Friday, July 29, 2016

Duterte admin trying to bring Misuari out of his hiding place – Dureza

From GMA News Online (Jul 28): Duterte admin trying to bring Misuari out of his hiding place – Dureza

The Duterte administration is now trying to bring Moro National Liberation Front founding chairman Nur Misuari out of his hiding place to participate in the peace roadmap, presidential peace adviser Jesus Dureza said Thursday.

“The effort is to bring him out of Indanan,” Dureza said during a news forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

But he clarified that they will follow the legal process in doing so.

“The warrant is out and he is considered a fugitive. Any effort to get him out have to go through the legal process, we cannot short cut. Whatever it will be, we will have to comply with the legal process,” he said.

Dureza said Misuari’s lawyers can have his case reviewed.

“It is for his lawyers to initiate reinvestigation of his case. If given due course, then you move for the lifting of the warrant of arrest.  There are other ways to do it,  we are not sure how we are going to do it now,” he said.

Misuari is the subject of a warrant of arrest issued in 2013 over the 20-day-long Zamboanga City siege, which led to the deaths of over 200 people and the displacement of thousands of others.

The issuance of arrest warrants came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed rebellion charges and violation of the International Humanitarian Law against Misuari, MNLF commander Habier Malik and 60 others.

Dureza said Misuari will play an important role in the administration’s peace roadmap.
“He will play a vey important role because we cannot put close the agreement if he is left out,” he said.

The roadmap, which had been approved by Duterte, will require all Bangsamoro groups to unify under the Bangsamoro Transition Commission provided under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.

The 15-member Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC). Eight of that members will come from the MILF and the rest will be from other Bangsamoro groups.

“We will task them first to work them out themselves. When they are able to come up with unity, they should go together and  draft another enabling law. That is the next best thing we can do,” Dureza said.

The new enabling law will not only cover the CAB, it will also include the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed in 1996 as well as the relevant provisions of the Republic Act 9054 or the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao Law and the Indigenous People's Rights Acts (IPRA).

Duterte and Misuari have already talked over the phone regarding the roadmap.

Nine Reactions to Duterte’s First State of the Nation Address

From the Asia Foundation Philippines/Weekly Insights and Analysis (Jul 27): Nine Reactions to Duterte’s First State of the Nation Address

On July 25, Philippines President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivered his first State of the Nation Address (SONA). In this special post, nine Asia Foundation staff in the Philippines share their reactions to his speech.

Steven Rood, country representative

The Filipino people got a good look at their new president, Rodrigo Duterte, during his first SONA on Tuesday, some 35 percent of which was ad-libbed rather than read from the script. President Duterte told members of the media later that night that part of the problem was that he was wearing new glasses so that he had trouble reading the teleprompter. While that was perhaps occasionally what happened, the president’s style is very informal, occasionally quite funny, and often scary (intentionally so) when talking about his passion, the anti-drug campaign.

The smooth part of the speech was when he read the parts about government programs and plans from the various departments. This was the conventional stuff, which was praised by business analyst Peter Wallace as the “SONA that said it” – a reassuring list of continuity in good policies from the previous administration, and initiatives on taxation, infrastructure, a streamlined bureaucracy, a balancing approach between economics and the environment, and the like.

With regard to the West Philippine/South China Sea, Duterte merely said: “we strongly affirm and respect the outcome of the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration as an important contribution to the ongoing efforts to pursue the peaceful resolution and management of our disputes.” This cautious rendering in the presence of the Chinese Ambassador (in the audience) and in advance of a visit two days later by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, illustrates the difficulty of the maritime issues facing a militarily weak Philippines.

The headline surprise from the speech was the unilateral ceasefire with the New People’s Army, but one of the key messages was the warning that “human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country.” We learned a lot from the SONA, but some of what we heard we already knew.

Maribel Buenaobra, deputy country representative

Expected to be a 38-minute speech that would make the public shed tears, the SONA turned out to be 95-minute minutes long, not a tear-jerker, and definitely not conventional. The SONA, directed by no less than internationally acclaimed director Brillante Mendoza, drew mixed reactions from the public and netizens for both its strong and contradictory messages, proletarian appeal, and funny moments. Lacking the usual expletives that peppered his election campaign speeches, the SONA was still vintage Duterte: awkward, entertaining, full of ad-libs, but interesting nonetheless. His speech had concessions to almost everyone – lower taxes for the middle classes, public Wi-Fi to netizens, streamlined business processes to business groups, and a unilateral ceasefire to the left. But jokes aside, President Duterte reiterated his campaign stand on addressing drugs and criminality, with a warning that human rights should not stand in the way of his anti-drug campaign.

