Monday, May 16, 2016

Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Zamboanga for kidnappings in 2001

From the Philippine Star (May 16): Abu Sayyaf member arrested in Zamboanga for kidnappings in 2001

Security forces arrested an Abu Sayyaf member allegedly involved in a mass kidnapping incident during a law enforcement operation in a coastal village here on Sunday.

Police Superintendent Luisito Magnaye, acting city police director, identified the suspect as Regin Onsing Nazirin, also known by the aliases Sahirun Asdatul, Imam Aling and Abu Nawas.

Magnaye said joint elements of the region's police intelligence, Coast Guard and naval intelligence arrested Nazirin at Baliwasan Seaside on Saturday afternoon.

He said the suspect has a standing warrant of arrest issued by a Basilan court for six counts of kidnapping.

According to Magnaye, the case stemmed from the suspect’s alleged participation in the abduction of plantation workers of Golden Harvest in Barangay Tairan, Lantawan town in 2001 at the height of the Dos Palmas kidnapping incident.

Nazirin was positively identified by witnesses and victims of the Tairan kidnapping incident, Magnaye said.

Ceasefire committee working to defuse clan clash in Maguindanao town

From the Philippine Star (May 17): Ceasefire committee working to defuse clan clash in Maguindanao town

Police guard a road to the center of Talitay town in Maguindanao, where rival political groups figured in bloody firefights over the weekend. John Unson

The joint ceasefire committee of the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is trying to broker a truce between two partisan groups that figured in post-election hostilities in Talitay town last weekend.

Firefights on Saturday between the supporters of the Sabal and Buisan clans left four people dead and forced 136 families to leave their homes. They are now in makeshift relief centers in barangays northwest of the municipality.

The newly reelected mayor of Talitay, Muntasir Sabal, has assured the police and the military that he will restrain his followers whom he said were attacked first by armed men identified with elders of the Buisan clan.

The joint ceasefire committee, or Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, is comprised of representatives from the rebel group, the police and the military, whose primary function is to peacefully address security problems in areas covered by the 1997 Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities between the government and the MILF.

Some MILF members took sides and figured prominently in the Talitay hostilities, which waned late Saturday when members of the committee arrived to intervene.

Chief Supt. Ronald Estilles, director of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) police, on Tuesday morning said efforts are now underway to settle the security issues in Talitay through diplomacy.

He said the Talitay municipal police remains in control of the municipality and has even succeeded in working out, along with local leaders and representatives from the MILF, the prompt disengagement of the rival groups.

In an email to The STAR Monday, the provincial peace and order council, chaired by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, said the MILF leadership managed to talk the feuding groups to reposition away from the affected barangays so evacuees could go home.

The firefights last Saturday were precipitated by the death of a certain Bayan Buisan on May 8, who was killed by gunmen identified with the other camp.

Local officials said supporters of the Buisan family, armed with assault rifles, surrounded the town proper of Talitay late Friday and fired at followers of the reelectionist mayor the next day, sparking a series of firefights.

The Sabal and Buisan clans have been locked political rivals since the campaign period for the 2013 elections. Animosity between them increased when the clans fielded candidates in the May 9 elections.

US angers China as UN ruling looms

From the Philippine Star (May 17): US angers China as UN ruling looms
FILE - In this Jan. 20, 2016 file photo, the USS William P. Lawrence guided missile destroyer, foreground, awaits refueling from a tanker, top left, in the waters off Coronado, Calif. The U.S. has upset China by sending the destroyer close to China's largest man-made island in disputed South China Sea waters. Beijing responded by saying it will step up its own patrols. The USS William P. Lawrence made “innocent passage” on Wednesday, May 11, within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Fiery Cross Reef, the limit of what international law regards as an island's territorial sea. The likely election of Rodrigo Duterte in the new Philippines could undermine his predecessor’s policy that was unusually hostile to Beijing and relied on U.S. military backing. AP/Gregory Bull, File
A look at some recent key developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in territorial disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters rich in fish and potential gas and oil reserves:
Editor's note: This is a weekly look at the latest key developments in the South China Sea, home to several territorial conflicts that have raised tensions in the region.
US riles China with 3rd sail-by
A U.S. destroyer last week sailed by China's largest man-made island, the third freedom of navigation operation in seven months that challenges Beijing's vast claims in the South China Sea.
The USS William P. Lawrence made "innocent passage" within 12 nautical miles (22 kilometers) of Fiery Cross Reef, the limit of what international law regards as an island's territorial sea. The reef, which used to be submerged at high tide for all but two rocks, is now an artificial island with a long airstrip, harbor and burgeoning above-ground infrastructure. It dwarfs all other features in the disputed area, was recently visited by China's second-highest military officer and became prominent in the Chinese media when a famous singer of patriotic anthems entertained troops there recently.
China's Defense Ministry said it deployed two navy fighter jets, one early warning aircraft and three ships to track and warn off the vessel.
In response, it said that it will increase the scope of sea and air patrols and "boost all categories of military capacity building."
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said during a visit to Vietnam — which also claims Fiery Cross Reef, as does the Philippines — that the U.S. considers the area as international waters.
"If the world's most powerful navy cannot sail where international law permits, then what happens to the ships of smaller countries?" he told reporters.
The sail-by came as President Barack Obama prepares to visit Vietnam and Japan, the latter for a Group of Seven summit.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said that freedom of navigation should apply to commercial, not military ships. Such interpretation of international maritime law is controversial because the U.S. and most other nations consider innocent passage applicable to all vessels. It doesn't require prior notice, but also prohibits any hostile action or a stop by a ship unless it breaks down.
Critics in the U.S. Congress have demanded more assertive action from the Obama administration and called on the Navy to conduct helicopter flights and intelligence gathering within the territorial waters of China's man-made islands — a move that would sharply escalate tensions.
Pentagon's report on China's buildup
The Pentagon released its most detailed report of China's island-building program. Some highlights:
— After reclaiming more than 3,200 acres (1,295 hectares) of land in the southeastern South China Sea, China's focus has shifted to developing and building military installations on man-made islands so it will have greater control over the region without resorting to armed conflict.
— The accelerated building effort doesn't give China any new territorial rights. But the airfields, ship facilities, surveillance and weapons equipment will allow China to significantly enhance its long-term presence in the South China Sea.
— China is using coercive tactics short of armed conflict, such as the use of law enforcement vessels to enforce maritime claims, to advance its interests in ways that are calculated to fall below the threshold of provoking conflict.
Will new Philippine President change course on South China Sea?
Rodrigo Duterte, the presumptive winner of the Philippine presidential election, says he wants to do things differently from his predecessor who has antagonized China, reopened military camps to U.S. troops and filed a U.N. court case challenging Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.
Duterte says he's open to talks with China on territorial conflicts, but also declares he will travel by a Jet Ski to one of the artificial islands that China has built and plant a Philippine flag there.
He says China should abide by an upcoming decision by the U.N. arbitration court, but he also asks why longtime allies America, Australia and Japan did nothing as Beijing built up the islands.
China apparently sees an opening.
According to Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, Beijing hopes the Philippines will "meet China halfway, taking concrete measures to properly deal with the disputes so as to put the ties of the two countries back on the track of sound development."
China won't recognize UN tribunal's ruling
China is bracing for a possible unfavorable ruling by a U.N. arbitration court in The Hague in the next few weeks by publicly casting the process as biased.
Beijing has refused to take part in the proceedings, saying the U.N. has no jurisdiction in the case. That didn't stop the process, and even though the ruling is non-binding, it can damage Beijing's reputation and image if it refuses to heed it.
China says that at its core, the dispute is about sovereignty — who controls disputed features. China claims absolute sovereignty within its so-called "nine-dash line" that encompasses most of the sea.
The Philippines says China's claims are contrary to the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. But it acknowledges that issues regarding sovereignty are not within the tribunal's jurisdiction and is not seeking a ruling on those claims. Instead, the Philippines wants the court to declare China's occupation of eight features reefs and outcroppings illegal and invalid.
Chinese diplomats have been busy briefing reporters and lobbying friendly nations to support Beijing's position that the tribunal has no jurisdiction and issues must be solved between China and other claimants individually.
Last word
"I must point out that relevant actions by the U.S. naval vessel threatened China's sovereignty and security interests, put the personnel and facilities on the islands and reefs at risk and endangered regional peace and stability." — Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang.

