Friday, May 13, 2016

AFP mum on Joma Sison's plan to return to Philippines

From the Philippine Star (May 13): AFP mum on Joma Sison's plan to return to Philippines

Jose Maria Sison, a former social science and English professor, founded the Communist Party of the Philippines on Dec. 26, 1968. File photo

The military on Friday kept mum on reports that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Ma. "Joma" Sison would end his self-exile and return to the country after Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte assumes the presidency.

“This is still highly speculative and hence, we have respectfully declined to comment,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla told The STAR.

The 125,000-strong Armed Forces, nevertheless, vowed to support the national security policies of Duterte, who already have nearly 16 million votes as of this writing.

“The AFP fully supports whatever policy would be set by the next commander-in-chief,” Padilla said.

“We are also in favor of holding peace talks with all groups so we can have lasting peace in our country,” he added.

Padilla said the gains of economic development would be felt if the security issues of the problem are resolved.

Earlier, Sison said he would end his decades-long self-exile in the Netherlands if Duterte, his former student, visits him. He also said that the prospect for the peace talks with the government “seem to be bright at the moment.”

Sison, a former social science and English professor, founded the CPP on Dec. 26, 1968. The CPP is the political arm of the communist rebellion in the Philippines while the New People’s Army (NPA) is its military wing.

Military officials claim that the NPA has less than 4,000 members, down from a peak of more than 25,000 in the 1987.

Negotiations between the government and the communists hit a snag after the two parties failed to reach an agreement on jailed rebel leaders.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), which represented the CPP and NPA in the talks, had demanded the release of rebels facing criminal cases, saying they are working as peace consultants and should therefore be immune from arrest.

The NDFP said releasing the jailed consultants is in line with the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees signed by peace negotiators in 1995.

Government negotiators, however, rejected the demand, saying there is no way to confirm the identities of the rebels especially those using aliases.

During the campaign period, Duterte’s rivals claimed that the mayor has close ties with the NPA and warned that communism would prevail in the country if he wins.

‘Bees and Marines Train Together at Balikatan

From Seabee Online (May 12): ‘Bees and Marines Train Together at Balikatan

Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 participated in Balikatan, an annual Philippine-U.S. military bilateral training exercise that is a signature element of the Philippine-U.S. alliance focused on a variety of missions, including humanitarian assistance, maritime law enforcement and environmental protection.

“Balikatan” is a Filipino term that means “shoulder-to-shoulder” and characterizes the spirit of the exercise, focusing on Philippines-U.S. partnership and commitment to the nations’ mutual defense treaty.

Balikatan 2016

EO3 Michael Finley, NMCB 4, and Marines attached to CLB 4 load equipment onto USNS Millinocket (T-EPG 3) for Exercise Balikatan 2016, Okinawa, Japan, April 2. (160408-N-LO156-038)

Balikatan 2016

Seabees attached to NMCB 4 and Marines attached to CLB 4 load gear and supplies onto USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) for Exercise Balikatan 2016, Okinawa, Japan, April 2. (160408-N-LO156-023)

Balikatan 2016

NMCB 4  Seabees and U. S. Marines set up a Central Logistics Point camp in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan 2016, April 8. (160408-N-LO156-074)

Balikatan 2016

NMCB 4 Seabees and U. S. Marines prepare to set up a Central Logistics Point camp in Puerto Princesa, Philippines, during Exercise Balikatan 2016, April 8. (160408-N-LO156-070)

Balikatan 2016

Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4 and CLB 4 members on board USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) transit to Exercise Balikatan 2016, Okinawa, Japan, April 3. (160403-N-LO156-015)

Balikatan 2016

Seabees attached to NMCB 4 unload heavy equipment off of USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3) at Puerto Princesa, Philippines, for Exercise Balikatan 2016, April 8. (160408-N-LO156-024)

ADDRESS INDIGENOUS CONCERNS: Cordillera IPs challenge Duterte

From the Manila Times (May 12): ADDRESS INDIGENOUS CONCERNS: Cordillera IPs challenge Duterte

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) challenged president-elect Rodrigo Duterte to dedicate his first 100 days in office addressing the urgent issues of indigenous peoples nationwide.

Representatives of the CPA said Duterte knows the problem well, since he comes from Mindanao and is well aware of the spate of killings of the Lumad in the region.

CPA’s concern also include political vilification of indigenous activists and advocates, and the brazen non-recognition of indigenous peoples’ right of self-determination.