Aisha Midtanggal, assistant program officer

Dubbed as the SONA of many firsts, President Duterte’s message was popular not only because it tackled a number of important national issues and legislative proposals, but also because it broke a lot of records, protocols, and milestones.

President Duterte’s SONA was the first to allow militant groups to stage their rally near the Batasan Complex. The groups called their mass action “kilos-suporta” (which means support movement rather than “kilos-protesta” or protest movement). They created a “Portrait of Peace” mural instead of a burning Duterte effigy. It was also the first time that militant leaders were met by the president after his SONA, during which they talked about peace and social services in conflict-stricken areas.

The event was a less glitzy red carpet affair, as guests heeded the call of the president to dress down in simple business attire. Duterte sported his signature Barong Tagalog with rolled up sleeves and dark pants while Vice President Leni Robredo wore a traditional off-shoulder Filipiniana dress.

This is also the first time that three of the four highest positions in the government are held by Mindanaons – President Duterte from Davao City, Senate President Pimentel from Cagayan de Oro City, and House Speaker Alvarez from Davao del Norte.

Nadine Ragonjan, senior program coordinator

During the campaign period, Duterte banked his political platform on the fight against drugs and criminality. Even in speeches before the business sector, he emphasized that progress cannot happen in a place where there is criminality and lawlessness. In his SONA, President Duterte reiterated: “There will be no let-up in this campaign. Double your efforts. Triple them, if need be. We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or are put either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.” The Philippine National Police (PNP) has in recent weeks intensified its campaign against illegal drugs through its “Oplan Tokhang,” which saw the surrender of about 115,000 drug pushers and dependents across the country. In his speech before the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in a military camp in Maguindanao, he also tasked the military with helping in the anti-illegal drugs campaign: “It (the drug menace) is all over town. You have to help.”

While Duterte remains serious in his fight against illegal drugs and criminality, there remain concerns around human rights violations, especially the alarming increase in deaths of suspected drug violators in recent weeks. Duterte retorted in his SONA, “Human rights must work to uplift human dignity. But human rights cannot be used as a shield or an excuse to destroy the country – your country and my country.” Overall, it can be gleaned from the pronouncements of Duterte that while he is adamant in his campaign against criminals, he extends his hand of peace to rebel groups – the CPP-NPA-NDFP and Moro groups MILF and MNLF. Here, he distinguishes.

Anna Tasnim Basman, assistant program officer

It was no surprise when President Duterte made eight mentions of federalism in his SONA – the former city mayor has been touring the country since 2014 discussing the benefits of a more decentralized governance system. Immediately upon assumption into office, various efforts toward this shift have been in the works.

As Congress convened, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and former Senate President Franklin Drilon both filed House Concurrent Resolution No. 1, urging both Houses of Congress to convene in a joint session to call for a constitutional convention to “propose revision of the 1987 Constitution to establish a federal system of government.”

Even the administration’s plans for the Bangsamoro peace process involve the shift to federalism. Based on the new Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap, the reconstituted Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) is tasked with “recommending amendments to the Constitution via the federalism project to establish the Bangsamoro government.” Still, considerable uncertainty about this shift remains, especially as previous efforts to change the 1987 Constitution have failed.

Marco Naguiat, assistant program officer

Freedom of Information (FOI) has been a long time coming. Since 1987, legislators have sought to pass the FOI bill, intended to enable the constitutional guarantee of the people’s right to access information. The closest the bill came to passing was in the 14th Congress (2007-2010) under the Arroyo administration, where it was approved in both houses (Congress and Senate) but ultimately was not ratified.

Under the Aquino administration, the FOI again had a good chance of passing, banking on the president’s campaign on anti-corruption and transparency, with the FOI’s passage to law as one of the campaign’s pillars. At one point in 2013, it seemed that FOI’s passage was certain. The Senate passed a version of the bill and was just awaiting the House (Congress) version. But from mid-2013 to 2015, the House version of the bill encountered significant delays. Ultimately, it led to the House of Representative’s failure to pass its version under the 16th Congress, the last session under President Aquino’s term.

This is in stark contrast to the Duterte administration. Just this May 2016, President Duterte ran and won on a campaign focused on swift action and transparency. On July 25, 2016, a mere four weeks into his presidency, Duterte made good on these promises and signed an Executive Order on FOI. The speed of which the Executive Order was passed even received mention during his SONA when he joked about “stealing one’s thunder” by getting ahead of Congress.