MILF top official calls on Duterte

From ABS-CBN (May 17): MILF top official calls on Duterte

[Video report]

Default News template and player embed
MANILA - A top official of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) expressed confidence in the incoming administration of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte after the latter vowed to address the problems of the Bangsamoro people.
MILF vice chairman for political affairs Ghazali Jaafar was scheduled to speak with Duterte at 6 p.m. Monday but their meeting was pushed back to 11 p.m. due to the large number of well-wishers waiting to meet the presumptive president.

Although their chat was informal, Jaafar said he is confident that the incoming Duterte administration can solve the decades-old problems of Mindanao.

"Malaki ang kumpyansa namin sa administrasyon ni Duterte," he said.

The MILF official also declined to comment on Duterte's plan to appoint members of the Communist Party of the Philippines in his Cabinet.

"Wala po kaming comment sa bagay na iyun. Maaaring iyun ay kanyang panukala, proposal at hindi pa naman umiiral ang panukalang iyan," he said.

The MILF and the Aquino administration earlier signed a peace deal aimed at creating a new autonomous political entity in Mindanao.

However, the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), a key component of the peace talks, was derailed after 44 police commandos were killed in a clash with the MILF and other groups in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25, 2015.

READ: Gov't, MILF agree: BBL passage up to next Congress

Jaafar joined Duterte's first batch of visitors at the Matina Enclaves Residences, his temporary headquarters until he assumes office on June 30.

Duterte took until the wee hours of Tuesday morning to entertain some 60 well-wishers.

Some of his guests included former TESDA chairman Augusto "Buboy" Syjuco, former Laguna Governor ER Ejercito, Senator JV Ejercito, talent manager Annabelle Rama and several religious leaders.

Duterte's top picks for various Cabinet positions are also reportedly expected to call on him.

He is set to receive well-wishers and foreign diplomats until Wednesday.

Losing bet killed by suspected rebels

From ABS-CBN (May 17): Losing bet killed by suspected rebels
Francisco Baguiz was killed by suspected NPA members in Gingoog City

MANILA – Suspected New People's Army fighters killed Monday a candidate for councilor in Gingoog City who lost in the May 9 elections.

Francisco "Dodong" Baguiz was killed at about 10:45 a.m. at Kibalikin, Spill Way, Kidahon, Barangay Malinao.

The victim was riding a pick-up truck when around 30 fully armed men who initially identified themselves as members of the 58th Infantry Battalion stopped them.

The armed men dragged the victim away for about 100 meters and then identified themselves as members of the communist insurgency.

The suspects then stabbed the victim on the shoulder and back.

The victim was rushed to Gingoog Sanitarium Hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival at 11:30 p.m. by the attending physician.

Why Duterte offered Cabinet posts to Reds

From ABS-CBN (May 17): Why Duterte offered Cabinet posts to Reds

[Video: Why Duterte offered Cabinet posts to Reds]

MANILA - A trust building measure. This is how a political analyst describes presumptive president Rodrigo Duterte's offer to appoint communist leaders to his Cabinet.

Ramon Casiple, Institute for Political and Electoral Reform executive director, said Duterte's offer could jumpstart stalled peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army, which has been waging a rebellion since 1968.

Casiple said peace negotiations with the CPP-NPA have failed because of distrust on both sides. Offering a Cabinet post to the communists breaks that pattern, he said.

"Ang usapin dito e tingnan natin iyung kanyang paraan kasi dati hindi umubra iyung mga dating paraan e. Dati, talagang distrust ang basis ng mga usapan. Wala talagang mangyayari," Casiple told radio dzMM.

"Kung talagang gusto nating taupsin iyan, isang napakahaba, 50 years na labanan, kailangan mung i-build iyung trust e," he added.

In a press conference in Davao City on Monday, Duterte said he offered to the CPP the Cabinet posts of agrarian reform, labor, social welfare and environment and natural resources.

"Ang ibibigay ko sa Communist Party of the Philippines, if they decide to join the government, 'yung DAR, DENR...Labor is the one, sabi nila pinaka-oppressed 'yan, so they are the most vigilant group in the Philippines about labor," Duterte said.

