Thursday, July 28, 2016

US troops to have 'persistent, intermittent' presence in Philippines

From the Philippine Star (Jul 28): US troops to have 'persistent, intermittent' presence in Philippines

EDCA, which was signed by the Philippines and the US on April 28, 2014, allows American troops to pre-position defense assets in Philippine bases. File photo

As the United States and the Philippines move forward with the implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, US Ambassador Philip Goldberg said that American troops' activities will be "persistent but kind of intermittent."

The Philippines had earlier identified five military bases where US troops and supplied can be stationed under the EDCA. which the Supreme Court has ruled with finality as constitutional on Tuesday.

In an interview on ANC's "Headstart" on Thursday morning, Goldberg said that the US troops will preposition supplies for humanitarian assistance and bring in rotational forces and equipment in all of the five military bases.

"It won't be permanent," Goldberg said, adding that US aircraft will also be stationed in the bases at some point.

Goldberg stressed that the EDCA is not aimed at China despite the dispute over the South China Sea.

"People should understand that EDCA, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, should not be seen in light of the South China Sea dispute but rather in terms of our mutual security relationship," the US envoy said.

The US envoy noted that the sea dispute should be resolved in a diplomatic and legal fashion following the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines's case against China.
Last week, Goldberg and the US Congressional delegation visited the Antonio Bautista air base in Palawan to inspect the site for future construction of military facilities.

"We have military construction funds which have not been yet appropriated which was why the Congressional delegation was here looking at some of the sites because they're responsible for appropriation of that money and they were impressed with the agreement," Goldberg said, referring to the EDCA.

Goldberg added that the US is also supporting the country's law enforcement community and its fight against illegal drugs.

In his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañan on Wednesday, Kerry discussed Washington's support for law enforcement activities. The US has committed $32 million to support the new administration's law enforcement efforts.

MILF: “We will reciprocate with honor and vigor”: Mus Sema

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (Jul 27): “We will reciprocate with honor and vigor”: Mus Sema

Reacting to President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement on putting closure to the Bangsamoro Question during his First State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday (July 25), former Cotabato City Vice Mayor and Chairman of the MNLF-Council of 15 said that, “There is a possibility that he (Duterte) would be the last president we are to negotiate with. We are inspired by his being positive on the peace process and for that we will reciprocate with honor and vigor”.

Sema’s group is the largest among the four factions of the MNLF and the only one that signed a unified declaration with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

 “It is easier to solve the Mindanao problem now while the moderate, older Moro leaders are still alive. The next generation of Moro leaders will surely be radical and dealing with them might be tediously difficult,” Sema said as quoted by Philstar..
Ghazali Jaafar, 1st Vice Chairman of the MILF said they are certain Duterte would keep his pledge to abide by all agreements between Malacañan and Moro groups, Philstar said in its report.

Jaafar said their trust in Duterte is bolstered by his being from Davao City and his having Maranaw and lumad ancestry.

“No one will understand better the Moro issue but a Mindanaoan,” Jaafar said.
Addressing on Friday (July 22) the 6th Infantry Division Headquarters at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, Pres. Duterte said that “In pursuit of peace, he was ready to give the MILF the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), (but) minus the contentious provisions that are deemed unconstitutional.

He also lauded Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, Chair of the MILF for pursuing peace talks with the government.

Meanwhile, Mohagher Iqbal, MILF Chief Negotiator emphasized during the launching of the book entitled “Mindanao: The Long Journey to Peace and prosperity” in Makati last July 19, “That the MILF will always be guided by protocols and mechanisms established by signed agreements”.

“The continuity of the peace process will, in great respect, proceed along lines already mutually agreed upon, most essentially those stipulated in the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)”, Iqbal said.

Iqbal said Duterte administration has yet to engage formally with the MILF in the continuation of the peace process.

MILF: MILF Da’wah & Masajid Affairs Committee holds 1st Commencement Exercises

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 28): MILF Da’wah & Masajid Affairs Committee holds 1st Commencement Exercises

About 1,903 members of the Committee on Da’wah and Masajid (mosque) Affairs of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held their 1st Commencement Exercises on Tuesday, July 26 at Camp Darapanan in Sultan Kudarat town, Maguindanao.

The Chair of the Committee on Da’wah and Mosque Affairs congratulated the Human Resource Development Sub-Committee for the success of the program.

“This is a great grace bestowed upon you by Almighty Allah and you should perform your duty to remind our people about the teachings of Islam,” he said.

MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, 2nd vice Chair Sheikh Pangalian Solaiman, MILF Peace Panel Chair Mohagher Iqbal, BIAF Chief of Staff Sammy Al-Mansour, and the Vice Chair of Committee on Da’wah & Mosque Affairs and other members of the Central Committee graced the event to show their full support.

Chairman Murad hailed the graduates for their struggle and sacrifices that took them about four years just to complete the special class spearheaded by the Committee on Da’wah & Mosque Affairs.

“In behalf of the MILF leadership, we are proud to congratulate all of you for this very historic day,” Murad said.

He also emphasized that this is a significant tool to push forward the MILF-led struggle.

“This commencement exercises only means a signal for us to start and do our duties and responsibilities,” Chairman Al Haj Murad said.

For his part, Chairman Iqbal gave a briefing on the current status of the peace process. He reminded the audience on the guidelines of MILF-led struggle written by the late Amir Sheikh Salamat Hashim that the ultimate objective is “to make the words of Allah supreme.”

“Whether there is a Bangsamoro Government or none, we must struggle in order to attain that objective,” Iqbal said.

The four-year special class program started in 2012 at Camp Darapanan. The 2,000 graduates came from 48 political provincial committees of the MILF.

The program ended with the reading of Oath of Allegiance (Bay’ah) to the leadership of MILF under Al Haj Murad Ebrahim.

MILF: Bangsamoro Quest for Peace Campus Tour launched in Baguio City

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 28): Bangsamoro Quest for Peace Campus Tour launched in Baguio City

“What is your stand as member of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission on President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to shift to Federalism, and what will happen to the MNLF Final Peace Agreement?” asked by one of the viewers of documentary film-showing on the Bangsamoro History and Struggle during the open forum Q&A, held recently at SM Cinema in Baguio City.

“President Duterte's proposal to shift to Federalism is still a long way to go. It will take time in terms of process and substance. They will still be looking and studying the different models and experiences of other countries.

That is why we are pushing for the passage of Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) first before shifting to federalism so that the BBL shall become a model or template for other regions if it succeeds.

The MNLF Final Peace Agreement and MILF Comprehensive Agreement for the Bangsamoro  (CAB) must stand on its own merits as agreements signed between the government and the two Moro Fronts. CAB-based BBL is already clear about the relationship between the Central Government and the would-be Bangsamoro Government especially on power and wealth sharing schemes. And to make it more substantive and powerful in terms of power and territories, some salient provisions of MNLF Final Peace Agreement shall be included into the BBL that maybe enacted by congress.

Now, it is already ready-made to be passed and ratified, and its implementation would showcase its workability as credible reality to convince the whole country to push Federalism,” Prof. Alih Sakaluran Aiyub explained.

This is Asia Foundation’s peace advocacy project believing that “Political Support and Confidence in Peace Negotiations: By strengthening confidence in the peace process among influential constituencies, and supporting the emergence of an ‘inclusive enough coalition’ of powerful actors who will actively support a peace agreement, the Foundation can contribute towards the outcome of the negotiations being widely accepted by the public, implemented by government, and respected by armed groups.”