Bai Shaima Baraguir, assistant program officer

Duterte also discussed challenges on internal security as aggravated by local terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, stating that the “full force of the Armed Forces of the Philippines will be applied to crush these criminals who operate under the guise of religious fervor.” Such a statement does not fall far from initial pronouncements from his camp talking about neutralizing the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) as first priority of the Duterte administration. During his visit to the Western Mindanao Command Headquarters in Zamboanga City last July 21, Duterte stressed the need to combat urban terrorism. He cited the continuing beheadings of foreign nationals as an embarrassment to the country and the security sector. To which, he added that additional numbers of law enforcers are needed to establish order and end terrorism in the country.

However, these statements appear contradictory to his previous pronouncements about offering peace and opening negotiations with the ASG. Last July 9, President Duterte spoke during the Mindanao Hari Raya Eid’l Fitr 2016 activity in Davao City. In his speech, he said that he does not consider the ASG as criminals and that the ASG has resorted to violence because “they were driven to desperation.”

Interestingly, part of Duterte’s plans on combatting terrorism involves foreign policy. He made mention of this during his SONA when he specified strengthening coordination with nearby Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, to suppress kidnappings. Duterte also promised to “develop partnerships with nations sharing common interests and concerns with the Philippines; maintain and sustain bilateral and multilateral consultations and dialogues; and continue to expand cooperation on human assistance, disaster response, maritime security, and counter terrorism.”

On the local context, Duterte talked about strengthening the country’s counter-terrorism program by amending various laws on terrorism, particularly those involving human terrorism, terrorism financing, and cybercrime. In particular, the amendment of the Human Security Act (Republic Act 9372) would be a welcome development as the Aquino administration was unable to do so despite prioritizing the proposed amendatory bill. The current law also contains controversial provisions that limit its enforceability.

Christian Hope Reyes, assistant program officer

For someone who describes himself as a “socialist,” Duterte’s sincerity to fortify the path to forge a peace agreement with the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) may come as no surprise. Nevertheless, he went beyond initiating the peace talks with the rebel group to making the unprecedented move to appoint people sympathetic to the NDF as cabinet members of his administration. Such appointments can further facilitate the peace negotiations, but certainly Duterte will have a tough balancing act in managing his cabinet, which also includes former military officials.

In his address, Duterte announced a unilateral ceasefire with the CPP-NPA, effective immediately. This declaration was made despite the kidnapping of four members of the Philippine National Police by those believed to be NPAs a day before the SONA. For its part, the NDF welcomed Duterte’s announcement and assured to “make the appropriate response” and “reciprocate” soon.

Even with the strong political will and the record-high trust rating of Duterte’s ability to resolve an insurgency that has lasted for almost half a century, doing so within his six-year term is an arduous quest, which may ultimately rest on the sincere commitment of both parties and the sustained political capital of Duterte’s presidency.

Noraida Chio, senior program officer

Bangsamoro people, like other Filipinos, eagerly tuned in to Tuesday’s SONA. Though some have reservations on how the legislative proposal on passing the Bangsamaro Basic Law (BBL) minus the Constitutional issues that are contentious, will be realized, a majority remain optimistic and lauded the president’s speech.

According to a statement by Atty. Alamia Masahud, executive secretary, Office of the ARMM Regional Governor, “[President Duterte] again acknowledged the historical injustice against the Moro people and the need to correct it. He called for an end to centuries of mistrust and warfare between the government and the Moro people and urged Congress to pass the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law). He said it is the only solution for Mindanao, while the concept of federalism is being explored. We in the Autonomous Regional Government reiterate our utmost commitment as the government’s Partner For Change.”

Nash Maulana, a Bangsamoro journalist, shared his thoughts as “My apprehension though is when the government gives the BBL (minus, minus), and later shifts to federalism, while the federal powers granted to other regions prove greater in substance than the BBL granted in government’s (and Congress’) own terms. Still, the peace roadmap of the Duterte administration sets an expanded Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC) as the starting point of continuity of the peace process. BTC is a provision of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro; therefore, they are not setting aside CAB.”

In the peace process, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcomed President Duterte as a “true son of Mindanao.” Chairman Murad Ebrahim said Duterte’s “message of justice, freedom, equality, and social justice resonates with our aspiration for genuine change.” Three days after the approval of Comprehensive Peace Roadmap, Peace Process Secretary Jesus Dureza met with Chairman Haj Murad Ebrahim of the MILF at Camp Darapanan to discuss the implementation phase of the peace process. According to both parties, the Bangsamoro peace process will formally resume with a meeting of the 10-member GPH-MILF Implementing Team in Kuala Lumpur early August of this year.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors and not those of The Asia Foundation or its funders.