"So they will get it [DOLE] and DSWD, at marami pang iba. But those are the only departments I can concede to them, that four. Maganda na 'yan," he added.

LOOK: Duterte's Cabinet and then some

In the interview, Casiple said the programs covered by the four departments are "not crucial."

He said the four departments do not concern national defense or foreign affairs, but are instead primarily concerned with basic services.

Casiple argued that the nature of these departments would test if the CPP is capable of working with the President and the rest of the public.

"Mass services ito e. Ngayon kung kaya nila ibigay iyan sa ating mga manggagawa, magsasaka, sa mga sinalanta ng baha eh ba't hindi? Usapin iyan na patunayan nila na kaya nga nila na magtrabaho kasama ang rest of the people, lalo na iyung ating Presidente," he said.

Casiple added that the offer to the CPP reflects the character of Duterte as a man of action. "Kung kilala mo si presumptive President Duterte, action agad iyan. Hindi siya mahilig ng macro-macro... Desisyon agad iyan, saka na lang titingnan ang epekto."

But Casiple declined to comment if the CPP-NPA should first lay down arms before assuming office, saying that Duterte and the communists may have already entered such an agreement.

He also sees no problem if CPP founder Jose Maria Sison returns home from his exile in The Netherlands to lead the peace talks.

"Kung [gusto] niyang maging negosyador mismo siya, why not? Matatapos agad ang usapan. Kasi kung maraming dinadaanan pa, the message is lost along the way," he said.

Sison, a professor of Duterte in college, has been in exile in The Netherlands since 1987.

He has expressed his willingness to resume peace talks with the government if Duterte wins the presidency. He said returning to the Philippines is also an option under a Duterte administration.

DFA, PIA hold last leg of West Philippine Sea info campaign

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): DFA, PIA hold last leg of West Philippine Sea info campaign

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in partnership with the Philippine Information Agency (PIA-4A) brings to this  city the last leg of the West Philippine Sea information and advocacy campaign beginning today.

Asst. Secretary Charles Jose, DFA spokesperson, leads a campaign that consists of media engagements, a discussion of the government's position on the territorial dispute with China before a multi-sectoral group including an assessment of the year-long advocacy that began early last year.

The four-day campaign is part of the  nationwide information caravan on the West Philippine Sea issue to ensure that the Filipinos will stand firmly  behind the government’s position of resolving the dispute peacefully through a court arbitration.

Asec. Jose will address a multi-sectoral group composed of government agencies, local government units, academe and other organized sectors here.

The DFA and PIA have gone to key cities and provinces around the country to spread the message that the government intends to claim what is rightfully to the Philippines through a peaceful settlement with the Chinese government.

The campaign also encouraged the support of the youth through campus tours across the country. Asec Jose noted that the campaign will largely benefit the younger generation in the long run.

Army Camp celebrates 35th anniversary

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): Army Camp celebrates 35th anniversary

The 5th Infantry Division, Philippine Army, based here recently celebrated its 35th anniversary by showcasing its war fighting equipment, humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities.

Maj. Gen Lysander A. Suerte, commander of 5ID, urged his fellow soldiers to take pride as they have strived to transform the army into a strong and credible public institution.

"As we celebrate our 35 years of existence, we should always remember the sacrifice and heroism shown by our fallen comrades," Suerte told his men.

Director Mary Anne ER. Darauay of the national Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and vice chair of the 5ID Multi-Sector Advisory Board, said soldiers are pride and jewel of the country.

“I will continue to rally with you. We must believe and ensure that our 18-year ATR will see a victorious end," Darauay said 

This year’s celebration is dubbed as 'Reminiscing the Past, Celebrating the Present, Securing the Future". Lined-up activities include Inter-Post Unit Sports Fest, Fun Golf, Fun Shoot, Fellowship Dinner with Senior Officers, Wreath laying ceremony at Northern Troopers Memorial and Thanksgiving Mass.

The 5ID was activated on May 15, 1981 at Camp Aquino, Tarlac, served not only the Cagayan Valley region and Cordillera Adminsitrative Region, but also in Mindanao particularly in the areas of Sulu, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga City, Lanao del Sur, and North Cotobato with one brigade headquarters and 3 infantry battalions deployed therein.

1FAB troopers rescue victims of vehicular accident

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 17): 1FAB troopers rescue victims of vehicular accident

The 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment, Philippine Army on Sunday evening, rescued three persons who figured in  a vehicular accident in Barangay Poblacion here, fulfilling their mandate to protect the lives and property of the people.

Captain Holly John Godinez, civil-military operations (CMO) officer of 1FAB said at 8:40 p.m. upon reaching the national highway en route to Ipil from the 53rd Infantry Battalion headquarters, they saw victims of a vehicular accident lying on the street.

The victims were identified as  Rolando Ronda, 45 yrs old, a resident of Poblacion, Guipos, Rico Mendoza and Leonido dela Cruz, 23, of Sto. Nino District, Pagadian City.

Godinez said Mendoza, who was driving a single motorcycle bound for Pagadian City accidentally hit Ronda who suddenly crossed the street.

The victims sustained bruises in different parts of their body.

The 1FAB troopers immediately brought the victims to Zamboanga del Sur Medical Center for treatment aboard their military vehicle.

Godinez said the team, who were supposed to go to Ipil for a very important appointment prioritized the safety of the victims.

“We prioritized bringing the injured victims to the hospital to save their lives,” Godinez said.

3 more strategic sealift vessels needed for Navy's force-mix

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): 3 more strategic sealift vessels needed for Navy's force-mix

The Philippine Navy needs three more strategic sealift vessels (SSVs) in its inventory to be a really world class naval force, says Philippine Fleet commander Rear Ronald Joseph Mercado.

He said that five SSVs are part of the Navy's desired force-mix.

"I'm confident that the next set of defense officials, national leadership, will continue with the modernization," Mercado said in an interview shortly after the welcoming ceremonies for BRP Tarlac, the country's first SSV, Monday afternoon.

The country's second SSV, which was also ordered from PT PAL (Persero), is expected to arrive by May 2017.

Mercado said the Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock.

