Saturday, May 21, 2016

China envoy lays out position in maritime dispute

From the Daily Tribune (May 22): China envoy lays out position in maritime dispute

Contrary to Washington’s claim, a Chinese official yesterday said Beijing is committed to peace and stability in the disputed South China Sea, and desires to solve disputes peacefully through negotiation.

The Philippines has taken China to a United Nations-backed tribunal over the dispute, with a ruling expected in the middle of this year. Beijing has said it does not recognize the case.

In a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London,  Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom Liu Xiaoming stressed China has long exercised “a high-level of self-restraint and forbearance” regarding the territorial disputes in the region.

“We have always approached the disputes in a constructive and responsible manner. If China had not maintained self-restraint, the South China Sea would not be what it is today,” news agency Xinhua quoted Liu as telling his audience.

Expounding on China’s position and policy, Liu said the islands and reefs in the South China Sea have belonged to China since ancient times.

China was the first to discover the islands in the South China Sea, the first to name the islands, the first to exercise administrative jurisdiction in the South China Sea, and also the first to develop the islands, he stressed.

“The aforementioned four ‘Firsts’ are based on substantial and concrete historical evidence. They testify to the fact that the islands of the South China Sea have long been Chinese territory,” he added.

Beijing has been building islets in the South China Sea into artificial islands with military facilities including radar systems and airstrips.

Regional neighbors such as the Philippines and Vietnam have rival claims and the United States says China’s assertions have no basis in law.

Washington — which has embarked on a foreign policy “pivot” toward Asia — fears Beijing is seeking to impose military controls over the entire area.

The Philippines has approached the issue through unilaterally arbitration, which China rejects.
“China’s rejection of the arbitration is an act of exercising its legitimate rights empowered by international law.”

China and the Philippines reached a number of bilateral agreements on resolving disputes, according to the diplomat.

In the Declaration of Conduct reached between China and the Philippines and other Asean countries, it is clearly stipulated that “the parties concerned undertake to resolve their territorial and jurisdictional disputes by peaceful means,” he stressed.

He pointed out that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos) stipulates that states parties have the right to settle a dispute by any peaceful means of their own choice.

“The aforementioned arbitration was unilaterally forced by the Philippines, (which) did not seek consent from China. This violates China’s legitimate rights under the international law,” he stressed.

The 15 submissions made by the Philippines concern territorial sovereignty and maritime delimitation, Liu said, noting that “the Unclos has no jurisdiction over issues related to sovereignty.”

“As for maritime delimitation, China made a declaration in 2006 in accordance with Article 298 of the Unclos. This made it very clear China would exclude disputes on maritime delimitation from compulsory arbitration, so China has exercised its legitimate rights conferred by the Unclos. China’s action complies with international law,” he added.

Millenium challenge road legacy in Samar

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 20): Millenium challenge road legacy in Samar

The Aquino administration will leave behind an infrastructure legacy for the people of Samar Island.

The province of Western Samar from Barangay Buray in the town of Wright is now connected to Guiuan, Eastern Samar involving a total of 15 municipalities covering 222 kilometers by an all weather concrete paved road with 62 permanent bridges.

Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio L. Singson said that the road project known as Secondary National Roads Development Project is a product of the continuing partnership between the United States of America through the Millenium Challenge Corporation and the Philippine Government in the common objective of bringing our people to inclusive economic growth.

Closing event for the project was held 19 May 2016 in Borongan City, Eastern Samar after 44 challenging months of project implementation notwithstanding the devastating effects of Typhoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Visayas during the period of implementation.

Singson said that the Samareños are witnessed to the realization of their dream road which created jobs, improved flow of goods and services, and better peace and order, as well as access to tourism, healthcare, education and other facilities.

The end of civil works activities for the project will however mark the beginning of the community managed road maintenance program initiatives between DPWH, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Road Board for the San Julian to Guiuan road segment in Eastern Samar.
The community managed road maintenance program is an opportunity for our people to demonstrate their sense of responsibility and participation in nation building, said Singson.

With the concerted efforts of government and the people in the locality, there is no doubt that we can preserve this legacy road project to enjoy the fruits of our cooperation for years to come, added Singson.

Great Green Fleet visits Philippines

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 21): Great Green Fleet visits Philippines

The USS John C. Stennis Strike Group (JCSSG) is scheduled to begin a routine port visit to the Philippines May 20 in Subic Bay and 21 May in Manila.

JCSSG consists of USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 21 embarked, guided-missile destroyers USS Stockdale (DDG 106), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93), and USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53).

“We are excited to visit Manila and Subic Bay. This is a great opportunity for our Sailors to see the sights and experience the warm hospitality of the Filipino people,” said Rear Adm. Marcus Hitchcock, commander, JCSSG. “Many of our Sailors look forward to reconnecting with family and friends in the local area.”

The strike group is the centerpiece of the Great Green Fleet (GGF) and uses energy conservation measures and operational procedures in the course of its normal operations to increase energy efficiency. JCSSG has been underway as part of the GGF since January 2016 and participated in Exercise Balikatan 2016 in April.

While in the Philippines, strike group personnel will conduct cultural exchanges with the people of the Philippines by participating in community relations projects (COMRELS). Sailors plan to visit local elementary schools, cemeteries, memorials, and a medical center.

In addition to COMRELS, Sailors will take part in morale, welfare and recreation tours to experience the island and the practices of the Filipino people. Sailors from Chung-Hoon and William P. Lawrence will also participate in friendly sporting matches with locals.