“We have had our share of such discrimination and violation in the Cordillera,
homeland of the indigenous Igorot. We were part of the delegation of indigenous peoples that trooped to Malacañang in 2011, at the start of BS Aquino’s term, to submit the Indigenous Peoples Agenda,” part of CPA’s statement said.

But they lament that their effort resulted to nothing as Aquino’s term proved only to be a continuance of its predecessor, with the same programs and policies unleashed at the expense of the people, especially the vast marginalized majority.

“We specifically put forward our Cordillera Peoples Agenda, which tackles the core concerns of indigenous peoples’ rights—ancestral land and self-determination, with concrete legislative demands on the urgent issues of human rights and peace, mining, energy, genuine regional autonomy, food security and political participation and good governance”, the CPA said in a press statement.

The agenda further includes sectoral concerns of drivers, women, youth, workers, senior citizens and persons with disabilities. The resumption of the peace negotiation between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF) was also highlighted in the agenda.

The agenda resulted from the Cordillera Day 2016 organized by CPA in the provinces of Benguet, Abra, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, Apayao, including the City of Baguio in April.

CPA hopes that the incoming president will look into these issues and consider these in his program of action for the first 100 days in office, confident that the Duterte administration will listen to the voice of indigenous peoples.

There were more than 100 highland tribal groups in the Philippines. The Igorot tribes include Bontoc, Ibaloi, Ifugao, Isnag, Kalinga, Kankana-ey and Tinguian.

Other mountain peoples in Luzon are the Isnags of Apayao province, the Gaddangs along the border of Kalinga and Isabela provinces, and the Ilongots of Nueva Vizcaya and the Negritos, as well as the Mangyan in Mindoro.

Among the most important groups in Mindanao collectively called the Lumad, are the Manobo, with bigger ethnographic groups such as Ata-Manobo and the Matigsalug in Davao City, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon Province; the Langilan-Manobo in Davao del Norte; the Agusan-Manobo in Agusan del Sur and Agusan del Norte; the Pulanguiyon-Manobo of Bukidnon province; Ubo-Manobo in Davao City and North Cotabato province, including the Arumanen-Manobo of Carmen, North Cotabato.

There are also the Dulangan-Manobo in Sultan Kudarat; the Talaandig, Higaonon and Bukidnon in Bukidnon province; the Bagobo, Mandaya, Mansaka, Tagakaulo of Davao; the Subanon of Zamboanga; the Mamanua in Agusan-Surigao border region; the B’laan, Teduray and Tboli in Cotabato province, and Luwa’an in Samal island, and many others.

Duterte urged: Remove troops from Mindanao indigenous communities

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 13): Duterte urged: Remove troops from Mindanao indigenous communities


Presidential frontrunner and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte attends a press conference after he cast his vote in Davao City, on the southern island of Mindanao on May 9, 2016. AFP FILE PHOTO / NOEL CELIS

Human rights group Karapatan on Friday called on presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to include on his list of priorities the immediate pullout of military troops in indigenous communities in Mindanao.

To date, Karapatan said operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) have resulted in the death of 318 people and the forcible evacuation of thousands of indigenous people.
“There are still more than 2,700 evacuees at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur and at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City. The [pullout] of military troops in their communities and the disbandment of paramilitary groups can enable them to go home,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

The group also said the Duterte administration should  release all political prisoners and resume the long-stalled peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

“We challenge the Duterte presidency to build on the people’s votes that was mostly repudiation of everything that is the ‘tuwid na daan (straight path).’ He can start by junking Oplan Bayanihan and similar counterinsurgency programs and take the road to genuine peace by addressing the roots of unpeace and the ongoing civil war through the negotiating table,” Palabay said.
While the government denies the existence of political prisoners, Palabay said that as of March 2016, there are 543 political prisoners detained on false criminal charges. Of the 543, 18 are NDFP peace consultants, whose protection under the GPH-NDFP agreement on safety and immunity guarantees has been violated.
There are also 88 ailing and 48 elderly among the political prisoners, mostly poor peasants fighting for their land rights.

Palace dismisses Joma taunt on Aquino, Abad

From The Standard (May 13): Palace dismisses Joma taunt on Aquino, Abad

Palace dismissed the suggestion of communist leader Jose Ma. Sison that the incoming Duterte administration arrest and jail outgoing President Benigno Aquino III and his Budget secretary Florencio Abad over their misuse of public funds via congressional pork barrel.