This project under the UK’s Department for International Development – Program Partnership Agreement that supports the peace process in Mindanao is set to sponsor, in partnership with K.A.K. Productions, a documentary film on the Bangsamoro history and struggle is expected to be shown in twelve major cities in Luzon and the Visayas from July to December 2016.

The objective of the documentary film Campus Tour Roadshow presentation is to reach out to various sectors outside of Mindanao and popularize the often misunderstood Bangsamoro struggle for peace.

Specifically, this roadshow film presentation targets student leaders, school administrators, faculty and staff, and selected community leaders, and the area Representatives to Congress in the identified twelve cities.

As designed, the documentary film presentation will be followed with an open forum where the audience will be encouraged to raise questions and comments on the film’s message and issues pertaining to the Mindanao conflict and peace process.

Prior to the actual roadshow, to prepare for this, The Asia Foundation, together with their project partner K.A.K Productions, held a brainstorming workshop on how to respond to the possible questions and comments that will be raised during the post-screening open forum, recently in Manila participated by peace advocates and professors mostly from the academia.

The output of the brainstorming session would come in the form of an “Experts Guide” as an accompanying document in response to possible questions and comments about the film, with the following tasks, 1) Develop an Expert’s Guide with Frequently Ask Questions on the Bangsamoro history and struggle, and 2) Formation of Experts Pool to be the resource persons for FAQs.

This first Campus Tour roadshow in Baguio City was participated by more or less 500 viewers—student leaders, school administrators, faculty staff, and selected community leaders, and the area Representatives to Congress, with Dr. Susana Salvador Anayatin representing the Christian Community, and Prof. Alih Sakaluran Aiyub representing the BTC as the open forum’s Q&A resource persons (who are part of the Experts’ Pool) to answer clarificatory questions vis-à-vis the Bangsamoro history and struggle, and the peace process.

Due to the documentary film’s quality, clear and precise explanations about the Bangsamoro history and struggle, and the peace process, most of the questions raised by the viewers were more focused on the peace process and ways forward on how to achieve a just and lasting peace in Mindanao during the open forum, according to Prof. Aiyub.

“How would you ensure inclusivity of governance especially for the Christians and Indigenous Peoples?”, asked a university professor.

“I am a Christian. I support the peace process and the rights of the Bangsamoro for self-determination. Because I have lived with them, I know their sufferings, their grievances and their aspirations for peace and development. And as Christians and IPs we have suffered too from the wars. I am convinced after I have participated in the series of peace consultations for the crafting of the BBL, and have read and understood the substance of the BBL drafted by BTC to be inclusive and for the common good of all.

 In fact, there are provisions, among others, that provide reserved seats for IPs and other sectors in the Bangsamoro Parliament,” Dr. Susana Salvador Anayatin explained.
Some raised the concern by saying, “What and how can we help?”

“We told them, let us work together to explain to our respective communities about the Bangsamoro history and struggle, and the peace process for understanding and appreciation of their legitimate right to self-determination as expressed in the CAB and to be operationalized through the BBL for its Autonomous Regional Government to replace the present Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is considered a failed experiment by former President Benigno Aquino, that would directly benefit the people in Mindanao, and the whole country because money spent in military operations would be now channelled to development and infrastructures for the country,” Prof. Aiyub emphasized.

MILF: MILF complains of AFP truce violations

Posted to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front Website (Jul 29): MILF complains of AFP truce violations

The MILF is set to file a protest against the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) over the latter’s apparent incursion on Thursday (July 28) into a previously recognized and marked territory of the former in Brgy. Pikeg of Datu Saudi Ampatuan Municipality in Maguindanao Province.

Through its Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH), the MILF intends to raise out the violations committed by soldiers belonging to the 601st Brigade and 1st Mechanized Brigade when they opened fire on the sentries manning the perimeter defense of MILF Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) 118th Base Commander Hadji Wahid Tundok in the said area.

A heavy gunfight began at early morning of Thursday and lasted up to late afternoon after the International Monitoring Team (IMT) and the Joint CCCHs were able to agree to a ceasefire.

A day earlier, the house of an uncle of Tundok located in said MILF territory was hit by a B90 ammunition.

The AFP has launched military offensives against the breakaway Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) since July 20 in what is now known as the SPMS box, referring to the straddling municipalities of Salibo, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Saudi Ampatuan.

On July 18, a coordination meeting was held between the ceasefire mechanisms and AFP at the IMT headquarters in Cotabato City wherein it was agreed, among others, that the there would be no repositioning of MILF BIAF and that should the BIFF proceed to locations close to MILF positions or seek refuge close to MILF communities, then the AFP must coordinate with the MILF and the coordinating body first before pursuing the BIFF elements.

Proper markings of MILF territory with flags were also agreed and complied with, but these were not observed by the advancing AFP troops.

As of press time, extent of damages to properties and casualties on both sides has not yet been determined.

Sison: Message to Davao City Book Launch of Building People's Power

Posted to the Website of Jose Maria Sison (Jul 22): Message to Davao City Book Launch of Building People's Power

Brokenshire Resort and Convention Center
Madapo Hills, Davao City
July 22, 2016
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Author
Founding Chairman, Communist Party of the Philippines
Chairperson, International League of Peoples’ Struggle

Dear Compatriots and Friends,

As author of the book, Building People’s Power, I wish to express solidarity and gratitude to the distinguished guests, the organizers and all the participants in this book launch.

I am sure that Prof. Aya Ragragio will emcee the program very well, that Rep.Ariel Casilao of Anakpawis will rouse you with his opening remarks, that the book reviewers Luz Ilagan, Stella Estrenera and Myfel Paluga will give enlightening book reviews, that Don Pagusara will enrapt you with his cultural presentation, that Megue Monteverde will react to incite further discussion and that Prof. Nelson Maniego will happily close a successful event.

I hope that the buyers and readers of the book will find it interesting and instructive regarding Philippine and global issues and how to build political power by arousing, organizing and mobilizing the broad masses of he people. The book tries to explain the workings, implications and consequences of the US-instigated neoliberal economic policy, the spread of state terrorism and wars of aggression and the people’s resistance.

Building people’s power is necessary in the face of the ever sharpening crisis of the world capitalist system and the domestic semicolonial and semifeudal ruling system and the ever worsening conditions of oppression and exploitation. The Filipino people can achieve national and social liberation only through their self-reliant, resolute and militant mass struggles.

After the anti-people, corrupt and brutal Aquino regime in the service of US imperialism and the local oligarchy, the Filipino people have high expectations that the Duterte administration will create and provide the condition for solving the social, economic and political problems that they suffer. They have to develop their own strength in order to strive for better conditions and a brighter future and prepare for any eventuality in relation to the new administration and the forces of imperialism and reaction.

The worsening crisis of the ruling system offers to us all challenges and opportunities to overcome grave social, economic, political and cultural problems. The peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines can be a crucial process for addressing the roots of the armed conflict and arriving at comprehensive agreements to lay the basis for a just and lasting peace.

Inside and outside of the peace process, we must work and fight for full national independence, human rights and the democratic empowerment of the workers and peasants, economic development through national industrialization and genuine land reform, social and environmental justice, a patriotic and progressive culture, equality of the ethno-linguistic communities and genders and international solidarity with peoples and countries against imperialism and all reaction.