Approximately 8,500 Sailors make up the strike group, of which at least 238 are of Filipino heritage. The Commanding Officer of USS Stockdale (DDG 106), Cmdr. Raphael Castillejo, is among those Sailors.

Castillejo was born at Makati Medical Center and moved to the United States as a boy. He has served in the Navy for 23 years and is looking forward to returning to his hometown for this port visit. He plans to lead a wreath-laying ceremony at a local cemetery to remember those lost liberating the Philippines during World War II.

Logistics Specialist First Class Don Salamero, a USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) crew member, was born and raised in Daet, Camarines Norte, in the Bicol region of the Philippines. Salamero enlisted in the Navy 17 years ago to explore and learn about different cultures, and he is excited to return to the Philippines for this port visit.

JCSSG is on patrol in 7th Fleet providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.

For more news on USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) visit or (US EMBASSY MANILA)

USCIS to implement Filipino World War II vets parole program

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22): USCIS to implement Filipino World War II vets parole program

Beginning June 8, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will allow certain Filipino World War II veteran family members who are beneficiaries of approved family-based immigrant visa petitions an opportunity to receive a discretionary grant of parole on a case-by-case basis, so that they may come to the United States as they wait for their immigrant visa to become available.   

This parole policy was announced in the White House report, Modernizing and Streamlining Our Legal Immigration System for the 21st Century, issued in July 2015. An estimated 2,000 to 6,000 Filipino-American World War II veterans are living in the United States today. Among other things, this policy will enable many eligible individuals to provide support and care to their aging veteran family members who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

“The Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program honors the thousands of Filipinos who bravely enlisted to fight for the United States during World War II,” USCIS Director León Rodríguez said. “This policy will allow certain Filipino-American family members awaiting immigrant-visa issuance to come to the United States and be with their loved ones. For many, it will also allow them to provide support and care for elderly veterans or their surviving spouses.”

With the exception of immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the number of family-sponsored immigrant visas available by country of origin in any given year is limited by statute. These limits result in long waiting periods before family members may join petitioning U.S. citizens or permanent residents in the United States and become permanent residents themselves. For some Filipino-American families, this wait can exceed 20 years.

Under the policy, certain family members of Filipino World War II veterans may be eligible to receive a discretionary grant of parole to come to the United States before their visa becomes available. In limited cases, certain eligible relatives will be able to seek parole on their own behalf when their Filipino World War II veteran and his or her spouse are both deceased.

Under the Filipino World War II Veterans Parole Program, USCIS will review each case individually to determine whether authorizing parole is appropriate.  When each individual arrives at a U.S. port of entry, U.S. (US EMBASSY MANILA)

'Finding Dory' special screening to raise funds for soldiers’ orphans

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 16): 'Finding Dory' special screening to raise funds for soldiers’ orphans

The Armed Forces of the Philippines Educational Benefit System Office (AFPEBSO) is inviting everyone to join in its special block screening of the film “Finding Dory” on June 18, 2016 (Saturday), 2:30pm and 4:30pm at the SM Megamall Cinema 8.

Limited tickets priced at P500 are available at the AFPEBSO in Camp Aguinaldo and in Major Service Ones. Exciting prizes will be given away before the screening.

According to AFP, proceeds of the activity will contribute to the sustainability of the different educational benefit programs for our brave soldiers’ orphans.

Donations and event sponsorship are also welcome. For more information on the sponsorship packages, AFPEBSO can be reached at the following contact details: (02) 912-9606 or 911-6001 local 6009; 0917-5076617 or 0999-993-3376; email at; or via Facebook page at AFP Educational Benefit System Office.

DA Special Assistance Project to aid Bangsamoro camps

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 19): DA Special Assistance Project to aid Bangsamoro camps

The Special Assistance project of the Department of Agriculture in support of the Socio-Economic Component of the normalization process shall undertake responsive livelihood and infrastructure projects that will address the needs of the beneficiaries to uplift the socio-economic condition of the rural communities in Mindanao through the provision of agricultural and fishery interventions.

In response to this project, the DA-Regional Field Office 10 is now ready to distribute interventions to the Bangsamoro camps in Camp Bilal in Munai, Lanao del Norte and Camp Bushra, Butig, Lanao del Sur.

The assistance shall be apportioned equally to the two camps that includes 400 bags of certified rice seeds, 400 bags of open pollinated variety (OPV) of corn seeds; 800 bags of fertilizers; 500 pieces assorted fruit trees seedlings; two units hand tractor with implements; four units corn sheller; two units mobile corn mill and six head carabao. 

Validated master list of beneficiaries of the said camps will be submitted to the DA through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPPAP) as a requirement for the release of the said assistance.

Delivery of the agri-fishery interventions will commence right after the compliance of the needed requirements from the beneficiaries’ end.

Turn-over and distribution of agri-fisheries interventions will be on May 30, 2016 which will be properly coordinated with the local government units (LGUs), Armed Forces of the Philippines in Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur; MILF Task Force and OPAPP.

The government is optimistic that the assistance provided to the Bangsamoro camps will capacitate the residents and will provide more economic opportunities for meaningful sources of livelihood.