Dureza: We can’t just spring them out of jail

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer (Jul 29): Dureza: We can’t just spring them out of jail

The government has not made any specific commitment to release detained Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) guerrillas expected to take part in upcoming peace talks, but has agreed to “facilitate the availability” of rebel negotiators, the government’s top peace adviser said Thursday.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said formal talks with the CPP’s political National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) were to take place in Oslo, Norway on Aug. 20.

“We have to comply with the legal processes. We can’t just spring them out of jail,” Dureza said at a Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines forum, adding that the talks were originally scheduled in July but has been moved  “to make it possible their (NDFP’s) members are available.

Dureza said that during preliminary talks in Oslo last month, both sides basically agreed to “get the peace process (moving) forward.”

The CPP, he said, had requested that some of its negotiators be released, and in response the government agreed to “work out arrangements to make them available” as provided under the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees which was previously signed by the parties.

Meanwhile Dureza said that President Duterte early this month approved the “Bangsamoro Peace and Development Roadmap” which was presented to the National Security Council on Wednesday.

“The President already approved and we are now moving very quickly, traversing this road. This road is not paved well. There will be bumps and humps along the way, I assure you. But we have the direction to take as we move forward using the directions that the president approved,”  he said.

Dureza pointed out that he presented the roadmap to his counterpart at the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) who issued a “positive response.”

He said the government was “committed to implement all signed agreements” with rebel groups, including the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro with the MILF. Congress last year failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the final piece of the puzzle that would have granted the MILF an expanded autonomy in the south following a deadly clash that left 44 police commandos dead.

Classes in Maguindanao schools suspended due to armed conflict, floods

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Classes in Maguindanao schools suspended due to armed conflict, floods

Classes have been suspended in at least 20 schools in Maguindanao's schools division due to armed hostilities between government forces and Moro rebels and natural calamities.

But education officials said classes may resume Monday as the cessation of hostilities between government forces and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and outlawed Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) took effect Thursday night.

Meriam Kawit, Maguindanao 1 schools division superintendent, said classes have been suspended because the schools were used as evacuation centers for civilians displaced by armed hostilities.

Suspension of classes started Wednesday morning when the Army and BIFF traded bullets and mortars.

Kawit said classes were suspended in schools in Shariff Saydona, Datu SAudi Ampatuan, Shariff Aguak and Datu Piang, all in Maguindanao's second district.

At least 3,000 individuals have fled to safer grounds when skirmishes erupted between military and MILF due to misunderstanding over Army troopers movement. The Army has been pursuing outlawed BIFF after the armed lawless elements attacked Army positions in Datu Shariff Saydona on Tuesday night.

As the cessation of hostilities took effect, emergency and disaster workers started to distribute relief goods and food packs to affected families.

Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan town said some of the displaced families fled due to armed conflict while others evacuated due to floods.

Torrential rains that affect most of Maguindanao's second district overflowed several tributaries around the Liguasan marshland inundating low lying communities.

Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Toto Mangudadatu also directed the provincial medical and emergency teams to extend aid to affected families.

Pres. Duterte willing to negotiate with rebel groups but not with bandit groups

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Pres. Duterte willing to negotiate with rebel groups but not with bandit groups

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is willing to hold talks with rebel groups to attain peace in the country, but remained firm he would never negotiate with criminal and bandit groups.

"As I talk to the communists (CPP-NPA-NDF), I will also talk to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front. Not Abu Sayyaf. I will not talk to criminals, only with those idealogy I understand," Pres. Duterte said in Filipino during his visit to Southern Luzon Command (SOLCOM) headquarters at Camp Guillermo Nakar, Lucena, Quezon.

In his State of the Nation Address last Monday, Pres. Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the New People's Army-Communist Party of the Philippines-National Democratic Front and also expressed his willingness to dialogue with the MILF and MNLF.

He also called on the military to crush the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group, as he vowed to provide them all the support to eliminate the bandit group.

Duterte also urged the troopers to do their jobs well, saying he will not abandon them in case they get into trouble doing their sworn duties, especially with their new anti-drug missions.

"We cannot hand over to the next generation the illegal drugs problem," he said.

For his part, Armed Forces chief-of-staff Gen. Ricardo Visaya said the military is one with the President in giving peace a chance.

"The President said that there is no better way to achieve this but to talk," he said.

AFP lauds President Duterte's call for NPA explanation on Davao Del Norte attack

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): AFP lauds President Duterte's call for NPA explanation on Davao Del Norte attack

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) welcomes the move of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte demanding an explanation from communist negotiators regarding the unprovoked attack of the New People's Army (NPA) in Kapalong, Davao Del Norte which killed a militiaman and wounded four others on Wednesday.

"That was a welcome move from the Commander-in-Chief from those orders the AFP march onwards the road to combat operations or the path to peace," AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo said.