While we aim for a government of national unity, peace and development on the basis of the broadest possible alliance, let us continue to build the people’s power by strengthening the forces within the framework of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the revolutionary organs of political power. All of us desire and must work hard to achieve national and social liberation and a new Philippines that is truly independent, democratic, prosperous, progressive and peaceful.

Once more thank you.

Sison: Book Launching of “Building People’s Power: Peoples’ Struggles Against Oppression and Exploitation

From the Website of Jose Maria Sison (Jul 22): Book Launching of “Building People’s Power: Peoples’ Struggles Against Oppression and Exploitation

Volume 2 of Jose Maria Sison’s writings tackles the organizing work in the Philippines against US imperialism, and the role of a proletarian party in leading the radical change in the country.

As the founding chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines and current political consultant of the National Democratic Front, Sison’s work have proven to be a rich resource of guidance in advancing the struggle for national liberation. With decades of revolutionary experience, this latest book promises to be another sharp and timely study material for revolutionaries from all sectors of Philippine society.

NDF: NDFP Welcomes President Duterte's Announcement of Unilateral Ceasefire and Announces Its Own Readiness to Reciprocate

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jul 25): NDFP Welcomes President Duterte's Announcement of Unilateral Ceasefire and Announces Its Own Readiness to Reciprocate

Press Release
25 July 2016

Luis Jalandoni, Chairperson  of the Negotiating Panel of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP),  wrote today to Secretary Silvestre Belllo III, Chairman of the Negotiating Panel of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), welcoming President Duterte’s announcement in his SONA that he is ordering the unilateral ceasefire of the AFP and PNP in  relation to the NPA.

Jalandoni affirmed that the NDFP shared with President Duterte the determination to work for a just and lasting peace. He averred that the NDFP would  be able to respond to or reciprocate the unilateral ceasefire declaration of the GRP  soon after receiving its full text. He assured Bello that the NDFP would study it carefully and make the appropriate response.

Jalandoni assumed that the GRP  ceasefire declaration of the GRP is necessarily connected with the the release of all current political prisoners  under the amnesty proclamation to be issued by the President Duterte and concurred in by a majority of Congress, as referred to by the Oslo Joint Statement of June 15, 2016.

Jalandoni said that he was looking forward to the resumption of formal talks in Oslo on August 20-27 when the GRP and NDFP negotiating panels would at the latest exchange ceasefire declarations in order to discuss and agree further on how to make them  effective.

Luis Jalandoni

NDF/NPA: NPA to be on active defense as it awaits operational details of Duterte ceasefire declaration prior to reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declaration

Propaganda statement posted to the National Democratic Front Website (Jul 26): NPA to be on active defense as it awaits operational details of Duterte ceasefire declaration prior to reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declaration

Ka Oris

Under the direction of the CPP, the National Operational Command of the New People’s Army (NPA-NOC) orders all territorial and unit commands of the NPA, including all units of the people’s militias, to stay on active defense mode as we welcome the unilateral ceasefire declaration yesterday by GRP President Rodrigo Duterte and await its operational details.

By staying on active defense mode, the NPA prepares for a reciprocal unilateral ceasefire declaration by the CPP and the NDFP to be issued soon as a boost for the upcoming NDFP-GRP peace talks. An exchange of unilateral ceasefire declarations will be one of the first items in the resumption of NDFP-GRP peace talks scheduled for August 20-27 with the aim of making these unilateral declarations effective.

The NPA and all revolutionary forces will closely observe how President Duterte’s declaration is carried out by the AFP and whether there will be a clear termination of military operations and offensives being carried out under the US-designed Oplan Bayanihan counter-insurgency war of suppression.

As of this morning, reports from the field indicate that units of the AFP have remained stationed in communities and have yet to withdraw from their offensive operations in Isabela, Cagayan, Bulacan, Quezon and Batangas, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon, Samar, Surigao, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur and other provinces.

In light of the GRP ceasefire declaration, the people seeks the immediate withdrawal of operating troops which have been conducting psywar and surveillance operations in communities and reconnaissance and search-and-destroy operations inside the guerrilla zones and base areas of the NPA.

The Lumads of Mindanao are especially hopeful that Duterte’s ceasefire declaration will result in the withdrawal of troops from their communities in order for them to resume their normal lives, reopen their schools and carry out economic activity without fear of military reprisals.

Prior to yesterday’s unilateral ceasefire declaration by Duterte, the NPA-NOC has observed how the AFP has extended and intensified military offensives under the Oplan Bayanihan in complete disregard of the avowed policy of engaging the revolutionary forces in peace talks.

Over the past weeks, the AFP has been carrying out intensified combat and patrol operations, reconnaissance and intelligence activities, occupation of civilian communities and attacks against human rights in the vain hope of scoring some points to cover their defeat of the Oplan Bayanihan after six years of failing to achieve their aim of reducing the NPA to inconsequentiality.

Prior to the Duterte unilateral ceasefire declaration, the AFP intensified military offensives in Mindanao. The AFP sought to defeat the NPA nationwide by defeating it here in Mindanao. It has been a distinct feature of Oplan Bayanihan that 60% of the AFP’s battalions, air assets and war equipment are deployed in Mindanao.

In Mindanao and in other parts of the country, the AFP unleashed ruthless and relentless military campaign and operations resulting in rampant violations of human rights. In addition to “peace and development”, the AFP has been using the “anti-drug campaign” as pretext to embed themselves in the communities to carry out counter-insurgency patrols, surveillance, campaigns of suppression and militarization of communities.

In particular, the AFP and its paramilitary forces must stop its campaign of terror against the people of Paquibato District, Davao City. Several people have been killed by fascist soldiers recently including Marjun Baruel, killed on May 19, Paul Saludaga, Mayo 21, Johnny Basilisco, June 6 and Maria Cayad, June 8.

On June 9, following an encounter in Barangay Lumiad, Paquibato District, two Red fighters Joel Biliran (Ka Will) and Elenita Garing (Ka Milo), were arrested, tortured and murdered. Ka Milo was raped prior to being summarily executed.

Also last July 1, in Magpet, North Cotabato, the cadaver of a slain NPA Red fighter, Noel Gulmatico (Ka Jepoy) was desecrated last July 1 by elements of the 39th IB with both eyes gouged out, tongue sliced and neck stabbed.

In Cagayan province, operating troops of the 86th IB abducted 16 members of an Aggay clan, including women and children last June 17. In Malibcong, Abra, four Tingguian minorities hunting wild game were arrested by the 27th IB last July 1.

There is a renewed offensive against the community schools. Last July 15, armed men attacked Lumad datu Danny Diarog and killed Hermie Alegre, PTA president of the Salugpongan school in Tugbok District, Davao City. A few days earlier, parateachers Fahara Kabuntalan La and Sittie Usop Abdullah were killed when they were ambushed by masked armed men while enroute to Cotabato City. Their companion Aisah Karon Malugka and the tricycle driver were wounded.

The AFP continues to train, arm and employ para-military groups to terrorize communities, conduct robberies and kidnapping for ransom, and proliferate gambling and illegal drugs. They continue to block the safe return of the Lumad evacuees displaced by canon and aerial bombardment, military atrocities and the occupation of their community by military troops. Such operations of the AFP are part of efforts to protect the interest of the plunderers and environmentally destructive imperialist mining and plantations.