1FAB, RHU to conduct MEDCAP in Tukuran town

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 20): 1FAB, RHU to conduct MEDCAP in Tukuran town

In consonance with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Internal Peace and Security Plan (IPSP) or ‘Bayanihan’ campaign,  the 1st Field Artillery Battalion (1FAB), Army Artillery Regiment, Philippine Army in partnership with the Rural Health Unit of Tukuran, barangay officials, and the Armed Forces Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (AFPSLAI) will conduct a medical, dental and civic action program (MEDCAP) activity on May 25 in barangay Man-ilan here.

Civic-military operations officer Capt. Holly John Godinez said the 1FAB and RHU have long tied up and joined forces in providing medical services to mostly depressed communities.

Godinez said the MEDCAP will be held in Man-ilan saying that it is one of the four (4) adopted barangays of the unit who have limited access to basic services. “The other barangays are Tinotungan of Tukuran, and Tawagan Norte and San Isidro of Labangan,” he added.

During the activity, Godinez said the troops of 1FAB and the medical team of RHU will bring services to residents of the barangay.

“The MEDCAP team will offer free medical check up, medicines, tooth extraction, circumcision,  and free haircut,” Godinez announced.

Godinez said MEDCAP is a glaring example of genuine cooperation, collaborative efforts and commitment of all stakeholders in bringing the services to our people and exemplifies the true spirit of Bayanihan.

The 1FAB and other stakeholders call out for other service-oriented organizations to advocate such convergence of effort to help uplift the lives of our fellow Filipino people especially those in remote areas.

Palace hopes next admin to continue Mindanao peace process

From the Philippine Information Agency (May 22): Palace hopes next admin to continue Mindanao peace process

Malacanang said it hopes that the next administration will prioritize the peace process with the Muslim rebels because the current government has already invested a lot in attaining peace in Mindanao.

Incoming Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said they will not prioritize the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and they will concentrate on the pushing of federalism as championed by president-elect Rodrigo Duterte.

In a radio interview Saturday, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr said the decision not to prioritize BBL rests on the next Congress.

“Iyon pong ultimong pagpapasya hinggil sa mga batas na isusulong, iyon naman ay nasa mandato ng ating Kongreso. At sa sistema ng ating pamahalaan may paghihiwalay ng powers — iyong legislative, executive at judiciary,” he said over dzRB Radyo ng Bayan.

“Pero hindi naman po nasa isang vacuum iyong talakayan natin diyan. Ang masasabi na lang natin ay ‘yung pananawagan na pag-aralan mabuti at tiyakin na hindi mababalam ‘yung prosesong pangkapayapaan dahil malaki na rin po ang naging puhunan ng ating pamahalaan, ng ating sambayanan.”

“Kung ito naman ay bibigyan nila nang sapat na pagkakataon na mapag-aralan muli, marami na rin naman po ang magsasabi na pwede namang ikonsidera ang pagpapatuloy nito.”'

Coloma also said he hopes that legislators, who are elected by the people, will put national interest at the forefront on the debates on the Mindanao peace process.

“At sa akin lang pong opinyon, nasa pambansang interes na ituloy ang pagsulong sa prosesong pangkapayapaan,” he said.

At the same time, Coloma said he hopes that seeking justice for the SAF 44 who perished in Mamasapano will be continued by the next administration.

He admitted that it’s not easy to gather evidence and find credible witnesses but he added that the Aquino government did its best to give justice to the SAF 44.

The Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation are the lead agencies in the pursuit for Justice for the fallen policemen.

“Hindi po tayo pwedeng mag-give up diyan sa bagay na iyan, sa paghahanap ng hustisya para sa ating mga pulis at binawian ng buhay sa Mamasapano,” he said.

NYT Editorial: Playing Chicken in the South China Sea

Editorial in the New York Times (May 20): Editorial -- Playing Chicken in the South China Sea

By the Pentagon’s account, two Chinese fighter jets performed an “unsafe” maneuver this week by flying within 50 feet of an American surveillance plane over the South China Sea. That’s not much more than a hairbreadth, aeronautically speaking, and a collision could have been catastrophic — to the crews and to the already fragile diplomatic relations between China and its regional neighbors and the United States.
China has been behaving in a bellicose fashion in the South China Sea for some time as part of a sustained and increasingly dangerous effort to assert sovereignty over a vital waterway in which other nations also have claims. In a few weeks, an international arbitration court is expected to rule in a case brought against China by the Philippines. The outcome could have a profound effect on the struggle for control of the sea, which is rich in resources and carries $5 trillion in annual trade.
Many experts expect the court to rule against China. The right response would be for China to accept the court’s decision and work with the Philippines and other neighboring countries that have interests in the region — Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan — on a mutually acceptable resolution to their rival claims. But whether it will respond that way remains to be seen. So far, Beijing has refused to acknowledge the court’s jurisdiction, even though it ratified the treaty under which the case was brought — the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, guaranteeing unimpeded passage on the high seas for trade, fishing and oil exploration.
China’s most aggressive and outrageous tactic has been to use tons of dirt and gravel and rocks to transform small reefs and rocks into artificial islands with airstrips and other military structures, including runways capable of handling military aircraft. According to the Pentagon’s annual report on China’s military, over the last two years China added more than 3,200 acres of land to the seven outposts in the Spratly Islands, while other countries that occupy disputed rocks and reefs in the archipelago added about 50 acres. China’s neighbors fear that Beijing intends to use these outposts to interfere with navigation and their rights to fish and drill for oil and gas.
A photograph provided by the Philippine military of Chinese construction on Johnson South Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands. Credit Armed Forces Of The Philippines, via European Pressphoto Agency