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

NPA rebels belonging to Guerilla Front 34, Southern Mindanao Regional Committee were the ones responsible for the attack.

"By his stern demand for an explanation, President Rodrigo Duterte did not only send strong signals that he is sincere to end the years of strife by being the first to extend the hand of peace; he underscored that those who truly desires peace must also manifest in unmistakable acts their adherence to that quest," Arevalo added.

Duterte on Thursday said the government's unilateral ceasefire with communist rebels would be broken if rebel attacks on AFP units will continue.

"If you do not honor or you kill a single soldier or CAFGU (Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit), which is also a soldier of the Republic, just forget (the unilateral ceasefire declared on Monday) and let's just go back to war," he added.

Palace strongly reiterates call for ceasefire

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Palace strongly reiterates call for ceasefire

Government of the Philippines (GPH) Peace Panel Chair and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III expressed disappointment over the ambush of government troops by members of the New People’s Army (NPA), Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella announced during the press briefing on Friday.

The ambush took place in Sitio Pati, Barangay Gupitan, Davao del Norte, resulting in the death of a Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) member and the wounding of four others on July 27.

This came barely two days after President Rodrigo Duterte declared a unilateral ceasefire with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), National Democratic Front (NDF), and NPA during his first State of the Nation Address.

“I strongly reiterate the call of President Duterte to the CPP/NPA/NDF to reciprocate government’s ceasefire declaration in order to immediately stop violence on the ground, protect our communities from conflict, and provide an enabling environment for the resumption of formal peace negotiations,” Bello said in the statement read by Abella.

Bello called out NDF Peace Panel member Fidel Agcaoili regarding this tragic incident that resulted in CAFGU casualties. Agcaoili responded by saying he would look into the matter, adding that the NDF is committed to resume the peace negotiations

In the meantime, the government will wait for the results of the NDF’s verification. The Palace official said the President has given the NDF a “small window of opportunity,” though there was no timeline set.

As for the release of political prisoners and pullout of government troops in NPA-infested areas, the Presidential Spokesperson said, “if things work out according to plan, there will be a reciprocal response from the President, from the government.”

Abella added, “As soon as the trust is restored, things will proceed as agreed upon.”

President Duterte is giving a window of opportunity for NDF --Palace

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): President Duterte is giving a window of opportunity for NDF --Palace
President Rodrigo R. Duterte is still giving a window of opportunity for the National Democratic Front (NDF) to explain the ambush of the government militiamen, a Palace official said on Friday.

”I don’t have a timeline for that but he is giving a window. Based from his statement he is giving a window of opportunity,” Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a press briefing in Malacanang.

He, however, clarified that “there is a very brief window of opportunity.”

Last Thursday, President Duterte gave the NDF until midnight of Thursday to explain the killing of one militiaman and wounding four other members of the Cafgu Active Auxiliary (CAA) in an ambush staged by the New People’s Army last Wednesday in Davao del Norte.

”The President is very rational person and he will do what needs to be done,” he said.

The ambush happened a day after the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) suspended its military operations against the rebels in response to the unilateral ceasefire declared by the President in his first State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last Monday.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) welcomed the ceasefire but asked for the release of the political prisoners.

Abella clarified that the CPP’s requests are not preconditions but “part of the negotiations.”

”They’re supposed to be reciprocating as soon as possible,” Abella told the Palace mediamen.

Abella said government peace panel chair Secretary Silvestro Bello III has expressed sadness over the ambush of the government troops.

Bello, according to Abella, will await the results of the NDF’s verification on the matter.

”As soon as the trust is restored, the things will proceed as agreed upon,” Abella said.

The Palace spokesman said he expects the scheduled peace talks with the CPP-NPA-NDF on Aug. 20 to “work out as planned.”

Arrest of Quiapo road rage suspect highlights AFP disgust of scalawags

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): Arrest of Quiapo road rage suspect highlights AFP disgust of scalawags

The arrest of Quiapo road rage suspect, Vhon Martin Tanto, by joint military operatives highlights the AFP desire to rid itself of scalawags even those coming from its reservist ranks.

Tanto was nabbed by Army intelligence agents and police personnel at his residence in Barangay Poblacion East, Milagros town, Masbate at 11:50 a.m., said AFP public affairs office chief Col. Edgard Arevalo.


According to reports coming from apprehending personnel, Tanto did not resist arrest and peacefully joined the team that accosted him," he added.

Arevalo said the suspect's arrest show the AFP's resolve to bring into justice a suspect who was tagged as the killer of a biker and the wounding of female bystander Quiapo earlier this week.

"The AFP begun to have a particular interest in this case after Tanto was identified to be an Army Reservist. Per verification however, it surface that he is in "Inactive" status and has been virtually delisted from the rolls for failure to report to his unit since ​January 2015," he added.