Its sister ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

The ship has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel. It can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

BRP Tarlac has a tonnage of 7,300 tons, overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

It has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots. The ship has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

The Navy's desired force-mix also include six frigates for anti-air warfare, 12 corvettes for anti-submarine warfare, 18 offshore patrol vessels, three submarines, three anti-mine vessels, 18 landing craft utility vessels, three logistics ships, 12 coastal interdiction patrol boats, 30 patrol gunboats, and 42 multi-purpose assault crafts that can be equipped with torpedoes and missiles.

Also included in the envisioned force mix are eight amphibious maritime patrol aircraft, 18 naval helicopters, and eight multi-purpose helicopters.

To make this a reality, the Navy needs an estimated PHP497-billion.

SSV acquisition part of PN efforts to develop 'blue-water capability'

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): SSV acquisition part of PN efforts to develop 'blue-water capability'

The acquisition and eventual deployment of the country's first strategic sealift vessel (SSV) is part of the Philippine Navy (PN) to transform itself into a "blue-water navy".

The latter refers to a maritime force capable of operating across the deep waters of open oceans.

This was disclosed by Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado shortly after the welcoming ceremonies for BRP Tarlac, the country's first SSV, at Pier 13, South Harbor, Manila Monday afternoon.

"Modernization (is) transforming the Navy from (a) coastal (defense force) to (one capable of conducting) exclusive economic zone (EEZ) patrols. (Acquisition of SSVs and other modern ships) is our venture to becoming a blue-water navy," he added.

EEZ is a sea zone prescribed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea over which a state has special rights regarding the exploration and use of marine resources, including energy production from water and wind.

It stretches from the baseline out to 200 nautical miles from its coast.

As this develops, Mercado said the PN is still looking at designs of possible weapons to install at BRP Tarlac.

He also assured the public that the ship will be given a self-defense capability despite the fact it will be always be escorted by at least one major surface unit when on deployment.

The SSVs are a multi-role vessel and very useful for humanitarian and disaster relief missions and can be transformed to a floating government center if required.

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.

Furthermore, 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.

Australian frigate in PHL for 5-day goodwill visit

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): Australian frigate in PHL for 5-day goodwill visit

HMAS Anzac (FFH-150), a helicopter frigate of the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), has docked at the Manila South Harbor on Monday a five-day goodwill visit which will end on Saturday.

Philippine Navy (PN) spokesperson Capt. Lued Lincuna said the Australian warship arrived 9:00 a.m. Monday.

HMAS Anzac is commanded by Cmdr. Belinda Wood. It is the first of its class in the RAN.

PN delegates headed by Cmdr. Gary B. Bataican rendered the customary welcome ceremony followed by a port briefing on health and security aboard the visiting vessel.

HMAS Anzac commanding officer and her party paid a courtesy call to PN flag-officer-in-command Vice Admiral Caesar Taccad.

Aside from this, shipboard tour, reciprocal receptions and goodwill games of basketball, volleyball and soccer were also conducted by personnel of the two navies.

The engagement between the Philippine and Australian navies will cap off with a send-off ceremony and a customary passing exercise between HMAS Anzac and BRP Rizal (PS-74) at the vicinity of Corregidor Island.

This visit is a manifestation of deepening friendships between the two navies and further fortifies the PN’s firm commitment of maintaining good relationship with foreign navies.

BRP Tarlac deployable to any part of PHL

From the Philippine News Agency (May 17): BRP Tarlac deployable to any part of PHL

If ordered, the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) and her crew can be deployed in any part of the country, including the West Philippine Sea.

"(BRP Tarlac) will be deployed where her (military and humanitarian assistance disaster relief capabilities) can be used," Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado said.

The ship has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

The BRP Tarlac was one of two SSVs acquired from PT PAL (Persero) for the sum of PHP3.8 billion.

Mercado said the Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock.

Her sister ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

The ship has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel.

She can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

BRP Tarlac has a tonnage of 7,300 tons, overall length of 120 meters,breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots.(

BRP Tarlac to serve under Sealift Amphibious Force

From Update.Ph (May 17): BRP Tarlac to serve under Sealift Amphibious Force  

The newly-arrived BRP Tarlac (LD-601) will be assigned to the Philippine Fleet’s Sealift Amphibious Force.

This was disclosed by Philippine Fleet commander Rear Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado Monday as the country’s first strategic sealift vessel (SSV) was formally welcomed at Pier 13, Manila South Harbor Monday afternoon.

The BRP Tarlac was one of two SSVs acquired from PT PAL (Persero) for the sum of Php3.8 billion.

Mercado said the Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock.

Her sister-ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

The ship has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel.

She can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters.

BRP Tarlac has a tonnage of 7,300 tons, overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

She has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots.

The ship has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

LOOK: 2 Chinese vessels nabbed by Philippine authorities

From Update.Ph (May 17): LOOK: 2 Chinese vessels nabbed by Philippine authorities


The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) scored anew in their drive to apprehend foreign fishing vessels fishing in Philippine as they nabbed two Chinese vessels in Balintang Channel Monday.

IN PHOTOS: Chinese vessels caught violating PH territory

The two vessels were apprehended by DA-BFAR MCS 3007 and a PCG vessel within waters bounded by Sabtang Island, Batanes in the north, Balintang Island in the west and Calayan Island in the south at around 4:00 p.m.

Specifically, the vessels were apprehended 12 nautical miles southwest of Sabtang Island in Batanes.

The foreign vessels – Shenl Lian Cheng 719 and Shen Lian Cheng 720 – were flying both Chinese and upside down Philippine flags with the red stripe on top, and were crewed by 25 Chinese nationals.

The multi-mission vessel M/V DA-BFAR, which was on its way to Basco, Batanes, came to the scene of the apprehension.

Agriculture Undersecretary and BFAR national director Asis Perez said that flying the Philippine flag is a common tactic utilized by poachers.

The Chinese said they were just passing through on their way to their fishing grounds outside Philippine waters – showing their empty holds as proof – but were not able to provide the necessary papers for right of passage.

However, Perez said that the mere fact that they were flying the Philippine flag necessitates further investigation. The DA official instructed the apprehending teams to escort the boats to Basco, Batanes for investigation.Basco is the nearest island where proper authorities are headquartered.