More broadly, the report described an ambitious military buildup aimed at projecting power so that China can “defend itself and its sovereignty claims.” This includes a 2015 defense budget estimated conservatively at $180 billion, up 9.8 percent annually since 2006; the largest navy in Asia, with more than 300 surface ships; plans to have as many as 78 ballistic missile submarines by 2020; and new investments in nuclear and anti-satellite weapons.
Mr. Obama is under increasing pressure from some regional allies as well as his own military to push back harder against China, and he has begun to do so. A recent example is that a United States destroyer last week sailed near China’s largest man-made island, the third freedom-of-navigation operation in seven months challenging Beijing’s vast claims in the South China Sea.
American officials have long hoped that China would use its position as a rising power to work with the United States to uphold post-World War II international norms, but many officials and experts now see China as determined to write its own rules. How the court ruling is handled will be a critical test both for Mr. Obama and for Xi Jinping, China’s president.
One encouraging note in the Pentagon report is the finding that while China has been willing to tolerate higher levels of tension in pursuit of its maritime claims, it “still seeks to avoid direct and explicit conflict with the United States.” The challenge for all sides is making that aspiration a reality.

NPA claims killing of lumad leader in Malaybalay City

From the Sun Star-Cagayan de Oro (May 21): NPA claims killing of lumad leader in Malaybalay City

AFTER owning up that they had a hand in the death of former policeman and cult leader Francisco Baguiz in Gingoog City, the New People’s Army (NPA) admitted anew that they are responsible for the killing of Datu Benjamin “Otto” Omao, an indigenous people’s (lumad) mandatory representative at Malaybalay City’s legislative council.

In a statement issued Saturday, May 21, the Maoist revolutionaries accused Omao of alleged land-grabbing, one of the reasons he was executed.

“Datu Omao was a criminal, a land-grabber, intimidating and a deep-rooted counterrevolutionary. He was notorious in the area for his association with the bandit group Delamance,” said Ariel “Inda” Magbanwag, the NPA-South Central Bukidnon spokesperson.

The NPA said it carried out an assassination on Omao inside his office in Purok 3, Barangay Casisang, Malaybalay on May 17.

Read: NPA owns up killing ex-cop in Gingoog City

According to reports, Omao was serving his second term as mandatory representative and chaired the City Council’s committee on ethnic and indigenous cultural communities development prior to his death.

Omao, the group said, was reportedly protected by a retired military official since 1995, and in spite of this, he was chosen as IP mandatory representative in Malaybalay by coercing the tribal leaders to vote for him.

The NPA has also alleged that Omao had engaged in selling of marijuana in 2005-2006, and snatching the 40-hectare land of Nido Omeran in 2007 in Sitio Umbawan, Barangay Managok, Malaybalay.

Aside from his alleged crimes, the armed rebels said Omao was active in recruiting members for the armed group Alamara in Cabanglasan and Malaybalay.

“He had threatened the lumad who opposed him. In village meetings, he had been blatant in calling for the lumad to call any member of the NPA they meet,” the group added.

For all his alleged criminal activities before he was killed, the NPA has urged the local governments unit not to put an IP mandatory representative who has committed crimes and that they must verify the record of the person they are going to put in any government position first.

Town police chief wounded in ambush

From the Sun Star-Zamboanga (May 21): Town police chief wounded in ambush

THE police chief in one of the 16 towns in Zamboanga Sibugay was wounded while his personnel escaped unscathed in an ambush Thursday, May 19 in Sinusayan, Malangas, of the said province.

Superintendent Rogelio Alabata, Police Regional Office-Zamboanga Peninsula spokesman, identified the wounded official as Inspector Dexter Adrias, the officer-in-charge of the police station in Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay.

The spokesman said the ambush occurred when combined police and military operatives were on a mission to serve an arrest warrant against Kahal Abdu for the crime of murder and piracy issued by the Regional Trial Court Branch 51 of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan.

He said unidentified gunmen positioned in an elevated area, opened fire at the convoy of police and military vehicles on the way to serve the warrant of arrest against Abdu.

Alabata said the gunmen fled after the troops returned fire. The police chief was rushed to the hospital.

Setting deadlines for peace talks ‘not advisable’ – Bello

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) online publication the Davao Today (May 21): Setting deadlines for peace talks ‘not advisable’ – Bello

A veteran government negotiator who is eyed to head the government peace panel believes that the peace talks with the National Democratic Front should have no timelines and deadlines.

Representative Silvestre Bello III, who presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte said would chair the government panel to negotiate with the NDF, agreed that “the nation is hungry for peace as the armed conflict between the Communist Party of the Philippines is dragging for four decades now.”

Although he has yet to receive a “formal offer” from Duterte, Bello said he would not decline the offer to head the negotiating panel of the government.

“The people is so hungry for peace and we cannot disappoint them. President Duterte is aware of this and I’m sure he wants peace at the earliest possible time,” Bello said.
However, Bello is not keen on putting timelines to peace negotiations.

“In peace negotiations, it is not advisable to put timelines. There should be no deadlines because the talks have its tactical and its strategic value, that is what’s important,” he said in a press conference here on Thursday night, May 19.

Bello said peace is not achieved by merely signing an agreement.

“The value of talks is while you are talking you are actually addressing the root causes of the armed conflict,” said Bello.