Tanto shot dead biker Mark Vincent Garalde in P. Casal, Quaipo following a heated spat and brawl Monday night.

The victim allegedly came into blows with Tanto after the latter's car, a red Hyundai Eon, accidentally bumped Garalde's bicycle.

An 18-year-old girl, who was nearby, was also wounded after being hit by stray bullets.

"Since he was identified to be a reservist after that fatal road rage, he has been dragging not only the AFP but also the good name and reputation of the Reservist Force in the Army, Air Force, and the Navy," Arevalo said.

He added the AFP will not tolerate scalawags who brings discredit and dishonor to its ranks.

"It will, as it did, exert all efforts and utilize its available resources to help arrest this individual labeled as 'very dangerous'," Arevalo stressed.

Tanto was turned over to the Masbate Provincial Police Office who in turn will hand him over to appropriate police authorities for appropriate filing of cases.

President Duterte eyes inclusive gov't as peace talks loom

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): President Duterte eyes inclusive gov't as peace talks loom

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday said he will not agree on a coalition government with the communist rebels and would prefer an inclusive set up.

This developed as the government starts its peace negotiations with the communist groups.

In a situation briefing in Camp Nakar in Lucena City, the President said he wanted to give the communist insurgents a chance to mend relations with the Philippine government.

"Tingnan natin. Let’s give them a chance. I would like to assure everybody here in this room that I will never, never agree to a coalition government," he told top military officials during the briefing.

"I am very emphatic that I can have an inclusive government. I have taken them in. I can shake hands and talk about peace, an inclusive government," PRRD said.

The communist insurgency has been ongoing in the country for several decades and the President said he decided to give peace a chance.

It is not solely his decision to restart the talks, the President said, adding that peace negotiators Jesus Dureza and Silvestre Bello III also agreed to begin the peace process.

President Duterte also reiterated his commitment to the Mindanao peace process, underscoring his stance to give the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) a chance.

He assured the military officials in Camp Nakar that he is loyal to the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), noting he rose from the ranks and has been in government for many years.

He asked the military to protect the people, ensure their welfare and work according to the mandate of the Filipino public.

As the AFP leadership asked for additional 20,000 soldiers, he promised to provide 10,000 new infantrymen by the end of the year with a full budget.

6 ASG bandits killed in Basilan, Sulu operations

From the Philippine News Agency (Jul 29): 6 ASG bandits killed in Basilan, Sulu operations

Intensified operations against the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) terrorists have so far killed six of the brigands in Basilan and Sulu Friday.

These claims are supported by body counts as remains of the slain bandits were recovered by troops, said Western Mindanao Command (WMC) spokesperson Major Filemon Tan.

Operations conducted by Joint Task Force Basilan resulted in the killing of two ASG members under Radzmil Jannatul alias Khubayb, and a certain Guro Arah at Hill 490 in Barangay Poblacion, Tipo-Tipo at around 6:30 a.m.Friday.

Recovered from the encounter scene were two bodies and .50 caliber heavy machine gun.

In the clash, nine soldiers were wounded and airlifted to the Camp Navarro General Hospital, Zamboanga City.

In Sulu, four ASG bandits under Alden Bagadi alias Sayning, were killed following the intensified conduct of focused military operations in Barangay Langpas, Indanan at 8:50 a.m. also this Friday

Close air support were provided to the engaged troops.

This operation also recovered the remains of the four enemy dead

On the government side, two soldiers were slightly wounded and were promptly extricated by augmenting troops to Kuta Heneral Teodulfo Bautista, in Jolo for treatment and are now in stable condition.

Pursuit operations are still ongoing as of this posting.

Philippine rebel chief to help find Indonesian hostages

From Andalou Agency (Jul 28): Philippine rebel chief to help find Indonesian hostages

Philippine rebel chief to help find Indonesian hostages

The chair of the largest of three factions of the MNLF, Muslimin Sema, has backed the MILF’s ongoing peace process with the government, despite a faction under founding chairman Nur Misuari considering the MILF’s 2014 peace deal with the government a betrayal of a 1996 Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)-brokered agreement

A Philippines official confirmed Thursday that the fugitive leader of a southern separatist group is helping efforts to recover more than a dozen Indonesians believed to be held captive by a Daesh-linked militant group.

“[Nur] 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],” the presidential adviser on the peace process told a forum at the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines.

GMA News quoted Jesus Dureza as saying that the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader asked him to relay to President Rodrigo Duterte the need to coordinate with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to avoid possible mis-encounters.

In May, the Abu Sayyaf released four Indonesians to the MNLF, following negotiations initiated by Misuari. 