Upon arrival at Basco, Perez boarded the seized vessels and tried to explain to the crew that flying the flag of another country is in violation of international law. He also told them that a Chinese embassy official is on its way to Basco.

Poaching carries a fine of between USD 500,000 to USD 1 million and the confiscation of the fishing vessels involved. Crews will be deported to their country of origin.

Meanwhile, Perez immediately sent an urgent message to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) informing them of the nationality of the apprehended fishermen and requested for an interpreter to be available at Basco, Batanes.

Earlier Thursday, three Vietnamese fishing junks were apprehended off Calayan Island, Cagayan for poaching. The three vessels, manned by 18 Vietnamese nationals, yielded about four tons of fish, mostly tuna. They were presently moored in Port Irene, Sta. Ana, Cagayan under guard by BFAR personnel.

IN PHOTOS: Chinese vessels caught violating PH territory

From Update.Ph (May 17): IN PHOTOS: Chinese vessels caught violating PH territory


The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) scored anew in their drive to apprehend foreign fishing vessels fishing in Philippine as they nabbed two Chinese vessels in Balintang Channel Monday. The two vessels were apprehended by DA-BFAR MCS 3007 and a PCG vessel within waters bounded by Sabtang Island, Batanes in the north, Balintang Island in the west and Calayan Island in the south at around 4:00 p.m.




3 Strategic sealift vessels needed for Navy’s desired force-mix

From Update.Ph (May 17): 3 Strategic sealift vessels needed for Navy’s desired force-mix  

The Philippine Navy needs three strategic sealift vessels (SSVs) in its inventory to be a really world class naval force. This is according to Philippine Navy’s Desired Force Mix 2015. “I’m confident that the next set of defense officials, national leadership, will continue with the modernization,” Mercado said in an interview shortly after the welcoming ceremonies for BRP Tarlac, the country’s first SSV, Monday afternoon.

The country’s second SSV, which was also ordered from PT PAL (Persero), is expected to arrive by May 2017. Mercado said the Filipino SSV was patterned after the Indonesian Makassar-class landing platform dock.

Its sister ship is expected to be delivered by May 2017.

The ship has a complement of 121 officers and enlisted personnel. It can carry 500 troops, two rigid-hull inflatable boats, two landing craft units and three helicopters. BRP Tarlac has a tonnage of 7,300 tons, overall length of 120 meters, breadth of 21 meters, draft of five meters and carry a payload of 2,800 tons.

It has a cruising speed of 13 knots and maximum speed of 16 knots. The ship has minimum operating range of 7,500 nautical miles.

The Philippine Navy’s Desired Force Mix 2015 is divided in three horizons, acquisitions are currently under the first horizon.

In the Desired Force Mix 2015, the Navy shows need for 3 patrol frigates (2 del-Pilar class in service, 1 arriving) 7 guided missile frigates (2 in later stage of bidding), 3 SSVs (1 delivered, 1 under-construction), 8 corvettes, 3 landing craft cushion, 42 fast attack crafts, 6 semi-submersible ships, 2 logistic support vessels, 3 submarines, among others.

The Navy also listed different types of maritime helicopters for variety of missions which include heavy lift, anti-submarine (2 ordered), and close air support (2 delivered). Amphibious vehicles (8 ordered), patrol aircraft, air defense and medium range missile systems are also in Navy’s three horizon shopping list.

navy desired force 2015

Sison/Makabayan: Prospects under a Duterte presidency

Posted to the Website of Jose Maria Sison (May 15): Prospects under a Duterte presidency


Makabayan Coalition welcomes the overwhelming victory of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the May 9 presidential election. We recognize such victory as an expression of popular outrage over and rejection of the regime of “daang matuwid” and a cry for sweeping change in the elitist and anti-people system.

We are encouraged by his pro-people and pro-poor policy pronouncements on a number of issues, including the immediate resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front and the release of detained peace consultants and political prisoners; putting an end to labor contractualization; increasing support to farmers and prioritizing education, health, food aid and other essential services over big infrastructure projects in the light of mass poverty and hunger. Makabayan pledges its full support for the fulfillment of the said promises.

At the same time, we challenge the incoming Duterte administration to immediately hold responsible outgoing President Aquino, DBM Secretary Abad and other officials for the illegal and graft-ridden Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the circumvention of the Supreme Court ruling against the pork barrel system and for all the anomalous transactions they entered into.Aquino and other responsible officials must also be held to account for the Mamasapano carnage and the killing and maiming of protesting farmers in Kidapawan.

Furthermore, we challenge incoming President Duterte to repudiate the neoliberal economic policies pursued by previous administrations that have failed to bring about real development and prosperity to our people and perpetuated gross social inequality, Instead we urge him to implement an economic development program anchored on national industrialization (to create increasing numbers of regular jobs) and on modernization of agriculture through genuine agrarian reform that would create varied agri-based rural industries. Only then can it be said that change, indeed, is coming.

Satur Ocampo, President
Liza Maza, Co-Chairperson
Rafael Mariano, Co-Chairperson

CPP/NDF: Prospects under a Duterte presidency

Communist Party of the Philippines propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Website (May 15): Prospects under a Duterte presidency

Central Committee
Communist Party of the Philippines
May 15, 2016

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and all revolutionary forces take stock of the significance of the rise of Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as chief political representative of the ruling classes and head of the reactionary client-state and its consequences in advancing the national democratic revolution through people’s war.

photo: philstar
photo: philstar

1. Significance of Duterte’s election as president

The election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as next president of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) is a resounding rejection of Aquino’s claims of “good governance”, “inclusive growth” and “tuwid na daan.” He routed the ruling regime’s fund-rich and political-favored candidate Mar Roxas.
Duterte strongly attacked the Aquino regime and presented himself as an anti-thesis of the oligarchic and cacique rule, keenly aware of the Filipino people’s profound hatred of the Aquino regime and its six years of corruption, mendacity, puppetry and wholesale failure to address the needs of the Filipino people.

By drawing broad support, mobilizing large crowds, social media drumbeating and hitech counter-actions, Duterte succeeded in preempting the plans of the US-Aquino regime to use the automated counting system to steal the elections from him. Still, there are strong indications that election results were manipulated to boost Roxas’ votes, favor Aquino’s vice-presidential and senatorial candidates, as well as to prevent progressive partylist groups from gaining more seats in parliament.