Bello said that Duterte might tell him to finish the peace talks within three to six months, similar to the target of the incoming President in curbing drugs, corruption and criminality in the country within six months of his term.

“He might tell me, ‘Bebot, finish the peace talks in three to six months ‘ or I might kill you,” Bello said.

However, he said that peace is only achieved when there is no more poor Filipino, no more corruption in government, and “when justice is made available to the people, especially the poor.”

He said the perception of the people currently is that the government cannot give them justice.

“The judicial system is so perverted that’s why the people know that there is no justice in this government,” he said.

“So if President Duterte can show to the people that there can be justice under his term, under the new administration, then we’ll have peace in our country,” said Bello.

‘Obstructionists in government’

Bello also revealed that there were “obstructionists” in the previous administrations in the talks with the NDF resulting to a stalled peace talks with the region’s longest-running insurgency.

He said President Benigno Aquino III was “obviously advised by some people who do not want to have a peace talks with the NDF.” Bello, however, refused to name who he was referring to.

“These are the obstructionist. They did not want government to have a peace settlement with the NDF, that’s why they pointed Pres. Aquino to the MILF, where they concentrated, and they forgot the other problem,” he said.

“That’s very simple, you cannot afford a partial peace in our country,” he added, saying the government cannot dismiss the four decade-long insurgency problem.

Even during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo there were those “who intended to stop the peace process with the NDF.”

Lessons from the past

Bello believes that for the peace talks to prosper, it is important that the President wants the peace process.

He said he is confident with the resumption of the peace talks with the NDF because “Pres. Duterte understands the peace process and more importantly wants the peace process.”

“The will to achieve peace is very important,” he said.

Bello said, achieving an agreement is very difficult, but there must be the political will to finish the peace talks.

He also added that the government should be sincere to address the root causes of the armed conflict, including extreme poverty of the people, injustice and corruption.

During Bello’s stint as chairman of the government panel under former President Fidel Ramos, the government and the NDF signed the first substantive agreement which is the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

IP group ​belies military yarn o​n killing of Lumad leader in Caraga

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines online publication Davao Today (May 21): IP group ​belies military yarn o​n killing of Lumad leader in Caraga

(Photo from Karapatan sa Caraga facebook page)

An Indigenous People’s organization based in the Caraga region branded as a ‘lie’ the disclaimer of the military that they were not behind the killing of Datu Arnel Nayer in Sitio Kalatingga, Barangay Banban, Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte last April 23.

The Kahugpungan sa mga Lumadnong Organisasyon (Kasalo) insisted on the involvement of soldiers in the “strafing of six Lumad farmers in Kadyawanm Surigao del Norte, which killed Datu Nayer.”

It said that survivors in the strafing would attest to the responsibilty of soldiers belonging to the 30th Infantry Battalion.

Datu Nayer was found dead in Kadyawan, Surigao del Norte “after being strafed by the military troops last April 23, 2016 at around 1pm,” the group said.

The Datu’s companions, Lino Mansumay suffered from splinter wounds, Anthony Anrique, Esmoter Anrique, Ronel Anrique, and Binbin Patusa, survived because they were able to run leaving Nayer behind. He then went missing until his body was found on April 26 in neighboring town ““buried in a small and shallow pit, covered by dirt and dead leaves,” Kasalo-Caraga said in a news report.

Tina Gomez of Kasalo-Caraga said that in a dialogue conducted last May 16 in Gigaquit, Surigao del Norte, “testimonies from victims Ronel Anrique and Binbin Patosa was denied by the 1st Lt. Amar and 1st Lt Layog,” both from 30th IB “who were not there at the incident,” Gomez said.

“To disrupt the dialogue, they [military] said that Sitio Kalatingga is not part of Gigaquit which is their area of responsibility,” Gomez said.

The dialogue, according to Kasalo, was participated by 30th IB, municipal government of Gigaquit led by Mayor Carlos Egay, the evacuees of Sitio Kalatingga and the officials of Barangay Banban. It was also witnessed by church group, the group said.

“Even though the military faced the victims and passed the responsibility to the 29th IBPA, this does not mean that they are no longer responsible for the death of Datu Nayer,” Gomez said.

Kasalo said that the families of the lumad victims who are not being attended, continue to cry for justice.

DWDD: ACCOMPLISHMENTS | AFP modernization projects completed under Aquino Administration

From DWDD AFP Civil Relations Service Radio Website (May 21): ACCOMPLISHMENTS | AFP modernization projects completed under Aquino Administration

Quezon City, DWDD – The Philippines defense expenditure has been on a balanced rise since the 1990s, with a 25-percent leap eyed next year.

The 2016 defense budget is about P25-billion and is part of a five-year military modernization program gearing to project a modern military with minimum credible defense and to make the Philippines a worthy member of security alliances.

According to the data gathered by DWDD it showed that 55 military upgrade projects worth P11.71 billion have been completed under the Aquino administration.

These include the projects of the Philippine Air Force where eight combat utility helicopters worth P2. 86 billion was finalized. Also, PAF has 20 units of MD 520 MG attack helicopters worth P214. 34 million, and to enhance its air assets the Aquino administration provided P621. 67 million for 18 units of basic trainer aircraft. Moreover, one unit of aerial survey camera was procured with a total cost of P50. 99 million and enhancement of radio electrical instruments and precision measuring equipment laboratory for P50.99 million also.