By staying on active defense, the NPA must remain ever alert to AFP offensive military operations, including reconnaissance, surveillance and intelligence operations, patrols and search-and-destroy operations, as well as psywar operations and suppression campaigns against civilians and communities in the guise of “peace and development” Oplan Bayanihan operations.

Such operations must be vigorously exposed and opposed by the people. Counter-offensives by the NPA as acts of defense can be resorted to as a last option if relentless attacks and violations of human rights are committed with impunity by operating troops of the AFP and PNP especially against communities, women, the elderly, children and such infrastrucure as self-run community schools.

Until otherwise specified in further orders, the NPA will continue with its outstanding work of defending the rural communities and the environment. It will have to be vigilant and defend against the military offensives of the AFP, PNP and their paramilitary vigilante groups. It will continue to arrest and disarm big drug traffickers and police and military protectors and operators. The NPA will continue to conduct educational, political and cultural campaigns to mobilize the people to assert their rights and advance their struggle for genuine land reform.

Red fighters nationwide must not lose the initiative in defending the rights and interests of the masses, oppose and frustrate continuing operations under Oplan Bayanihan and further strengthen and expand its forces and base areas and accumulate bigger revolutionary victories.

Ka Oris
National Operational Command
New People’s Army

US diplomatic strategy on South China Sea appears to founder

From InterAksyon (Jul 28): US diplomatic strategy on South China Sea appears to founder

US Sec. of State John Kerry briefing the press in Manila. (Reuters)

In the lead-up to an international court ruling on China's claims in the South China Sea this month, United States officials talked about rallying a coalition to impose "terrible" costs to Beijing's international reputation if it flouted the court's decision.

But just two weeks after the July 12 announcement by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague -- which at least on paper, appeared to be a humiliating defeat for China -- the US strategy appears to be unraveling and the court's ruling is in danger of becoming irrelevant.

Earlier this year, US officials spoke repeatedly of the need for countries in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere, including the European Union, to make it clear that the decision of the court should be binding.

"We need to be ready to be very loud and vocal, in harmony together ... to say that this is international law, this is incredibly important, it is binding on all parties," Amy Searight, the then-US deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, said in February.

Then in April, US Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said China risked "terrible" damage to its reputation if it ignored The Hague's ruling.

The top lawyer from the Philippines, which brought the case against China, even said Beijing risked "outlaw" status.

The United States had backed Manila's case on the grounds that China's claims to 85 percent of the South China Sea, one of the world's busiest trade routes, were a threat to freedom of navigation and international law.

Yet after the international court rejected Beijing's position, the US calls for a united front appear to have made little headway, with only six countries joining Washington in insisting that the decision should be binding.

They include the Philippines, but not several other countries with their own claims to parts of the South China Sea that might benefit if Beijing observed the decision.

China also scored a major diplomatic victory earlier this week, when the Association of Southeast Asian Nations dropped any reference to the ruling from a joint statement at the end of a meeting of the 10-country group's foreign minister in Laos. This followed objections from Cambodia, Beijing's closest ASEAN ally.

On July 15, the European Union, distracted after Britain's vote to leave the bloc, issued a statement taking note of the ruling, but avoiding direct reference to Beijing or any assertion that the decision was binding.

Ruling risks irrelevance

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State John Kerry expressed satisfaction that ASEAN had issued a communique that championed the rule of law and said the omission of any reference to the arbitration case did not detract from its importance.

He also said it was "impossible" for the ruling to become irrelevant because it is legally binding.

But analysts said it now risks exactly that, not least because Washington has failed to press the issue effectively with its friends and allies.

"We should all be worried that this case is going to go down as nothing more than a footnote because its impact was only as strong as the international community was going to make it," said Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think-tank.

"And the international community has voted by not saying anything. The consensus seems to be 'We don’t care. We don’t want to hold China to these standards.'"

Dean Cheng, an expert on China with the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said Washington appeared reluctant to push a tougher line with Beijing -- a vital economic partner as well as a strategic rival - with only a few months to go in President Barack Obama's tenure and a presidential election in November.

"What we have is China pushing very hard into the South China Sea, physically, politically, illegally and diplomatically, and the United States refraining from doing very much at all," said Cheng.

One reason for the administration's relative passivity may be its desire to prevent any major escalation of the dispute after the ruling, including further land reclamation by China or the declaration of a new air defense identification zone.

China has so far responded only with sharpened rhetoric, but analysts and officials worry that Beijing might take bolder action after it hosts the Group of 20 meeting of the world's biggest economies in September.

THAT 1ST NSC MEETING | Serious topics of WPS, peace roadmap, war on drugs punctuated by Rody's wit

From InterAksyon (Jul 28): THAT 1ST NSC MEETING | Serious topics of WPS, peace roadmap, war on drugs punctuated by Rody's wit

President Duterte, with VP Leni Robredo at his side, presides over Wednesday's first National Security Council Meeting. HANDOUT PHOTO FROM OVP

The first National Security Council meeting called by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte Wednesday afternoon tackled issues related to the West Philippine Sea, the peace process with Mindanao and New People’s Army rebels,  and the war on drugs, according to Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III.

In an interview Thursday after the swearing in Justice Secretary Vitallano Aguirre as the newest member of the PDP-Laban, Pimentel said the meeting - lasting for five hours and attended by four former presidents - was very successful and very productive.

The meeting began around 3pm., and ended around past 8pm. The post-EDSA former presidents in attendance, were: Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III.

“The atmosphere was serious, but then the President has his way of lightening the atmosphere,” Pimentel said.

However, Pimentel said they were directed by President Duterte not to divulge any specific details regarding the outcome of the meeting, as most of these involved national security matters.

“I will just give you the topic, because before we left the President said na kung puwede, wag nang ilabas ng room iyong pinag-usapan. The topics were West Philippine Sea, the roadmap to peace with Mindanao secession and the CPP/NPA/NDF, and the war against drugs. Yun po ang topic,” Pimentel told reporters.

Pimentel also said he will meet with senators regarding the possible legislative actions on the results of the meeting to give Duterte the legal mandate to enforce it.

“Ganito 'yun, there were around seven senators present yata, if I'm not mistaken. We will have to discuss kung ano yong napulot namin doon which needs legislative interventions. So ngayon, I cannot say kung ano doon,” Pimentel said.

It had directions, substance

Meanwhile, Senator Panfilo Lacson, who attended the meeting as chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, said the NSC meeting went very well.

“It had direction, it had substance, it had consensus and unity of purpose,” Lacson said.

As usual, Lacson added, it was "vintage Rody" presiding, who punctuated the serious discussions with ad libs, not to mention the asides and not-so-subtle sniping at his favorite critic.

“The unprecedented  presence of four former heads of state added to the luster of the occasion, but not without their own valuable input on what the country needs to do to advance our national interest in regard to the arbitral tribunal ruling on the West Philippine Sea issue, the peace talks and the fight against illegal drugs,” Lacson said.

Convene LEDAC

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto urged President Duterte to convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to map his legislative agenda.

“Judging by how he appreciated the views shared by the attendees yesterday, we can expect more groups to be convened as his sounding board,” Recto said.

One of which, Recto added, is the LEDAC which was mothballed in the past 6 years. He can revive this as a productive forum to discuss policy, Recto said.

“I have been asked to describe his style of running high-level meetings. He can be focused one moment and funny the next.  It is both educational and entertaining. This guy’s thought process is good. He knows when to summarize points and where to shepherd the discussion,” Recto said.