At least four abductions targeting Indonesian crew have taken place this year in the seawaters where kidnap-for-ransom gangs operate between the Philippines’ Muslim south and eastern Malaysia.

Earlier this month, three Indonesian sailors were kidnapped by armed men off Malaysia’s Sabah state.

In June, seven tugboat crew members were seized in a hijacking off the southern Philippine island province of Sulu -- an Abu Sayyaf stronghold.

Those seized in the two earlier incidents were later released, with Indonesia insisting that the government had not paid ransom but later warned employers to follow suit as such negotiations put others in jeopardy.

Dureza said Thursday that he did not know how Misuari would rescue the Indonesians, but underlined that “the goodwill between Indonesia and the MNLF is good" as the country had acted as facilitator in the group’s peace talks with the Philippines government.

Misuari is currently a fugitive, eluding charges filed against him and his men for a siege on the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga in September 2013, in which around 300 people were killed. 

Dureza also revealed that there was no update on the status of a Norwegian tourist who was kidnapped from a resort on Samal island in September alongside two Canadians who were beheaded earlier this year.

"We don't have communication. They [Abu Sayyaf] cut it off especially when the operations were intensified. We lost contact already, my channels and those helping me have also lost [contact]," he was quoted as saying.

Kidnap-for-ransom gangs operating in the Sulu and Celebes seas are known to hand over their captives to the Abu Sayyaf and negotiate for a ransom that, if paid, is shared with the group.

Since 1991, the Abu Sayyaf group -- armed with mostly improvised explosive devices, mortars and automatic rifles -- has carried out bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and extortions in a self-determined fight for an independent province in the Philippines.

The Abu Sayyaf is among two militant groups in the Philippines south who have pledged allegiance to Daesh, prompting fears during the stalling of a peace process that Daesh could make inroads in a region torn by decades of armed conflict.

Basilan fighting displaces 17,000 people, says Red Cross

From the Philippine Star (Jul 29): Basilan fighting displaces 17,000 people, says Red Cross

Shelling and air strikes occurred “on an almost daily basis over the past three weeks” in Basilan, the International Committee of the Red Cross reported. File photo

Clashes between government security forces and the Abu Sayyaf have displaced 17,000 villagers in Basilan since the first week of this month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported Friday.
The ICRC said displaced people represented around 3,400 affected families in the areas of Tipo-Tipo, Al-Barka, and Ungkaya Pukan towns. The ICRC, in a statement here, was also conservative by tagging only the Abu Sayyaf  as a non-state armed group.
The report said displaced families have sought refuge with their families outside conflict areas and cited that shelling and air strikes occurred “on an almost daily basis over the past three weeks.”
Casualties and injured fighters were reported on both sides, the ICRC added. Although, it did not provide a figure on the number of civilians reportedly injured.
Yann Fridez, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao, described the security situation in Basilan as unwarranted.
“We are concerned for the civilians as we expect clashes to continue in the coming weeks,” Fridez said in the statement.

Ending terror

Basilan Gov. Jim Hataman-Saliman wants military operations to continue relentlessly until the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) is flushed out from the province.
“I want to conclude the problem of the radical conservative here in Basilan and I don't care where they come from,” Saliman said.
The ICRC urged all parties involved in the fighting to exercise utmost precaution to minimize the impact or damage to civilian communities.
“We also ask them to spare civilian structures such as hospitals, schools and houses, and facilities that are essential for their daily lives,” Fridez said.
Mayor Darus Lajid of Al-Barka town reported earlier that the ASG fired and destroyed a three-classroom school building early this month as the militants harassed the civilians.
A civilian was also hit by shrapnel believed to be fired from a mortar shell in Tipo-Tipo.
Classes and governance have been affected by ongoing operations.
The ICRC had also distributed relief assistance to the displaced families that complimented the relief assistance provided by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao-Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART) led by regional Gov. Mujiv Hataman.
The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Basilan distributed Wednesday and Thursday essential household items that included hygiene kits, blankets, towels, jerry cans, mosquito nets and sleeping mats to the displaced people.
Saliman and the provincial government also led last week a relief mission in affected areas, while the ICRC distributed dressing kits and medical supplies, including drugs and anti-tetanus vaccines to enhance the capacity of rural health units in affected towns to treat sick and wounded people.

ReCAAP ISC Special Report on Abduction of Crew from Ships in Waters Off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines

Posted to Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (Jul 29): ReCAAP ISC Special Report on Abduction of Crew from Ships in Waters Off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines

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The ReCAAP ISC states that it is concerned with the spate of incidents involving the abduction of crew from ships while underway in waters off eastern Sabah and southern Philippines which occurred since March 2016.