For the part of the Philippine Navy, they have: Jacinto-class patrol vessels upgrade worth P274.65 million; 330 personal role radios at P86 million; 79 units of 20W vehicular configuration radios for P231 million; 720 units of 76 mm ammunition at P46.9 million; coast watch systems for 2 sites P59.99 million; coast watch for 2 sites P23.6 million; 8 units of grenade launchers for P19. 75 million; 720 units of 40mm grenade launcher P45.05 million; 20 units of one ton troop carriers P46 million; 20 units of two-ton troop and cargo carriers P80.5 million; 12 units of prime mover for 155m howitzer trucks P38.88 million; three units of multi-purpose attack aircraft at P268.99 million; 2 units of rigid hull inflatable boats P34.75 million; 230 units of 7.62mm general purpose machine guns P161.12 million; explosive and ordnance division equipment P12.54 million; hydrographic equipment worth P4.05 million; and, 4 lots of night fighting systems worth P317.6 million.

Meanwhile, for the Philippine Army, 137 units of one-ton troop carrier truck for P298.11 million; four light support watercraft P35.3 million; 250 units of two-ton carrier P873 million; 2 lots of night fighting system at P648.35 million; 62 units of audio-video system P37.89 million; three units of C41 GIS worth P11.33 million; six units of five-ton prime mover for 155 howitzer truck P38.88 million; 60 units of field ambulance P300.78 million; five units of special purpose vehicle P111.9 million; 90 units of one-ton troop carrier truck P494 million; 840 unit of global positioning system P20.59 million; two units of prime mover truck worth P144 million; 100 units and 2000 rounds of 81mm mortar with ammunition for P298.11 million; 348 units of portable radio receivers P52.45 million; C41/GIS equipment P188.88 million; 78 units of audio-video equipment at P11.5 million; 2 phases 20W man pack radios P652.8 million; 1376 units of 5W of handheld radios at P364.14 million; 210 units of 50W AV configuration radio worth P499.57 million; and finally, 53 units of 100W base radios for P80.4 million.

However, the AFP still need a total of P90.86 billion to finance the military’s upgrade program until 2017. (LMC/MCAG)

Filipino Muslims ask Duterte to pardon wrongly accused

From Anadolu Agency (May 21): Filipino Muslims ask Duterte to pardon wrongly accused

Appeal to President-elect to help address ‘historical injustice’ they say has seen terrorism equated with Moro identity

 Filipino Muslims ask Duterte to pardon wrongly accused

Human rights advocates have called on Philippines President-elect Rodrigo Duterte to grant amnesty to hundreds of Moro prisoners from the Muslim south they say were wrongly accused of being militants.
In a statement emailed to Anadolu Agency on Saturday, the Suara Bangsamoro and Kawagib Moro Human Rights groups appealed to Duterte to “include Moro prisoners who were falsely accused as local terrorists in his plan to grant general, unconditional and omnibus amnesty to political prisoners."
Amirah Ali Lidasan, head of the Kawagib Moro Human Rights group, said hundreds of indigenous Moro in troubled Mindanao island had been detained in military crackdowns since 2001.
She expressed the groups’ hope that “justice will be rendered to the victims and their families and will help address the historical injustice of military solution to the conflict in the Moro areas, of using discriminatory policies against the Moro people such as equating terrorism to their identity and struggle."
She called for the release of more than 94 Moro detained in 2001 on suspicion of being members of the Abu Sayyaf extremist group, and more than 220 others placed in custody after another rebel group laid siege to the majority Christian city of Zamboanga in Sept. 2013.
In the case of the 94 accused of Abu Sayyaf affiliation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and then Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong launched a review in 2013, during which two former militants-turned-state witnesses identified only five to 12 of them as members.
“Prosecutor Ong furthered the review and concluded that among the 12 identified, six were innocent. He then gave false hope to the victims and families by saying that he will be releasing his recommendation for the release by December 2013 or early part of 2014," Lidasan said.
"Two years after, DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima has left the agency without any Moro prisoner released nor the case resolved,” she added.
The rights groups also requested a review of the detention of 266 Moro men and women arrested during the 2013 Zamboanga Siege on suspicion of membership to the Moro National Liberation Front.
Of them, only 42 were released in March 2015 after their lawyers’ legal efforts, while the rest reportedly remained without representation.
"As long as the DOJ memorandum and the [bounty] reward system remain, more innocent Moro men, most of whom are poor, will be arrested and paraded as terrorists,” Lidasan warned.
The statement cited recent cases including the arrest of a jeepney dispatcher in April and that of a mango vendor in November.
The camp of Duterte, the outspoken mayor of southern Davao City who is set to become the country’s first leader from Mindanao, could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Numerous armed Muslim groups and a communist insurgency operate in the region, which is rich in resources but among the country’s most underdeveloped.
Duterte, a devout Christian, has backed the outgoing government's peace process with one-time largest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front as well as indigenous peoples’ calls for greater autonomy.
After his victory in the May 9 election, he even offered cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines and said he was willing to hold talks with the Abu Sayyaf.
“The Abu Sayyaf is connected with the Mindanao issue. It drove young men to desperation and being radicalized,” the MindaNews website quoted Duterte as saying earlier this week.
The 71-year-old, who won the election on a crime-fighting campaign and vowed to re-impose the death penalty, however, underlined that those who committed serious crimes would be held accountable.

We’ll struggle with him, Reds say of Duterte

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 22): We’ll struggle with him, Reds say of Duterte

“We take his hand, and we will struggle with him.”