Also Recto said that Duterte had his comedian’s gift of timing on when to crack jokes to break the monotony of long meetings.

“He gave great inputs, and with his humor, in-house entertainment as well,” Recto said.

Army intel “visit” Lumad school admin’s family

From the often pro-Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) on publication Davao Today (Jul 29): Army intel “visit” Lumad school admin’s family

SCHOOL DIRECTOR. Salugpongan Ta'Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Incorporated Executive Director Ronnie Garcia decries the threats he got from an alleged army intelligence agent. He said the school and their teachers have been tagged as an NPA school even before he formally started teaching in 2011.  (Paulo C. Rizal/

SCHOOL DIRECTOR. Salugpongan Ta’Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Incorporated Executive Director Ronnie Garcia decries the threats he got from an alleged army intelligence agent. He said the school and their teachers have been tagged as an NPA school even before he formally started teaching in 2011. (Paulo C. Rizal/
A Lumad school administrator accuse the Army of sending intelligence agents to harass him by “visiting” him and his family.

Ronnie Garcia, executive director of the Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center (STTICLC) said they saw suspicious men in the Davao Regional Hospital in Barangay Apokon, Tagum City where they were attending to his sick grandfather morning of July 24.

Garcia said the men asked his family if he is their relative. “Even while we were eating, they were around. But what made me realized that the threat was real is when we saw one of them carry a firearm tucked in the garter of his shorts,” Garcia said in a press conference on Thursday at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran compound in Davao City.

He said a certain Mario Claveria, who identified himself as intelligence agent of the military, wanted to pay him a visit in their office.

“He wants to visit our office in Salugpungan. He also said he wants to pay a surprise visit to where I was staying,” Garcia told the media.

“He really made an effort to talk to my parents,” he said. The 28-year old school director started teaching in Salugpungan Ta Tanu Igkanugon Learning Center campus in Talaingod, Davao del Norte in 2011.

Garcia, who comes from the Mamanwa tribe in Compostela Valley, is a tribe scholar.

The Salugpungan Learning Center has been tagged as owned by the New People’s Army.

Garcia said this is the reason why the harassment he experienced recently is “not an isolated case”, but a systematic attack to threaten him.

“The threats against our schools started in 2010 when the military were encamped in the school’s vicinity in Talaingod, Davao del Norte,” he said.

He said there was a point when their school was indiscriminately fired at for “six consecutive days”. “It happened while I was teaching our high school class,” he said.

“The bullets did not hit the roof of the school. But the shots came from the military camp in front of our school, and towards the vicinity of our campus,” he said.

However, Army spokesman Capt. Rhyan Batchar of the 10th Infantry Division said they have not yet received a formal complaint regarding the incident.

“Should he file any formal complaint, we will be ready to assist (him),” Batchar told Davao Today in a text message.

“We shall make formal investigations and welcome any duly instituted investigating authorities to conduct a separate investigation against the violator,” he said.

Communists ask Duterte: Give us time to probe NPA attack

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 29): Communists ask Duterte: Give us time to probe NPA attack

Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison on Friday asked President Duterte for more time to investigate the attack staged by New People’s Army (NPA) rebels in Davao del Norte province that left a government militiaman dead and four others wounded.

The President,  who met with officers and men of the military’s Southern Luzon Command (Solcom) here on Thursday, did not hide his dismay over the attack that was staged few days after he ordered on Monday a unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels in preparation for the resumption of peace talks.

Mr. Duterte warned leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) that he would revoke the ceasefire order with the NPA if the rebels would not stop attacking government forces. He also asked NDFP leaders to explain why the attack happened despite the truce offered by the government.

“What is this? Are we into this truce or are we not?” Mr. Duterte said, addressing communist leaders.

In an online chat Friday, Sison, now living in exile in Utrecht, The Netherlands, said the concerned NPA regional command had been asked by the NDFP to investigate and submit a report on the attack.

He said representatives of the Philippine government and NDFP negotiating panels “are in touch.”

Fidel Agcaoili, NDFP spokesperson, said they have talked to government chief negotiator Silvestre Bello III regarding the investigation on the attack.

Agcaoili assured the President of the NDFP’s commitment to resume the peace negotiation, which has been scheduled to take place Aug. 20 to 27 in Norway.

The New People’s Army is the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. The NDFP, its political wing, is handling the peace negotiations with the Philippine government.

'More than police action, vigilantism' - Panay rebels on fighting drugs

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): 'More than police action, vigilantism' - Panay rebels on fighting drugs

Communist rebels on Panay said “drug addiction and trafficking could never be eradicated by just plain police work (or) by vigilantism,” citing “lessons that we have derived from decades” of fighting the menace on the central Philippine island.

In a statement posted on the Communist Party of the Philippines website, the Coronacion Chiva “Waling-waling” Command of the New People’s Army, said it had been fighting the spread of drugs since the establishment of the revolutionary movement way before the current campaign of the Duterte administration, and particularly in the 1980s when, it acknowledged the problem “began to penetrate the revolutionary ranks.”

The NPA command blamed the proliferation of drugs on “ruling class decadence and escapism” and said that, while “some regime may vigorously pursue the elimination of drug trafficking by forcible means … the conditions giving rise to a market for drugs and profiting from drug sales always ensure the return of widespread drug use, addiction and proliferation.”

The statement was issued to deny NPA involvement in the burning in Oton town, Iloilo of a taxi cab from a fleet owned by Melvin Odicta, who the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has accused of heading one of two major drug rings in Western Visayas.

The NPA on Panay, it said, “do not, as yet, operate in Metro-Iloilo and go after properties of drug lords in the said area” although it added that the rebels are “developing the capacity in police work” to go after drug traffickers who, it noted, “are operating, extending or transferring their addictive drug trade and network, laboratories in the guerrilla fronts and area of operation in the countryside …” warning them to stop or “be hunted down.”

Among the lessons the NPA command said it had learned through the years:
  • Eliminating drug use is “key to eradicating the drug problem,” noting that many addicts became susceptible “because they lack a sense of purpose in life” … “benumbed by poverty and decadent culture.”
  • Also because of poverty, trafficking and production “has become an alternative income earner and could even enrich some folks. This desperate income generation has been stopped not only by force but by campaigning to increase production led by peasant organizations.”
  • “The state, while banning addictive drugs, has also provided a fertile ground for corruption for its security forces and government officials who engage in drug trafficking or protect drug traffickers.”
The latter, in particular, is evident in the Panay countryside where, the NPA command claimed, the spread of drugs has been “instigated and protected by the reactionary Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police,” not only for profit but also supposedly as an “incentive for their agents doing intelligence work against revolutionaries.”

However, the NPA command said they do not run “‘kangaroo courts’ that arbitrarily hand down death sentences to suspect drug traffickers. The description fits more the vigilante campaign against suspect drug dealers launched by the PNP (Philippine National Police) with its questionable results.”

“We abhor carelessly taking a life as life could not be restored once dead unlike when you ‘cut down banana stalks’ if you make a wrong decision,” it said.

Instead, “drug pushers detained for questioning were either warned to stop engaging in drugs, confined in their barangay or driven out of the NPA areas.”

Recidivism is practically non-existent, it said, because “the warned traffickers either take heed or evacuate the guerrilla zones because the people are organized to prevent backsliding via rehabilitation and vigilance.”

In the end, however, the rebels said “only a revolutionary state could eliminate bureaucrat capitalism, provide revolutionary leadership and authority to eliminate the drug problem” by solving “the scourge of poverty and develop a revolutionary sense of purpose to the people, to our youth.”