A Special Report on ‘Abducting of Crew from Tug Boats in Waters off Eastern Sabah and Southern Philippines’ was published by the ReCAAP ISC on 22 April 2016.

This Special Report (Part II) provides an update of the situation, focuses on the modus operandi of the perpetrators, status of the abducted crew and actions carried out by the littoral States and the ReCAAP ISC.

Situation Update

Between March till July 2016, the ReCAAP Focal Point (Philippines) reported to the ReCAAP ISC a total of six incidents occurred on board five tug boats towing barges and one fishing trawler. Of these, one occurred in March 2016 (Brahma 12), two in April 2016 (Massive 6 and Henry), one in June 2016 (Charles 00) and two in July 2016 (unnamed fishing trawler and Serudong 3). The abducted crew of Brahma 12, Massive 6 and Henry had been released after ransom was believed to have been paid to the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG). See map below on the location of the six incidents, and refer to Annex A (See Full Report) for description of the incidents.

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Modus Operandi

Generally, the modus operandi of the perpetrators involved in the six incidents was fairly similar, except for one incident (Charles 00) where the perpetrators abducted the crew twice within a duration of 75 mins on the same day. In all six incidents, the target was the crew, and not the ships nor its cargo. In two incidents (Brahma 12 and Serudong 3), the tug boats were abandoned after the perpetrators abducted the entire crew. Refer to Annex B (See Full Report) for details of the modus operandi of the six incidents, which is summarized as follows:
  • Type of ship. Of the six incidents, five involved tug boats towing barges, and one involved a fishing trawler. Tug boats engaged in towing operations operate at a slow speed of between 2-3 knots, with low freeboard are vulnerable and easy target for boarding. There was one incident involving a fishing trawler which was boarded on 9 July 2016, an indication that slow moving ship was targeted regardless of its type.
  • Time of incident. Five of the six incidents occurred during daylight hours of between 1000 hrs – 1800 hrs. Ship master and crew are strongly encouraged to exercise vigilance, and should there be any suspicious boats in the vicinity, they are to raise the alarm and report to PCG Operations Centre in southwestern Mindanao and the coastal State immediately.
  • Type of boats used by perpetrators. Five of the six incidents reported the use of speed boats by the perpetrators. Of these, two incidents reported the use of green and red ‘jungkong’ pump boats (small wooden traditional fishing boats), and three incidents reported the use of grey and white speed boats.
  • Number of perpetrators. Three of the six incidents involved perpetrators operate in groups of between 5-8 men. There was one incident where 17 perpetrators were reported (Brahma 12).
  • Weapons. The perpetrators were reported to carry firearms. In the incident involving Henry and Charles 00, the perpetrators opened fire at the tug boats and forcibly boarded the ships. Ship master and crew are strongly advised to avoid confronting or antagonising the perpetrators.
  • Treatment of crew. In most incidents the perpetrators did not harm the crew except in Henry on 15 April 2016 when one of the crew was reportedly injured and subsequently brought to a hospital for treatment by the Malaysian Marine Police.
  • Flag of ships. Of the six incidents, three were Malaysia-registered ships and three were Indonesia-registered ships. No evidence to indicate that certain flag ships were targeted.
  • Nationality of abducted crew. Of the 33 crew abducted, 24 were Indonesians and 9 were Malaysians. It appeared the perpetrators were particular about the nationality of the crew to abduct, as evidenced from the incident involving the fishing trawler when the perpetrators inquired who among the crew had passport, and three replied that they had. The perpetrators abducted the three with their passports and fled in their speed boat, leaving the remaining four on board the fishing trawler.
  • Economic loss. Some reports mentioned that the perpetrators stole other items on board the ship, including navigational equipment, and crew’s personal belongings such as mobile phones and laptops. Apart from abducting the crew, the perpetrators were opportunistic in stealing ship items and crew’s personal belongings. The possibility of the ‘abduction for ransom’ group carried out the abduction and handed the abducted crew over to the ASG for a fee, cannot be ruled out.
Status of Abducted Crew

Of the 33 crew who had been abducted in the six incidents, 18 (from Brahma 12, Massive 6 and Henry) had been released, and ransom was believed to have been paid to secure the releases. The remaining 15 crew (from Charles 00, fishing trawler and Serudong 3) are still being held in captivity.


With concerns over the escalation of the situation involving the abduction of crew from ships in waters off eastern Sabah and southern Philippines, the ReCAAP ISC reiterates the need to strengthen regional coordination and cooperation among the littoral States in conducting joint/coordinated patrols and surveillance; and apprehension of the mastermind.
Source: OceanusLive