“Regarding the arrest, it is a prospective scenario. It is not feasible between now and June 30,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., referring to the end of Aquino’s term next month.

“There are many questions that pertains to prospective actions of the incoming administration and the incoming president... Maybe it would be better to wait for it to happen first,” Coloma said, adding that speculations do not help create conducive business climate.
Jose Ma. Sison
Coloma was reacting to the statement that Sison posted on his Facebook page suggesting Aquino and Abad’s arrest for plunder because they were “responsible for looting and unprecedented corruption” in the allocation of Priority Development Assistance Fund that was outlawed by the Supreme Court.

Sison posted the remarks on Wednesday, several days after Duterte announced that he would consider releasing some detained communist rebels in a bid to jumpstart peace talks with the National Democratic Front which has been stalled since February 2011.

“It is the hope that we can meet before his oathtaking as he promised during my Skype conference with him on April 25. He said he would come soon after [he is elected President],” Sison said on his Facebook page.

Sison said representatives of the CPP and Duterte were holding preparatory talks for the visit, the date of which he did not disclose.

“I expect to meet President Duterte soon in Europe, whether the meeting is preceded by, concurrent with or followed by preliminary meetings of the [Government of the Philippines] and ]National Democratic Front of the Philippines] negotiating panels,” Sison said.

Sison hopes that the meeting would be held before Duterte’s oathtaking on June 30.
Sison showed a video recording of his internet video conversation with Duterte, where the Davao mayor mentioned his plan to visit the CPP leader based in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Duterte, in the video recording, said his meeting with Sison was aimed at preparing the agenda for the resumption of peace talks and threshing out related issues.

Sison also welcomed the declaration of Duterte’s spokesperson, Peter Laviña, that the incoming president may release jailed communist rebels.

Laviña also disclosed that Duterte would allow Sison and other exiled communist leaders to return to the country for the resumption of the peace talks and to review the status of political prisoners.

“Of course, I am hoping for the release of all political prisoners,” Sison said. “They have long been unjustly detained on false charges of common crimes by the Arroyo and Aquino regimes.”

Their release, Sison said, “will be conducive to an immediate mutual ceasefire and cooperation and the accelerated negotiation of the comprehensive agreements on social, economic and political reforms.”

He said the release of political prisoners had been done during the administrations of Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos.

Sison said communist rebels were open to the crafting of a new democratic Constitution and to Duterte’s proposal to study federalism as a form of government for the country.

MILF congratulates ‘true son of Mindanao’ Duterte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 12): MILF congratulates ‘true son of Mindanao’ Duterte


Presidential front-runner and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte attends a press conference after he cast his vote in Davao City on May 9. AFP

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has sent its “heartfelt congratulations” to presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte.

“On behalf of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro people, it is with great pleasure and gladness on my part to extend our heartfelt congratulations to you on your historic victory,” MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said in a letter sent a day after the elections.

“It is indeed a historic victory because for the first time in the history of this country, a true son of Mindanao in whose veins Moro blood runs is now the 16th president of the Republic of the Philippines,” Murad said in his letter that was also posted in the MILF’s Facebook page.

Despite the loss of the administration candidate, who had been expected to continue the peace process, Murad said the MILF was confident that Duterte would pursue the peace efforts in Mindanao.

“The MILF as a revolutionary organization that represents our people’s struggle for self-determination, remains highly optimistic and confident that your victory would carry with it our hopes and aspirations for peace and justice in Mindanao. Your defense of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) before and during the election campaign has in fact infused these optimism and confidence among our people, which should explain why they overwhelmingly supported your candidacy,” Murad said.

“Furthermore, your message of justice, freedom, equality and social justice resonates with our aspiration for genuine change. This was emphasized when we signed the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB), and subsequently the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), wherein it is stipulated as a matter of fundamental principle that the ‘status quo is unacceptable’ to both the MILF and the GPH. Your platform for system change precisely captures this principle,” Murad said.

“It is thus in our best interest that your advocacy for federalism entrenches our aspiration for genuine self-rule in our homeland through the implementation of the CAB to put an end to the debilitating conflict that breeds anarchy and stimulates the rise of extremism,” Murad added.

The tough-talking mayor visited the main camp of the MILF in February where he had a dialogue with some of the top leaders of the organization.