MILF reinforced BIFF in Maguindanao clash

From GMA News (Jul 28): MILF reinforced BIFF in Maguindanao clash

Over 100 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rebels reinforced embattled members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in Wednesday's encounter with government forces, a Mindanao-based military commander bared Thursday.

Col. Cirilito Sobejana of the Army's 601st Brigade said they had to contact the Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities to avoid the situation from spinning out of control.

"What happened was not good but we found a solution to end it," Sobejana said. "They met and agreed, both parties agreed to a ceasefire."

The CCCH is the mechanism established by the government and the MILF to maintain the ceasefire following the signing of a peace agreement in 2014.

"BIFF yung kalaban namin, but as the encounter progresses nagkaroon ng intervention... sumama na yung MI[LF] in support to the BI[FF]," Sobejana said.

Two soldiers were wounded in the clash, which took place in Barangay Pamalian in Shariff Saydona Mustapha town.

Sobejana said the MILF forces came from its 118th and 105th Base Commandsthe same units that helped them in their pursuit against BIFF leader Ismael Abubakar alias Kumander Bungos weeks ago.

"Now, in our desire to get Bungos, we conducted pursuit operations and in the course of the hot pursuit we caught up with Karialan's group,” said Sobejana, referring to the BIFF faction under Imam Minimbang alias Kumander Karialan.

Karialan is the cousin of Kumander Wahid Tundok, commander of the MILF's 105th Base Command. Sobejana said although the Army had a truce with Wahid's group, Wahid had to side with Karialan because "blood is thicker than water."

Sobejana said he has reason to believe that the actions of the 105th and 118th Base Commands did not have the blessing of the MILF leadership.

Malaysia, Philippines to set up 'forward base' in wake of abductions

From Channel News Asia (Jul 28): Malaysia, Philippines to set up 'forward base' in wake of abductions

Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed to form a forward operations base after a spate of recent abductions, it was announced on Thursday (Jul 28).

Speaking at the 36th ASEANAPOL conference, which aims to forge closer ties between police chiefs across Southeast Asia, Malaysia's Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said the forward base would be used to tackle cross-border crime.

"We have agreed to work much more closer in terms of exchange of intelligence and information on movements of suspected people and things like that," he said.
"Of course, I was able to talk to my Philippines counterpart, and I think it was very successful, because we've agreed to establish a forward base in the Philippines side," he added. "Malaysia already has ours."

The announcement comes after the kidnapping of five Malaysian tugboat crewmen off the coast of Sabah by suspected Abu Sayyaf militants from the Southern Philippines earlier this month.

An agreement 10 years in the making was also signed at the conference, aiming to synergise efforts in the event of a terror attack, with the assistance of Interpol.

Casualties mount in Mindanao clash

From The Standard (Jul 29): Casualties mount in Mindanao clash

HOSTILITIES again flared in Central Mindanao on Thursday following a running gun battle between security forces and fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that caused scores of casualties on both sides, an official said Thursday.

The battle between Army contingents and two base commands of the MILF on the outskirts of Shariff Saydona raged despite the intervention of the Coordinating Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities, said Col. Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Army’s 601st Infantry Brigade.

He said the MILF’s 105th and 118th Base Commands consisting of about 100 heavily armed fighters engaged Army troops in gun battles.

Sobejana made his statement even as an official said Moro National Liberation Front chairman Nur Misuari was helping the government recover seven Indonesian sailors who were abducted by the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the waters of Sulu Sea last month.

Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza made the statement as he echoed President Rodrigo Duterte’s wish for Misuari to come out in the open and  participate in the peace process.

“Let me disclose to you that last night, Misuari sent word to me that he is already marshaling his forces there in order to try and work out the release of seven or 10 Indonesians that are being held [by the Abu Sayyaf],” Dureza said in a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

Sobejana said the MILF rebel group led by Wahid Tundok, commander of the 105th Base Command, had joined forces with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters under Commander Shiek Muhiddin Animbang alias Commander Karialan, a first cousin of Tundok.

He said the fighting, which started last week, escalated late in the afternoon Thursday after Army troopers hunting BIFF rebels tracked down the hideout of Karialan, prompting Tundok’s men to secure his cousin.

When asked if they considered Tundok an ally, Sobejana admitted they were friends “but lately they have already signified alliance with Karialan because they are cousins, so blood is thicker than water.”

He estimated that the BIFF force supporting the MILF and fighting government forces consisted of about 30 heavily-armed men.

Sobejana could not give any estimate on the numbers of casualties as the fighting was still raging.

He had already submitted a report to AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla saying the fighting was between them and the MILF.

WATCH | Duterte gives ultimatum to CPP-NPA

From InterAksyon (Jul 28): WATCH | Duterte gives ultimatum to CPP-NPA

President Rodrigo Duterte is seen giving an ultimatum to the Communist Party of the Philippines armed wing the New People’s Army while speaking before soldiers at Camp Nakar in Lucena City, Quezon, July 28, 2016. TV5 SCREENSHOT

President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday gave an ultimatum to the Communist Party of the Philippines in relation to their sincerity in entering into peace talks with his administration.

In a speech before soldiers during his visit to Camp Guillermo Nakar in Lucena City, Quezon province on Thursday, Duterte said he was dismayed to learn of the death of a militiaman in an ambush by communist rebels on Wednesday despite his declaration of a unilateral ceasefire with the communist groups.

He was referring to the attack in Kapalong town, Davao del Norte in which a member of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) was killed and four others were wounded.

The ambush took place 6:45 a.m. as a group of militiamen, under the supervision of the 60th Infantry Battalion, were passing Sitio Kamunoan on the way to their base in Sitio Pasil, Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong.

The attack was conducted by suspected communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 34, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee, according to Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.

Duterte told the soldiers in Camp Nakar that he asked the congressman of Davao del Norte: “Ano ba ‘to (What is this)? Are we in into this truce or are we not,” further telling him to give an answer by Thursday night because if there is still no answer by Friday, he said fighting will resume.

“If you do not honor (the truce) and you kill a single soldier or a CAFGU who is also a soldier of the Republic, sabi ko ‘kalimutan na lang natin ’to. Fight na lang (I said, then let’s just forget about the truce. Let’s fight),” Duterte said, apparently addressing the rebels.

The President told the soldiers that he knows that they may be “resistant” to accept it because of the “historical” pain, saying “Maraming namatay sa inyo, pero marami ring namatay sa mga komunista (Many soldiers have died, but many communist also died). But as President, I have to seek peace for our country. Not only with the communist insurgency but doon rin sa Muslim insurgency,” the Commander-in-Chief said.

Camp Nakar is the base of the Armed Forces’ Southern Luzon Command (Solcom).
“As I talk to the communists, I will talk to the MI(LF), MN(LF) and all the armed groups there. Hindi kasali ang Abu Sayyaf. I will not talk with criminals,” he said, noting the need to build the country.

“Kaya nga nag-rebelde nga sila (Abu Sayyaf) because they think that they can have a better life, Pilipinas can have a better life under them, which is crazy. That’s why you are fighting them. Eh hindi naman papayag because the constitutional mandate belongs to this government, not with them,” the Chief Executive added.

Duterte also talked about the drug problem which, he said, can be considered a crisis. He said leaders of drug syndicates are operating outside the country, such as in China.
With regards to the West Philippine Sea issue, Duterte said he wants to settle the dispute through diplomatic means. He likewise thanked former president Benigno Aquino III for winning the case which the Philippines filed against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.