This was detained National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) consultant Adelberto Silva’s response on Friday to presumptive President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s offer of four Cabinet posts to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Duterte offered the labor, agrarian reform, social welfare and environment portfolios to CPP members as a confidence-building measures for the resumption of the peace talks with the communist rebels.

In an interview at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32, Silva said Duterte’s action demonstrated that he is “taking seriously peace negotiations with the left.”

Silva, Benito Tiamzon and his wife, Wilma Tiamzon, of the CPP-New People’s Army (NPA), and other ranking officers of the local communist movement were attending another hearing in their case involving a 1980s mass murder.

Tiamzon echoed Silva’s sentiment, saying “we’re very happy with [Duterte’s] offer, but like (CPP founder Jose Maria) Sison said, the entry of CPP members in the government will depend on the peace talks.”

“It’s a very good initiative on [Duterte’s] part. We are open to a possible alliance for national unity, just peace and development—but it will really depend on how the peace talks will go,” Tiamzon said.

Silva said Duterte’s plans of a federal government would also help bring lasting peace to the country. He said he saw this as the answer to the “long-standing issue” concerning the “Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination.”

Asked if Duterte’s decision could eventually lead to their freedom, Tiamzon replied, “Yes, because we see it as an indicator of how serious he is about working together with progressive forces to achieve genuine change.”

Public Interest Law Center managing counsel Rachel Pastores, a member of the defense  team, said her clients were all consultants on the peace talks.

“It will [therefore] be difficult for the consultants to perform their tasks in the peace negotiations and at the same time attend hearings. So our wish is for them to be released and to have the charges against them dropped,” she said.

Pastores described the charges against her clients as “trumped up,” since no evidence directly linking them to the alleged mass murder had been presented.

“There is no evidence either revealing the identity of the [supposed] victims,” she added.

Members of Karapatan Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights (Karapatan) and Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) showed their support for the accused by holding a protest outside Manila City Hall  before the hearing.

“[Duterte] has begun well. He has not yet become president, but he is pushing some of the right buttons,” Silva said.

“We don’t know how much he will attain. It’s going to be a fight. But we are prepared [to join him],” he added.

Malaysia arrests terror suspects with Abu Sayyaf links

From GMA News (May 21): Malaysia arrests terror suspects with Abu Sayyaf links

Malaysian authorities detained 14 people believed to have links to the Islamic State (IS) and the Abu Sayyaf in a series of raids across several states earlier this week.

The 14 - all Malaysians - are the latest to be detained by authorities who have been on a concerted campaign over the past few years to stamp out the threat of Islamist militancy in the country.

Deputy inspector-general of police Noor Rashid Ibrahim said in a statement that eight of the suspects are believed to have transferred money to the IS in Syria and the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the southern Philippines.

All eight are also believed to have ties with Malaysian IS recruiter Muhammad Wanndy Mohamed Jedi, who police had earlier identified as having recruited several Malaysians to launch an attack in the southeast Asian nation.

Three others were detained on suspicion of promoting IS ideology, while two men and one woman were arrested for allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the terrorist group.

The raids were carried out between May 17-20 by the police special branch's counter-terrorism division in six states across the peninsula.

Muslim-majority Malaysia has been on high alert since Islamic State-linked militants carried out an armed attack in the capital of neighboring Indonesia in January.

In March, Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said police had foiled an IS plot to kidnap Prime Minister Najib Razak and other senior ministers last year.

Food prices soar in island provinces as Sabah remains closed to trade

From InterAksyon (May 20): Food prices soar in island provinces as Sabah remains closed to trade

Reports reaching Manila indicated that food prices in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu, as well as Basilan, have soared recently, unraveling a potential humanitarian crisis, due to the closure to cross border trade of Sabah with merchants mainly from the Sulu Archipelago.

The border closure started more than a month after, in the wake of Abu Sayyaf abductions of Malaysian sailors.

Traders in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu now have to source essential commodities like rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil and noodles from Zamboanga City.
Zamboanga is more distant for these island provinces than the ports of Sabah that have, for centuries, figured in a vibrant cross-border trade.

Residents of Tawi-Tawi and Sulu now buy rice priced at P1,100 per 25-kilogram pack, instead of P620. Sugar costs P2,900 per 50-kilogram pack instead of P1,600, while cooking oil that used to go for P60 per liter now are priced at P60. Noodles are P56 per kg, up from P30.

These prices raise fears of possible widespread hunger among Tawi-Tawi and Sulu residents, who are among the country’s poorest.

After a tripartite meeting on May 5, the Philippines agreed to cooperate with Malaysia and Indonesia in patrolling the Sulu and Celebes Seas, provide immediate assistance to people and ships in distress, share information and intelligence, and establish a 'hotline' for better coordination during emergencies and security threats.

A statement issued by Lupah Sug Bangsamoro Women Association; Tulung Lupah Sug; and Tarbilang Foundation called on "the national and ARMM governments to closely monitor the situation in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu. We urge them to work with Malaysia in reviving the trade between Sabah and the island provinces."

The groups noted the security challenges in the tri-border area and the necessity of making it safe for trade and travel. "However, trade has to resume soon if we are to ensure the survival of the livelihoods of hundreds of small traders and the welfare of thousands of residents in the southern Philippines."