21 NPA rebels face raps for ambush in Candoni

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 13): 21 NPA rebels face raps for ambush in Candoni

Twenty-one members of the New People's Army are facing two counts of murder, and two counts of frustrated murder charges before the Negros Occidental Provincial Prosecutor's Office, in connection with the ambush of policemen on Feb. 18 in Candoni town.

Named as respondents in the criminal complaints are Rogelio Dañoso, alias Ka Gildo, of Sitio Aglolomot, Brgy. San Isidro, Toboso; Alfredo Sabio, alias Karta, of Brgy, Caningay, Candoni, and 19 other John Does.

The filing of charges against the NPA suspects stemmed from the ambush they had conducted against policemen who were responding to a crime incident, on Feb. 18 in Brgy. Caningay, Candoni.

The incident, claimed by the NPA Armando Sumayang Command Jr, cost the lives of PO1 Henry Vell Pacheco and PO3 Joe Harry Peralta, and injuries to two other Candoni policemen, and two civilians.

Chief Inspector Lino Dalisay, chief of the NOCPPO Provincial Investigation and Detective Management Branch, said the same suspects were also charged on May 2 before the Provincial Prosecutors Office for the theft of three M-16 assault rifles and a Glock 9mm pistol, and malicious mischief, for damages to the Mahindra police patrol car.

In 2009, Dañoso was arrested in Bacolod City, for illegal possession of firearms. He was later freed from jail, after posting bail.

US President Obama to embark for 10th trip to Asia

From Update.Ph (May 13): US President Obama to embark for 10th trip to Asia

United States President Barack Obama will be visiting Vietnam and Japan from May 21 to 28. This trip to Asia will be his tenth as the president of US. “This trip will highlight the President’s ongoing commitment to the US Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, designed to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security engagement with the countries and peoples of the region,” the US Press Secretary said.

In Vietnam, Obama will hold official meetings with Vietnam’s leadership to discuss ways for the US-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership to advance cooperation across a wide range of areas, including economic, people-to-people, security, human rights, and global and regional issues.

“In Hanoi, the President will deliver a speech on US-Vietnam relations. During meetings and events in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the President will discuss the importance of approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year. The President also will meet with members of civil society, the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative,” the US Press Secretary said.

After Vietnam, Obama will travel to Japan where he will attend the G7 Summit. Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Abe will conduct bilateral meeting and will make an historic visit to Hiroshima to highlight his continued commitment to pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

Freedom of navigation operations in West PH Sea not act of provocation – White House

From Update.Ph (May 13): Freedom of navigation operations in West PH Sea not act of provocation – White House  

Strongly refuting Chinese allegations, the US has said that its freedom of navigation in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is not an act of provocation, two days after an American navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the area.

The US, on the other hand, reaffirmed the concerns of the international community, particularly of the countries in the region, against Chinese movements and actions in the resource-rich sea. However, the White House yesterday refused to describe the situation in the South China Sea as headed towards tension.

“I would not describe it that way. I think that there are concerns about China’s activities in the South China Sea, (which) are well documented. Our concerns that we have raised both publicly and privately with Chinese officials at a range of levels,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference yesterday.

The freedom of navigation operation that was carried out by the US forces earlier this week is relatively routine, the presidential spokesman said.

“We have done that at least a couple of times just in the last four or five months. It is not intended to be a provocative act. It is merely a demonstration of a principle that the president laid out on a number of occasions, which is that the US will fly, operate and sail anywhere that international law allows,” Earnest said, adding that this operation was undertaken in consistent with that principal.

A US navy ship sailed close to a disputed reef in the South China Sea on Tuesday. The guided missile destroyer, USS William P Lawrence, passed within 22-kilometres of Fiery Cross Reef, the limit of what international law regards as an island’s territorial sea. The reef is now an island with an airstrip, harbor and burgeoning above-ground infrastructure.

Chinese authorities monitored and issued warnings to the US destroyer when it passed.

The concerns and the tensions that exist around the South China Sea do not actually directly involve the US. The United States is not a claimant to any of the land features in the South China Sea, Earnest said.

Improvised bombs found inside South Cotabato provincial jail, stricter security measures up

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Improvised bombs found inside South Cotabato provincial jail, stricter security measures up

Security has been tightened in the South Cotabato Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (SCPDRC) after an attempt by some inmates to bolt out of jail using improvised explosive devices (IED), officials said today.

South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes directed jail officials to strictly enforce jail policies on visitors while investigation was going on as to who was behind the bomb-making activities inside South Cotabato’s largest the prison facility.