Watch this News5 video report by Erwin Tulfo:

[Video report]

China says to hold drills with Russia in South China Sea

From Reuters (Jul 28): China says to hold drills with Russia in South China Sea

Chinese and Russian naval vessels participate in the Joint Sea-2014 naval drill outside Shanghai on the East China Sea, May 24, 2014. REUTERS/China Daily

Chinese and Russian naval vessels participate in the Joint Sea-2014 naval drill outside Shanghai on the East China Sea, May 24, 2014.  Reuters/China Daily

China and Russia will hold "routine" naval exercises in the South China Sea in September, China's Defence Ministry said on Thursday, adding that the drills were aimed at strengthening their cooperation and were not aimed at any other country.

The exercises come at a time of heightened tension in the contested waters after an arbitration court in The Hague ruled this month that China did not have historic rights to the South China Sea and criticized its environmental destruction there.

China rejected the ruling and refused to participate in the case.

"This is a routine exercise between the two armed forces, aimed at strengthening the developing China-Russia strategic cooperative partnership," China's defense ministry spokesman Yang Yujun told a regular monthly news conference.

"The exercise is not directed against third parties."

China and Russia are veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council, and have held similar views on many major issues such as the crisis in Syria, putting them at odds with the United States and Western Europe.

Last year, they held joint military drills in the Sea of Japan and the Mediterranean.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest played down the significance of the exercises even though he conceded that the South China Sea was "a sensitive diplomatic topic right now".

"I don't know what exercises they are planning, but in the same way the United States and China have a military-to-military relationship, I'm not surprised that Russia and China are seeking to build upon their military-to-military relationship as well," he told a regular briefing.

China has recently taken part in U.S.-led multinational naval drills in the Pacific and a U.S. defense official said he did not expect the China-Russia exercises to affect U.S. military activity or behavior in the South China Sea.

“We're not concerned about the safety of U.S. vessels in the region as long as interactions with the Chinese remain safe and professional, which has been the case in most cases,” the official said.

China claims most of the South China Sea, through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have rival claims.

China has repeatedly blamed the United States for stoking tension in the region through its military patrols, and of taking sides in the dispute.

The United States has sought to assert its right to freedom of navigation in the South China Sea with its patrols and denies taking sides in the territorial disputes.

Russia has been a strong backer of China's stance on the arbitration case, which was brought by the Philippines.

Yang said China and Russia were comprehensive strategic partners and had already held many exercises this year.

"These drills deepen mutual trust and expand cooperation, raise the ability to jointly deal with security threats, and benefit the maintenance of regional and global peace and stability," he said.

After hard-line drive vs Reds, GMA files bill on amnesty

From Business World (Jul 28): After hard-line drive vs Reds, GMA files bill on amnesty

IN LINE with President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s “unilateral cease-fire” with the communist rebellion, a bill to grant the rebels amnesty was filed at the House of Representatives by a former president whose administration was noted in its time for its hard-line campaign against that movement.

House Bill No. 490, filed by former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, seeks to grant amnesty to members of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP) and other individuals and groups involved in past political conflicts. -- Raynan F. Javil
“Accepting rebels back into the folds of the law through amnesty, and eventually providing them access to the government’s existing socio-economic services are essential to attaining peace and reconciliation in the country,” Mrs. Arroyo said in the bill’s explanatory note.

The amnesty covers only those who committed the crime of rebellion and acts committed in pursuit of political beliefs. Crimes against chastity, rape, torture, kidnapping, use and trafficking of illegal drugs, and violations of international laws are not covered.

The bill also states only those who committed the said crimes on or before the effectivity of the law will be covered by the amnesty. Applicants for amnesty are also mandated to surrender their firearms within 30 days after their application.
Funds needed to implement the proposed law will be sourced from the Office of the President and released through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.

“An amnesty program is an integral component of the Duterte Government’s comprehensive peace efforts,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

During her almost decade-long presidency, Mrs. Arroyo’s critics had denounced what they called her “militarization campaign” particularly against the Left.

One of the leading enforcers of the campaign was the commander of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division, retired general-turned-fugitive Jovito S. Palparan, Jr., who was notoriously referred to as “berdugo” (butcher).

Mr. Palparan was captured in a Manila apartment not far from Malacañang in 2014, after three years in hiding. A court ordered his arrest and that of three other Army officers in connection with the 2006 kidnapping of University of the Philippines students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. The two, who were allegedly abducted and brought to a farm in Hagonoy, Bulacan, have remained missing since.

It was also on Mrs. Arroyo’s watch that celebrated activist Jonas Burgos was kidnapped, allegedly by members of the Philippine Army.

Aguirre: PH to press PCA ruling on West PH Sea in bilateral talks with China

From InterAksyon (Jul 28): Aguirre: PH to press PCA ruling on West PH Sea in bilateral talks with China

Philippine flag planted on Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal in the West Philippine Sea.

Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Thursday said that pressing the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitral (PCA) on the maritime dispute over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would be the underlining agendum in prospective bilateral talks with China.

In an interview after being sworn in by Senate President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III as the newest member of the political party PDP-Laban, Aguirre said that, when bilateral talks with China do push through, the Philippines will be raising factual situations concerning the WPS and in connection with the arbitral tribunal's decision.

"Of course, on our part we have to mention the matter, but, on China's part, they would rather be silent on that. Although they would not like it, we would want to pursue it," Aguirre said, even as he confirmed the United Nations ruling on WPS was one of the topics tackled at the National Security Council (NSC) meeting on Wednesday.

"In so far as the West Philippine Sea is concerned, there is a distinction with the South China Sea. The South China Sea is a vast territory, but the West Philippine Sea is what was the subject of our victory in the Arbitral Tribunal's proceedings," Aguirre explained.

Meanwhile, Aguirre elaborated that matters of national security will not be covered by the recent Executive Order on Freedom of Information, including relations with other countries, like China.

Philippine troops, rebels clash in Maguindanao

From the Gulf News (Jul 28): Philippine troops, rebels clash in Maguindanao

Seven killed and 200 families displaced by outbreak of fighting

Seven people were killed, including one soldier and six members of a Filipino-Muslim rebel group, in clashes in southern Philippines, reports said.

Six members of the rebel group calling itself the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), the armed wing of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Movement (BIFM), were killed in the clashes in Pamalian village, Shariff Saydona town, Maguindanao, Col. Lito Sobejana of the Philippine Army said in a report that reached Manila on Thursday.

Two MG-520 attack helicopters were sent to support ground troops and fly out four wounded soldiers, said Sobejana, adding that 10 BIFF members were also injured, based on ground reports.

Some 200 families displaced due to the fighting were temporarily housed in nearby school grounds, said Sobejana.

“Kagi Karialan, a self-proclaimed BIFM-BIFF leader was urged to surrender,” Maj. Gen. Edmundo Pangilinan, commander of the 6th Infantry Division, said in a statement sent to Manila’s military headquarters.

But Abu Misri Mama, BIFM-BIFF spokesman said, “Karialan’s group is a breakaway faction.

”Karialan reportedly ousted Ismael Abubakar, alias ‘Bongos,’ who took over BIFM-BIFF’s leadership after the death of BIFM founder Ameril Umra Kato in 2015.

