Thursday, June 9, 2016

'Heavy military presence' forces 45 Higaonon families to flee homes in Misamis Oriental

From InterAksyon (Jun 9): 'Heavy military presence' forces 45 Higaonon families to flee homes in Misamis Oriental


The Higaonon refugees are temporarily sheltered at the Lagonglong gym (Photo from the Higala sa Lumad)

"Heavy military presence" scared 45 Higaonon families in Lagonglong, Misamis Oriental, forcing them to flee their homes and seek refuge in the town's gymnasium last Sunday (June 5).

In a phone interview on Wednesday (June 8), 1st Lt. Janelle Diaz, spokesperson of the 58th Infantry Battalion, explained that the soldiers were deployed in Lagonglong as part her unit's bayanihan team activity.

There were also soldiers deployed in two other town – Salay and Balingasag – for the same reason.

But according to the Higala sa Lumad, a support network for indigenous people, the evacuation was due to "militarization."

Higala said the evacuees – a total of 217 indigenous people – were from Sitio Camansi in Barangay Banglay.

Here's Higala's account of the flight of the Sitio Camansi residents last Sunday:
That morning, 13 fully armed soliders the 58th Infantry Battalion arrived in Sitio Camansi.

At around lunch-time, they had a community meeting where they announced that they would be going from house to house to ask residents what their problems were. They would then relay their problems to incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.

The residents wanted the consultation right then and there. But the soldiers did not want to conduct the consultation during the meeting.

The residents said they feared being caught in the crossfire should rebels attack the soldiers. The might also be accused of being rebels themselves.

"They have already heard of civilians being accused in nearby communities, detained, and tortured by the military," Higala pointed out. "They also said that the military did not have to conduct a census as the residents there were registered voters and this is done by a different government agency."

The soldiers insisted on making house-to-house visists. They had already gone to at least four houses, when the residents decided to leave.

The residents started walking at around 3:00 p.m. to Sitio Kawali in Barangay Balingasag – because "heard gunfire some distance away from their homes."

They arrived in Sitio Kawali at around 6:00 p.m., "tired and hungry."

At around 11:00 p.m., two dump trucks sent by the provincial government arrived unit arrived at Sitio Kawali. The truck to brought them to the Lagonglong gym.

"They were only able to eat in the wee hours of Monday," Higala said. "The evacuees are determined to stay in their temporary sanctuary until the military has left their community. They would rather be evacuees than face the risks of military presence.

They are angry that their decisions are not respected in their own ancestral lands."

According to Diaz, the 58th ID spokesperson, the evacuees were put under the care of the battalion’s Civil Military Operations team and the Municipal Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

She added that the military should not be blamed for the evacuation.

"Our troops entered there on June 4 for bayanihan activities with residents," she said.

"This is not the first time that the battalion was doing this as we had already done it in the past."

The shots that the residents heard came from the New People's Army, very far away from the location of the nearest government troops.

"The evacuation was triggered by a scenario created by the New People’s Army (NPA) when they fired two shots to make it appear there was an encounter," she said.

But according to Higala, the residents had already been evacuated several times last year because of military operations.

They came to an agreement with Capt. Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesman of the 4th Infantry Division, which has jurisdiction over the areas, that the military should camp 500 to 1,000 meters away from their community and not within their center.

NDF open to ceasefire starting July 1

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 10): NDF open to ceasefire starting July 1

If things go as planned, there would be no more hostilities between the communist New People’s Army (NPA) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines starting July 1.

The National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), the political arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), said it was open to signing an interim ceasefire deal with the government in time for President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s oath-taking as 16th president at the end of the month.

“President-elect Duterte will be sitting on June 30. Hopefully by (that time), the draft (agreement) we are working out would be signed and approved,” NDFP spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili told a news briefing at the Ateneo de Davao University on Wednesday night.

“We can have an interim mutual ceasefire beginning July 1. It means (the NPA) will not use not only the IEDs (improvised explosives devices), but also AK-47 and M16 (assault rifles),” he said.

Pressure from local communities freed Abu Sayyaf hostages, activist says

From the Malay Mail Online (Jun 9): Pressure from local communities freed Abu Sayyaf hostages, activist says

Abu Sayyaf released the four Malaysian hostages due to pressure from local communities as they were struggling with the skyrocketing price of goods, an anti-kidnapping activist said.

According to Prof Octavio Dinampo, residents living in two provinces in Southern Philippines relied heavily on barter trade with Sabah, an activity that had to be halted after Putrajaya imposed a ban some two months ago when the four men were kidnapped.

“Jolo island anti-kidnapping activist Prof Octavio Dinampo said the local communities had been pressuring the gunmen to release the tugboat crewmen.

“Octavio said prices of commodities ― from rice to fuel ― more than doubled after the decades-old barter trade was stopped on April 6, and the local community leaders had started pressuring the gunmen to hand over the hostages,” The Star Online reported today.

Octavio explained that the price of daily essentials like rice more than doubled since the ban, with a 20kg bag now costing RM87.

He added that the militants were also eager to strike a deal as they were faced with looming Philippine military operations.

“The Abu Sayyaf gunmen under the command of Majan Sahinjuan alias Apo Mike had been moving their four captives in the mountainous jungles between the Indanan and Patikul over the past two months to avoid detection by authorities,” Octavio was quoted as saying.

The Philippine military has confirmed the release of the four hostages namely Wong Teck Kang, 31 and Wong Teck Chii, 29;  their cousin Johnny Lau Jung Hien, 21 together with an unrelated friend Wong Hung Sing, 34.

The four Sarawakians were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf gunmen on April 1 and the militants had reportedly demanded a ransom of RM18 million for their release.

The Other Sea That Dominated Asia’s Security Summit in 2016

From The Diplomat (Jun 9): The Other Sea That Dominated Asia’s Security Summit in 2016

Beyond the South China Sea, conversations at the 2016 Shangri-La Dialogue also centered on the Sulu Sea.

The Other Sea That Dominated Asia’s Security Summit in 2016

U.S. and Malaysian ships in the Sulu Sea as part of CARAT 2015.
Image Credit: U.S. Navy Photo
A quick glance at the headlines from this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue – Asia’s premier defense summit – would suggest that the proceedings were overwhelmingly dominated by the South China Sea. But to those who attended the meeting, another body of water also featured prominently in the proceedings. Speech after speech, officials highlighted the importance of the Sulu Sea as a key front in confronting Asia’s manifold maritime challenges.

The Sulu Sea – or, more specifically, the one million square kilometer tri-border area in the Sulu-Sulawesi Seas between the southern Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia – has long been a hub for transnational organized crime and terrorist threats, with its porous borders and weak governance. Following the September 11 attacks, concerns surfaced about Jemaah Islamiyah militants either coalescing around or transiting through the area – concerns that linger with the rise of the Islamic State today. And in 2013, the invasion of Sabah by Filipino militants claiming to be linked to the Sulu sultanate exposed an irritant in Malaysia-Philippine relations and revealed the lingering inter-state tensions that still persist in the area (See: “Malaysia Warns Philippines’ Duterte Against ‘Reigniting’ Sabah Dispute”).