Several improvised bombs were found inside the compound but jail guards could not determine as to how the IED made its way inside the compound.

The IEDs were found on the eve of election day. Jail officials believed bombing suspects could be behind the bomb making and had planned to escape on election day while security officials were busy.

Fuentes said the high profile inmates, including bombers, kidnappers, drug syndicate members and high profile robbery gangs are detained at the facility located in Koronadal City.

In the meantime, visiting hours for relatives in detainees has been suspended until stricter security programs are in place.

The jail facility houses more than 700 inmates way above its capacity of about 400 detainees.

Gazmin, French ambassador sign arrangement for defense cooperation

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Gazmin, French ambassador sign arrangement for defense cooperation

Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and French Ambassador Thierry Mathou formally signed on May 11 the arrangement which will serve as framework of defense cooperation between the Philippines and France.

The two countries have been negotiating for the defense arrangement since 2014, DND spokesperson Dr. Peter Paul Galvez said in a statement on Friday.

Under this framework, both countries agreed to focus their cooperation on high-level dialogues and defense policy consultations, visits of defense and armed forces authorities, education and training exchanges and cooperation in the fields of defense equipment, logistics and defense industry.

“Our relationship would be further enhanced as we institutionalize our cooperation through this agreement," Gazmin said.

The conclusion of the Philippines-France Defense Arrangement is very timely given the increasing defense and security challenges both countries are confronted with.

The cooperation provided for in the agreement could enhance the two countries’ defense capacities and capabilities essential in addressing such challenges.

Furthermore, this would enable France and the Philippines to cooperate in various regional security concerns to include humanitarian assistance and disaster response, maritime security and counter-terrorism, among others.

Both countries look forward to the initiatives that would be implemented in accordance with the defense arrangement.

“Now that the agreement has been signed, we could start working on its implementation. I am optimistic that we would be able to draw up a tangible cooperation pursuant to this agreement in the near future,” Gazmin said.

US Embassy Manila’s Statement on Philippine Elections

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): US Embassy Manila’s Statement on Philippine Elections

The United States offers its sincerest congratulations to the people of the Philippines on the conclusion of the May 9, 2016 general elections, and to the presumptive president-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

We look forward to the official conclusion of the electoral process for the many offices contested in the national elections.

The Philippines and the United States have a long and enduring history based on a shared commitment to upholding democratic values and institutions. The successful elections in the Philippines, and its record-setting number of voters, are a testament to the Philippines’ vibrant democracy.

The United States looks forward to continuing to deepen our bilateral partnership with the new administration as we address common challenges and issues of mutual interest.

BRP Tarlac to drop anchor off Manila by Saturday -- PN

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): BRP Tarlac to drop anchor off Manila by Saturday -- PN

The country's first-ever strategic sealift vessel (SSV), the BRP Tarlac (LD-601), is expected to drop anchor off Manila Bay where she and her crew will undergo Customs and Immigration Quarantine (CIQ) Saturday.

This was disclosed by Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna in a message to the PNA Friday.

"(By Saturday morning), BRP Tarlac will arrive at anchorage area off Manila for CIQ," he said.

Lincuna said BRP Tarlac entered Philippine territory upon sailing Sibutu passage, Tawi-Tawi Thursday.

He added that the SSV is now sailing towards her Manila destination.

BRP Tarlac left the Surabaya shipyard of Indonesian contract PT PAL (Persero) last May 9.

Prior to its departure, BRP Tarlac has successfully concluded her sea trials, he added.

Sea trials refer to the testing phases which aims 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 Philippines has two SSV orders with PT PAL (Persero) for Php3,870,000,000 which was 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 (DND) declared Persero as the Single Calculated Responsive Bidder with a bidding price of Php3,870,000,000 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.

Php7.3-M allocated for repair of S-211 jet trainer

From the Philippine News Agency (May 13): Php7.3-M allocated for repair of S-211 jet trainer

In line with efforts to ensure that all of its available aircraft are mission-worthy and flyable at all times, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) announced that it has allocated the sum of Php7,333,482.35 for the acquisition of services needed for the maintenance and repair of one of its three SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers.

Pre-bid conference is slated on May 20 at 9 a.m. at thePAF Procurement Center Conference Room, Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.

Bid opening is on June 2, 9 a.m., at the same venue.

The S-211 is one of PAF's two jet-powered aircraft after the Korea Aerospace Industries FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle."It is primarily used for air-to-ground and surveillance missions.