In 2008, Kato broke away from the 38-year old Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), after the Supreme Court ruled that the proposed Philippine government-MILF peace settlement was unconstitutional.

In 2010, Kato formed a 5,000 strong BIFF. The MILF declared the BIFM-BIFF as a renegade command in 2011. BIFM-BIFF also formed a tactical alliance with the 48-year old Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 2014.

“It was an ironic shift of alliances,” observed political analysts.

The Philippine government and the MNLF forged a pro-autonomy peace settlement in Libya in 1976 which led to the creation of MILF as MNLF’s breakaway command in 1978. The Philippine government and the MNLF forged a second pro-autonomy peace settlement in Manila in 1996.

Only then did the Philippine government initiate pro-autonomy peace talks with the MILF in 1997. It led to a pro-autonomy peace settlement in 2014. But the MNLF was against this agreement.

Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte asked peace negotiators to consolidate all peace settlements forged by the Philippine government with the MNLF and the MILF, and get additional inputs from all indigenous Filipino-Muslim and other stakeholders – for a comprehensive peace settlement for all Filipino Muslims in the south.

Duterte urged to junk ‘lopsided, imperialist’ Edca

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 27): Duterte urged to junk ‘lopsided, imperialist’ Edca

A militant group on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to terminate the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca), a day after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality as an executive agreement aimed at boosting military cooperation between the Philippines and the United States.

READ: PH military hails SC decision on Edca

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), one of the petitioners that questioned the high tribunal’s decision last January declaring Edca’s constitutionality, called the agreement as “lopsided” and “imperialist.”

“We condemn in the strongest terms the SC decision upholding the legality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  The decision came on the day US Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Philippines. The timing of the SC decision is reminiscent of the moment EDCA was signed in 2014, in time for US President Barack Obama’s first visit to the Philippines,” Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement.

READ: Edca to help AFP modernize, respond to 21st century threats—Kerry

“Edca allows the return of US bases and facilities, without rent, with tax exemptions and under exclusive US control. The new bases will mean permanent US military presence in the Philippines. It turns the country into a colonial military outpost for US imperialist intervention in the region,” he added.

Kerry paid a courtesy call on Duterte and faced Philippine media on Wednesday, saying that the Edca will help modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines “in order to help them to be able to increase their effectiveness in responding to 21st century threats. This is amid an international tribunal ruling affirming the country’s plea against China’s claims to almost all of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Reyes said Duterte does not need Edca to assert the country’s interest in the West Philippine Sea because “there is already a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration.”

“We call on the Filipino people to actively resist the return of US bases and facilities which is an affront to our sovereignty. We call on President Duterte to assert national interest and terminate the Edca because it is a lopsided agreement… He need not seek the involvement of the US and further escalate tensions in the region,” he said.

“Duterte is correct when he seems to promote an independent foreign policy. Edca is an imperialist imposition that undermines this. As an executive agreement, according to the SC, it is now within the power of Duterte to terminate the Edca,” Reyes added.

On the same day Kerry arrived in the Philippines, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal on its earlier decision upholding Edca’s legality, ruling that it was an executive agreement that seeks to expand the Visiting Forces Agreement, does not require Senate concurrence.

WATCH, EXCLUSIVE | China flattened Zambales mountain for Scarborough Shoal reclamation - governor

From InterAksyon (Jul 29): WATCH, EXCLUSIVE | China flattened Zambales mountain for Scarborough Shoal reclamation - governor

Chinese ships are seen off Masinloc, Zambales, in file photo. VERA FILES

If the allegations of the new governor of Zambales are correct, the Philippines was dealt a double whammy in China's reclamation spree in Scarborough Shoal.

As it happens, it appears the soil and rocks dumped by China on a wide area Bajo de Masinloc were gouged out from Zambales itself, in a mad, two-year operation that involved seven Chinese firms using nickel mining as cover.

The allegations were made by Gov. Amor Deloso, who said his predecessor, Hermogenes Ebdane, had allegedly allowed the massive excavations for over two years, practically "flattening a mountain" and damaging a wide area of Sta. Cruz's forested highlands. Worse, the soil and rocks taken from the mainland and dumped on the shoal did massive, unspeakable damage to the marine environment.

The carved-out sides of the mountains of Sta. Cruz are visible from afar - remnants of a mad endeavor to get earthern material for China to fill up parts of Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc), which Beijing has de facto occupied since an April 2012 standoff when its ships drove away Filipino boats from traditional rich fishing grounds.

Governor Deloso gave details of the mad frenzy: "Because Scarborough is purely corals, because they need materials for reclamation, kailangan nila ang pinakamalapit na supply ng materials. For two years, walang ginawa dito sa Zambales kundi maghakot ng malalaking bato [they did nothing here but haul away huge rocks] ...

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, nearly 3,000 hectares of Bajo de Masinloc have been dumped with earth and rocks by China's reclamation brigades.

No wonder, Deloso said, that the two mountains in the area are now nearly flat. "At that time, our impression was they were mining nickel. Because there were 450 trucks [traveling night and day from the site]. The roads were damaged eventually."

He conceded that taking on those behind the Chinese miners and excavators was no easy task: "Mahirap lumaban sa mga higante eh, pero wala akong choice. This involves the welfare of the people of my province. Tutal nasa Bayang Magiliw yan ... Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo. Hindi ba?"

Deloso said he got information that seven Chinese companies had gouged out the area, using nickel mining as pretext.

These people practically "bought the mountains" of Sta. Cruz, he added. Roads and farms were damaged. "They destroyed the total environment of Sta. the six years of your former friend the former governor..."

Residents admit they are affected adversely by the damage to their mountains and forests, but  said many of them have found jobs in the mines.

At press time, News5 was still trying to get Ebdane's side.

The new  chief of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Gina Lopez, was aghast at what happened.

She is forming a task force to investigate what happened.

'It's horrible. I'll find out whoever gave the permit why they are getting the soil. If there are DENR officials involved they'll be made accountable.."

The local government has stopped all mining activities in the province.


[Video report]

Negros militants upbeat on peace talks after declaration of unilateral ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 28): Negros militants upbeat on peace talks after declaration of unilateral ceasefire
President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire with the communist rebels during his State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday brought optimism among militant groups in Negros Occidental led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-Negros.

“This is what we were waiting from the President’s SONA,” Christian Tuayon, secretary general of Bayan-Negros, told the Philippines News Agency in an interview.

The President’s declaration of unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) was welcomed by NDF chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison.

Tuayon said a unilateral ceasefire is part of the confident-building measures of the government to show sincerity in the resumption of peace negotiation.

He added that the peace talks will spark the end of armed conflict especially when it is covered by the substantive agenda of socio-economic reform.

It is just proper for the government to suspend military operations to prevent bloodshed while peace negotiation is ongoing, he further said.

Tuayon, who was among the militant leaders who met with Duterte in Malacañang after his inauguration last June 30, joined about 2,500 members of local progressive groups who held a nationally-coordinated “Rally for Peace” at the Bacolod plaza last Monday.

In declaring the ceasefire, President Duterte ordered the troops to immediately stop violence on the ground, restore peace in the communities, and provide enabling environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.

“To the CPP-NPA-NDF, let us end these decades of ambuscades and skirmishes. We are going nowhere. And it is getting bloodier by the day,” the President said.

Mr. Duterte said in his SONA that his administration will strive to have a permanent and lasting peace before his term ends.

“That is my goal, that is my dream,” the President added.