But the development that thrust this front in Asia’s maritime space into the headlines in recent months once again was a spate of kidnappings of Indonesian and Malaysian nationals by the Philippine-based Abu Sayyaf Group. Though these incidents are far from uncommon, they seemed to have reached an inflection point, with the three countries formally agreeing to pursue trilateral patrols on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in Laos just a week ahead of the Shangri-La Dialogue (See: “Indonesia, Philippines and Malaysia Agree on New Joint Patrols Amid Kidnappings”).

To close observers of Southeast Asian security issues then, it was no surprise that the Sulu Sea played a rather outsized role in both formal and informal discussions at the Shangri-La Dialogue last weekend. Unsurprisingly, in formal proceedings, the states directly involved in the area focused on it the most. During a rather lengthy address at one of the plenary sessions, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu reiterated his country’s concern that if threats were not confronted, the Sulu Sea could become a new Somalia, weakening economic trade and threatening maritime security. Meanwhile, at one of the breakout sessions, Lieutenant General Glorioso Miranda, the acting chief of staff for the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said that managing the maritime border area was one key prong of Manila’s effort to address terrorism and transnational threats.

But other countries chimed in as well, reflecting the fact that this maritime front has implications that extend beyond its immediate stakeholders. Singapore’s Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen described the Sulu Sea patrols as a “welcome initiative” to deal with terrorism and smuggling. Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had previously floated an observer role for both Singapore and Thailand in the Sulu Sea patrols since both countries were involved in the successful Malacca Straits Patrols (MSP), which commemorates its tenth year in 2016. In his own address at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Hishammuddin again referenced the MSP as a model for cooperation in the Sulu Sea.

Cooperation in the Sulu Sea also warranted a reference from the United States, reflecting both Washington’s recognition of indigenous subregional efforts as well as its own growing role in assisting countries to work towards them. In his remarks, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited the Sulu Sea patrols as an example of regional partners undertaking trilateral efforts of their own in support of what he termed as a “principled security network” (See: “US Hits Right Note at Shangri-La With Principled Security Network”).

Beyond rhetoric, Washington’s own collaboration with regional states is also increasingly factoring in this front. For instance, in the midst of the Shangri-La Dialogue and in between the bilateral phases of the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises that Washington does with the Malaysian and Philippine militaries, the U.S., Philippine, and Malaysian navies conducted a coordinated multilateral training activity in the Sulu Sea on June 4.  While the United States recognized the importance of the Sulu Sea in regional cooperation even prior the Obama administration, the move reflects the U.S. view that the Sulu Sea is one promising avenue through which Washington can pursue multilateralization with its Southeast Asian partners. That should come as no surprise, considering the fact that apart from assisting ASEAN countries, the United States itself has an interest in tackling challenges like terrorism, piracy, and kidnapping that could directly or indirectly affect its own citizens.

To be sure, it is too early to determine if the Sulu Sea’s prominent role at this year’s Shangri-La Dialogue is merely the product of a reaction to recent events or part of an increasing focus on this front that will sustain into the future. And while developments like multilateral patrols are promising, specifics are being ironed out about their nature (for instance, whether those patrols would be coordinated or joint). Furthermore, the challenge of managing such a porous and ungoverned space with its manifold threats will likely take some time even if multilateral collaboration endures. All the more reason, then, to watch the Sulu Sea as a key front within Asia’s maritime space.

Ransom Payments: A Double-Edged Sword

From McGill International Review (Jun 9): Ransom Payments: A Double-Edged Sword (By Thea Koper)

Kidnapping foreign citizens in exchange for ransom money has become one of the key methods of financing and fuelling terrorism around the world. The debate surrounding this issue is complex due to its unique moral dimension, since countries have both a duty to protect the lives of their citizens, as well as a societal obligation to ensure the peace and security of the world. However, the larger question at hand persists regardless of whether a country advocates against ransom payments or concedes to terrorist demands. The main issue is that Western countries overtly perpetuate terrorism by means of economic agreements and trade deals. Put simply, Western governments wittingly sustain terrorist activities and are not on any fast track to put it to rest anytime soon.

Just this past April, a Canadian man by the name of John Ridsdel was beheaded after being kidnapped and held hostage by the extremist group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines. As in many similar cases, Ridsdel’s killing was a result of a ransom deadline that had not been met, though the Canadian government had been fully aware of the payment demand. As is stipulated by the Canadian Criminal Code, no person, either in Canada or as a Canadian citizen outside of the country, may engage in financial transactions or negotiations with a terrorist group.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks out against the practice of ransom payments
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks out against the practice of ransom payments

Following the killing of Ridsdel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced his concerns on the matter, forcefully arguing that “Canada does not and will not pay ransom to terrorists, directly or indirectly.” Trudeau shared his view with British Prime Minister David Cameron, solidifying Britain and Canada’s joint commitment to end the practice of ransom payment. The joint expression of the two Prime Ministers was an effort to persuade other political leaders to follow suit, with Trudeau outlining the negative repercussions effected by such acts. Not only does paying ransom fund terrorism, but it “would endanger the lives of every single one of the millions of Canadians who live, work, and travel around the globe every single year.”

Despite Trudeau’s explicit statement, there is no simple answer to this debate, and the Canadian government, regardless of its claim of avoiding paying ransom, is not without its share of speculation. As former director of the consular affairs bureau in Foreign Affairs, Gar Pardy, wrote: “if a kidnapped person has been released, then a ransom of some sort has been paid.” Countries such as Canada and the United States, who declare their rejection of payment for ransom, often are suspected of engaging in some sort of negotiation with terrorist groups for the release of their citizens. For instance, the Canadian government has come under recent scrutiny for its suspected financial involvement in the release of Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, two Canadian diplomats who were kidnapped in Africa by an Al Qaeda group in 2009. A letter was found that alleged Canada had paid approximately $1.1 million for the release of two hostages.

The issue of ransom payments not only lies within the questionable acts of political hypocrites, but also within the lack of convergence on either side of the debate. While some countries can at least lay claim to hypocritical innocence, there are still many European countries that favour short-term political success over long-term systemic security. While European governments deny any payments made to terrorist groups, The New York Times estimates that Al Qaeda and its affiliates pulled in at least $125 million in revenue from ransoms since 2008. The governments of France, Spain, and Switzerland pay the largest amounts in ransom, and this form of payment attributes to the most significant source of terrorist funding today.