With election-related assassinations, vote-buying, use of public funds, party-switching, automated fraud and so on, the recent reactionary elections is as dirty and rotten than before, contrary to insistent claims that elections were democratic, clean and credible.
Duterte’s rise to the presidency is a reflection of the deepening and aggravating crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system. He was able to draw broad support from the people because he presented himself as sympathetic to their discontent and deep desire to put an end to the oppressive and rotten ruling system.
Duterte’s election also reflects the deepening factional strife among the ruling classes. In running his election campaign, he relied on the strength of contributions by big business and political groupss, kingmakers, religious sects, military cliques and other interest groups in his presidential campaign kitty, in exchange for economic and political favors come payback time. He spent billions to fund his media and advertising campaign, as well as his technology-supported social media campaign.

He polarized the political elite with his cuss-filled bluster. Duterte and his allies advocate federalism criticizing scant national attention and resources, slow delivery of services and failure to develop the local economies. Such a proposal is a reflection of the demand of the ruling classes to further divvy up the country’s resources among the ruling elite.

Certain sections of the political elite support Duterte in the hope of pushing his anti-crime crusade to justify the establishment of a police state. They seek the imposition of more draconian measures to suppress workers’ democratic rights and people’s human rights to more effectively carry out the exploitation and plunder of the country’s human and natural resources.

With Duterte set to become GRP president, for the first time, the Philippine client-state is to be headed by one who is not completely beholden to the US imperialists. Duterte has railed against the US and the US CIA for whisking away its agent Michael Meiring who accidentally exploded the improvised bomb he was preparing inside a Davao hotel during the height of the 2003 US terror bombings in Mindanao. He has opposed the use of the Davao airport as a base for US drone operations and has spoken disfavorably against the EDCA. Duterte has slammed the current US and Australian ambassadors for political meddling after recently making comments about higs tasteless rape joke.

On the other hand, the rest of the political elite are largely pro-US and favor US dominance and military presence. The CIA and US military and its local agents continue to hold sway over most aspects of the ruling state, especially the AFP. Duterte himself is surrounding himself with pro-US and pro-IMF/WB officials. The US also continues to hold dominant sway in the Philippine congress, the Supreme Court, the GRP economic policy and finance agencies, media and cultural organizations.
If Duterte seriously and vigorously pursues his promise to eradicate criminality, especially widespread drug trade, within three to six months, he will likely drive a wedge deep into the ranks of military and police generals and bureaucrat capitalists who are protectors, operators and associates of criminal syndicates.
He has bared his intention of declaring a ceasefire as one of his first acts as president in order to boost peace negotiations with the NDFP, as well as with various groups representing the Moro people. He has flaunted his friendship with and respect for the revolutionary forces to the chagrin of the militarists who seek only the suppression of the people’s resistance.

Duterte has styled himself a maverick, an anti-establishment politico and a “socialist” and claims he will be the country’s first “Left president.” Duterte’s avowal of being a socialist, his anti-US fulminations, openness to develop relations with China and enthusiasm for peace negotiations with the revolutionary forces will not sit well among the more rabid defenders of US military intervention, hegemonism and counter-insurgency dogma.

2. Prospects of accelerated peace negotiations with the Duterte regime

After 15 years of stalled NDFP-GRP peace negotiations, the Filipino people are highly desirous of progress in efforts to attain a negotiated political settlement of the long-running civil war.
Certain progressive aspects in Duterte’s discourse, his recognition of both the political legitimacy and armed political strength of the revolutionary movement and his history of cooperation with the revolutionary forces in Mindanao, make possible the acceleration of peace negotiations.
The CPP and revolutionary forces welcomes Duterte’s plan to seriously pursue the NDFP-GRP peace negotiations as well as his plan to visit The Netherlands in order to personally meet NDFP senior political consultant Prof. Jose Ma. Sison and the Utrecht-based NDFP peace panel.

The CPP fully supports the NDFP proposal, put forward by Prof. Jose Ma. Sison, to pursue NDFP-GRP peace negotiations under the Duterte government with the aim of forging an agreement to establish a government of national unity, peace and development.

Duterte and Prof. Sison can forge a plan for accelerated peace negotiations with the aim of forging comprehensive agreements addressing the substantive issues in a matter of a few months. The CPP and NPA are open to consider proposals for a mutual ceasefire during the definite period of peace negotiations.

The revolutionary forces expect Duterte to recognize and uphold all standing agreements signed by the NDFP and the GRP over the past 20 years, including The Hague Joint Declaration of 1992 which has served as framework and anchor of the negotiations; the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG); the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) of 1998; and so on.

Necessarily, among the first measures that need to be carried out by the Duterte regime to boost peace negotiations would be the release all detained NDFP consultants and facilitation of their travel to a neutral territory where negotiations can be conducted. They were treacherously arrested in violation of earlier agreements and made to suffer unjust prolonged imprisonment.

3. Challenge for significant reforms under Duterte

Duterte’s rhetoric has raised high the people’s expectations for substantial and accelerated reforms.

As an avowed opponent of US meddling, Duterte has the unique opportunity to end the 70 year chain of US puppet governments since the 1946 Roxas regime.

He can undo Aquino’s legacy of national humiliation for having served as a pawn in the US “Asia pivot” strategy by allowing the US to restore its military bases and maintain permanent presence of its warships, jetfighters, drones and interventionist troops.
To countervail Aquino’s puppetry, he must withdraw his stand to let the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) stand. He must immediately notifiy the US government of his intent to abrogate the EDCA which was signed as an executive agreement in April 2014.. He must rescind the EDCA-sanctioned use of five AFP camps in the Philippines as US military bases and facilities.
He can serve the US notice to end the unequal Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) and the Status of Forces Agreement (SFA) as well as the Mutaul Defense Treaty of 1951, the parent agreement and source of all military iniquities.

