Duterte talking with Joma does not mean the Left is already aligning itself with the Duterte candidacy. For one, the Left does not believe in what it calls “bourgeois elections,” which means that it does not bring the weight of its entire organization in supporting a presidential candidate. Secondly, I don’t think Joma still heads the CPP. If he still does, then his voice is only one in a party that practices collective decision-making.

Even then, Joma giving out statements propping up the Duterte candidacy could sow confusion within the Left and among its allies. Wouldn’t Poe question Makabayan’s sincerity in forging an alliance with her? But that is not even the important question.
Why Joma would align himself with Duterte, who is everything a progressive candidate is not, is. Forging an alliance with Duterte would violate the principles that a nationalist and democratic movement holds dear.

When I heard last year that Makabayan forged an alliance with Poe, I wrote positively about it noting that not only is Poe a popular bet, she is not an all-out trapo (traditional politician) yet. But I would not be as positive with a Duterte-Left alliance. Even now, I am hearing harsh criticisms against the Left because of the impression it is allied with Duterte--one of them being Paredes. That diminishes some progressive people’s respect of the Left.

For several elections now, the Left has been making one bad decision after another. Its moves in the current polls do not seem to be an improvement.

‘Coup imminent if Duterte wins’

From The Standard (May 4): ‘Coup imminent if Duterte wins’

Trillanes warns of unrest if leftists share power

AN administration led by presidential candidate and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte would be vulnerable to a coup, said Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, a former Navy officer who led two failed mutinies in 2003 and 2007.

Speaking at a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents of the Philippines (Focap)  Tuesday, Trillanes said most members of the military are averse to any form of power-sharing with the communist movement that the Davao mayor is proposing.

“It is going to be very easy to recruit people for such a military intervention,” said Trillanes.

Trillanes, who recently accused Duterte of failing to report millions of pesos in a secret bank account, said even if the mayor wins on  May 9, he takes office on  June 30  and there was still time for people to stop him from taking office.

He said the Ombudsman, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and other government agencies were not investigating Duterte’s finances.

“Back in 2001, we found a creative way of removing a sitting president who got mandate from the people,” said Trillanes, referring to ousted President Joseph Estrada.

 Trillanes also dared Duterte to file a libel complaint against him.

“My accusations against him was very grave. I am accusing him of having ill-gotten wealth worth P2.4 billion. He can file a libel case against me,” he said.

“But you see, he wont file a libel case... You know why? Because if he files a case against me, the bank accounts now will be exempted from the Bank Secrecy Law.”

Earlier, Trillanes told broadcaster and former vice president Noli de Castro in a radio interview that Duterte was bent on setting up a revolutionary government with the help of Jose Ma. Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“[Duterte’s] partners are communists, like Joma Sison,” Trillanes said.

“They have an agreement. [Duterte] is really a disciple of Joma Sison and he does not even deny it. But I fear something more serious, not only corruption but a real threat to democracy,” Trillanes said.

“He keeps on saying, ‘This is what we will do, if you really like me, this is what I will do. I will form a revolutionary government, maybe I will have to kill people,’”

Trillanes said paraphrasing what Duterte has been saying in his campaign rallies.
Sison himself agreed that a ceasefire between communist rebels and government is possible if Duterte wins the presidency.

In an earlier interview, Sison said the communists would readily speed up negotiations with a Duterte administration.

“He has gone so far as to express interest in a coalition government and in addressing the roots of the armed conflict and working out the necessary agreements on social, economic and political reforms in order to achieve a just and lasting peace,” Sison told journalists last year.

More recently, Sison said he was looking forward to a ceasefire if Duterte becomes president and returning home after living in exile in The Netherlands since 1987.

Duterte had said at Lyceum of the Philippines that Sison was one of his college professors and he played a big role in molding his views, which led him to join the communist-linked Kabataang Makabayan group in the late 1960s.

Sison said he spoke with Duterte last April 26 and the Davao City mayor said he would offer a cessation of hostilities with the communist guerrillas and Muslim secessionist forces once he is president.

Duterte’s publicly declared closeness to Sison and the NPA rebels has caused concern in the military.

His pronouncements have also spooked the business community.

Speaking before the annual economic forum sponsored by the Economic Journalist Association of the Philippines in collaboration with the ING Bank, Makati Business Club chairman Ramon del Rosario hit Duterte for his “lack of respect for the rule of law.”

“The image he created in my mind is a disturbing one. What he probably indicated is a lack of respect for the rule of law. To my mind the rule of law is extremely important if we want to have confidence in our economy,” he said.

He noted that in the Philippine setting, the rule of law is the foundation of knowledge where confidence is built, and where there is confidence there will be investments that will create jobs.

“So if we don’t have investments, we will not have jobs. Then, we will have a problem moving forward,” he added.

He cautioned not only fellow businessmen but the voting public in general to make the right choices and look carefully at what the candidates have been laying out as promises.

Del Rosario singled out Duterte for his penchant for quick fixes and the anarchic mode of resolving issues and problems that can be settled in ways more diplomatic.

“Some people say that’s just tough talk, that he will not do what he says. But the biggest question is, what if he does? Sometimes more than not, we hope that the candidate will do as they promise. This is one time that I hope this one particular candidate will not do [as he] promises,” he said.