In a speech delivered by David Cohen, the Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence in the US Treasury, the self-sufficient nature of Al Qaeda’s offshoot groups was stressed. Through kidnapping for ransom, these extremist groups raise their own funds which are directed towards recruiting new members, acquiring weapons, and staging fatal attacks. Cohen articulates that kidnapping for ransom is a self-perpetuating cycle where “each transaction encourages another transaction,” and provides incentive for further kidnapping. He argues that empirical evidence demonstrates that terrorists distinguish between governments that do and do not pay ransom, and will choose their hostages accordingly. In the end, Cohen argues that a “no concessions” policy is the ultimate victor, despite its plain utilitarian approach. The United States is willing to sacrifice innocent human lives, whereas countries such as France and Spain are unable to make that sacrifice, due to the domestic pressure they claim to face. However, the United States rightly views the paying of ransoms as a source of sustenance for terrorist organizations that are committed to bringing about the death of more innocents. Thus, one of the most effective ways to break the cycle is to fully end the concessions put towards the terrorists’ demands. Long-term systemic effects are preferred over the immediate reward of a released captive.

Robert Hall and John Ridsdel, two Canadians who were captured by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf
Robert Hall (left) and John Ridsdel (right), two Canadians who were captured by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf

Despite efforts to bring about international consensus on such a topic, like any global conflict, no law transcends high enough to bind together every nation on issues of this sort. Nations are the highest legal entity in the world, with control over their sovereignty, and no international legal body exists which can override that authority. Thus, in 2013, when a G8 commitment was expressed to avoid payment of concessions to any terrorist group, the agreement was non-binding, and certain countries, such as Italy and Germany, easily broke their commitment. In 2014, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2133, which denounced ransom payments to terrorist groups. The resolution offered no legal obligations and offered only symbolic value. A similar situation occurred with the Algiers Memorandum, a document outlining Good Practices for Preventing and Denying the Benefits of Kidnapping for Ransom by Terrorists. The fifteen practices it emphasized were, of course, recommended, and non-obliging.

The subject of ransom payments is complex and difficult to approach. This is not only because of the imbedded hypocrisy of countries that deny making such payments, such as Canada and Spain, but also because these same countries have close economic relations with other nations with ties to terrorist organizations.

In 2014, the Harper government constructed a $15 million deal to sell military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. Critics of the agreement question why Canada would deal with a country who is suspected of financing ISIL, or in the very least whose interpretation of Islam invigorates such extremist groups.

Critics have also voiced concern that the Saudi government would use the vehicles against its own citizens. Besides being known for its poor human rights records, Saudi Arabia has been suspected of providing private funding to militant groups. Whatever the case may be, a clear conclusion to glean from this deal is the observation of how large a role international trade and business play in shaping a country like Canada’s foreign policy.

In broader terms, ever since the 1980s and even the more recent September 11th attacks, the U.S. has argued that global trade liberalization is central to the fight against terrorism. The Middle East and North African region (MENA) has long been a strategic area for the U.S. and Europe, in terms of its vast oil reserves and location of several political crises that affect Western security interests. The EU and United States both share the nebulous view that a neoliberal agenda is necessary for the ultimate securement of political stability in the MENA region.

Kidnapping for ransom is just one global issue, but one that confronts nations with a compromising moral dilemma. The only real prospect for change is the construction of deliberate and explicit measures to combat the underlying causes of such situations. Rhetoric that pits the West against the Middle-East ignores the political and economic reality of the modern world. Once countries share the belief that global peace and security are mutually beneficial, collaboration can help combat the spread of terrorism and the ethical challenges it poses.

[Thea Koper is a second year student at McGill University majoring in Political Science and Philosophy. She is excited to join the MIR team and is fascinated by the world around her. Thea is interested in comparative politics, as well as medieval political theory, and wishes to continue studying and writing about the complicated issues this world faces.]

Editorial: A new group, a new problem

Editorial from Tempo (Jun 10):  Editorial: A new group, a new problem

A NEW name has appeared in military reports of fighting in Mindanao – Maute Group. The Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines reported the other day that 54 militants identified as members of the Maute Group had been killed in a joint military-police offensive in Lanao del Sur.

For many years the dominant Moro group fighting government forces in Mindanao was the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), itself a splinter group of the Muslim Independence Movement. When the MNLF reached an agreement with the government in 1996, dominating the leadership of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), a group broke away and formed the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

It is this group with which the Aquino administration negotiated for years until they agreed last year on setting up a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to replace the ARMM. The MNLF had no part in the Bangsamoro program and thus remains a problem. One other group – the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) – also distanced itself from the MILF.

There were other fighting groups such as the Abu Sayyaf which came to be known for its hostage-taking activities.

Last week, the media learned of the existence of a new Maute Group, said to be affiliated with the Jemaah Islamiyah of Southeast Asia. These are former MILF guerrillas with some foreign fighters led by Abdullah Maute, alleged founder of an Islamic state in Lanao del Sur called Dawlah Islamiya. The Maute Group is reported trying to link up with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and is often seen carrying the black flag of ISIS.

Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, now mayor of Davao City, is determined to bring peace to his home region of Mindanao as the first step to bringing its economic development to the level of the rest of the country. He has been able to reach out to the Communist rebel group, the New People’s Army.

The Moro groups may pose a different problem. For one thing, they seem to be many different groups with no common loyalty, so that when one rebel group is won over by the government, another one takes its place.

Among all the many problems the incoming Duterte administration faces, peace in Mindanao may be among the most difficult, but the new president has declared his determination to develop Mindanao to the “land of promise” that it has long been known as. He carries the hopes of the entire nation on his shoulders.

Military identifies Abu Sayyaf members who grabbed Malaysian sailors

From the Philippine Star (Jun 9): Military identifies Abu Sayyaf members who grabbed Malaysian sailors

Security forces have identified the Abu Sayyaf members believed to be behind the kidnapping of four Malaysian sailors in April and will include them as targets in military operations.
Maj. Filemon Tan Jr., spokesperson of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), identified Abu Sayyaf sub-leader Madjan Sahidjuan alias Apuh Mike as the leader of the militants that kidnapped Malaysians Wong Teck Chii, Johnny Lau Jung Hien, Wong Teck Kang and Wong Hung Sing.
The victims, who were seized while aboard their tugboat off Pulau, Sandakan on April 1, were confirmed freed last Wednesday after negotiations by unidentified Malaysian and Filipino emissaries.
The military is already coordinating with Malaysian counterparts so the victims can help identify other Abu Sayyaf members who held them captive for more than two months.
Tan said military operations against the Abu Sayyaf are ongoing in Sulu to secure the remaining hostages.
The victims believed to still be in the hands of the Abu Sayyaf group include Samal Island tourists Canadian Robert Hall, Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad and Filipino woman Marites Flor.
Authorities said that aside from the three Samal Island tourists, whose families and governments were given until Monday to pay ransoms for their release, the Abu Sayyaf group is also holding Dutch birdwatcher Elwold Horn, who was abducted from Panglima Sugala, Tawi-Tawi and five local residents.
More soldiers are being deployed to Sulu to help in the operations against the Abu Sayyaf, Westmincom chief Lt. Gen. Mayoralgo dela Cruz said earlier.