He can immediately send home US Ambassador Goldberg for interference in Philippine internal affairs and ask that the US government send a replacement.
Duterte can be the first Philippine president to pursue an independent foreign policy, one that is not beholden to and dependent on the US. Towards this, Duterte must condemn US war-mongering and US-China saber-rattling and oppose militarization of the territorial sea by the US and Chinese military forces. He must not allow the US military to use the Philippines as base for its interventionism. If he does so, he is bound to be the Philippines’ first world-class president who stood for Philippine sovereignty and prevented the military buildup in the region.

He must oppose the US demand to effect charter change to remove the remaining restrictions against foreign ownership as requirement for Philippine integration into the Trans-Pacific Partnership, dubbed as the “dirtiest deal ever”.

Corollarily, he can pursue a policy of developing mutually-beneficial economic and trade relations with China with an aim of ending economic and trade dependence on the US. He can pursue a policy of engaging China in bilateral talks to peacefully resolve the South China Sea conflict and opposing US military presence in the area. He can take advantage of the availability of low-interest funds from China’s Asian International Infrastructure Bank (AIIB) to support the development of local industry and manufacturing.

Duterte can choose to forge agreements with oil producing countries such as Venezuela, Russia or Iran for state centralized procurement of cheap oil which has been a non-option so far because of the US-defined Philippine foreign policy.

As an ardent anti-crime and anti-corruption advocate, the challenge is for Duterte to prioritize the biggest criminals. The small-fry criminals will disappear without their big fish protectors and sharks up high in the bureaucracy and military and police organization.

He can immediately carry out the arrest and swift prosecution of Benigno Aquino III, Florencio Abad and the biggest criminal perpetrators of the trillion-peso DAP swindle and prevent them from leaving the country. He must follow-through with the prosecution of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ensure that she is held criminally responsible for the anomalous ZTE broadband deal and other corruption cases, including fraud in the 2004 elections.
The biggest drug lords and criminal syndicates continue to expand their operations under the protection of the top generals of the AFP and PNP. To address the widespread drug trade, Duterte will have to risk subjecting the top echelons of the military and police to a major shakedown to weed out, charge and punish the criminals. Street-level drug pushers and users must be rehabilitated through employment and by establishing centers for medical and psychological rehabilitation from drug abuse.
Duterte has rightly declared his plan to prioritize agriculture, education and health. He must immediately address the urgent needs of the toiling masses of workers and peasants.

To develop agriculture, Duterte is challenged to heed the clamor for genuine land reform which is both an urgent economic and social justice measure. Genuine land reform is the free distribution of land to the peasant tillers and producers. The fake land reform of the past 30 years was a burdensome real estate transaction where peasants were made to pay for the land that they have already earned through years of feudal exactions.

Duterte must cancel all unpaid amortization as well as absorb loans where land titles were collateralized under the prenda system. He can work with organizations of the peasant masses to effect genuine land distribution of Hacienda Luisita, as well as Hacienda Dolores and many other feudal land holdings. He can put an immediate stop to the widespread land-use conversion of farmlands and privatization of public lands that have resulted widespread eviction of peasants and national minorities from their lands.

As an economic policy, genuine land reform can unleash the productive potentials of the peasant masses as owners of land and expand the local market for manufactured commodities.

A correlated national industrialization policy must be geared, among others, towards the mechanization of agriculture in order to boost food production and processing to ensure sufficient supply of low-priced rice, poultry, meat and vegetables. Irrigation facilities must be expanded and subsidized for free use of the peasant producers.

Duterte has declared he is not much of an economist and said he will listen to the experts. Unfortunately, the supposed experts he is set to appoint are technocrats and big businessmen who excel at neoliberal economic policies and and serve foreign big capitalists, and not at promoting domestic economic growth and production. They advocate the economics of “attracting foreign investments” and “easing restrictions” as sought by the US and foreign big capitalists.

In framing economic policies, Duterte should listen first to the workers and peasants, rather than big business and technocrats who advocate the same failed economic policy of more than half a century. This is decisive. Failure to do so will in the end prove his regime to be not simply part of the neoliberal continuum.

To aim for rapid Philippine independent economic modernization with balanced and integrated development of heavy, medium and light industries, Duterte must repudiate the neoliberal thrusts of liberalization, privatization, deregulation and denationalization of the previous regimes. Advancing land reform and national industrialization will generate jobs and end the need for such palliatives as the conditional cash transfer (4Ps) that only perpetuate the people’s poverty and smokescreen the deterioration of public social services.

The Duterte regime must heed the demand of workers and employees for a national minimum wage and the abolition of the regionalization of wages. He must end contractualization and take back his earlier statements against unions and workers rights. Without their unions, workers have nothing to defend themselves against attacks on wages.

In education, Duterte is challenged to scrap the K-12 program which generalizes technical and vocational education to produce cheap contractual labor for export and for export-oriented semi-manufacturing. He must reverse the policy of state abandonment of education and uphold state policy of providing free education for all.

He can push for the integration of education with independent economic modernization through the promotion of research and development in the fields of agricultural production, energy generation, manufacturing, computer technology, new materials and others. To leave a lasting legacy of patriotism, he must gear education to a patriotic cultural renewal by rewriting history from the point of view of the Filipino people instead of its colonial subjugators.

In public health, Duterte is challenged to revoke the policy of privatization of public hospitals and uphold the state policy of providing free public health care for all. He can end the Philhealth milking cow system of private health insurance and instead ensure that everyone is given access to free health care.

He must deliver the basic social services demanded by the people and recast the national budget to allot sufficient funds for education, health, housing and such.
Furthermore, Duterte must cancel Aquino’s highly questionable PPP contracts, including the MRT Cavite extension, which gives the Ayalas, Cojuangcos, Consunjis, Pangilinans and other big bourgeois compradors undue advantage in using state funds and state-guaranteed loans and government assured profits.

In the field of human rights, Duterte must effect the release from prison of close to six hundred political prisoners who continue to suffer from detention, mostly peasants and workers, who are facing trumped-up charges. Duterte can effect their release from prison as a boost to his government’s effort to uphold human rights and as a turn back on his endorsement of vigilante killing.

He must pave the way for the return of the Lumad evacuees by ordering the pull-out of the operating troops of the AFP from their schools, communities and land and allow the people to re-open their community-run schools. He must heed the demand for justice of the Lumad people and recognize their all-encompassing rights as a national minority people, as well as those of other minority groups.