3 cops promoted for nabbing bomber

From The Standard (May 21): 3 cops promoted for nabbing bomber

The National Police Commission has approved the special promotion of three police officers who arrested the suspect in the Valentine’s Day bombing in Makati City in 2005 that killed four persons and wounded 60 others.
Napolcom vice chairman and Executive Officer Rogelio Casurao said SPO1 Sebastian De Leon, PO3 Rolando Maximo and PO2 Pedro Silva Jr., all members of the Special Task Team, investigated and conducted the manhunt against Gappal Hannah, alias Boy Negro, a member of the Abu Sayyaf Group who claimed responsibility for the bombing of the RRCG bus at the intersection of Edsa and Ayala Avenue on Feb. 14, 2005.

After two weeks of intelligence operations, the team of De Leon, Maximo and Silva traced the whereabouts of Boy Negro in Libmanan, Camarines Sur.

The policemen immediately coordinated with barangay officials of Libmanan and disguised as village watchmen proceeded to the hideout of their target. The suspect did not resist arrest when apprehended on March 3, 2005.

“The commission approved the special promotion to the next higher rank of SPO1 De Leon, PO3 Maximo and PO2 Silva after it meticulously validated their bravery following the recommendations made by the Philippine National Police - Special Promotion, Awards and  Decorations Board,” Casurao said.

Special promotions are granted to any member of the PNP for acts of conspicuous courage and gallantry at the risk of his/her life above and beyond the call of duty pursuant to Section 38 (b) of Republic Act No. 6975, as amended by Section 33 (b) of Republic Act No. 8551.

Thirty minutes after the Makati City blast, the Abu Sayyaf Group through its spokesperson, Abu Sulaiman, claimed responsibility, saying the attack was a “Valentines gift” to then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Mindanao religious leaders back GPH, CPP-NPA-NDF peace talks

From the Manila Bulletin (May 20): Mindanao religious leaders back GPH, CPP-NPA-NDF peace talks

Butuan City – Religious leaders in Mindanao are pushing incoming president Rodrigo R. Duterte to restart the stalled peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic front of the Philippines (NDFP), political wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) also asked Duterte to take a closer look at the issues concerning the lumads (natives).

The PEPP said Duterte’s plan to release a number of prisoners of war (POW) puts him in a position to push for the resumption of the peace talks.

“We maintain that talks should adhere to and honor the Hague Joint Declaration and all other previous agreements as framework of the talks. We also believe that the release of political prisoners shall serve as a confidence-building measure that shall prime up the talks,” the PEPP said in a statement released to the media after a Mindanao-wide assembly held on May 18 at the Assumption College in Davao City.

The group cited the appointments of Atty. Silvestre Bello III and Atty. Rene Sarmiento as members of the GPH panel and said their track records give fresh hope to the success of the peace talks.

PEPP also appealed to Duterte to keep the people abreast of developments in the peace talks as well as hold consultations with all stakeholders.

The PEPP asked the Duterte administration to solve the killings of several lumads in various parts of Mindanao, particularly the ALCADEV massacre in Surigao del Sur and other incidents in Agusan del Sur, Agusan del Norte, particularly the Pangantucan, Paquibato, and Kidapawan massacres.

The religious group also called on Duterte to disarm, dismantle and disband paramilitary groups in some areas in Caraga and Davao regions, in central Mindanao and northern Mindanao.

“The church will support the effort of the president to address these issues. We are also willing to help in any means towards this end,” PEPP leaders said.

The letter was signed by 28 religious leaders and officers of PEPP, including the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, Philippine  Council of Evangelical Churches, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum and Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, the resumption of peace talks and the apprehension of suspects in the lumad killings should be a priority under the Duterte administration, a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) church said.

IFI Bishop Felixberto Calang said the church has already arranged a meeting with president Duterte and Mindanao bishops, priests, nuns, pastors of different religious groups to raise the major issues hounding Mindanao.

Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos of the Diocese of Butuan, who is also former president of the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines, is hoping that peace will finally reign in Mindanao under the Duterte administration.

‘Rebels' kill man in Guihulngan

From the Visayan Daily Star (May 20): ‘Rebels' kill man in Guihulngan

Three alleged members of the New People's Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines, shot to death an elderly man in a remote sitio in Barangay Trinidad, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental, Tuesday afternoon.

The victim was identified as Alfred Cariaga Albino, 61, a resident of Sitio Tuko, Guihulngan City, a police report through the Amigo Cops Negros Oriental Textblast Project said.

The victim's son, who reported the incident to the police early Thursday, said that at around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, his father was at a “tabo” or market day in Sitio Cambairan, Barangay Trinidad in Guihulngan City.

The son said his father went to the rear of the Nina Donque Store to respond to the call of nature when suddenly, three unidentified persons shot him from behind with a .45 caliber pistol for no apparent reasons.

Albino was hit at different portions of the body but managed to run and went inside the store but the assailants followed him inside and dragged him out of the store and shot him to death, the police report further quoted the victim's son as saying.

The suspects then shouted, claiming to be members of the NPA.

Sitio Cambairan is a mountainous area, about 42 kilometers from the proper of Guihulngan City.

The son turned over 22 fired cartridges of 45 caliber pistol and four deformed slugs to the police. These will be subjected to ballistics examination at the police crime laboratory in Dumaguete City.

Police are still investigating the motive for the shooting incident in Guihulngan, a city more than 100 kilometers north of here which remains to be among the areas in Negros Oriental still affected by the insurgency problem.