Duterte eyes martial law in Sulu, Basilan vs ASG

From InterAksyon (Jun 9): Duterte eyes martial law in Sulu, Basilan vs ASG

Reports reaching Manila indicated that President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is considering the possibility of declaring martial law in Sulu and Basilan with the aim of eliminating the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in line with his election campaign pledge to stomp off criminality and the illegal drug trade.

The Abu Sayyaf has engaged in high-profile abduction of kidnap victims, both locals and foreigners, and resorted to decapitating some of them after ransom demands were not met.

Duterte had said in one of his press conferences that he will not hesitate to "invade Sulu" if the ASG does not surrender.

The ASG in Sulu is still holding about 10 captives for ransom, including Canadian Robert Hall and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad, and Hall's Filipino girlfriend Marites Flor. Just this April, ASG beheaded John Ridsdel, also a Canadian, after his relatives failed to deliver the P300 million demanded for his release.

The ASG set another deadline, June 13, for the relatives of Hall and Sekkingstad to deliver each their P300-million ransom, or else suffer they would suffer the same fate as Ridsdel.

The four were abducted last year by armed men at a resort in the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos) and brought to Sulu.

In a related development, another Army battalion is reported to just have been deployed in Sulu, apparently in preparation for a massive offensive.

A source in the military said the deployment of the 45th Infantry Battalion in Sulu happened last week, coming from the 6th Infantry Division based in Maguindanao.

Presently, there are eight battalions deployed in Sulu, almost the same strength as the forces deployed in Basilan.

During the time of former president and now re-elected Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, martial law was declared in Maguindanao following the massacre in November 2009 of 58 people, 34 of whom were journalists, outside the town of Ampatuan by armed men allegedly identified with the influential clan of the late former governor Andal Ampatuan Sr.

According to another source, who is a high-ranking military officer who requested anonymity because he lacked the authority to speak on the matter, the martial law declaration in Basilan and Sulu will be complimented with the deployment of "at least two divisions" of soldiers.

Earlier, incoming Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff, the Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) chief Lt. Gen. Ricardo Visaya, said part of Duterte's marching orders to him is to eliminate the Abu Sayyaf menace in six months.

Visaya also said he himself suggested to Duterte to form a Presidential Task Force that includes the military to take part in the war against drug syndicates and private armed groups.

Advocates report 'harassment' of lumad schools but military decries 'black propaganda'

From InterAksyon (Jun 9): Advocates report 'harassment' of lumad schools but military decries 'black propaganda'

(UPDATE - 12:45 p.m.) Two lumad schools, one in Compostela Valley, the other in Sultan Kudarat province, suspended classes Tuesday after staff and students were allegedly harassed by soldiers, advocates of indigenous people’s education in Mindanao reported.

But officers of the accused military units promptly denied the claims and decried the "black propaganda" by the Save Our Schools Network to "villify the Armed Forces of the Philippines."

According to an alert from SOS, nine soldiers from the 46th Infantry Battalion led by a sergeant surnamed Fernandez entered the compound of the Salugpongan Community Learning Center in Sitio Kidaraan, Special Barangay Mascareg-Anitapan, Mabinia, Compostela Valley around 7 a.m.

SOS said the three teachers “were threatened” and “forced to sign … their names in a notebook” as their photos were taken by the soldiers.

The class suspension in the school affected 15 students, SOS said.

In a separate alert, SOS said a school coordinator and two health workers of the Center for Lumad Advocacy and Services, or CLANS, who together with village officials were heading to their school for the opening of classes in Sitio Lamgawil, Barangay Datalbiao, Columbio, Sultan Kudarat were barred by soldiers of the 39th Infantry Battalion who “threatened and intimidated them.”

“Even the daughter of the tribe’s chieftain, who was supposed to become a teacher, was discouraged by the soldiers,” SOS said.

The SOS chapter in the Socsargen region responded and “rescued” the educators but classes were temporarily suspended.

Reacting to SOS' claim o the Compostela Valley Incident, 46th IB civil-military operations officer Captain Dave Aguilar, said "there is no truth to the report" and noted that classes have yet to begin. He said the soldiers who went to the school were "part of a team of the Brigada Eskuwela."

He also said their troops "would always seek the permission of the barangay officials" when going to the village and would set up hammocks away from houses, the school, village hall, chapel and other civilian structures.

For his part, Captain Danny Boy Tapang, CMO of the 39th IB, said: “Ang gagaling nilang gumawa ng istorya. Walang pagpigil o harassment na nangyari. Kinausap lamang sila ng ating mga sundalo. Sila nga itong nagalit. Hindi pa nagsisimula ang klase doon (They are good at inventing stories. No one was stopped and no harassment happened. Our soldiers only talked to them. They got angry. Classes have not started yet)."

Both officers said their units would be submitting official reports on the incidents.

Several nongovernmental organizations, including a number run by religious, have built and operated schools for indigenous people’s communities throughout Mindanao that have been deprived of such facilities.

However, these schools have invariably been targeted for harassment and even closure by government security forces and militias who accuse the learning institutions and the communities that host them of advocating support for the communist revolutionary movement.

This has led to the evacuation of whole communities of lumad.

Last year saw one of the worst wave of evacuations.

In early 2015, some 700 Manobo from Davao del Norte and Bukidnon seeking sanctuary at the United Church of Christ Haran Mission House in Davao City, where many remain to this day.

But the worst evacuation followed the September 1, 2015 murders in Lianga, Surigao del Sur of Emerito Samarca, administrator of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, and Manobo leaders Dionel Campos and Datu Bello Sinzo by the Magahat Bagani militia while Army troops looked on from nearby.

The killings prompted thousands of lumad and farmers to seek refuge at the sports center in Surigao del Sur’s capital, Tandag City, where more than 2,000 of them still remain.

As South China Sea Verdict Nears, Washington Must Stand with Manila

From The Diplomat (Jun 9): As South China Sea Verdict Nears, Washington Must Stand with Manila (By Congressman J. Randy Forbes)

As the Permanent Court of Arbitration nears a historic verdict, Washington must stand with Manila.

With tensions rising in the South China Sea, the United States’ alliance with the Philippines may be approaching one of its most important moments in its 65-year history. Over the past few years, the world has watched as China has steadily worked to achieve de facto control of the islands and waters encircled on a map by a “nine-dash line” encompassing the northern two thirds of the sea.  Now, at some point in the weeks ahead, the Permanent Court of Arbitration is expected to rule that China’s expansive claims are illegitimate. Such a ruling could bring tensions between China and the Philippines to a boil, right around the time that a new administration will be coming to power in Manila. In these trying and dynamic circumstances, it will be more important than ever that the United States and the Philippines stand shoulder-to-shoulder to deter escalation and aggression.