He must undertake steps to punish all violators of human rights of the past thirty years. He must put a stop to extra-judicial killings. He must heed the demand to put an end to the US-instigated Oplan Bayanihan “counterinsurgency” operations and militarization of the countryside.

4. Challenges to the Filipino people and revolutionary movement

While engaging the Duterte regime in peace negotiations and possible alliance in order to advance the national and democratic aspirations of the Filipino people, the revolutionary forces will continue to relentlessly advance the people’s armed resistance and democratic mass struggles. While open to cooperation and alliance, they must relentlessly criticize and oppose any and all anti-people and pro-imperialist policy and measure. There will be no honeymoon with the Duterte regime.

While incoming GRP President Duterte has displayed progressive aspects, the revolutionary forces are also aware that he is mainly a part of the ruling class political elite.

For the past four decades, he has served the system as a bureaucrat and implemented its laws and policies. He has worked with foreign and local big capitalists, plantation owners and big landlords who expect returns under his regime. The masses of workers, peasants and farm workers in Davao City have long-suffered from the oppressive and exploitative conditions in the big plantations and export-oriented contract-growing businesses.

In his policy pronouncements, Duterte has yet to declare a clear deviation from the dominant neoliberal economic thinking which has brought about grave hardships to the Filipino people for more than three decades.
Indeed, world history has seen the rise under certain conditions of anti-US leaders in countries dominated by the US. In recent years, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez (1999-2013) and Bolivia’s Evo Morales (2006-present) have stood militantly to defend their country’s right to self-determination.
Their anti-imperialism allowed their government to free large amounts of resources such as land and oil from foreign control and accrue these to the people in the form of increasing state subsidies for education and public health. On the other hand, while clearly benefiting from their government’s anti-imperialism and increasing resources for the delivery of social and economic services, the broad masses of workers and peasants continued to suffer from oppression and exploitation because foreign big capitalists and landlords remained dominant in other fields of the economy and state power.

The worsening conditions of the semicolonial and semifeudal system, the deepening factional strife among the ruling classes, the prolonged recession of the US and the rise of China as a competing imperialist power are among the prevailing conditions where we find the rise of political maverick Rodrigo Duterte as GRP president.
The Filipino people and their revolutionary forces keenly look forward to the possibility of forging an alliance with the Duterte regime within a framework for national unity, peace and development. Duterte’s mettle is about to be tested. Will he walk his talk and take on the opportunity to stand up against US imperialism? Or will his bombast end up as empty rhetoric?
Duterte must heed the people’s mounting clamor for land, jobs, wage increses, free education, public health and housing, reduction in the price of commodities, defense of Philippine sovereignty against US intervention, defense of national patrimony and economic progress and modernization, an end to corruption and crime in the bureaucracy, military and police.

If he fails or refuses to heed the people’s clamor, he is bound to end up a mere historical anomaly and suffer the same fate as the Estrada regime.

The Filipino people are ever ready to intensify the people’s war to advance the revolution and mass struggles to amplify their democratic demands.

The New People’s Army must continue to carry out the tasks set forth by the CPP Central Committee to intensify the people’s war by launching more frequent tactical offensives and seizing more arms from the enemy.

Armed with a strategic and historical point-of-view, the Filipino proletariat and people know fully well that only a people’s democratic revolution can decisively and thoroughly end imperialist and local big bourgeois comprador and landlord rule by overthrowing its armed state.

By intensifying their struggles, the Filipino people are bound to attain more and more victories in the years to come. The people’s war is set to press forward under the Duterte regime.

MILF: Editorial -- The way forward

Editorial posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (May 17): Editorial -- The way forward

On June 3, 2010, the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) had signed a Declaration of Continuity for Peace Negotiation. This was an unequivocal commitment of both Parties to uphold the way of peace in resolving the conflict in Mindanao, amidst uncertainties brought to fore especially after the government under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to honour its obligation to sign the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) in 2008. Today, a similar situation happens, after Congress failed or did not pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), in which case, the Parties should come up with an agreement akin to it.

In essence, the principle that has long been followed by the Parties in their long and harsh negotiation --- and entrenched in this Declaration --- is that where the Parties stopped, as consequence of major obstacles like all-out war or shortness of time of the administration in power like that of President Fidel V. Ramos, they will continue and start from they stopped or forced to discontinue. The principle of “As is, where is” applies. Thus, the negotiation during the Estrada administration proceeded from and built upon the gains of the negotiation during the Ramos administration, so on and so forth up to the Arroyo administration.

However, the situations or status of the peaceful parleys then and today are radically different. Then, the Parties are still negotiating the agreement that would contain the formula to address and solve the so-called Bangsamoro Question. That agreement was already signed by the Parties on March 27, 2014, which is the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). This agreement provided vividly on how to address this problem by creating a truly genuine autonomous Bangsamoro Government in some areas in Mindanao, because this problem is essentially about self-governance which had been deprived of Moros for decades. Mindanao had been regarded and in fact a “foreign territory” where the Moros were sovereign. The Parties, as stated above, found the compromise and the middle way: To establish a genuine autonomous Bangsamoro entity. But the CAB is a political document; it cannot establish that entity legally. That responsibility belongs to the government, which it must comply with by passing the necessary legislation in Congress, which is the BBL.

Strictly speaking, at present, there is no more negotiation; peace process, yes, the Parties are still engaged. But the issues deliberated on are subsidiary matters like serious ceasefire violations, socio-economic interventions, transitional justice, etc.

Currently, the Parties are in implementation stage, mainly the passage of the BBL in Congress, which is a government responsibility. Therefore, when the new administration under President-elect Rodrigo Duterte assumes office on June 30, 2016, the engagement, following established protocols, will start where the Aquino administration left off, which we repeat, to work for the early passage of BBL in Congress. We hope sincerely that the peace team of the new administration would include men and women whose track record, integrity, and commitment are beyond reproach, because an honest-to-goodness negotiation and a problem- solving exercise would require negotiators on both sides to have high regard and trust with each other. If the negotiation between the MILF and GPH had achieved sterling successes during the Aquino administration, it is because the Parties have developed high regards and respect with each other. How we wish that the names we know will find space in the new peace team of the new administration!