The good news is that the U.S.-Philippine alliance is stronger today than any point since the Cold War and on a trajectory to grow stronger still. Over the past 15 years, shared concerns about terrorism, natural disasters, and China’s growing power and aggressive behavior have drawn us back together.  Today, 71 percent of Filipinos support a stronger U.S. military presence in Asia—the highest percentage of any country in the region.  In 2014, our two countries signed a landmark Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) authorizing U.S. military forces to operate at a number of “agreed locations” throughout the country.  Last year, Congress authorized a new Southeast Asia Maritime Security Initiative that will enable the United States to partner with the Philippines and other countries in the region to improve their maritime security.

These trends are all encouraging. But while the U.S.-Philippine alliance has been gaining strength, so has China.  Over the past two decades, Beijing has been steadily improving its ability to project power into the South China Sea and wage a campaign of “gray zone” paramilitary aggression with its Coast Guard and maritime militia.  Since 2012, the Chinese Coast Guard has effectively occupied the Scarborough Shoal, a small shoal off the main Filipino island of Luzon that China claims as its own, and begun construction of artificial island outposts atop disputed features.  So far, the Philippines’ response to the occupation of Scarborough Shoal, China’s reclamation efforts, and the frequent harassment of its fishermen has been laudably measured: avoiding violent confrontations and appealing instead to international law and the Permanent Court of Arbitration.

Now, with international arbitrators expected to rule in the Philippines’ favor, our ally may face another uptick in Chinese aggression. According to close watchers of the South China Sea, Beijing’s next move may be to declare an “air defense identification zone” (ADIZ) over the South China Sea and enforce it with military aircraft and surface-to-air missile systems based on China’s artificial island outposts. Beijing could also begin building another artificial island base atop Scarborough Shoal, just over 200 miles from Manila. China could also increase the frequency with which it harasses and interdicts Filipino and other nations’ shipping inside its expansive nine-dash line.

To deter China from taking any of these destabilizing steps, the United States and the Philippines will need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the weeks and months ahead.  The two countries signed the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty “so that no potential aggressor could be under the illusion that either of them stands alone in the Pacific.”
Secretary Carter was right to declare in April that our commitment to the security of the Philippines remains “ironclad.”  But to deter aggression in the South China Sea, we should also make clear that—as stated in the treaty—both parties are bound to respond to attacks on the “armed forces, public vessels or aircraft” of the other party, as well as “island territories under its jurisdiction.”  To have maximum impact, these words should be backed in the near term by the continuous presence of U.S. naval forces and, in the longer term, by continuing efforts to build up the Philippines’ defensive capabilities, offset China’s military growth, and maintain a stable balance of military power in the region.

Might does not make right, but it can also be used to deter threats to peace, prosperity, and the rule of law.  While the United States should not take sides in territorial disputes, it should support those parties that are pursuing peaceful resolution. The Philippines is one such party, and its alliance with the United States is an exemplary link in what Secretary Carter recently called a “principled security network” in the Asia-Pacific region.  That link was forged 65 years ago, but by adhering to our shared principles in the trying weeks ahead, the United States and the Philippines can prove that it remains strong.

[Congressman J. Randy Forbes (R-Virginia) is the Co-Chairman of the Congressional China Caucus and Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower & Projection Forces Subcommittee.]

Sison: Duterte just, reasonable; peace talks with him to succeed

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 9): Sison: Duterte just, reasonable; peace talks with him to succeed
Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. FILE PHOTOS

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. FILE PHOTOS

Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison is confident that communist rebel and Philippine government negotiators can hurdle problems in the peace negotiations with Rodrigo Duterte as President of the Philippines.

Sison, the chief political consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), described Duterte as “just” and “reasonable.” He has been known to listen, Sison said.

“There should never be any problem in the peace process that we cannot discuss and fix promptly, directly or through emissaries. We have the necessary degree of rapport to exchange views and come to an agreement quickly in order to bring the peace process to a successful and happy conclusion,” Sison said in a written statement distributed during the “Pakighinabi (Dialogue)” forum at the Ateneo de Davao University here on Wednesday.

The communist leader said Duterte was his student in political thought and that the President-elect was once a member of the militant organization Kabataang Makabayan, which he founded.

“I am proud of having some part in the development of President Duterte as a political activist and leader,” Sison said.

Speaking highly of his former student, Sison remarked that Duterte might be rash in his statements but he has been consistently pro-poor and pro-people.

“President Duterte is known to spontaneously make abrupt or sometimes tentative statements, especially in the economic field. But he is also known, especially by those who know him enough, to listen to what is just and reasonable and is capable of changing or adjusting a previous position. He is said to be never deliberately unjust and unreasonable,” Sison said.

Sison added that Duterte “has long demonstrated that he has the strength of character, the political will and determination to engage the revolutionary forces and what is good for the people.”

“He is not afraid of denouncing foreign interlopers and the oligarchs and describing himself as a socialist and as the first Left president of the Philippines,” Sison remarked.

Duterte’s statement about his willingness to open a coalition government with the NDF “has encouraged” them to consider its probability, Sison said.

“I make these comments in the hope that his anti-imperialist, democratic and socialist intentions and reflexes will allow him to understand that even within the International Monetary Fund there is now growing criticism of neoliberal economic policy for exacerbating inequality and economic stagnation,” Sison said.

“I believe that as truce and alliance or cooperation advances in our relations he will grasp fully the requirements of national industrialization and general land reform,” he added.

For the peace process to succeed, mutual determination from both the government and the NDFP is the most crucial factor, Sison noted.

“Since President Duterte is a professed socialist, it should be easy for him to agree to the bourgeois democratic reforms that the NDFP is proposing for uplifting the social conditions and lives of the Filipino people,” Sison said.

Bones?’ | Accused NDFP consultants question Leyte mass grave evidence

From the pro-Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front online propaganda publication Bulatlat (Jun 9): Bones?’ | Accused NDFP consultants question Leyte mass grave evidence

“These may be pieces of evidence, but not bone fragments.”

Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace negotiations with the government, attend the pre-trial hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Aug. 11. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/

Wilma Austria and Benito Tiamzon, consultants of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its peace negotiations with the government, attend the pre-trial hearing at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Aug. 11. (Photo by Ronalyn V. Olea/

Lawyers of the accused peace consultants and progressive activists charged with multiple murder in relation to the purported Leyte mass grave expressed “irregularities” in the skulls and bone fragments presented as evidence before a Manila Trial court today, June 8.

Prosecution witness Pol. Supt. Herardo Hermosilla took the witness stand for the second time to identify the supposed bones kept under custody of the Philippine National Police Crime Laboratory. Hermosilla led the team that exhumed the alleged mass grave in 2006.

Defense lawyers, however, doubted the prosecutors’ claim about the skulls and fragments of bones from the alleged mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte.

“These may be pieces of evidence, but not bone fragments,” said lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr., counsel for accused National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Vicente Ladlad.

He added that the “bones” presented may not belong to a human but perhaps to an animal. He jested it may even belong to a baby dinosaur.

Francisco argued before the court that there appears to be “drill holes and rectangular, neatly-cut holes” in the presented bones.

Ephraim Cortez, National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers assistant secretary general for legal services, said that some of the presented evidence had no “case identifier number,” which witness Hermosilla earlier said was used to identify the bones.

Cortez also noted that some that some fragments of alleged bones were not individually tagged and bore no signatures or initials of the person who collected it from the alleged mass grave.

“It is a requirement in crime scene investigation that evidence must be individually tagged,” Francisco said, noting that it would have been very easy to individually tag the supposed bone fragments.

Ladlad and other NDFP peace consultants and known progressive activists have assailed that the charges were instigated by the now defunct Interagency Legal Action Group (IALAG) and is being continued as part of the counterinsurgency program to silence government critics.

At least 54 persons are accused in the same multiple murder case, including exiled Prof. Jose Maria Sison, NDFP peace consultants Benito Tiamzon, Wilma Austria, Randall Echanis, Rafael Baylosis, Eduardo Sarmiento, Jaime Soledad and Makabayan coalition chair and former lawmaker Satur Ocampo. Missing NDFP consultants Leo Velasco and Prudencio Calubid are also among the accused, as well as John and Jane Does.

There are currently 541 political prisoners in the country. Human rights group Karapatan said more than half were arrested and detained under outgoing President Benigno S. Aquino III.

Next hearing is set on Aug. 10 and 11.

‘Revolutionary tax reasonable’ – NDFP spokesman

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jun 8): ‘Revolutionary tax reasonable’ – NDFP spokesman

Fidel Agcaoili, (right) the spokesman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Fr. Joel Tabora SJ., talk about the prospects for peace between the Philippine government and the New People's Army on June 8, 2016, in Davao City.  (Photo by KARLOS MANLUPIG, INQUIRER MINDANAO

Fidel Agcaoili, (right) the spokesman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and Fr. Joel Tabora SJ., talk about the prospects for peace between the Philippine government and the New People’s Army on June 8, 2016, in Davao City. (Photo by KARLOS MANLUPIG, INQUIRER MINDANAO

The practice of revolutionary taxation by the communist movement is reasonable, according to Fidel Agcaoili, spokesman of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines peace panel, which is negotiating with the Philippine government to end their 40-year-old insurgency.

Agcoaili on Wednesday said taxation has always been a component of the revolutionary movement, most especially in delivering services to its constituents.

“That is why we are a revolutionary movement. We wish to win the revolution to establish a state,” Agcaoili said.

“You have to understand that the revolutionary movement has its revolutionary organs. Any state has the right to enforce tax,” Agcaoili added.

Agcaoili, however, asserted that the collected tax has always been delivered to their communities.

“It does not go to the pockets of a few people like those in government. It is used in establishing schools, cooperatives and medical services,” he said.

Agcaoili added that the issue of revolutionary taxation would be discussed in the peace negotiations.

Rescued? 'Kidnappers released us,' says MSU student

From Rappler (Jun 9): Rescued? 'Kidnappers released us,' says MSU student

One of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology students who surfaced on Monday deny reports law enforcers rescued them from kidnappers

One of the Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology (MSU-IIT) students who surfaced on Monday after being kidnapped over the weekend denied reports that they were rescued by law enforcers.

Juhari Gubat, 18, told the school’s Office of Publication and Information (OPI) on Thursday, June 9, that he, together with former MSU-IIT student Hannah Yurong and non-MSU-IIT students Kevin Limpin and Eloisa Lacson, were released by their captors on Monday at dawn.
Their two other companions – Berzon Paeste, a 4th year AB History student from Zamboanga del Sur; and Cid Rick Jamias, a 5th year BS Electronics and Communication student from Tacurong City – remain in captivity.
Gubat claimed that the kidnappers even gave them P200 for fare money. He also denied that they were forcibly taken into a vehicle on Saturday night, as reported in social media.
Recounting the experience
MISSING STUDENTS. MSU students Berzon Rey Paeste and Cid Rick Jamias remain with their captors. Photo from Iligan Institue of Technology of the Mindanao State of University Facebook page
MISSING STUDENTS. MSU students Berzon Rey Paeste and Cid Rick Jamias remain with their captors. Photo from Iligan Institue of Technology of the Mindanao State of University Facebook page

On Saturday, the 4 students were with Jamias and Paeste in a white Toyota Revo with plate number KGJ 661, driven by a certain “Moamar." during the incident. The vehicle’s plate number is believed to be fake or stolen as authorities reportedly traced this to a multicab in Cagayan de Oro City.
Gubat clarified that he only met “Moamar” on Saturday at around 4 pm. He said that “Moamar” introduced himself as a cousin and asked for his phone number. The student said “Moamar” had curly hair and stood around 5 feet and 3 inches tall, and is in his 30s.
Later that evening, “Moamar” called Gubat on his mobile phone and asked if he, together with Paeste and Jamias, wanted to hang out. At the same time, Paeste got a call from Lacson asking if they wanted to meet up at the Caltex Gas Station in Tibanga town in Lanao del Norte.
Gubat, Paeste, and Jamias then allowed “Moamar” to pick them up at their dormitory.
While they were at Caltex Tibanga, Jamias decided to leave for the bus station so that he could go to the town of Maranding, Lanao del Norte, but Moamar offered to drive for him. The rest followed and rode along in the vehicle. 
While the group was on their way to Maranding, 6 armed men obstructed their vehicle along a dark stretch of road in Barangay Buru-un near Timoga Spring Pools. 
“The men had ball caps on and were wearing their backpacks in front. They pointed .45 caliber pistols at us, and ordered us to open the doors,” Gubat narrated. The men then boarded the vehicle later and blindfolded them, he added. 
When their blindfolds were removed, Gubat said that he and his companions saw the name of Panga Elementary School, which is located in Munai, Lanao del Norte.
“They were very scary-looking, and they were insisting that my companions and I were into drugs,” the student said. Some of the armed men looked 18 to 19 years older than him, according to Gubat.
After two hours of being blindfolded, the group were ordered to get off the vehicle to walk along a muddy, uphill place, and were separated.
Gubat and 3 others were brought to a house that was allegedly owned by the driver "Moamar." Each one was interviewed by the abductors and asked about their parents’ occupations.
Jamias and Paeste were brought to a different place, Gubat said.
Campus security
The OPI held a press conference at the MSU-IIT Boardroom on Wednesday, June 8, and invited members of the local press through the local Philippine Information Agency (PIA).
MSU-IIT security chief Eduardito Maruhom briefed the media about recent developments and the combined efforts of the Armed Forces' 2nd Mechanized Brigade forces, the Philippine National Police, and the National Bureau of Investigation in rescuing the MSU-IIT students Jamias and Paeste who still held by the kidnappers. 
Chancellor Dr Sukarno Tanggol reiterated his concern over the safety of the two students, “We should do more and, with concerted effort, put an end to criminality. Our problems are gargantuan.”
He also told the media that the institute’s security measures on campus have been solidified.
Maruhom is closely monitoring the situation and said he is hopeful that the remaining captives will be released soon by the kidnappers.
Tanggol restated that campus security is stringent and, despite the fact that the kidnapping happened off campus, he still wants them, as MSU-IIT students, to be returned safely.

NDF spokesman: Joma Sison return ‘ticklish issue’

From Rappler (Jun 9): NDF spokesman: Joma Sison return ‘ticklish issue’

Fidel Agcaoili, spokesman of the NDF, says the US might act as a 'spoiler' in Sison's plan to return home

COMING HOME? The founding chairman of the CPP in his office in Utrecht, Netherlands. Screenshot from

COMING HOME? The founding chairman of the CPP in his office in Utrecht, Netherlands. Screenshot from

Hope springs eternal for peace between the government and the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) under a Rodrigo Duterte administration, but the return of its leader, Jose Maria “Joma” Sison won’t exactly be a walk in the park.

“Joma's coming home is a very ticklish issue,” admitted National Democratic Front (NDF) spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili in a press conference here on Wednesday, June 8.

Agcaoili flew into Davao City on Tuesday, June 7, to meet with President-elect Duterte and headline a forum hosted by the Ateneo de Davao University. The NDF is set to hold “preliminary” talks with representatives of the incoming administration next week, a precursor to the resumption of formal talks between the Philippine government and Asia’s longest-running insurgency. (READ: Roxas ally joins panel in informal talks with communists)

Sison had earlier expressed hopes that his nearly 3 decades of living in exile in The Netherlands would end as early as July 2016, once Duterte is sworn into office. (READ: Joma Sison hopes to end exile under Duterte)

"I want to visit (Manila) in July or August to hold serious talks with President Duterte," Sison said early June.

But Agcaoili pointed out the “problem” that is the United States, which recently reaffirmed its inclusion of the CPP’s armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), in its list of foreign terrorist organizations.

“First of all, the US has again come up with a statement that they have put the CPP and the NPA in the terrorist list. That really supposes a problem,” added Agcaoili.

To return to the Philippines, Sison would have to make stopovers in different countries, said Agcaoili.

At kung mag spoiler itong US (If the US proves to be a spoiler), through its control of interpol, they might present a warrant sa kanya sa (in) Taipei. Then everything is kaput. So there's a very... it's an issue that would have to be discussed seriously,” he added.

Agcaoili added: “There has to be some guarantees from the Dutch government, the Norwegian government, including the US government to respect the sovereignty of the Filipino people in their desire to pursue a just and lasting peace. To allow Professor Sison to come home without interference. I don't know if the US will agree to that... it has always been a bullying agent, right?”

The NDF is the political arm of the CPP. Under the Aquino government, the party's chief, Benito Tiamzon, and wife Wilma were arrested in Cebu in 2014. It is expected that the NDF will demand for the release of the couple and other political prisoners. (READ: Benito Tiamzon: Writer, organizer, party man)

The Aquino government also tried to talk peace with the NDF, but negotiations bogged down repeatedly.

Sison and Duterte have personal ties.

Sison was once Duterte’s teacher in Lyceum. The incoming president, who has described himself as a “leftist,” earlier offered 4 Cabinet posts to left-leaning activists: Department of Agrarian Reform, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and the Department of Labor and Employment.

He later backtracked on the offer to allow a left-leaning official to head the DENR, citing issues about mining in the country. Recently, during a thanksgiving party held here, Duterte himself warned against irresponsible mining, telling mining firms to “shape up.”

'Interim ceasefire' in agenda of June 14 Oslo talks - NDFP, GPH negotiators

Posted to InterAksyon (Jun 9): 'Interim ceasefire' in agenda of June 14 Oslo talks - NDFP, GPH negotiators

The negotiating panels of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the incoming government confirmed that an interim mutual ceasefire agreement is on the agenda when both parties hold preliminary talks in Oslo starting June 14.

NDFP negotiating panel chairperson Luis Jalandoni said that their group is now finalizing its draft interim ceasefire agreement with the incoming Rodrigo Duterte government.

“The purpose (of the meeting) is to prepare for the formal resumption of GPH-NDFP peace talks by agreeing on drafts on general amnesty proclamation, interim mutual ceasefire, and agreement to resume formal peace talks in July,” Jalandoni said.

Jalandoni added that the resumption of formal talks is with respect for and compliance with past peace agreements such as The Hague Joint Declaration, Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees and the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law.

Incoming government negotiating panel chairperson Silvestre Bello III confirmed that a ceasefire agreement would be discussed.

“That will be the issue we will try to address and resolve in our exploratory meeting with them (NDFP) in Oslo come June 14 to 16,” Bello said.

Incoming presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza and negotiating panel member Hernani Braganza will join Bello to Oslo.

The last interim ceasefire and general amnesty agreements between the GPH and NDFP happened during the 1986 revolutionary government of Corazon Aquino when it assumed power after the first People Power uprising.

Accelerated pace

Jalandoni acknowledges president-elect Duterte’s statements to declare such general amnesty and resume formal peace talks with the NDFP for the developments even before he is sworn to office on June 30.

“The combination of mutual interim ceasefire, the general amnesty for all political prisoners and the resumption of formal peace negotiations with agreement to respect past agreements will be a powerful impetus to move the peace negotiations forward at an accelerated pace towards achieving national unity and a just and lasting peace,” Jalandoni said.

“We are confident that these will be agreed upon by both negotiating panels,” he added.

Jalandoni said that faster negotiations shall be favorable in reaching agreements on the three remaining substantial issues listed in The Hague Joint Declaration, such as social and economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, and end of hostilities and disposition of forces.

Jalandoni, 22-year chief NDFP chief negotiator, said the Filipino people shall benefit if the peace talks agree on the remaining issues.

“They will be able to develop tremendously to achieve self-reliance in making use of all their potential, make use of the rich natural and human resources, and win national and social liberation,” Jalandoni said.

Difficulty in facilitating Sison’s return seen

From MindaNews (Jun 8): Difficulty in facilitating Sison’s return seen

There might be some difficulties in facilitating the return of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Maria Sison in the country to talk peace with the incoming Duterte administration after the United States government placed the CPP-New Peoples’ Army in the terrorist list.

In a press conference during the “When Blue Meets Red: A Conversation on GPH-NDFP Peace Process” at the Ateneo de Davao University on Wednesday, National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili said that Sison’s return to the country remains to be “a very ticklish issue” and needs an assurance from the Dutch, Norwegian, and even US government they will not interfere in a way that will result to the derailment of the peace negotiations.

“There should be a guarantee from the Dutch government, Norwegian government, and the US government to respect the sovereignty of the Filipino people in their desire to pursue a just and lasting peace by allowing Sison to come home without interference,” he said.

Agcaoili said that including the CPP-NPA in the terrorist watch list of the US government poses a “real problem” because Sison could be arrested at a foreign airport where he would take the flight to the Philippines, which might “adversely affect the peace negotiations” between the two parties.

“Maapektuhan kung tayo nag-uusap para sa kalayaan bigla mong kukunin ang aking kaibigan, bakit hindi maapektuhan ang ating pakikipag-usap? Pwede ba yun? Papayagan kita na kunin mo yung kaibigan ko habang nag-uusap tayo? Hindi naman pwede yan,” Agcaoili said.

There’s no direct flight from Holland in The Netherlands to the Philippines, Agcaoili noted, adding that Sison will have to fly to the country via an international airport in Taipei.

“The travel from Holland to Manila, no direct flight. And Professor Sison will have to pass by Taipei. Kung mag-spoiler ang US, through its Interpol, they might present a warrant against sa kanya sa Taipei,” he said.

Incoming Presidential Adviser on Peace Process chair Jesus Dureza told reporters Wednesday that he has no knowledge about the US government’s inclusion of the CPP-NPA in its terrorist watchlist but he vowed to deal with it when both parties return on the peace table.

“I will not speculate. Unya na if naa na sa among table. (We will take it up later when we return to the peace table.) We will deal with it. It has not come to my personal knowledge officially or unofficially. I was not able to listen to Fidel,” he said.

Agcaoili said he had three meetings with President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte where they discussed, among others, the possibility of Duterte sending his emissary to meet with Sison, release of political prisoners through general amnesty, and discussion about the NDFP’s recommendations to his cabinet.

“The first one was about the possibility of him and Sison meeting abroad because he said that he will see the Pope and on his way back, he would like to pass by The Netherlands to meet Professor Sison. But he said that would not be possible because he is not yet proclaimed,” he said.

Agcaoili claimed the current Aquino administration failed to attain peace with the CPP-NPA-NDFP and continue to launch attacks against them through the Oplan Bayanihan of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

“Hindi ba pwedeng sabihin kay Aquino na hintuin nya muna ang Oplan Bayanihan. I-withdraw nya muna ang mga troops kaso this current administration tuloy tuloy eh, so tuluy tuloy lang din ang laban,” he said.

In a press briefer, the NDFP said: “The CPP, and its armed wing NPA, and the NDFP have waged an armed struggle against the GPH for the 47 years. The armed struggle intensified during the harsh years of martial law (1972 to 1986), a period that saw the expansion of the CPP-NPA-NDF Forces from Luzon to the entire country.”

“In December 2010, undet the PNoy administration, new initiatives for the peace talks resulted in an agreement to resume negotiations in February 2011. Several meetings were conducted; however, the negotiations came to halt when the NDFP demanded the release of its consultants who were allegedly illegally arrested by the government, in violation of their agreement about immunity guarantees,” it said.

Photo: Terror group?

From Mindanews (Jun 9): Photo: Terror group?


National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) negotiating panel spokesperson Fidel Agcaoili, during a press conference at the Ateneo de Davao on Wednesday (8 June 2016), said that Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founding chair Jose Ma. Sison’s return to the country remains “a very ticklish issue” with the United States government’s recent move to once again include the CPP-NPA in its list of terror groups. MindaNews photo by Antonio L. Colina IV

Malaysian peacekeepers visit Sulu

From the Mindanao Examiner (Jun 9): Malaysian peacekeepers visit Sulu

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Members of the Malaysia-led the International (Ceasefire) Monitoring Team (IMT) headed by Col. Mohammad Zaki bin Abu meet with Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan and Vice Gov. Sakur Tan in Patikul town on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Ahl-franzie Salinas)
Members of the Malaysia-led the International (Ceasefire) Monitoring Team (IMT) headed by Col. Mohammad Zaki bin Abu meet with Sulu Gov. Totoh Tan and Vice Gov. Sakur Tan in Patikul town on Thursday, June 9, 2016. (Ahl-franzie Salinas)

SULU – Malaysian peacekeepers deployed in southern Philippines have travelled to the southern province of Sulu on Thursday and met with local government leaders as part of a goodwill visit.

The group, led by Col. Mohammad Zaki bin Abu, of the International (Ceasefire) Monitoring Team (IMT) 3, spoke with Sulu Gov. Toto Tan and his father, Sakur, who is the vice governor, and thanked them for the warm hospitality and support to the peace process which Malaysia is brokering between the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Gov. Tan renewed his support to the peace process and praised Malaysia and other member countries in the IMT for their commitment to bring peace in southern Philippines.

The team leader was also accompanied by Badli Hisham Bin Adam, also from Malaysia; and Khairul Rizal bin Mohammad Ali, of the Brunei Army, and Filipino counterparts Lt. Col. Abdurasad Sirajan and Sgt. Kaidar Dugasan.

The visiting military officials also exchanged tokens with the governors and vice governors, respectively, and later visited the Rajah Baguinda Shrine in Bud Datu in Indanan town.

The shrine was erected in memory of the Arab religious missionary from Sumatra who arrived in southern in 1390. Sulu celebrates Rajah Baguinda Festival every 2nd week of August and is often marked with three days of cultural shows to commemorate the contribution the missioner in the rich history of the province.

Last year, IMT members 10 headed by Maj. Gen. Datu Sheik Mouhsin bin Sheikh Hassan, of the Malaysian Army, also visited Sulu and paid their respect and courtesy to Vice Gov. Tan.

Among those in the group of the Malaysian general were Col. Mohammad Radzi bin Abdulhamid (Malaysian Army), Col. Wan Amir Zaki bin Wan Hassan (Malaysian Air Force), Maj. Baharuddin (Indonesia Army), Supt. Azhar bin Sepawi (Royal Malaysian Police), Deputy Supt. Mohammad Hafidz bin Abubakar (Royal Malaysian Police),  Capt. Mohammad Azman bin Hadji Kamaruddin (Royal Malaysian Police) and Sgt. Kamaruddin bin Yusof (Malaysian Army).

The visiting soldiers also toured the local museum and were impressed by the colorful and rich history between Sulu and Malaysia during the reign of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo.